Tuesday, 31 March 2020
One last hike: NZ food and wine tour

Part 1: Prepping for the mountain

Part 2: No coffee, no wine

Passing back through the Mount Cook area we went up to investigate the views and to see what could be seen without hiking too far.

At the visitor centre we found the shortest track, a 25 minute walk to see the Tasman Glacier.

Surrounded by beauty, it was hard to think how a small hike could improve it at all but it did.

One small hiccough was that 25 minute hike was all stairs, all the way.

I looked fearfully down at my knees then to the stairs, then back to my knees.

“To hell with it,” I thought, we’re here now.

This would be the first time I had seen a glacier in person and the hike only took half the time and on the way up we were breezing past all the other walkers.

The way down was an entirely different story, gravity is not my friend.

I don’t know if you can rupture a knee, I’m no doctor, but I feel like that is what I did.

Back on the road and I was back in my element, the next stop was Cloudy Bay’s  Cromwell winery, the Shed.

Big fan of pinot noir and this place was home to their locally grown Te Wahi pinot.

A beautiful wine, but with a cork, you just know you are going to wince at the price.

But their cellar door experience was spot on, a tasting flight of their range of pinots, a little information without having to awkwardly say “why yes, I do taste the blackberries” and a seat in the sun with fresh oysters.

For me as a wine drinker, I’d say I have a fairly novice palate and a large ego, so when I’m put on the spot to see if I can taste the Morello cherries and West Indian key lime pie, I am just going to nod.

Unfortunately, at the next winery, Mt Difficulty Wines, this happened for the entire tasting, several of the pinots were worth smuggling back in my suitcase but I didn’t enjoy being told which wine I was going to enjoy more.

Back through the frustrating traffic of Queenstown and to our booked-at-the-last-minute hotel with the money we saved in fuel by not driving down to Te Anau to see Milford Sound, we took one look at the restaurant menu there and decided we would book in.

The Kamana Lakehouse restaurant, Nest Kitchen + Bar, had on its menu a 55-day aged, New Zealand grass fed scotch fillet, it was our last night, how could I not.

Tennille went for the Stuart Island salmon with house made gnocchi.

So with an unrivalled view of Lake Wakatipu we had one of the best meals of the trip with, a sweeter than I would have liked, riesling.

Which I was thankful for, because the cocktails they made came out in ridiculous glasses.

On our final morning we wanted to get to two of the wineries we missed out on at the start of our trip.

We set out at the beginning with a long list of wineries to visit, we had yet to pick the wine list for our wedding and thought this trip would be perfect for doing just that.

On the top of our list was Gibbston Valley, famed for their wine cave and the excellent wine they store in it.

Their cellar door was easily the best of the trip, aside from the large amount of money invested into making the place immaculate, the staff knew exactly how to make you feel like you knew what you were talking about and when to leave so we could talk among ourselves.

Then there was Amisfield, well known for its dining experience but the bar at the popular cellar door was far too short and despite the quality of the wine, being crowded out in what is supposed to be a relaxing experience is a hard pass from me.

But after two tastings, even spread out over a few hours we quickly realised it wouldn’t be strictly legal to continue on.

So on our last day we went to Wet Jacket Wines, nestled artfully in an old woolshed, which connected to a schist stone cottage.

Is 11am too early for a tasting? Not when you have a flight at 3pm.

But despite our wine expert still being on the first coffee for the morning, we sampled through their library. I took pause at the Gewurztraminer, it was hard to adjust to after the acidic, fruity flavours of their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.

On first inspection I asked the woman if there was much residual sugar (look at me go) but she assured me there was almost none.

The lightly sweet and floral wine had just introduced me to a whole new variety to investigate. I had tried Gewurztraminer before but had written it off as a sickly sweet wine.

Finally we went to Peregrine Wines, an architectural dream with an underground cellar.

Another highlight in what could be described as our Central Otago tour of cellar doors.

The airport was only a 10 minute drive away so we took our time and when we got there we found our flight had been delayed.

This turned out to be the start of a reasonably stressful flight.

I was a bit sniffley from being caught out in the elements on Roy’s Peak, so I had two things on my mind, being unable to pop my ears on the flight and quarantine.

Signs were all over the place at the airport about the risk of spreading coronavirus.

It must be a marketing nightmare, at once trying to keep people calm and telling them to be extra vigilant.

Mercifully, up in the air I could pop my ears but towards the end of the flight an older lady near to the front was getting increasingly restless and with the turbulence had to keep being told to buckle up.

Then there was a call out for a doctor or nurse on the PA, and two women directly behind us went up to help.

By the time we were approaching the Gold Coast, the captain kindly let us know we would be circling for an indeterminable amount of time but it could be a few hours.

After an hour we got the all clear and landed in Brisbane, but before we could charge off like cattle in yards we were told to sit back down and wait for paramedics to help the woman who needed assistance earlier.

Then we were told our plane was being quarantined as a precaution until quarantine officers could see the patient.

This didn’t last too long but disembarking a plane with a sniffle and a dozen medical professionals in protective gear waiting on the other side, you can guarantee I was a little nervous.