Day Four: Wine Tasting in the Nelson Region
Today I slept in a bit and enjoyed a leisurely morning at the hotel before joining an afternoon tour of the Nelson wine region. Our hosts today were Bay Tours, who do all sorts of guided trips around the Nelson region, but specialize in winery visits. After a quick trip up one of Nelson’s larger hills for a good look at Tasman bay and the surrounding region, we left the tightly bunched homes of the suburbs and drove into what seemed like an endless valley lined with row after row of gold and green grape vines.
Our first tasting stop was at the Waimea Estates vineyard, and here we got a chance to peruse the facilities while learning a great deal about how you actually make wine. Our guide from the winery did a nice job of making things simple and thoroughly explaining the difference between making white wines and reds. During the visit we also learned a little about lots of machinery and how the wines are stored. Then, of course, we tasted a number of exceptional wines. Many of these offered wonderfully subtle and dry flavors, but I especially enjoyed their Riesling.
From there, we headed for the Grape Escape, which features the wines of the Richmond Plains and Te Mania vineyards. Here Roy Thompson, our Bay Tours’ guide, sat us all down at a large table and passed out a variety of different foods in small portions. The samples included everything from fresh fruit to cooked chicken to bread and olive oils and even pickles. We tried a variety of wines and tasted them with the different foods to get a better sense of how they coupled with different flavors. The contrast of the pickle with several of the wines was particularly stark and brought out some wonderful contrasts.
Next, we stopped off at the Seifried vineyard, one of the oldest wineries in the region, and they, again, offered us the chance to try a number of their vintages. Not surprisingly, they were all enjoyable, some a little sweeter here than at earlier visits. I did, however, come across my favorite variety of the trip at this stop. The last of the wines we sampled, the Seifried’s Riesling Ice Wine is usually classified as a desert wine and was fantastically sweet and flavorful. This particular vintage gets the ice in it’s title because the grapes are frozen before being pressed, creating an unusually concentrated and intensely flavored juice.
The last stop of the tour was at the Stafford Lane orchard, where I don’t mind admitting we all had the most fun. That may well have been due to the fact that we’d had quite a bit of wine by this point, but I’m not entirely sure. I am reasonably confident, however, that everyone was feeling at least a minor bit tipsy. Michael McGrath, one of the Stafford owners, was a very entertaining host and told all sorts of jokes and stories, which really made for a charming experience. And along with some outstanding wines, we also got to taste some of the first-rate olive oil they make on the property, served with a variety of breads and fresh olives.
Another of the highlights at the Stafford Lane stop was the cute old dog who entertained us throughout, and then ran long, high-speed laps around the buildings several times before our van left the vineyard. The scene was remarkably funny and all of us cheered wildly for the performance, then laughed ourselves silly on the ride back to the hotel.
Night 4: The Rutherford Hotel
Dinner : We enjoyed dinner again tonight at the Oceano. I started things off with a tasty potato soup, followed by a delectable lamb chop entrée, and a sumptuous chocolate mouse.