Whine and Wine

Someone stole our butter. We started out having our breakfast of date scones, but Ron found our butter was missing. There was over a ½ pound left to the block; you would think they could have used part of it and left the rest, but then again if you are stealing there are no rational thoughts. While we were wrapped up in culinary concern, parts of the country were dealing with matter of far great importance. Thought they do not get hurricanes here, they did get hurricane-like winds   with torrential blasts of rain causing flash flooding. As they say, the Kiwi thing to do this time of year is go camping, but hundreds of families those that chose to do that had to be evacuated due to the weather. From what we heard others say, there have not been weather conditions like that in decades. Fortunately, it only lasted for hours and then it was gone.
By the time we were ready to make our way into the world outside the skies were clear with the rain seemingly behind us. We only had the morning to occupy ourselves having to be back at the hostel by 1pm for the wine tour pick-up. We have covered as much of Napier as humanly possible on foot, covering the downtown and regions further afield at least once, but many twice or more times already. For such a small city, it is densely packed with stores, bakeries, coffee shops, and restaurants for about five blocks in all directions.
Deciding to do a little shopping, all of a sudden, we were mixing and mingling amongst hordes of people puffing up the small town like too much yeast in a batch of bread dough. Where did they suddenly materialize from? The cruise ships were in port. When cruise ships stop here, which they do often in the season, all of these floaters find their land legs for a few hours of shopping. Depending on the cruise line, the passengers may have from 2 to 6 hours to come ashore to populate the stores like a bad case of roaches when the lights get turned on at night.
With their treading on Mother Earth, they can now say “Yes, I have been to New Zealand” without the qualifying the fact that all they witnessed were some shops. With our 3 days and we are out, I feel like we are playing tourism baseball. Instead of 3 strikes, our similar days stay is just giving us a sampler platter of the different cities. Though I must say, we do cover a tremendous amount of territory hitting the ground running. What we do not get to see is not due to lack of time, but lack of transportation. There are places and things that locals say are a “must see”, but they all require a car because they are where no public transports dares to go. Neither of us have a driver’s license any longer, so we can safely say we cannot rent a car. Safely I say, because they drive on the opposite side of the street than we do in North America and in Hungary. It is difficult enough trying to cross the street without causing an accident; driving would be treacherous for sure. 
At 1pm on the dot, Hamish from Prinsley’s Tours picked us up for an afternoon of wine. The whines would not begin until the headaches appeared at the end of the day. There were three in the van already, a mother, son, and daughter-in-law. All three were locals, but none had ever done the wineries before. Son and daughter-in-law are living in Australia, but came home for the holidays and gifted this tour to mums for Christmas. They were quite lovely mates for this tour, keeping it refreshingly small besides.
The first winery was originally owned by the Marion order of priests and brothers. They still have a financial hand in the winery, but not the operations. The grounds are splendid rolling hills, one of which serves as an amphitheater for summer concerts. Each year, they have a dedicated wine label specifically for that concert that attendees can purchase as a remembrance. Quite clever marketing! One interesting fact here. They allow the sheep to run through the vineyards to eat the lower leaves from the vines. This allows the lower grapes to get sufficient sunlight, yet the sheep will not eat the grapes. At that stage of development, the grapes are too acidic, so the sheep do not like the taste.
Here we tasted 6 different wines: 4 white, 2 red. I am always impressed with the intriguing ways that they describe wines. This one has a vanilla tone with a hint of caramel, while there is a fleeting taste of wild raspberries and a touch of oak. Really? Come on. To me, it tastes like fermented grapes, end of story; they all burn the back of my throat. Having quit smoking, I can say that I do taste differences more distinctly now that I did in the past, but please don’t try telling me you can get grapes to taste like Heinz 57 varieties. Oh, this white has a nutty flavor characterized by its grapefruit undertone with shades of turnip and a long tongue that is reminiscent of bangers and mash.
To me all of these asinine descriptors are all marketing. It reminds me of when I was a child. I received a letter in the mail claiming my entry had won the contest I had entered through the breakfast cereal promotion. From the pictures and vivacious wording on the cereal boxes, I was certain that I had won a ’59 Chevy convertible in candy apple red. Wow, what a gift this would be for my parents. They had never known what it was like to have a vehicle that was not previously owned by hordes of others first. On the day of delivery, a mailman arrived at the door for a signature proof of delivery. Had I not been 5 years old, this should have been a red flag. Mailmen do not deliver cars. My reward, my dream, my excitement, my gift, fit in the palm of my juvenile palm. The length of the car was shorter than the distance from my wrist to the tip of my middle finger. From that moment, I became an advocate for truth in advertising.
After the first winery, the others were small by comparison, close to boutique sized. By the third winery, we had had sampled about sixteen different wines. What I wanted to ask, but after sixteen samples of wine the question was only a passing thought “If you only bottle 200 cases of this wine, shouldn’t you be saving it and not giving it to us for sampling?” If I only had 200 of anything to show for a year’s work, you can bet your bottom dollar I am not going to be giving out any samples to a group of people who just want a go at it.
At the end of the third winery, we had a cheeseboard, which we paid an addition supplement. For the five of us, the cheese was quite stingy. There were four varieties all of them quite tasty, but not generous chunks. If each of us coughed up the extra $NZ 10.00, that cheeseboard was a $NZ50 commodity, but like my red Chevy, it did not come close to expectations.
One of the highlights of this particular tour was going up to a look-out summit. Hamish was not sure if this would be possible or not due to the winds. The roads are like a serpentine snake winding around this mountain and barely two lanes for bidirectional traffic. High winds make it especially dangerous without guardrails on the road as you climb the mountain in either direction. As luck would have it, we were able to make it. The elevation is 1,200 feet at the top with a vista that is magnificent. You will find pictures in the photo blog under today’s date. This once flat land was pushed up into its current position by earthquakes. Another testament to the power of Mother Earth.
By 5:30pm we were back at the hostel, all graped up and nowhere to go we went to the Irish pub for a beer, saving the one bottle of wine we bought today for a more sober occasion when we would appreciate it. Back at the hostel, Ron cooked up chicken cutlets stuffed with apricot and cheese. Before you get too impressed, we bought them frozen already prepared. If no one has done it yet, I think it would be a fun idea to put together a hostel cookbook. I have seen some of these young people create quite imaginative and incredibly delicious smelling dishes from what looks like the minimalist amount of ingredients. Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

The wineries we toured are:
Mission
Moana Park
Ngatarawa – Liked the Pinot Gris the best
Black Barn

To reach Hamish’s company, it is Prinsy’s Rural Experience and Wine Tours of Hawkes Bay. You can reach their website here.
They are also bookable at the iSite office or any accommodation.

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