Ahh, Marlborough, easily New Zealand’s most famous wine country and home to some of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc. Besides beautiful countryside, Marlborough rests in and around Blenheim, a town with a charm all its own. Our first taste of fresh Marlborough wines was after driving back up from our day trip to Kaikoura. We stopped in Blenheim’s I-site, and I grabbed a $2 horrid coffee from the machine, much needed because the entire trip up my head bobbed back and forth as I attempted to sleep. After we gave the map a quick once over, we separated our Marlborough wine tour into two days. The first afternoon, we stopped by Bouldevines and Huia, and the next day we made our way over to St. Clair’s and Cloudy Bay. We finished our morning (that’s right, morning) with beers at Moa Brewery. Unlike Martinborough, a majority of the tastings in Marlborough are free. -Jennifer
Located in Vines Village, a row of quaint boutique shops selling local confectionaries, crafts and more, Bouldevines was a nice start to our tour of Marlborough. Although the drinking age is 18, we were ID’d; apparently we looked quite young in our bathing suits and unkempt appearance. Much like the Martinborough wineries, we were able to sample everything offered by the winery. This time, however, it was free. As for the wine, they were all smooth, and a majority had strong hints of fruit. I quite enjoyed the Riesling, which is normally too sweet for me, but I enjoyed the taste of apricots. Laurel was a fan of the Pinot Gris, which had hints of granny smith apple. -Jennifer
We jumped back in the car and with twenty minutes left before closing, rushed to Huia, a small, sustainable winery off the main road. As with a lot of wines and beers around New Zealand (i.e. Tui and Moa), Huia is named after a bird indigenous to the country. Besides the delicious wines, the biggest upside of the winery is their adddooorrable yellow tasting room (see above). As we waltzed in near closing, the girl working the counter was a bit rushed with us. Instead of having us sample each one slowly, she let us pick and choose what we wanted. Although she obviously wanted to leave, the more we talked to her, the more she got excited about the wines she was offering. As for the wines, they were all as refreshing as her enthusiasm. Laurel really enjoyed their Pinot Noir, and we both loved their Hunky Dory, a Sauvignon Blanc with a wonderful balance of gooseberry and passionfruit. -Jennifer
St. Clair’s opened at 9am, so we picked there first. Around 10am, we pulled into a cute but very elegant winery. We ordered a savory muffin upon entering, and the staff seemed overall perplexed by our presence. The muffin was good, and the patio out back is lovely, but the service was brisk. I did a wine tasting and Jennifer abstained, partly due to her being the designated driver, partly due to the staff’s impatience with us. I was rushed through a wine tasting which consisted of an older woman having me pick what I wanted to taste, quickly pouring a sip and hovering over to move me on to the next try. Luckily, she didn’t charge me (they usually charge a small tasting fee), but I still felt uneasy about the experience. The wine was good, especially the whites, but I honestly can’t tell you much since I chugged my sips and left. -Laurel
We then went on to Cloudy Bay and, to our relief, had the exact opposite experience. The lady working the counter was friendly, and offered water and information freely. We learned quite a bit about how their wines are made, the winery itself, and each variety. They have a large, beautiful area out back for relaxing, and the wine was especially good, too. We tried every variety on offer, and our favorites included the Sav, Te Koko, and their Rose, which was soooo goooood and available in extremely limited quantities. I could easily hang out here all day. -Laurel
After our morning excursions in the land of all things grape, we moved on to the wonderful world of wheat. We had just recently learned about moas in Te Papa, so I was excited for dorky reasons. The brewery was started by Josh Scott, son of Allan Scott winemakers, so it’s no surprise the beer has a unique taste and a smooth finish. At the brewery, we chatted with the cool bartender, who ended up being from good ole North Carolina. My favourite is the hoppy and delicious Five Hop Winter Ale, which we actually didn’t try when we were there. They have an even better limited edition version that was aged for two months in chardonnay barrels! They also just released a Breakfast Beer, which combines the appeal of champagne breakfasts and, well, beer. I have nothing but love for this brewery. -Jennifer
I’ll just add that Moa was tasty, my favorite being the Triple. Tastings are about $5 I believe, but he let us try 7 kinds including a cider and share it. They also have a super sweet black lab named Molly. -Laurel
Overall, Marlborough was a nice halfway point in our journey around New Zealand. We didn’t drink much in the three weeks we were sleeping in a car, but the two wine boroughs definitely kicked off our love of New Zealand’s many wineries and breweries.