Saturday, April 30, 2011

16: R&R

At this time of year, even a simple walk into the town is a cornucopia of colourful riches. The old shacks in the Chinese miners' village are layered with leaves, the cemetery seats are surrounded with glorious berries, and the spiders are busy lacing the dry-stone walls with webs.

On Easter Sunday we headed over to Clyde for the Wine and Food Harvest Festival. The main street in the little village of Clyde is thronged with locals and visitors all sampling the local produce and enjoying the sunshine under cockscrew clouds.

Briar Vale Estate has not produced wine for eight years as they take a break to establish their vines. From some of the grapes grown on the estate comes True Colours Pinot Blanc - a pale, crisp wine with notes of vanilla and pear. More apple and melon flavours come through as the wine warms a little in the glass.

There was plenty to eat as well as drink, including preserved fruit (peaches and carries), tomato chutneys and silverbeet pickle. One stall sold hangi pies; one bowls of raspberries and ice-cream; another pork and fennel sausages; yet another adorable cupcakes with cachou hearts, chocolate elephants, and cute giraffe decorations.

There were 23 wineries, and unfortunately we couldn't sample all of them, but Drumsara proved to be one of our favourites. Their pinot rose had a rich pink hue, a sweet raspberry nose and tasted of rose petals, rhubarb, and spicy Turkish delight.

I was tempted by the Cider Braised Pork Belly, which actually turned out to be more delicious than it looked, and it smelt entrancing!

The whitebait patties were sold out on one side of the street, but there were still some to be had if you looked down sausage alley!

The crew at Drystack were very friendly and smiley. Their pinot noir was slightly unusual with a hint of cinammon among the typical cherries, plums, and rich earthy flavours. The grapes are grown locally and bottled at Marlborough to produce this bright red claret-hued vintage.

We checked out Black Ridge to ask them about their cat who looks just like Chester (and those silver seal Burmese are too rare in this country for them not to be related). Their Burmese cat, Kuce, earns his keep by erradicating about 300 rabbits a year. 

We sampled their Conroy's Pinot noir, which is a lighter style of the variety made from fruit from vines under seventeen years old. As is to be expected, it is still a pert little number with a primary fruit punch that has not yet developed a depth of character. Conroy's Gully (near Alexandra) is reputedly the driest place in New Zealand.

8 Ranges had a deeper ruby red pinot noir that made me think of Dorothy's gem-encrusted slippers (maybe I'd had a few too many?). The taste is all Central - cherries and red berries; black pepper and wild thyme - delicious! The vineyard is somewhat boutique, nestled in the Alexandra Basin and occupying only 3Ha, but you can visit by appointment - we may be making one soon...

Him Outdoors bravely decided to try the Manuka-smoked eggs in a bacon and egg butty. I have had them before and all I can taste is smoke, but he said it was pleasant enough.

Our final wine of the day was the 2008 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir. We had, indeed, saved the best until last. Him Outdoors declared this was 'proper; a cut above' and then he went into rhapsodies about the gently-squeezed juice of plums and cherries - I'm sure it all comes from grapes but I let him have his moment, and then wiped his chin.

Spot the celebrity - yes, it's actor/ vineyard owner Sam Neill. Well done.

Healthy food choices include apples and nuts (bags of walnuts are $5 for 1kg), while less healthy options offer deep-fried sugar covered in berries and cream from the Black Forest Waffle Hut.

To keep the kids amused there are balloon animals and inflatable giraffes, zebras, pink unicorns, blue dogs and lemon lollipops. Apparently the face painitng isn't just for the children, either.

Happy with our purches, we drive home through the Kawarau Gorge lined with golden poplars.

The next day I walked up Tobin's Track with the Mischievous Minx, the Fudge Princess, and a couple of dopey dogs. Him Outdoors ran up and joined us at the top, barely even puffing.

This range is known colloquially as the Old Man of Arrowtown. You can see him lying sleeping on his back under his cumulus duvet.

On Friday night we celebrated the wedding of Wills & Kate in our hats and dresses (and thermals and slippers). We had cucumber sandwiches and cheese savouries with glasses of bubbles and jugs of Pimms. It all began in quite a civilised manner, and rapidly went downhill, as you can see... (I blame the Oamaru dancing.)