So as I mentioned earlier, we decided to stay in the hood today rather than drive to the town of Nelson, about 90 minutes to the west. As it turned out, the nasty storm we had overnight caused some damage on the main drag to Nelson, so they shut the road down…we wouldn’t have been able to go anyway. But our plan is to go there tomorrow, then back pedal to Blenheim and then over to Kaikoura. The weather forecast is sunny and 75, but if the road still isn’t open, then we’ll have to totally give up on Nelson and just go to Kaikoura.
It’s lucky that we didn’t leave this area, because we had the greatest winery experience of the trip (and probably our lives) here today. We visited Clos Henri vineyards, a small place whose cellar (that would be a tasting room) was an old chapel transported over from Kaikoura and then renovated. Like Herzog, these guys decided that they needed a new challenge, and they started a winemaking business here in New Zealand despite success in France. Their wines were amazing, and we enjoyed a tasting and then a bottle with a selection of cheeses (local and French) and light salad while sitting on the steps of the chapel, overlooking the vineyard, the mountains, and enjoying the rare sunshine we finally had today. It was a great experience, and we were lucky enough to be the only people there for over three hours, so we got the full attention of Celine, the woman that went into great detail about the unique conditions of the soil on the property that made their particluar wines, mainly Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs, so special. Really educational…and fun.
By the way, we did return to Herzog this morning to sample their wines in their cellar, and wound up buying six or so bottles, as we did with Clos Henri. It is obvious at this point that we have far more wines bottles than room for them in our wine suitcases (and they hold a total of two cases!)…so we will be drinking down our inventory in the days ahead. There are no wineries in Kaikoura or Christchurch, our stops for the next four days, so we’ll need to tap our supply. There is one winery in between the two towns that has gotten great reviews, Pegasus Bay, and we will be having lunch there on Dec 31st.
We hit a supermarket in Belnheim today to gets some basic supplies, and there was a liquor store in town that was very limited in itsinventory of good booze. I bought a bottle of Appleton 8 year old rum from Jamaica, which I’ve never had before. It’s OK…not as good as My Gay, but better than that darned Bacardi which seems to be everywhere.
We had dinner this evening at what everyone was calling the second best restaurant in the area after Herzog…a place called Gibb’s. I gotta tell you…the food was good…sort of German comfort food done very nicely. But it was nowhere near the amazing experience we had at Herzog. The room: much more simple, the walls were literally burlap. The waitress we had: clueless. The service was spotty at best. The mark-up on wine: over the top. But like I said, the food was good: a beautiful pea soup with bacon and mushrooms…wonderful raviolis…braised duck and veal…all delicious. But calling this place the second best restaurant is doing an incredible injustice to Herzog. They are miles apart. (And believe me, I will write about it in tripadvisor.com when I get home!)
Many of the local winery employees were the ones to tell us that they thought Gibb’s was better than Herzog in some cases…and I think in all honesty, they’ve never been to Herzog. It’s a very expensive meal…and I think there’s sort of almost a backlash at Herzog in the way it is run with such Swiss precision. Tough nails…they do a superior job.
So…my women have once again passed out on me. It’s 11PM our time on Dec 28…Tuesday night. That makes it 5AM on the east coast Tuesday morning. I don’t know why I don’t sleep like they do. Perhaps the running around just gets me wired. Thank goodness Mr ambien is here, and I will have a good night’s sleep, ready to drive to Nelson if the road is open. If not, it’s Kaikoura, a quaint seaside town on the eastern (Pacific) shore of this South Island, known for its amazing colonies of birds and seals on the shore…and its sperm whales and dolphins out at sea. It is there where we will have our whale-watch experience that Ava is already talking about.
By the way…a significant side-note: Ava signed her name on her artwork all by herself this week. Pretty cool. Of course, it’s a lot easier when your name isn’t “Bernadette,” but I won’t tell her that.