Eat, drink and be merry…for tomorrow we fly!

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

I did write a post yesterday…I just haven’t decided whether I want to publish it yet. Quite simply: I went whitewater rafting yesterday on the Shotover River and had one of the scariest experiences of my life…so much so, that I couldn’t honestly say I will ever go rafting again. Enough of that for now…I’ll make my decision later.

It’s Friday and I’m sitting in the car in front of the Gibbston Valley winery and cheesery with Ava snoozing in the back seat while Kelly goes inside to sample some cheese…something she hasn’t been able to do for much of this trip. I’m OK with missing out on the cheese, since I think I’ve eaten my weight in bread on this trip and have certainly not succeeded in my master plan of losing some weight here.

Speaking of that…we had a fantastic dinner last night at Wai, a restaurant on the waterfront of Queenstown that had gotten great reviews by many people, including Paula, our waitress back at the French Cafe in Auckland. (That seems so long ago now.)

It was the first time we’ve tried oysters in New Zealand, and they were very intense in flavor and quite minerally…unlike any oysters we’ve eaten back home. It was fun to try them, but a half-dozen between the two of us was enough. We also had some tasty quail, an unusual stuffed pasta with veggies dish, and even smoked eel…all very good. Unfortunately, the rain has continued, and our coveted waterfront seats offered no remarkable views of the Remarkables.

We had a nice last big breakfast at the lodge this morning. Andy, the proprietor, prepared his world famous eggs Benedict, and it’s safe to say that it was the best I’ve ever had by far. The bernaise sauce is his secret, and it is amazing!

We were happy to see the sun was out, though it was a bit windy. But we decided that our last full day in New Zealand should be spent on the road, so we headed for Glenorchy, a town about 48 km from Queenstown. Many stops on the way to Glenorchy, as well as the mountains and valleys around the town itself, were used in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. It really looks like Middle Earth, and you could picture the battle scenes fought on what are simply huge fields of grazing cattle and sheep now…with those incredible mountains in the background.

The paved road continued about 8 km past Glenorchy before it turned into a dirt road, and we decided not to go any further with our rental car. But what we saw was really quite mind-blowing.

Return trips here seem to go by so much faster than the initial trip there. We certainly make a lot of photo stops each way, but the unfamiliar road becomes a little more friendly on return trip, and we got back into the Queenstown area rather quickly.

We went past town and continued on to the Gibbston Valley, where I started writing today’s blog entry. Kelly enjoyed the cheese immensely, and we moved on to a vineyard that by all stretches of the imagination, should not succeed where it is: Chard Farm.
The property is located on a wedge of land that sits on top of a cliff, literally, over the river. The only way in and out of this property is a narrow dirt road that hugs the mountainside. There is no guard rail of any kind…pretty common in these parts of New Zealand…just a little plastic stick with a reflector on it to tell you you’re on the edge–in case the huge drop straight down to the river wasn’t enough.

The wines were wonderful, but thank God you don’t get huge samples, because the ride back out is the real challenge! We made it unscathed and headed for our dinner destination: Amisfield Winery.

It’s interesting: I don’t know why this is, but in New Zealand, we’ve found that the best restaurants are almost always located in wineries. We’ve had our share of non-winery feasts, and some of them have been excellent. But our best meals on this trip BY FAR have been in wineries: Herzog still at the top by a mile, but many others, like tonight’s wonderful meal at Amisfield, were great, too.

It was “trust the chef” night, so we basically let him do all the work, and our meal consisted of incredibly inventive and refreshing salads, perfectly cooked lamb, delicious pan-sauteed salmon, wonderful desserts, and wines that matched. I didn’t do the wines, but Kelly did, and I got to take a sip from each. My only complaint, which is a common one with me in this country, is there was no liquor of any kind. I understand that this is wine country and all that, but even when there is a bar, the selection is pretty lame. I suppose I am totally in the minority one this one.

So now Ava and I are in a supermarket parking lot while Kelly does a quick shop for things we will need for tomorrow’s flights back home. We’ve had an amazing time here…often tiring and stressful…but also unforgettable. We are definitely ready to go home…but it’s going to be a long journey to get there!

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