The first sign for the winery was a large poster of a red donkey, words that said “red ass rhubarb wine” and encouragements to turn here. The large main room served as a combination of shop, caf&233; and two long bars facilitated tasting. By no means a sit down tasting, each visitor could taste 5 small samples free of charge.
I was given a form to indicate my choice of 5. There were three main types and the prices were also helpfully included:
crab apple — semi-dry white with a tart aftertaste, good clean finish
gold digger — made from 100% pear, quite sweet like riesling or gewurtztraminer I bought one as a gift and was lucky enough to taste it when she opened it
buffaloberry fusion — dry white, like chenin blanc, my least favourite
chokeberry medley — red, from chokeberry with some elderflower to combat the bitterness, but I could still taste the fruit’s skin
red ass rhubarb — 90% rhubarb with 10% raspberry, the winery’s most popular wine and it isn’t just because of the catchy name, it really is very good, I bought a bottle to try with mm
Breakfast at the hotel, croissants, ham, bread. The hotel has a small book that describes the markets in the Provence region. In French, but we were able to read it. So following its advice we headed to Apt for the market. It was very busy, and we had a hard time finding parking. At the end, I had to reverse down a steep unpaved slope to a narrow space between other cars. Heh, Mum taught me well.
Loved the market. Lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, crafts, just fantastic. Bought sun-dried tomatoes, honey, olive wood board, grapes. We could go crazy at these markets, everything so fresh and so tempting. No wonder people want to come live in this region.
In the middle of the market is St Anne’s Chapel. Very small, quiet and peaceful. We walked around, prayed and made a donation. Made friends with one of the volunteer ladies there. Didn’t quite know what each party was talking — our French wasn’t good enough and she didn’t speak English. However, the warmth and friendship shared with fellow catholics didn’t need language.
Bought a big slice of watermelon, which we took back to the hotel to enjoy, as well as offloading our purchases. Next stop, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Lunch in the car was apricots and peaches we bought yesterday. Parked at the tourist office, and had a late lunch of salad and the châteauneuf wine. Perfect food and drink for an extremely hot day, the temperature gauge in the car read over 40°C.
Visited a few caves for wine tasting, learned about the traditional 13 grape varieties allowed in a châteauneuf wine. Also found out they had whites and rosés. Walked up to the top of the chaâteau for the amazing views. There were weddings galore in town; a wedding party was taking pictures at the top of the château, and we stumbled across a wedding in a church while exploring. It could be the same wedding party, dunno.
Visited one of the wineries at the bottom of the steps and bought a bunch of wines. Red and white. They are able to ship overseas too, and it was soooo tempting to get a couple of cases. Such a lovely, wine-focused town. Beautiful Provencal architecture, great food, wonderful wine. We visited another winery on the way out of town, and we can safely declare our love for this region.
Dinner was back at Avignon. Moules frites, dorade and we’re becoming addicted to rosé. Quite a long, dark drive back to the hotel which mm did, I’d finished most of our wine.
Bade goodbye to the Portabello, we were very comfortable there. First on the agenda this morning was fill up the car. It was cold, windy and wet at the BP, grrrr. Pleasant drive though, we were heading towards Alexandra, via the “fruit route.” There were lots of fruit farms near Alexandra and we bought a large pack of cherries $12. The cherry orchards were shrouded by nets, to protect them from birds and insects apparently.
By the time we got to Central Otago the weather had changed so much, from wet and windy to positively hot. Scenery changed too, we drove alongside the Clutha River and stopped at the Cromwell Lookout to take some huge photos.
Alexandra is supposed to be a largish town in the region, but the main street was still pretty tiny. We had a late lunch of mini quiche and bacon & egg pie (more like a quiche than pie IMO). Visited the tourist information centre and got tons of brochures. Armed with our newly acquired ‘Central Otago Wine Map’ we headed towards Cromwell to the vineyards. This is the southermost winemaking region in the world (NZ holds a lot of ‘southermost’ records) and the climate of hot summers and cool winters suit the grapes very much.
The vineyard we visited at Cromwell wasn’t impressive so we decided to move on, and ended up at Bannockburn. Almost by chance we hit Olssens, which is the last one along the road it is on. We tasted the available wines there, had a brilliant chat with the lady there and bought a couple of bottles of pinot noir and some verjuice, which is sour like vinegar and used in dressings and baking. 2 bottles of ice wine too, total $165, pretty good. There were some sculptures on the grounds, more photo opportunity.
Here’s a photo at Cromwell Lookout and one of the sculptures at Olssens. Kinda similiar?
Then it was onward again to Queenstown. The view on the way was stunning. Rock formations, driving along the river, sheep, deer, lovely. Passed by the place where bungy jumps were invented but it was closed. Still tourists there taking pictures of the bridge.
Queenstown was very touristy, she said it was like Davos. And yes, it felt like a downmarket version of any alpine resort. Very commercial, lots of outdoor shops and backpackers hostels. We had dinner at a posh restaurant called the Tatler – sat outside, she had john dory on risotto cake and asparagus and I had rack of lamb with potato dauphinois and ratatouille. Half a dozen oysters to start and a beer for me. $90.
Still light out so we walked around the town. Bought cheese, eggs, ribena and stuff at a small supermarket. Tried to decide on what to do tomorrow. Saw a few internet places, about $3-5 an hour. VERY tempted. sigh. Here’s a photo of sunset at the lake. NO FILTERS, NOT PHOTOSHOPPED.
We’re staying at the Colonial Village motel. It cannot compare with the Portabello at all, it’s one of those places where you try to touch very little of the furniture and fittings. nothing particularly wrong, just not 100% comfortable.
East this time, to Alsace. Yes, another country, this time France, less than 2 hours and we were in Colmar. Really, French drivers are not as nice as Swiss drivers.
Headed straight to the tourist information office to book accommodation — a booklet lists available accommodation along the wine route and the lady at the desk will help us call and collect the payment. All very convenient. We stayed at a simple b&b at Ribeauville, typically small French rooms but comfortable. No aircon but a ceiling fan, which served its purpose neatly.
The Alsace region consists of a vast collection of tiny villages, more like hamlets, scattered along the hillsides. Strasbourg to the north, Colmar in the centre and Mulhouse to the south. Get off the main road and drive along the windy smaller roads and all along the road are vines, lots and lots of them.
We stopped at a secluded spot and tried some of the grapes, very sweet, really nice. Mostly they produce white wine — Tokay Pinot Gris, Muscat, Riesling, Gewurztraminer. The red — Pinot Noir — was really bad, worst than plonk. But some of the whites were great, we liked Gewurztraminer the best, sweet, easy to drink, and very very pleasant.
What you do, go into a winery or shop and they will let you try out their wines, take your time and taste and then buy. Some proprietors are more knowledgeable and friendly than others. We bought a little, added bread, pâté, cheeese, had a really great indoor picnic dinner in our room. Nothing to watch on French TV, went to bed quite early.