Travel is about trying new things and enjoying the adventure.  What better way to adhere to that philosophy than to try something daring while in Queenstown. Not skydiving or mountain biking. I’m talking about a wine tasting adventure.  Yes, I’m from California but the closest I have come to a tasting is to tag along with some friends who were ordering sparkling flights.  To be honest, I know little about wine, and was looking forward to this excursion.  Did I mention it included lunch?  The tour van met Halley and me at our hotel and we headed out of town.  Our first stop was Amisfield Vineyard where our guide took us out back to see the vines.

The back of Amisfield Winery as we looked at our first vines

The back of Amisfield Bistro as we looked at our first vines

It was a glorious morning and I confess I was a bit distracted by the scenery.  The blue sky and puffy white clouds about snow capped peaks were so lovely.  Our brief lesson in viticulture ended; we were ready to try our first wine.  Eleven of us made our way down to the cellar. It soon became apparent that the tourists from Sweden were experienced at wine tasting.  They identified the Sauvignon blanc right away.  Halley and I were clueless.  We had an opportunity to try several bottles including a couple Pinot noir wines. After a quick stop at the store to pick up a favorite vintage, we were back in the van and on the road to Wild Earth Wines.

Crossing the Darawaraa River to get to Wild Earth

Crossing the Kawarau River to get to Wild Earth

This stop was really a treat.  First, because we were right next to the Kawarau River; in addition,  it was time for lunch.  What a lunch!  I think they call this a tasting. There were five dishes, which we shared and five Wild Earth wines, one to complement each sampling. In the photo below the bottle of Riesling is empty.  We finished that one first with the abalone and orzo.  The Rose and the three Pinot noir vintages were for the other courses.

Five courses and five wines at Wild Earth

Five courses and five wines at Wild Earth             Photo by Halley Boatman Sanchez

This was an extraordinary lunch.  Marvelous wines were perfectly pared with the unusual fare. I seldom eat abalone, salmon, goat, hare and venison.  The food was delicious; the company was convivial. After a little wine, I think I was managing quite well with my Swedish!

We were a jolly group by the time we headed out to our next stop, Scott Base. This small establishment is owned by Allan Scott, the Marlborough winemaker.  We sampled a superb Riesling and purchased a bottle to take home.  Everyone on the van purchased a bottle!  Perhaps we should have bought more because we can’t get anything as fine in California.  I guess, we will have to go back to Central Otago for more!

Scott Base tasting room

Wine tasting at Scott Base

Our last stop was Chard Farm, right next to the Kawarau River and not far from Hackett’s bungee jump.  (I do so like staying close to the river.  Kinda weird, huh?)  The winery looks like an Italian vineyard, maybe in Tuscany.   Our guide and van driver, Simon, led us down to the cellar for our last tasting of the afternoon.

Our guide, Simon, pours the wine at Chard Farm

Our guide, Simon, pours the wine at Chard Farm         Photo by Halley Boatman Sanchez

We were surrounded by huge oaken barrels that went off into the darkness in long rows. This looked like a wine cellar. We tried several bottles of wine.  Guess what!  To my surprise, I identified the Pinot Gris!  As the afternoon wore on, I think we were all getting a little tired and were ready to head back to Queenstown.   Could it be the wine and food and pleasant company?

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