A weekend in wine country

NEIL HODGSON
Last updated 15:00 09/05/2014
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CHANGING SEASON: A typical autumn scene in the Marlborough grape growing area.

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RURAL LOOKOUT: The view from Vintners Retreat Villa
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RURAL LOOKOUT: The view from Vintners Retreat Villa

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A long weekend always gives us a great opportunity to escape the region for a day or two.

In our case we popped over the hills to Marlborough to spend a couple of days enjoying the wine and food the region has to offer. Believe me, two and a-half days is way too short but we did manage some treats.

We visit Marlborough regularly but normally just there and back in a day. This time we travelled with a couple of winemaker friends and thought it might be wise to stay overnight so we could enjoy the delights Marlborough has to offer.

We stayed at Vintners Retreat and when you split the cost of one of their three bedroom houses between two couples it is really cost effective accommodation conveniently located in the middle of a number of wineries in Rapaura Road.

We had a plan of attack for the weekend - visit wineries and have lunch at one of them each day then eat in at night so we could enjoy some great wines without having to drive. Check out vintnersretreat.co.nz

On the Friday we had late lunch at La Veranda located at the Georges Michel wine estate. Lunch is simple but beautiful, a selection of platters with a special of the day. Four platters in the middle of the table were plenty for the four of us and as you would expect we took the opportunity to taste some of their wines too. The Georges Michel sparkling Sauvignon Semillon blend ($25 at the cellar door) made a refreshing palate cleanser while the barrel fermented La Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (RRP$23) was delightfully complex.

Saturday started with a trip to Johanneshof Cellars at Koromiko where we tasted a wonderful range of aromatic style wines as well as a couple of beautiful sparkling wines.

Johanneshof's Emmi bubbly has been a favourite of ours for many years and a few bottles found their way into the boot of the car along with some Riesling to keep them company. For the first time Johanneshof have a sparkling rosè called New Dawn (RRP$37) and a portion of the sale price is being donated to the Cancer Society.

Johanneshof also have a fantastic underground cellar that you can have a tour of for a small fee. Check out johanneshof.co.nz to see the opening hours and find out more about them.

After Johanneshof we headed almost all the way back to Vintners and the cafe at Hans Herzog. This is one of our all-time favourite cellar door restaurants. We have been known to drive there, have lunch and drive home again.

Sitting in the autumn sun with friends eating fantastic food and whiling away a couple of hours over a bottle or two of fine wine is a pretty good way to spend an afternoon.

I can recommend any of the food dishes but Sari and I shared a Chateaubriand (steak dish) with a couple of side dishes. The wine of choice was a bottle of Zweilgelt, a full bodied red wine that is able to develop intense fruity characters in cool climate growing conditions. The Herzog Zweilgelt 2011 ($53) was perfect with the steak and our travelling companions enjoyed it with their lamb dish.

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Queen's Birthday weekend is less than a month away and a quick getaway to Marlborough is both easy and packed with options for lovers of wine and food. Check out wine-marlborough.co.nz for a full list of great places to visit.

- Nelson

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