Waiting around for perfect weather, we spent the first few days working on our telemetry and analysis tools that we will use to monitor the instrument from the ground. Since then, however, the pressure has let up some and we’ve had a few chances to enjoy ourselves.
Yesterday, some of us took off the afternoon to go wine tasting in Bannockburn. Bannockburn is located near the town of Cromwell, in Central Otago, only about 40 minutes South of the Wanaka airport.
This region is known for great Pinot Noir and beautiful vistas. My uncle who is in the wine industry recommended 3 wineries for us to visit: Felton Rd, Mt Difficulty and Carrick.
Felton Rd Wines is a small winery with their own vineyards located on (you guessed it) Felton Rd in Bannockburn. We called ahead and got added-on last minute to another tour group. We entered through a very small road that meandered its way through the vines to the beautiful winery.
It was great — we were taken on a tour of the vines, where Clio was very happy to get to try one of the grapes (it was a bit tart because it was from a second bloom. They had just picked all the good grapes last week).
We were then taken into the barrel room which was dug into the hill-side to keep it cool and had humidifiers to keep it fairly moist.
Then we were shown some of the vats of grapes ready for fermentation. Finally, we had a tasting of the wines. We really liked their Pinot Noirs, but sadly they had already sold out, so we left empty-handed! Unlike many of the wineries near us in California, they didn’t charge for the tasting.
Mt. Difficulty was also located on Felton Rd, but the tasting room and restaurant were perched up on the top of the hill for an amazing vista. It seemed like a much larger winery than the others we visited, and they did say they distributed internationally, so you may be able to find their wines at home.
We just sat at the bar for a tasting (just $1-$2) before we were swamped by a bus-full of tourists, and exited quickly. I did buy a bottle of Pinot named “Roaring Meg” that came with a story that seemed about half local history and half folklore. From the Mt. Difficulty website:
The colourful story of Roaring Meg comes from Central Otago’s pioneering past. Discovery of gold in the 1860’s attracted many young men to Central Otago in search of their fortune. Following them came a number of enterprising young women equally keen to share in the spoils. Legend has it that Meg was one such lady; a high spirited, fun-loving young thing with an eye for the opportunity.
Robert Gilkison, lawyer and historian wrote: “It used to be generally told in Cromwell that an early party of diggers took with them two girls from a dancing saloon. When they reached the first large stream they carried the lasses across, and one made so much fuss that they called it after her, ‘Roaring Meg’, while the other was particularly calm and peaceful and the next stream was called ‘Gentle Annie’ after her.”
McBride and Carolyn tried some of their dessert wines and also bought a bottle for themselves.
Carrick Wines was located by an inlet of the Kawarau River in Bannockburn. The drive to it was lovely, as you could see the calm water of the inlet set against trees just starting to turn to fall colors and the hills of vines behind.
Again, we sat at the tasting bar ($5, but waived when you bought a bottle) and tasted their wines. Although I generally don’t like most white wines, I really liked 2 of the 3 we tasted. We also tasted a couple of their Pinot Noirs, of which I bought a couple bottles. Clio ended up buying a bottle of Pinot Gris, and McBride bought a Riesling.
After chatting with one of the employees about COSI, we strolled outside onto the lawn that backed right up to the river.
All-in-all it was a great afternoon of wine tasting. After a couple hours, we had done a tour of the vines, and seen vistas high and low. In the end we came away with 7 bottles of wine, and paid less than $10 total for 12 sets of tastings. We then went home and made some delicious pasta with prawns to complement Clio’s bottle of Pinot Gris. The end to a great day!