Queenstown sits on the shore of the enormous serpentine Lake Wakatipu. It is a town out of a storybook, with steep streets which ascend up the mountainside, and it looks out over the southern part of the lake to a vista of the snow capped mountain range, The Remarkables.
The lake features prominently in all things Queenstown. Small boats and kayaks dots the surface of the lake, but so too do large luxury yachts cruise its shoreline.
And the water is crystal clear, reminding me of Lake Tahoe in it clarity and deep blue hue.
But before I got here, there were two more wineries to visit, down in Bannockburn.
The first was Bannock Brae Estate.
I passed on tasting all but their pinots (remember this was my third winery of the day), and they lived up the 5 stars given my Michael Cooper (one of Nz’s wine guru’s).
Just down the road from Bannock Brae is Akarua Vinyard. A bigger winery than the three previous wineries (cases produced in the thousands per year) I thought the wines here were outstanding. Even their entry level pinot (Rua) at about $28 (Nz dollars) was deep and complex. Their reserve pinot was even better. And the tasting room was one of the coolest I’ve visited; the tasting area was laden with previously used wine barrels, so not only did they provide a pretty interesting tasting area, but the aroma added to the experience.
The woman pouring that day was a Dunedin resident who had moved to Bannockburn with here husband about two years earlier and it was delightful talking with her about the differences between the different areas of Nz and just life in general. Particularly interesting was how much I’ve been impressed with some of the fortitude of the New Zealanders, especially in the face of serious illness, and how my surprise at that to her was just “the way we are”. In fact, she hadn’t really given much thought, but the more we talked about, the more she appreciated that it was in fact not the norm for some of the world. She related to me a story of her own mother, who despite her diminutive size had displayed Herculean strength in her life (a husband with a stroke, financial problems, her own health problems), and yet was still going strong. Not done with life, but also not afraid to die. Maybe it’s the local wine (I hope).
Once I left Akarua, I headed into Queenstown to secure some lodging (pretty easy), and then I headed out in the early evening to fish the Mataura River. Though I didn’t catch any fish, when you fish a river in a scenic place like this, you (almost) don’t care.
The next morning, I walked the cobblestone streets of Queenstown, sampling a couple of the local coffee houses (and, apparently learning nothing from the previous day).
I then began the trek back to Dunedin. Just outside Queenstown lies Lake Hayes, and on the hills above the lake sit Amisfield Vinyards. A very famous NZ winery, which fortunately for me wasn’t open yet. Lake Hayes is much smaller than Wakatipu, but beautiful nonetheless.
See what I mean?
From here I traveled into the Gibbstone Valley (yet another famous wine growing region), and by this time is was the dreaded 10am. Dreaded, of course, because that’s when the tasting rooms open. I stopped at Perergine Vinyards. “Hey, you’re our first vistor” they said. Well, it is 10:01, I thought. This was the largest vinyard I visited (and I think they are the third largest in Nz, producing around 30,000 cases/year). But being big didn’t mean any lessening of the wines, which were outstanding (and my ONLY winery of the day….hear the sound of me patting myself on the back?).
On the way through the Kawarau Gorge I stopped at the Wild Earth Winery and Bistro. No wine this time, but I had heard good things about the bistro, and indeed the reports were true. To get to the bistro you had to walk across a suspended bridge, which was really cool.
The food was amazing; I had salmon Laksa and venison sliders.
After a cup of coffee, I was ready to get some fishing in…I drove up to Poolburn Dam (which looked MUCH closer on the map…an hour on a dirt road). Much the land surrounding the Reservoir is almost lunar-like, and some parts of the Lord of the Rings movie were filmed here. I didn’t catch any fish (the theme for the weekend), but I did spy this….
Pheasant under glass, anyone? (no, I didn’t shoot it).
So, that was my weekend. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.