Fresh food and fine wine essential ingredients to a New Zealand recipe
By Lorraine Simpson
New Zealand is a dream destination. From the crystal waters of the Abel Tasman, to the expanse of Northland’s Ninety Mile Beach, to the mountains surrounding Queenstown — the country knows no shortage of breathtaking scenery.
Visitors can experience the best of it by hiking, lazing at the beach, or soaking up views from a vineyard with a glass of local pinot noir in hand.
As our long winter has come to an end is it time to consider a warmer place to spend next winter?
There’s no bad time to travel to New Zealand, but unless you’re a snow bunny and planning to spend time on the slopes, it’s generally wise to avoid visiting in their winter which is perfect for us Canadians as their summer is our coldest time.
As seasons are opposite to the northern hemisphere, travelers end up leaving the snow to head into beautiful sunny weather.
Though the summers have beautiful weather, early January is also not the best time to visit. It’s common for New Zealanders to take three or four weeks off around the holidays, meaning cities empty out while everyone heads to the beach, and many restaurants and cafes shut down, limiting options for dining, and crowding the beaches. We suggest February and March.
Your New Zealand experience starts the moment you step aboard your flight. Air New Zealand international flights feature New Zealand wines and cuisine. And their friendly, professional crew will make sure you’re comfortable throughout your flight. Experience award-winning service and warm Kiwi hospitality.
New Zealand’s wine and food is amongst the best in the world. Taste is paramount. Talented and innovative chefs combine ingredients freshly harvested from garden, land and sea while Pacific influences, organics and indigenous foods create a unique experience – whether that’s fine dining or casual outdoor meals, cellar door tasting, mingling with the locals at farmers’ markets, or an authentic Māori hangi experience.
Spectacular scenery is just the beginning of the New Zealand experience – aside from the landscape, some of New Zealand’s best kept secrets are of the culinary kind.
For an authentic taste of New Zealand, the intrepid explorer should also be prepared to engage the tastebuds and discover the unique flavours and quirky treats – from chocolate fish to golden kumara – that Kiwis love to come home to.
Of course you’d also expect to taste great wine in NZ and a new batch of luxury hospitality offerings lifts the country’s wine experiences to a new level.
New Zealand is best known for its rugged mountain peaks, deeply carved fiords and sweeping white sand beaches. Now this land of natural contrasts is home to luxury wine experiences in locations as diverse as the sides of cliffs and beside picture-perfect lakes.
Our first stop is Craggy Range, Hawke’s Bay – famed for its distinctive art deco architecture – has buckets of sunshine and a fertile coastal landscape that infuses award-winning wines and gourmet food.
The two-day Craggy Range Ultimate Wine Tour begins with a helicopter tour over Craggy Range vineyards with head winemaker Matt Stafford, who guides the small group as they view vines and the region’s natural landmarks from the air, including Tuki Tuki Valley, the Te Awanga coast and Cape Kidnappers.
Then it’s back to the winery for a personalized tasting and blending session to create your own wine to take home.
The experience can be mixed and matched with a bespoke food and wine event, which begins in the garden and culminates in a personalized three-course meal at Craggy Range’s Terrôir Restaurant.
Food is prepared from a guided food gathering with chef Andrew Saxon. Guests stay in the luxurious four-bedroom lodge and can also fly-fish, walk up Te Mata Peak and play a few rounds of golf. Its warm maritime climate makes Hawke’s Bay comfortable to visit year-round, even on chilly winter mornings when the sun is shining and the cool air has chilled the air temperatures.
Next stop on our wine lovers’ adventure is The Farm at Cape Kidnappers.
It is a 30-minute drive from Napier on the North Island’s east coast but a world away, with its dedication to high-end luxury experience. This is a special place, not only because it reveals panoramic views of New Zealand’s wild east coast at its best, but also because it’s home to just a handful of individual private cottages, so few people can stay at once.
There’s a particular focus on food and wine here. Wine experiences range from wine tastings and appreciation classes in The Farm’s own cellars to full-day excursions exploring the cellars of some of Hawke’s Bay’s best wineries.
If eating freshly harvested oysters, taking a private helicopter tour over the Marlborough Sounds and foraging for your own food appeals, then the Cloudy Bay Winery’s Forage experience is for you.
In between food foraging, there are private vineyard tours, wine tastings, sashimi tastings of local salmon and lunch on the Marlborough Sounds on the way to Tio Point oyster farm to harvest shellfish fresh from the sea. It also includes a private barrel tasting and blending session at the globally renowned Cloudy Bay Winery – one of the first in New Zealand to make sauvignon blanc. We finish with The Forage dinner, created from the produce collected.
We stay at Dog Point Vineyard’s The Bell Tower, which offers boutique accommodation with outstanding views across Marlborough’s Wairau Valley.
Next we travel to Brancott Estate Heritage Centre overlooking the country’s largest wine region, Marleborough which has vistas to the North Island. With one of the most outstanding vineyard restaurants in the country, Brancott specializes in fresh regional produce and wine tastings including wines only available at the cellar door.
There is an exclusive bespoke private dining room catering for up to 18 guests, or a wine tasting tailored to your tastes. Take a vineyard cycling tour or up the splendour with a helicopter flight over the vineyards followed by a wine tasting.
A premium wine tasting experience features Brancott’s top-flight wines, led by one of the estate’s experts. We stay nearby in the newly opened five-star Marlborough Lodge, a stately residence set in expansive heritage gardens.
For more info and to join one of our hosted group trips to Portugal check out the following website, www.conciergetravelgroup.ca, or call ClubWest’s travel guru, Lorraine Simpson, for all your travel need 289-273-8095.