On a sunny Thursday morning we dropped Calvin off at school and grabbed some picnic fare from the local grocery store. Then it was a short drive up Route 1 to the Waipara Valley region of North Canterbury. The countryside, sprawling between the snow-capped Southern Alps and the Teviotdale Hills, includes more than 30 vineyards.
From the Waipara Valley North Canterbury Winegrowers’ website:
The Waipara Valley is snuggled in the lee of the Teviotdale hills that provide protection from cool easterly winds but open to warming north west winds. The protective Southern Alps ensure low rainfall, abundant sunshine and often very warm summers, helped by the famed hot, dry nor’wester winds, though cooling sea breezes and the occasional cold southerly fronts temper this.
We couldn’t visit all 30+ vineyards (!) but we selected three that looked particularly interesting to us and made a date of it.
First stop: Waipara Springs, with some of the oldest vines in the whole region. We tasted 5 wines for NZ$5 each, with the charge being waived with the purchase of any bottle of wine to take home. Both James and I loved a 2013 Reisling with lovely honeydew and elderflower notes, so we bought some for later. And one of the owners told us that he just received word that Waipara Springs will soon be distributed in the Philadelphia area, so look out, friends!
Next we drove just 2 minutes down the road to Muddy Water and Greystone Wines, which are two separate vineyards owned by brothers. A super-knowledgeable employee of the winery did an efficient but informative and friendly tasting. All told we had 7 more wines, from a light sauvignon blanc (for which the region is well-known) to three distinct Reislings then on to a pinot and syrah.
I was surprised at how much I liked another reisling (I often find them too sweet for my taste) and a syrah (not my usual red). We bought one of each to take home (and the tasting itself was free!).
To eat our lunch we thought we’d stop at a picnic area but it was desolate and none of the promised picnic tables appeared, so James drove us up into the hills where we found a beautiful lookout. Lunch was simple but tasty, and the scene couldn’t have been more beautiful.
We wrapped up our Thursdate with a 6 mile trail run/hike at Woodend Beach. The trail itself mostly took us through pine and scrubby brushland. But the wide and wild and completely empty beach we walked on the way back north made up for the early part of the trek.