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Wine Cellar On Wheels

Our campervan lacked a theme.  Sure, she had a rad name: Bazils.  But at the end of the day, she was an ordinary home on wheels.  She wanted an identity.  Enter wine connoisseur, snob, and gulper: Ashley Miller.

Martinborough Fields of GrapesSeven days on the North Island went by in a flash and too many kilometers were logged.  A day with absolutely no driving was in order and Ash found just the spot: Martinborough.  This inviting municipality is located just outside Wellington where the North Island terminates.  A peculiar component and one of Ashley’s favorite past times drew us to this quaint town.  The avenues are named after places the founder had visited including some US States.  Oh, and there are numerous vineyards.  As my buddy Can Can wrote me via electronic mail, it seems our destinations all have something in common… wine.  Ashley’s purple teeth certainly verify this fact.  With Ashley foaming at the mouth, Bazils stopped short of a fence abutting a polo field and we hit the pavement after quick showers… it had been a few days!

The Wine Cellar on WheelsBe it Napa, California or Mendoza, Argentina, wine producing areas share a common problem: one must drive or ride bicycles because of the distance between cellar doors.  Each mode of transportation presents its own problems like budgetary constraints, DUI, and safety.  Ahhh, the shoe-string-express cures all ills!  A handy “Wine Tour” brochure provided a colorful map and an ambitious assault plan on four wineries was created.  The first battlefield was cleverly named Martinborough Vineyard, but the grape juice was anything but bland.  Despite me pointing out that Bazils was quickly becoming a wine cellar on wheels due to tastings a few days prior, Ash couldn’t leave without their 2008 Te Tera Pinot Noir.  Let it be said: we already had five bottles of vino on board.

We Should Have Just Purchased The Barrel Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Vineyard Flowers

Not needing a designated driver (Ash refused to drive Bazils, so this was a moot point), we tasted ten wines at Margraine.  Starting with champagne and ending with port, our taste buds were on a runaway train.  At this point, we were hoping the vineyard name was not indicative of our general health in the morning.  During the tasting, several Europeans and the wine provider herself started ganging up on us two Americans, saying we as a nation don’t enjoy laughing at ourselves.  Never before had I thought Jeff Foxworthy would be helpful when defending America’s reputation.  Boy did he suffice.  Our heads held high, we departed with a Pinot Rose.  Ash insisted this one would be consumed on a Fijian beach.

Ata Rangi Vineyard Rose Bush Ata Rangi Vineyard Vines Ata Rangi Pillow Top Mattress  

A leisurely stroll down one of Martinborough’s rustic streets and we arrived at Ata Rangi, one of the original cellar doors in this simple town.  Walking up the drive to the vineyard was sensational with wildflowers blooming and rose bushes marking the start of each row of grapevines.  Interestingly, wine producers plant rose bushes here to protect the fruit because if disease begins to spread, the beautiful flower will show signs first.  Once the distracting environment released us, six wines met our awaiting pallets.  Once again, it was hard for Ashley to simply walk away.  Lest the two previously purchased bottles were getting lonely, a 2007 Celebre variety provided some company. 

Vynfield On The MoveAlready impressed with the quality of wine produced in this picturesque region of New Zealand, the best vineyard was the finale.  Again, the approaching walk was a delight with horses and an eternity of grapevines.  Vynfield was situated at the foot of rolling green hills and a cream colored home looked incredibly inviting.  Before imbibing on more fruit goodness, we learned how the domicile came to be.  Similar to how Ashley’s parents created their home in Kansas, the house was moved in separate pieces from the country and reassembled at its present location.  Quite amazing really.  Wanting to enjoy the pleasant aesthetics, we chose to drink from flights outside in the garden area.  Perhaps all the wine and fresh air had gone to my head, because this time it was yours truly that wanted the 2007 Pinot Noir Reserve.  It was a real treat on Christmas Day in the South Pacific.

Vynfield Vineyard Vynfield Vineyard - Wine Flights Vynfield Vineyard Grapevines

Four bottles of wine to add to our growing collection… that was enough for one day.  So we headed into town to find some street signs.  That is what you do after wine tasting, of course.  This city boy from Cincinnati, Ohio and country gal from Claflin, Kansas must be meant for each other.  Low and behold, the streets of Ohio and Kansas intersected!  Ash was so excited that she climbed on top of the neighboring white picket fence to get her petite body under the KS sign.  Not wanting to be imprisoned for loitering, our time beneath the street signs was limited to ten minutes. 

Intersection of Love O H... I O We Aren't In Kansas Anymore

With bag ‘o wine in tow, we joyfully meandered back to Bazils where Ash cooked green pepper burgers and pasta for dinner.  One guess what she served to drink. 

- Greg and Ash    

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Most vineyards in Martinborough charge a fair price of $5 NZ per person to taste their wine.  However, they will waive that fee if you purchase a bottle.  Thus, that $17 NZ vintage doesn’t seem so expensive when you count your tasting fee.  All but one winery we visited waived both of our tasting fees with a purchase.  Thus, a $7 NZ bottle of wine from the cellar door is dang good. 
2) We purchased ten bottles of wine while in New Zealand.  It is that good.  But the ones we drank in Fiji or later in New Zealand developed a slight vinegar taste as a result of storing them in a hot campervan.  If cruising around with wine in a vehicle for an extended period of time, find a cool/dark place to house them. 
3) New Zealand’s most popular wine region is Blenheim on the South Island.  While the product there is good (we purchased three bottles… put the wallet away Ashley), we both prefer Martinborough not only for the quality of wine, but the layout as well.

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