Gibbston Valley, Skippers Canyon and on to Paradise
Adam and I have been working hard and snowboarding in between. Nearly every week I go wine tasting at the college and have got myself a real taste for the famous Central Otago Pinot Noir. They haven't been growing grapes in Central Otago for long, the oldest vines are perhaps only 40 or 50 years old which is very young in comparison to a long established region such as Burgundy. It is the most southerly wine growing region in the world. The Pinot Noir grapes come with their own special story as a man now known as the Godfather of Pinot, Alan Brady went against all the experts and planted the grapes here, they said they would never grow, and look at them now. As it so happens I am sipping on a Mud House Pinot Noir 2008 as I type (in case anyone very clever is reading, I know this is not a Central Otago wine :-P)
So when John (my boss) suggested I take the opportunity to go on the Queenstown Wine Trail as a famil it seemed like the perfect opportunity to solidify my knowledge.
I worked the morning from 7am and the bus picked me up at 12.30, we went to the Gibbston Valley winery which was the first winery and Alan's baby. There we tried some lovely white as well as red wines in their wine cellar which they made by digging out a cave in the mountain rock - like you do! We went on to Peregrine winery and then my personal favourite the Chard Farm winery, The views were stunning and my comment to the rep that it was almost as stunning as the Rippon vineyard created a bit of a stir, we had visited Rippon on our trip to Wanaka, and it turned out that it was a real moot point for visitors. It was at Chard Farm that I started to get really drunk and I can't say I remember much about the Amisfield winery which was our final stop! When I stumbled across the car park back at the house, Adam looked at me scornfully and I realised just how drunk I was. Given that we had a big day the next day I had to sober up and sat through Lord of the Rings with a hangover, delightful!
Adam and I went on the Skippers Canyon jet, another famil through my job. We got on a huge 4x4 army style truck and headed up towards Coronet Peak mountain and then down a road called the Skippers Road. It was built in about 7 years during the time of the Gold Rush (not too much of a rush though eh?!) to allow the miners access to the lower shotover river where they found the gold in 1862 but it was when they started going for the quartz that they needed to build the road as the machinery was so much heavier. We went to a museum where we panned for gold and learnt about the lives of the miners then on the jet boat which went through a few sections that were a bit narrow for my liking, we did 360 spins, got wet and had a great time. There are still hints at the mining history on this section of the river left to be spotted, we learnt a lot and had a really cool time. But the adventure wasn't over yet it was back on the 4x4 into town to get on another bus to go horse riding!
I had been doing pretty well on the famils and the horse riding was no exception, we headed out to Glenorchy which is where Isengard was shot in the Lord of the Rings film and rode through a small village called Paradise where a number of scenes from LOTR, XMen, Willow and lots of adverts have been filmed. Adam even rode on one of the horses (Oscar) that starred in the LOTR movie! We had a tour guide who took us on our adventure. We rode uphill at first and when we reached the top the views were incredible. We had our piccy taken and time to take in the awe inspiring views. We learnt lots of completely useless LOTR facts like that Peter Jackson had to come back to ask the trustees of the land 3 times before they agreed to let him film there and even then the strict terms were that when he left it was exactly as he found it. Apparently he took this very seriously and used GPS mapping to record the location of all the plants so that after the filming everything could be returned to its rightful place. He also drafted in the NZ army (they were very busy though) to move all the plants for him and then replace them years later. All very cool stuff. They have also started filming the Hobbit and when we see black helicopters overhead we are told this is the film crew and actors heading to the place we know as Paradise.
It was time for my wine tasting class, promise I'm not smashed all the time, but this week it had been replaced with Sake tasting. What a way to end an eventful couple of days, we did a group sake bomb where you basically have a glass of beer each, and then the rest a shot of sake on top of 2 crossed over chop sticks. Then the master shouts "Sake Bomb, Sake Bomb, BOMB, BOMB, BOMB" you then slam 2 fists on the table which makes the sake fall in the beer and then you down it. There was about 35 of us that did it at the same time, it was great fun!