Day 32

Today we toured the “Iconic Wines of the Marlborough Region.” A busload of us left Picton and began our tasting at the Allen Scott Winery, a family owned winery specializing in Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer wines. Patch, our tour guide, explained how the grapes are grown and made into these wines. Allen Scott began planting grapes in this region to replace his sheep raising business in 1973, drawing much laughter from his friends and neighbors who said grapes would never grow here. After a few years of witnessing his success in the 1980’s, grape production spread to most of the farmers in the Marlborough region and now encompasses millions of acres, 80% of which are dedicated to the Sauvignon Blanc grape whose wine is now winning awards throughout the world. His son still runs the winery.

Our second winery (there are over 60 just in this region) was at Wither Hills Winery, began in 1994. This was larger than the first, but also had an excellent Sauvignon Blanc. We got to taste four wines, including a smooth Pinot Noir here. We noticed that each winery had well designed and beautifully furnished interiors with several areas for customers to sit and enjoy a bottle of wine with cheese and crackers. We saw locals and tourists passing a casual afternoon with their wine and conversation.

We finished with the Forrest Winery, also about 30 years old. Becky explained that harvest was a few weeks away and that their vineyard had purchased a $500,000 harvesting machine that would save them from hiring many workers from Indonesia and supporting them for several months. The machine would pay for itself within a few years. We saw a video of how it works, cutting and storing the grapes without damaging the vines. She also explained that they manually remove leaves from the bottom layer to expose the grapes mote to the sun a few weeks before the harvest so they will ripen and get better flavor. This can be done because the climate is cooler here than in California where the direct sun is too warm and could damage the grape. We sampled 4 wines here as well. One disappointment was the omission of a “production line” tour. It was because our group was too large or the area was not safe during operations.

Our final stop was the Boutique Chocolate Factory, called Makana Confections, where we got to sample some truffles and toffee. I guess we drank our lunch today.

At the conclusion of the tour, we chose to be dropped off in Picton to explore this cute town. We picked up a few things and walked back to the ship. One highlight was the free automated talking public toilets. They were really clean stainless-steel units with recorded voice instruction on how to open and lock the door and then said you had up to 10 minutes in there. Pat’s toilet played the song Memories and mine had some familiar pleasant tune also.

Our new lecturer, Warren Fahey, spoke on “WWI Diggers Songs and Stories.” This was about the Australian and New Zealand soldiers who fought and died in WWI, known as the Anzacs. He explained how these men went from farms to the military to help Britain in the war. To keep up their spirits in the trenches, they made up songs and stories about the enemy. Warren showed cartoons of the time and sang some of the songs the Anzacs used to sing.

At the end of the enrichment lecture, we watched our departure from the top deck as the ship sailed down Charlotte Sound. Mac remarked how much the treed mountains, which sloped right down to the water and the general remoteness of the land, resembled our sailings on the Intercoastal Waterway of Alaska.

The Regent singers and dancers performed several Abba numbers from Mama Mia and did a super job. Their introduction led into Simon Palomares’ second comedy show. He was just as funny as a few nights ago.

Yours in travel,

Pat & Mac