I’ve never been to New Zealand before. Shocking I know, as New Zealand is so close to Australia and well known for their awesome produce and delicious wines. When I was invited to Cloudy Bay’s Estate Vineyards for their annual Forage event I jumped at the chance (and ran to renew my expired passport). Buzzing with excitement, our group of writers and reporters from all over the world arrived at Cloudy Bay’s cellar door at the winery on Jacksons Road in the heart of the Marlborough wine region. We were greeted with the Pōwhiri, the Māori ceremony of welcome.
After the ceremony there was the Hongi which is the pressing of noses to signify the joining together of the hosts and visitors.
We move inside for champagne and into the cellar where a beautifully set table is bathed by the light of hanging lanterns.
Blenheim-based Swiss chef Alain Hauswirth has a chat with us before our dinner begins.
Now I am the first to admit that my knowledge of wine isn’t too extensive so was really looking forward to trying out some wines and having the chance to ask winemaker Sarah Burton all sorts of random questions. The 2007 Te Koko is a smash hit with the table, surprisingly light and pairing well with our first course.
The portion of seared tuna is pretty massive but I demolish it with ease after the less than average plane food. The tangle of rice noodles is a bit on the sweet side with the addition of vanilla in the coconut reduction but the greens with XO sauce balances out the flavours.
A giant platter of sliced meats arrive- beef, pork, veal and venison and we are ready for some fondue action!
At first we are all polite and slowly decorate our plates with baked potatoes, some slices of meat and dollops of sauces- the pesto was by far my fav.
We spear the slices of meat onto teensy tiny skewers and swirl them into the broth until they’re cooked to our liking. The trick was as soon as your meat had cooked you dump it on your plate and immediately spear another slice to cook while you eat. Or um you steal another fork and cook several slices at once…
And then there was the most incredible cheese I have ever had omg how I heart cheese! The Neudorf Richmond Red was a semi-hard sheep milk cheese that had a slightly nutty flavour and so freaking tasty that I must’ve eaten at least half the wedge.
An early night for us as we know a massive day is planned for the next day so we shuttle bus back to Marlborough Chateau (95/117 High Street Blenheim) and spy plush kiwi toys and a bottle of Cloudy Bay’s Sav Blanc ’12 in case we were still thirsty hehe
The next day we were split into groups with each group heading to a different point in the Marlborough region to gather and explore the best produce of New Zealand and bring it back for an epic degustation- our group was East and our first stop was Sweet Nature Honey (829 Taylor Pass Rd, RD4, Blenheim). Other than our photographer, none of us were game to join beekeper Darren Clifford as he showed us a hive and how to take out a frame of honeycomb.
A bee smoker is used to pacify the bees before the frame is removed and any bees still clinging are lightly brushed away and the frame is placed in a sealed box and taken back to the factory.
As well as collecting enough honey that was needed for our dinner we were also given a snack size pack home mmm sweet
We hit the road and head to our next location, stopping momentarily when a herd of cows decides to wander onto the road.
We arrive at Dominion Salt at Lake Grassmere where we see pools with a crazy pink colour! Water from the sea is pumped into Lake Grassmere before being transferred to pools where evaporation takes place. As the concentration of salt increases, the pink hue of the brine deepens as the level of a particular microscopic algae increases.
I’d been pre warned that I’d be swimming and when I found out I was going to go diving for abalone I couldn’t strip off fast enough. Um. I mean, I couldn’t change into my wetsuit fast enough. Heh. And yes I chose the pink snorkel on purpose.
STARFISH! Don’t worry I put him back! Diving for abalone was freaking awesome, at first it was freaky floating around with the snorkel (as I’ve never snorkelled before) and kept freaking out every time a sheet of seaweed brushed against me but spotting a full sized abalone was so exciting! We were given this metal spatular thingy and had to slide it under the abalone shell and twist em off the rock which was pretty tricky because they were suckered on pretty good.
Exhausted we make our way to Cape Campbell Farm where the incredible smells of lunch cooking greets us.
That was one fabulous feast I tells ya! Minced abalone patties, pasta salad, roast lamb, foccacia, salads and lobster and of course Cloudy Bay wines to wash it down 😛
Whatchoo lookin at kid?
And then off to Burkhart Fisheries where we were following the Burkhart boys on their crayfish boat as they went to check on their pots. At first I was like oh wow it’s totally just like the show Deadliest Catch as they pulled in pot after pot and either cheered or booed at its contents. Aaaand then the swaying of the boat started getting to me and the only pic I managed was this before I ran for the side of the boat and hurled my guts out aww buh bye lunch
When we reached the shore I was so glad to be on stable land. And then I found out our last activity was taking a helicopter ride. I was so SO close to turning down the flight but I’m so glad my stomach was ok and had awesome trip back to vineyards as we flew over all the places we had visited that day.
New Zealand you are just too beautiful.
We beam with pride as we present our foraged haul to chef Simon Gault who will be cooking up an epic degustation dinner the next day.
And then kick back and enjoy the rest of the evening with a bbq in the grounds of the vineyards.
Humans! Love you guys!
ChocolateSuze was invited to Forage 2012 as a guest of Cloudy Bay