Sometimes I think it a shame that it takes age to gain wisdom because it takes that wisdom to appreciate beauty. Not the artificial kind that requires liquid contouring and a trowel to apply, but rather the breathtaking surroundings we can either see or be oblivious to.
Growing up in Marlborough, I had no real comprehension or appreciation of the stunning surroundings I called home. But flying into Blenheim almost two weeks ago, I was overcome with awe as I peeped the millions of trees spanned below, a wash of forest at my feet. I gazed down into the jagged edges of tiny Picton, hosting Interislander ferries and a cruise ship so expansive it dwarfed the harbour and marvelled While soaring above the perfectly portioned parcels of land, studded with grapevines and draped in protective nets, delicate veils crowning the jewel of this region, I came to realise just how magical this region is.
Having left Auckland at 7.15am, I found myself deep in the Queen Charlotte Sound by 10am, donning a pair of white gummies and a lifejacket alongside Kelly Gibney & Danijela from Healthy Always and our gorgeous Regal Salmon hosts Rhea and Sahra. The swollen emerald seas beneath the Regal Salmon Farm at Clay Point literally took my breath away. So deep, so green and so bottomless. Seals lolled in the turning tide, eager to find a gap in the nets to afford a breakfast snack. The air, clean, clear, in a sense “life giving”. The kind of air you want to gulp in, just to fully satisfy your soul.
When Regal Salmon invited me to join them for a weekend of fun in Blenheim and to hang out at the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival with three other gorgeous blogging babes, I couldn’t say yes quick enough. I was only able to stay the one night due to a prior commitment in Auckland on the Saturday night but the two full days of sunshine and fresh air did plenty for my senses.
A tour of just one of King Salmon’s farm sites in the Marlborough Sounds was an eye opener. I learned so much about the process of growing a fish and the science behind the product that I eagerly scoop off the supermarket shelves. I guess it’s like any industry – there is so much more than occurs behind the scenes. This is an industry that it’s people are passionate about.
Removing gumboots and reinstating shoes, we took the water taxi back to Picton and journeyed by car (a short 20 minute ride that as a kid felt like an hour) to meet up with Unna of The Forest Cantina for lunch among the vines at the St Clair Family Estate Vineyard Kitchen. All that fresh air had made me very hungry and I couldn’t go past the Wine Barrel Smoked Ribeye Beef served with Duck Fat roasted smashed potatoes, tarragon jus and tarragon butter matched with a glass of the St Clair Cabernet Merlot. Ahhhhhmazing! Eating in the vines, chatting all things cook books, nutrition, food and wine and of course Marlborough with the lovely ladies and Nicky from Destination Marlborough was effortless and enjoyable.
A busy afternoon had been planned for us – all hard things like wine tasting, wine tasting and more wine tasting! We headed next to Cloudy Bay. Everywhere you turn on the dusty back roads of Blenheim you are staring at another iconic vineyard, so travelling between them all doesn’t take long at all. Cloudy Bay was incredibly beautifully appointed. From the landscaping to the petanque court, hanging egg chairs and skyscraper tall gum trees lining the perimeter of the property to the wafting fragrance of delicious food from Jack’s Raw Bar – a menu created by Sachie Nomura, absolutely everything about Cloudy Bay tickled my fancy. And that was even before we stepped inside the barrel hall for a personal tasting session with Nicky. Talk about passionate, informed and full of fun. I have never experienced someone who knows their stuff like this before – and not just facts spouted off, but a real genuine passion for the product, for the industry, for the region, for the craft. We were entertained and advised for an hour and had it not been for the pressing schedule, I’m sure we all could have stayed longer and listened to her, while drinking more wine of course.
The wine tasting continued at Giesen Wines and then finally Wither Hills. Idyllic setting, beauty as far as the eye could see from one side of the valley to the other and a delicious platter of breads, oils, dukkah and good old fashioned butter went down rather nicely.
We were lucky enough to attend a fundraising dinner at Allan Scott Family Winery in the evening and after a quick check in to the Chateau Marlborough for a shower and change of clothes, we headed out to this fabulous street food style event which was raising money for KidsCan. Chefs on Tour saw chefs from NZ, Australia and even further afield serving up delicious morsels, complemented by Allan Scott wines of course and Rogue Society Gin cocktails. Local produce was fashioned into magical morsels, my absolute favourite was the creation by Automata Chef (Sydney) Clayton Wells. Ora King Salmon on Squid Ink, Fennel and Samphire with XO Chili was drop dead delicious. The salmon was candy-floss-melt-in-your-mouth tender and the flavour and texture combos were out of this world. I might have had seconds. (I definitely did!)
Saturday morning saw us up and at ’em to the Marlborough Wine & Food Festival which is New Zealand’s longest running wine and food festival and has been held at the Brancott Estate for years. I have attended only once before, back in 1993 when I worked in a food tent sampling olives. *fun fact*
We attended the Culinary Pavilion sessions and were treated to Annabelle White‘s hilarious antics as she demonstrated two easy ways with Regal Salmon, perused the festival and all it had to offer and finally a MasterClass with two of the region’s top wine makers and Annabelle White again on matching Sauvignon Blanc with Salmon. It was a informative session and super delicious.
I wish I could have stayed all day, but alas, because I had been double booked for the weekend, it was at this point that I had to take my leave and the beautiful Rhea and Sahra dropped me back to the postage-stamp sized airport ready to board my model-sized plane bound for Auckland. Thanks to a wonderfully strong tail wind, we were back on land within an hour and drove northward to Puhoi for my father in law’s 70th birthday festivities.
I am eager as anything to head back to Marlborough for an extended visit now and loved every moment of my wonderful whirlwind trip. Thank you for having me Regal Salmon, it was just what I needed