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Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Zealand: Wairau River Wines, Blenheim

As mentioned previously, our weekend was spent in New Zealand for my father in law's 60th birthday. Alastair's sisters had organised the weekend, and had kept the fact that we were coming along a surprise. Malcolm was very moved when we showed up, which made the trip completely worth it. :)

View from a random winery

Alastair's sisters had booked Macolm's birthday lunch at a local winery – Wairau River Wines in Blenheim. Blenheim is located near the top of the South Island, in the Marlborough region, which is the largest wine area in New Zealand. Marlborough produces about half of New Zealand wines, with (surprise surprise) Sauvignon blanc being the predominant wine produced.

Wairau River Winery

Lunch was a three course meal with two choices for each course. For entree, Alastair had the Marlborough mussel chowder and toasted herb bread. I stole a taste (as per usual) - it was creamy with chunks of fennel, potatoes and of course, mussels! But I thought that it was just a touch on the salty side.

Wairau River Winery

I had the cauliflower and blue cheese soup with toasted herb bread. Ooooh boy, this was good! It was definitely the better of the two soups. It was super creamy, with a lovely smooth texture, and just a hint of cauliflower and blue cheese. I completely cleaned my bowl!

Wairau River Winery

For mains, Alastair had the individual chicken, leek and tarragon pie with a mixed green leaf salad. Under the pastry lid were large chunks of chicken in a pale sauce. Does anyone else think that the best part of a pie is that skin between the lid and the filling? When Alastair pried off the pastry, he found that skin! Yummo.

Wairau River Winery

I had the smoked fish and potato cakes with a soft boiled egg, proscuitto, caper and parsley salsa and watercress. The fish and potato cakes were soft inside, and slightly crusty on the outside. There was a distinct "smoked fish" flavour and I particularly liked eating the fish cake with a bit of boiled egg.

Wairau River Winery

The desserts were a rhubarb and apple crumble with vanilla ice cream or a crème brulee with poached plums. Both Alastair and I had the crème brulee. It was perfect – the caramel on top cracked under my spoon and the custard underneath was smooth and creamy with specks of vanilla seeds.

Wairau River Winery

Strangely though, other people found all the vanilla seeds all at the bottom of the custard while mine were scattered through the custard. The poached plums were very tart, but good eaten with a bit of custard. I noticed that most people left their plums behind (I ate mine because I'm a glutton).

It was a very pleasant lunch and very filling. So filling that there was no need to eat dinner that evening. And I'm not usually the type to skip dinner (glutton).

Blenheim seemed like a nice town and I'm astounded that I lived in NZ for 20 years and had never been there before. Isn't that always the way - seeing the country you live in isn't as attractive as seeing other countries? Fortunately some of Alastair's family live in Blenheim so I'm sure there will be reason to visit again in the near future!

Wairau River Wines
Rapaura Road, RD3, Blenheim, Marlborough, New Zealand
Phone: +64 3 572 7950

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