Summer is here in New Zealand, and it is glorious. Here in my new(ish) home of Canterbury by the sea, the grasses have dried to pale yellow, the days are long and warm, and time stands still in many ways.
Now, I know the rest of the world is
totally screwed suffering at the moment. I don’t mean to rub your noses in how good we have it here down under. We have it good. Every day I thank my lucky stars that I’m here, not there. Here in New Zealand COVID is virtually gone, and life is somewhat normal. Minus our closed borders and all.
Even though our international tourism is basically dead, kiwis are getting out and about exploring their own backyard more than ever. And when Christchurch is your base, your backyard is pretty epic.
As January rolled around, our world buskers festival Bread and Circus kicked off – less international and more national than was expected. And with it was a calendar of events and festivals to start 2021 right!
Now, if you’re like me, you didn’t know what the word “busking” meant until this year. Don’t worry; you’re not alone. Busking means street performers, like dancers, acrobats, and musicians, something encouraged here in Christchurch.
One of the fun events on the cards was a day exploring the wineries of North Canterbury, one of my favorite activities. Summertime drinking and being chauffeured, fed, and entertained all day? Sign me up, stat.
I was also pleased to see so many of my fellow Christchurch millennials show up too, dressed in their Instagrammable bests and ready for a day of fun.
Luckily my partner in crime, Giulio, had the day free and was able to join me as we cruised around to some of the best vineyards of North Canterbury.
This corner of the South Island is his turf, where many of his favorite food producers, vineyards, and suppliers live. It was also the place that brought us together all those years ago, so it holds a special place in my heart.
I joined in on the wine harvest in the area on a project five or six years ago, spending a day around the Waipara Valley by one of the most inspirational women I’ve ever met – Angela Clifford of the Food Farm. With her, the world of foraging, permaculture, and organic wines opened up to me.
I can still remember bringing some of the mushrooms and truffles we foraged that day to my dinner that evening at Roots, Giulio’s former restaurant, and where we met the first time.
North Canterbury is one of New Zealand’s best-kept secrets. An uncrowded Napa Valley deep in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island, North Canterbury is home to close to 100 bespoke independent vineyards.
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Reisling are the top dogs here, which suits me perfectly. I’m pretty sure to come summertime I’m 50% Chardonnay.
A century ago, farmers settled in Canterbury, and the farm culture remains strong here even today. With its excellent soil and climate, it’s the perfect place for an abundance of food. The fertile soils combined with scorching hot summers and frigid winters produce bold and complex grapes.
On our way out of the city, we picked up two delightful cross-dressing-wine-adoring nannas who kept us company throughout the day. Entertaining, to say the least, it made the busking festival event all the more fun!
Our first stop was Pegasus Bay Winery, one of the most iconic North Canterbury vineyards. We tasted so many of their most beautiful wines starting in the cellar, surrounded by musty barrels. It was like walking into the very beating heart of the winery itself, an exceptional experience that you don’t often find here.
As you walk alongside the aging wine barrels, the smell and temperature immediately transport you. For me, I just had to close my eyes, and I was back in my beloved La Rioja in northern Spain, wandering through the damp, ancient cellars of my friends and falling in love with wine all over again.
In typical Canterbury fashion, the clouds moved off by midday. Soon it bathed us in sunshine as we swirled down some of the region’s best vintages.
We wrapped up a beautiful summer’s day at Greystone Wines, another fave and a longtime haunt of Giulio’s. One of their Pinot Noirs was named best in the world a few years ago. Their stylish tasting room beckoned us in for hours as we taste-tested our way through some of their best wines. With summer in full swing, every vine was brimming with plump grapes, picture-perfect in every way.
Snoozing on Giulio’s shoulder, tan, full, and a bit tipsy, I couldn’t help but smile on our bus ride back to Christchurch. What a lovely day out! Let’s do it again soon.
Have you been to the vineyards of North Canterbury? Is this your idea of an epic Saturday out? Share!