Thursday, 21 March 2019

Wine Bores And Saddle Sores

I like wine. Jus likes wine. We both like wine. So, given we're in Hawkes Bay (famous for its vineyards) "wine-not" do a tasting tour? We had our hire car, but neither of us wanted to volunteer to be the designated driver, and we're obviously not going to drink and drive... that would be irresponsible. There were tours on offer where someone would chauffeur you around from winery to winery, but (as mentioned in an earlier post) we're too tight to pay that sort of money. So we hired a couple of bicycles. Jus had worked out a route which took us on a scenic ride around some of the most popular wineries. It was a round trip of about 45 miles. She'd already decided to rent an electric bike, but I've done 100 mile rides (one with Bradley Wiggins) around some of the most gruelling roads the north of England can throw at you, so I'm not going to wimp out and get a bike with a battery. The guy at the bike shop suggested we amend our route to make it a bit more scenic. This rounded it up to the 50 mile mark, but I still reckon that's a piece of cake for someone with my pedigree. Off we go on our epic winecycle.

The detour took us around the coast but meant that we didn't get to our first wine tasting until 11am (Jus had scheduled us to be tippling-off at 10). Never mind, the Church Road Winery were still happy to serve us even at the relatively late time of eleven o'clock in the morning!

We joined a Canadian couple at the tasting bar and we sniffed, sipped and slurped a number of the wines produced here. I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable as it became clear that the Canadians were real wine experts (they were even spitting wine out once they'd tasted it - unbelievable, what a waste!). Meanwhile I was being asked questions by the lady leading the tasting such as "what sort of wine do you drink normally?". I suspect the answer "any wine" was not what she was used to receiving. Whilst I was tasting wine and thinking "Yes, that's wine... and it's perfectly drinkable", the Canadians were feverishly scribbling their opinions about the bouquet, flavour, finish and other stuff I don't really understand, into a large notebook. This was proper research - they told us they were currently writing their next wine-based mystery thriller, a follow up to their first which is due to be published soon. It seems that wine thriller novels are a thing and I promised we'd look out for their book as soon as it hit the shelves, though I suspect I wouldn't understand a lot of it. We left feeling slightly squiffy, and wholly inadequate.

We now had to cycle 17 miles to our next stop, Te Awanga winery. It started to rain a bit, but our £7 lightweight pac-a-macs were pulled out of our rucksacks and we battled on bravely. The rain soon stopped, the scenery was stunning and the only slight fly in the ointment was a bit of a headwind along the coast.

By the time we got to Te Awanga I was starting to get a bit tired, and I suspected that Jus had been using her battery power every now and then. They offered freshly baked pizzas as well as wine here, and it was the perfect place to recover from the cycling. We ate smoked almonds, lamb and hummous, a superb pizza and made a fair dent in the bottle of rose we'd just purchased after our tasting. It was all a bit more chilled out and (as a wine thicko) I felt less intimidated here! The sun was shining and we could have sat on the terrace overlooking their vines all day.

It was now well past 3pm and we had to be back before the bike shop closed at six, so we decided we were going to have forego the other wineries and start heading back. Annoyingly, the headwind I'd experienced on the way out was now a headwind the other way too and it was turning in to a real slog. I told Jus we needed to up the pace if we were going to make it back in time. The problem was that she could actually go faster easily and was doing a steady 23 kmph into the headwind without difficulty (did I mention that she had an electric bike?). I found myself in the humiliating position of trying to catch up with her and stay in her slipstream, desperately trying to keep our mini peleton in with a chance of the prize. It occurred to me a number of times that afternoon that it was 10 years since I last did a major cycle ride, and I've not got any younger in that time - plus I would have had had energy drinks in my water bottles, not wine!

As I struggled in to Napier's magnificent promenade, Jus graciously offered to swap bikes for the last half mile or so. I could barely walk, but once the electric bike's motor kicked in I realised that perhaps I should have swallowed my pride and paid the bike shop the extra for one of these babies. Either that, or bought some of their Lance Armstrong "energy sweets".

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