Sunday, March 30, 2008

March 18, 2008 - Martinborough, North Island

Our first morning back on the North Island, we returned to Te Papa, the national museum, to visit the floors we didn't have time for during our visit with Patty and Giff of Phoenix last month. Specifically, we wanted to check out the special exhibition about whales. Our favorite part of the exhibit was the sound chamber, where you could listen to the songs of several different species of whales. Sten also really liked a display that contained a number of scale models of porpoises and whales, which showed how huge a blue whale is compared to a sperm or humpback whale. We both love scrimshaw, and there were several good examples in the exhibit. One that really interested me was a tooth that was recently carved by the crew of a Japanese whaling ship. Instead of the classic scene of men in small dories hunting a giant whale with harpoons, it depicted a modern whale hunt, complete with a helicopter lifting off of a factory ship. The juxtaposition between the traditional craft and the modern story was jarring.

About 30 years ago the New Zealand government commissioned a study to determine how to save the declining farming communities an hour north of Wellington. A government expert determined that the drought-plagued region would be the perfect place to grow grapes. Within 5 years the first commercial vintages were bottled. Now, the region, which is an easy drive from Wellington for a weekend out of town, is lousy with vineyards. However, most of them are only open for tastings on the weekends, and those that are open mid-week have limited hours. All the vineyards here charge tasting fees, which wasn't the case in the other wine regions we visited. We hit the three most renowned in quick succession and determined that we weren't impressed. After quaffing one Chardonnay, I commented that the primary flavor I was getting was popcorn. The prices (typically around $50NZ for a bottle of Pinot Noir) struck us as ridiculously steep considering the quality of what we were drinking. For New Zealand Pinot, we'll stick to Central Otago. In defeat, we picked up a bottle of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and headed back to our motel room to make some pasta.

1 comment:

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