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Summer Drinks – Nelson Mail 29.12.15

The Nelson region is blessed with many things that make summer great – sunshine, safe beaches, rivers with easy access, fantastic fishing in the sheltered bays, wonderful cafes and restaurants, many artisan producers of everything from bread and cheese to fruit and vegetables, gelato, tasty sausages and other small goods not to mention outstanding art and music however nothing says summer holidays quite like a nice cold beer or flavoursome wine.

It doesn’t matter if you are a local or a visitor the wineries and craft brewers in the region have plenty of delights to tempt you and when you need a break from the beaches and sun (or if it is raining as it is bound to do at some stage) simply pick a sober driver, load up the car with family and friends, go to or where you will find tour maps and heaps of information about each winery and brewery in the region.

Visiting wineries and breweries is a fun-filled day out but there are a few easy rules to keep in mind; firstly, all of these businesses are owned by local operators, not big corporates and while you are not expected to buy anything when you leave don’t treat the hospitality of the owners as an opportunity to get drunk for free. Some will charge you a tasting fee and will likely not charge it if you buy something when you leave. Don’t be offended if you are asked to pay a nominal fee because when these businesses give away tastings it is so you can try-before-you-buy and if you don’t buy then they are giving away their profits.

Wineries and breweries are just like any license holder so the second thing to remember is they won’t sell you anything if you have over indulged during the day, just chill out and enjoy the fantastic products produced here and if you are refused service then just accept you have had a great day and it is time to head for home.

Wineries and breweries are also industrial work places not day care centres so if you have children with you they are your responsibility. While venues make every effort to make sure their places are safe don’t just let the kids run around exploring cool places, there are irrigation ponds on vineyards and heavy machinery working almost every day so make sure you look after them yourself.

When you start planning your day find a place you would like to have lunch, some wineries have cafés or restaurants, some have safe play areas for kids and others let you bring your own food and I reckon this is a great option because as well as enjoying local beverages you can visit some of the great food producers in the region and make up a basket of tasty foods to enjoy with a glass of wine. The details for each winery and brewery on the guide map has details about who has food available.

Spending a day touring the wine and beer outlets in Nelson is pretty easy, they are all easy to get to and often located close together in sub-regions. The Moutere area for example is home to some outstanding facilities, including award winning wineries, New Zealand’s oldest continuously trading pub and arguably this country’s best cider producer (Peckham’s in Neudorf Road, not on a tour map but you will find them just along the road from Neudorf Vineyards).

If you are staying in the Kaiteriteri area then you have some tasty options in Riwaka or in and around Motueka. For outstanding food go to Church Lane Café in the main street of Motueka but you will need to phone and book as it’s quality means you will be very lucky if you just drop in and get a table at this time of the year.

Mapua has become a hot favourite destination for locals and visitors alike; with the ferry that connects the Great Taste Cycle Trail between Mapua and Rabbit Island it is very accessible by cycle and road. Tasman District Council have been upgrading the facilities at Mapua wharf in recent years and the area now boasts a number of cafés including the newly opened Rimu Wine Bar owned and operated by Patrick Stowe from Rimu Grove Wines. Enjoy a glass of wine from an excellent selection (not just his own wines) and delicious Pizza. Or you could walk about 20 meters to Golden Beer Brewery, sup on a cool ale and enjoy tasty Mexican style food.

If you are staying in the city or at Tahunanui Beach then the wineries on the Waimea Plains are a short 15 minute drive away. Not only will you find cafés at a number of wineries you can discover some of New Zealand’s finest wines including Air New Zealand Trophy winning wines at Waimea Estate, Brightwater Vineyards and Seifreid Estate.

Don’t want to drive to the country because you are staying in the city? Don’t fret, most cafés and bars stock a wide range of local products and serve them with a huge helping of friendly hospitality. Don’t know what you feel like eating? Just go to Hardy Street where you can choose from Thai, Chinese, Italian, French and Indian cuisines or just relax at Morison Street Café, the Sprig & Fern bar or at Urban next door where you get local beers and wines and excellent food.

The top of Trafalgar Street is home to Hopgood’s Restaurant which has recently been named one of the best in New Zealand, Harry’s Bar where they have excellent Asian style food and where they make outstanding cocktails, the ever-reliable Ford’s and the new Cod & Lobster to name just a few of the bars and cafés in the street. Just a short two minute walk around the corner is Nicola’s Cantina for great Mexican food and East Street Café with it’s awesome vegetarian menu.

Whatever you are doing or where ever you are staying in the Nelson region there is plenty of outstanding wine, beer and food produced and served here but make sure you follow the single most important rule – have a sober driver and never drink and drive; everyone who provides you with hospitality wants you to get home safely and to come back another day.

I have been writing a regular wine column for The Nelson Mail newspaper since 2000.

Unfortunately the column space is not big enough to include my thoughts on all of the many wines I taste. Hopefully this blog will fix that. It also gives me somewhere to archive the many columns I write. I will also include some favourite recipes from my dearly beloved who loves cooking and of course because wine and food simply go together. I will also point you in the direction of upcoming events and websites I think are great. Enjoy, Neil

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