Friends, Iâ€™m coming to you from Chattanooga, TN right now!
Several weeks ago, I got an email from the kind folks at Reebok asking if I wanted to run the Tennessee Ragnar with them. EFF YES.Â
^^ My general attitude to races/race opportunities.
This will be the third relay Iâ€™ve run (my first [nearly 5 years ago!!!] and second), and I am that weirdo who doesnâ€™t mind (too much!) sleeping in a van and running at weird times (like overnight.)
This trip/race feels so much like it was meant to be â€” Iâ€™d really wanted to travel alone somewhere this year (Iâ€™m going to stay in Nashville, where we end, an extra night to explore), I wanted to really get back to my running and Nashville has been on my shortlist of domestic places to visit for a long time!
Iâ€™ve been ramping my running up and am a bit nervous about running three times in 24 hours, but Iâ€™ve done more/harder things before. ..so I should be ok?
BRB, running to Nashville; catch you on the other side!Â
Have you ever done a relay? Would you do a relay? Am I crazy?
OK, OK, I canâ€™t pretend Iâ€™m on vacation any more.
So, without further ado, I would like to tell you about the last part of my trip â€” a trip through Marlborough, New Zealandâ€™s wine country.
Iâ€™d always wanted to go to Australia, sure, but New Zealand wine country has been true bucket list level trip for me.
So, when MegÂ and I booked tickets to Sydney, I said I had but one request: â€œso long as weâ€™re flying to the other side of the world, can we PLEASE go to Marlborough?”
One thing you need to know about Marlborough (if you donâ€™t already): they are known for their sauvignon blancs.
One thing you need to know about my dear friend Meg: she hates sauvignon blancs.
I reminded her my wine dream was her wine nightmare, and she verified that yes, she knew, and was still in. Thatâ€™s friendship, people.
Remember I told you about the adventures getting toÂ New Zealand? Yeah, they continued while there.
See this very circuitous route? Before the earthquake a few months ago, the drive up to Marlborough would have just been a 3ish hour drive up the coast, but a portion of the coastal highway collapsed, soâ€¦one of my first times driving on the other side of the road was through the mountains. NBD.
Not sure this even does it justice.
We stopped in Hamner Springs, on the way, to have lunch to break up the drive.
We stayed AT A WINE COTTAGE. It was cute, and the view was AMAZING. This was the actual view outside of our window (in pano mode.)Â
Though it was summer/tourist season when we were there, everywhere closed early (OK fine, slash, Toto we were not in NYC any more.) We arrived around 8:30 or 9 and realized weâ€™d need to figure out dinner quickly. Thankfully Dodsonâ€™s, a little bar/pub, was open and we brought pizza back to the cottage.
As much as I love my wine, I wanted to see more than the inside of tasting rooms, and Iâ€™d heard Marlborough Sounds were gorgeous. I wanted to take a boat tour, but the timing didnâ€™t work with the wine tour we wanted to take. (We were very happy that was our biggest problem of the day.)
We drove up to Picton and had breakfast on the water before walking around the cute little town for a few hours. YOU GUYS, I wish you could smell this picture. It smelled SO clean on the water here. Oops, my New York is showing again.
I wanted to properly enjoy wine tasting and not have to worry about driving, so we did a bike wine tour. It was also important to us to find one that was self-guided so we could stay longer at the ones we wanted to and peace out of the bad ones. We found Wine Tours by Bike, and it fit the bill. They even picked us up from our cottage!
Obviously we could only go to so many! Because of where the wine shop was, and limited time, we didnâ€™t get to go to some I really wanted to, like Kim Crawford and Babich. So, technically Babich doesnâ€™t even have a tasting room in Blenheim (Marlborough is the region; Blenheim is the town we were in), though they do have vineyards in Blenheim.
We started our day at Cloudy Bay. We mostly wanted to experience new-to-us wines and stuff we couldnâ€™t get in the U.S., but we were curious about what a larger commercial winery would be like.Â
Verdict: surprisingly gorgeous! We could have sat out here all afternoon but there were more wineries to see!
Our friend Shannon really loves her Matua and we were disappointed for her they didnâ€™t have a tasting room, either.
When your friend writes a beer blog, sheâ€™ll find a way to find the brewery in wine country. She indulged me in all of wine country, so I was a pal and indulged her in a brewery.
JK, twist my arm. I do really like beer, actually, but it overall kind of bothers my stomach so I donâ€™t drink much of it.
Weâ€™d heard Whitehaven was a great place to stop for lunch, so, ok! We sat outside and had meat pies and rose. YES PLEASE.
We decided to do the tasting afterwards, and Iâ€™m so glad we did â€” we learned the most here.
The two things that stick out the most to me:
1. If you really like a good mineral-y sauv blanc (Tina, Iâ€™m looking at you), look for one grown in the Awatare Valley â€” itâ€™s where all the good mineral-y ones are from.
2. Iâ€™d never liked chardonnay until a few years ago and my friends introduced me to La Crema.Â Buttery, oaky and rich, it was everything the steel-barrel aged chards Iâ€™d had before werenâ€™t. Fun fact: those good buttery chards are malolacto fermented.Â (Ask that if you want to sound smart/like a douche. Unclear which.) This process converts malic acid to lactic acid, and basically takes out some of the acid, especially in wines grown in cool regions.
I found out when I got back that Whitehaven is actually a widely exported wine, but oh well.
From here, we went to Huia, a biodynamic/organic winery. The wines here were good, but nothing stood out to me, honestly.
Our last stop was No. 1 Family Estate â€” all bubbles! The inside looked, um, like it was from my home state, but they served bubbles and sold a wine dogs book.
We had dinner at Hans Herzog Estate â€” it was supposed to be the best restaurant in town, but the fine dining room was closed and the bistro was pretty disappointing.
The next morningâ€¦we were up early to leave at 7am to drive back to Christchurch for our 3pm flight. â€œNo way it can take more than 5-6 hoursâ€¦right?â€ Well.
Off we went, and I was exhausted from two weeks of not sleeping well and time changes. I was dying for some coffee, and thankfully WE FOUND A MIRAGE.
I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO EXCITED TO SEE A GAS STATION. I downed some espresso and Red Bull and we were back on our way.
Almost the entire time to the airport, we were stuck behind really slow trucks. FFFFFF, weâ€™re never going to make it. Then, a truck behind me kept tailgating me, and I thought I was going to die in the New Zealand mountains.Â
Finally, finally, we had some open road.
No sooner than seizing my opportunity to make up for lost time did I see sirens in my rearview window.
These canâ€™t be for me, right?
Oh no, they were! Babyâ€™s first New Zealand speeding ticket!
We got to the airport and returned the car, and I was beyond anxious. I was certain we were going to miss our flight at this point.
Now, we went to wine country. My dream trip. OBVIOUSLY I BOUGHT WINE.
I knew my suitcase was going to be overweight, but I didnâ€™t expect the fine to be per kiloÂ overweight or to be seven kilos overweight.
Thankfully, I have good friends who know to fill out my boarding card for me and immediately get me wine on the other side of security and everything will be ok.