Hawkes Bay Winetasting on a Bike!

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Hawkes Bay and its surrounding areas has some of New Zealands most stable climate and is therefore an ideal place to grow wine grapes. Tour operators running wine tasting day trips are plentiful, but renting a bike will save you money which instead could be used for the two to ten dollar fees that most wineries charge for tastings of two to ten wines.
Full of ambitions I started my first tastings when the wineries opened at ten it the mornings, in hope that I over the two days would be able to visit all of Hawkes Bay’s 32 wineries.
On my first day I cycled to Te Moana Peak, down through Havelock North, across TukiTuki river and then from Haumoana into town. With a distance closer to a hundred kilometers I had visited ten wineries where most were open for tastings. Luckily I had someone picking me up afterwards, cooking me a good dinner and letting me retreat to my comfortable bed early in the evening.
With a small hangover and soreness in my bum and legs I started off with a ten am tasting close to Takapau, cycled from there through Fernhill and Puketapu into the city. About the same distance as the day before but this time visiting thirteen wineries. For the tastings I asked to only try the single grape red wines, where most of the wineries then dropped the tasting fees. When arriving in the city I visited the New Zealand wine center to learn about the history and process of wine making and try the virtual wine tasting. Both unfortunately and to my relief there were no-one working with the virtual wine tasting when I got there saving me the 25$ and probably a hangover the next morning.
In two days I covered most of the wineries and learned a whole lot about New Zealand wines. An absolute favorite of the wines would be the 2013 Marzemino, but I also especially enjoyed the 2013 Syrahs from the region. The most personal and friendly wine tastings were at Clearview Estate and Alpha Domus whereas the least were Elephant Hill and Trinity Hill.
The last couple of days have definitely made me want to do more tastings in the future and I will for sure try to do some when I am in Auckland next week or in Israel a couple of weeks after that.

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Stingrays, Winetasting and Sunrises in Gisborne

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Gisborne is known as the surfing capital of New Zealand and the regional capital of New Zealand’s Eastern Cape.
The region is known for its good conditions to grow fruits, nuts and wine grapes. Right when we got to Gisborne we went to a place called Smash Palace where we had ordered wine tasting, which I expected to be a quiet nibbling session of a few wines. What we actually got was much better. We were served several beers, ciders and wines in an informal setting where we were first trying to set words to the tastes before the bar manager Darell gave us his expert opinions. The highlight was when our pizzas arrived, where we got to flambate them shouting “hambre ay ay ay!” while wearing broken glasses and a Mexican hat helmet.
We got up at five thirty the next morning to watch the sunrise and then walk out with some barracuda bait to feed the stingrays that were coming up at low tide. At first we had around ten eagle rays murring up our legs wanting food and some petting on the back, just like a dog would. At the end we were also lucky enough to see a huge short tip ray weighing more than a hundred kilos. When that tried to climb us for food we had to lean on our walking sticks in order not to be knocked over into the water. The stingray feeding was quite an interesting experience,  also because these animals were actually wild unlike the ones at stingray farms up on the east coast.

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Some huge kingfish also came up to get some food from us

Hunter Valley and Barrington Tops

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Driving from Sydney we got a chance to stop by Cessnock in the Hunter Valley to do some wine tasting. The McGuian winery pulled out around ten different wines for us to taste, which made the rest of the drive up to Barrington Tops more fun.

As soon as we arrived the Twistops Retreat in Barrington Top we were asked to put on wetsuits and get ready to go tubing in the river. There were some rapids that managed to tilt a couple of us, but most of it was just a chilled ride down the river in the sun.
When we got back the chef had prepared dinner for us right in time for sunset and a rugbymatch on TV. The rest of the evening was spent playing pool, dart and table tennis with a couple of beers.
The Twistops lodge was far off the beaten track, with absolutely no phobebseevice, and it was great to have an evening to just sit back and relax out in the nature where plenty of wild kangaroos were jumping around. Tomorrow we will be early up to do some surfing.
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Dining in Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America

Normally I would not even mention food in my travel blog, but for our stay in Buenos Aires our restaurant meals deserve a chapter to themselves when talking about our travel experience in this city. Here we have eaten like never before on our trip and would like to share our reccommendation of some of the restaurants we visited:Aramburu, will by far be the most memorable meal and the most expensive meal we had. The restaurant is really small, with just room for twenty people who are sepparated from the small kitchen with just a glass wall. In order to get a table you have to call a few days in advance, and when you get there you will have to knock on an almost hidden door to get in. The menu is the same for all guests, just varied by seasons and consists of 12 courses with accompanying wines. Even though the food arrived quickly after each course was finished, it took us four and a half hours to get through all the meals. The visit to the restaurant was just as much an exiting experience as it was about the food itself, as most of the meals came with surprises such as aroma with liquid nitrogen, creating a smell to accompany the tasting of the meal, a meal served on rocks and a big selection of of topping to be tried with one of the desserts. With wines and tips we paid around 700 pesos (70dollars) for our meal, which anywhere else would have cost a fortune. It will be worth only eating pasta for a week to get this experience once when in Buenos Aires.

 

We found a place right next to Hotel Carsson in Viamonte Street where we ate lunch almost every day, as they had a huge selection of meals that you could pick from at a price of only 60 pesos per kilo! It was our best value restaurant in Buenos Aires, and it was not possible to get tired of it since they had every dish imaginable.

We also used the Buenos Aires Delivery app a lot to have sushi, and even ice cream sent to our hostel, Milhouse (which btw also served good food, but only until 6pm).

Argentina is also known for its quality meat from happy cows fed on green grass in the Pampas, and almost every other day of our two weeks in Buenos Aires we have gone to different restaurants to try to find the best beef in South America. We have narrowed it down to the three places we liked the most and can truly reccommend:

La Brigada: I dare calling the best beef I ever had, and ever will have. When the waiter served us our steak, he cut a little piece of with a spoon to ask us if we wanted a new one, less or more well done. A normal soup spoon! I honestly never thought it was possible to cut meat with a spoon, but when I put the piece of meat in my mouth it almost melted in my mouth and chewing it with my tongue would have been enough.

La Cabrera: was also a place where we got served real tender Argentinean beef. The best part of this place except from the delicious food, was that they had happy hour between the hours of 7 and 8 where the first ones showing up got 40%. There was a line outside and you pick your meal while waiting for them to open, then you pay upfront and get your meal served really fast so that you can leave before other guests arrive around 8, as Argentineans wont even consider calling it a dinner if the meal is served before 8 and on weekends they would sometimes have their dinner as late as around midnight! Great for us who could enjoy a luxurious beef meal with wine for around 300 pesos per person (at happy hour)

Siga La Vaca is a really good “tenedor libre” (all-you-can-eat) restaurant which was great for us to do in the beginning of our Buenos Aires stay, as we then could try a littlebit of all kinds of beef to find our favorites. The meat and prices were good which clearly was reflected in the long line of people waiting to come in around 9 o’clock when we left. A bottle of wine was also included in the buffet price at 180 pesos per person.

You will also get a good steak meal for around 100 pesos pretty much in every restaurant, and even at our tango lessons/ dinner show that we went to (link) only cost 390 pesos and included a quality steak with unlimited wine. There are still endless places where we have not visited, plenty of restaurants that you would have loved as well, and if you go to Buenos Aires you have to be careful so that you dont end up rolling back to your own country.

 

 

The Wine Region of Cafayate

Around 200 kilometers south of Salta is a valley called Cafayate which is known for its good conditions for growing wine, having around 240 sunny days a year. I had booked a 12 hour day trip that would take me there starting with an early hotel pickup at our hotel in Salta around 7 o’clock. The first part of the trip we were just people up more and more old spanish speaking people, that snored the first hours of the drive. Our guide had not made it any easier either, speaking non stop for the four and a half hours it took us to reach Cafayate. The second half of the drive was through some pretty spectacular mountains as well, but with her pointing at every rock, telling us that they looked like frogs, munks, seals, ships, castels etc it was also a bit hard enjoying even that.It was first when we went down the mountains and into the small town of Cafayate that things looked a bit more promising. Our guide told us that she was not licenced to guide in wineries so she let us off the bus, free to do a wine tour of Domingo Hermanos and to explore the town by our own for a few hours. Since everyone but me and a Taiwaneese guy were Spanish native speakers, the tour was done in Spanish only. We were shown the whole process of producing wine, from the wine yard where the grapes grow, through the machinery, storage tanks and finally to the highlight that everyone had been looking forward to: the wine tasting. The tasting was not like I have tried before where we would get a littlebit in the bottom of the glass, but here they poured three almost full glasses for each to drink, one white and two red.

The Taiwaneese guy had been sitting next to me on the bus the whole day without saying a word, but after the tasting he suddenly had gotten the curage to come up to me and ask if I wanted to look around the town and have dinner with him, and with a new gotten friend the long ride home went much quicker taking me back to our group in the evening for a last night out in Salta.