Saturday, May 3, 2014

Clay Cliffs and Gibbston Valley Winery

On our way back from Mount Cook, we decided to stop at the Clay Cliffs as well as the famous Gibbston Valley Winery, known as one of the first vineyards in Central Otago as well as for their 'wine cave'. 

Clay Cliffs: still standing, despite my concerns after our first visit a few months ago that one good rainstorm would make them turn to sludge and collapse. You really can walk up to them and lightly rub them and they'll crumble a little bit.

Autumn is showing its presence a little bit.

Anyone know what these are? b/c I don't.

Lie and Evan waling up to the cliffs. Right after I took this picture, we met a group of Buddhist monks. We were so bummed we weren't 10 minutes earlier because getting pictures of the monks in their orange robes and all would have been AMAZING standing amidst the clay formations. It would have kicked the photoshoots up a notch. 

Seriously! Wouldn't this picture be epic if there were a couple of monks up there standing on it like they own it, or maybe sitting there in meditation? They were certainly dressed for the occasion with their flowing robes. We were more in the jeans and tshirt mode.

That being said, Lie still looked adorable.

Running around this place can actually be a bit treacherous.

But these guys make it look easy.

Kind of reminds me of the American Southwest.

Still wish the monks had stuck around for some photos...


Lie handed me her camera to get a pic of her over by the rocks. Little did she know as she walked up there, Evan and I took about 5 pictures like this:
Our exploring of the Clay Cliffs left Evan and Lie thirsty for some NZ wine. Apparently NZ makes some of the best red wines. As a person who isn't a big fan of wine, I was glad they ended up choosing a winery that at least had a cave associated with it to make the tour more interesting.

After a couple of quick stops, we were back in the Queenstown neighborhood, and had reached the destination of choice, Gibbston Valley Winery.

Gibbston Valley, we have arrived!

After listening to our tour guide talk about the dirt, the thickness of the grape skins, the hours of sunlight, the night time temperatures, etc, we finally got to the cave. Evan seemed to like the first part, asking questions about the process and the vines and all that. He did ask some good questions, which is good because the information that he provoked was way better to listen to than our guide's canned spiel on everything, trying to be funny yet pretentious at the same time. She was only successful in one of those two things, and it wasn't 'being funny'. Clearly I didn't care for her.  Anyway, moving on to the cave:
This is not a natural cave. They guy who started this winery blasted an 80-meter cave into the hill to store the wine at an even temperature. He was also reportedly a little unstable as his methods for doing this were kind of reckless...according to the tour guide. 

Either way, it was a cool cave.

There was a side-room for old vintage wines.

And there was a big room at the back where more stacks of barrels are kept. This is also where the wine tasting takes place. 

Happy Campers!

Also Happy Campers. The combination of not liking wine and the annoying tour guide left me pretty distractible throughout the wine tasting portion. The guide stated "No Glass, No Wine" as she was handing out glasses. There were only like 10 people, and we weren't going anywhere, so I don't know why she felt like she had to threaten us with that. It was just weird. So I jumped at the opportunity to take my leave of her and said "Good. Then I"ll pass on the glass". I don't know why I disliked her so much and so fast... That doesn't happen THAT often... once a week, max. : )
Then, much to my delight, this vineyard dog wandered in then, and she and I played with the frisbee, dangerously close to the table full of wine bottles and glasses. 

The tour guide prattled on and on, and suddenly said, "and your group gets a very special treat today." As everyone got excited they were going to open up that vintage wine room, she then said, 'you get a barrel tasting', which basically means that you can taste wine that isn't ready yet. No one liked it, so I don't know why they do that.  This is Lie pretending to steal more of the barrel wine. Pretending is as close as she would get to it though. no one actually wanted more.

How much does Lie love this place?
This much:

Wine-making really is a pretty neat process, and those barrels are super expensive for some reason. As in hundreds to a couple thousand dollars each. So if you are looking for a new career, consider barrel-making.

Even though I was a little grumpy towards our tour guide, this was still a pretty cool stop. The cave was really neat. I was secretly hoping they would let us stomp the grapes like in 'I Love Lucy'. THAT would have really kicked this place up a notch. So Gibbston Valley, if you are reading this, fire that tour guide and add grape stomping to the tour, and you'll be unbeatable!

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