The new year is life’s very own crisp, clean and brand-new diary…365 days of opportunities, adventure and excitement! 2020 brings a whole new decade into view and now is the time to decide what you will write on the pages of this shiny new chapter.
With the new year also comes those resolutions. Being almost at the end of the first month of the year – are your resolutions still hanging in there? Whether your goal is to get active, spend more time with the family, disconnect to reconnect, taste new flavours or discover your wild side, we’ve got some suggestions on how to make (and most importantly keep) those resolution.
So here it is -our top 5 ways to spend more time in 2020, taking those resolutions above and beyond!
Spend more time…
Get active at new heights! Fly to an alpine lake amongst the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s South Island and prepare for the ultimate workout with our partners at New Zeal. Warm up with some stand up paddle boarding on a glacial lake before kicking in the cardio with a hike along the ridge line and climb to the peak. Feel like a champion at the top as you overlook the unimaginable 360 views – an end of work out treat like never before. Make your way back down the lake, take a dip if you’re feeling brave enough, and reward yourself with a gourmet picnic – perfect for refueling after your alpine training session. Fly back to Queenstown by the same private heli and wind down in your private villa after a day of active adventure.
2020 is the year to take that well deserved (and needed) family getaway you’ve been dreaming out. With more and more families choosing to travel together, grandparents to grandchildren, finding the ultimate home from home has never been easier. With both our Residence Collection and Private Villa Collection, we have hand selected homes that only most get to dream of, for the ultimate escape. Let the kids run wild on the lawn, eat breakfast in your boardshorts and let a private chef to all the hard work for you. It’s about spending quality time with those that matter most – now that’s the real luxury!
Go where the wifi is weak and feel inspired to venture offline and really connect with the moment. Accessible by only private heli, Minaret Station is the escape from it all you didn’t know you needed. Rest easy in one of the individual chalets overlooking the valley, where being at the foot of the mountain has never felt so luxurious. Take a private tour of the surrounding land in a hike, discover the waterfalls and enjoy a picnic on a mountain peak. Looking to go further? Fly to the stunning Dusky Sound (where you’ll be completely offline), board a private boat and sail the Sound. Dive for crayfish for lunch that a private guide will prepare for you before returning to the Station feeling completely connected with the heights and depths of the nature around you.
Dine in one of New Zealand’s most renowned restaurants (try Amisfield Bistro, Aosta and Akarua Kitchen by Artisan if you’re in and around Queenstown) for some of the finest locally grown produce on offer – where seasonality is always the dish of the day. Or why not visit some of the many world-famous wineries in Central Otago (Cloudy Bay, Wooing Tree and Mount Rosa being some of our favourites) in a private and exclusive wine tour with our amazing partners at Alpine Luxury Tours. Let your guide Lee talk you through the flavours and varieties whilst sharing some local stories of the region. This resolution is about appreciating the land, it’s workers and the flavours it produces – it’s farm to table in one of the most scenic places on earth!
2020 is the year to go wild for a while! That doesn’t mean losing all sense of luxury, it just means going off the beaten track. The Glass Pods at The Lindis in the Ahuriri Valley is that and more. Stargaze from your private hot tub or king size suite in the glass pod, getting lost in the Milky Way before rising to the morning sun through the valley. Nestled gently into the landscape, these pods are out of sight whilst only a stone throw from the main Lindis lodge. Spend your days exploring the land fishing, trekking, biking, horse riding or rolling around the mountains on in a private off-road buggy tour. Take the time for a weekend in the wild!
So whether it’s sticking to your current resolution or making a new one, jump in with two feet, accept the challenge and reap the reward of memories that will last a lifetime!
Forget the Christmas carols and letters to Santa, get the sun cream and bucket list at the ready; The Holidays are coming!
We do Christmas a little differently here in Queenstown – when most are sitting around the fire with a glass of mulled wine, we’re sipping mimosas under the sun and filling our day with adventures of a lifetime!
Imagine waking up in a luxurious home from home, the sun is shining, brunch served with a side of mountain views and instead of unwrapping the usual gifts, you get to tick some of Queenstowns top experiences off that bucket list.
Whether you’re already booked up, looking for some last-minute Festive Availability or planning for 2020, our Travel Designers will do all the gift wrapping for you giving you a family Christmas you’ll be talking about for years to come.
So here it is, our gift to you - Our guide to Christmas Day in Queenstown. Treat yourself, t’is the season after all.
1. The Classic TSS Earnslaw
2. Get your adrenaline pumping – Skippers Canyon Jet
3. Christmas lunch on a peak – Fly to Milford with Glacier Southern Lakes Heli
4. Dine in luxury with a private chef
5. Lord of The Rings Discovery with Nomad Safari
An iconic day when visiting Queenstown. Sail across the stunning Lake Wakitipu in the traditional 1912 TSS Earnslaw steamship. watch as the coal is shovelled into the giant steam engines before making your way to the on-board bar for a glass of bubbles to sip from the top deck. Watch as the mountains float by, their scale making you feel like a pin prick in the lake, before arriving at Walter Peak Farm. Take a tour of the high-country station by horse back or bike, indulge in a gourmet BBQ dinner and say cheers to a very merry Christmas under the sun. Sail back across the lake to finish your day trip and prepare for your next adventure with the family.
What would a visit to Queenstown be without blasting through the rivers on a jet boat? Get that ultimate adrenaline fix on the Skippers Canyon Jet Boat. Start with a scenic drive down one of the world most dangerous roads, Skippers Canyons, through the rich gold mining land and stunning scenery. Getting there is half the adventure! Once on the boat, hold on tight and get that adrenaline high as you blast through the canyon walls at 80kmh with 360-degree spins along the way. Blast past some Lord of The Rings sights before making the drive back to Queenstown. A Christmas gift for the full family.
Milford Sound Extended with Glacier Southern Lakes Heli
Take off from Queenstown and be transported into a land of discovery in Milford Sound. Fly the length of Milford Sound past sheer cliffs and gushing waterfalls, out to the Tasman Sea where you will land on a wild West Coast beach. In Milford, enjoy a short nature walk and gain that iconic Mitre Peak Shot before enjoying an exhilarating flight past spectacular rivers, valleys and mountains with blue-green ice falls.
Looking for something more? Enjoy your Christmas Lunch on top of a peak with your pilot preparing a gourmet platter served alongside a glass of bubbles over-looking the vast valleys and glacial lakes – a Christmas feast you won’t forget.
Dine in luxury with a private chef
Looking for a more relaxed Christmas dinner? Spend the afternoon exploring Queenstown and perhaps work up an appetite on the Queenstown Hill Track or one of the many walking tracks in the area. Return to your luxury home in the evening to a fully prepared fest from your own private chef. Sip a glass of bubbles on your terrace, let the kids wind down with a Christmas movie in the cinema or take a dip in the hot tub before dinner is served. Spend the evening with the family and let the chef take care of everything else.
Lord of the Rings Discovery with Nomad Safari
Set off from Queenstown on an adventure safari packed with breath-taking scenery, thrilling 4WD action whilst discovering LOTR filming locations. Visit the filming locations of Minas Tirith, Misty Mountains, the Pillars of the Kings (Argonath), Gladden Fields, the Ford of Bruinen and more. Travel an historic gold mining road (Skippers Canyon), following the Arrow River, stop for a refreshing afternoon picnic and take the opportunity to try your hand at gold panning – a huge part of the history of the region. Take in the spectacular panoramic views over the Wakatipu Basin before returning to Queenstown. Forget watching the movies, it’s about being part of it!
So tell us, how do you see your family celebrating Christmas in Queenstown? Whether it's this year or next, talk to one of our Travel Designers today and get into the festive spirit!
Eschew the shops this festive season and spend more time making memories with those that matter most. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday gone by, there’s a new addition to this holiday season that we predict will be snatching up the limelight – Say hello to Travel Tuesday.
2019 is the year to give the gift of a lifetime, unforgettable memories and ultimately, happiness. Researchers have found that experiences deliver longer lasting happiness than their material competitors, something we understand all too well.
At Touch of Spice, experience is everything! We constantly have our finger on the pulse of the latest and greatest unhidden gems throughout the South Pacific. Our passion is crafting unique, once-in-a-lifetime experiences that promise to always take our guests above and beyond the norm. Which got us thinking – if we could wrap up our gifts of a lifetime, what would they be? Whether it’s something for the ultimate adrenaline junkie, foodie, wine lover or wilderness explorer, here’s our team’s ultimate gift wish-list for 2019!
(Prepare yourself - this dose of ‘Travel Tuesday’ inspiration might have you running for the airport sooner than expected!)
River Journey - Charlotte, CEO
You mention River Journey in the office and Charlottes eyes light up. This is the ultimate gift for wilderness explorers - What more could you want for than jet boating in a glacial lake, rafting down a gentle river through tropical bush land and trekking to finish at a rugged South Coast beach? Stay in DOC hunts along the way, trek through untouched forests, bird watch, share amazing stories and enjoy all types of luxury you wouldn’t traditionally find in the wild. Sip mulled wine and graze on a gourmet platter upon arriving at your hut. Enjoy a homemade feast from your private guide, matched perfectly with Central Otago wines of course, and take a private jetboat or heli out the next day to make sure you exit in style! It’s the perfect gift for that inner adventurer.
A day with Christchurch Heli’s - Amy, Senior Marketing & Product Manager
Any talk of Christchurch and Amy is in! Lifting off from her favourite Residence Collection property – Dancing on Moonlight, fly off for a day of discovery. With whale watching from the air in Kaikoura followed by a freshly caught and prepared seafood lunch served by an alpine tarn, it’s a day of appreciating the sights and flavours of New Zealand’s oceans. Explore the mountain tops, trying your best to spot the native birds and share stories with your guide along the way. Fly from the peaks to the vineyards and tantalise your taste buds at the famous Pyramid Valley Vineyard. Perhaps pick up a bottle or two for home and finish the day with a sunset flight home – a day for foodies and nature lovers alike!
Rolling around Rotorua - Sammy, Senior Travel Designer
Sammy is a lover of the North Island. After visiting our beautiful property Ataahua Lodge a couple a months ago, Sammy discovered what Rotorua really had to offer. Start the morning at the home of zorbing, picking one of the four mountain side-tracks and placing your bets on who can roll the fastest. After finding your feet, try your hand at the rolling tracks on Redwoods famous mountain bike tracks before rolling down the rivers of Rotorua on an adventurous rafting trip. Take on the 7-metre waterfall at the end and finish the day with a splash – a gift for adrenaline junkies!
Wine and Dine in luxury - Lyndal, Property Manager
Not all experiences need to include helicopter rides or adventure. Lyndal, our Property Manager, has a passion for design, interiors and local (most of the time homegrown) food and wine. Lyndal would enjoy nothing more than a glass of stunning Central Otago Wine served along side a chef prepared meal in her favourite Residence Collection property – Bob’s Cove Luxury Retreat. Start the day with a private wine tour to some of Gibbston Valleys most exclusive wineries – squeeze the grapes, sample the best and meet the wine makers themselves. Select a couple of your favourite bottles before stopping by a local farm to collect some fresh produce and returning home. Finish the day with a chef prepared meal with close friends and family overlooking stunning Bob’s Cove, and simply enjoy a slice of true luxury in the comfort of the ultimate home from home. The Perfect gift for the full family to enjoy, foodies and wine lovers – a true taste of luxury in Central Otago.
The Pods at The Lindis - Judi, Villa & Guest Experience Manager
After staying at the stunning Lindis a few months ago, Judi has been itching to go back! And just when she thought a stay at The Lindis couldn’t get any better, they introduce The Pods. Sleeping under the stars in a private, mirrored glass pod overlooking the stunning Ahuriri Valley means star gazing at night and rising to the sun in the morning. Watch as the ever-changing weather rolls in from the luxury suite or sip bubbles in the private deck front hot tub. With the main lodge only a stone’s throw away from The Pods, dinner and drinks will be served in the main restaurant – a meal Judi still raves about. Finishing your evening with a spot of star gazing will make for a stay like never before – the perfect gift for you and your other half.
Need some more inspiration? Talk to one of our Travel Designers today and let us craft the perfect gift to give this holiday season. Let us make 2020 a year to remember!
The holiday season is about two things and two things only – Family and food! There are few joys in life as simple as digging into a feast with your loved ones, reminiscing about the year gone by and getting excited for the new year ahead. So, we thought we’d give you some food for thought, a conversation for starters and a dollop of inspiration for the ultimate dream spots to spend the holiday season in 2020 (if you can wait that long!)
Situated on the stunning and breath-taking island of Waiheke, Omaru Bay is the ultimate slice of paradise in New Zealand’s North Island. With seven bedrooms sleeping 18, space is of no concern. Relax into the slow pace of island life, let the kids run wild on the lawn and take that well deserved you time with a morning dip in the infinity pool. Spend your afternoons on your private beach, kayak from a private jetty and sink into the tranquility that comes with surrounding ocean views.
The expansive deck and open plan living, dining and kitchen area are the perfect spot to indulge in a feast, toast with a glass of champagne and celebrate the holiday season with those that matter most.
Lined with world-class artworks, antiques and venetian furniture, fall into an Italian inspired world where family, food and beauty form the heart of the home - a natural oasis to unwind, relax and accept carpe diem. Enjoy alfresco antipasto or tear apart a pizza from the wood fired oven with the family in the expansive gardens. Feeling fancy? Indulge in a chef-prepared meal in the formal antique dining room before following the curved staircase down to the wine cellar and tasting room. Let the children wind down with a movie in the cinema while you sip a digestivo or glass of New Zealand’s finest.
Just 15 minutes from Christchurch Airport, Dancing on Moonlight is the ultimate private sanctuary to escape with the family. A working horse stud farm with its own private golf course, stunning luxury lodge, hot tub and orchards makes for a retreat like no other. Join a private chef and forage in the orchards, serving straight from the farm to the table some of the freshest produce on offer. Feel like getting more involved? Take a cooking lesson with your private chef and serve the family a tasty homegrown and home prepared meal under the trees in the blossoming gardens. The whole place is energy positive thanks to its innovative solar power credentials – a touch of eco-luxury that everyone can get on board with.
Indulge in dinner with a side of lake and mountain side views at The Dacha. With retractable doors the length of the home, welcome the outside in as you sit down with the family for a feast. Looking for a family adventure? Join a private guide for a Hook to Fork experience – hiking, rafting and drift fishing, take the catch of the day and then let a private chef do all the hard work as you sit back and relax after a day of activities.
Thinking about coming away with more than just the family? The Elms at Lake Hayes Collection is the perfect spot for family and friends traveling together. This collection of three lakefront adjoining apartments gives space, luxury and stunning views in abundance. Choose from one, two or three apartments and enjoy a long lunch on the top floor balcony or a BBQ on the ground floor terrace – whatever your flavour, The Elms at Lakes Hayes will hit the spot!
Feel like dining out? Only a five-minute walk from renowned Amisfield Bistro and Winery, treat everyone to lunch overlooking the vines or a full degustation dinner. Amisfield serve the finest local produce alongside perfectly matched wines – a taste sensation that should be on every holiday bucket list.
Need some more inspiration? Chat to one of our Travel Designers today and get excited for what the 2020 holiday season could serve up!
Whether you’re taking part or cheering on from the side lines, the Air New Zealand Queenstown Marathon is one of the most exciting and active weekends in Queenstown's very busy calendar. Set amongst the natural wonders, dramatic valleys and mountain ranges that give this magnificent town it’s worldwide recognition, runners from all over the world will be coming together for the challenge of a lifetime. With challenge comes reward and what better way to treat yourself than some R&R in some of Queenstown's most exclusive homes.
So here it goes, our top 5 spots that you’ll be sprinting across the finish line for.
Only 15 minutes from the heart of Queenstown, Bob's Cove Luxury Retreat is a slice of lakefront paradise - the ultimate spot to relax after the run. Sink into the fur lined bean bag on the lawn or into one of the many sofas, whilst a private chef prepares a well-deserved feast to enjoy, with a side of glassy Lake Wakatipu views. Sleeping ten and featuring five-bathroom suites, there’s enough space here for you and all your cheerleaders to sit back, relax and enjoy the tranquillity of the surrounding mountains.
Next up we have Ladena on Queenstown Hill. Wake up to stunning panoramic views of Lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables Mountain Range and feel inspired about the challenge coming your way. Take a well deserved soak in the hot tub after the race and feel the buzz from the town centre as the runners cross the finish line. Relax around the outdoor fire in the evening and embrace the feeling of ultimate achievement!
Located in the heart of Queenstown Hill, a stay at Stelvio is guaranteed to be a winner. With stunning views over Lake Wakatipu, room to sleep ten, a private gym for any final pre-race day training and a terrace hot tub for the ultimate post run soak, let your muscles relax, put your feet up and say cheers to you and the view from Stelvio.
Based on the edge of stunning Lake Hayes, The Elms at Lake Hayes is a collection of three adjoining apartments, each oozing luxurious lakefront views and space for the full team. Choose from one, two or all three of the apartments and rest assured that everything you need is on hand. Watch as the race goes by your windows, cheer on from the balcony hot tub and enjoy the buzz from beyond the town centre – the ultimate spot whether you're watching or running.
Now this was a tough one but our champion stay has to be the entertainers haven that is Cascata. Overlooking the Frankton Arm and on the back on Queenstown Hill is the home with everything. Wake up to views only most get to dream of, warm up in your private gym and get pumped with surround sound music throughout. Cross the finish line and cheers a glass of bubbles from one of the two roof top terraces, take a dip in the hot tub and let everything go with a session in the sauna. Relax in the evening with your feet up in the media room and let a private chef prepare a feast fit for a champion – you’ll deserve it!
Good luck to everyone running in 2019 and if you're thinking about taking part in 2020, we recommend getting in touch to book your accommodation sooner rather than later. Get in touch with one of our Travel Designers to get their bespoke recommendations for you. We challenge you to find more luxurious places to stay!
An unusual and exciting or daring experience.
Last weekend, myself and five others from the Touch of Spice team embarked on an adventure of a life time – a River Journey with the amazing team from New Zeal. Usually a team focussed on glitz and glamour, we were more than sold on a new kind of luxury – getting away from it all!
With weeks of planning gone by - all from Paul, our lovely guide from New Zeal (our only worry was packing warm socks!) we were an office of giddy children eagerly awaiting our trip into the wild by late Friday afternoon.
By the time Paul arrived at our Queenstown office we were amped to go. Rolling through the door with what looked like giant Santa sacks, we were given a very quick lesson in packing only the essentials – some struggled with limiting her glamourous wardrobe but Paul clearly knows when to pick his battles! After packing, it was time for our first team briefing and Pauls energy oozed into the room and you could feel the buzz in the air. We had a run through the plan of the weekend – jetboats, rafting, DOC huts and native bush were all on the agenda.
‘Adventure is out there!’ – Charles F Muntz (Up)
We were greeted by our second guide for the weekend Dan who helped up pack up the two Land Cruisers, split the team in two and hit the road heading south. With Queenstown in the rear-view mirror, car snacks at the ready and (sometimes questionable) music lined up, our adventure was underway.
After a three-hour drive and a quick pit-stop in Mossburn for dinner we arrived at Lake Hauroko – in complete and utter darkness! We were met by the amazing Roffy from Wairaurahiri Wilderness Jet who was ready to throw us into the deep end (although we’re glad this wasn’t literally) with a jet boat ride across the lake. If you’ve ever been Jet boating before, you know the thrills – but have you ever jet boated in complete darkness, on New Zealand’s deepest lake (1km deep) with only the moon and milk way to guide the way? No? We have! A once-in-a lifetime experience where I think my solid laughter and fit of the giggles kept everyone entertained.
30 minutes later and with a great level of skill Roffy docked the boat and we began to unload all our gear. Base for the night was a quintessential DOC hut – being from Scotland, I was excited to experience my first ever hut! Paul already had the fire roaring and drams of whisky poured as we got to the hut with our bags – it felt like a touch of Scotland in the New Zealand wilderness! We relaxed, chatted and enjoyed some nibbles before bunking down for the night.
‘Rolling down the river’ – Tina Turner
What’s the best thing about arriving in the dark? Waking up in the morning in absolute awe of the mountains around you. I’ve never seen snow capped peaks beside lush tropical forests and just to make it even more mesmerizing, a rainbow stretched across the lake with nature being the pot of gold at the end.
Paul cooked up a feast for breakfast, we prepped lunch, packed the rafts and got ready to rock and roll. We paddled across the lake to the mouth of the Wairaurahiri River learning the tips and tricks of rafting - Paul got a little too excited and before we knew it had managed to tip Pete and himself overboard. Within seconds they were back in the raft and managed to stay in for the rest of the journey – I think Pete was glad about that!
Being one of only a handful of groups to ever raft this river, it was an experience I’m sure none of us will ever forget. The bumpy rapids kept us on our toes but in between we got lost in the tranquillity, silence and depths of the native bush lining the river. It’s not very often in todays world that your head can feel completely empty - turns out my place of Zen is on a raft in the wild.
As we came around a bend in the river Paul decided it was lunch time. We pulled the rafts to the side to the river, to the bottom of a steep cliff face. Bit of a random place to stop I thought but before we knew it we were clambering up the rock face following a rope tied around a tree. When we finally made it to the top, we found a slightly creepy hut – that was out lunch spot! After warming up around the hut fire, a cup of soup and some delicious wraps (good job Stephanie!) we were ready to get back to the boats. As we wandered through the bush to get back to the river I was in awe of our surroundings – silver ferns (which I’d never seen before), glowing moss and everything you could imagine for a tropical forest – luckily no creepy crawly’s (that we spotted anyway).
We continued down the river challenging each other with our most mind-boggling riddles, dodging and diving under tree branches, bird watching and smelling the fresh ocean air coming up the river. By the time we reached our second DOC hut we had been on the river for nearly 5 hours. We unloaded the rafts and just as we finished pulling them onto the side of the bank we were greeted with a glass of mulled wine and a delicious gourmet cheese platter – with Touch of Spice there’s a slice of luxury even in the wild.
‘Adventure is not outside of man, it is within’ George Eliot
After drying off, warming up and unpacking we set off on a walk through the bush. First challenge – an insanely thin, patch worked, swinging wire bridge over a fast-moving river – “just don’t look down” became the moto. Once over the river we discovered all the native plants as we wandered towards the southern coast. Living in Queenstown but being the biggest beach lover, I couldn’t wait to see the ocean and wow was the journey worth it. We walked along the coast, found the perfect spot and took a moment to revel in the adventure gone by and the beauty in front of us. In the sound of the waves and fresh ocean air I think we all felt a feeling of achievement, team spirit and all-round happiness – simple luxuries!
Back at camp we settled in for the night, enjoyed some beautiful Central Otago Wine that Paul and Dan had carried along the way that was paired beautifully with a delicious home cooked dinner. With freshly hunted venison on the menu (caught and prepared before leaving Queenstown), fresh seasonal vegetables and chocolate filled bananas for dessert, it was a feast I think we all deserved! We spent the evening chatting, saying multiple cheers and most importantly, laughing. As the night slipped away we bunked down for our final night in the wild.
We woke up to clear blue skies and I took the chance to enjoy my morning coffee by the river – a moment of calm to really take it all in. After another delicious breakfast, we packed up our bags and took one last walk to the beach. The sun was on our faces and as we stood on the beach in the far south of New Zealand, we could spot Stewart Island off in the distance – wow did we come far!
From the beach front we once again met with our jetboat driver Roffy. He had come down the river just for us as it’s the only way to get out of the area – that’s how remote we really were. After packing up the boat and strapping everything down we set off upstream. It was amazing to see everything we’d seen the day before from a different perspective and speed. We bumped our way up the rapids like we were in a James Bond movie, ducking under a few tree branches and taking it all in for one last time.
As we blasted our way around the last bend in the river to the opening of Lake Hauroko, the snow-capped mountains were back in view and our adventure was nearing an end. The trip across the lake was bumpy to say the least – you know to prepare to get wet when even the driver stops to don his industrial waterproofs! We rolled with the waves on the choppy lake, everyone thankfully staying aboard, and appreciated the mountains around us.
Once at the jetty where our adventure began, we unloaded the boat and had our final team debrief before the drive home. Our adventure had started with excitement, laughter and a want for adventure and I think we can all say we got that and so much more. It was team building, relationship building and character building to an extreme. It was adventurous, empowering and inspiring but most of all, it was a once-in-a lifetime experience that will stay with every single one of us forever – a weekend of true happiness, ultimate smashing of bucket list goals and really, a weekend of the simple true luxury of getting away from it all!
Thank you again to Paul, Dan and New Zeal – I can’t wait for another adventure into the wild!
A couple of weeks ago myself, Sammy and Will were picked up from our office by Lee from Alpine Adventures for a Central Otago Wine Tour.
We started the day heading through the Valley of the Vines towards Cromwell, a quick drive in Lee’s luxurious Land Rover where he kept the banter flowing as we all got excited about tasting some beautiful local wine.
First stop: The Shed at Cloudy Bay
On arrival at Cloudy Bay we were met by Marine who took us on a tour of the cellar door before escorting us to the private tasting room. Marine oozed passion and knowledge for the wine – I would have believed her if she had told us that she made the wine herself! She guided us through the Cloudy Bay Pelorus range – a stunning sparkling wine from Marlborough, the New Zealand famous Sauvignon Blanc to the beautiful Central Otago Pinot Noir - we all found our favourites.
I could imagine returning here with friends, sitting by the fire, grazing on a platter of local cheese and meats whilst sipping amazing wines and admiring the stunning scenery. The Shed is a dreamy spot with the cellar door and the private tasting rooms beautifully enhancing the whole experience.
Next up: Mt Difficulty
Next on the agenda we made a quick stop at Mt Difficulty cellar door at Bannockburn. Overlooking the magical views of Bannockburn’s dramatic rugged rock and thyme landscape, it was a truly special place to visit. On arrival we were met by the entertaining Ness. With great passion, Ness catered to all our tastes before finishing the tasting by converting us all to dessert wines, pouring us “the nectar of the Gods”. Visit the cellar door and taste this delight for yourself.
Final stop: Mt Rosa
On our way home we squeezed in one last visit to Lee’s personal favourite - Mt Rosa. Overlooking the vines, we tasted a beautiful Pinot Blanc, an unusual variety for Central Otago but none the less it was amazing, along with some great Pinot Noirs which the region is renowned for. We finished the wintery day off with a lovely surprise of rose mulled wine – now this is one to check out this winter for sure!
It was truly wonderful day spent with Lee and the passionate staff at each of the cellar doors – I’m already planning my return to the region to sip, sample and savour more of the local and international favourites.
It's simple – great ingredients make great food...
This week I was lucky enough to be invited to experience the degustation dinner at Amisfield Bistro. Set just beyond Queenstown (about a 15-minute drive) on the way to Arrowtown you can find the truly beautiful Bistro and Winery of Amisfield.
With a glass of bubbles on arrival, the venue came to life
Floor to ceiling windows framed the vineyards and the crackling of the wood burning fireplace reminded you of the wintery evening outside. From the 24-seat private dining room to the courtyard and main dining area, the high ceilings and open space had a rustic charm that oozed finesse.
The trust was in the chef and the menu was set
The seven-course menu was paired with a selection of Amisfield wine – each beautifully crafted to really showcase the best of the best in New Zealand. As each course was served, the pairing between the food and wine really started to come to life. The Paua Pie, the Amisfield signature, was named New Zealand dish of the year for 2017 and 2018 - and wow was that a standout! Between the buttery pie, the hidden truffle dug out of edible soil and the Cardrona Valley lamb shoulder, it was a real taste of sea, land and earth of the highest quality.
As the evening flowed, the surprises kept on coming
The eye was in the detail from start to finish with every course delicately constructed with flare. I wouldn’t want to give them all away but… have you ever seen truffle butter that looks like a rock? Better yet, have you ever tasted truffle butter that looks like a rock? As each dish and wine was presented to the table, the knowledge of the staff really came out - passion flowed through the food, to the waiters and into the venue leaving you feeling like you’d caught the Amisfield buzz.
An evening that will be hard to top
As three small desserts were served (the deer milk ice cream was my personal favourite) with a beautiful 2018 Amisfield Lowburn Terrace Riesling, I can safely say I felt utterly spoilt. An evening of delicious dishes, a passion for produce and amazing company left me planning my return before I’d even finished my wine.
Thank you again Amisfield. I'll be seeing you again soon!
We believe time is one of the last true luxuries.
With festive season fast approaching, it’s all about spending more time with the family and exploring as you do it.
Which got us thinking…
What better way to get the family hyped up for a festive getaway than the thought of hopping from the beaches in the north to mountain top lakes in the south?
And here we have it!
From Ataahua in Bay of Plenty to The Dacha in Wanaka – seven days that are rare to find and impossible to forget.
Day 1: Arrive at Ataahua - Relax, unwind and enjoy a chef prepared meal in the antique dining room.
Day 2: Rise and shine with an espresso on the terrace. Fly to White Island and hike an active volcano before white water rafting in Rotorua. An adrenaline fueled day for the whole family.
Day 3: Explore Mount Maunganui and experience a fighter jet flight along the coast. Back at the villa, share a pizza with the family and get those marshmallows toasting on the outdoor fire.
Day 4: Enjoy the villa in the morning – yoga, in-house massage or game of tennis perhaps? Fly to The Dacha in Wanaka for a family al fresco dinner prepared by a chef.
Day 5: Take to the air and fly into the depths of the Fiordlands. Why not land on an alpine peak for a family picnic lunch before going back at The Dacha to unwind with a movie in the cinema with the children.
Day 6: Today is about adventure! Explore the adrenaline capital of the world, Queenstown. Bungy, jet boat, or SUP on a mountain top lake – the sky is the limit! Rest easy on your last night in The Dacha – watch the sunset over the lake before the stars come out.
Days 7: Depart wondering when you can come back and do it all over again
During the month of April our team spent a couple of afternoons pulling wiling pines on Queenstown Hill. After a breathtaking ride up the Queenstown Gondola and a short walk on the Ben Lomond track, we find the Touch of Spice plot that we take care of each year to make sure the Douglas Furs don’t take over our beloved mountains.
Why pulling and not planting?
Normally you would think environmental sustainability would be about planting trees, not pulling them out of the ground, but in this case, the pines self-seed and grow wild. Not only do they take over the mountains, once the non-native trees form a thick canopy, nothing else can survive, threatening many New Zealand species. A recent article in Stuff provides a more detailed overview of the threat to our biodiversity.
Pulling pines literally consists of us scrambling over our plot on the mountainside, pulling out little seedlings by hand (protected by gardening gloves of course) or for larger pines, using some loppers flexing our gym formed muscles to get rid of the offending pine.
Together we can do so much
Not only is an afternoon pulling pines a great way to support our wonderful community and help to sustain the beauty that is Queenstown, but it’s a fantastic way for the team to spend some time together out of the office, in our high vis vests. This year, the sun was shining both afternoons, and of course the backdrop is spectacular. Our patch is now looking rather clear of wilding pines, but they will be back, so here’s to Autumn next year for another go at pulling pines.
A special thank you to Tom who we arrange our yearly trips with. Tom has the fun job of using the chainsaw on the larger trees and even taught us how to enjoy the variety of coprosma berries (for those brave of us to try).
Pines to pints
And of course, what better way to finish off an afternoon of hard labour, than a well-deserved cold pint at Frank's Eatery (a second home to some of the team here at Touch of Spice).