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).
Autumn spice is in the Queenstown air
Indulge in a luxury getaway at one of our exclusive properties this Autumn and get one night free for every four you stay.
Stay for four nights and pay for three all the way through until the end of June 2019.
Choose from a wealth of pristine properties - book directly with us via phone, email or through our website and let our Travel Designers redefine your autumnal stay in Queenstown.
Where is your dream stay?
Te Kohanga Rua | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms - 1x queen, 2x split king|1x bathroom | $350 per night.
Hyde Loft | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms - 1x super king,1x king|2x bathroom | $1,150 per night.
Falconer Rise | Sleeps 6 across 4 bedrooms - 2x queen, 2x single, 1x bunk |2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $700 per night.
Taimana | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms -1x queen, 4x split king |2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $1,150 per night.
One @ 25 Belfast | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms - 1x queen, 1x split king|2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $525 per night.
Arrow Cottage | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms - 1x queen, 2x split king |1x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $600 per night.
21 Lakefront | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms - 1x king, 3x split king|4x ensuite, 1x guest bathroom | $1,250 per night.
25 On The Terrace | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms – 1x king, 2x queen, 1x split king|3x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $900 per night.
Alpine Retreat | Sleeps 10 across 4 bedrooms – 1x king, 2x split king & 1x king, 2x single in a self contained unit|1x ensuite, 2x bathroom | $1,100 per night.
Fifteen | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms – 1x king, 2x queen |1x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $1,050 per night.
Casa Vista | Sleeps 4 across 2 bedrooms -1x queen, 2x single|1x bathroom | $450 per night.
Highview | Sleeps 6 across 3 bedrooms - 2x queen, 2x single|1x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $525 per night.
Ridge View | Sleeps 8 across 4 bedrooms - 3x queen, 1x split king|2x ensuite, 1x bathroom | $800 per night.
Penthouse on Hallenstein | Sleeps 7 across 4 bedrooms – 1x super king, 1x king, 1x queen, 1x single|1x esnuite, 2x bathroom | $875 per night.
The (not so) small print
Terms and conditions apply: Stay for 4 nights and pay for 3. This offer is valid for bookings between now and the 30th June 2019. Only valid on direct bookings over the phone, via email or through our website. All bookings are subject to availability.