Archive for the ‘wine’ Category

Lots of visitors and new neighbours

February 3, 2020

Not only are we busy with a constant stream of campers here at Shakespear, we have also had lots of visitors of our own. My brother Steve & his wife Leslie came for lunch one day and ended up staying for dinner as well. Our son Antony was here as well, as he usually comes to stay if he has a day or two off work, usually at the weekends, and it’s always nice to have him come and stay and see him relax.

The following weekend Steve & Les’ eldest daughter Sarah along with her hubby Shaun and their three boys Ben, Asher and Finn came out for the day. They have just returned to NZ after living in Melbourne for two years so it was great to catch up with them and see how much the boys have grown…..not grown up enough as yet to reject a hug from Great Aunty Bernice though 😉.

You will note at this point that there are no pictures, yes, I’m doing my usual thing of not taking any pics as it just seems so wrong to bring out the camera in the midst of conversations.

Our dear friends Wade & Lindsay came to stay for a couple of nights mid week, and it’s always great to catch up with them and all their news. I did manage to take a very bad selfie as we had just opened a special bottle of wine. There is a back story to the wine, briefly, back in the day (as in through the 1970’s and 1980’s) we were known as having a very good wine cellar, in particular a favourite of ours was Nobilo’s Pinotage (vintage 1972), other Nobilos vintages and Matawhero wines. We still happen to have a couple of bottles of selected vintages with us so for old times sake we thought we should open one to see just how bad it was!

1983 Pinot Noir, prior to opening!

The first pour…yes, that brown looking sludge on the right is what came out of the bottle!!

The 1983 brown muddy version in the centre glass flanked by a 2018 Pinot Noir. Needless to say, after straining the brown sludge through gritted teeth, the bottle was “accidentally” knocked over and the contents soaked into the grass! NB. The grass is still alive a couple of days later.

And the very bad selfie I managed to take.

Bernice, Lindsay, Wade and Roy

Note to self….grow longer arms for better selfies!

In between visitors, I have again been out driving the mule whilst Ranger Bruce does the tracking cards, this time we went right around the whole park and got some lovely views.


Looking across to Little Barrier Island in the distance

View across to Rangitoto from near the fence separating the Defence Land from the Park.

Looking out to Rangitoto Island

Looking down into Te Haruhi Bay, the main campground is out of sight on the far right

Looking across to Auckland City, you may be able to just make out the sky tower on the horizon, with the Motorhome parking area in the foreground

I really enjoyed getting out and about to parts of the park I’ve never been to before, and to do something productive as well.

We’ve met up with friends Anne & Greg in Orewa for lunch, and we’ve had almost a continuous stream of visitors; from campers we’ve become friends with over the years to staff and other volunteers from the park, and other friends and family. The tea and coffee have had to be regularly replenished, as have the biscuit, cheese and wine & beer supplies. It’s all good though and we wouldn’t have it nay other way.

Antony has been back again for the weekends with us, I think the lure of Friday nights playing poker with Bruce and some of the Navy boys is more of a draw than anything else. And yes, Roy goes along to poker nights as well, I’ve been invited along many times but I have refused as an evening on my own is quite nice occasionally!

Now, onto the new neighbours. Some of you may have read in the news that the Navy base next to Shakespear is to become the quarantine centre for returning kiwis from the Wuhan district of China. In preparation, the rangers have been flat out getting all the trapping and tracking work done in a couple of days as the place will be in lockdown from Wednesday.

We’ve been kept fully up to date with what is going on. No we are not concerned, nor are we taking extra “precautions” but some people seem to think that it is the start of a zombie apocalypse! We will not be affected nor probably even know about our new neighbours apart from increased media presence around the entrance to the park.

However, today whilst I was on a mission to remove bottle tops hammered into bollard posts, I think I’ve found the source of the Coronavirus…

Bottle tops

I’ve managed to remove all bottle tops, all put on by one vandalous group in the last week, 303 tops later, I’ve done my good deed.

The start of my mission, 25 bollards and 303 bottle tops later, I’ve finished clearing them all.

Lunch at the Curlew

January 5, 2018

Alex had time off between Christmas and New Year and one of the things we wanted to do was to go out for a nice lunch to The Curlew in East Sussex, a restaurant where the head chef Gary is a friend of Alex’s and is a restaurant that is gaining a very well earned reputation.

Mr Google told us it was just over an hour to get there, but of course we had to factor in traffic so allowed ourselves plenty of time, perhaps enough time to visit Bodiam Castle which was nearby.

Unfortunately, traffic held us up a little, and also the fact that we took a slight detour….the scenic route of course. When we arrived at the castle the queue of traffic to get in was lengthy, so instead of visiting the castle we went to the pub across the road for a quick one before we went back down the road to the Curlew for lunch.the Curlew

And what a lunch we had, cocktails to start with, I had the hot gin & tonic cocktail and delicious it was too and perfect to warm you up on a chilly day. We made our choices of what to have for lunch and then sat back to enjoy the following 2 1/2 hours.

inside the restaurant

First the canapéssmoked salmon gougère, goats cheese tart, beef tartare.

Every morsel was delicious and whetted our appetites for what was to come. Entrees –

Clockwise from top left; goats cheese, Cod cheeks, pigeon breast, pork belly.

Sorry but I cannot remember what was with what, except to say that every single morsel was deliciously outstanding.

Moving onto mains –

Roy had venison

Antony and I both had partridge

Alex had halibut and lobster

Each plate was not only beautifully presented, it was an amazing selection of flavours all served on piping hot plates a particular thing that I have an issue with as there is nothing more annoying than having a hot meal served on a cold plate. We all chose a wine, an English white for Alex, an English red for Bernice and a French red for Roy.

Antony was the only one to have dessertChocolate heaven

But of course Roy had to have a cheese board

It not only included a selection of English cheeses but also a variety of breads and crackers accompanied by a walnut chutney, pickled apple, quince paste and charcoal celery.

Alex and I had a coffee and a tea which came with a selection of sweets

coffee fudge, lemon posset and pâté des fruits

At the conclusion of the meal, we thanked Gary for his innovative and delicious menu before we set off on our journey home where, we all agreed that we didn’t need anything for dinner.


November 27, 2017

Whilst we are here in Seville, we are pretty close to Jerez or so it seems so why not take a day trip to Jerez? With a bit of research we found that a trip to Jerez, the home of sherry, was just a 55 minute train ride from Sevilla and that a couple of bodegas (wine tasting) were within a reasonable walking distance from the station, so we thought let’s do it.

Jerez is best known for its sherry, Andalucian horses, and flamenco as well as motorcycles apparently.

This time it was the high speed train we were on with no stops along the way, hence that is why it was such a relatively short journey time wise. We were in Jerez at the very pretty train station before we knew it.

The view from the platform

Inside the station

With the aid of Google maps we found our way to the first bodega that we had identified earlier. We arrived there just 10 minutes before their next tour and tastings were scheduled, did we wish to go on that tour culminating in a tasting session of 12 different sherries? Wow, that sounds pretty damn good to us. We waited for the tour to begin the the vine covered courtyard area.

I have to admit that looking back over the photos and trying to remember all that we were told on the tour through the winery and the process of making sherry, it has all become a bit of a blur…I blame all that tasting at the end of the tour!

The cathedral-like winery building has been used for the sherry making business for a few hundred years, they have been oriented specifically to ensure that the cooler moist west wind could pass though the buildings taking the warmer air out through the high windows which are positioned and shaped to keep the sun out with some having special curtains which can be moistened to cool the temperature as well as assisting with humidity. Sherry needs plenty of air to develop the yeasts that form to give sherry its characteristics. The floor is made of “albero” a rough sandy clay soil that absorbs humidity and is kept moist by spraying with water to reduce transpiration.

Barrels are lined up in long rows, just three barrels high with the young wines on the top going down to the older biological wines on the lower levels, with the winemaker choosing when to decant from one to another as the younger wine provides the yeast needed to develop the wine so it is constantly being tested, tasted and moved.

Table and stools set up for tasting sessions

Some of the different varieties of sherry and some barrels being repaired.

Through out the tour we were told of the differing varieties of sherry and how they are made. Now this is not the old style sweet “nana” sherry that you can buy by the flagon in NZ, it’s a very complex and varied style of wine. Personally, I particularly enjoy a very dry Fino sherry as an aperitif, and as well we particularly enjoy a Pedro Ximénez sherry – one of the main reasons we came to Jerez, to find out more about this dark, unctuous, delectable delight. After introducing my brother John and his partner Jude to Pedro (as we now refer to the drink) we all take great delight in sharing the old tipple or three!!!

Next it was on to the tastings, 12, tastings we are told…..phew, this is going to be fun, I had to get my notebook out to makes notes so that I would not forget what we were having. We started with the dry fino, then the amontillado, oloroso variants. Then we were given two vermouths to try, one white, one red, which they also make by adding various herbs to the different wines. Now they were both a surprise and we enjoyed them both. Then it was onto the Moscatel and then the Pedro Ximénez including a 30year old Pedro. One thing we did learn is that traditionally Pedro is usually served chilled from the fridge and warmed up to room temperature as you sip on it.

the glasses and wines lined up with my notebook at the forefront.

and the final two wines to try. Amazing!

Two very happy kiwis staggered out of the bodega later that afternoon, and yes, we did buy a little to bring home with us…….and yes, we may even allow you to share it with us John & Jude!!! Salud.

Just along the road we found this well known branda favourite tipple of my parents!

the Harvey’s Wine storage facility. However, we didn’t venture in as by this time it was late in the afternoon when most things close for a couple of hours, besides, we needed some sustenance.

and the orange trees lining the streets. We are told that all these oranges that line every street are ones you cannot eat which we presume are the Seville Oranges that are so good for marmalade.

We found a small cafe serving tapas near the train station and enjoyed three lovely dishes, this time comprising of braised Iberian pork cheeks, a cold potato salad and a mix of croquetas. They were each delicious and a pleasant surprise as the cafe was just a tiny wee place that looked a little weary but the food and service was fantastic.

Time for just a quick wander around before we head back on the train to Seville for our last night and yes, back to our favourite bar and restaurant just down the road from the apartment for another great night and the perfect end to another wonderful day.

Porto and a change in plans

November 15, 2017

It’s just as well that we are not tied to a schedule and can pretty much plan where and what we do from day to day, we were so enjoying Porto and its environs that we decided to stay another three days. And just as well we extended our stay as you will find out later on!

There is plenty to see and do in Porto, and as our apartment is right in the centre of the old part of town, there is always something going on outside in the streets.

views from our apartment; top pictures taken late at night -cobbled street pattern, men putting up Christmas decorations, university girls singing traditional songs

We went on one of the hop-on hop-off bus trips around the city to orient ourselves and to see what was around and about. We’ve used these buses before and they are good value as our two day ticket also included the river trip and the port tasting, all for €28. NB to buy individually the river cruise was €15 and the port tasting and tour €10.

Sights around Porto.

On the street corner just down the road from our accommodation are a couple of interesting buildings with statues on the top – he’s looking at her and she’s pretending not to look at him

Just along from the apartment on Santa Caterina Street is a wine shop/bar that offered tastings of local wines as well as tapas tasting plates of local produce. We seemed to gravitate there each late afternoon on our way home from our days exploring, for a glass of wine, a plate of tasty tapas and some good company as well. We met other travellers but also the owner and his son whom, after a couple of nights, started to greet us with a hearty Olà and a handshake for Roy and a kiss on both cheeks for me. We had some great wines, ports, cheeses, meats, pates, olives and breads over the next week including trying lots of new things.

the ‘green wine’ was particularly delicious and a new experience for us.

We thank Ramiro for making us feel so welcome, and part of the local scene, it really made our time in Porto very special and wish them every success with their business, Saboriccia.

The Majestic Cafe is also located in Rua de Santa Caterina, it’s famous for its Belle Époque vogue with ornate timber interior featuring carved wood, mirrors and chandeliers. The staff are dressed in old style black trousers with white jackets and brass buttons with the senior staff in all black suits and white shirts and black ties. We sat and people watched whilst we had our coffee, apparently JK Rowling spent a lot of time here whilst she wrote the first Harry Potter book.

The outside of the cafe before the umbrellas and chairs are put out for the day

Scenes from inside the cafe

Oh and another aside about the Harry Potter connection to Porto and JK Rowling (she lived and taught in Porto for 10 years) is the dress worn by university students here. It’s all part of a tradition that started back in the 14th Century when the new students are initiated by older students in a ceremony known as Praxe. Every university has its own traditions, but garb worn after initiated is similar – the women (as seen in the first picture above) wear black skirts and jackets, white shirts, black ties, black stockings and flat black shoes whereas the boys wear black suits, white shirt, black tie and they both wear black capes. Hence the Harry Potter connection with the capes.

There is another Porto connection to Harry Potter but that’s for the next blog!

Now back to the change of plans, as I said previously we had already extended our stay by another 3 nights and it was just as well as I got a terrible dose of food poisoning! I ended up being bedridden for three days and took another day or two to gain my energy back. We are not sure what caused it as Roy and I had mainly eaten the same except for the night before this started when I had a salad but we also suspect a sangria that I had when we were down at a riverfront cafe, as it did taste very odd! Anyway, whilst I languished between bedroom and bathroom, Roy went out doing a bit of solo exploring which is why he will be writing the next blog about his explorations!

We also ended up extending our stay by yet another 2 nights to make sure that I recovered well enough before we moved on. And yes, 5 days later I am nearly back to my usual self.

Art, wine & food

November 1, 2017

César Manrique is a well known Lanzarote artist and architect who had a great influence on his home island and its buildings. He advocated successfully for low rise buildings across the island as well a traditional paint colours. We visited his home not too far from where we were staying, the home has now been turned into a museum and art gallery.

The house is built low in amongst the lava tubes and bubbles with rooms cut into the rock, art decorates the walls which is not only his own but other artist friends as well such as Joan Miró and Picasso. I have to admit that I was not particularly enamoured to his art work but I did enjoy his sculptural works.

The pool area looked inviting too.

It would not be a holiday with the Vannini’s without a post about wine & food. We went out of our way to try local food rather than stick to the usual tourist haunts, and we did find a few gems as well as eating at the villa

BBQ at the villa


All in all a fun holiday for us all, with great company, good food and wine, and some great sightseeing.

Holiday in the Canary Islands

October 23, 2017

Sorry for the delay in posting blogs but we have no excuses except we’ve been too busy chilling out to write!

It’s not often that you can say that you are having a holiday, from your holiday, from your holiday, but we are!

We were picked up by taxi for our trip out to Stansted airport, Christine & Barry had already been picked up and it was our turn along with Alex & Ian. We arrived at the airport in plenty of time for our 4hour flight to the Island of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, names not for the feathered variety of Canary but for dogs as the Latin word for dog is Canus……not that we have seen that many dogs either.

The Denny family all had seats together, with Roy, Alex and I in random seats scattered around the plane, not that we minded at all. I sat beside a lovely couple whom we sat quietly beside each other for the first part of the flight, however we struck up a great conversation in the second part of the flight and they filled me in on the ins and outs of life on Lanzarote. We were to later meet them again but that’s later in the week.

We landed late in the afternoon, the landscape is the first thing we noticed (after the heat) as the island is completely volcanic, as in, it is a barren scoria filled and lava flow landscape apart from the planted palm trees and cacti. The buildings in contrast, are all painted white, and all constructed from concrete.

We had two rental cars awaiting us at the airport and it wasn’t too long before we were on our way to the villa with Ian and Alex in charge of driving. The villa is well appointed and located in Costa Teguise which is about 15minutes north of Arecife Airport. The villa has 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, laundry, lounge, kitchen and dining rooms and pool of course with bbq and pizza oven with outside dining area.

This is the pool at the rear of the villa

and yes, that is Alex Ian Christine & Barry looking over the fence from the path at the rear of the villa

And the view from the front door…looks desolate doesn’t it?

After settling in for the evening, we were soon all off for a good nights sleep.

The following day Ian, Barry & Christine went off to the aquarium whilst Roy, Alex and I went for a walk down to the local shopping and restaurant area to check things out. We saw some interesting sights including this one;

We did look up what this is all about, apparently one can join the club and you can go along buy what cannabis product you prefer and use it in the club in a booth. And no we didn’t go and check it out.

The weather was incredibly hot, with the daytime temperature sitting at about 35C, however, they were experiencing the Calima, a hot sand filled wind coming straight from the Sahara Desert which made the sky hazy, but kept the temperatures high and was apparently unusual for this time of the year.

We all met later in the afternoon back at the villa for a cooling swim before heading off into the town as there was supposed to be a market in the town square which we thought might be worth a look. We walked down into the town and found the market before settling down at a local bar to have a drink before finding somewhere to have dinner.

When in Spain, one must drink Sangria…

After a very pleasant dinner which included lots of local fish, it was then a leisurely stroll back to our villa.

The following day, Saturday, we decided to head into the hills where we knew that there were vineyards and to do a bit of wine tasting. Now they grow grapevines here quite differently to anywhere else we have encountered. For a start there is no soil as such, it’s all volcanic pebble like material, and to protect the vines from the wind the larger rocks are built up around the vine for shelter.

Some of the vines were grown along straight lines with the vines left to grow along the ground. But the higher we climbed, the landscape changed to resemble a moonscape. Over the years, local farmers have perfected an almost foolproof method for protecting the grapes. The plant is placed into the ground after the framer scrapes out a wide, shallow crater-like hole in the volcanic soil. Then, larger volcanic stones are balanced around the wind-facing edge of the crater, creating a low, semicircular barrier. The height of the makeshift wall and the depth of the the depression are important. The vine has to be able to soak in the sunshine without being hampered by shadows, and the hole has to be shallow enough that the plant is still getting nutrients and trapped water from the soil.Each vineyard has thousands of these holes and walls, each holding a single vine.

It is a sight to see.

We visited a number of bodegas (vineyards), one also held a museum which showed the development of wine over time on the island. We continued on and tried another couple of bodegas for wine tasting and some tapas, with the last one we visited proving to be the best. This was a very small family owned and run establishment, we were told by our lovely hostess Caroline, that her father was the 5th generation of his family to own the vineyard.

After ordering our drinks and tapas, Caroline told us that the goats cheese we were eating was made by her Mum, the tomatoes were grown by herself, and the wine made by the family. A lot of banter and good humour ensued, and we thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the sun with Caroline and her parents making us feel as though we were part of the family.

The bodega and the happy customers enjoying the hospitality.

the lovely tapas

with our new friend Caroline…..hi Caroline, if you are reading this, you made our day xx

We came away with a few of Caroline’s tomatoesand some of her mums delicious cheese, some wonderful memories having made some new friends.

Wairarapa Harvest Wine & Food Festival

March 13, 2016

It came as somewhat of a shock but we are just not used to it.  We are of course talking about the weather!  On Friday night the temperature dropped which meant we had to find some warmer clothes, dig out the slippers from their summer hiding place and get out the quilt to throw over the bed covers.  We are just not used to this, temperatures dropped overnight to 10C, I mean, we have become accustomed to overnight temperatures dropping to the early 20’s but this sudden change meant that we turned on the heating for a quick blast of warmth.  So when we woke on Sarturday morning with the temperature rising very slowly and with a cool breeze, we all rugged up ready for a cool day at the festival.

We drove the 6km to the venue where we were directed to park in a large paddock and then board one of the numerous buses running shuttles to the venue on the banks of the Raumahunga River.  Once we had gained entry we were given our wine glass which came with holder and handy cord to hang around our necks along with a very good programme which also included a list of each eatery with a menu of their offerings for the day,  a great idea.  In between cooking demonstrations there was great entertainment on offer and got the crowd to their feet.

  The crowd waiting for the entertainment to start
We met up with Ali & Ian (their motorhome is called Alian!) as we discovered we were in the same region.  We first met Ali & Ian in 2012 at the Pakawau Old school Cafe, read here, and then again in 2013 which you can read here so it was lovely to be able to meet up again.   They were parked in the motorhome parking area at the venue whereas we had decided to stay where we were after doing a recce of the venue and parking area last Thursday and on being told that 150-200 motorhomes were expected to arrive, we  decided to stay at Gladstone Reserve away from the throng.  However, once we got to the festival and checked everything out, there would have only been 40-50 vans there, but never mind, we were happy and comfortable where we were.     Sue, Ali and Bernice

It wasn’t too long before the sun came out and the layers of warm clothing removed.   The bands started playing and the crowds got to their feet to sing and dance  along with them.

  The band and crowd enjoying the atmosphere

Soon it was time to board our bus back to the carpark and then into the car to return home.  Funnily enough as we settled down for an evening drink outside we could hear the band on its last set of the day as although we had to travel 12km to the event in a circuitous route, as the crow flies it was just a few hundred metres away from our spot on the side of the river. 

A lovely day spent with great friends, good food and wine and entertainment – the weather was great too. 

The long and winding road

March 11, 2016

By Wednesday morning the gales had subsided and we were soon on the road heading toward Gladstone which is just out of Masterton in the Wairarapa, to meet up with Pat & Sue as we are off to the Wairarapa Harvest Wine & Food Festival this weekend.  We set off from Feilding taking just a small detour to the dump station before we were tootling along quite nicely enjoying the ever changing landscape. We caught glimpses of the Apiti Wind Farm peeping out from cloud covered hills.

 Apiti wind farm under the clouds

It wasn’t too long before we came to the Manawatu Gorge, we had heard a lot about this road through the gorge, its reputation preceded it so it was with some trepidation we approached the route.   Yes, it is a winding, narrow road but with all traffic travelling at a sensible, appropriate speed and it was not long before we came out of the other side.


  Manawatu gorge
Before long we passed through many small rural towns including Woodville, Pahiatua and Eketahuna not to forget Mangatainoka – the home of Tui Beer.

      Tui Brewery

Our GPS took us through one very convoluted bypass around Masterton to arrive at Gladstone Scenic Reserve where Pat & Sue were waiting, having just recently arrived.

  All parked up!


September 8, 2013

After a couple of weeks at Maitai Bay it was time to move.  First a quick stop at the Top 10 at Whatuwhiwhi to dump and then off to Ramp Road, just a short 18kms down the road.  Here we set up 10 metres from the beach (Tokerau Beach in Doubtless Bay).

So as a different blog, here is a collection of sights seen at Maitai and around the Karikari Peninsular.

It is almost as if the local sheep are aware of Halal and are practicing before they go to slaughter.

1kneeling 2kneeling

and the Pohutukawa all struggle to cling to the smallest advantage to hang onto the shore.   Some set a large number of props into the sand to ensure that they do not fall into the sea.

3clinging  5clinging

This one even managed to grow in the crack in a rock.


The sun rising out from Maitai Bay


Over the hill from Maitai Bay is Karikari Beach, a short walk from the car park takes you down onto the beach.  Photos below; looking East and then West on Karikari Bay

11karikari 12karikari

The long white sand in Karikari Bay


A meeting of the one legged seagull society


And a couple of foreigners meet their end!!


Oops! the demise of the washing machine. Obviously she was overworked and underpaid.


A long shot from the opposite side of Maitai Bay


A mathematical snail playing in the sand creating an infinity symbol


A Swallow and Black Back gull sitting in the sun.

 21swallow 22sittingitout

And common sights around the camp site are Yellow Hammers and Fantails


Views from a track that leads up to the top of the hills between the camp and the headland of the peninsular.  The beach and our motorhome partially hidden in the left.

103beach 106back

The entrance to Maitai Bay from the track

 111entrance 112entrance

Looking east along Karikari Bay to the white sand bar in front of Punaheke.

113karikari 114karikari

The flowers of the Manuka are well and truly out and the bees are making the most of it to produce Manuka Honey

115teatree 116bee 117bee 118bee

And finally here we are at Ramp Road on the shore of Tokerau Bay.