Otago Daily Times

Sun­shine, war­planes and wine


AS New Zealand’s largest wine­grow­ing re­gion, revered for its glob­ally­ac­claimed sauvi­gnon blanc, I pre­positioned my­self in the thick em­brace of Ra­paura Road’s vines, check­ing in for a stay at Marl­bor­ough Vint­ners Ho­tel.

Cra­dled in the heart of the wine coun­try, in a lux­ury suite loaded with all of the con­tem­po­rary crea­ture com­forts, it was such a thrill to awake to the car­pet of vines reach­ing out across the cel­e­brated land­scape, as the sun­shine il­lu­mi­nated the Wairau Plain’s lofty book­ends, the Rich­mond Ranges and the Wither Hills.

I joined a Win­ter Warmer Wine Tour with Sounds Con­nec­tion, an out­stand­ing way to im­merse your­self in the magic of Marl­bor­ough, as they es­cort you to some hand­picked cel­lar doors. You do the tast­ings — they do the driv­ing.

I was par­tic­u­larly ex­cited to en­counter Rock Ferry, a stir­ring or­ganic win­ery, re­cently scoop­ing half a dozen gongs at the Or­ganic Wine Awards. The 3rd Rock Sav Blanc 2019 is a cracker, with fruit from the Wairau Val­ley, ex­ud­ing great fresh­ness and bal­anced by crisp acid­ity.

Sauvi­gnon blanc and oys­ters — could there be a bet­ter pair­ing? I had my fill at Cloudy Bay’s Raw Bar, a very swish af­fair, swathed in well­groomed lawns and gar­dens, adorned in hang­ing egg chairs and over­sized couches. It’s a glam­orous cel­lar door, with grand views of the rows upon rows of wine oak bar­rels, in the cel­lar. On the op­po­site side of Jack­son Road, pop into the bou­tique joy of Al­lan Scott Fam­ily Wine­mak­ers, where you can re­lax in the shaded court­yard while graz­ing on lo­cal pro­duce.

For a palate change, I also ven­tured to one of the na­tion’s most dec­o­rated craft beer en­ter­prises, Moa Brew­ery, the brain­child of Al­lan Scott’s son, Josh. Be­yond the tast­ing room, their beer gar­den’s pic­nic ta­bles and shady trees make a sparkling set­ting for chilled in­dul­gence, par­tic­u­larly in sum­mer.

Blen­heim’s bounty of hos­pi­tal­ity spots is be­yond abun­dant, and you must not miss the Dod­son Street Beer Gar­den. In 1858, Henry Dod­son es­tab­lished a brew­ery and the malt­house was housed in the same build­ing where you’ll find this venue. Orig­i­nally home to the Wairau Brew­ery, the malt­house is still work­ing to­day.

It’s the old­est com­mer­cial build­ing in Marl­bor­ough and Dod­son Street Beer Gar­den proudly boasts one of the largest se­lec­tion of craft beers and ciders on tap in New Zealand — 21 at last count, in­clud­ing the on­site Re­nais­sance Brew­ing Com­pany.

More key fea­tures are the au­then­tic Ger­man cui­sine and sali­vat­ingly good pizza se­lec­tion. I love the old­timey beer hall, the trove of mem­o­ra­bilia and the ebul­lient spirit which makes this spa­cious venue such a peren­nial crowd favourite. En­ter­pris­ing hands­on owner Di­et­mar Sch­narre is an ab­so­lute de­light.

For a com­plete change of scenery, I swapped wine for wings, and the vin­tage air­craft dis­plays at Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre are ab­so­lutely next­level.

The two ex­hi­bi­tion halls dra­mat­i­cally show­case clas­sic air­craft from the two world wars. The orig­i­nal Great War ex­hi­bi­tion, ‘‘Knights of the Sky’’, fea­tures Sir Peter Jack­son’s per­sonal col­lec­tion of WW1 air­craft and arte­facts. Many planes are fully air­wor­thy, and can be read­ily de­ci­phered by whether a drip tray is si­t­u­ated un­der their belly.

The mag­nif­i­cently the­atri­cal dio­ra­mas and cap­ti­vat­ing scenes de­pict the air­craft in com­pelling con­text — some recre­ate ac­tual in­ci­dents, such as the plane that crash­landed into the only tree stand­ing on Flan­ders.

Be­yond the fly­ing ma­chines, Sir Peter’s trea­sure chest of rare war mem­o­ra­bilia is in­cred­i­bly com­pelling, in­clud­ing per­sonal items be­long­ing to the fa­mous Red Baron him­self. I was par­tic­u­larly struck by the dis­play of arte­facts con­nected to Her­mann Go­er­ing, in­clud­ing the cap he was wear­ing in 1945 when he was cap­tured by the US Army.

‘‘Dangerous Skies’’, the WW2 ex­hi­bi­tion, opened four years ago and ex­plores the sto­ries of both male and fe­male avi­a­tors and their tales of val­our from Ger­many to the South Pa­cific. Iconic war­birds on dis­play in­clude a fly­able Spit­fire


A va­ri­ety of avi­a­tors — such as Rus­sia’s fa­mous fe­male fighter pi­lot, Ly­dia Litvyak, the “White Lily of Stal­in­grad” as the Soviet press nick­named her — are show­cased. The sheer scale of Rus­sia’s losses in World War 2 is il­lus­trated with dra­matic ef­fect.

Another favourite per­sonal story is il­lus­trated by the man­nequin of a Kiwi pi­lot, James Hayter, who was shot down over Eng­land and parachuted to safety, land­ing in the mid­dle of a gar­den party. The as­sem­bled lovelies promptly swooned over him and of­fered him a stiff­ener.

Just imag­ine it — quite the floor show.

The col­lec­tion of mag­nif­i­cent fly­ing ma­chines is in­deed mag­nif­i­cent, but the per­son­alised hu­man di­men­sion threaded through­out the ex­hi­bi­tions, and the sto­ry­telling prow­ess, packs a poignant punch.

Last month the fam­ily of de­ceased avi­a­tion col­lec­tor, John Smith, ap­pointed the Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre to work with them as guardians of his re­mark­able col­lec­tion, to pre­serve and pub­licly dis­play his trove of air­craft.

John’s back­yard shed in Ma­pua was the avi­a­tion equiv­a­lent of Aladdin’s Cave, fuse­lages lined up par­al­lel to one another like sar­dines, sym­met­ri­cally ar­ranged ei­ther side of a fully as­sem­bled Mos­quito.

The Smith air­craft des­tined for dis­play at Omaka in­clude a com­plete de Hav­il­land Mos­quito, John’s own orig­i­nal Tiger Moth and New Zealand’s most fa­mous P­40, Glo­ria Lyons. They will join the Lock­heed Hud­son, for­merly gifted by John, on dis­play at Omaka.

Fu­ture fundrais­ing ef­forts in­clud­ing any prof­its from next April’s Yealands Clas­sic Fight­ers Air Show will be fun­nelled into this sig­nif­i­cant con­ser­va­tion project.

Sun­drenched Blen­heim might well be bril­liant every day. Blue­bird skies bathed my lat­est fling with the city, as the first hint of spring started to bud in lan­guid, leafy Sey­mour Square, writes Mike Yard­ley.

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 ?? PHOTO: DES­TI­NA­TION MARL­BOR­OUGH ?? Qual­ity time . . . Wan­der­ing among the vines in Blen­heim.
PHOTO: DES­TI­NA­TION MARL­BOR­OUGH Qual­ity time . . . Wan­der­ing among the vines in Blen­heim.
 ??  ?? Some of the next­level vin­tage air­craft dis­plays at Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre. Right: John Smith’s de Hav­il­land Mos­quito.
Some of the next­level vin­tage air­craft dis­plays at Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre. Right: John Smith’s de Hav­il­land Mos­quito.
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 ??  ?? Cloudy Bay’s Raw Bar
Cloudy Bay’s Raw Bar
 ??  ?? Dod­son Street Beer Gar­den’s beer hall.
Dod­son Street Beer Gar­den’s beer hall.
 ??  ?? Moa Brew­ery
Moa Brew­ery
 ??  ?? Wine tast­ing at Cloudy Bay.
Wine tast­ing at Cloudy Bay.

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