This story begins with a woman who did not like wine. In her apartment there were no delicate glasses, no collection of corks, no shirts banished to the back of the closet after disfigurement from a dry red, no empty glass bottles proudly transformed into DIY projects from Pinterest and most important of all: there was no wine. She had first encountered the boxed variety at an art showing. After nearly choking on the alcoholic fumes, she gave the substance a wide berth. A few years later, she was told the quality of the product could be to blame, she tried again. Alas, no love for the Pinot Noir, the Rose, or any of their cousins.
This lass of course, is I, and on this day I survived, nay, enjoyed not one, not two, but three consecutive wine tastings on the island of Waiheke. How does one who would happily pour out a rare vintage for a glass of Welch’s grape juice enjoy a fourteen-sample tour? Simple, it was a matter of two easy steps: prepare and participate.
The key to getting through any long day is to be completely prepared for the worst. We hope for the best, but it pays to be ready. To that end, I started my morning early with a brisk walk to stimulate the senses, a bit of Turkish coffee to put hair on the chest and an interesting conversation about American history from a Kiwi named David to invigorate the mind. Fortified for the ferry boat ride over, I thought of nothing but the gorgeous views of the islands. Truly, New Zealand is another world. It is a feast for the senses. The tour of the island, with its views of land, sea, and rolling rows of vines sagging with the burden of their dark fruit, is a more lush hue than anything seen in the glasses of my comrades. The ripe scent of mowed grass, salty brine air and crisp mountain breeze is a more delicate bouquet than any of the swilled wine.
The ride through the green hills dotted with colorful homes gave me time to absorb the peace and tranquility that blanket the island. I vowed to myself to try every wine offered, and I almost succeeded. I could not bring myself to sample the last red offered. Through three artfully styled vineyards, I took a sip of each of the thirteen wines before handing off the remnants to the lucky people beside me murmuring sweet nothings into their glasses. Watching my friends delight, debate and go through a slow drunken deterioration over the wine was the highlight of the journey. That, and the tasty snacks that accompany wine. I am convinced I ate my weight in cheese and crackers.
Having resigned myself to being utterly miserable, I was pleasantly surprised by my enjoyment of a wine tasting. I got to savor the atmosphere, the view of nature’s bounty and eat some of the best olive oils I have ever enjoyed. In addition to the grape vines, there are places on the island that grow their own olives for oil. That in and of itself was worth the moments of boredom when those around me were looking introspective about the stirrings of their Merlot’s dry, robust undertones. I never would have thought it, but wine tours are not just for the vino connoisseur, but for the uninitiated or flat-out antagonistic. I hope to continue to trim the fat of ignorance from my person as this mighty adventure continues.