Hot Chocolate at Allan Scott Vineyard, Marlborough, New Zealand

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After spending over a week in the North Island of New Zealand we took the interislander ferry across from Wellington to Picton in the south island. As much as I was impressed with the North Island, I was stunned by the south island. The scenery is really extraordinary and changes regularly as you drive along, from lush green hills with views of the ocean, endless fields of dairy cows grazing on grass, and within 30 minutes or so of leaving the coast all of a sudden the clouds part, the land flattens and you are faced with kms of bright green grape vines. This is Malborough Wine Country.

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We checked into Okiwa Bay Lodge before exploring the area and I highly recommend it. The view from our room could not have been more stunning and the couple that run the place are really great. From here you can drive anywhere, enjoy fresh green mussels at Havelock, drive along the scenic coast line and of course make your way to wine country.

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Marlborough has 236,000 hectares of land planted with grapes and the area is the largest wine producing region in the country representing 79% of all of New Zealand’s active wine production. It also has quite a few fruit and vegetable growing areas so it is not uncommon to see signs on the side of the road directing you to freshly picked apricots and cherries among other things.

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If you are a fan of white wines this is where you should be. I’m not particularly keen myself as I usually prefer red wine, but was open to trying some and our first stop at Gibson Bridge Vineyard for a tasting converted me. This husband and wife dual is really fantastic and if you only have time for one tasting in this region, then come here. We visited a few other vineyards for tastings and then finished off at Allan Scott.

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Allan Scott Vineyard has a beautiful restaurant with a gorgeous terrace out to one side. At this time is it was pretty much empty but you can tell by all the tables and chairs both inside and outside that this is a place that gets very busy. There is a little veggie garden on one side and a giant chess board on the other. The whole vineyard is run by the Scott family who started it in 1990.

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I’ll focus on how beautiful the region was instead of my hot chocolate, as unfortunately it really wasn’t that great. It was in a tall clear glass, way too hot to even hold, and tasted like very very sweet milk. Considering the beautiful surroundings, I was pretty disappointing But the coffee looked good (Rich assured me it was) and the food menu looked even better, anything really to have a chance to just sit here and watch the bumble bees feeding on the beautiful flours surrounding the terrace and watching the grape vines sway in the wind.

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Verdict: This is a beautiful wine region and Allan Scott Vineyard is a good stop. The staff are friendly, the atmosphere is great. Allan Scott Vineyard, Jacksons Road between Renwick and Blenheim, New Zealand

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Hot Chocolate at The Store, Kekerengu, New Zealand

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“The Store” is one of my favourite little spots in the whole world. To start with, The Store is located really in the middle of nowhere. If you take the road from Blenheim to Kaikoura on the East Coast, it is exactly in the middle. Before it there is nothing and after it there is nothing. Nothing that is except lush hills covered with beautiful trees that come all the way down to the road on the right side and a stunning coast line with rough waves and rocks along the shores on the left. From inside you enjoy this same view and can watch the waves hitting the sandy beach just outside the back terrace. It is a present, a treat and completely unexpected at this particular spot.

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The second thing I love about The Store is the design. It looks like it might have been an old post office, at least part of it. The main eating area has been designed to look like a traditional cob , but also has the look of a giant yurt or tent from the inside. The main counter has two large displays, one full of sandwiches and quiches and the other of tasty looking sweets. A giant blackboard on one side lists the specials for the day. There are several tables both inside and out but because of the chilly breeze we opt for one inside. We are surrounded by curiosities, many of which are for sale. There are a series of large baskets on the floor near our table, one filled with lemons, one with lavender.

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We ordered two fish and chip plates which were delicious and of course I ordered a hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was beautifully presented but there wasn’t very much of it. Like most Kiwi hot chocolates there is a pretty thick later of foamy milk on the top of the hot chocolate. In this case they broke the record for the trip, a full half of the cup was milk foam which only left room for a taste of hot chocolate underneath unfortunately. The little hot chocolate I got I enjoyed. It tasted as a nice hot chocolate should, like chocolate but not too sweet.

Once you leave, full and satisfied, the drive along the coast will continue to impress. If you can take your eyes off the road or stop along it, there are thousands and thousands of seals, from big male seals to mothers nursing their young.

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Verdict: I will never forget The Store because of how stunning it was. I wish I lived closer as this is where I’d love to do all my writing and thinking.  The Store, Kekerengu, Marlborough, New Zealand