The Numb Bum Winery Tour.

November 20, 2008

Sis arrives from Canada to visit us in Hawke’s Bay. She’s a travel agent and so is eager to know more about New Zealand, or at least our small corner of it. She has compiled a list of places to see, things to do. Viking Woman is working out of town, so I’m nominated as the tour guide-slash-chauffeur. Start with simple pronunciation guide: Whakatane is not pronounced Whack-a-tanny but, rather, Fuk-a-tanny. Yes, our mother will be shocked.

Moving on.

We start with the On Yer Bike Winery Tour. Not sure which rocket scientist thought drinking wine whilst riding a bicycle sounded like a good idea but this is New Zealand, after all. Once you invent bungy jumping, everything else is pretty much fair game.

Sis is eager to try the local wine. As a non-drinker, my situation is that of the cow observing a passing train: mildly curious but with no comprehension whatsoever of the mechanics behind the process.

Drive west, to the community of Bridge Pa, just past Hastings. Meet a nice lady named Mary at the tour starting point. She hands us each a map and explains the various twists and turns, gate openings and cross-country pathways. Sis and I compare notes later, discover that each of us was thinking the same thing: Sure hope the other person is paying attention. Oops.

A picnic lunch is provided. It turns out to be yummy but I’m initially disappointed that it doesn’t include the long French loaf pictured in the brochure. I’d planned to duplicate that same shot for this blog but quickly realize a Tupperware container sticking out of the bike’s wicker basket will not have the same postcard effect.

We climb aboard the bikes for a practice spin around the paddock. Funny how your brain never lets your body forget how to ride. Funny how your body forgets how much it hurts to ride. Am flummoxed to find bikes now have gears. And you no longer brake by pedaling backwards. What’s next, colour TV? Yeah, right. Good one.

10:40 a.m.: We’re off.

10:40:02 a.m.: Realize they don’t make bicycles seats like they used to. Is this thing supposed to dig into my lower intestine?

10:45 a.m.: First intersection. Have no idea which way to turn. Five minutes in and we’re lost already. Fortunately a local happens by and points left. I notice the prison across the road and stop complaining about my sore ass.

11:15 a.m.: First winery: Triangle Red. Adrienne Campbell explains how their Pinot Gris has exotic, tropical flavours, how the Chardonnay is unoaked and fruit-driven, how a good wine shouldn’t hurt your throat when you swallow. How rose (rose-eh) is making a comeback because gay men have embraced it. All those facts and Sis buys a bottle of Drama Queen because she likes the name.

11:54 a.m.: Second winery: Ngatarawa. Racehorses were once stabled here. The place has been open for 106 years. In all that time, no one has figured out how to pronounce its name.

At this point, our route takes us through an olive grove. It’s a relief to be away from traffic. And then we spot the sign warning that this is a shooting area. What, the iron maiden that passes for a bicycle seat isn’t enough torture?

12:40 p.m.: Third winery: Hatton Estate. Kay tells us their rose “is not lolly water.” I translate for Sis: it isn’t bottled Kool-Aid. When I tell Kay I’m the token non-drinker in the family, she informs me there is still a method by which I can appreciate the wine. She brings the glass to her face and I assume she is going to sniff its contents. Instead, she dumps the wine into her mouth. Swish-swish and spit.

I’m not sure what part of “I don’t drink” means “but I will put it in my mouth.” Somewhere, Bill Clinton is smiling and nodding.

Kay isn’t finished quite yet. She observes to Sis: “You should have no trouble with the biking tour. You look like you’re in shape.” Then she glances at me, raises an eyebrow and walks away. Say what? Has she just called me a “fat bastard” without uttering a single syllable? Am suddenly thankful I opted not to wear my Spandex bicycle shorts.

1:12 p.m.: Fourth winery: Te Awa. One of two where Sis has to pay $5 to sample the offerings. Walk past Audis and Beamers in the parking lot. We have helmet hair. We have chain grease on our pant legs. We are sweaty and out of breath. The fellow takes one look at us and cops an attitude. He already knows we won’t be buying any of his over-priced plonk. He’s right.

1:30 p.m.: Fifth winery: Trinity Hill. The place resembles a Second World War concrete bunker but the Pinot Gris is spicy and there are lawns and shade and picnic tables on the grounds. We eat our lunch here. My burning thighs and throbbing knees and screaming scrotum thank me.

2:45 p.m. Sixth winery: Sileni. There is honeysuckle in the Reisling and almonds in the Chardonnay. So how come it all smells like horse piss to me? A beautiful building in a wondrous setting, all paid for by the $5 they charge for samples. That’s supposed to buy you six swigs. Sis only drinks white, so she is limited to three sips. Needless to say, we do not donate any more to Sileni’s next mortgage payment.

3:25 p.m. Seventh winery: Alpha Domus. Encounter a white called Viognier. Apparently this variety nearly died out before it was rescued. Endangered wine? Call Greenpeace. Sis does her best to help the conservation effort by buying a bottle. Canadians, eh? Always willing to drink to save the planet.

3:45 p.m.: Eighth winery: The Abbey. This place isn’t on our On Yer Bike map, but we’d heard along the route that it’s worth stopping in. We’d also heard the owner was a grumpy old man who had obviously failed Marketing 101. But he is a dog person and, once we make a fuss over his Westie, we are all friends. The building has only been open for two weeks and is immaculate.

And ā€” finally! ā€” someone explains to me why some wines are referred to as “dry.” A dry liquid? Does anyone else see the problem? But, apparently, it all has to do with the sugar content. While most wines contain between 30 and 40 grams of sugar per bottle, the Abbey’s dry wine has only two grams. Diet wine! Who knew? No more wine belly! Thank you, Jesus!

4:20 p.m. We’re back at the start. Home and hosed. Done and dusted. Tired and sore.

Mary has picked up the four bottles of wine we purchased along the way (Sis tucked the off-route Abbey offering in her backpack) and so we’re good to go. Before we stagger back to the car, Mary asks how it went and, while Sis extols the virtues of the scenery as viewed from atop a bike while imbibing in the best juice a grape can sacrifice its life for, I dig deep to summon my inner poet.

“I can’t feel my ass,” I say.


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