Wine, Art & Wilderness….Kiwi Style

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Yesterday I (Cindy) did something surprising ….I realized and admitted that New Zealand is surpassing Italy as my favorite place. It’s not just the beautiful, rugged scenery, the perfectly prepared and apportioned meals, nor is it the history or the art. Travel is about the people you meet. The shared experiences, the glimpses into each others’ lives. So far Kiwis rule!

The realization struck during my outing with Noel Kennedy of Wine, Art & Wilderness Tours. Noel has a background in landscape design, land conservation and the wine business, and brings it all together as a tour guide in Nelson, a haven to artists and vineyards. The lifestyle and climate appeal to the artists, while the soil, sun and ocean breezes provide the right setting for superb local wines.

Noel works with small, family operated wineries that are able to provide an educational experience to guests. After an al fresco lunch at The Mapua Boatshed Cafe, we sampled Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and a stand-out Merlot Rose at the Kina Beach Vineyard, and finished out the day by visiting local artist Brian Strong, who paints striking landscapes filled with historical symbolism.

Noel’s contacts with the local wineries and artists offer his clients a personalized tour and experience you’re unlikely to get on your own. Add in his knowledge about all things Nelson and it’s a day you’ll not soon forget!

Noel is an easy going, unassuming guy who comes out with the most amazing facts and information…he’s a walking encyclopedia of knowledge of New Zealand’s plants, geology, local history and especially the wine business. He shares it passionately and by the end of the day I felt like family. That’s what it’s like here.

Today I’m off to visit with a local couple who share my passion of all things retro, as in 1960s design. It was arranged by Amanda Read of Southern Wilderness who hiked with us a few days ago. When she learned of my retro interest she called her friends and…. poof! I’m invited for a visit to their home. Look what the universe provides…. more and more Kiwi friends at every turn!

I love Italy but New Zealand ROCKS!