Here we were in the middle of Central Otago on a scorching summer's day. We had been told the day would consist of sightseeing and lunch but had no firm idea of what that would entail.
The morning started with a luxury 4WD adventure in the late model Land Rover Discovery. Our host, wonderfully animated, describes the strong matriarch who raised a family on this property years earlier, against the odds, leaving it to the current generation to enjoy. In keeping with the Ahikā way, our host and her husband are now doing their bit to keep the large rural property viable and productive for the generations that follow.
Our tour winds up the side of the mountainscapes toward the back of the property and as we near the ridgeline we discover we have a stunning 360 view of the area. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea to the fore, Queensbury to the side and behind us the stunning Cardona Valley in all its glory. The wind gently whistles past our ears as we pose gratuitously atop rocks, capturing the layered vistas better than any Instagram filter ever will. It is breath-taking.
As we head down from the tops we pass the private airstrip, old tailings from days when this land was mined for gold and soon, the landscape transforms from arid mountains and sweeping landscapes to a closed canyon: deep and cavernous.
The sound of water gushing and splashing onto the rocks below and the vastness of this space invokes a similar feeling to when standing on the edge of the ocean as a large swell nears; it reminds you of your place in this land, of how truly small we are against the creative power of mother nature.
As we take in the setting, we unpack a hamper of local treats and pour freshly pressed coffee from flasks. It is simple. It is mindfulness encapsulated.
More tailings, more adventures in the 4WD and before we know it two enjoyable hours have passed and we are back on flat land. Our host has informed us that we are to have a late lunch here. This is the time when my brow begins to sweat. It is hot. So hot and while I don’t want to leave the striking landscapes, I was also not keen to sit in the sun any longer.
I need not have worried.
Our host leads us to a stand of poplars – long thin leafy trees. Apparently within these trees is our lunch spot. The grass is wild as we approach but a clear- cut path directs traffic. As we round the corner we discover a clearing, dappled with shade by the stately trees on three sides. Within the clearing there is a table bedecked with a white linen cloth, surrounded by French antique iron chairs and matching bench and atop are cut-crystal goblets, smart black pottery plates; all of which is dwarfed by a large urn of beautifully curated flowers.
As we sit, we realise the table is place not just for shade but for impact. The poplars perfectly frame iconic Mt Maude in the distance. Once again, breathtaking.
Standing to one side is a man, open neck shirt, beautifully carved greenstone, cheeky grin and a bottle of open wine in his hand. We soon learn this man is local viticulturist and owner of Viticultura, Timbo Morrison-Deaker.
Timbo is well recognised in the area for his knowledge of wines, the growing process and so much more. We are treated to an exceptional pinot noir, from his personal cellar and moreish whites; the blends and bottles not available for retail. The wines are supple and decadent.
The food served is simple yet stylishly presented. Venison from the farm, salad and vegetables are grown locally. The meal is light and culinary yet comforting.
The setting for this long lunch and the education element of the wine tasting could easily have swayed into the ostentatious. But it didn’t. It was perfectly balanced. Perfectly executed down to every detail.
I walked away with a belly full of local fare, admiration for those living on the land and wonderful stories to share with my own friends and family.