Nikki in New Zealand – The Grape Ride 2015

The 2015 Grape Ride … A Forrest Wines speciality

The Forrest Grape Ride is an annual event, now in its 12th year and sponsored from the get-go by  Forrest Wines. It starts and finishes from the estate … even during vintage, which can be a bit tricky and add an extra dimension to the usual difficult logistics.

The number of participants is usually between 2000 to 2500, nearer 2000 in 2015, with 1.7 average supporters! So you can imagine that’s quite a number to fit onto the premises. It’s one of four of Marlborough’s major annual events and definitely to be recommended.

forrest start

The race starts and finishes in the beautiful grounds of Forrest Wines, Renwick, Marlborough

When I signed up to do vintage with Forrest, Dan, their General Manager, said make sure you’re back for the The Great Grape Ride, it’s a terrific spectacle. So I planned my dates around it, to be back in Blenheim on 27th March.

graperide 2015

Quite a colourful event – here’s a little snapshot

And after my fleeting visit to them in February, Brigid suggested that I wasn’t just a spectator, but took part. Now that sounded just the ticket – I’m never one to turn down a cycle. I nearly signed up for the 101km – it’s particularly scenic – but I’d been warned there was one very challenging 3.5km uphill and I thought, for once, maybe I should be sensible. It would be embarrassing to have to call a taxi to bring me back. And I certainly wasn’t going to do the 202km magnum ride.

john in fancy dress IMG_7892_large

John, looking mildly eccentric, mounts a bike to lead the charge of super-speedy magnum riders

The crazy lot who do the 202km Magnum ride set off in the dark at 6am. John Forrest in his eccentric Dr Seuss type outfit leads the charge on a equally offbeat bike … and, after a polite 10 seconds, they speed past him.

Come 8am it’s the turn of the Speed Bunnies doing the 101km cycle – the serious, lycra-clad bunch – and 8.30am is the starting gun for the less earnest 101km cyclists, including tandems!

Finally, 9.30am, after a leisurely breakfast, the Taster group set off for their 42km round trip … just as the rain started in fact. Still not torrential. We, including Brigid Forrest and a host of her friends, were quite a relaxed line-up of about 400, but still we weren’t going to do it lying down. There was plenty of overtaking and speedy cycling, egging each other on. I was quite pleased with my 1 hour 40 mins. A most enjoyable ride, in fact.

Great grape ride finished

I do look happy – I’d finished and enjoyed. Shame I hadn’t sorted the seat height before I started, but I wasn’t going to stop was I?!

Not a great shot of me – looks like mini legs and very long body, but that’s not really the point is it?

With copious food stalls, abundant wine from Forrest, coffee and stands offering the latest in cycling gear, there was plenty to look at afterwards, a prize giving mid afternoon with random spot prizes including an exotic safari holiday for two … then everyone’s favourite …

The Virgin Grape Crushers
What on earth could that possibly be? I had gayly ticked the box to say I was up for it if I should be so lucky to be chosen … then found that I was, automatically. You got a free t-shirt I suppose.

And the idea? They bring out a huge barrel, about 5 metres across and shallow, filled with Pinot grapes and, one by one, you stylishly jump into it. And if you aren’t immersed enough in the juicy splodge, then they (including one veteran 82 year old, who, yes, was still doing the 101km ride) make very sure you are by throwing it at you. Very messy, sticky, stingy (in your eyes) and silly! But a laugh and when else do you get that opportunity?!

virgin grape crusher

That was a new experience – bathing in Pinot Noir. Nice t-shirt!

I obviously looked so lovely, the local rag had to take a picture!

If you’re a moderately keen cyclist coming out to New Zealand, make sure you book in this event – whatever distance. It’s a great thing to do, fun and beautiful scenery. And I tried the long hill, The Wedge near Picton, a week or so later and it was do-able and truly amazing views across the bay. Even better coming back the other way!

in paper

Don’t know whom I had my arm around, but we were both equally covered in sticky, unfermented juice


Laithwaites Wine

About Laithwaites Wine

Started in 1969, Laithwaite's Wine is still owned and run by Tony and Barbara Laithwaite and their family. We take around 40,000 wines each year to find just 800 that are good enough for our customers and are suitable for every occasion from everyday wines for dinner to celebration sparkling.

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