The cellar door (tasting room) at Cloudy Bay Vineyards is very sleek and very elegant. It would fit in nicely in Napa or Sonoma. But I think they’re rather the exception in Marlborough. Most of the wineries I visited were tiny, their tasting rooms not much larger than an Airstream trailer. Like Bladen Wines, over on Conders Bend Road, which prides itself on being one of the smallest and friendliest tasting rooms in Marlborough.
The Bladen Estate tasting room looks like a converted one-car garage shaded by grape vines growing on lattice work over a brick patio with pink and white petunias bursting over the edges of pots. Standing behind the counter when I arrived was what looked like a middle-aged surfer wearing a slightly-threadbare rust-colored T-shirt and faded red shorts. This was the owner of Bladen Wines, Dave McDonald.
I made some comment about it being a little slow at the winery and Dave smiled and said that was fine with him; it meant he could drink his own wine in peace. “Actually,” he said, “we’re not usually open this time of year. But some cyclists called me up this morning and said they’d like to pop by so I said I’d open up.”
Sure enough, not five minutes later, four young cyclists rode up to the tasting room, dismounted, and came inside. They looked more like hikers than cyclists to me, dressed in woolen ski caps and rain jackets (we are, after all, on the cusp of winter here and it was a chilly day).
Dave poured us all a glass of Gewürztraminer, the wine they’re most famous for. I know a lot of people have a hard time with Gewürzt. They’re crazy. This was yummy. Full-bodied, off-dry, with a little cinnamon and cloves thing going on.
I asked one of the cyclists, a kid who looked like he was still in college (he was) what the deal was with biking around to wineries. He shrugged and with a big affable grin said, “We don’t like to drink and drive.” Plus, he said, you’re less likely to get hammered cycling around to the tasting rooms. “It’s too hard riding a bike drunk.”
The kids sampled the Pinot Noir, which was nice, but maybe not as nice as the Gewürzt, thanked Dave, and then got back on their bikes. I finished my wine and then headed out as well. When I arrived at Framingham Wines a few minutes later, the cyclists were already there, lounging about, sipping on some nice Pinot Gris. They greeted me as if we were old college chums. Affable people, these Kiwis.