We sailed through the Queen Charlotte Sound (actually a ria, a drowned river valley) this morning en route to our berth in Picton on the South Island of New Zealand.

We left the ship about 10am; Picton had sent greeters armed with flowers, which they presented to the ladies (I assume they’d have given them to men, but I didn’t ask for one).

We took the “Wines of Marlborough” tour with stops at three wineries, each of which offered a slightly different selection of wines. Our first stop was Forrest Winery, where we got to visit their Sauvignon Blanc grapes, almost ready for harvest.

They offered us four wines to taste: Doctor’s Rose (low alcohol), Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and a Petit Manseng (I’d call it a dessert wine). The last two were the best, but neither of them is available through their US distributor, so we’ll have to save them for our next trip to New Zealand.

Our next stop was Spy Valley Winery, a smaller operation a few minutes’ drive away. They also offered four wines: Sauvignon Blanc (more typical of Marlborough than Forrest’s wine), a very drinkable Rose, a Pinot Gris, and a Pinot Noir, which was my favorite.

Our final winery for the day was Fromm Winery, a small boutique winery which specializes in red wines. We had a Rose, a Pinot Noir, and a Syrah – all were good.

On our way back to the ship, our driver told us about the willow trees that settlers had planted to dry out the wetlands – only to find that they worked too well and really messed up the local ecology. In the 1960s, the government used helicopers to spray defoliant on the trees to kill them; it seems to be working, and the wetlands are slowly returning.

After a snack, we joined our friends to explore Picton. It’s a rather small town, so it didn’t take a long time to see, but I’m glad we went. We had to take a bus from the ship to town; it dropped us near the Marina.

Picton has two War Memorials – one for the Maōri who died in wars, and one for the settlers.

We made a brief stop at Oxley’s Hotel, which was the first property in Picton to be electrified (they had their own generator).

We crossed the Coathanger Bridge to see more of the area around the marina, including this sting ray who was just wandring around, minding its own business.

We came back to the ship about 30 minutes before “all aboard”; we’re now en route to Christchurch, though the weather may prevent us from docking there. We had another nice view of the Queen Charlotte Sound on our way out of town.

Picton is a small town, but it’s got plenty to do!