I don't know about you guys, but I have been binging a whole lot of Netflix during this global pandemic gripping us all by the throats.
Deep in the southern hemisphere, as the world moves ever on, our days are shortening as we drift into autumn. As our 5th week of lockdown here in New Zealand wraps up, I find myself slowly working my way through a pile of books, all of the online newsletters I've meant to read, as well as all those TV shows and movies hovering in the back of my mind.
If I'm entirely honest here, I don't hate it. Combined with the cozy stay at home weather, I couldn't be happier to nest. I love me some free time in long pajamas and thick wooly socks doing sweet fuck all!
While my taste drifts towards the obscure when it comes to TV and films, even I have been wrapped up in the trending shows on social media. Quickly devouring Love Island (OMFG), we then wrapped the shitshow that is Tiger King in all its glory. Now we moved on to Peaky Blinders, an epic Netflix drama on gang wars in Birmingham in the 1920s.
And no one was more surprised than me to see local kiwi friend Sam Neill pop up in the first episode!
As we plowed through season after season during these beautiful autumn days, I couldn't help but wish I was back in Central Otago, hanging out at Sam's winery, Two Paddocks.
*Sidenote, if you don't follow Sam already on Twitter, you do NOT know what you are missing!
Since transitioning from Wanaka to Christchurch at the end of last year for love (oh la la), I haven't yearned for my old life. Until now, that is.
Autumn in New Zealand is my absolute favorite time of year, bringing forth all those delightful feelings of nostalgia for my childhood spent in the woods in rural Virginia. Nowhere does autumn better in New Zealand than in Central Otago.
Late April is usually when the colorful leaves are at their most beautiful on the South Island. I never miss it.
I had every intention of returning to Wanaka and Central Otago right now to enjoy the colors, watch the harvests of grapes for wine, and partake of all my favorite seasonal foods. But unfortunately, life has other plans, and I'm stuck inside for the next wee while.
I would be lying if I said it wasn't killing me not to be allowed to travel during my favorite three weeks of the year. UGH.
Who would have thought that binging Peaky Blinders would make me reminisce about my time in Central Otago frolicking amongst the vines and orchards of Two Paddocks? Bannockburn and Birmingham don't have heaps in common.
In fact, the first time I ever visited Two Paddocks and met Sam was during the autumn a couple of years ago. I was filming a TV special with Dateline NBC. Not to brag, but we did arrive by helicopter. Badass, I know.
Comprised of four organic vineyards scattered between the beautiful areas of Bannockburn and Clyde, Two Paddocks was born in the most picturesque area of New Zealand. It's also home to the most delicious (not to mention renowned) wine. Lorded over by the Proprietor himself, Mister Neill, Two Paddocks is one of my favorite spots in the world.
Famous for its Pinot Noir, Central Otago produces some of my favorite wines in the world. My-go to bottles of choice come from Two Paddocks. Oh, and their Reisling? Divine.
A small, friendly eclectic bunch look after Two Paddocks, with the first grapes, planted way back when in 1993. I was five.
While it's expanded since its first vintage, Two Paddocks is still very much homey, friendly, and intimate. Perfectly bite-sized, it's one of my favorite wineries in the world, mostly because of all of the character it has.
The location couldn't be more perfect. It's the kind of place you have to know where it is. Otherwise, you won't get there. With a focus on quality, organic wine is my go-to. I always have a case of their Pinot Noir somewhere about my house.
Here you can tell that everything is done for pure passion, not profit. The love for wine and the land and people around it is evident. Once Sam even told me he makes movies so he can make wine!
My favorite of the Two Paddocks local vineyards has to be Red Bank, where their Clubhouse and headquarters are located. I usually end up here, wandering around, mistaken for a woofer.
A 130-acre farm, Red Bank used to be a food/crop research spot. This means that it's home to some incredible orchards. Here the autumn colors are just beautiful. The rows of apricot trees turn bright orange blowing my mind. Spikey chestnuts cover the lawns, and the heart-shaped poplar leaves blanket the ground like a yellow carpet.
Truly Red Bank is an Eden. I love just sitting outside here enjoying the beauty of it all, especially come autumn time.
Every season around Two Paddocks is nothing short of divine. Except for winter, which in Central Otago is notoriously frigid. But even then I find real beauty in the perfectly still, crispy days, even if I can't feel my toes or the end of my nose.
In the summertime, the air here smells like lavender, another one of the surprising crops farmed here. They make their own lavender oil, which I dab on my temples every night before bed to calm me down. Thanks, insomnia.
Right by the Clubhouse is a stunning wee pond, the home turf of Charlie, the lady duck. In fact, there is a bit of a menagerie around Two Paddocks, home to plenty of farm animals named after actors and friends of Sam, like Angelica Houston, Taika Waititi, and Imogen Poots.
And don't even get me started on the fancy, fluffy, beautiful chickens.
One reason Two Paddocks is so special is that it's exclusive.
There is no traditional cellar door where you can just rock up and pick out a half dozen wines to try with wild abandon. Their old cellar door at Red Bank is now called the Clubhouse, and you have to be a member of the Two Paddocks Wine Club to be able to visit.
My best guess is that it's to keep fanatical Jurassic Park fans after selfies instead of a fine reserve at bay.
However, I can vouch that it's worth it. Not only because you get cases of some of the best Two Paddocks wine, but you can also visit, do tastings, tour the farm, pet the pigs, see the art collection, get to come to exclusive parties and events, and heaps more. You even get to see Sam riding around on a tractor from time to time.
There is something just so magical about visiting an exceptional landscape looked after by people who care. It's extraordinary, and it ignites all kinds of little feelings of nostalgia and joy, at least for me. Maybe it's the friendly pigs, or perhaps it's the Pinot that is so smooth I go through a bottle without realizing (fuck). Who knows?
Here the exceptional yet unpretentious wine combined with a fantastic place and amazing people make Two Paddocks a bucolic yet quirky Eden I can't get enough of.
And now once again I'm upset I can't go there for at least another couple of weeks. Damn you, coronavirus!
Have you heard of Two Paddocks? Have you visited Central Otago or New Zealand in autumn before? Share!
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