On the many visits to Marlborough before making the permanent move , I have always loved seeing the large but elegant fans in the vineyards which make up the stunning landscape of the area.
They were almost reminiscent of days spent in Holland and the beautiful windmills amongst the fields of bulbs .
That’s where the similarity – if indeed there ever was one – ends .
Our baptism of frost came on day 2 in Paradise . Frosts can wipe out your budding vines and destroy your crop for the current vintage year and even beyond . It’s not a vineyard owners friend at this time of year . Fair to say , no one thought to mention this on the sales particulars …..
But , enter the fans . Without getting all technical , they warm the air by helping it circulate around and stops frost from settling . To do this they are big .And tall . And noisy . Very noisy .
We are surrounded by vineyards so the culmination of all the frost fans jumping into life is loud – and unmissable .
Last year , as first timers , our response system was based on watching the weather forecast from several sources ( in case one was wrong ) , then based on that , me waking up every hour to look out the window to see if the temperature sensitive alarm lights were showing the right colour for us to leap into action . There are 3 colours of alarm . One says get ready to move , the second says run quickly to your vineyard and the third says find another day job . Suffice to say that after you see the first colour , your chances of sleep after that – until the sun has risen and starting spreading her warmth – is limited at best.
Then there are the frost pots . Or Dante’s Infernos as I fondly(?) renamed them . Fiery scary noisy heaters that warm the areas the fans can’t reach.
And then there are the helicopters . Larger vineyards bring them in at massive cost to fly low and move the air around their vines. A skilled and precise job with no air traffic control and only night sight vision keeping them , and all of us below, safe. Not for the faint hearted . No surprise then to know that Richie McCaw was piloting over our heads most of the night . ( I can’t say that didn’t add something wonderful to the overall experience !)
I’ll never forget one moment when standing in the middle of all of this , having the thought that it’s the closest ( thankfully) I’m likely to get to a war zone.
M , being the more practical , was thinking of the commercial opportunities of offering overnight frost experiences to Marlboroughs visitor population …!
Our first night was spent walking around making sure everything was on and operating and then waiting in the hands of Mother Nature .
The payback for this disruption to your nights sleep however is more than compensation . Achingly beautiful sunrises – the likes I have never seen before .
Thankfully these frost events, we were assured, were few and far between and there had never been two in a row . That is , until our third night in paradise .
But this time I knew the drill and knew what would make an overnight stay amongst the vines, more palatable .Pillows, blankets , food , hot drinks and extra clothes are now a permanent fixture in the Ute and ( to be really honest )make it a bit of fun and you always have a spectacular sunrise to look forward to in one of the most beautiful settings on earth. Reality kicks back in when you then just have time for a quick shower before travelling somewhere or skyping a client !
As I’m typing this I’m on a flight heading home to Paradise with frost predictions for the next two nights . It’s the weekend so slightly more manageable than a busy travelling work week , but the thing I’m most excited about is seeing the next most amazing dawn .
How fortunate are we .