This year marked Clicquot in the Snow’s ninth year of creating a sparkling festival of winter fun and adventure in Queenstown. I was lucky enough to join the crew for three days of activities interspersed with sensational champagne and food in the south’s winter wonderland. Once I had wrangled how to pack (how does one fit bulky winter woollies and crushable cocktail dresses into one relatively small suitcase?), I was happy to hand the reins over to the Clicquot team. And then, after a restorative brunch at Provisions café in Arrowtown, they handed them right back…
Our first foray was at Snow Farm in the Cardrona Valley – a half-hour husky sledding ride across the snowy terrain, with my media colleagues and I in charge of each sled and its team of four dogs. I admit to more than a touch of nerves as one of my runners (Fish by name, racehorse by nature), strained, jumped and barked in the harness – and this was before we set off. But I needn’t have worried; Fish’s exuberance guaranteed me an exhilarating, but never dangerous, ride over the course. The logistics were surprisingly simple, with no navigating required, and hitting the brakes was enough to bring us to a stop if needed. It was utterly fabulous, and I highly recommend the experience.
Dinner at Aosta was the next highlight of the day. A sublime sharing menu was dished up by Ben Bayly and his team – add a crackling fire and stunning Veuve Clicquot champagne and this little pig was literally rolling around in mud.
The dinner featured courses such as Flame-grilled Sardines with Cromwell Dried Cherries, Pickled Shaved Fennel and Pinoli (that’s pine nuts to you and me), stunning Buffalo Curd Tortellini, Shaved Paua, Kina Pappardelle (with fried leeks and unctuous terra sancta yolk), and Deer Milk ‘mozzarella’ with Green Apple Granita.
The next day started very bright and early with First Tracks on Coronet Peak. The potentially disruptive snow storm that was forecast was gratifyingly slow to appear, and once one negligible-vision run had been dealt with, the clouds parted and we whizzed down the freshly powdered slopes with glee.
Happily invigorated and fatigued, we had plenty of time to rest and recover before the dazzling Kathryn Wilson show hit the ‘big top’ at Jack’s Point Clubhouse. The crowd bopped and boogied while sipping from flutes of Veuve as the stunning models shimmied past in Wilson’s latest collection of fun, fashion-forward footwear.
Day three was all about the food as we gathered at Josh Emett’s Rātā for a feast of champagne-matched courses, kicking off with the outrageously good Warm Winter Bread with Caramelized Root Vegetable Butter. Big Glory Bay salmon followed, then Poached Chicken Terrine with Fiordland Crayfish, Roast Canter Valley Duck with Cassoulet, and Caramel Poached Pear with Pecan Ice Cream and Vanilla Custard. The guests broke into a round of well-deserved applause as Emett invited head chef Chris Scott out to take a bow.
After a small siesta our last evening was spent sipping our final glasses of both rose and yellow label Veuve Clicquot and enjoying a feast of nibbles at The Lodge Bar in the heart of Queenstown. We rolled back to the hotel, tired, replete and already filled with nostalgia for our Clicquot in the Snow adventure.
The first stage of the festival may have been and gone but you can still get amongst the Veuve Clicquot in the Snow experiences by enjoying a ‘Flute & Facial’ at the Hilton Queenstown’s luxurious The eforea: spa.