As a treat to ourselves a couple of weeks before Andreas had to go back to Sweden, we decided to book a night in Martinborough, a town in the Wairarapa, the closest wine region to Wellington. It’s about an hour’s drive from Whitby, up and over Rimutaka hill (which I’ve mentioned before in my Cape Palliser post).
The plan was simple; rock up to our accommodation, dump the bags, find the wine. It was a lovely sunny day, not too warm, not too cold, perfect for wandering about and sipping delicious wines. First though, we needed to eat something, or else Andreas would soon have to deal with hangry Laura and she is just the worst. We wandered into town which was about a ten minute walk from the holiday park we were staying at and most importantly, the whole town is perfectly flat!
We quickly found ourselves in the main square where there’s a beautiful small garden, with huge trees at each corner and a little war memorial in the centre. The town feels like the set of an old Western, like something from a movie. The Martinborough Hotel certainly evokes imagery of the old West to me, I can picture a saloon brawl or a shoot out happening, with that place in the background.
We stopped the Neighbourhood Cafe and sat ourselves up against the huge open windows, where the lightest breeze kept us nicely cool. We ordered up a light lunch and a couple of drinks and sat people watching on what was a pretty perfect Saturday morning.
Nicely full, it was time to start the wine tour. We nipped over to the iSite to grab a map of all the vineyards and asked for recommendations on where was best for a couple of wine tasting rookies. Being so flat, it’s common for wine seekers to hire bicycles to get around, however following that accidental 34km bike ride I did, me and bikes are not friends. Besides, I’m wobbly enough on my feet, add a few wines to the equation and I definitely shouldn’t be given wheels. All of this in mind, we set out on foot.
Now, I’m going to give limited descriptions of the vineyards we visited, because I lack the vocabulary to say more than “the wine was nice” …
The first stop was Martinborough Vineyard, a bright and airy little place that offered wine tastings and gin tastings, though I thought it best to stick to one type of alcohol, the day was still young after all. After trying six wines, some which we definitely liked more than others, we decided that one was so delicious that we’d have to buy a bottle. Most places offer tastings for around $5 (or £3 in real money), a fee that’s usually wiped if you buy something.
Wine count: 5
We quickly agreed that we couldn’t buy a bottle at every vineyard we visited and moved swiftly on to the next place, Margrain. This place was really nice, it had the combination of a very rustic feeling tasting area contrasted with their lovely cafe, with heaps of outdoor space. It was a busy little spot, especially with the weather being so great. Again, we opted for the $5 tasting session and happily nodded along like we knew what the hell the wine expert was talking about as we patiently sipped the delicious nectar. Margrain had a lot of character, I found the descriptions of the wine wonderfully sarcastic and silly. For example, their home block Pinot Noir was described as so…
“… after just three months in the bottle this wine is not the kind of teenager that wears his cap backwards and hangs around in the town square after dark– this is the well-adjusted lad who will be found handing around the guacamole at his parents 20th wedding anniversary”
Or the Grüner Veltliner (no idea) that was described like this…
“The wine is expressively expedient as it leaps from the glass like a bottle nose dolphin from a dead calm sea..”
The aforementioned Grüner, by the way, was one of the most delicious wines I’ve ever tasted and I regret not buying a bottle to nurse in our cabin later that evening. And I haven’t made these descriptions up!
Wine count: 11
Our next stop was Schubert Wines Ltd. where we were free to take as long as we wanted to sip our wines, returning to the bar for the next wine whenever we we were ready. As such, we lingered around just outside the building, admiring the view over the bare vines. Of course, it was winter so every vineyard in town was a bit brown and bare, though this didn’t detract from its charm at all.
Wine count: 16
We strolled along to Ata Rangi Vineyard & Winery next, by which point I’ll gladly admit, I was feeling a bit pissed! Not noticeably (she says) but of course if you asked Andreas he might have a another version of events. We hid in the corner of the room whilst sipping our next five wines, mostly because a minibus load of fellow winos had showed up and we did not want to be associated with them. Ata Rangi had particularly pretty branding on their wine bottles but if I’m honest, flavour wise, these wines were the ones I was least impressed with all day. The best part of Ata Rangi though, was the discovery that they had a copy of the Wine Dogs book, which I first discovered whilst wine tasting in Marlborough and desperately need to own!
Wine count: 21
At this point, the sun was low in the sky and a blanket of cloud was rolling in. We decided that we had time for one more wine tasting before we should retreat to our cabin for a well earned rest, all that leisurely drinking is tiring you know. The last winery in our sights was Tirohana Estate, which you reached by strolling down their long gravel driveway. It was a cute little spot, again, the buildings very reminiscent of an old Western movie, very colonial. We enjoyed our last few wines inside, where it was dark and cosy despite the bright sunny day outside. All too soon, we were running dry, and so we decided it was time to acquire snacks and go have a nice sit down.
Wine count: 25
On the walk back to the holiday park, we stopped to meet some little piggies and admired the beautiful blossom that seemed to be dotted all around the town.
Back in our little cabin, we sat down to enjoy some cheese and biscuits, because 1. What’s a day of wine tasting without cheese and biscuits? And 2. We’re old. Of course we opened a delicious bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to enjoy too. After consuming an awful lot of cheese, we thought we should probably go and eat something a bit more substantial. Whilst we’d been hidden away in our cabin, the heavens had opened and so now the whole town was drenched. We took an opportunity to quickly walk into town during a break in the weather and ended up inside Cool Change bar and restaurant. As we were sat down, the waiter presented us with a bit of a fancy menu to which we both exchanged looks of panic, sensing this, the waiter quickly said “we have bar food too, burgers, nachos, that sort of thing” — perfect.
Now maybe it was the wine or maybe it was all the cheese I’d eaten, but I felt full the moment they put a mountain of nachos down in front of my face. I gave it a good go, whilst Andreas smashed a burger, but I was quickly defeated. It had been a very indulgent day!
By the time we left, the wine count was at 27 and I was very very very ready to be horizontal. Again, our timing seemed to be just right, as we got ourselves nice and cosy inside just before the rain started up again. Laid in our cabin, we listened to the rain hammering down on our roof alllllll night and it was so flippin’ relaxing.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast, we decided to drive to the next town on several recommendations that it was a nice little spot for indie shops and cafes; Greytown.
Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t quite so picturesque as the day before and Greytown was, well, very grey. We parked up and had a little wander around, taking in “New Zealand’s most beautiful small town” admittedly a bit disappointed with the chilly weather. We stopped outside the church to admire the MASSIVE eucalyptus tree in its garden, before taking in a few of the shops. The highlight for me was the sweet shop on the Main Street, The Lolly Jar, where Andreas and I carefully constructed the best pic’n’mix we could, with sweets from all around the world.
After sweetie shopping, we went in search of coffee and hot chocolate, settling on a cosy little place called Cahoots. Despite the crappy weather, the town was bustling with people, admittedly most of them packed inside the many cafes along the main strip. Over our hot drinks, we looked up what we could do whilst we were in town, although unfortunately about 90% of suggested activities were outdoor ones. A little bit defeated, we decided we’d head back and spend the afternoon watching movies in the warmth of our place instead, call us quitters but it’s not much fun wandering around in the freezing wind and rain!
The drive back over the Rimutaka hill was just as bleak, though we jumped out for a quick photo because it’s a beautiful landscape in any weather.
Spirits un-dampened, both of us agreed that it was one of our best trips whilst here in New Zealand. We had so much fun in Martinborough particularly. Fantastic company, delicious food and drink, all set in a lovely little town full of people doing the exact same thing as us. All I can say is, thank goodness I didn’t have to ride a bike.