Mini-break

At the foot of the Rimu­taka ranges, the iron flat land­scape of Wairarapa spreads be­fore you. Mart­in­bor­ough is the jewel in this pro­vin­cial crown.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Jai Bre­it­nauer

Mar­vel­lous Mart­in­bor­ough

Mythol­ogy char­ac­terises New Zealand, and Mart­in­bor­ough is the site of one mod­ern le­gend cen­tral to the suc­cess of the wine in­dus­try. Mal­colm Abel, a cus­toms of­fi­cer with a pas­sion for wine, is said to have saved a con­fis­cated cut­ting smug­gled into Aotearoa in the 1970s in­side a gum­boot. This was no medi­ocre snip­ping but a spec­i­men ap­par­ently stolen from Do­maine de la Ro­ma­nee-Conti, one of Bur­gundy’s most fa­mous vine­yards. Abel prop­a­gated the vine, sold some of the clones to a Mart­in­bor­ough vine­yard, and pinot noir was born here. To­day it’s the Wairarapa’s flag­ship va­ri­etal.

New Zealand’s wine in­dus­try has grown hand in hand with tourism, lead­ing to smaller pro­duc­ers hand-mak­ing beau­ti­ful, high-end wines and a pro­lif­er­a­tion of bou­tique bachs and cot­tages for peo­ple to stay. And so it was that we found our­selves at the Wine­maker’s Cot­tage at Luna Blue Rock Es­tate for a peace­ful week­end break just be­fore har­vest.

Day 1 On the trail

Luna is the brain child of Welling­ton busi­ness­man Char­lie Zheng, who pur­chased Mur­doch James and Alana Es­tates in 2011 and 2014 re­spec­tively. They’ve re­branded as Luna – named after Zheng’s daugh­ter – and have made some se­ri­ous de­ci­sions about their wine, pulling out un­der­per­form­ing va­ri­etals to fo­cus on their core prod­ucts, pinot noir and chardon­nay. The Luna Blue Rock vine­yard, nes­tled be­tween Ham­den Es­tate and Dry River Wines just out of town, is where lovers and ex­tended fam­i­lies alike can find them­selves on a re­laxed and se­cluded break.

The main vine­yard and cel­lar door is on Martins Road in Mart­in­bor­ough it­self, so we de­cided to aban­don the car and hire a bike from Mart­in­bor­ough Bike Hire just up the road. There are around 20 vine­yards to visit in town, all in close prox­im­ity. Add to that the week­end farm­ers’ mar­ket, bou­tique cin­ema, a brew­ery, the gin dis­tillery and a wide range of restau­rants and cafes, and you may won­der why any­body ever leaves.

After en­joy­ing a shar­ing plat­ter and tast­ing at Luna, we headed off on a wine trail that could have kept us busy for days. Our first stop was Tiro­hana Es­tate, a lovely lit­tle vine­yard just a short wob­ble up Martins Road. One of the old­est vine­yards in Mart­in­bor­ough, Tiro­hana pro­duce award-win­ning, hand­made, her­itage va­ri­eties from their his­toric blocks, and their restau­rant also of­fers a Sun­day roast.

Next was Ata Rangi, the first vine­yard to com­mer­cially pro­duce that in­fa­mous Abel clone. Around 50 per cent of their pinot vines come from that orig­i­nal cut­ting. Founded by Clive Pa­ton in 1979, the Ata Rangi land is an an­cient riverbed ter­race per­fect for viti­cul­ture. Com­mit­ted to sus­tain­abil­ity and bio­di­ver­sity, in­sec­ti­cides have never been used here. Pa­ton says the dry weather and icy spring wind that nat­u­rally low­ers the yield makes this area a great match for Bur­gundy-style wines of­fer­ing an earthy, savoury flavour pro­file.

After Ata Rangi we took a slightly longer pedal to the Mart­in­bor­ough Vine­yard, home to Light­house Gin as well as well-rounded wines. An ISO14001 ac­cred­ited com­pany, they aim to max­imise the ef­fect of the cool cli­mate to pro­duce wines in a clas­sic, Euro­pean style. Two roads down is Pal­liser Es­tate, at 72 hectares it’s one of the larger vine­yards in this bou­tique realm. De­spite the size, their small team are knowl­edge­able and friendly, and ap­par­ently they also of­fer cook­ing cour­ses. By that point though, we were ready for some­one else to cook for us, so we headed to Pop­pies vine­yard for a late af­ter­noon, ve­gan-friendly shar­ing plat­ter, matched with wine next to their fire­side.

“There are around 20 vine­yards to visit in town... Add to that the week­end farm­ers’ mar­ket, bou­tique cin­ema, gin dis­tillery and a wide range of restau­rants and you may won­der why any­body ever leaves.”

Day 2 Cy­cle savvy

Just a short drive from Mart­in­bor­ough is Grey­town, our fo­cus for day two. I’d wanted to check out the Pash­ley bi­cy­cle shop there for ages, hav­ing left my own beau­ti­ful vin­tage-style steel bike in Lon­don, many moons ago. Launched by Adam Blackwell and run by gen­eral man­ager Shane Kelly, Blackwell and Sons is the only of­fi­cial Pash­ley im­porter in New Zealand, of­ten de­scribed as the most beau­ti­ful bike shop in the coun­try. Kelly set us both up with Pash­ley test bikes, and we headed off down the Grey­town Wood­side Trail, a flat five-kilo­me­tre track with great views and handy pic­nic ta­bles. We stopped half­way to en­joy a bot­tle of wine we’d picked up from nearby Glad­stone Vine­yard.

After drop­ping the bikes back to Blackwell & Sons we dropped into For­est Or­gan­ics next door for a cof­fee and a de­li­cious raw food slice. For­est Or­gan­ics boast that 95 per cent of their pro­duce is cer­ti­fied or­ganic, and they fo­cus not just on health foods but prod­ucts that are eth­i­cal and sus­tain­able.

Back in Mart­in­bor­ough, we headed to Cir­cus Cin­ema, a restau­rant and bar with a small screen­ing room that shows art­house flicks and new re­leases alike. Great pizza, some lo­cal beer – a nice change – and a de­light­ful end to a dreamy week­end.

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