As promised! Here’s a summary of my weekend break in Martinborough.
Palliser Vineyard, being opposite my accommodation was my first stop on the Martinborough Wine Trail. The wines here were very nice, and I remembered the setting well from my visit to Toast the year before. However, I felt a bit more attention could be given to the cellar door presentation. The books on display were a little tired looking, and the gardens were just, unimaginative. I guess for such a well established brand of wine, I expecting a little more.
Still, I enjoyed the tastings and bought myself a lovely bottle of Chardonnay from their Pencarrow Range.
Margrain offers one of the largest ranges of wines for the standard $5 tasting fee that I have experienced anywhere in New Zealand.
This was the only vineyard I stopped off at in the region where I tried some bubbles, and there were also lesser known varieties to try such as the Chenin Blanc and Gewürztraminer.
I enjoyed the cellar door host as she commented often on food pairings which I found very useful. I decided to purchase a bottle of the Reisling for 24 dollars as I found it very crisp and refreshing compared to some of the very sweet white wines such as the Chenin Blanc.
I was a little disappointed that the group in front of me got a lovely wine bag to take their purchases away in. When I asked for one I was told that as I only bought one bottle I would be charged 5dollars. Obviously a lone traveller is not going to buy as much as a large group so found that a little frustrating.
There was a lovely cafe next door which looked like a good spot to stop for lunch with view over the vineyards.
The Cabbage Tree Vineyard
Wondered in here as the sign outside looked welcoming stating tastings and platters were on offer. However, after wondering in and waiting for a while with no sign of any staff I wondered straight back out again….
This vineyard had the best cellar door host I experienced today in Martinborough. She was informative, bubbly and good with large groups. I didn’t feel rushed to get through the wines as I did in some other places, the tasting pace was more relaxed. I particularly liked the red wines on offer. Such a shame they didn’t have the Syrah Viognier special available to taste as I have a feeling I would have enjoyed that! There was a wonderful selection of Pinot Noirs on offer here.
My only gripe with this vineyard is the packaging and branding. The yellow label with the Martinborough Vineyard font really does feel so retro. There’s something about the label that screams 80s to me, and not necessarily in a good way. Sounds harsh but their wines were stand out and I don’t feel like their branding does it justice.
I stopped off at the Pinocchio cafe in town for lunch. All that cycling had made me hungry so I opted for the NZ beef burger and shoestring fries. A very good albeit messy burger that totally hit the spot! A good place to stop for lunch and had a space for me to leave to my bicycle in the outdoors courtyard.
Feeling a little disheartened by my Martinborough Vineyard experience in comparison to other regions, I decided to take Cambridge Road out from the Square and see if I could fit in another two tastings. I was keen to visit the Ata Rangi Vineyard and clearly, so were the hordes of other tourists who arrived at the same time as me.
The cellar door here was too busy, I felt rushed and didn’t feel like I had the time to learn much about the wines at all. There were a nice selection of wines on offer and to buy, albeit quite pricey. I did learn that the Crimson Range by Ata Rangi is called such because of the attempt to plant more of the New Zealand Christmas Trees which the owner is actively involved in. A small percentage of these bottle sales is going towards this.
My last stop was to be Vynfields Vineyard. Vynfields is a certified organic vineyard and is a beautiful setting, tastings are in a historic homestead amongst manicured gardens. This was the prettiest of all the vineyards I visited. However, with a tasting fee of $10 and already feeling, dare I say it, a little done with wine! I decided to just take a stroll around and opt out of any further tastings. There was an intriguing food menu here and perhaps it would have been a good spot to stop for lunch had I not stopped in town.
Perhaps if I had made it to Poppies or the Murdoch James Estate I would have found more restaurant/vineyard type experiences similar to that of Waiheke, but in general the places I visited felt like their cellar door experiences were not a high priority in the business. Marlborough and Waiheke, obviously have huge numbers of tourists coming through their doors which explains their investment in this side of things, yet Hawke’s Bay I felt was even quieter in terms of visitor numbers yet the cellar door experiences I had here were far superior. This isn’t to say there aren’t some incredible wines being produced in this area, personally I just found the experience different to cellar door experiences elsewhere in New Zealand.
I also found that the tasting fee was standard everywhere, this is definitely the region for some lovely Pinot Noirs but there weren’t many bubbles nor dessert wines on offer for tasting.