Month: April 2014

Wine of The Week

In honour of the Royal Visit to the Central Otago based Amisfield Vineyard recently, my wine of the week this week is their 2012 Pinot Gris which I was very pleased to discover in Wellington’s Regional Wine and Spirits.  Well, if it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for me!


Amisfield was established in 1988 and is a Central Otago based specialist producer of Pinot Noir and aromatic white wines sourced from fruit grown on their Estate vineyard beneath the Pisa Mountain range in the Cromwell Basin.

Amisfield wines reflect the company’s grape growing and winemaking philosophy underlining faithful expression of site, minimal winemaking intervention and ultimate fruit purity. Stringent yield management practices deliver concentrated fruit flavour, consistency and complexity derived from the range of soils found on the vineyard.

Their restaurant menu also looks fantastic and I hope to follow the Royal footsteps and sneak in a visit to Amisfield this year.

Read more about the Royal Visit here:

For opening hours and menu:



 More photos from the Royal Visit can be seen on the Governor General Facebook Page


Martinborough Weekend Roundup

As promised! Here’s a summary of my weekend break in Martinborough.

Palliser Vineyard


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 Vineyard

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….

Martinborough Vineyard


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.

Next up….lunch

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.


Wine of the Week

Since daylight savings kicked in here, the weather has turned.  It became winter, suddenly, overnight.  Inevitably with the darkness, rain and southerlies battering Wellington, the craving for curling up on the sofa indoors with a nice bottle of red has replaced my long and wonderful summer filled with Kiwi Savs.

Wine of the week I am enjoying this week is from a wonderful vineyard I visited in Hawke’s Bay a while back called Abbey Cellars.  I’ll always remember this vineyard as upon its approach we admired the architecture of the building and I asked the owner when they decided to convert the church into their home/vineyard.  She smiled and said ‘New Zealand’s not that old’.  I guess we are so used to converted churches in the UK that I didn’t think that a property build would be approached the other way round.  The owners love and appreciation of churches and old buildings brought about through their travels led them to create a building that is a unique interpretation of a gothic abbey.  It is a beautiful site to behold.

The wines are equally stunning and I am enjoying their 2009 ‘Rapture’ Merlot this week.  It won the Silver award at the Royal Easter Show Wine awards 2011 and is recommended by WineEstate magazine.  A perfect match for a fillet steak and mushrooms.



Cellar Door:
1769 Maraekakaho Road
Hastings 4171, New ZealandSummer Hours:
Daily – 11:00am until 5:00pm
Large groups and tours by appointment please.
Postal Address:
PO Box 8115
Havelock North 4157, New ZealandPhone: +64 6 879 6171
Fax: +64 6 824 3168

Micro Wine Bar Martinborough

I feel compelled to write a section about this lovely little bar and restaurant as I had such a fantastic experience here on my first night in Martinborough.

Having previously enjoyed a nice glass of Reisling in popular local bar Cool Change which had a great atmosphere on a sunny Friday evening, I decided to take a wonder and see what was available for a light dinner nearby.

As the name suggests, Micro Wine Bar is a very small bar just off the main street in Martinborough.    It was Friday night and the few tables outside in the sun were all taken so I snuck inside to see if I could prop up the bar.  Micro was a stand out experience for me in Martinborough.  I was delighted to see wine flights on the menu so opted for a selection of 5 Martinborough Pinots.

The service I received here was so warm and friendly.  I was told there was space in the courtyard outside or I could sit at the bar, wherever I was comfortable.  When you eat out alone, personal touches like this can really change your experience.  Micro offer small plates which seemed ideal as I wasn’t hugely hungry.  I ordered some marinated olives to start, which was a generous portion and perfect with my first wine tasting! I also ordered the dim sum and the sesame chicken.  There were so many delicious things on the menu I would love to go back and try more. The dim sum for me could have benefited from a little more spice, but the sesame chicken was really standout.  I appreciated being brought a blanket when it got a little cold in the courtyard.  The service was just right, the name may be small but it’s huge on personality and comes highly recommended as one of my favourite places in Martinborough to wine and casually dine.




The wine flight featured the following Pinot Noirs from left to right:

2012 Pencarrow, 2012 Te Tara, 2010 Julicher 99 Rows, 2011 Te Kairange Runholder, 2011 The Elder


Micro Wine Bar

14 Ohio St, Martinborough 5711

06-306 9716

Wine, Cocktails, Craft Beer, Small Plates

  • thursday – monday
    3:00pm – late
  • tuesday – wednesday

Martinborough Weekend

I previously visited Martinborough during the infamous Toast food and wine festival which is a fantastic event that happens every November in the Martinborough region.  I have been keen to return to the area without the large numbers of people to experience Martinborough for myself so recently booked a weekend up in the Wairarapa region.

I was lucky enough to find some wonderful accommodation for the weekend.  The Winemakers Loft is a pretty picturesque converted barn situated in the Porter’s Vineyard in central Martinborough with incredible views across the surrounding vineyards.  Being able to stay in a working vineyard yet have the privacy to come and go as you please was truly wonderful.  The loft was within walking distance of many of the vineyards and very close to the town centre with it’s variety of bars and restaurants.  I should mention, that being a working vineyard with the wine being produced downstairs, be prepared to be woken early if you decide to stay here!

Martinborough itself is a fantastic region that is only just over an hours drive from Wellington.  One of the towns worth stopping off at on the way from Wellington is Greytown.  Situated a short fifteen minutes drive from Martinborough, Greytown has some lovely boutiques and restaurants as well as the famous chocolate shop Schoc which offers an impressive 60 flavours of chocolate available for customers to taste.

My weekend included visits to Margrain, Palliser, Martinborough Vineyard, Ata Rangi and Vynfields, details of which to come!