New Zealand

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon

I’ve been meaning to write up this incredible event for a while now…with the move back to the UK and the new website to set up, the blog has been a bit neglected, but I am back in force with a shiny new format and plenty of wine related musings to post.

An incredible highlight of my last month in New Zealand was the Saint Clair Half Marathon which took place in the Marlborough Vineyards at the top of New Zealand’s South Island.
This is such an amazing event, for anyone interested in running, wine, or just looking for a good day out I highly recommend this event!
Highlights for me were receiving my trophy at the end of the course in wine bottle format- a lovely bottle of The Saint Clair Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, running through the stunning Cloudy Bay Vineyard at the 10k point, the refreshing Sauvignon Blanc gelato at 13k and the bagpipe players on the final end straight. The course was so scenic, running through the vines with the morning sunlight breaking through was beautiful. I can’t think of a more stunning course to run my first half marathon on.
A simply wonderful event- check out more info here:

http://vineyardhalf.com

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Martinborough Weekend Roundup

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

Palliser Vineyard

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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.

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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.

www.thevillagecafe.co.nz

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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http://www.palliser.co.nz

http://www.margrainvineyard.co.nz

http://www.martinborough-vineyard.co.nz

http://www.atarangi.co.nz

http://www.vynfields.com

http://www.pinocchiomartinborough.co.nz

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.

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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

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Micro Wine Bar

14 Ohio St, Martinborough 5711

06-306 9716

Wine, Cocktails, Craft Beer, Small Plates

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

www.microbar.co.nz

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!

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Sileni Vineyard Hawke’s Bay

Sileni is an absolute must visit if you are in the Hawke’s Bay area.  You will know you have arrived by the grand entrance to the vineyard, it’s a very impressive long driveway!  The actual estate Sileni, is named after the Sileni who featured in Roman mythology alongside Bacchus, the god of wine.

Of course the wine tasting at Sileni was excellent but what really caught my eye was the temperature controlled cheese room stocked with an impressive selection of cheeses.  There is a vast array of gourmet foods to purchase from their shop, this is definitely a stop for all food lovers.  The store offers lovely hampers, food items and gifts for those looking to stock up on some presents for those back home.

Those interested in touring the vineyard can book a vineyard and wine tasting tour, there is also a cheese and wine tasting option available and even an option to tour the Village Press where you can taste the award winning olive oils paired with the gorgeous Sileni wines.

This vineyard has something for everyone, which is probably why it was voted ‘Cellar Door of the Year’ in 2012.  We left with a beautiful bottle of Syrah for ourselves and some chocolates for those back home.  A superb experience with a wonderful selection of wines.

Sileni Estates

2016 Maraekakaho Road
RD1, Hastings
PO Box 2234
Stortford Lodge
Hastings
Phone: +64 6 879 8768
Fax: +64 6 879 7187
  • Open 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm during Summer (Oct – Apr)
  • Open 5 days a week from 10am to 4pm during Winter (May – Sept)
  • Open over Easter Weekend 10am – 5pm
  • Closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day

 

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Alpha Domus Vineyard Hawke’s Bay

About half way through our cycle of the Bridge Pa Triangle in Hawke’s Bay we came across Alpha Domus vineyard, nestled in the vicinity of an historic airfield.  The grounds were home to the training of many Air New Zealand pilots throughout history, hence prominence of the aircraft depicted on the vineyards label.  Established in 1995 by the Ham family, originally emigrated from Holland, Alpha Domus released their first wines to the market in 1996.

I have to credit Alpha Domus Vineyard with having one of the best cellar doors we have been to.  The host was so informative and we tried lots of new wines that we were really impressed with.  Our absolute favourites were the Viognier ‘The Wingwalker’ 2010 which we purchased and the ‘Barnstormer’ Syrah.

Now, every time I enjoy a bottle of Viognier I am transported back to our chalet in Lake Taupo where we enjoyed the bottle we purchased from the cellar door whilst watching the most incredible sunset on the horizon.

Alpha Domus Ltd.
1829 Maraekakaho Road
Hastings
Hawke’s Bay
Phone: +64 6 879 6752
Fax: +64 6 879 6952

Summer Hours
Open 7 days  – 10.00am until 5.00pm (1 September to the first weekend in June). Closed Christmas and Boxing days,
Good Friday and Easter Sunday  and ANZAC day.
Winter Hours
Closed.
Large groups and tours by appointment.
Service Fee for Wine Tasting of $5.00 per person, 1 service fee refunded on each bottle purchased. 
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Hawke’s Bay ‘On Yer Bike’ Wine Tours

Exploring the Hawke’s Bay wine region of New Zealand is no mean feat.  There are so many outstanding vineyards in this area, that we decided to focus the day on what is known as the ‘Bridge Pa Triangle’ and hire bicycles through a great company called ‘On Yer Bike’.

We had a bit of trouble finding our accommodation and the first vineyard on the stop, this was the first and only time we got lost in New Zealand! But all of our hosts were very gracious in waiting for us despite us turning up over an hour late.

Our first stop on the vineyard tour was The Ash Ridge Vineyard where we were whisked outside for a spot of wine tasting before being set up with our bikes, our packed lunches and a map of all the local vineyards.

You start the tour at Ash Ridge Wines from where you can cycle to Sileni Estate, Alpha Domus, Abbey Cellars, Triangle Cellars, Ngatarawa Estate, Salvare, Trinity Hill and Te Awa. This makes up around a 20Km circuit and you can comfortably do it in around 4-5 hours depending on how long you stay for tasting wine at each winery. Alternatively you can cycle the shorter route of Ngatarawa Road and cover 6 out of the 9 wineries.

The advantages of hiring bicycles from On Yer Bike are that they offer roadside assistance all day long if you have any problems, find you are too tired to cycle back or end up buying so much wine you simply can’t carry it on your bike, they are there to help!

The lunch we were provided with was absolutely delicious and very substantial.  For me, cycle hire is by far the best way to enjoy the beautiful countryside of these stunning vineyards and I can’t recommend On Yer Bike enough, it’s one of the best days out I’ve had in New Zealand.

http://www.onyerbikehb.co.nz

2543 State Highway 50, Hastings, Hawkes Bay

Tel: (06) 650 4627
Email: info@onyerbikehb.co.nz

Wineries included on the cycle tour are:

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Wairau River Wines Marlborough

Wairau River Wines Marlborough is one of the largest independent wine estates in Marlborough and has a suitably impressive cellar door and restaurant to match.

We enjoyed a tasting at Wairau River from a very informative guide and one of our favourite things about this vineyard was that we were encouraged to take a wonder out in the vineyard amongst the vines.

The restaurant has lovely seating with verandas that leads straight out to the vineyards, it was wonderful to be able to take a stroll around.

The unique aspect of the wines produced here are that the vineyards are completely family owned which they believe enables better quality control from fruit to bottle. Wairau River offer an estate and a reserve range and their flagship wine is of course their Sauvignon Blanc.

The restaurant menu looked absolutely delicious! Would love to have eaten here had we need been so full already.

Wairau River Cellar Door & Restaurant
Corner State Highway 6 & Rapaura Road
Ph +64 3 572 9800

http://www.wairauriverwines.com

OPEN 10AM-5PM EVERY DAY*    LUNCH SERVED 12PM-3PM

*except Good Friday, Xmas Day & Boxing Day

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Framingham Vineyard Marlborough

Framingham Vineyard was a real stand out vineyard in the Blenheim area for me.  The entrance to the cellar door was through a pretty little archway which led to a very sweet courtyard with a water fountain in the middle.  It was a little haven and we were informed they sometimes have concerts in there.  A picture perfect garden. More bands should play in vineyards.  Especially those that have settings like this.

Framingham may sound familiar to UK readers.  I was informed that they supply wine to one of Gordon Ramsay’s London Restaurants.  I really like the way the vineyard have branded their wines, there’s something that feels very cool about their approach.  I think they have the right balance between class and innovation in their design.

Whilst waiting for my flight at Heathrow back to New Zealand over Christmas time I decided to take a rest from the busy crowds and put my feet up at the Seafood Bar which was perfectly positioned for me to drool over the Chanel Handbags in the window opposite.   I overheard the customer opposite me ask for a recommendation to go with his seafood platter.  The barman responded to this, ‘You simply must try this ‘New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc’.  It was none other than the Framingham Sav on the wine list! I was pleased to see the wine of such a lovely little vineyard had made it to Heathrow’s hustle and bustle and made a mental note to stock up on a bottle or two once I had returned to New Zealand.

The original vineyard was established by Wellington engineer Rex Brooke-Taylor who took the name Framingham from his ancestral home town near Norwich, England.

Despite being based in a region known for it’s excellent white wine, I was also impressed with the reds that Framingham had to offer and I absolutely loved the Montepulciano 2009.

19 Conders Bend Road, PO Box 37 Renwick, New Zealand.

Phone: +64 3572 8884
Fax: +64 3 572 9884

Opening Hours:

Mon – Sun: 10:30 – 16:30

http://www.framingham.co.nz

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Lunch at Saint Clair Vineyard Marlborough

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The Saint Clair Family Estate is a well known vineyard in Marlborough and it was here on our second sunny day in the region that we designed to stop for lunch.

We opted for the steak sandwich, and yes it tasted as good as it looked, and the platter for one which we joked should really have been for two, but after all the cycling around, we didn’t struggle.  The homemade pate was delicious!

The Saint Clair vineyard has a lovely little garden out the back to enjoy a peaceful lunch with plenty of shade.

The cellar door at Saint Clair is open 7 days from 9am – 5pm.  In winter the opening hours may change.

Saint Clair Family Estate Cellar Door & Café
Corner of Rapaura & Selmes Roads
Blenheim

E: cellardoor@saintclair.co.nz
P: 03 570 5280
F: 03 570 5280

http://www.saintclair.co.nz

It is also famous for hosting the half marathon through the vineyards in May, which I have signed up for!

http://vineyardhalf.com

Hillsfield House Marlborough

Driving down a country lane in Blenheim the last thing we were expecting of our accommodation was an approach reminiscent of an English country manor, it is a stunning building and quite unlike anything I have seen in New Zealand until now.

Hillsfield House is one of the best B&Bs I have stayed at in New Zealand.  The owners offer just two rooms; ‘The Courtyard’ or ‘The Loft’, both of which are in separate accommodation to the owners, allowing you to come and go as you please.

The rooms are so beautifully designed and put together, this is certainly a labor of love and it was clear that our host Jo loves what she does.  The gardens are beautiful, our room looked out over unspoilt scenery.  The attention to detail put into the accommodation is faultless.

The continental breakfast featured some of the most delicious croissants I have ever tasted and being able to enjoy the breakfast in the privacy of our own room was something we appreciated.

Hillsfield House is also the home of Wine Tours by Bike, even if you aren’t staying here you can rent bicycles, which is in my opinion the best way to get around the vineyards.

http://www.winetoursbybike.co.nz

I am returning to Blenheim for the Saint Clair Half Marathon in May.  I only wish Hillsfield House wasn’t already booked out, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather rest my weary bones after jogging around all those vineyards!

Hillsfield House

33 Blicks Road, Renwick, Marlborough, New Zealand

Phone: 03 572 7570 (NZ) or 
0064 3 572 7570 (from overseas)
Mobile phone: 021 432 950
Email: stay@hillsfield.co.nz

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Forrest Vineyard Marlborough

Drive for just over an hour after stepping off the ferry from the North Island and you will come across Marlborough, the area of New Zealand that is infamous for it’s wonderful Sauvignon Blanc.

Our accommodation at the absolutely fantastic Hillsfield House came with the free use of bicycles to explore the surrounding vineyards.  My mum, who had not been on a bicycle in many years was albeit nervous about the expedition but our hosts were incredibly kind in ensuring the bikes were set up so we were comfortable and provided us with safety helmets and a map to guide us on our way.

First stop (literally just next door) we stumbled across the small but delightful Forrest Vineyard a small vineyard set up by two doctors who left behind careers in molecular biology and science to produce wine, hence the infamous ‘Doctor’s’ range they produce.

One thing I have to credit New Zealand vineyards for is their role in my discovery of dessert wines.  I don’t think I had even tried a dessert wine before I stepped foot on New Zealand soil! Better late than never and I now can’t get enough of the stuff.

We enjoyed a wine tasting at Forrest, and it was here that the dessert wine in the ‘Doctor’s’ range really stood out for me.  I purchased a bottle of the Doctor’s 2009 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc and have since seen it on many good restaurant wine lists in Wellington so it obviously isn’t just me that finds this wine a complete joy.

Forrest Vineyard is open 7 days from 10am – 4.30pm

19 Blicks Rd, Renwick 7204
Marlborough New Zealand

+64 3 572 9084

info@forrest.co.nz

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Cable Bay Vineyard Waiheke Island

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Cable Bay Vineyard is within walking distance of Mudbrick (yes we bought a bus hopper ticket to take us to…one vineyard!) Still, it was a lovely walk with the sun shining down on us.

Cable Bay has a real wow factor upon it’s approach.  The view is expansive over the Hauraki Gulf looking over to Auckland, with plenty of bean bags perfectly positioned to soak up that view and sun.

We headed out to the sunshine with a variety of wines amongst us.  A glass of the 2013 Rosé, the 2012 single vineyard Viognier and a 2013 Pinot Gris just to mix things up a bit.  All were delightful.

Post cheese platter, my sweet tooth got the better of me and we were tempted to try a couple of deserts to share.  These were just divine! So delectable we didn’t even look up from our bowls when the waiter came over to check all was good.

I think this has got to be one of my favourite places in New Zealand.  If it wasn’t for our ferry that we ended up having to run for (much to the amusement of those already on board! Well, who wouldn’t be amused by three tipsy females charging down a hill in our ‘vineyard chic’ couture with bellies full of cheese and wine?) I could have gladly sat here all afternoon watching the sunset, drinking the wine and relaxing in the beautiful surroundings.

To conclude, we managed all of two of Waiheke’s finest vineyards.  But they were so superb it would have been a crime to rush them, and surely it just means another trip very soon is required?

Cable Bay Restaurant is open for lunch 7 days from 12pm, and dinner 7 days from 6pm

http://cablebayvineyards.co.nz/default.cfm

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