Whether you can stump a sommelier or simply enjoy an occasional tipple, Martinborough has more than enough wine, food and good looks to tempt you over a couple of laid-back days.
Tucked away in southern Wairarapa, Martinborough is one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most celebrated wine regions, patchworked by vines that produce exceptional pinot noir, bright sauvignon blanc and elegant aromatics and home makers at the front of the organic and sustainable trend. Yet, as you taste your way around, it feels like you’re discovering a secret.
Only an 80-kilometre drive from Wellington, the village of Martinborough has all the village charm, artisan grocers and coffee shops of a quintessential country escape, with more than 20 vineyard cellar doors within walking or cycling distance of its village square. Gear up with a fruit- and chocolate-tinged pinot noir barrel-aged coffee at Neighbourhood Coffee House, hire electric-assisted wheels from Green Jersey and get on your bike.
Any Martinborough wine adventure has to start in the manicured grounds of Luna Estate. Winemaker Joel Watson grows his organic grapes across two vineyards and swears by patient, minimal handling to bottle Luna’s juicy and vibrant style of pinot noir, refined sauvignon blanc and the great mineral Eclipse Chardonnay. You’ll want a while at the cellar door, so book in lunch at the winery’s restaurant, where crispy pork belly sings with a splash of Luna Blue Rock Pinot Noir. If you fancy staying longer, the Winemakers Cottage in the heart of the vineyard will put you up in relaxed comfort for the night.
Poppies Martinborough is justifiably proud of its handcrafted wines – especially the summery, strawberry-noted rosé that could give any Provencal rosé a run for its money and is sold exclusively at this cellar door. Poppy Hammond makes the wine, husband Shayne wrangles the vines and the onsite kitchen cranks out antipasto-style platters so good you’ll need a lunch booking to get one.
If you miss out, lunch at Moy Hall Vineyard, a short ride along Purutanga Road from Poppies, is in no way second best. Order the Manuka-smoked jack mackerel share plate and kick back on the lawn for full-glass pours of top-notch viognier and riesling from the tasting room.
Cambridge Road is a small biodynamic/organic vineyard that has made a name for standout syrah and sauvignon blanc. Winemaker Lance Redgwell’s secret is low yields and he uses an egg-shaped ceramic vat in the fermentation process – it breathes like a barrel, but doesn’t add the oaky flavour.
Ata Rangi means “dawn sky” or “new beginning", which sums up the ethos of the so-named family owned organic winery where award-winning winemaker Helen Masters gives fresh life to pinot noir in particular, alongside syrah, riesling, rosé and more. You’ll need an appointment to stop by the cellar but it’s one fans of red really don’t want to miss.
Where to stay in Martinborough
Palliser Ridge is a working beef and sheep station where you can stay in the secluded Kaikoura Lookout retreat. Views across the southern ranges are spectacular – especially when soaked up from the luxury cabin’s hot tub under the stars.
If you like to feel more on the grid, boutique rooms at the historic Martinborough Hotel put you right near the restaurants in the heart of Martinborough village.
Wondering when to go?
Martinborough is beautiful any time of the year, but some of the smaller cellar doors close in winter so it’s a good idea to plan a hit list according to the season. And heads up: Toast Martinborough, New Zealand’s premier annual fine wine, gourmet food and music festival is on November 20, 2022.
Image credits: WellingtonNZ (Ata Rangi Martinborough); Capture Studios (Neighbourhood Coffee House and Martinborough Hotel); Poppies; Rebecca Kempton (Moy Hall); Palliser Ridge.