Meeting Martinborough Wine Country

Today’s adventure was an organized wine tour throughout the town of Martinborough. The town had a little interesting history (feel free to skip ahead if not interested) which we enjoyed learning about from our guide Matthew. Before the tour started, we made our way into town to find a nice little coffee shop and a lovely breakfast- complete with what they claimed was the best cheese scone and some acai/granola bowls pre-wine.

Beautiful breakfast start (Debbie requested this upload)
The theme for the day

The town was founded by an Irish man named John Martin who arrived from Ireland as an 18-year old boy with literally nothing to his name in the Wellington area. About 20 years later, he was able to borrow some money to start a farm and got a bunch of animals; however, the plot of land he’d been given was effectively usurped for the gold rush. He slaughtered and sold all of his animals to the gold-rushers and made quite the fortune. After buying a farm and amassing even more money, he took an around the world tour that took him to nearly every corner of western civilization- parts of Europe and North/Central America. He came back, inspired by his trip, and bought an entire block of land (now where Martinborough is) and named the streets after his adventures and split the various parts of the land he’d purchased into small, medium, and large lots and sold them off to interested parties. The land auction ended up being a complete flop so all of the land and the town that he’d worked so hard to build ended up remaining quite empty for a long time until the economy started to pick up in the 1970s when they realized their climate was well positioned for grape growing.

The area now makes 1% of the wine in New Zealand which makes about 1% of wine in the world. We were due to explore 4-5 wineries and got picked up around 11 am for our adventure. We made our way to one of the bigger wineries of the area first (Palliser) and is one of the only Martinborough wines you can find readily across the US in Total Wine. We tasted 4 whites and 1 red before heading out and enjoyed sampling some Rose made with pinot noir grapes. It’s possible that much Rose is made this way but had never really noticed it before with the color and grape variety.

Our second winery was Shubert- a German-style winery situated nicely in the little pocket of wine country here. This winery was one that had been on our radar as Jennie had found this during her research for the area. We ended up buying a bottle of white wine that was made from a combination of 3 types of white wine and was exceptionally refreshing.

The third stop was Margrain Winery and Vineyards and was not only home to a tasting but also to a meat/cheese plate overlooking the vineyards for lunch. Everything on the plate was super fresh and was very refreshing to go along with the additional wine that we’d been sampling now for a few hours. This winery was also interesting as we learned about the difference in bottles that are cork vs. twist – that it really comes down to perception and the pressure from European vineyards that corks are supreme. This particular winery claims that corkage bottles have a 15% reported error rate whereas twist-offs are <2% – it was just interesting to learn and hear about these differences as we continue to learn more about wine and grow our collection.

The last two vineyard were my favorite. At Te Kairanga we sat in a tasting room that was part of the original infrastructure (though had clearly been built up afterwards). We tasted all five of their pinot noir varieties ranging in order from fruitiest to the spiciest and all loved the 4th one on the list so bought another bottle of wine.

The final winery (Te Hara) we went to was a solo-man operation whose mantra to wine it seemed was to do as little work as possible to make the best wine. Our tour guide and this fellow, John, appeared to be great friends as the tour guide not only helped pick the grapes during the harvest but was also meeting him for dinner later that evening. We sampled a Riesling as well as two additional pinot noirs and the second one (his reserve) was my favorite wine of the day. We ended up buying the lower-tier Pinot which was still very nice to add to our collection of three wines purchased for the day.

As the tour was concluding, we dropped off one of the couples at the train station while making two more stops to explore part of the town- a cheese store and another wine tasting store. Matthew identified a few options for us for dinner before dropping us back off at our motel (which we were happy to see had a few more people at this evening).

We sat down to make some travel changes to our upcoming South Island trip as our planned path post Ferry was no longer viable- there was terrible weather that had come through and caused a bridge to collapse that we were planning to cross. We’re now going to spend a night in the capital city of Wellington and make our trip to the Southern point of the South Island faster to get to our desired location.

Post trip planning, we walked back to the city center and explored our dinner options. After walking in and out of 4-5 establishments, we settled on a take-away pizza spot and enjoyed two lovely pizzas outside while the sunset. We tried to go on a dessert mission post dinner but failed to find anything that met our very high standards and returned to last night’s bar for a nightcap before heading back to the now action-packed Texas Chainsaw Massacre Motel- tonight we had neighbors on two sides.

It was certainly an action packed day from start to finish. Tomorrow’s adventure has an unplanned (now planned) overnight in Wellington, the nation’s capital, before taking the ferry to the South Island on Sunday.

Note- apologies for uploading some of the photos individually- had to do it from the phone with the awful wifi in the hotel

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