As BFF to Mrs O Around the World (or Ana, as I call her!), I have been extremely lucky to accompany her (and let’s not forget Mr O!) on many a travel adventure. Lisbon, Algarve, Barcelona, NYC, and Dublin are to name a few. As is to be expected and in true Mrs. O style, each adventure wowed and was as fabulous as the last.
Therefore, being no stranger to lux travel and experiences, when I decided to take a couple of months off and escape the misery of the UK winter by heading to my home country New Zealand (to Mrs O’s disgust she was not able to fit this adventure in!), Mrs. O suggested I report back on her behalf, as she had been invited by the Wines from Martinborough to visit.
So, without further ado Mrs O, here are some of my travel adventures in NZ. Enjoy and be inspired and perhaps next time we make the trip together!!
Tantalising my taste buds in the Wairarapa
The Wairarapa region, just a stone’s throw (approx. 1 hour by road) from Wellington, is world famous for its boutique vineyards, artisan food fare and abundance of rugged lush countryside. Historically farming terrain, the Wairarapa has reinvented itself over the past two decades and today represents a dominant and progressive wine and food region.
The semi-maritime, moderate climate and fertile, free-draining soil has contributed to the success of wine growing in this region. Wine production has quadrupled in the last 10 years with 20 new vineyards in business, and as a region produces 4.3 million tonnes of all types of grapes (seriously Mrs. O – that’s more than a few magnums?!).
Leaving the bright lights of city life in search of this culinary mecca, my cousin (in Mrs O’s absence, my lovely cousin accompanied me, but Mrs. O, fear not your shoes are hard to fill!) and I set off from Wellington en route to the Wairarapas historic village and wine making region of Martinborough.
Arriving on a hot summer’s evening we were indeed in need of a drink! The village does not disappoint. With its eclectic range of shops, bars and eateries we settle on Micro Wine Bar. Locally run and only recently opened, this bar showcases predominantly wines of the region. A lovely chilled Pinot Gris from Palliser Estate is my choice, and what a fab introduction that is to wines of Martinborough – such a treat!
Feeling revitalised after the glass of wine, we headed to our private accommodation Elder Pinot. Situated on the old river terraces of the Ruakakapatuna River, the property overlooks Martinborough’s Te Muna Valley – just breathtaking!
Margaret and Mike Hanson own the vines and olive grove of Elder Pinot (6,000 vines & 1,100 olive trees to be precise, across 30 acres of land). We meet and greet then head promptly out for a pre-dinner stroll around the property with Margaret. Whilst chatting and inspecting the vines and olive trees as we go, it becomes quickly apparent how passionate and wholly dedicated the couple are to this place. With focus on quality not volume, I gasp when told they painstakingly check the quality of each and every bunch of grapes by hand!
With appetites heightened, we return to the house to sample the Elder 2011 Pinot Gris and 2010 Pinot Noir (both absolutely delicious!). The Gris is light yet fruity whereas the Noir is bold in colour and taste, leaving me with a distinct feeling I’d been amongst a blackberry bush (minus the thorns!) – what a gorgeous aroma. You can guess which one was my favourite.
After tastings we settle into the evening by indulging in a fabulous home-cooked meal (meat and produce all home or locally grown), accompanied by more wine (of course!) – don’t you just love the kiwi style and hospitality?
Although Elder Pinot does not offer cellar door tastings (so, not open to the public), if like me you are inspired and want to purchase some of Elder Pinots products they are for sale direct through the website.
Next morning, up bright and early we head back to the village for breakfast. Choosing The Village Café does not disappoint. A hearty breakfast of free range eggs and locally sourced bacon with a flat white coffee is just fabulous. Honest, rustic food – can’t beat that!
Knowing our next stop is a wine tasting tour on bikes (eeekkk!! you may say), a substantial breakfast is just what the doctor ordered!
Situated in the village at the i Site office, March Hare Cycle hire is owned and run by Gretchen Bunny (don’t you just love the word association – made me giggle!). When we arrive, Gretchen is full of enthusiasm and sets about sorting mountain bikes complete with wicker baskets to carry our all-important wine purchases!!
A bit dubious of this biking around the vineyards concept, (as usually in Mrs O style we would be chauffeured, I can hear Mrs O saying “seriously biking”!!), this was going to be an interesting experience. However, fear not – Gretchen reassures us the terrain is flat and the vineyards are in close proximity to each other, covering a total area of 8km. Phew, I think we can cope! Off we set with map at the ready to explore.
First stop Palliser Estate, one of the largest and most commercially established wineries of the region. It offers a wide variety of wines from Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Pinot Noir to name a few. As well, a sparkling wine is produced using the traditional Champagne method (interestingly, similar to what the English vineyards do!). Tastings are NZ$5 per person, open 7 days per week from 10:30am – 4pm. The tasting fee is waivered if you purchase wine. A fair deal I think! My favourite here is the Pinot Gris.
Our next port of call is Schubert Wines (it takes us two minutes to cycle – Gretchen wasn’t joking, these vineyards are all really close together!!). Schubert is a somewhat smaller producer within a setting that I think portrays a fabulous air of casualness about it. Check out the sign, “open most days” – I love that!
However, don’t be fooled! It may look casual but viticulturist Kia Schubert is a serious contender in the wine crafting world. This boutique vineyard has 14 hectares of vines with 2/3 Pinot Noir, and since the inaugural release of Pinot Noir in 2003 Schubert Wines has received many an accolade across NZ and the world.
Meeting Kia, we are quick to understand it’s about quality here not quantity! When tasting his wines, it is clear to see the passion he holds behind each and every bottle produced. The wines are outstanding, and if I was not travelling back to the UK with luggage restrictions I would have purchased bottles of the Rose, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Tribianco!! Tastings here are also NZ$5 or free with purchase of wine. Cellar Door opening times are a bit more to chance, but tastings can be arranged in advance by appointment if necessary.
Back on our bikes we feel a bit lightheaded, so definitely in need of lunch. Morning tastings are a new concept for me! In search of food, we stumble across the “new kid on the block”; Poppies Martinborough, a vineyard with a beautifully appointed, contemporary tasting room and conference venue. Looking in, I feel there’s a definite romance about this place and the attention to detail is incredible.
A new boutique wine producer, husband and wife team Shayne and Poppy Hammond released their inaugural 2012 vintage wines mid November 2012. These include Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose and Late Harvest Riesling (the latter two already sold out!) now that is telling us something.
This is not a restaurant, but where there is good wine, I believe good food should naturally be paired. Poppies present this concept seamlessly with Poppy (the winemaker) at front of house conducting tastings, whilst Shane (head chef and manager of “the vines”) prepares platters bursting with delicious locally sourced produce.
Opting for the courtyard outside, we soak up the view whilst indulging in a delicious platter and glass of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. What can I say? The wine, the food, the hospitality is simply top drawer here.
Feeling suitably refreshed, we pedal onto Olivo where our “from tree to table” tour awaits.
Olivo is the oldest commercial olive grove in the region and specialises in extra virgin and innovative infused oils. The Meehan family are the current owners and Helen is there to greet us. We start the tour by wandering amongst the 1,200 tree grove as Helen talks us through the different olive varieties and what happens throughout the olive year. Interestingly, unlike European oils, the Olivo extra virgin oil is a blend crafted from a mixture of Barnea, Manzanillo, Leccino and Frantoio olives. Varieties of which originate from parts of Europe and Israel.
With the grove tour complete, the tasting room beckons. Before we start, Helen excuses herself to dash to the kitchen for freshly baked bread that has been cooking whilst we were in the olive grove. WOW, this is just something else!!!
With fresh dipping bread in hand, we taste the Olivo signature extra virgin olive oil as well as a range of infused oils. Lemon, Orange, Fennel, Cinnamon, Vanilla, Smoked Chilli and Porcini are to name a few. Lemon and Smoked Chilli are my favourites!! They think of everything, even providing quick and easy recipes to accompany the different infusions. Vanilla olive oil on ice cream, who would have thought! Inspired you will be this is a must! Oils can be purchased on line or at the grove. Grove tours cost NZ$7 or with oil tasting as we did NZ$15. Open weekends or any time by appointment.
In the mood for a mid-afternoon snooze (we are on holiday after all!) or perhaps a dip in the pool to cool off, Peppers Parehua our luxury accommodation for the evening is definitely calling. The first thing we see…..the pool – absolute bliss, and just what is needed!
Set on over two hectares with the only noise being grapevines for neighbours, Peppers estate is definitely an idyllic spot. Appreciating the finer things in life (as Mrs O knows all too well!), my cousin and I are not disappointed as we enter our two bedroom, two bathroom Woodland Villa.
With contemporary décor and furnishings, high quality bathroom fittings (Mrs O this would make you smile!) and a fully functioning kitchen and dining area, you really can relax here. It truly is a home away from home! Wi-Fi is free and for once there are sufficient plugs at the bedside available for recharging those 21st century necessities. Oh and did I mention, to soak any aches after the biking there is a private spa pool outside? Honestly, what’s not to like!
The village is only 10 minutes’ walk from the resort, but tonight saving our feet we eat at Pavilion the restaurant on site.
With a beautiful setting, a wine rack to die for, and a menu showcasing the best local produce – it’s simply a perfect end to a perfect day! Mrs O wish you were here!!
PS: I was so sorry not to be able to join Trudi on this trip, but delighted she had a wonderful time. xo Mrs. O
Disclaimer: Trudi was a guest of Wines from Martinborough, who looked after her and her lovely cousin incredibly well. I would like to thank JK Marketing for the invite to their Wines from Martinborough London event, which led to this great invite.