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Martinborough a charming place to visit and sample local wines

Dorothy - 12/09/07

Twenty years ago if you mentioned Martinborough the response would be "Where is that?" and the reply would be "It's a pleasant country town serving a farming area." Now the reply would probably be, "That's where I tasted and bought the most wonderful pinot noir locally produced". The development of some twenty five vineyards in the area has changed its character. You can explore this wine village at any time, but its 1300 population hosts large crowds in September for Cellar Dweller, in November for Toast Martinborough and in February/March for the Rotary Martinborough Fair.

Cellar Dweller
In September there are lots of local events and a unique opportunity to sample aged wines. Wines From Martinborough Executive Director, Cath Hopkin, reports that 'Cellar Dweller' month will run through September and is packed with a range of events such as special wine tastings, vineyard tours and wine and food matching, as well as the opportunity to win a fabulous array of prizes including limited release wines and local products.

"Local businesses are also joining forces with wineries to welcome visitors to the town," she says. "There are picnic packs to take on the wine trail and bike options for those wanting to cycle between wineries or explore the local countryside."

Bikes in the vineyards
Bikes in the vineyards
Photo Source: Courtesy of Go Wairarapa
Click here to view a larger version

Aged wines the focus
The focus during the month will be on aged wines, with visitors able to enjoy the rare opportunity to sample highly sought after aged wines and learn more about the aging process.

"Martinborough vignerons have dug out some treasures from their cellars to offer visitors during this month. Wine lovers will be able to compare wines that have been cellared for some time with those that are still in the barrel and learn more about how and why to age wine," she says.

This is a special treat for wine lovers as some of the wines on offer aren't widely available and are rarely seen on wine store shelves. "Some of these wines don't even make it outside the district due to high demand and low production levels."

There will be a great range of activities taking place during the month. It started with Escarpment Vineyard's Red and White Weekend on 1-2 September.

Other vineyards are planning wine and food matching, vineyard and barrel room tours and special tastings throughout the month. Some of the planned events include:

  • Special matched wine and dinner evenings at Alana Estate
  • The opportunity to blend your own Pinot Noir at Te Kairanga
  • A jewellery exhibition at Haythornthwaite Wines
  • A special tasting of Chardonnays spanning a decade at Murdoch James Estate
  • Storytelling and book signing of new children's book by local writer and cartoonist Scott Tulloch at Martinborough Vineyard
  • Olive oil cooking demonstration at MINT
  • The prestigious Rutherford art collection on show at Palliser Estate as well as aged tastings.

Visitors that make a purchase at a Cellar Dweller venue will go into a prize draw to win an indulgence weekend in Martinborough, limited release wines, local products, and highly sought after Toast Martinborough festival tickets. A number of individual wineries are offering additional prize draws with wine and meal purchases, including vineyard cottage stays, wine and food hampers and bottles of vintage wine.

As well as encouraging visitors to Martinborough during spring, Cath Hopkin says the Cellar Dweller month aims to help dispel the myth that few wineries in the area are open for cellar door tastings and sales.

"With 21 wineries offering cellar door tastings, visitors are spoilt for choice in the range of wineries to visit. We hope that Cellar Dwellers will encourage people to visit Martinborough more often to explore new and different wineries to those they've visited in the past, or know from the Toast Martinborough festival."

Cath Hopkin says Martinborough offers visitors a unique wine tour experience compared to that of larger, more commercially focused wine producing areas.

"With 'cellar' doors hosted by winemakers in their wineries, garages, gardens and even in their private lounges, visitors get a more intimate and memorable encounter," she says.

Sipping Martinborough Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc in the sun
Sipping Martinborough Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc in the sun
Photo Source: Courtesy Go Wairarapa
Click here to view a larger version

"Cellar Dwellers is a wonderful opportunity for wine lovers to soak up the boutique wine village atmosphere of Martinborough, and learn more about what makes the wines from this area so distinctly different."

Toast Martinborough Festival
If you can't go to Martinborough in September consider buying a ticket NOW for the Toast Martinborough Festival on Sunday 18 November 2007, to enjoy fine wine, food and music.

All of the participating vineyards offer new and limited-release wines, the best of food from Wellington and the Wairarapa's top restaurants, and some of New Zealand's finest live entertainment. The wineries serve mid-morning snacks, full scale lunches and afternoon teas.

The Martinborough Wine Village is small enough for you to stroll easily between wineries or catch one of the free shuttle buses that circulate constantly.

Tickets sell out fast, so don't delay.

Organisers report that with 10,000 ticket-holders a large crowd will be sure to attend, but as they are spread between sites visitors are not pressured by the crow. Cell phones are recommended for friends to keep in touch or arrange to meet.

The Rotary Martinborough Fair a special event to draw visitors in summer
This is held annually on the first Saturday in February and the first Saturday in March in the Square, Martinborough. It is open from 8 am to 4 pm. It attracted 485 stallholders in 2007.

Accommodation and meals
All round the year there is a choice of recommended places to stay and places to eat.

Peppers Martinborough Hotel
If you are seeking a luxurious place with an interesting history and fine food then Peppers Martinborough Hotel in the centre of the village has a well established reputation for offering these. It was established in 1882 and while it has been modernised it retains its historic atmosphere through the architecture and historic pictures and artefacts.

On June 4, 2007 Peppers Martinborough Hotel expanded its presence in the heart of the Martinborough with the acquisition of its nearest neighbour, the Petit Hotel a delightful turn of the century property which has been a favourite destination since its restoration in 2002.

Tora Coastal Walk
Those who want a three day walk near Martinborough should check out the details of the Tora Coastal Walk which celebrated 10 years of operation in 2005 and is one of the most popular privately run walks in New Zealand.. It is situated in the Southern Wairarapa just outside Martinborough and the route takes walkers through private hill country farmland, native bush, river valleys and the spectacular Tora coastline.

Editor's comment
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