Wairarapa: Martinborough – Part 2

Luna vineyard Martinborough

Heading further into the ‘wine village’ of Martinborough, from the starting point of the corner of Ponatahi Road and Huangarua Road (see the Martinborough Part 1 article elsewhere on WineFolio)

Schubert Wines, on the end of Cambridge Road and accessed fom Huangarua road was founded by Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling after a tour around other wine regions of the world looking for a new home, led them to the Martinborough Terrace. From their organically-farmed land (one vineyard on Dakins Road in Gladstone, and the small block in Martinborough) they produce distinctive Pinot Noir of the very highest quality. My discussions with winemaker Marion will be online in the next few weeks.

The Cellar Door is open most days from 11am to around 3pm. On the day I visited they had a Food Truck in attendance, with masses of people enjoying some early summer sunshine and great Thai food. The Pinot Noirs naturally take the plaudits here, but do also try the Tribianco white blend – it includes a grape variety that’s part of NZ winemaking history, but now mostly forgotten. I’ve also heard that their Con Brio red blend is more than one punter’s favourite NZ red blend.

Ata Rangi is rightly regarded as a pioneer of Pinot Noir in New Zealand. The name translates as ‘Dawn Sky’ or ‘New beginning’. Vines were planted by the family in a stony sheep paddock on the edge of the village in 1980 – just a handful of people who started growing vines at that time. Now acknowledged with the first title of ‘Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa’ in 2010 – essentially our first Grand Cru, alongside Felton Road; the Ata Rangi Pinot Noir is their flagship. Don’t miss the single vineyard expression from the McCrone Block too, and a slew of whites that are exceptional drinking – a bottle-aged Riesling and the Craighall Chardonnay would be my recommendations – especially as the Craighall vines are being replaced now and therefore the Chardonnay won’t be available for a few years. 

To book a tasting you must make a booking – either email visit@atarangi.co.nz, or phone 06 306 9570. The winery is at 14 Puruatanga Road. Our visit with winemaker Helen Masters will be featured on WineFolio soon.

Ata Rangi

Tirohana Estate have their award-winning wines in their Cellar Door to try. Their Pinot Noir garnered a 5-star recommendations from Cuisine Magazine back in 2008, and the restaurant onsite in an elegant villa, is considered one of the best places to dine in a vineyard setting. The wines aren’t at the affordable end of the spectrum, and not having had the pleasure of a visit I can’t comment or recommend which you should try. A white blend ‘Unity’ of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for $49 a bottle must be something special though..and the Pinots range from $55 to $195 a bottle.

Moving on to Omarere Road, where we show 3 places of interest. At no.22 is Vynfields – an organic estate centred around the most gorgeous looking old villa. Inside the historic homestead is the Wine Bar which is decorated with antiques and promises an open fire in winter; or in summer venture out to the picturesque garden and sit amongst the lavender. Open every day from 11am to 5pm, serving their range of wines – from a sparkling Rose through to a Reserve Pinot Noir that Raymond Chan (my all time favourite NZ wine critic) gave 5 stars to the 2011 vintage. The website is www.vynfields.com, or call 06 306 9901. I read online that the vines have been removed, so not sure what the future holds for Vynfields – might be best to check and ask before visiting.

A little further along is Haythornthwaite Wines at no.45. A family-owned boutique vineyard of 11 acres with a Cellar door that’s open 7 days a week year round from 11am to 5pm. Their Pinot Noir clones feature my favourites – Abel and Pommard as well as 10/5 which is pretty darn good too. Their wines are named after notable friends and family – hence ‘Susan’ is their Gewurztraminer, ‘Sarah’ the Sauvignon Blanc – and so on (you get the idea). www.haythornthwaite.co.nz is their website – or call 06 306 9889.

Along at the far end of Omarere Road you’ll find Lismore House and Vineyard – at no.55. Set up as a luxury venue – ideal for weddings, gatherings, meetings or just a special occasion. www.lismore.co.nz has all the details.

Back to wines then. And one of the most prestigious labels from Martinborough is also one of its oldest – Dry River Wines. Founded on the Martinborough Terrace in 1979 by Dr Neil and Dawn McCallum, the majority of their wines never make it into a retail store – having a curated list of buyers ready and waiting to snap up new vintages through their wine club. They don’t have a traditional Cellar door, but you can book a personal tour and tasting – visits are only by appointment, subject to availability. There’s a link on their website – www.dryriver.co.nz where you can look into this option. Dry River wines are made to be cellared and enjoyed in their prime a few years down the track. The 2011 Pinot Noir is just now entering it’s ‘best drinking’ phase, although the Pinot Gris and Viognier are much more approachable after a few years in bottle.

Poppies at 91 Puruatanga Road is a boutique operation, but highly regarded – often referenced as a bit of cult wine. The wines are only available at the Cellar Door, in a few select restaurants, or to order through the website www.poppiesmartinborough.co.nz. Poppy Hammond cut her winemaking teeth at Dry River, and then had a hand in the overnight success of (the equally cult label) Devotus (see below). 

They have a large space for events and I’m told that it is a popular wedding venue. The Tasting Room and Cellar Door is open 11am to 4pm daily and you’ll often find one of the duo behind the wines in person to show you through the range. Of course they have a Pinot Noir but also a Tempranillo, a Methode Traditionalle, and even three Late Harvest wines! Call ahead to check that they’re not too busy to accommodate your visit (it gets busy) – 06 306 8473 or if you want a booking for lunch.

A short distance away – Luna Estate is at 133 Puruatanga Road. The former ‘Murdoch James’ vineyards now feature a Cellar Door and Restaurant, right next to their replanted and revitalised Eclipse vineyard. The food is asian-inspired, including some of my favourites – dumplings and Pork Belly! Lunch is 11am on Tuesdays to Sundays and it is open two evenings a week – Friday and Saturdays, from 5.30pm. There’s a really good range of wines on offer, from the Estate range through to single vineyard expressions. I’ve only had the pleasure of the Estate range to taste and can recommend them as fine examples of varietal and well priced too. My pick would be the luscious Pinot Gris, but do go for a taste of their Pinot Noir range too.

Luna Estate wines

Turning south west now, onto Todds Road, you’ll soon get to Stonecutter at no.139. You’re still on the famed Martinborough Terrace here and it’s as good a place as any to grab a wine and vineyard tour – you can get the details on their ‘Wine Tricks Tour’ on the website www.stonecutter.co.nz. The vineyard also has a gorgeous looking Shearers Quarters accommodation that will sleep a group. The Cellar Door is open 11am to 4pm Friday to Sunday in Summer, or on Saturdays in Winter – other times by appointment. For the wines, they do a Pinot Noir (imagine that), Merlot, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris and a Sauvignon Blanc. I’ll update the article after my next visit to Martinborough, and you can have my choices then!!

Colombo is a relatively new one for me, but it’s set on a vineyard with 20-year old vines, at 107 Todds Road. Now run by Kiwi-German couple Thomas and Nicola Rockinger, the Cellar Door looks like a great place to kick back and enjoy one of their pizzas (they also deliver at weekends). Open Friday to Sundays from 11.30 to 5pm.

Alexander Vineyard is a small family-owned and run operation at 101 Hinakura Road. Michael Finucane and Roz Walker run the boutique label with its winery, barrel hall and Cellar Door. It’s very much a ‘hands-on in the vineyard’ and ‘hands-off in the winery’ style – much of the work in the 5ha vineyard being done by hand, and following low-intervention methods in the winemaking. The Cellar Door is open 12-4 at weekends, from Labour weekend to the start of vintage. Both of their Pinot Noirs are excellent drinking, and value. Of particular note, I feel, is the Dusty Road Pinot Noir – I’ve not got hold of the 2019 yet, but previous vintages are spicy, dark and power-packed. They also have a small production of Merlot and Chardonnay, as well as a rosé made from Pinot Noir. Take a look at www.alexandervineyard.co.nz for all the details.

I don’t have too much information about Brodie Estate, other than what is on their website at www.brodieestate.co.nz. I’ll be in touch with them and see if I can fill in more details as we go.

The last listing I have for you in the town is Kusuda. This is perhaps one of the absolute definitions of a cult wine. No one I know seems to have tasted it, but it remains a Pinot Noir of near legendary status. Tales of the lengths that owner and winemaker Hiroyuki Kusuda goes to to produce his wines are sensational – bunches are trimmed from the vines using special scissors and generally using trained japanese pickers, then each grape being hand-sorted and selected so that only the perfect fruit makes it into the wine. As well as the Pinot Noir, there is a Riesling and, I believe, a Syrah. I’m still looking into tracking down a taste of this wine, and it may come as no surprise to hear that they don’t have a Cellar Door! Just do your best to look for the wine – somewhere… and maybe leave me a comment about how you thought it was!?

In our final look at Martinborough wines, we’ll look at the wineries and labels out on Te Muna Road, and a few that ‘escape’ the town’s immediate boundaries – like Coney Wines, or Hamden Estate on Dry River Road a few kms out of town..

Otherwise – there are a few extra wines that I’ve heard of from the area, but have only really seen for sale, so cannot place on a map, or find enough information on, to warrant a paragraph in this guide. Of course, if I make discoveries, I’ll hoon back here and do upates! The first two are The Elder and Terroir wines; and the other is Devotus (the name of which is Latin). It refers to the devotion that owners Don and Valerie have for Pinot Noir. They grow only Pinot Noir on their small 3 hectare family owned and operated vineyard in the heart of the Martinborough Terrace. The vines are old and deep-rooted, and all the work in their organic vineyard is done by hand. They cultivate their non-irrigated old vines and coax them into growing very low yields of highly concentrated fruit. The vinification process is performed with a non-interventionist mindset, working with wild yeasts, no or low sulphur additions, and with no fining or filtering. There’s no cellar door, but take a look at www.devotus.nz

Martinborough wine map

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