It was the end of January; near peak of summer in New Zealand. Casey and I were making our way toward Wellington. We were making a stop in the wine region of Martinborough to sample the delectable wine. With our campervan there were many areas we could camp for free, but we decided to pay to park at the Holiday Park just outside of Martinborough. This would allow us to walk to all the wineries and into town center, so we would not have to worry about driving after our wine tastings!
We arrived early in the day and checked-in to the Matinborough Holiday Park. The park had free wifi and hot showers. I was so excited the showers were hot and had awesome water pressure! Since we had been traveling and camping at free places, that meant the amenities at those places were few. Feeling good we walked into town to begin our wine weekend exploration.
There was a classic car show at the town square. We walked around checking out the cars, and basically that was the whole city of Martinborough. It’s a beautiful, small place to visit.
There is only one brewery in Martinborough, and several wineries within walking distance of the town center. The Holiday Park offers bike rentals, and we saw many people peddling around, but we chose to walk to all our tasting locations.
The Martinborough Brewery is a cute place near to the town center. Casey and I split a flight of beers (since we knew we would be tasting a lot of wine later). We started with their cider and moved through their beers on tap.
We had outlined a path on a free winery map we picked up from an i-site. Our first winery to visit was Alana, who shares a tasting room with Grava. Grava is a recent winery start-up (at the time of our visit in 2019). It was a nice start to our day. I got to pet a cute dog that spends his days greeting visitors to the cellar door.
Next was Tiwaiwaka Wines. I remember this place because they had an awesome Rose that had a bubblegum flavor. It was magical! I loved chatting with the staff about the winery. They also have an adorable fantail as their logo!
We then came to Palliser Wines. The winery and tasting room looked extravagant compared to the small tasting rooms we had previously visited. I expected some high quality wine and notes from the staff. Instead I was offered casual explanations of the wine, and was told that the buttery notes in the chardonnay were delightful (not an off-note quality that I believe it to be). They were very busy with what appeared to be bridal parties and other large groups. It was not my favorite experience of the day.
We then had a bit of a walk to our next stop: Muirlea Rise. I enjoyed the atmosphere here. There was not any other people as we stopped by. This gave us a nice one-on-one with the staff, who gave us more information about the winery and tasting notes. He even gave us some chili chocolate to compare the dessert wines. (YUM!)
It was a little afternoon when we came to Margrain Vineyard. This location has a tasting room and restaurant. We grabbed flights, some light bites, and enjoyed the amazing view!
The last winery of the first day was Cambridge Road. We walked down the long, lavender lined path to the tasting room. This winery had some really interesting varieties and fermentation techniques. (Some of the fermentation dates follows star patterns!) We met a couple there and enjoyed a glass of wine while chatting with them. Most of the wineries are Pinot focused, but I enjoyed a delectable Syrah here.
We walked back to town and enjoyed a Thai food dinner. Later that evening we went back into town to enjoy some live music at Mesita. It was a duo of violin and guitar. I had an awesome day of laughter, good conversation and experiences.
The next morning we walked into town to have breakfast at the Village Cafe. The couple we met yesterday ended up walking by us and we chatted briefly with them.
Here is where our day turned more serious. We bought a campervan to travel around New Zealand when we arrived in December. It was now near the end of January. Casey had noticed that our campervan was “acting weird.” So we took the morning to do some research. We stopped in to some hardware and mechanical stores to talk with the employees there. We ended up needing to top up the oil and power steering fluid. This was a good learning experience for us! Casey noticed an immediate difference, but we said if anything else came up we could stop at a mechanic in Wellington.
We grabbed lunch at Union Square. After the stress of the campervan maintenance, I treated myself to sangria. Also, I caught up on some Bullet Journaling and planned out the rest of day and future travel plans. We planned to drive out to a winery that had German/Italian style wines: Haythornthwaite Vineyard. The man pouring our tasting was very knowledgeable about the wines (and very proud to mention all the awards won). The wine that stood out to me was the Gewürztraminer. Dry, fruitful, and complex notes from this new variety to my pallet.
Afterwards we went to the Wine Bank. I love the concept of the wine bank, which allows you to taste wine from wineries that do not have a tasting room. The way it works: you get a card (like a hotel room key) and a wine glass. You then go to these machines, swipe the card to have a tasting, half-glass, or full-glass of wine poured for you. There are wine notes next to the machines so you can read about what types of wine available. This was a really fun experience! Casey did a really good job of finding wines I liked!
This concluded the self-guided wine tour of Martinborough. We had a lovely time in the small town and wine region. I was happy to have have tasted New Zealand wines, and especially loved getting to try different wine types (like the German-Italian wines, and the funky star mapped ones!). I would recommend adding Martinborough to your New Zealand travel list if you are planning a visit.
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