Recently we had a weekend getaway in Martinborough. It’s an easy drive of just over an hour from Wellington city (although this could become longer if you try leaving the city in Friday afternoon traffic). Martinborough lies in the heart of the Wairarapa wine region, and is famous for its boutique wines, most notably Pinot Noir. Because of this, the village has more than its fair share of cafes, restaurants and cellar doors to explore.
We rented a small car from Omega Rentals, an independent New Zealand owned company that I have used several times. Since we weren’t going far, we rented one of their smallest, cheapest cars and ended up with a late model Mazda Demio. I chose a manual transmission, as they generally have had less use than their automatic counterparts (the downside is, they tend to hang on to the manuals for longer so you may end up with an older model). Their cars are always clean, tidy and reliable. In this price bracket, that’s all anybody could wish for and Omega Rentals would always be my first choice for a low priced rental. (3 day hire from Sunday morning to Tuesday evening cost NZ$98.)
We had a “late weekend” starting on Sunday morning and ending Tuesday afternoon. Driving through the Hutt Valley on State Highway 2, we crossed the Rimutaka Hill Road, a famously windy mountain road. This is a major road for the lower North Island and has recently had a huge upgrade, making it far less scary than it used to be. Before hitting Martinborough we stopped in Greytown and visited Schoc Chocolate. Schoc has a huge range of hand made chocolates with dozens of flavours that I never knew existed (try Geranuim, Curry & Pappadoms or Tequila Lime Salt!), and most of them available to taste before purchasing. Schoc is pretty expensive for chocolate, but well worth the price for something very special and unique. We bought a couple of tablets of chocolate (About NZ$11 each) to enjoy with some wine later.
Martinborough is very close to Greytown and we arrived in time for lunch at a very well know cafe/restaurant called Cafe Medici. They have an extensive brunch and lunch menu, and use the best local ingredients where possible (I know they all say that, but you can really tell the difference here). There were a lot of day trippers from Wellington in for lunch and the staff were very busy. Service was still prompt and very friendly, the food was great and we left very satisfied.
We stayed in a holiday home called De Vine Martinborough. De Vine has 3 properties in Martinborough. When booking, we requested the property at 26 Cologne Street but on the advice of property manager Diane, we ended up in 14 Cologne Street, as it had a more private yard and a double spa bath in the bathroom. If you like to stay in a house instead of a hotel room, this place is perfect. The kitchen and living areas are large and very well appointed, and there was even milk, bread, eggs and cereal for breakfast each morning. There are 4 bedrooms and space for up to 10 guests, a huge 50″ TV with a great sound system, BBQ and huge spa pool outside. This place would be enjoyable in Summer or Winter.
For dinner on our first night, we went to a personal favourite – Tirohana Estate Winery. Toby is an incredible host, and guests are always made to feel very welcome on arrival. As we were there in the quiet season, dinner was a set menu of 3 courses. Tirohana does excellent things with Beef and I was sure to order this as my main. We had the Pinot Noir Classic 2011 with dinner and the whole experience was as good as ever.
For dinner on day two we went to a relatively new place called Pinocchio. We arrived about 8.30pm and were the only diners in the restaurant. Being a Monday in the off season, we shouldn’t have been surprised. We did think about leaving but the manager invited us to sit down and although there were some unhappy noises coming from the kitchen, we were treated to a very tasty dinner. As I write this it’s been a few weeks and I can’t remember exactly what I had, but I do remember enjoying the food and a good chat with the manager before we left. He has great plans for the future of Pinocchio and I’d love to go back in the summer and enjoy dinner outdoors in the courtyard.
From our place on Cologne Street, there are several wineries in easy walking distance (there were bicycles in the garage for us to use, but it was a little cold for that adventure). This isn’t a wine review so I’ll keep it brief and just mention the two best places we visited. First was Ata Rangi, where service was friendly and the wine was great. We followed this with Schubert Winery, which has a small tasting room and German flair, reflecting the origin of the owners, Kai Schubert and Marion Deimling. We enjoyed our visit and left with a bottle of the Tribianco…
The purpose of our trip to Martinborough was to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Although there is much more to see and do in the area, we opted to spend most of our time lounging in our very comfy pad at De Vine. If you are a local Wellingtonian looking for a short escape from the city, or an international visitor keen to enjoy a relaxing couple of days in the middle of your NZ adventure, you would do very well to consider Martinborough.