Updated: Aug 18, 2019
It’s 11 o’clock on Sunday morning and I’ve just ordered a glass of rosé. While not a typical breakfast beverage for most, wine before lunch is perfectly acceptable in this neck of the woods. Welcome to Martinborough.
Home to more than 20 vineyards, Martinborough draws a huge crowd every weekend to sample the locally produced wines and seasonal menus. And it’s not exclusively an adult-only affair. Most vineyards welcome families and are coming up with creative ways to ensure there truly is something for everyone.
The evening before, I head to Colombo for their popular ‘No Menu Night’. A rustic restaurant, set amongst their 19 year old Pinot Noir vineyard on a Friday night, the premise is simple: there is no menu. You order the meal, grab a glass of wine (try the Pinot Noir Rosé), find a table and when you’re ready, head to the outdoor kitchen to collect your plate.
Tonight’s meal is beef madras with roti and I demolish it. I don’t know if the concept of not knowing what I am going to get contributes to my overall enjoyment, but ordering blind and being completely delighted with your meal is a thrilling way to dine.
By lunchtime the following day I’m sat at a table outside the tasting room and cellar door at Poppies. I have heard a lot about their crafted wines, but I’ve heard even more about their seasonal vineyard platters.
I start with the wine tasting, free of charge if you're dining, and head indoors to meet the winemakers. I learn all about the region, the climate, the different types of wine and how they were inspired. The owner tells us that they don’t make wine they wouldn’t drink themselves, so every drop is designed with Poppy and her husband in mind - and the hope that everyone else loves it as much as they do.
After selecting a riesling to pair with lunch, I head back outside and await the famous platter. When it arrives, I realise why it’s one of the most Instagrammable platters in Martinborough.
“Simple and beautiful” as described by Poppies, the board is loaded with crispy salted pork belly, marinated beef, hummus, tapenade, relish, smoked salmon, dolmades, grilled vegetables, cheeses and marinated mushrooms. And no one is allowed to touch it before I take a photo!
Another vineyard with a real point of difference is Te Kairanga Wines and their Sunday food truck event. This month it’s homemade Chinese noodles and dumplings by Mao & Co, who make the trip over from Wellington.
When I arrive, it’s the Cellar Door - The Cottage - I notice first. Built in the late 1800’s in a classic farm cottage design, it’s nestled among the trees, the doors are open and the sun is gently filtering through the windows. I put my dumpling order in and head into The Cottage for a drink and head outdoors to a table I’ve spotted under the trees.
The autumn leaves crackle under my feet as I wade through them and I can’t help feeling like a kid again. Memories of throwing autumn leaves around as a child flood my mind. I grin and take up my spot under the trees.
The trees at this time of year are like the colour of wine - a mix of burgundy, orange, pink and yellow. Every now and then a leaf floats gently to the ground and settles there quietly. It’ll soon be whipped up by the trampling feet of children, they’re starting to arrive now, and so is the smell of dumplings.
The Te Kairanga and Mao & Co collaboration is a clever one. Offering this relaxed type of food at such an affordable price opens the door to a much wider market than ever before. Families can come for a wine tasting with the kids, without feeling out of place and the kids get to eat some of the finest noodles and dumplings in the region, while relaxing on a beanbag under the trees.
The dumplings arrive, steaming hot and in the most fantastic array of colours. Bright green and purple, all made with fresh, seasonal produce and served with chilli oil. I try to savour them but honestly, they are so delicious, they’re gone within a minute or two.
As I sit finishing my rosé, more people arrive. A diverse mix - couples with young children, adult children with their parents and grandparents, large groups of friends - all nestled among the trees, enjoying the wine and food. And I realise that soon, it’s not just the wine that Te Kairanga will be famous for.