Monday, 19 October 2009

Girls' weekend away

Tis the season for birthdays. After last Sunday's pamper session for a friend's 40th, this has been a girls' weekend away to celebrate another friend's birthday. Having had quite. a. week., I was really looking forward to a change of scenery with friends. Martinborough was the chosen destination for nine of us to enjoy a weekend of relaxation and fun. Following on from our fun weekend away touring the wineries in Marlborough last December, another wine trail was planned.

The beautiful Tirohana Estate was our first stop and lunch venue. It began with a wine tasting.
  • 2009 sauvignon blanc - this had quite a soft, sweet taste. The sav was my pick from the wines we tasted at Tirohana.
  • 2008 pinot noir - described as "dangerous", the incredibly strong flavour was a bit to much for me. Aptly named!
  • 2007 pinot noir - this was the remains of a heavily frosted crop, resulting in its only being sold in half-bottles. While still having quite a strong, intense flavour, I found it more drinkable than the 2008 vintage.
  • 2008 dessert wine - described as a "non-sticky sticky". (Apparently dessert wines are referred to as "stickies" - my useless fact for the weekend!) Far too sweet and sickly for me, I'm afraid, sticky or otherwise.
Tirohana Estate
Tirohana Estate wine selection
A two-course lunch menu was served. I had a delicious cranberry and brie salad, followed by lamb shanks which practically fell off the bone. Only a couple of our group had room for dessert after that!

Entrance to the beautiful Tirohana Estate dining room
An elegant lunch setting
Martinborough is home to many boutique vineyards and wineries, many of which are situated next to each other along Puruatanga Road. They are within moderate walking distance, and even easier to bike to. We each tried out our hired bicycles of various sizes and descriptions and eventually settled on suitable matches ... all except one person who is somewhat "vertically challenged". After discovering that she couldn't reach the ground on any of the eight bikes we'd hired, we found some children's cycles in the garage of our accommodation. The sight of her zooming along to each vineyard on a child's BMX bike kept us laughing all afternoon!

It was interesting to discover that most of the Martinborough wineries charged a service fee ranging from $2 to $6 for wine tastings. Some, but not all, would waive this fee if a bottle of wine was purchased from their cellar door. I was quite surprised, as we had not encountered charges during our tour of the Marlborough wineries last year. As someone who does not usually drink alcohol, and only ever samples a tiny taste of wine each time, I didn't feel it worth my while to pay $5 for what would equate to 4-5 sips. I sat out of the tasting at the first winery we cycled to, Schubert Wines.

Ata Rangi was just along the road. Their small tasting room was crowded; we were the first of three groups of eight to arrive at the same time, so our timing was just right. At $2 a tasting, I gave it a go.
  • 2009 summer rosé - this merlot rosé was supposed to have a strawberry aftertaste. My friends really liked it; I was reminded of drinking vinegar.
  • 2008 sauvignon blanc - a light, delicate wine which I enjoyed sampling.
  • 2008 Petrie chardonnay - the lighter variety of two chardonnays produced in 2008. This was very easy to drink.
  • 2008 crimson pinot noir - produced in support of Project Crimson, which aims to protect the native pohutukawa and rata trees (whose flowers are crimson), this pinot noir was a perfect crimson colour. I found the oak flavour a bit overbearing.
  • 2007 Celebre - this red wine is a blend of 40% merlot, 30% syrah, 30% cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc, producing a very strong taste.
  • 2008 Kahu Botrytis riesling - an incredibly sweet dessert wine. Once again, I just couldn't do it, but the birthday girl bought a bottle!
Ata Rangi tasting room

Vynfields is a boutique vineyard which produces organic certified wines. The setting is absolutely idyllic. The rain that had been threatening all afternoon started to fall as we left Ata Rangi, and by the time we reached Vynfields it was raining quite heavily. We took refuge inside their beautiful stately homestead, which they had transported from Lyall Bay in Wellington and restored on its current site. Vynfields is home of the Mad Rooster, a certified organic wine of an unknown big red grape variety. We were told that there are around 3500 unknown grape varieties in the world, and wine or grapes cannot be exported without a name. However, the costs involved in naming a grape are apparently quite exorbitant, so Vynfields settled on Mad Rooster and enjoy producing wine that is unknown to almost every other vineyard in the world.

There was a $6 charge for tasting here, so I sat out of the rain and enjoyed the scenery instead.

Vynfields gardens
A wind turbine in the garden
Front entrance to Vynfields
A majestic entrance
... leading to a majestic tasting room
Nestled behind Vynfields is another tiny boutique winery, Haythornywaite, our final vineyard before the rain finally got the better of us. All their wines are named after the female members of their family, and apparently there were quite some "discussions" during the decision-making process about which wines were best suited to certain personalities! Wine tastings here cost $5. While I was waiting outside for the girls, who should randomly turn up but a cousin of mine whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years! We had a great, impromptu catchup. :-)

Gosh, this is getting long. So, quickly now ...

Our accommodation was nothing short of exquisite. Nine of us stayed in a brand new four-bedroom house which was finished only a month ago and we were their first guests! De Vine Martinborough has four luxury holiday houses available for rent right in the centre of town. The facilities are nothing short of amazing and the colour scheme, a series of deep reds, silver/grey and black, is simply stunning. Nine of us relaxed in the big outdoor spa pool while the rain drove down, and miraculously there was endless hot water available for nine females to have showers afterwards - no arguments about using up all the hot water! We cooked dinner in their brand new kitchen and enjoyed a relaxing evening. Oh, and I had made cupcakes with blue flowers for the birthday girl.

Birthday cupcakes
After such an exerting day on Saturday, Sunday was understandably slower and more low key. We had brunch at a local café, spent a minute or two browsing through the cutest little craft market next to a local bar, then lounged in front of their fireplace (yes, in October!) for an hour or so before finally heading back over the hill and home to Wellington.

There is something utterly refreshing about a change in scenery and spending time with friends, even overnight. I arrived home tired after a full-on weekend, yet with my batteries slightly recharged and a little more ready to face whatever this week throws at me.

1 comment:

Sab said...

Sounds like you had a great time! And I would probably have done the same as you... not taste much of the wine in general (I don't really like the stuff). Those vineyards look beautiful though!