Friday 22 September 2023

It's all work

After a beautifully quiet night in one of the Martinborough Hotel's garden suites, I took a wander around town and was really quite captivated. Last time, I was amused by the trailerload of sheep I encountered but this time it was the people who I warmed to. Everyone I encountered on the street gave me a warm smile and greeting, and I felt very welcome.

It's also such a pretty place, with so many lovely buildings, all of them clearly treasured. 

We had a flat white and bacon butty at a busy cafe with the chattiest and cheerful lady behind the counter (wearing shorts!) and then toddled off for a look around Greytown, where I went last time and is even prettier.

And finally it was time to head off over the Remutaka Hill again - such a mental and physical barrier, though it only takes twenty minutes to negotiate all its curves and corners. Back to the airport and away home, Wairarapa finally properly ticked off. Except Toast Martinborough is coming up next month, and it sounds really good…

Thursday 21 September 2023

A Foley freebie

With thanks to Foley Wines for this famil

Up in the air again, hooray, I was heading back to Wairarapa to fill in a gap from last time. The Runholder is a brand new cellar door that's opened just outside Martinborough to present both wine and gin, and it sure is classy. We went straight there and spent about nine hours on the premises, much of that time being indulged with delicious food and some excellent drinks.

The building is a big, stylish take on the traditional woolshed, with a wine cellar below and the gin distillery alongside the tasting room. The vineyard is owned by American billionaire Bill Foley, the cellar's full of French oak barrels, and the distillery has a shiny, brand-new steel and copper still just arrived from Germany, but everything else is genuine Kiwi, and mostly local - gin botanicals, grapes, food.

Oh, the food! Chef Tim served us lamb ribs, sashimi, wagyu steak and all the sauces but, peasant that I am, it was the spuds that blew me away. Pommes Anna, to give them their proper name - sliced super-thinly, pressed overnight, flavoured with rosemary and garlic and then baked to be brown and crisp on the outside and soft inside. My mouth is currently watering again. Delicious.

Toby, the man in charge of supplying the fish, came and told us all about how sustainably it's done - to order, line-caught, spreading the harvesting in both time and space - and, when I asked, said he did, occasionally, still fish for fun.

Of course we tasted lots of wine, which added up, with the consequence that though I conscientiously took notes throughout, they're now totally illegible. But the wine was good. Wine master John gave us the tour of the pressing room and cellar, talking lots of technical stuff which I noted down, see above, and gave us tastings from several barrels. This involved, I was mildly repelled to see, his sucking a sample up into a metal tube which he then released into our glasses. Traditional, and hygienic, I'm sure, but still.

Speaking of which, we went to look at it and marvel at all the pipes and dials, after which we had a tasting. They do three varieties, ranging from 42% up to a gasping 57%, which was challenging when we had to sip it neat - but impressively subtler when tried with ice, and then tonic. But I liked the wine better.

Then, with the public all gone, we had the big, airy dining room all to ourselves, and "made our own pizzas" in the open kitchen: ie, we wrangled the dough Tim had made, and put some toppings on, before he slid it into the wood oven. Pretty impressed that it cooked in 90 seconds, I must say - but 450° will do that. Yummy too.

We sat around for ages while it got dark outside, eating, drinking and chatting, before finally going back to the Martinborough Hotel, which looked lovely at night.


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