Staying Curious in Marlborough Wine Country

A silver coin was planted at Montana Wines (now Brancott Estate) in 1973 as a token of good fortune. In 1975 the first Sauvignon Blanc vines were planted out of curiosity. In 1990 the Sauvignon Blanc was awarded the ‘Marquis de Goulaine trophy for best Sauvignon Blanc’ at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London. Curiousity helped bring good fortune to Brancott Estate who in turn helped put New Zealand wine on tables around the world.

Brancott Estate

Brancott Estate

These days Marlborough is the largest wine producing region in the country, according to Wine Marlborough it produces 79% of the country’s wine. It’s not just Sauvignon Blanc you can sample at the many cellar doors but Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Highfield Estate

Highfield Estate

Armed with curiousity and a Marlborough Wine Trail map we drove to:

Spy Valley Wines, 37 Lake Timara Road, RD 6, Blenheim
No doubt the location of Spy Valley Wines informs its name – the Waihopai Spy Base is up the road. Their main brands are Envoy, Satellite and Spy Valley. I left Mike to taste his way through whatever the friendly staff were pouring and played 007 checking out the small range of spy related merchandise (t-shirts, aprons, hats). We didn’t leave with a bottle but were suspicious a few nights later when I took some wine out of the chilly bin, Mum had given the bottle to Mike, it was Spy Valley –  the secret service are onto us.

Spy Valley T-shirt

Spy Valley T-shirt

Waihopai Spy Base

Waihopai Spy Base

Framingham Wines, 19 Conders Bend Road, Renwick
Mike’s pick of the bunch in the wood panelled tasting room at Framingham Wines was Select Riesling. You can visit the underground cellar and there’s a lovely rosy courtyard at the entrance.

Framingham Wines

Framingham Wines

Underground cellar at Framingham Wines

Underground cellar at Framingham Wines

Wairau River Family Estate, corner State Highway 6 and Rapaura Road, Renwick
A family run business from grape to bottle to their own restaurant table, Wairau River was the busiest cellar door and restaurant we visited. We enjoyed a cheese platter with glasses of Chardonnay and Riesling in the mudbrick and rimu beamed restaurant. We visited on a Sunday, the family friendly restaurant filled up as we arrived so it might be worth reserving a table, there is seating outside in the vines if the weather allows.

Cheese platter at Wairau River

Cheese platter at Wairau River

Sit among the vines at Wairau River

Sit among the vines at Wairau River

We left Wairau River with a bottle of 2011 Summer Riesling, I’m keen to follow the instructions on the label “Sup with carefree abandon and frivolous frivolity”.

Brancott Estate, 180 Brancott Road, RD2, Fairhall, Blenheim 
On our way out of Blenheim we stopped at Brancott Estate. A long gravel driveway leads to the car park, we were surprised to be met by a courtesy shuttle that drove us the short distance up the hill to the cellar door. Overall this was the most formal cellar door experience, but the cellar door staff were once again warm and welcoming.

Dine at Brancott Estate

Dine at Brancott Estate

We were invited to watch a short video on the history of Brancott Estate and were then taken through a generous selection of wine tastings. We bowed out half way through the tasting leaving a non driving group to continue, but I’ll always be keen to raise a glass of Chardonnay Pinot Noir Brut Cuvee and make a toast to staying curious.

Brancott Estate

Brancott Estate

Further information:
Vineyard Visits – 150 of NZ’s Best by Peter Janssen (published 2007)
Gives an overview of 150 wineries (26 in Marlborough), notes which wineries have restaurants, offer free or charged tastings etc. Check websites for up-to-date information.

Saint Clair Vineyard Half Marathon, run through Marlborough vineyards, held every year in May.

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