Over the last couple of decades, little MARTINBOROUGH, 18km southeast of Featherston, has been transformed from an obscure farming town into the centre of a compact wine region synonymous with some of New Zealand’s finest reds. It’s within easy striking distance of Wellington, and weekends see the arrival of the smart set to load up their shiny 4WDs at the cellar doors. On Mondays and Tuesdays much of the town simply shuts down to recover.
Martinborough was initially laid out in the 1870s by landowner John Martin, who named the streets after cities he had visited on his travels and arranged the core, centred on a leafy square, in the form of a Union Jack. For over a century the town languished as a minor agricultural centre until the first four wineries – Ata Rangi, Dry River, Chifney and Martinborough (all of which produced their first vintages in 1984) – re-invented it as the coolest, driest and most wind-prone of
the North Island’s grape-growing regions. With the aid of shelterbelts, strategically planted trees and hedges, that splice the vineyards, the wineries produce some outstanding Pinot Noir, notable Cabernet Sauvignon, rich Chardonnay and richly aromatic Riesling.