Wine on Wheels

Last weekend, several of my friends and I planned a trip out to Wairarapa wine country. We rented a house for the night in Martinborough and planned to tour some of the town’s 27 wineries by bike. Martinborough is less than a two-hour drive from central Wellington, but the road goes over a large mountain range and has its fair share of twists and turns. Someone recently joked to me that Americans build roads straight through mountains, while New Zealanders always go around. I find this to be pretty accurate.

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We apparently brought the wind with us from Wellington, and I nearly fell over while trying to take this picture.

As soon as we made the descent into Martinborough, the landscape flattened out and we went to pick up our bikes. We had originally reserved one tandem bike, but after observing two of our friends unsuccessfully try to mount it BEFORE drinking any wine, we decided it wasn’t the best idea. We informed the woman in charge of the bike rentals, who laughed and said this happens all the time. We happily mounted our single bikes and rode off to our first wine-tasting stop at Palliser Estate.

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None of us could be called wine experts by any stretch of the imagination, so our observations were usually limited to “I like this one,” or “I don’t like this one.” Hey, that’s all that really matters anyway, right?

After the tasting, we hopped on our bikes and made our way to another nearby winery. I really can’t keep track of all the names.

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All the vineyards were beautiful, and the landscape contrasted sharply with Wellington’s lush green hills.

Here’s a photo of the group at our second stop.

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Some of the vineyards only do tastings, while others allow you to buy a bottle of wine and share it on the property. Our next stop, Margrain Vineyard, was one of the latter.

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We bought a bottle of rosé and found a nice picnic table on the patio so we could enjoy the warm day and sunshine.

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Does life get any better than this?!

As the only American in a group of Brits, I ironically ended up with the only bike that sported a British bell.

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We stopped at various wineries and later met up with two more friends in the afternoon. Everywhere we stopped was beautiful, with old farmhouses and vineyards as far as the eye could see.

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I was reminded of Texas when I spotted a tractor heading towards me down the long, flat road.

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The sky looked ominous at times, but the weather remained perfect.

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Biking really is the best way to see all the wineries. Although they’re not too far apart, walking wouldn’t allow enough time to see very many, and driving doesn’t allow for all the wine.

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As the wineries began to close around 5:00, we headed to our rental house and spent the rest of the evening enjoying our wine and the large outdoor hot tub.

The next morning, we all headed to Cape Palliser, the southernmost point of the North Island. I’ve now been to the North of the North and the South of the North in less than a month. On our drive to Cape Palliser’s lighthouse, we stopped off at a seal colony.

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This lady had a prime lounging location and was sheltering a pup behind her.

Then, I saw the cutest sight in the history of the world. JUST LOOK AT THOSE EYES!

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Just watch out for Poppa Seal.

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Never mind. I think he’s taking a nap.

At the end of the very gravelly road, we reached Cape Palliser Lighthouse.

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The staircase leading up to it reminded me of the Cliffs of Insanity from The Princess Bride.

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Man, that was a workout. The view was more than worth it, though.

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We made the long climb down, bid the lighthouse adieu and began the serpentine drive back to Wellington. What a fun weekend with great new friends!

5 thoughts on “Wine on Wheels

  1. It’s too early to drink wine, but now I want wine. What beautiful vineyards.

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    1. They were amazing. You would have loved it, and probably enjoyed the red wine more than I did.

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  2. Love this – you’ve sold us. When we go end of this year, we’ll be doing this on bikes! Glad someone finally took a photo of that windy road thru the mountains, doesn’t look as bad as some we’ve been on in South Island. They need American engineers and real guard rails!!! Was Martinborough itself super small?

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    1. Bikes are the perfect way to do it! I agree… they do need some guard rails, but the South Island roads are definitely much scarier. Nothing bothers me too much up here after driving some of the roads near Queenstown and over Arthur’s Pass. Martinborough is pretty small, but since it attracts so many people, there are a lot of places to stay and restaurants/cafes/grocery stores etc. It actually reminded me a bit of Texas with all the rolling fields and flat roads.

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  3. What a fun jaunt. Love the seal pups!

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