Labour Day marked the first long weekend we’ve had since June! Needless to say, it was the perfect excuse to get out of town and explore a new region.
We’ve been to Nelson and Picton a handful of times (I’ve even caught the ferry a couple times…) but had never properly explored Blenheim and Marlborough. With December and January assignments looming, I decided it was finally time to explore the culinary offerings of this well-loved region.
Nick is usually pretty keen to tag along on any work trips I have in the pipeline and this was no exception. We left Saturday morning, stopped briefly in Kaikoura to refuel and then carried on our way. The drive from Christchurch is only four hours, so it’s ideal for a long weekend away.
Upon arrival, we checked into the quaint Boutique Bunker, which is just off the main drag. We found Blenheim to be unusually quiet the entire time we were visiting, but it was still helpful to be based centrally so we could wander to the pub to watch the game. We had a quick meander through town and then set off for dinner at the highly lauded, Arbour.
I won’t give too much away, but the seasonal tasting menu is well worth it’s price tag (especially if you opt for the wine pairings). Our seat overlooked the vineyard and the beautifully manicured garden and guests venture outside in between courses (wine glass in tow). Everything was beautifully presented and I like how the service was friendly and relaxed. Sometimes you’ll visit a fancy restaurant and it oozes pretension, not Arbour. Pro tip: go early and you’ll save $20 on their set menu during Foodie Hour.
The next day, we were picked up bright and early to begin our self-guided cycling tour with Explore Marlborough. The wind was aggressive, but we managed to make it to a total of six wineries and one brewery. Here’s a quick summary of where we went and what I’d recommend should you be visiting Marlborough:
Te Whare Ra: Our first stop of the day was at Te Whare Ra, a small vineyard and winery located in the Marlborough sub-region of Renwick. One of the oldest vineyards in Marlborough, TWR is certified organic and their wines were my favourite of the day. I’m looking forward to sipping on their Toru and Riesling all summer long.
Forrest Wines: Next we cycled to Forrest Wines where we ordered a tasting tray and took it outside to relax in the sun. Forrest has the best atmosphere of all the wineries we visited. Along with being able to do a tasting outside (on their bean bags, no less), they also have some epic cheese platters.
Bladen Wines: Our tour guides at Explore Marlborough also advised us to check out Bladen’s cellar door. Here we were greeted by friendly owner, Dave and his lovely dog. Both Nick and I were big fans of their rosé and will be ordering a few bottles ASAP.
No. 1 Family Estate: If you like bubbles as much as I do, I highly recommend checking out No. 1 Family Estate. It’s an invigorating stop after a day full of wine tastings.
Hans Herzog: This organic certified winery came highly recommended by a few locals and wine connoisseurs, so we knew we’d be in for a treat. Hans also has one of the larger selection of red wines in a region known for white wine, worth noting for anyone who loves red wine (myself included!)
Cloudy Bay: You can’t visit Marlborough without visiting its most famous winery, Cloudy Bay. The stylish establishment is definitely a bit busier than the other wineries, but it’s well worth a visit. Service here is less attentive, but it’s still a worthwhile visit if only for the lovely grounds and gardens.
MOA Brewery: We finished off our day with a stop at MOA, which was such a treat after a full day of wine. The casual atmosphere and food truck were absolutely delightful and I’m a big fan of their rhubarb and apple cider.
We spent our last day in Marlborough at Allan Scott, a family-owned and operated winery. Sara Scott gave us an extensive tour of the property, the vineyards and even the space where Cecilia Brut (my personal favourite) is made. They are one of two wineries with the equipment to create sparkling wine (also known of Méthode Marlborough). After our tour, we did a wine tasting with Josh Scott and then settled in for a long lunch and chatted with Victoria Scott. The food was phenomenal and the atmosphere is attentive, friendly and relaxing. We had such a nice time that we ended up spending the whole day here. If you’re on a tighter timeframe, I’d highly recommend stopping here for lunch in their outdoor restaurant (otherwise, grab a seat in the beautiful garden!) Oh and whatever you do, definitely get the affogato for dessert.
It was incredible chatting to Allan Scott’s three Scott children and seeing their passion for the family business. Coming from a multi-generational family business in Canada, it’s quite rare and truly special to witness.
After our long, indulgent weekend, we rolled ourselves home and slowly made our way back to reality. Have you ever been to Marlborough? Which wineries and restaurants did you like best?