Martinborough wines

Palliser’s cellar door was awash with women: Pip Goodwin has lately been promoted from associate wine maker to CEO and she and her colleagues make a very hospitable team. Alan Johnson the wine maker gave us a detailed introduction to the Palliser wines, based on many years of experience with the soils, the climate and the grapes, and a glimpse of his mechanical yet highly efficient and mobile punching down equipment and a very instructive tour of these special vineyards.

Courtesy of Jo Crabb, who runs the cooking school in this boutique winery, our lunch was to die for; the wines were of course delicious, and Pip’s recommendation for supper spot-on.  The Pinocchio restaurant with its long list of local wines and outstanding food is only yards from the very fine Martinborough Hotel where we stayed.


Five minutes out of the town on the Puruatanga road, Ata Rangi winery was a bare paddock 35 years ago, when Clive Paton bought his parcel of land. A government sponsored survey had identified the region’s potential, and Clive and three other pioneers started to grow vines from scratch, on the gravel beds and terraces of the local river.  He knows every parcel of his land and every generation of vines intimately. It is hard to stand in the grounds of this mature, happy and busy place and imagine the uncultivated landscape that preceded him.


Clive’s sister Ali has been a partner since she bought adjoining land in 1992, and Phyll Pattie, Clive’s wife, also joined in during the nineties, does much of the admin as well as producing all the outstanding brochures and web information which make such fascinating reading.

Their joint commitment to planting trees, and to establishing the Aorangi Restoration trust (whose vision is a 40,000 acre corner in the SE of North island dedicated to rare and endangered species) marks them out as very special people making a unique contribution to the future diversity of New Zealand. We met most of their work force, led by winemaker Helen Masters and vineyard manager Gerry Rotman – a happy, cooperative and cheerful team, who welcomed us warmly with coffee time cake, also popular with Jacko (a Schnauzer, aged 4) and Harry (a Schnoodle, aged 6)

See for an account of the marvellous Ata Rangi wines and the story of the gumboot Pinot Noir clone, confiscated at customs after its long and clandestine journey from France – in a gumboot, of course.

It will also supply you with the name of this unusual trellising style, maximising the exposure of the grapes without compromising their photosynthesising capacities… which I have forgotten!


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