Day four and our last day of cycling. Given the fairly light schedule we had lined up we had a bit of a sleep in which was nice – it was Sunday after all : )
After breakfast and a masterclass in changing a flat tyre by Leona we were on our way. First stop Palliser – not the Cape this time but the vineyard. Despite it only being about 10.30am some of the troops were up for a little wine tasting. The rest of us went in search of coffee which was a waste of time – Martinborough on a sunny Sunday is a very popular place and most places had a 20 to 25 minute wait for coffee. Oh well we might as well hit the vineyards : )
Next stop was Ata Rangi. Being one of Mike’s favourite vineyards he had organised a private tasting for us. Pete and Gillian from Ata Rangi took us through 9 of their wines – how lucky were we. The wines were delicious and Pete and Gillian’s knowledge was great – it was a very delicious, interesting and informative wine tasting.
Ata Rangi founder and ‘koro’ Clive Patton planted his first vines on a dry, scruffy 5 hectare paddock at the edge of the dying rural village of Martinborough in 1980 as one of four hardy blokes who pioneered wine growing in this tiny region. He’d sold his herd of dairy cows to buy the land, and studied all he could find on wine growing while hand digging in posts and planting vines through the rocks. His mates thought he was crazy, but he was smart enough to surround himself with capable women! His sister Ali, wife Phyll and dynamic winemaker Helen Masters, together with Clive, Gerry and their teams have built an enviable reputation for Ata Rangi as a producer of sought after wines. Ata Rangi have been celebrated internationally and now export to 27 markets.
Martinborough’s location in an open, south facing valley at the bottom end of the North Island is pivotal to it’s unique regional character. Icy, southerly Antarctic winds regularly impact on flowering and fruit-set, resulting in a low natural yield, that is, fewer berries per bunch and lots of very small berries. As the bunches are looser, each individual grape berry is more exposed to sun and wind than in most other regions. The effect is tougher, darker, tannin rich skins. Small berry sizes also means a high ratio of skins to juice, bolstering the sought after attributes in Pinot of more complex aromatics, fine, layered tannins with length and persistence, a more savoury palate feel and concentrated, multifaceted flavours with age.
Ata Rangi are also involved with Project Crimson which is a charitable conservation trust set up to look after New Zealand’s glorious native red flowering Rata and Pohutakawa ‘Christmas Trees’. Ata Rangi’s involvement evolved from their own Rata conservation efforts on the Ata Rangi Bush Block. They have produced a lively, aromatic Pinot Noir from their younger vines (about 20 years old) and they donate a percentage of the sales of this wine to Project Crimson. They also produce a delicious bush honey from this bush block – it is also so good!
We had worked up an appetite with all that wine tasting so it was on our bikes and back to Martinborough’s town square for a picnic lunch that had been whipped up by our guide extraordinaires Andy and Leona. What a magic spot.
We were now Greytown bound for our last night on tour. Greytown is only 18km from Martinborough so not too arduous even in the heat. A local guy had given Andy and Leona a heads up re a good swimming spot in the river along our cycling route. It was only about 3km out of Martinborough and even though we hadn’t really worked up a sweat it was too good an opportunity to pass up.
Again some of the troops were prepared with togs while the rest just jumped in again with their cycling wears or underwear – some more revealing than others : ) The water was a lot warmer than the sea had been at Palliser Bay the day before.
It was then back on the bike for the last time – Greytown here we come. The ride started on the main road but after we climbed a fairly steep hill we turned off and took the back roads. We saw Andy as we got into Greytown and he pointed us in the right direction to our accommodation for the night – The White Swan. When I parked my bike up for the last time I had just clicked over 180km – not bad over 4 days.
I had seen Andy out on the road and he had told me he was disappointed with the accommodation – I was thinking that’s a shame as it was supposed to be really nice and a treat for our last night. Everyone had congregated outside Andy and Leona’s room for a drink and snack and I was thinking it all looked pretty good. Steve and Andy then proceeded to allocate the rooms and Steve had a little story as to why each room was allocated to each couple. We then went upstairs and checked out everyone’s rooms – they were awesome. Andy is a damn good liar! They each had a theme — The White Room, Bombay, The Hunter etc…
We had a lovely dinner in the dining room at The White Swan which was followed by our final fine session and farewell and thank you speeches. It had been another very successful bike trip. This is our sixth bike trip together and each trip continues to exceed our expectations, rekindle friendships and allow us to learn a little more about the beautiful country that we are lucky enough to call home.
We had another sleep in on Monday morning before having breakfast together and then spending the morning exploring Greytown. What a great little town with lots of lovely shops and cafes. Just out of town there is a little chocolate factory and shop called Schoc. Mike and I wandered down there to do a bit of sampling and then as a result of the sampling, some purchasing.
There are also a few restored houses to see along the main street where they have a plaque outside telling you what year the house was built – so quaint.
We were originally going to catch the train back to Wellington but with a schedule change this would have meant we wouldn’t have got to explore Greytown. Leo to the rescue – he came to pick us up at 1pm and transport us back to Wellington airport for our flights home.
Another successful cycling trip over for another year – time flies when you’re having fun – it was over way too quick. Thanks to Andy and Leona from Natural High (www.naturalhigh.co.nz) and the great bunch of friends we have. Until we meet again…..