Locals reacted with disbelief and hilarity when it became known that the Hong Kong property magnate was spending a million dollars buying a second run-down pub in Masterton – more than 50km away – which he intended to cut up into sections and transport to Martinborough.
But when the old Station Hotel arrived on the back of a huge truck, the entire population was on hand to cheer the ungainly convoy up the main street. It was a pretty incredible day,’ recalls the local mayor, John Read. ‘There were thousands of people lining the route. I don’t think Martinborough had ever seen anything like it.’ The old hotel, renamed Station House, now occupies pride of place in the main street. Since then the
town has seen an influx of professional types from Wellington. Apart from bringing espresso machines, they have opened olive farms, rocket nurseries and a Balinese homeware shop. The newest addition is a boutique brewery.
The Lavens own the Martinborough Wine Centre, which houses a tasting room, cafe and function area.
Despite some mutterings about rising property prices and the weekend convoys of BMWs and Range Rovers from Wellington, Martinborough’s established families seem to have accepted their town’s new-found fame with equanimity. Many of the local farmers are now renting out cottages or running adventure activities; some are planting their own vines and sending their children on winemaking courses. Clive Paton observes that lush farmland and the serenity that can only be found on the back roads of New Zealand. There is a wide range of accommodation, from farmhouses and B&Bs to exclusive lodges, and a surprisingly dynamic food scene. And the welcome is very warm, even by New Zealand’s standards. As well as wine-tasting, the trail provides an excuse to visit some of the country’s most breathtaking landscapes. The drive tc Cape Palliser the most southerly point on the North Island, is utterly unforgettable. A meal of fish and chips at the Lake Ferry Hotel’s no-frills pub is an unmissable experience, and one that will have visiting Wellingtonians drooling into their cafe lattes.
The route offers a number of unexpected delights, such as the lovingly-preserved Art Deco and Spanish Mission architecture of Napier and the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony just outside Havelock North. Further south, the route rolls into Martinborough. The town is now almost entirely devoted to the grape and the