Worship at the altar of sauvignon blanc
Lovers of Marlborough sauvignon blanc raise a glass: not only is the 2016 vintage shaping up as one of the best, the November 2016 opening of the new Marlborough Lodge has given travellers a reason to stay a little longer in New Zealand’s most famous food and wine region.
Built in 1901 out of native kauri, matai and rimu timbers, the lodge was home to the Sisters of Mercy for more than 80 years. The convent was then transported from its original site beside St Mary’s Church in Blenheim in five pieces, before being reincarnated as a 10-suite luxury lodge offering dinner, bed and breakfast, with much of what you eat grown on the estate or close by.
Many of the original features remain, including the impressive carved kauri staircase, beautiful stained glass windows and wrap-around verandah. There’s still a chapel, too, in the garden – should you feel the need for some contemplative time or a quick wedding.
The lodge feels more like a country home than a hotel, being surrounded by parklands, vineyards and extensive gardens. Guests are encouraged to explore – the head gardener runs a vineyard and garden tour each afternoon. The pool is heated and the Rapaura Tennis Club is next door with six manicured grass courts. A local day spa looks after the pampering, with a range of special packages for guests as well as in-lodge massages.
The dazzling waters of the Marlborough Sounds are on the lodge’s doorstep and touring options include highly scenic cruises, seafood tasting excursions to local greenshell mussel and clam farms, and helicopter flights. Other tours include visits to Omaka Marae for an insight into Maori culture, garden and art visits, and a trip to a chocolate factory for those with a sweet tooth.
Appropriately, there’s an almost endless list of customisable food and wine tours providing exclusive, behind-the-scenes access to some of the region’s best wineries – of which there are 42 close by.
Better yet, grab one of the lodge’s bicycles and a picnic hamper from the kitchen and head for the first beach, river, park or vineyard that takes your fancy.