Martinborough’s town square is shaped like a Union Jack. Streets radiate out long, straight lines. It’s impossible to get lost.
The image I had of cycling along bumpy gravel tracks with winding twists and turns dissolves as we pedal down Kitchener Street, a stretch of tar seal a few kilometres out of town, appropriately labelled ‘The Square.’
In the height of summer, the Wairarapa region is alive with tourists atop quaint bicycles; wicker baskets laden with the bounty of the 20-odd vineyards, all within cooee of one another. Although we’re not visiting during peak season, there’s still an abundance to discover cycling Martinborough’s renowned Wine Trail.
As we pedal, rain threatens to spill from a leaden autumn sky. My phone says there’s a 40% chance of thunderstorms by afternoon.
It’s the warm days and cool nights, together with hot summers, dry autumns and just the right amount of rain that makes the Wairarapa region ideal for producing wine. I hope it stays one of those iconic dry autumn days today.
We find refuge from the chill in the warmth of Palliser Estate Winery, enjoying a tasting platter, accompanied by delicious pinot noir that region is famous for.
Back on our bikes, we link onto Huangarua Road, home to a handful more wineries. While the trail at first seems straightforward and simple in structure, we quickly discover it is rich in gems to discover along the way. The roadside is dotted with fresh produce; not just organic grapes from the vineyards, but trees dripping with olives, figs and apples. We pick some of the autumn harvest to boost our energy levels.
At Margrain Vineyard’s café, we graze and gaze at a sea of golden grapevines. The odd pop of deep purple lingers, from bunches that didn’t make the recent picking.
When setting off, it was the chance to winery-hop that was the drawcard for exploring this trail rather than the bike ride, but as we make our way back toward The Square I realise I’m having serious fun. I’m not a natural cyclist but it’s been a highly enjoyable day.
Later, outside our motel, we marvel at a sky brightening with stars. It soon changes, with rain threatening again and we smile, grateful. The clouds had cleared just long enough for us to enjoy a perfect autumn day.