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The Runholder Is Martinborough's New Three-in-One Hub with an On-Site Distillery, Wine Tastings and a Restaurant

Add this exciting new Martinborough venue to your summer hit list.
By Emma Clark-Dow
November 16, 2023
By Emma Clark-Dow
November 16, 2023

Just outside the beautiful township of Martinborough is The Runholder, a brand-new venue offering precisely what we love most: wine, gin and excellent food.

Martinborough, a short drive over the sometimes-hairy Remutakas from Wellington, has been well-established as a pinot noir wine region. Martinborough Vineyards and Te Kairanga have planted grapes in the area since the 1980s. And now, you can drink their vinos all under one roof.

The Runholder opened its doors in August. It brought Lighthouse Gin, Martinborough Vineyards and Te Kairanga along, becoming the only place to get exclusive wines and spirits from the brands, including rare releases, new releases and library wines.

The venue sits within Te Kairanga's vines and was inspired by the town's founder John Martin. He bought the land in the 1800s and divided it up into runs — areas where sheep are kept —  deeming him a 'runholder'.

Entering through The Runholder's olive green door, guests are welcomed into a vast tasting room with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and an oaky smell — or maybe that's coming from the chardonnay. The tasting room opens out onto a spacious terrace, which will be engulfed with summer sun and merry wine drinkers as the days begin to get warmer.

The tasting room is lined with four long tables, where guests can park up and sample any of The Runholder's family of wines, from Martinborough Vineyard's Homeblock chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir to Te Kairanga's summer pinot noir rosé.

To the right of the tasting room, guests are invited to look at the enormous rose gold machine behind the glass window. While it may be mistaken for something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the rose gold beauty is a gin distiller, producing litres of Lighthouse's craft gin. You might even peep Head Distiller Rachel Hall checking on her award-winning spirit if you're lucky.

After tastings, you'll need something to soak up the alcohol. Luckily for you, The Runholder's restaurant is right next door. The restaurant is headed up by Tim Smith, a man who has lived many lives — from running the kitchen at Waiheke's Mudbrick Vineyard to personal chef of the 2014 British Royal Tour of New Zealand to executive chef at luxury lodge Wharekauhau, perched on the cliff tops of Palliser Bay.

The menu is proudly filled with locally sourced produce. Huge cuts of prime meat are provided by Smith's old stomping ground, the Wharekauhau Country Estate; fresh fish come from Tora; and olive oil is sourced from Olivio olives, just down the road from the venue.

On the sharing menu, Smith whips up his famous woodfired pizzas, where the rule is: the simpler, the better. Expect basic but delicious toppings like pepperoni, cheese and a few leaves of fresh basil.

There's also an a la carte menu, where ravenous guests are served whole fish and generous prime meat cuts, cooked over charcoal and smoked with Manuka wood to finish.

The day can easily slip away from you at a venue like The Runholder, where you can indulge in a whole Martinborough food and wine experience. With summer just around the corner, this is the perfect place to whittle away hot afternoons, whether you're a vino connoisseur or appreciate a good feed.

The Runholder is located at 89 Martins Road, Martinborough, Wairarapa, and is open Sunday-Wednesday from 11-4pm and Friday and Saturday from 11-8pm. To book lunch or dinner at the restaurant, head to The Runholder website.

Published on November 16, 2023 by Emma Clark-Dow
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