The Wairau Plain is where you will find Blenheim and Renwick, two small towns at the heart of Marlborough's grape-growing activity. Surrounded by vineyards and laid out in a very logical (i.e. hard to get lost) manner, this area is absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to fine dining and drinking. While known worldwide for the sauvignon blanc, there is so much more on offer here, with more than 100 wineries and dozens of cellar doors.
Where to eat in Marlborough
Start at the Marlborough farmers' market at Blenheim's A&P Stadium, where locals gather to browse, shop, eat and chat. You'll find a huge array of local produce - from fruit and vegetables to homemade cordials to coffees, breakfasts and lunch. There's live music, food trucks and plenty of fresh goodies to stock up on.
To dine in a more formal setting, Saint Clair Family Estate runs a lovely restaurant next to the vines and the cellar door. On the corner of Rapaura Rd, just 10 minutes from Blenheim, there's a large menu that includes staples and an ever-changing array of specials. I'd recommend the grouper, when they have it, washed down with a glass of the very special methode traditionnelle Saint Clair Dawn.
Keep it casual up the road in Havelock, where Art Blom of Mills Bay Mussels is on a mission to rethink the way we treat mussels. Served raw with a sauce or hot from the grill, here you can eat fresh mussels beside the picturesque port, and enjoy a shucking demonstration at your table. Order them grilled, crumbed or beer-battered. They also served a very comforting mussel chowder, which is the perfect dish when the rain swoops in.
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Where to drink in Marlborough
Where to start? You're in the heart of grape-growing country here, so pick a cellar door or two, and explore the wine list at your leisure.
Hans Herzog is a small vineyard that holds almost 28 grape varieties. Here grapes are picked by hand, the approach to wine-making is experimental yet natural, each wine organic and best enjoyed in the beautiful gardens out back.
Enjoy a little bit of everything with a tasting session at
very sleek operation - this was one of the first estates to be established in Marlborough. They have a range of tasting options, from the classic experience of bubbles, white and red, to a sauvignon blanc immersion experience, to the indulgence package, which will cost you a little more but give you access to some of the brand's best wines. It's a beautiful estate whatever the weather - enjoy the leafy courtyard, grab a seat at the bar, or tuck up in front of the fire.
Where to stay in Marlborough
You can sleep right next to the peace of the vineyards at the Marlborough Vintners Hotel which is on the Rapaura Rd, where many cellar doors can be found. There are clean self-contained suites which all include a large bathroom, separate lounge and basic kitchenette.
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