Hospitality Business Magazine

Foley Wines opens Martinborough’s largest must-visit dining & cellar door destination

A new home and cellar door dining destination will swing its doors open this August led by renowned chef Tim Smith, the former executive chef at luxury lodge, Wharekauhau.

The new home for famed wineries Te Kairanga, Martinborough Vineyard, and the Lighthouse Gin distillery offers an “elevated but not overstated” hospitality experience with three internal dining areas seating over 100 diners in spaces that span casual to intimate, alongside a sun-soaked outdoor terrace the perfect summer spot.

Owner Foley Wines believes it will become an iconic and must-visit site for the steadily growing Wairarapa wine region, where over 60 small-but-mighty wineries contribute a boutique quantity to New Zealand’s lauded wine production.

Named The Runholder, the restaurant, tasting room, cellar door, distillery, and barrel hall space is nestled on a run of land at Te Kairanga vineyard, a plot originally held by Martinborough’s pioneering namesake John Martin.

It will be the largest cellar door restaurant in Martinborough, celebrating local produce from the farm, vine, and beyond and affording some of the best views and vinos the region offers.

Launching in stages over the coming months, August sees The Runholder open for lunch and long afternoons of shared plates, charcuterie, antipasti and pizzas.

Come summer it will extend to dinner, making the most of the longer days with the sharing menu expanding and an additional elevated a la carte menu featuring prime cuts such as tomahawk steaks, wagyu and lamb saddle grilled over charcoal and smoked with manuka wood.

Headed by Tim Smith, the former executive chef at luxury lodge Wharekauhau and personal chef for the 2014 British Royal Tour of New Zealand, its menus are a celebration of the Wairarapa region’s abundant produce and Kiwi generosity.

Smith says his cooking philosophy is “rooted in using readily available local ingredients made by hand from the land.

“The food is for everybody,” says Smith. “Incredible produce from neighbouring suppliers that visitors can get a real sense of New Zealand from – as well as locals who want a steak done right with a great glass of pinot.”

Smith’s exacting hand is evident in opening menu dishes such as cured line-caught fish with lime, shallot, local Olivo olive oil & kumara, or manuka smoked lamb ribs with harissa, lemon, farro and sheep’s milk labneh.

The drinks list is equally impressive featuring an extensive catalogue of Te Kairanga and Martinborough Vineyard wines by the glass and bottle, including cellar and rare wines such as Te Kairanga’s very limited WPF Pinot Noir and limited-edition barrel aged editions of Lighthouse Gin.

Nestled on the edge of the famed Martinborough Terrace, guests to The Runholder are welcomed through the tasting room and immediately greeted by dramatic views across the valley. A subterranean barrel hall is cut into the sloping Martinborough Terrace to allow for the upper-level tasting and dining spaces that take advantage of the surrounding landscape and a 180-degree views of the vineyard and rolling hills.

On a lower level, a private 12-person dining space will be available for private hire or special occasions. The entire premise can also be hired for conferencing and private events.

Designed by Christchurch’s Nott Architects, the dual-level complex invokes the rural landscape and history of the community. The Runholder celebrates the land and the bounty of the wider region in both design and name, looking out onto a farm shed mirrored in the shape of the building’s gabled roof.

Its name is an ode to the richly historied run of land the building now sits on, originally home to sheep and now to vines. The interior is inspired by the region’s iconic woolsheds too, with aged linear timber and open ceilings giving a sense of both space and intimacy.

Through floor-length windows from the tasting room, Lighthouse Gin’s new state of the art German CARL still sits proud and draws interest into the distillery and bottling room on the south side of the complex. The striking 700 litre still will enable head distiller Rachel Hall to fulfil international demand.

Since the project first broke ground, the development has strengthened Martinborough’s growing status as a ‘drop pin’ location for wine tourism in New Zealand.

Success stories of keystone wineries in concentrated wine tourism areas, such as Mt Difficulty on Central Otago’s famous Felton Road in Bannockburn, pave the path for The Runholder to be a similar beacon in Wairarapa.

“We know the strength of the Mt Difficulty brand draws wine lovers to Central Otago, and Te Kairanga, Martinborough Vineyard and Lighthouse Gin together at The Runholder have the strength to do this for Martinborough too,” says Foley Wines CEO Mark Turnbull.

“This epitomises Bill Foley’s commitment to supporting growth in the Wairarapa. The Runholder offers locals and visitors something different – the chance to sit back and discover the breadth and quality of wines and produce from the region all under one roof.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly sees The Runholder as a welcome addition to the area’sflourishing tourism industry.

“This is a very substantial investment and displays an abundance of confidence in both the wine growing capabilities in Martinborough and in the district as a favourite tourist destination,” says Connelly.

“The Runholder is establishing itself at a really advantageous moment and I have no doubt the many people who visit Martinborough will be adding it to their itinerary.”

Bookings are recommended on The Runholder website.