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Martinborough’s Runholder is worth running to!

There’s a new winery, gin, dining experience in Martinborough that is worth running to, so off to The Runholder I ran. Well, actually, we drove from Hawkes Bay. I’d only run if there was a fire.

The Runholder is American/Kiwi, Bill Foley’s latest venture in this gorgeous Wairarapa town, as he brings his two wineries – and adds the gin distillery – into one impressive venue on the outskirts of Martinborough.

He’s also the owner of multi award-winning Wharekauhau Lodge, over at Palliser Bay and where I went to stay after I’d enjoyed a wine tasting and lunch here first. (Disclaimer, my cousin Kate drove after lunch!)

Martinborough Vineyard, which had the first pinot noir grapes in the region planted in 1980, and Te Kairanga Winery (affectionately known as TK), which first saw grapes planted in 1983, have come together under the one new roof for tasting and long afternoons at the new restaurant.

The Runholder entrance
The Runholder entrance

For some us, the 1980s is not that long ago, but these are among the oldest wineries in this region, now known globally for its fabulous wines.

TK chief wine maker, John Kavanagh, showed us through the new underground cellar, before opening some very special wines for us to try.

He’s been the chief wine maker here since 2012 and has produced more than 30 vintages of pinot noir, his lifelong passion. You can read more about John and his love for pinot and chardonnay in the Foley Wine Club.

TK wine maker John Cavanagh
TK wine maker John Kavanagh
Megan and John checking out the underground wine cellar
Checking out the underground wine cellar with TK barrels

Lighthouse Gin makes up the triumvirate and we enjoyed a tasting and a chat with head distiller Rachel Hall, who has designed the monstrous still that was made in Germany and very carefully shipped out to New Zealand.

As you’re tasting the wines and gin, you’re looking at the distillery and maybe even Rachel (if she’s not talking you through her botanicals and ideas for more as you taste) out the front.

Rachel Hall, head distiller at Lighthouse Gin
Rachel Hall, head distiller at Lighthouse Gin
Megan and Rachel with the new gin still
She’s a pretty big still!

Martinborough is a very cute town and I’ve been a few times to stay and play. You can read my post on things to do in Martinborough here for lots of ideas.

The Runholder is on the same land as TK (you may remember the cute wooden cottage tasting room – it’s still there), but bringing the two together and also adding the Gin Distillery, surrounded by rows of vines, makes this a destination that I know will be popular for weddings and events.

Building of the impressive facility, underground cellar and expansive above ground restaurant and tasting room, was delayed during lockdowns, but opened in mid 2023, about a five-minute drive from Martinborough Square and at the far reaches of my pedalling abilities!

The Runholder restaurant
The Runholder restaurant

Head chef Tim Smith uses local produce to create seasonal menus, and as we arrived a group of ladies were leaving and insisted we try the triple cooked fries – which aren’t even on the menu, but believe me, you want to ask for them too!

Come for a charcuterie platter or a tomahawk steak, and everything in between!

Open for lunch seven days, dinner and wine bar Friday and Saturday.

The famous Runholder triple-cooked chips!
The famous Runholder triple-cooked chips!

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Hi, I'm Megan Singleton and I'm the word slinger of this travel blog as well as on radio in NZ every Sunday. Former Travel Editor at Yahoo NZ and current freelance writer for a few newspapers and mags from time to time, I set off on this travel writing journey 20 years ago and I've pretty much always got a suitcase half packed (or half un-packed!) I'd love you to join me on Facebook or Twitter and sign up for my newsletters if you want loads of travel tips, advice and deals!