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Story plucked from the vines

People can now experience a selection of New Zealand’s best wines in a new bespoke facility while they hear the story of the vineyard and watch next season’s crop ripening nearby.

One of the region’s best-loved and oldest wineries has an added attraction in the form of a state-of-art wine-tasting space designed to harmonise with the adjacent vines.

Ata Rangi vineyard in Martinborough opened its new tasting room in November last year. A low-rise building set halfway between rows of vines and the former stand-alone cellar door. Its low-key imprint is deceptive. Inside, high ceilings and a wooden interior with windows overlooking the vines to the Tararuas in the distance give a sense of space. The mountains are a dramatic backdrop to the tasting table, set up like an organised but relaxed dinner party. It feels like someone’s home, which is what it is, in a way.

Vanessa Paton is the eldest daughter of vineyard founder Clive Paton, who planted the first vines there in 1980. Clive was a pioneer in what was to become one of the most famous Pinot Noir vineyards in the world, winning multiple international awards. The vineyard is currently rated the 95th best vineyard in the world, one of only a handful of New Zealand wineries to make the top 100.

Vanessa explained how the concept for the architecturally-designed space started in 2018 and developed from there. At that time, drop-in tastings had been stopped in favour of tastings by appointment, which needed a separate area. The number attending the drop-ins was sometimes 250 a day, which meant the vineyard’s story was getting lost.

“We needed to tell our story. Our story is really important – how we started, who we are, and why we do this. That’s what led us to build this building,” she said.

The space will be used for the vineyard’s own events, as well as the regular tastings, with the full concept still being developed.

“We needed a space to showcase us. We have done one vertical tasting so far, and we have had an open day. For Toast [Martinborough], we used it as a VIP area,” Vanessa said.

The area took some time to complete, with building starting in July 2021 and finishing in October 2022. Delays were caused by covid-related issues, but the wait was worth it.

“It’s such a beautiful space. Once you’re in there, you recognise how much thought the architects have put into ensuring the inside-outside flow. There’s this real gentleness. It’s right in the heart of what we do. It’s so much easier to tell our story because you’re in it,” she said.

    Tasting Sessions are held daily at 11 am and 2 pm. Bookings are essential and can be arranged by calling Julia Page or Vanessa on 06 3069570 extension 1. More information about the vineyard is at atarangi.co.nz.

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