Joelle Thomson

Wine writer and award winning wine author

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Digging the dirt on a new cellar door

Construction has begun on the new cellar door at Nga Waka winery in Martinborough after delays due to Covid-19

Architectural drawing of the new Nga Waka cellar door from Vicky Read at Aspect Architecture

Construction has begun on the new cellar door at Nga Waka winery in Martinborough after delays due to Covid-19, which resulted in the restricted supply of building materials and available engineers.

Alternative supplies needed to be found before construction could begin and the project completion date is now set down for mid May 2022. This is less than half a year later than the original scheduled end date for the cellar door.

Winery general manager Mick Hodson says the Nga Waka team is comfortable with the new date, given that conceptualising for the new cellar door only began at the start of 2019, just prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When we first started planning this in 2020, we were looking at November 2021 for opening and now we’re looking at May 2022, so it’s only six or seven months later and it’s been 30 years in the waiting.”

This will be the first purpose built cellar door when it opens and will incorporate a sheltered indoor-outdoor day time restaurant with a strong focus on tutored tastings.

The plan is to run sit-down tutored tastings rather than standing at the bar, says Hodson, who adds that casual walk-ins for a glass of wine will also be welcome but not the main focus.

“Research shows there’s more engagement around a seated tasting because people can relax and focus more on the wines, without rushing or being crowded out while standing at a bar type of situation.”

The winery was founded in 1988, which is the year that winemaker and founder planted vines in the region. This makes Nga Waka one of the first wineries in Martinborough and the only one with the original winemaker still at the helm in the winery. Jay Short and Peggy Dupey purchased Nga Waka five years ago from Parkinson, who remains winemaker and will mark his 30th vintage next year.

There are architectural similarities between the new building and the existing winery with similar use of timber, concrete floors and roof design, albeit a lower one in the new cellar door.

Resource consent went through relatively smoothly but there were some issues to contend with in relation to the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA). This was because the winery is technically situated on State Highway 1 and plans for the new building include a pedestrian and cyclists’ entrance.

“The person we were talking with at NZTA had never been to Martinborough and did not initially realise that we already typically have up to 400 cyclists here in the weekend. Once the layout of the village and our proximity to it was realised, things went through smoothly.”

Landscaping around the new building is by Hamish Moorhead, a Wairarapa based landscaper, who is basing plantings on natives.

Food will be available at the new cellar door and Hodson is working with local restaurateurs and a chef on the menu.

“It’s going to be food that the front of house staff can put together. It’s going to be a cool little menu, very much based on local produce and designed to complement the wines, without competing with other wineries that have full restaurant menus.”

The winery has also purchased the entire vineyard land around Vynfields Winery in Martinborough, which it has replanted with Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay. This is thought to be the first Gamay in the region. Next year the owners plan to plant Chenin Blanc on this site.

The skinny on Nga Waka’s new cellar door

Opening is scheduled for June 2022.

Hours will be day time for seven days in summer and reduced winter hours.

Food will be served as it is a licensing requirement.

Special dinner events and tastings will be held through the year.