I was recently invited to check out the new Luna Estate winery and Kitchen in Martinborough, after it’s recent revamp.
Luna is where Alana once was, and also encompasses the former Murdoch James winery out the other side of town, now known as Luna Blue Rock (currently converting to a function centre without a cellar door). Owner Charlie Zheng, a Wellington Investment Director and passionate wino (I say that in the nicest possible sense!), has supported other Wellington institutions to expand (Mojo into China, for example) and has an eye for regional and global opportunities (the James Murdoch brand will continue as the export arm).
In the last year Luna have ripped out most of the sauvignon blanc and replanted with pinot noir to take advantage of the Burgundy-like growing conditions (now 85% of their crop), launched their first vintage to market, and refurbished the old Alana tasting room into the new Luna Estate cellar door and kitchen, with courtyard al fresco dining.
The food is Mediterranean/North African inspired tapas and sharing style, courtesy of Exec Chef Lisa Howard’s travels in that part of the world. The portions are generous (you truly do only need the recommended 1.5 – 2 dishes per person), with the eats ranging from from light snacks (patatas bravas with citrus dip and passata), to salads (roast pumpkin with feta and mesclun), to mains (morsels of NZ lamb roasted in a Moroccan marinade), to sweet desserts (baklava with greek yoghurt). Lisa makes all sauces etc in-house, and likes to use local wherever possible, for example using Drunken Nanny Goats cheese, Olivo oils, and Elysian Foods.
We enjoyed patatas bravas, the chilli jam chicken nibblets, the Moroccan spiced sticky pork belly, the grilled asparagus with broccoli and almond salad, and the loukoumade donuts. The stand-outs were the patatas bravas (satisfyingly crispy and feathery, resting on a bed of lovely pesto-density passata), and the pork belly (sweetly and lightly sticky, and melt-in-the-mouth tender).
Both the 2016 Luna Riesling, and the 2015 Eclipse Chardonnay went well with all dishes and released pleasing aromatics and flavours once up to room temperature.
The wines also include several pinots of course, a rose, a pinot gris, and a sauvignon blanc currently. With a side of Bootlegger sodas for those driving, and a handful of beers, including light versions. Good responsibility.
The coffee was again slightly more European in style (dark toffee notes), but went down well to conclude the outing.
If you have youngies along (or are just feeling frisky/inspired after lunch), there were various balls and cricket gear on the lawn to run around with, or a cute wee chalkboard for releasing your inner Picasso.
This is definitely a place to enjoy some nice wines and fill bellies in a very pleasant setting. It can be busy with tour groups passing through for tastings, so it’d pay to book your lunch spot, and if you wanted a more intimate experience, ask for a table in their private room.
7 days noon to 4pm (cellar door to 5pm).