Every edition we will profile local winemakers, in this issue: Poppy and Shayne Hammond who are celebrating five years at Poppies Martinborough
“You know I used to sit in on the bottling line during my previous employment. I would wonder, is this bottle going to a twenty-first or a wedding or is it going to be a gift. I’d think, ‘where are you going?’” says Poppy.
For anyone who’s ever been to Poppies Martinborough, it’s no surprise that Poppy would be thinking about the people and the occasion where the wine would be opened. The boutique winery has always been about giving people an experience of wine and all that goes with it – from the setting to the food.
“The true joy for us in making wine is getting to see it when it is being shared. People sit in the courtyard and there’s always laughter and conversation. I like to think wine brings joy and comfort, even at a sad occasion,” says Poppy.
“Primarily, we are a winery with a tasting room, but we wanted to create a setting that drew on all that old world romance of wine. And we serve simple food – the platters are designed to enhance the wine,” says Shayne.
Actually, he’s being modest. Online reviewers rave about the platters, which are full of fresh-flavoured local delicacies. And the venue, set among the vines, may trace its roots back to the Mediterranean, but there are plenty of quirky individual touches, including artist Brett Harman’s gates, chandeliers, and much-photographed recreation of a 1930s racing car. The romance of the setting makes it popular for weddings (limited to 30 per year).
Poppies Martinborough produces ten wines, including pinot noir, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and a rosé that has a particularly keen following. “We have to be very careful not to run out of rosé, we’ve had people walk in and walk out again if we don’t have it,” says Shayne.
“Everyone has their favourites, which means we take care that each vintage is consistent with the house style from year to year,” says Poppy.
Getting things right literally from the ground up pays o in the challenging years. Poppy says having a solid foundation is a massive insurance policy.
In 2017, the tail end of Cyclone Debbie saw many vineyards scrambling to pick grapes.
“I was a bit worried as many of our grapes still needed ripening, but Shane said you know you have got to have faith. And sure enough a week after the cyclone had gone through, you wouldn’t have known that it had been there,” she says. “You have just got to be brave sometimes in this industry,” adds Shayne.
Having worked for around 11 years at some of the region’s most respected vineyards, in 2011 Shayne and Poppy decided to go out on their own. At the time, the threat of insolvency hung over many vineyards like a forecast for frost. The couple wondered if they should take the risk. But they felt that if they could create something they loved then hopefully others would love it too.
It’s a partnership, with Shayne as viticulturist, and Poppy as winemaker. But they have also attracted and kept a core of staff who have been with them since the beginning, including Pip Maynard, who manages front of house, chef Madeleine Young, and now Rob Smith running the vineyards with Shayne. They make a happy team – discernible to visitors in the warmth of the welcome.
Right from the start, Poppy and Shayne made the bold decision not to market their wine widely – their wine is only available directly from the vineyard or by mail order, and they have relied on word of mouth recommendation to spread the word.
“It’s local support that has created Poppies Martinborough, and without it we are nothing. Martinborough is so amazingly generous, and we are so grateful for that. Locals will come to us and bring their friends from Auckland or Australia or the US. We have people coming here from all over the Wairarapa and from Wellington – they are all really proud of their wine industry,” says Shayne.
Poppies Martinborough, 91 Puruatanga Rd, Martinborough Ph: 06-306 8473 poppiesmartinborough.co.nz