Toast Martinborough 2008 (16th November 2008)

Was up at 6.30am for a quick breakfast and got ready to head out to meet Kalwant and friends. We're going to Toast Martinborough today! Toast Martinborough is a wine, food and music festival held annually in Martinborough, located about an hour's drive away from Wellington. I hadn't expect to attend this event as the tickets for the festival were sold out very quickly but Kalwant told me Selina was selling some tickets so Dvita and I each picked up one for $100, which included the day pass, return train trip and all shuttle bus service at the festival. So excited - I've not been to this festival before!

Weather was somewhat windy this morning - hopefully the weather at the vineyards would be nice and sunny...

Met Kalwant, Dvita and Geoff by the Bungee on Taranaki St at 7.45am and we walked together to the railway station to catch up with the rest of the group. Chris, Karen, Jenny, Samantha, Sunita, Sally and several of Kalwant's and Karen's friends gathered together as we walk to find our carriage. It was only 8.25am (train leaves at 8.30am) but they had closed the carriage doors! NO WAY!! Open up, open up! I think for a split second, the group was in panic that we might miss the whole festival. But luckily we weren't the only ones and the doors re-opened. Phew! Our group was under Te Omanga Hospice - Kauri and everyone had a colour-coded wristband (ours was pink) with the carriage name and time of return train departure printed on it. We were meant to wear it for both our outbound and return train journeys but only a few of us had it on - hearsay from a few who have been on this trip before that they lost their wristbands during the day when they had worn them. Hmm...better keep mine safe in my bag...

The train left at 8.40am - my god it was SO noisy! Everyone was excited and looking forward to the arrival, some even managed to get some sleep. I bought a stack of festival francs on the train. Only festival francs can be used to purchase wine and food at the sites. 1 franc is equivalent to $1 and they sure look like Monopoly money :) Wonder how far I can stretch this 40 francs today...Oh, and if you were wondering if people started drinking on board the train, well, no drinking was allowed. Don't think the security walking up and down the carriages would be very nice to you if you got caught.

We arrived at Featherston train station at 10am and exchanged our tickets for a festival glass and ribboned holder (literally a wine glass on a lanyard), which would be our day pass and a programme. Still somewhat windy and definitely my cardigan ain't coming off! After we got our passes, we caught a shuttle bus service to the festival vineyard sites. One poor lady broke her glass while getting on the bus and everyone in the crowd boo-ed at her! Oh no...if you break the glass, you can replace it at the vineyard sites or in The Square at Martinborough, only by presenting the broken glass and holder originally issued. If you lose your glass, ah-ha, you are doomed - no drinking of any sort for you. You will NOT be given another glass so you had better guard it!

Lots of tasty wine and food to sample today :) Few of us already burying our heads in the programme looking for interesting bands, wine or food to try out. Photos taken from Wellington to Martinborough: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610585180121/detail/

The shuttle bus ride took 20 minutes and we got dropped off at our first stop, Te Kairangi (pronounced "tee-kigh-runga"), one of Martinborough's founding vineyards established over 20 years ago. We each got our own choice of wine and you could either have a taste (which is half glass) or a glass (full glass). Of course, the cost differs. I had my first taste this morning and tried their 2007 Riesling for 5 francs. Cheers, gang!

We sat around their grand lawn, sipping our wine and enjoying band, The Mod Squad, who were playing favourites from the 70s and 80s. It was one very packed winery, I must say! People scattered everywhere under huge marquees, or sitting by the deck, on the lawn or just walking around. It was a wonderful feeling just basking and relaxing in the sun, absorbing the happy vibes from all around me :)

11am, time to slap on some sunscreen - sun's getting strong! Photos taken at Te Kairanga this morning: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610585635825/detail/

Around 11.15am, we moved on to the next vineyard. Hopped back on a shuttle bus and got off at Tirohana Estate. Ooo, they had the most amazing wine punch - had a taste of their Sauvignon Squeeze for 4 francs and it was yum! One of those that I would happily have a few more :) Most of us were getting hungry so bought some food catered by Tirohana Cellars Restaurant. I had their Traditional Mini Beef (windy) Wellington, a rich puff pastry filled with aged Angus sirloin with caramelized leek and shallots, served with rock salted garlic sauteed potatoes and seasonal veggies. Cost me 20 francs and I thought it was so-so. Gee, I'm nearly done with my 40 francs so bought another lot of 40 francs from the site.

While we ate and drank, Livewire, Australasia's hottest cover band, played for the guests at Tirohana. Haha, you wouldn't believe who popped over - Colm, Rachel, Vicki and her partner, Ant! Hey you guys, come join us!! Photos taken at Tirohana Estate: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610585774741/detail/

At 12.30pm, the gang said our goodbyes to Colm and the rest, and we moved on to Ata Rangi, where Selina and her friends were. It was quite funny that every time Sunita and Sally went to buy their second drink, the group would move when they returned with their filled glasses. Hehe..

Bumped into a few friends of mine at the entrance of the winery - Amane, who was with a large group, and Jo, Rose and Scott. Caught up with Selina and again, we sat around the grassy patch, more wine, chit-chat and food while we were jazzed and serenaded by band Nairobi Trio. Ruth Pretty Catering were on site and I just had to try their White Chocolate & Blackcurrant Creme Brulee. My god, it was SO GOOD! Worth every penny of the 10 francs I had to part with for the dessert. Yum! Photos taken at Ata Rangi: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610651708820/detail/

Need more sunscreen - I can feel the burn!

At 1.30pm, the gang decided to move on to our next stop, Craggy Range, and bumped into Ron on our way out so he tagged along on our walk to the winery. So many of us Wellingtonians here today! Craggy Range was very packed with a much younger crowd probably because Rhombus was performing. It was a mission to get a drink - Chris and I had to pushed through just to get our glass of the 2008 Riesling Te Muna Road Vineyard! Had another taste and paid 6 francs this time. A few of us had a bit of a boogie to the hip-hop type songs and I bumped into Mervyn who was there with his mates. Such a small world!

Urgh, the hot weather and crowd = yucky sweat smell! Eww! Photos taken at Craggy Range: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610586263661/detail/

Around 3pm, Chris, Geoff, Dvita, Kalwant and I left the rest and moved on to Martinborough Vineyard & Burnt Spur after a crazy 20 minute shuttle bus ride. Lots of funny things to see on the way. The roads were packed with drunk people, some found dancing wildly on makeshift platforms while others tried to block the bus. I spent my last 8 francs on a glass of Martinborough Vineyard's 2008 Rose and 15 francs for a Chicken Egg Noodle Box catered by Chameleon (Intercontinental Wellington). The stir-fried egg noodles with tender chicken pieces, chilli, ginger and fresh herbs was really nice. We sat on the tied up haystacks to have our meal and drink before moving across the street to our last stop for the day, Muirlea Rise - cool!

Sam and I had been texting each other throughout the day of our whereabouts and finally caught up with him, Anna, Darren and Fiona at Muirlea Rise. I was a bit surprised when Chris walked me to see Sam and gang but it turned out he knew Fiona - man, Wellington is so small...everyone is somehow connected to another...Also found Rachel and her group when we were at Muirlea Rise so we sat a bit and listend to the blues music played. Photos taken this afternoon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610652329576/detail/

My group couldn't stay long as we were on the first train back to Wellington so at 4.30pm, we started to head to the train station. But it was insane! The buses would just drive past and not stop because it was overly packed!! We managed to squeeze into a shuttle bus but poor Geoff - his hand was still holding the door when the driver closed it. Ouch...There were heaps of crazy, drunk people both on the bus and running wildly on the street by this time. Crazy!

We got to The Square and was put on the last bus to Featherston train station. We were told by the local festival staff that we may not make it in time for the train. Panic, panic! It wasn't ouR fault we were late but we couldn't get on a shuttle bus!!

Oh my god, we got to the train station exactly at 5.05pm and ran to the first carriage in sight then hunted for the one we were meant to be in. Phew, were we lucky! I got a text from Rose shortly after the train left to say that they had missed the train - hope they got home alright.

Poor Sunita wanted to pee badly and there were no toilets on the train nor could she hop off for a quick stop as the train would not wait for her. Just don't think about it, girl - we'll be back soon! There were lots of security staff roaming up and down the carriages to keep the drunks in control. Was back in Wellington by 6pm and boy was it chilly here! Photos taken on our way home: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157610652369744/detail/

I had enough of drinks for the day so left the gang at St Johns Bar while I headed home. Thanks Kalwant for organising this group outing - I had an AWESOME day!

Rumour has it that Orlando Bloom was amongst the crowd at Toast today. Didn't see him anywhere plus it was pretty hard to tell one man from another when most were wearing similar white hats!

Damien contacted me and we ended up having a quick dinner at Restaurant 88, yet another restaurant I've not been. Hehe, we are always having meals at places I've not been :) This was a Vietnamese restaurant and I've heard that they served good food though slightly pricey. I had the beef pho (Vietnamese beef noodle soup) while Damien had Drunken Baby Chicken. Hmm, I had expected more of the pho...The baby chicken was very nice though you will find it much easier to eat by hand ;) Damien was working tonight so we had to leave by 9pm - I'm privileged to get a slice of his time in his busy schedule...hehe...we'll have a proper catch up another day!

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