Thursday, 20 June 2024 14:25

Wine to the People

Written by  Staff Reporters
Liz Buttimore. Photo Credit: Richard Briggs. Liz Buttimore. Photo Credit: Richard Briggs.

Nestled in the heart of Marlborough’s wine industry, with the likes of Dog Point, Te Whare Ra and Greywacke on its doorstep, Arbour has spent the past nine years delivering extraordinary dishes and a carefully curated selection of wines. Awarded Two Hats by the Cuisine Good Food Awards, which also named it Best Regional Restaurant in New Zealand in 2022, Arbour has attracted the devotion of many in New Zealand’s wine industry. Cofounder and owner Liz Buttimore talks of a labour of love.

What is Arbour's ethos?

Since it began in 2015, Arbour has weathered several major life events – for us, and the world as a whole. But we think it’s better than it has ever been. We’re really small, at just 24 seats, so co-owner and chef Bradley (Hornby) and I are the sole full-time employees, supported for customer service hours by our long-term local team. Our menu focuses on the produce of Marlborough and New Zealand, and changes every few weeks – and sometimes daily as new ingredients come into season. That includes a lot of produce from Bradley’s backyard, grown by his partner Michelle, while ingredients from the various stages of Te Whare Ra’s growing and winemaking year feature heavily on the menu, delivered by my partner Benji. Unique-to-us dishes include Michelle’s peaches, TWR Chardonnay syrup, apricot sorbet, and lemon verbena jelly, which was served with Folium Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc for the few days the dish was available.

What has the wine community meant for Arbour?

Arbour is successful because Marlborough gives it a heart and soul. We are surrounded by many of the country’s best wine producers and have a story to tell about every sip and every bite. Most importantly, during the tough times this small, but fiercely loyal population of wine and food lovers protects us. Arbour is an attempt that made it.

When did you become interested in wine?

My university bartending story is a little different to most. I was at AUT in Auckland and had to work full time to afford to continue living there. I took a job up the road at the then Hyatt Regency and through various wine of the month promotions, glass pours and staff trainings I tasted some very good wines. If there was an epiphany moment it would be when Nautilus Chardonnay was on glass pour. I was 19 and that style of wine was like nothing I had tasted before. Almost 25 years on, in my own restaurant the Nautilus 2017 and 2021 vintages are both on our glass pour this season. Winemaker Clive Jones has been there that long too!

Explain the curation of your wine list?

We want to represent upcoming brands of Marlborough as well as long-term players who have shaped this region and continue to nurture and grow Marlborough’s talent pool. By pouring a budding wine brand we may help give them a foot in the door elsewhere. It’s an extensive list, which allows locals to remind themselves of Marlborough brands they may not have had in a while, or take the opportunity to enjoy an international wine. Offering wines with a few years on them by the glass is important to us as well. We buy ahead for our glass pour wines so that guests can enjoy something that isn’t just straight through the door and on the list. It’s a thoughtful list that is ever growing.

You have more than a few side hustles on your list. Why?

We discreetly check with the winemaker that their ‘side hustle’ has the blessing of their current workplace. It is a small town and some of the more established brands invest so much into growing the talent of our region – we want to know they are not going to feel ambushed by their paid employee’s private label being poured. I believe the great employers of our region know that letting a winemaker ethically build their own brand in the safety of a permanent job is one way to extend their tenure. Two of our current favourites are ‘Nous’ and ‘Atipico’ – both recent additions to the winescape of Marlborough, and each offering a unique and delicious perspective on grapes the region already knows well. One of our favourite hustle-turned-established brands is the organic, family-grown Windrush, which we have been pouring for years. Whether it’s a side-hustle, offshoot or grower’s label, it’s wonderful to pour these wines in their infancy, then see them spread across the country.

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