French elegance, Kiwi repose
The Bell Tower on Dog Point and The French Barn next door offer boutique luxury bed and breakfast accommodation with sweeping views over Marlborough's wine country, reports Sonia O'Regan .
A pleasant country lane bordered by trees winds up a gentle slope to The Bell Tower on Dog Point luxury bed and breakfast. The French-inspired straw-bale lodge, with its very own bell tower, was only built in 2001, but has the atmosphere of an establishment that has aged gracefully over many more years.
Its vantage point behind Brookby Rd allows beautiful views from all the lodge's cottage windows - vines, farmland, native plantings and the dramatic Richmond Range.
Manager Kirsty Sutherland explains that Dog Point Vineyards hosts meals in the lodge and accommodates visiting wine writers and other winery guests. It is also a commercial bed and breakfast, and American and British tourists account for most of the guests. It's also a handy place for people on fly-fishing tours to take a break for a few days to explore Marlborough's wine country, she says.
Dog Point Vineyards' headquarters is just down the hillside (but out of sight, behind more pretty trees).
Guests can ramble some distance without leaving the properties, wandering through the vines and native plantings where many native birds can be spotted.
The lack of fences around the wide lawns and the sweeping views create a wonderful sense of freedom, while retaining serious privacy.
Kirsty's parents Margaret and Ivan Sutherland were among the first people to plant grapes on a private commercial scale in Marlborough. They planted in 1979, not long after Montana (now Pernod Ricard) got the ball rolling in 1973.
They bought The Bell Tower in 2006 from previous owners Maria and Eric Dean, who built the lodge and The French Barn adjacent to it.
"The joining properties have become one," says Margaret. "It was perfect for us, it's so handy."
The lodge has two double rooms, each with an ensuite, a kitchenette disguised as a cupboard, and French doors that open to pretty courtyards.
The Sutherlands have added a wine cellar to the lodge and a commercial country scullery where many a delectable meal has since been prepared.
As I'm shown through the lodge's room - bedrooms, a day lounge, a dining room, a hallway, the scullery, and and evening lounge - I'm struck by the attention to detail and the overall big picture those details combine to create. Claw-footed baths in the ensuites, a stack of safari hats on top of wicker picnic baskets in the hallway, a bunch of dried wild flowers atop a rustic book cabinet in the day lounge, hunting paraphernalia on the wall above the open fire in the evening lounge and a chain of glass flowers entwined in the chandelier above the dining room table - such beautiful
details but nothing is overdone. Instead the lodge infuses the sophistication of its French style with an atmosphere of Kiwi relaxation, which is exactly what Kirsty wants her guests to enjoy while here.
Most of the rooms look out over the courtyard where fruit trees, vegetables and flowers grow in boxes and along the fence line. Weeping silver pear trees, olive trees in barrels and lemon trees amid the well-maintained knot garden are features. There's an antique water feature, with resident goldfish too.
Annette Lammas is the gardener to whom the credit goes for keeping it looking so lovely, Kirsty says.
The chef, who cooks breakfast for guests and dinner by arrangement, makes the most of the vegetables on site.
The Bell Tower on Dog Point is refined relaxation with all the trimmings.
The French Barn, alongside it, offers a more rustic approach to relaxation. It has the trimmings, but chances are they have been recycled from somewhere else.
A dramatically high roof with exposed beams, a long wooden table, well-stocked book shelves and an enticing sofa combine to make the The French Barn a charming rural retreat.
Kirsty says the barn is great for people who enjoy independence, as they can use the kitchen to prepare their own breakfast, and make use of a barbecue and courtyard. It's a good size for a couple or two couples and a child travelling together, she says.
The Sutherlands renovated the The French Barn's upstairs bedroom to create more space, adding an ensuite to meet travellers' modern-day expectations, and a balcony to provide another opportunity to enjoy the spectacular view that changes with the seasons.