Destinations

5 vineyard highlights in Hawke’s Bay

I sent Lifestyle Director Vanessa Marshall for a vine time on the East Coast!

Perfect weather, delicious food and some of the country’s best wine. What’s not to love about Hawke’s Bay?

1. The variety

With so many vineyards to choose from, you can, and you will, pack in a good chunk over a weekend. Plus, the variety means there is something for everyone. Design lovers will be as impressed with the clean architectural lines of Elephant Hill and Te Mata Estate, and the industrial, open-plan vibe of Trinity Hill. By contrast, the rustic Beach House Wines feels straight out of a Tuscan summer, whereas the folksy live music at Te Awanga Estate is as all-out Kiwi as their delicious Quarter Acre wines.

Bliss in the Bay! With vineyards galore to explore, lovers of a tipple are spoilt for choice.

2. Two wheels good

If pressed, I would certainly choose drinking wine over any form of exercise, but when the two are combined, I’m the first to sit up and take notice. On Yer Bike Winery Tours offers distinctive blue mountain bikes for day-long or half-day excursions in and around eight top vineyards. Off-road for most of the trip, our group pushed off at Ash Ridge, cycled over to Trinity Hill and stopped for lunch at Te Awa Winery, before cruising into Ngatawara Wines and Alpha Domus, where we dismounted for the day. The limestone paths made for easy riding conditions – something of importance after your third of fourth wine tasting!

3. Food, glorious food

The bar was set high when our first dining experience was the private gazebo at Mission Estate Winery (pic above). I’m sure, though, that the Marist missionaries who founded the region’s oldest vineyard didn’t dine on the exceptional seared prawn cutlets or cured Ora King Salmon with horopito. Tastebuds, be warned – it only gets better! Next day, lunch at Te Awa Winery included

a slow cool-off under shady trees, feasting on smoked eel – a stark contrast to dinner at Craggy Range Vineyards, where we needed sunblock to cope with the early-evening sunshine.

The view of Te Mata peak was impressive from our seats in the restaurant, but a post-meal trip to the top was a weekend highlight. We even took our favourite Alpha Domus dessert wine along so we could toast the sunset!

4. Meet the growers

If you’re in the area on a Sunday, you must prioritise a trip to the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Market – a treat for coffee addicts, fresh food fanatics or anyone simply looking for a bite to eat outside. In a shady field at the A&P Showgrounds, we sampled homemade raw chocolate, Te Mata figs, blueberry sorbet, bio-dynamic cheese, old-school fermented kombucha, and an array of butter and cheese all made from cashew nuts. But best of all, the atmosphere was as delicious as the delicacies.

5. The taste test

They take their wine tastings seriously in Hawke’s Bay, with a tough annual competition proof of how much talent is at the cellar door. The delightful Anne Boustead, a three-time gold-medal winner from Sileni Estates, impressed us with her wine knowledge, as did Lauren Swift from Ash Ridge, who took out last year’s Young Winemaker of the Year at only 26. But not to leave the blokes out, Tim Turvey from Clearview Estate was a winner in the personality stakes. As well as producing award-winning tipples, including Sea Red, a stand-out red dessert wine, his cellar-door chat had us chuckling all the way back to Auckland.

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