Travelling from Taupo – an easy two-hour drive – there’s a point in the journey where you can tell that you’ve arrived in ‘the Bay’. Descending from the surrounding hills that divide this region from the north, you start to see mile upon mile of grapevines and fruit orchards. The sun is usually beating down. Up goes the volume on the radio’s classic 70s/80s/90s hits, which somehow seem just right for driving into the Bay, probably because it evokes nostalgic memories of my first visit as a teenager go-kart racer (that’s a story for another day!) The windows get rolled down. I can already taste that first glass of chilled wine … and it’s then that you know you’re there.
Wine Lover’s Paradise
This region is close to my heart; mostly because some very good friends of mine live here, but also because it’s one of the top wine producing regions of New Zealand. Need I say more? It’s home to some of New Zealand’s best Chardonnays, which I confess as my wine varietal of choice (no Sauvignon Blanc for this kiwi girl, although I will make an exception here and there!) And the reds… particularly those grown in an area called the Gimblett Gravels, can and do stand up to those of the Old World. The stony soil in combination with its own micro-climate (a climate within a climate!) creates text-book conditions for VERY drinkable wines.
The Fruit Bowl of New Zealand
Dubbed the fruit bowl of New Zealand, apples, pears, figs, stone fruits, even olives all grow here in abundance. That sweet honeyed scent of juicy peaches transports me there in an instant. Simply served sliced with a scoop of Lewis Road Creamery’s old-fashioned vanilla ice cream – does it get any better than that?
This won’t be the only time you’ll hear about Hawke’s Bay from me. It’s a region that doesn’t typically make it on visitor’s itineraries as it’s a bit off the beaten track. Trust me, it’s worth making the detour.
At a Glance
- Must Visit: The farmer’s market held every Sunday morning is impressive and a great way to get a taste of all the local produce and products. If you can’t make the market, head straight to Chantal Organics – a fabulous grocery store.
- Favourite Local Producers: Telegraph Hill for all things olive; Ola Pacifica’s single origin chocolate; Te Mata Figs; Hapi for their outstanding nut mylks (yes, really) and just generally yummy, healthy food that tastes of something; Hohepa cheese; Orcona Chillis’ hot sauces.
- Favourite Winery: Oh this is tricky as there are so many to choose from. Current favourite is Elephant Hill for its stunning location, restaurant and of course, their wines!
- Favourite Wine of the Moment: Gawd that’s another tough one, but here’s a couple to try:
- Askerne Reserve Chardonnay – their description of 2016’s vintage: “Baked nectarine, browned butter and freshly squeezed grapefruit on the nose along with smoky notes of toasted almonds and nuances of crème caramel. The palate is fine and pure with licks of citrus and bolts of wet gravel minerality.” Ummm, say hello to perfection in a glass!
- Stonecroft’s Syrahs – not only are these the oldest Syrah vines in New Zealand, but their wines are also organic and produced in the holy grail Gimblett Gravels region.
- Where to get your Flat White fix: If you’re looking for a cafe with food options, head to Maina in downtown Havelock North. For those who like sipping their coffee in the fresh air with cows watching over you (there’s nothing like getting up close to one of the sources of your morning caffeine fix), check out Red Bridge Coffee.