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A weekend in Hawke’s Bay: must-try wineries, fantastic restaurants and five-star stays

With its reputation for award-winning food and wine, Hawke’s Bay is one of the country’s most appealing destinations. As New Zealand’s first and only Master Sommelier, Cameron Douglas is well placed to highlight the premium local flavours.

A weekend in Hawke’s Bay: must-try wineries, fantastic restaurants and five-star stays

A thriving district, Hawke’s Bay is one of our national treasures. Renowned for its premium produce, exceptional wine, award-winning dining, and art-deco credentials, the North Island gem sits in prime position on the picturesque east coast.

The second-largest wine producing region in New Zealand, you’re always within a stone’s throw (or maybe a grape’s throw) of the region’s 200 lush vineyards and 35 cellar doors. In fact, you can head off in just about any direction, by foot, car or bike, and find some incredible natural attractions to explore, restaurants offering fresh, delicious fare, and gourmet food, events such as the annual Food and Wine Classic, museums, galleries, markets, cycling and hiking paths, artisan producers, art-deco architecture and more.

The region is built around the townships of Napier, Hastings, Havelock and Taradale. Whether you’re looking for luxury accommodation or boutique hotels to rest your head and plan your itinerary, stunning places to dine on local produce, or well-appointed venues to sample the award-winning wine over views to die for, this guide will help you prepare your ultimate Hawke’s Bay holiday. Enjoy!

Accommodation

Cape Kidnappers

Absolute luxury and attention to detail is de rigueur from the moment you arrive at Cape Kidnappers. With fantastic seascape views, wonderful cuisine and wine list, stunning interiors, plus total privacy, Cape Kidnappers is just about everything I (or you) would want from a luxe getaway.

If you’ve brought an appetite for food as well as adventure, you’re in luck, too: dining at The Farm (pictured left) is a flagship experience of Cape Kidnappers, thanks to the talents of executive chef James Honore, plus his access to an abundance of crops from the lodge’s extensive vegetable, fruit and herb gardens.

Or maybe you’re a keen golfer, in which case you’re in luck as well: the cliff-edge fairways designed by Tom Doak provide a pristine yet challenging setting. You can also chill out at the spa, which includes three treatment rooms and an extensive menu. Or go for the hat-trick and try all three: day visits are available for dining, golf or spa experiences.

Porters

Havelock North village will win your heart and boutique hotel Porters is part of the love story. Nestled in the heart of Havelock North, the hotel is just a minute’s walk to shops and dining in the village – and only a short drive to wineries and activities around the bay.

The 42-room property, with both guest rooms and suites, includes under-floor heating in each bathroom. Ready to dine? Malo restaurant is fresh and modern, while Smith & Sheth cellar door and wine lounge is a cosy spot for a tipple.

Swiss Belboutique

Five-star accommodation with incredible views, impressive décor and great ambience will be on offer at the 52-room Swiss-Belboutique hotel on Munroe Street, Napier. It’s the first five-star international hotel brand for Napier and as soon as you see the glamorous lobby bar you’ll realise the facilities match the hype.

It’ll be your well-appointed HQ as you sample the myriad dining, shopping and wine-tasting options close by, or simply stroll the waterfront.

If you fancy eating in, the Saffron Social Kitchen offers delicious, contemporary Indian à la carte dining. Or curl up and relax in the modern rooms as you admire the stylish décor showcasing the region’s art-deco theme. Want to bring Spot along? The property is pet-friendly, too.

Wine tasting

Black Barn

Move over, concert halls … vineyards have become some of the best venues for concerts and live events. Black Barn personifies this superlative jack of all trades approach: not only is it a concert venue, kitchen shop and boasts facilities for a local grower’s market, it also has an excellent selection of wine, exceptional cuisine and a spectacular range of accommodation called Black Barn Retreats.

All of which make it a fantastic place to visit and stay. Wines for tasting include a daily selection as well as current release estate wines (be sure to try the rosé, chardonnay and syrah). All fruit for Black Barn wines is sourced from its own vineyards, with winemaker Dave McKee often on hand to talk about the wine styles.

From the kitchen shop, you can pick up fresh pasta, lamb or beef pies, or choose from the delicious range of preserves and pickles. With the Te Mata peak access road just around the corner, Black Barn is also a great launchpad for some of the area’s most spectacular views.

Junction Wines

John Ashworth used to be a former All Black front rower. Fortunately for wine lovers he also had a great passion for fine wine – especially pinot noir – a passion evident on the property established and planted by the Ashworth family in 1994.

You might notice the rugby theme throughout the wine range. The rustic cellar door at Junction Wines is open throughout the year and if you are a sports fan, ask about the Rugby Room, which is stacked with memorabilia from John’s playing days.

As for the wines, they are also ‘match winning’: made by Leith Ashworth, they are all rather good. Be sure to taste through the range especially the award- winning Corner Post chardonnay, Off Side syrah and Possession pinot noir. There are several aromatic varieties, plus chardonnay and syrah to discover as well. Located at the junction of State Highway 2 and 50, Junction Wines will be the southernmost stop on your wine journey.

Decibel

Calling all wine lovers, winemakers and folks who love a good drop … the team at Decibel is creating a new hub just for you. Winemaker Daniel Brennan and his wife Mara Radice (pictured right) are welcoming two great new additions this year: a new bub (congratulations!) and a new space at Hastings.

The site will not be a traditional tasting room, but rather an office, retail space and aforementioned hub, with the plan being to offer tastings by appointment featuring 15 wines from seven appellations.

“On top of that we will be doing semi- regular special events. Overall, I’m excited be a part of a real community again,” says Daniel. “We love being integrated in a diverse neighbourhood, running events, gathering people together for great causes and generally just being a part of a growing community.” As well as Decibel, Brennan’s labels include Testify and Guinta. Mark a spot in your calendar for a possible November soft launch.

De la Terre Winery

Whether it’s a greeting from Gracie the dog, or salutations in the form of an incredible glass of wine, you can expect a warm welcome at De la Terre. A must for wine lovers, it has an interesting line-up of wines, including a vintage Méthode Traditionnelle blanc de blancs, plus viognier, chardonnay, syrah and a very exciting tannat based red.

Winemaker Tony Pritchard might show you where he ages the wines and his ‘old school’ method of hand twisting the bottles for less sediment movement. There’s a café including a pizza oven and lots of homemade goodies.

Craggy Range

New Zealand boasts some of the best wine country experiences in the world. Those experiences don’t get much better than touring the Hawke’s Bay region, with Craggy Range a true standout with its spectacular winery, tasting room and dining venue.

Located in the shadow of the impressive Te Mata Peak, Craggy Range has been winning respect and popularity for its exceptional wines since the ’90s, with most of the fruit coming from the Gimblett Gravels subregion.

Its red wines for tasting are very expressive with red blends based on the classic varieties of Bordeaux and its Le Sol syrah, a bold, meaty style with a core of blackcurrant and raspberry flavours.

You won’t want to miss the elegant chardonnay and salivating sauvignon blanc expression, either. If you’re planning your escape among the vines in the spring and summer and want to stay for lunch or dinner, it’s best to book ahead.

Askerne

Thanks to the complexity, finesse and charm of its wines, the Askerne cellar door has long been a popular spot during any Hawke’s Bay odyssey, with word of its charms spreading since the cellar door opened in 1997.

Husband and wife team John and Kathryn Loughlin have made a habit of delivering intriguing wines … and now they invite you to try their wares. I recommend The Archer chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon, reserve gewürztraminer, merlot-led blend and the dessert cabernet.

Pair them with a delicious gourmet platter. It is close to the Black Barn turn-off: keep an eye out for places to buy homegrown fruits and honey.

Tony Bish Wines

Tony Bish has been called New Zealand’s ‘king of chardonnay’, making complex, modern and thought-provoking wines: which makes any visit to The Urban Winery, home to Tony Bish Wines and its cellar door and wine bar, something of a special event.

Your curiosity will be piqued right away as you walk in the door to behold the large wooden egg wine fermenter in the winery section. It’s quite spectacular. As for the ‘king’ himself, winemaker Tony is on-site most days tending to the ferments and often behind the tasting room counter as well.

My favourite is the Skeetfield: I’ve always been captivated by its complex bouquet and palate of pure fruit and gunflint, citrus, apple and satin textures that flood the palate. You will be equally impressed with the Fat & Sassy, Heartwood and Zen expressions.

Stonecroft

You’ll be impressed by the range and glad you stopped by Stonecroft. Stonecroft is an organically farmed property, bespoke in nature and size – very much a hands-on operation. I cannot speak, or write, highly enough about this wine offering.

The oldest syrah vines in the bay are planted here and you should really try the ‘original’ and reserve expressions. Stonecroft aims to create wines which are intense, elegant and fruit-driven, but capable of significant bottle development.

Established in 1982 by Dr Alan and Glennice Limmer, Alan recognised early on the enormous potential for viticulture in the area. Much of this land we now know as the Gimblett Gravels wine growing district: an area which has won hundreds of gold medals and awards at local and international wine competitions. Stonecroft is owned and managed by Dermot McCollum and Andria Monin: say ‘hi’ to them at the cellar door.

Dining

Deliciosa

Deliciosa by name, delicious by reputation: Deliciosa (below) is a go-to place for small plates, sharing platters and à la carte dining. Located in the heart of Havelock, the 100-seat space is consistently buzzing with happy diners, which means you’ll be in good company.

Chef Nickolas Anderson is at the helm and I can personally recommend his artichoke and spinach cheesy hot bake; masala spiced chicken salad; bang bang cauliflower; and duck khao soi with crispy noodles. A number of dishes are naturally gluten-free, dairy-free or vegetarian. Bookings recommended.

Pacifica

Described as delivering “Michelin-quality food in a relaxed Pacific-style atmosphere”, dining at Pacifica is an experience not to be missed. It’s fun, interesting, and the food – incredible.

It’s easy to understand why chef Jeremy Rameka and partner Natalie Bulman chose Hawke’s Bay for their dining room: the availability of fresh, local ingredients supports their thoughtfully created five-course menu, which is available with a seafood focus or as a mixed meat/offal degustation. The extensive wine list puts NZ labels in the spotlight, particularly those from Hawke’s Bay. Bookings recommended.

Clearview Estate

It’s hard to say which is the bigger attraction at Clearview Estate: the multi-award winning wines or the fantastic restaurant. Made by master craftsman Matt Kirby, the wines easily tick the boxes of quality, complexity and true vineyard expression.

The restaurant is incredible with a seasonally inspired food programme, including à la carte dining or set menus with optional wine matches. Pre-lunch and lunch dining is also available. Got a sweet tooth? The honey and almond cake is too good to miss.

Mister D Dining

Mister D Dining claims to be “a little bit country and a little bit rock & roll”, but one thing that is unequivocal about Mister D is that there is experience in every bite, honed by two chefs who spent nearly two decades offering innovative cuisine in Auckland.

That city’s loss is the locals’ gain, with something for everyone on the extensive food menu, and an excellent wine list and beverage programme. From the lunch menu, I suggest the roast duck risotto with wilted spinach, currants and pine nuts, while for dinner, the roasted market fish is a treat. Mister D do a delicious potato gratin. Open for brekkie, lunch and dinner.

Malo

Having dined at Malo several times, I’m always impressed by the quality and consistency. Part of its secret must be having chef Bert van de Steeg, a man with experience in Michelin-starred restaurants, at the helm, to deliver fine, well-executed cuisine. And part of its secret must be its charming location in the Porters boutique hotel in Havelock North.

The restaurant is open for early morning eating with traditional breakfast fare and for lunch with local produce heavily featured. In the evening, relaxed dining includes signature dishes. For breakfast, try the Turkish eggs, while the Wakanui steak sandwich with blue cheese is a great lunch choice.

From the dinner menu, the 45-day-aged Angus eye fillet is mouthwatering. And when it’s time to wet your whistle, the cocktails are presented in a fun ‘build-your-own’ way, plus there are over 20 wines by the glass and around 100 by the bottle.

 

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