Hawkes Bay Winery Visits

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The Terraces, Esk Valley, Hawkes Bay

Coming back from our Lake Waikaraemoana tramping trip, and passing through Hawkes Bay, I was super-fortunate to have the time and space to visit a number of my very favourite NZ wine producers with my lovely L.

Esk Valley

Esk Valley was first up. Esk Valley is situated beside the coast at Bay View north of Napier. Behind the winery were the famous Terraces, facing north and the sea, first terraced and planted by owner Robert Bird with hybrid wines in the 1940s. Low yields and high production costs saw those pulled out and the hillside planted in pines.

Pine tree cones make poor wine so when George Fistonich of Villa Maria bought the property in 1989, the pines were in turn pulled out, and plantings of cabernets, merlot and malbec vines were dug in. Cabernet Savignon proved hard to ripen consistently at this cool coastal location, so those vines were pulled out in the mid-90’s and replaced with more Merlot and Malbec vines.

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L and I tasted through a range of their standard wines – Savvy, Chardy, Rose, Pinot Gris, Syrah – then we paid a $10 fee to try the Terraces 2014 blend in a separate room. This was presaged by tastings of the standard 2015 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec blend (a go-to red of mine), then the $60 Winemakers Reserve of the same blend (delicious, complex, aromatic). The Terraces was powerful and refined, with a wonderful aroma. Enough for me to invest in a bottle.

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Eponymous elephant at Elephant Hill

Elephant Hill

A lot of money has been spent establishing Elephant Hill, starting with situating a very impressive bronze elephant before a huge copper-clad winery. The tasting room is one of NZ’s finest, with a high-cuisine kitchen attached, and a sunny terrace out from.

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We tasted through their wines, before settling down to a nice Chardonnay and Gris with a cheese platter. And I bought a bottle of their top rated syrah, the Airavata from 2013.

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I like their wine so much, that later in town I had another glass of their delicious standard Syrah at the stylish café Bistronomy while L had her feet pedicured after the big hike…

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Buck House, Te Mata Estate

Te Mata Estate

The next day we went out for a bike ride, intending to head from Clive up to the top of Te Mata Peak. We were running a bit short of time, and were waylaid by the tasting room at Te Mata Estate instead.

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I didn’t need much persuading: anyone who reads my blog knows I really rate these guys work. We tried the latest Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Elston Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Bullnose Syrah, and Awatea red blend. We couldn’t carry anything on our bikes, so we left with our bank accounts intact.

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Clearview

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Our time riding was short due to a lunch date at the famous Clearview Estate vineyard café. It was packed. We settled in, ordered our starters and our mains, before heading to the tasting room. We tried their large range of wines, and listened to a very funny and engaged hostess shared information and gags in equal measure. I was even treated to a taste of their $150 Basket Press red blend. For lunch I had to have a glass of their Semillon (quite rare to see a NZ version for sale by the glass), and then their Malbec to go with my steak. Both were yum.

I am so privileged.

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