The day before New Year’s Eve saw Ingrid and I heading to Hawkes Bay for 5 days of sun, wine and good times with a few friends (13 to be precise). We had hired a beautiful house in Bay View just north of Napier and apart from one cloudy day it was perfect sunshine and 30c weather.
On New Year’s Eve, Ingrid and I did a bike tour of 8 wineries with our two friends Josh and Kara. We hired some bikes through On Yer Bike, and armed with some old school mountain bikes, plenty of sun block and a packed lunch, we headed off for a 28km ride.
In doing so we tasted some of Hawkes Bay’s finest foods and wines, while at the same time, taking in the superb scenery of the world-renowned Ngatarawa Triangle grape growing region on the scenic Heretaunga Plain.
We cycled past vineyards, olive groves, orchards, horse studs, and farmland – all on flat terrain with wonderful vistas. Having said that, it was still a good workout!
We started at Triangle Red (representing Bush Hawk and Bridge Pa), who are red wine specialists and grow only Syrah, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc on their single 13 hectare vineyard.
From these grapes they produce a reserve and estate Syrah and to date an estate level Merlot blend. From the 2004 vintage – both the reserve Louis Syrah and estate Hawke’s Bay Syrah have been awarded gold medals and show trophies.
Then we went to Ngatarawa, which was established in former racing Stables in 1981. When Alwyn Corban and Garry Glazebrook converted the Stables and planted their vineyard, it was one of New Zealand’s earliest boutique wineries. Ngatarawa still remains a key pioneer of grape growing and winemaking in the Bridge Pa Triangle on the western edge of the Heretaunga Plains.
We carried on to Salvare. Steve and Bev Nathan created the new Salvare brand with zero experience in the industry.
Salvare is the Latin word from which we derive the word salvation.
Salvare Estate’s latest accomplishment has been at New Zealand’s oldest and most revered wine competition in the Royal Easter Show where they have picked up a silver award for their Syrah and a bronze for their Merlot Rose and Unoaked Chardonnay.
They also recently won a bronze award for their Syrah at the Air New Zealand awards in November 2007, a great win considering their first vintage was only released in September 2007.
Salvare Estate also produces two cracking olive oils, a Picual and a Barnea grown locally in the Puketapu valley. The Picual recently won a silver medal at the Hawkes Bay Olive Oil awards.
Off we went to Te Awa, which was established in 1992 by the Lawson family.
The vineyard is located in the renowned Gimblett Gravels premium wine growing region. The land had traditionally been used for grazing sheep and growing vegetables.
We then stopped for lunch at Trinity Hill which has an award winning and distinctive building.
Trinity Hill is a partnership between John Hancock, Robert and Robyn Wilson (owners of London’s Bleeding Heart and The Don restaurants) and Aucklanders Trevor and Hanne Janes.
It is famous for Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot as well as Tempranillo, Syrah and Viognier.
Onwards we went to Sileni Estates (which has the biggest building and longest drive of any of the wineries!)
Sileni Estates is a major vineyard and winery and the first vintage was in 1998 and since then the wines have won world wide acclaim. Sileni Estates is named after the Sileni who featured in Roman mythology alongside Bacchus, the god of wine. They celebrated good wine, good food and good company.
Our penultimate stop was at Alpha Domus which was my favourite place (plus they had a comedy dog!) Alpha Domus winery was established by two generations of the Ham family. The vision began in 1989 with the purchase of bare land and planting began in 1991.
Alpha Domus winery produces world-class wines from a wide range of varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Syrah.
The name Alpha Domus was inspired by the first initial of each of our first names from the father through to the youngest brother; Anthonius, Leonarda, Paulus, Henrikus and Anthonius (ALPHA); Domus is Latin for house.
Alpha Domus is in the vicinity of an historic airfield (Hastings), important for training pilots throughout New Zealand’s aviation history. The aircraft used was the de Havilland Tigermoth which is depicted on the Alpha Domus labels. Henri has a passion for flying and holds a commercial pilot’s license. The Tiger Moth also has connotations of romance, history, lasting design, beauty and passion; all elements found in great wine. The Tiger Moth and other colourful vintage planes are often seen in the skies above the vineyard.
Our last stop was at Abbey Cellars. Situated on red metal soils Abbey Cellars is a new boutique single estate producer owned and operated by the Haworth family. They also have an abbey style cellar door building which was quite stunning indeed.
Not only did we get some excellent information on the wines and some good tasting experiences, but Ingrid and I managed to pick up some great wines at the cellar doors. Needless to say that all of our wine was produced from Hawkes Bay grape!
At Ngatarawa we picked up a 2009 Stables Late Harvest Riesling, at Trinity Hill we got a 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (Gold Medal and Trophy Winner 2008 Mercedes Benz Wine Awards).
At Salvare (that had just won the Hawkes Bay Cellar Door Award) we picked up a 2007 Chardonnay (Gold Medal 2009 Air New Zealand Wine Awards and Gold Medal 2009 Mercedes Benz Wine Awards).
At Sileni we got “The Cape” 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and we made our last purchase at Alpha Domus by getting a 2008 “The Wingwalker” Viognier (Gold Medal 2009 Mercedes Benz Wine Awards).
It was great day all round and we are looking forward to enjoying the wine at some of Wellington’s fine BYO restaurants in the near future…