Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Gimblett Gravels hills

The Gimblett Gravels hills

We started our tastings at Mission Estate Winery (and restaurant), Church Road, Napier (T 06 845 9350) where we found interesting Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc (not like Marlborough, more like Loire) and Pinot Gris.  Did not like the 08 reds that we tasted – thin, lacked fruit and seemed ‘green’.  You have got to admit that it is a great looking building!

The Mission Estate winery offices

The Mission Estate winery offices in Napier

We then moved on to the Vidal Winery (part of Villa Maria) whose tasting rooms are in the middle of Hastings in St Aubyn St, Hastings (T 06 872 7440). We tasted Riesling (similar to German), Sauvignon Blanc (not like Marlborough, more like Loire) and Chardonnay (pretty good).  Reds were much better.  Bordeaux blend was good as was Syrah but Piont Noir was merely ok.  Had some older reds one of which we bought for dinner.

Te Mata Estate Winery vineyards

Te Mata Estate Winery vineyards with the vines covered with anti-bird netting

Next was the Te Mata Estate Winery, Te Mata Rd, Havelock North (T 06 877 4399).  Here we tasted an excellent Sauvignon / Semillon blend 2009 reminiscent of Bordeaux Blanc ($28); a lightly oaked Chardonnay, Woodthorpe 2008 ($19);  2 very good 2008 Bordeaux blends, Awatea ($33) and Coleraine ($69).  They had half bottles of 08 Elston Chardonnay and Awatea ($19).  That finished the day and we headed to the B&B for an afternoon nap, shopping and then a ‘barbie’.

The next day we headed for the famed Gimblett Gravels area.

Trinity Hill winery

Trinity Hill winery

We started at Trinity Hill, State Highway 50, Hastings (T 06 879 7778).  Here we tasted an excellent 2008 Sauvignon Blanc ($19) (again not like Marlborough, more like Loire) and a great, clean, lightly wooded Gimblett Gravels 2008 chardonnay ($34).  The Gimblett Gravels 2007 Bordeaux blend (The Gimblett) ($34) and Syrah ($34) were outstanding.  The Bordeaux blend was the best we tasted in this area. (See also Tuesday night dinner.)

Unison Vineyard, State Highway 50, Hastings, (T 06 879 7913).  The 2007 Bordeaux blend plus Syrah – good.  2007 Syrah ($38) – excellent. Both Gimblett Gravels wines. The owner ascribes the soft tannins in the Syrah primarily to the use of American oak vs French oak.  This was the best syrah we tasted in Hawke’s Bay.

Matariki Wines, Kirkwood Road, Hastings, (T 06 879 6226).  We tasted the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Syrah.  None to our taste.

There is much debate about whether or not the Gimblett Gravels terroir makes for better wine.  We were much impressed with the examples we tasted at Trinity Hill, Unison and Craggy Range but were singularly unimpressed with Matariki.  So it also takes skill; but skill and terroir produce impressive results.

It was then time for lunch so we headed for the beach.

The beach in the Hawkes Bay area

The beach in the Hawkes Bay area

Hawkes Bay cloud, beach and dangerous swimming

Not impressed with the cloud, the beach and the dangerous swimming on this coast

Obligingly the locals told us that this overcast weather was most unusual for this time of the year.  Locals always seem to do that, don’t they?

View from the Craggy Range cellar door

View from the Craggy Range cellar door

After lunch we visited Craggy Range (cellar door and restaurant), Wairama Road, Havelock North (T 06 873 7126).  Here we tasted two styles of Chardonnay – one light and slightly oaked the other more fully oaked with 40% new oak; both good – under $30.  2008 pinots from Otago ($50) and Martinborough ($40).  Otago more refined, Martinborough more fruity; both excellent.  Excellent 2008 Gimblett Gravels Syrah ($30).  2008 pinot and merlot in half bottles.

This ended the tastings in the Hawke’s Bay area.  That night we had dinner in the Craggy Range restaurant.