Hawke’s Bay: Napier and around

This is the latest of our sub-regional guides to Hawke’s Bay – this time we’ll be looking at the wineries that you reach heading from the north, and then the ones around Napier – be sure to check out the other articles where you’ll explore the Gimblett Gravels/Bridge Pa triangle, or Havelock North to the coast at Te Awanga. You can also have a read of the tasting that I did through the region’s wines with Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers and Hugh Crichton here > https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=2736

As you arrive from the north, take the opportunity to drop into the Linden Estate Cellar Door at the winery at 347 State Highway 5 in Esk Valley. The property has had a significant redevelopment and the Cellar Door is a wonderful, airy space, with a soaring roofline with a cathedral-sized Barrel Hall off to the side (ask for a look). There’s a long wooden counter laden with wines to try, and a few tables and chairs for relaxing in. For $30 you can book a Winery Tour, and if you’re in the mood for a meal, the Valley d’Vine Restaurant is on the same property – next door to the Cellar Door.

Linden estate Cellar Door

Otherwise, the Cellar Door is a comfortable spot to taste some of Linden Estate’s wines. I’ve long regarded this label as one of the region’s hidden gems – this goes back to a bottle of 2005 Merlot that I had on my first ever trip to Hawke’s Bay, and is one of those revelation moments. They make a red blend called ‘Epitome that is an unusual collage of Syrah with the usual Bordeaux varietals. A light to medium weight wine that can be enjoyed young, it’s a winner! The regular Chardonnay always hits the target – spicy, oaky and with a decent concentration of ripe fruit in 2018 and 2019 – over a few tastings, I’ve decided I’d go for this over the Reserve Chardonnay. Both good, but the $25 version is excellent value and all you’re after in a Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay – and this is just your first stop!!

Next stop along the route into Hawke’s Bay is Radburnd Cellars at 724 Main North Rd, Bay View. The winery is open by appointment – call 06 651 1815 or email hello@radburndcellars.co.nz. This is the venture from renowned winemaker Kate Radburnd where she is making wine without compromises to anything else – read our feature here. https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=1898. Her website simply states “Kate’s Best” as it’s tagline.

The 2018 Syrah was one of my wines of the year in 2020 >>> https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=2620. The Chardonnay is also pretty terrific – one of those great Hawke’s Bay Chardonnays that manages the trick of being juicy, savoury and ripe-fruited all at once. https://radburndcellars.co.nz has all the info.

Crab Farm Winery has been in the Jardine family for more than 100 years, with the section of land that is now the ‘Home Block’ planted as vineyards in the 1980s. Before the earthquake in 1931 it was still tidal land, only when the land rose by over 2 metres in the quake, did the crabs disappear! There are now two more vineyards – one in the Puketitiri Valley, and another – Shingle Pit – in Eskdale. The on-site restaurant reflects the essence of the place – hand-crafted, relaxed, rustic with great character. I’ve heard it’s really popular for weddings; as well as the regular live music sessions. You can get a platter that will match with your wine tasting or settle in for a meal. On the property is also an “Art Shed” – another atmospheric place to have a look in after your visit for the wine.

Crab Farm wines

The wine! – they do a wide range, including two variants on bubbles – ‘Ozius’ a rose from Pinot Noir and ‘Tectonic’ made from Chardonnay. Whites range from a classic Chardonnay to an aromatic Sauvignon Blanc. Reds are across many varietals but WineFolio do love a Cabernet Franc and a Merlot-Malbec blend – luckily they do both of those at Crab Farm! At 511 Main North Road, Bay View. See www.crabfarmwinery.co.nz or call 06 836 6678. Open Thursday to Sunday for lunch and late night Fridays with live music.

A few years ago I stayed at an Air BnB in Pandora and marvelled at the National Tobacco Company Building on Ossian Street in Ahuriri, just around the corner. Fast forward a few years, and directly next door to this fantastic Art Deco treasure is The Urban Winery, (in fact it’s the same building) opened by Tony Bish. The winery showcases the spectacular egg-shaped fermenters that Tony uses to create his wines. That he is the only Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay specialist producer is amazing, but the wines are also quite remarkable – born of his singular devotion to the craft of one varietal and his pursuit of excellence in that field.

The Urban Winery

Not simply a working winery, but one of the most characterful, and approachable Cellar Doors around. Is it a wine bar – an event space – a stylish evening bar? It’s all of those. The Cellar Door serves the full range of Tony Bish wines including the two ‘egg’ wines – ‘Heartwood’ (read our review here.. www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=2796) and ‘The Golden Egg’ plus the top level ‘Zen’ Chardonnay that is made in the wooden egg that takes centre stage in the winery. The food looked fabulous on the day we visited – it’s a lunch portion / tapas type of thing that has daily specials. Open from midday Weds to Sunday, and open late on Thursday to Saturdays. 3 Ossian Street, Ahuriri – Ph: 06 650 3353 or email: manager@theurbanwinery.co.nz

You’ve got a short drive away from the port area in Napier now, over towards the cradle of Hawke’s Bay wine – to a couple of historic wineries on Church Road in Taradale.

Mission Estate

First up is Mission Estate, at 198 Church Road, which is the oldest winery in New Zealand, having made wine in 1851. Founded by French missionaries, it is considered to be the birthplace of New Zealand wine – so quite an important place to us wine lovers! As well as the winemaking, the venue will be well known to pop music fans as perhaps the most iconic of the country’s large-scale outdoor music events – the annual Mission Estate Concert – it attracts some of the biggest names from across the globe – hosting Neil Diamond, Elton John, Sting, Rod Stewart and Tom Jones over the years. Throughout the year there are also smaller scale events held at the property – jazz on the lawn, themed evenings and so on.

The restaurant here is one of my favourite places in New Zealand. When I first moved here in 2003 from England, I visited with my family and we marvelled at the relaxed but elegant setting, having lunch at a table on the lawn, with wonderful kiwi cuisine and lovely wines – just perfect. The restaurant is open 7 days a week – from 11am to late. Book on 06 845 9354 or restaurant@missionestate.co.nz

The wines are perhaps a little under-rated here – with a range of wines that are ‘classic’ varietals and climb through a few tiers – from some great value in the white label Estate, right through to the iconic ‘Jewelstone’ and ‘Huchet’ labels that are selections from the very best vineyard sites.

I’d pick their red wines as standouts – the Jewelstone ‘Antoine’ is a quintessential Bordeaux-style blend, but also take a look at something like the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gimblett Gravels – in a warm vintage this is sensational, and great value, drinking.

At the Cellar Door (open from 9 to 5 Mon to Saturday and from 10am on Sundays) in the restored Seminary building – it’s gorgeous – you can taste a range of the wines whilst browsing the walls that are laden with historical documents, photographs and artifacts – I’m a sucker for the collections of old bottles. The website is www.missionsestate.co.nz

Mission estate

Next along the road is Church Road – the stunning site of the winery at 150 Church Road, with park-like grounds, has been making wine since 1897. Host to events such as international-standard concerts (Crowded House are the next visitors on their tour) more low-key “Summer sessions” where you can rock up with your blankets, chairs and a picnic, or outdoor movies. The ‘Tom McDonald Cellar door’ is fantastic – you look down along an atmospheric barrel hall and can soak up the ambience of over 120 years history.

Church Road Winery

There’s a range of tours and tutored tastings that you can book in advance, or reserve a table and relax in the a la carte restaurant. Outside, there are platters to be enjoyed with your choice of the wide range of Church Road wines, and an outdoor container bar is often at hand to keep the customers happy. Open from 10.30am daily until 4.30pm – restaurant opens at 11.30am. The website is www.church-road.com, or call 06 833 8225 for bookings.

This is one of my (and many others) favourite wine labels, and that’s reflected in the level of awards that Church Road win, not just in NZ, but in major overseas competitions. If I had to pick favourites, the Grand Reserve range is all excellent – I recently reviewed the Syrah > https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=2513 and the 2018 Chardonnay from this tier > https://winefolio.co.nz/?p=1573, and I’d say that those two varietals are their standout in production. Look out for the Blanc de Blanc Methode Traditionelle sparkling wine that’s only usually available at the Cellar Door too.

Their ‘TOM’ range of wines – the pinnacle of what’s produced here – are considered iconic New Zealand wines, and are priced accordingly – something for a special occasion.

Church Road TOM wines

After leaving Church Road, it’s only a short drive to reach our next stop at Moana Park Estate on Puketapu Road. This is just rural, and you’d have the option to stop at the Puketapu Tavern – a great country pub. The Woolshed sits on the original site – planted in 1981, and is home to the Cellar Door, winery and the Chardonnay vines. The Cellar Door has been rated the best in New Zealand – it’s open from 10am to 5pm daily for tastings (winter hours are a bit shorter: 12-4pm). You can usually get a bite to eat alongside your wine tasting – pizzas, platters and freshly baked breads.

It’s an idyllic spot and amongst the vineyards, there’s a fire pit, lawns, and the river is only a two minute stroll through the grounds. Easy to see why it’s host to lots of events (Dragon in concert is next up) and a popular wedding venue.

I really like the rosé from Moana – fresh but voluptuous and textural; and the Chardonnays from here are excellent too. Whilst you’re here look out for ‘Orion’ an unusual field blend of white varietals – Gewurztraminer, Muscat and Pinot Gris.

530 Puketapu Road is the address, and the website is www.moanaparkcellar.co.nz. Call 06 844 8629.

One more iconic place to visit whilst you are in the Napier area is Brookfields Vineyards at 378 Brookfields Road in Meeanee. They’re one of the originals – founded in 1937, with the current owners taking the reins in 1977, and moulding the Estate into the award-winning property it’s now known as. It’s unusual to find an original building such as here where it was purpose-built as a winery, from 25cm thick hand-made blocks. A deliberately ‘boutique’ operation, the family is clear in it’s search for quality over quantity, and is best known for some rich, concentrated reds – although winning Gold medals (and Trophies) for wines such as the barrel-fermented Viognier in recent years, shows the quality across the range.

The Cellar Door is open daily from 10am to 4pm, and offers tastings across the range. I loved the Viognier when I tried it at the New Zealand International Wine Show, and have always admired the top Chardonnays – ‘Marshall Bank’ would be my pick of those. Otherwise indulge yourself in the big characterful reds and take a few home to put in the cellar. The website is www.brookfieldsvineyards.co.nz.

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