If you are travelling south from Hawke’s Bay, the Central Hawke’s Bay region has a handful of excellent vineyard choices for you to explore. Stop at the rural township of Waipawa for a coffee or cuppa, and have a quick peruse through the interesting collection of shops – I can testify that there are at least two shops in Waipawa that sell secondhand vinyl records, and one of those also has a stash of quality audio equipment too! (fantastic).
Lime Rock wines are just a short drive away from Waipawa at 601 Tikokino Road. Rodger Tynan and Rosie Butler are the pair behind the label, Rosie having grown up on the surrounding family farmland, and meeting Rodger whilst studying at Roseworthy College in South Australia. Established on a beautiful patch of land of north-facing limestone slopes, their first vintage was 2004 and they have been winning awards for their wines, including their 2009 Classic Pinot Noir featuring on Jancis Robinson’s Top 100 Red wine list (in 2012), over the years. Their vineyard philosophy – Rodger describes himself as a ‘vit-ecologist’ aims for minimal disturbance to the land, and results in wines showing great regional character and a sense of place. Their varietials suit the land – planted to mostly Pinot Noir, with patches of Pinot Gris, Gruner Veltliner and Sauvignon Blanc amongst others. Winemaking is also kept uncomplicated including the use of top French oak, where appropriate.
I visited the vineyard and Cellar door to catch up and try a few wines. The Sauvignon Blanc is excellent, and well worth cellaring, as it ages very well indeed. They had some older vintages for sale at the Cellar Door too. Gruner Veltliner was also very good – it’s not a varietal I usually take to, but theirs was a revelation – a real eye-opener. Of course the Pinot Noir is terrific – the best in Hawke’s Bay. The Cellar Door is a great spot for a visit – you can walk up to the top of the vineyard on the hill for spectacular views and a picnic if you like. The enormous shells – oyster and scallop – they have discovered from the vineyard soil are well worth a look – as big as a bottle of wine! Check out the website for opening hours or call 06 857 8235. www.limerock.co.nz
On the road further south near Waipukurau is a vineyard set upon a hillside – Pukeora Estate was planted in 2000, utilising the limestone ground to grow 13,000 vines over 5 hectares of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Bordeaux varieties and more. As the hillside gets higher there are terraces – the top levels planted with Merlot. The sprawling series of buildings were once a Sanitorium, and the winery is set up in the basement, with an adjacent barrel hall.
Until recently it’s been a busy events venue and hosted the Central Hawke’s Bay Food and Wine show, but I believe the property has been for sale for a while, so I’m not clear what the current status of the business is – I haven’t had the chance to visit. Their best known wine is a Merlot/ Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend named ‘The Benches’ from their ‘Ruahine’ range; there’s also a Pinot Noir, and a ‘sticky’ from Semillon and Chardonnay. Awards have been won in the past.
Carry on SH2 until you reach the junction of the highway with SH50 at Takapau, and you’ll be at the site of the other well known boutique winery in Central Hawke’s Bay – aptly named ‘The Junction’. Winners of the ‘Hawke’s Bay Cellar Door of the year’ in 2014, it’s owned by former All Black front row forward John Ashworth and family, with son Leith as the winemaker. The wines have done well at the NZIWS recently – the Syrah taking a Gold last year, and the Corner Post Chardonnay doing the same in 2019.
They are open all year round on weekends from midday to 5pm and the same time on most week days from November to March. Otherwise call 06 855 8321 or 0274455245 to see if you can arrange a visit.