Sipping your way around Hawke's Bay

Hawke's Bay is a wine lovers paradise. A day out amongst the vines tasting delicious wine is a glorious way to spend a day in New Zealand!

Is there anything more fun for wine lovers than a fabulous day out wine tasting?  Now imagine doing that in one of the most beautiful areas of New Zealand.  That’s taking it to a whole other level!

Hawke’s Bay sits on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.   It’s warm, dry climate is perfect for producing award winning, full-bodied red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, & Merlot.  Never fear white wine lovers as you’ll also find great Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, & Rosé here.   Hawke’s Bay is the starting point of the Classic New Zealand Wine Trail.  I recently had the opportunity to take a full day wine tour with Odyssey Tours and it was everything I could have hoped for in a great wine tour.

The full day wine tour includes visits to 6 different cellar doors, a plated lunch, and ends with a tasting platter.  Yes, you read that correctly.  6 wineries!   How did I manage to visit 6 wineries & still be standing at the end?  We’ll get to that later.

My tour began with a complimentary hotel pick up.  Our schedule for the day included stops at Moana Park, Church Road, Mission Estate (including lunch), Te Awa, Sileni Estates, & Oak Estate (including a tasting platter).   Each winery was unique in their own right.  Some were boutique & offered vegan wines (Moana Park).  Some were quite large & offered interesting insights into how wine is produced (Church Road).   Church Road has a very interesting wine museum which I recommend you include on a visit there even if you go on your own outside of an organized tour.  You’ll even get to taste some wine straight out of the barrel.  It may look a little scary, but it tastes good!   Oak Estate is owned by a husband & wife tag team who not only make the wine, but they also make all of their own food.   Their freshly baked bread with burnt butter was to die for!  Trust me on this.

Food is a big component of the full day tour & as with all the food in New Zealand you will find it be be incredibly fresh, locally sourced, & delicious!   If you’re doing a full day tour it’s important  to make sure there is a food element included.  You’ll need something in your stomach to absorb the alcohol.  As I mentioned Oak Estate makes all of their own food.  This was probably one of the best tasting platters I have ever eaten.  A thing of beauty!

One thing I have learned about wine is it’s very subjective & personal.  I am not a wine expert.  Wine lover, yes.  Wine expert, no.   I definitely had my favorite wineries, but my palate & preferences are unique to me as yours are to you.  I’m not going to single out my favorites.  All I will say is they all offered a great atmosphere, great tasting room staff, & great wine.  You should plan a visit Hawke’s Bay & decide for yourself!  I highly recommend doing an organized tour.  Yes, you can do it on your own, but you’ll need to have a designated driver.  New Zealand has very strict drunk driving laws.  Just don’t do it.  Plan to go on an organized tour so you & everyone in your party can fully enjoy the day.

Now back to how to properly enjoy a visit to 6 wineries & still walk away sober.  Most tasting will be anywhere between 3-6 different wines.  Now multiply that by 6 stops.  That is a lot of wine.  So what do you do?  Use the spittoon!  That is what it’s there for.  Every tasting room will have a spittoon out or will instruct you on where to spit or dump.  It’s not poor form or an insult to the winemaker to sip & dump.  Not every wine will be to your taste & that’s ok.  Finish the ones you love, but dump the rest after taking a small tasting sip or two.  Pace yourself & you will still be able to enjoy what you’re tasting by the time you get to your final pour.

I thoroughly enjoyed sipping my way around Hawke’s Bay.  Although I did visit 6 wineries I barely scratched the surface of fabulous cellar doors open for tastings.  I can’t wait to return again to try them all!