Is It Worth Visiting Hawke’s Bay Wineries In Winter?
When staying in Napier or Hastings, it is really useful to know what the locals consider the best Hawke’s Bay wineries to visit – Especially if you only have 1 day or 2 days in the region and you want to taste the best wines at wineries with spectacular views and cosy cellar doors. Time is so precious when you are traveling, so let us help you make your decision easier!
Many people might think that winter would be a strange time to visit a wine region… The vines have gone to sleep for the winter and you’re not guaranteed to be bathed in the Summer sun like you would be in the months of January and February. But we are here to let you in on a little secret… Hawke’s Bay could potentially be at its very best in the winter and it is a great time for wine tasting!
Imagine this… Its a clear blue day, not too warm but not cold either, lets say 15 degrees. You are traveling with a small group of like minded people and you’re already starting to get along with them (if you’re on a Bay Tours Wine tour). At the first winery for the day you are welcomed into the cellar door with warm smiles ready to start your wine tasting. The region is a little less busy in the winter months, which makes it more likely you will have the winemakers leading the wine tasting. That in itself is worth it, but the greatest advantage of a HB wine tasting in the winter is there will be a chance to taste some of the newly released wines. The iconic red wines of New Zealand are hard to come by in the summer months.
Wines such as Te Mata Coleraine (which was described the UK’s Jancis Robinson as a New Zealand treasure), Trinity Hill Homage Syrah, Craggy Range’s Prestige series, Te Awanga’s Trademark Syrah & the Alpha Domus Aviator are all released in winter and this is your best chance to get a taste.
So we know you’re convinced Winter is a great time to go wine tasting in Hawke’s Bay, let’s start with our 5 favourite and recommended wineries. In no particular order…
Craggy Range Winery
The 11th Best Winery To Visit In The World
Craggy Range is a family owned winery that was built in one of the most spectacular areas of Hawke’s Bay – the Tuki Tuki Valley. From the very beginning the Peabody family’s objective was to build a legacy that would prevail long after they had. The first step of this journey was to hire New Zealand wine royalty Steve Smith (who now owns Smith + Sheth in Havelock North) as a consultant to oversee the identification and acquisitions of the very best vineyard land in the country.
Searching New Zealand for the best vineyard sites resulted in establishing vineyards in: Te Awanga and the Gimblett Gravels in Hawke’s Bay, Te Muna Road in Martinborough and vines in Marlborough and Central Otago.
Why should this interest you? Because when you taste wines at the impressive Craggy Range Cellar door you will most likely get to taste wines from different terroirs of New Zealand – A really amazing experience to taste first hand the difference in taste from a Chardonnay grown in Te Awanga to one grown in the Gimblett Gravels.
Now the next important thing to know about Craggy Range is it has the most incredible views sitting in the Tuki Tuki valley at the foot of Te Mata peak. It is the incredible jagged cliffs of Te Mata that gave the name to Craggy Range. The best way to enjoy these views are by the fire place in the newly refurbished restaurant. You can experience this on the Bay Tours Progressive Winery Dinner!
Moana Park Winery
Boutique, Local, Natural Wines
A short drive over the Taradale hills into the sub-region of Puketapu lies one of Hawke’s Bay’s best kept secrets. Moana Park Winery is a family business that has been a must visit for any wine lover in the region for over a decade.
Moana Park is winery that focuses on producing low allergen wines that are vegan friendly that showcase their place of origin right here in Hawke’s Bay. This is all about making natural, low intervention wines that taste great.
The range of wines available to taste would be a great reason by itself for you to visit the cellar door. However, we wouldn’t feel right without mentioning how great the Chardonnay is at Moana Park – so make sure you get a taste. Chardonnay also happens to be the Dan Barker’s (the owner) favourite variety, so no surprises there!
However it is the unashamed kiwi hospitality that is on display from the moment you are greeted that really cements it’s spot as a “must see” when visiting Napier. Sitting down with the owner/winemaker Dan Barker to talk through his wines is one of the most authentic experiences any wine lover can get while visiting a Hawke’s Bay winery. Lucky for guests on a Bay Tours Wine tour a sit down tasting with the larger than life Barker is a common occurrence.
The Urban Winery
Tony Bish’s Chardonnay Fantasy Brought To Life
In the heart of Art Deco The National Tobacco Building, you will find one of the newest editions to Napier’s wine scene and one of the coolest kids on the block. The Urban winery is the first of its kind in New Zealand and is just a short bike/walk from the CBD of Napier City.
The winery is the brainchild of one of the “old dogs” of the Hawke’s Bay wine industry. Tony Bish is the founding member/winemaker of iconic Hawke’s Bay winery Sacred Hill. Sacred Hill’s Rifleman Chardonnay & Deerstalker Syrah have been long time favourites of the staff here at Bay Tours and are great examples of the skill Bish has as a winemaker.
Tony Bish stepped aside as Head Winemaker at Sacred Hill to the wine consultant role in order to free up time to pursue his passion and dream of creating a Hawke’s Bay winery dedicated solely to his favourite grape – Chardonnay!
The Urban Winery is a great spot for live music and local food in Ahuriri, Napier and it is without a doubt a Chardonnay lovers dream! For visitors to Hawke’s Bay that do not like Chardonnay (probably thanks to the Aussie’s that flooded the markets in the 80’s with over-oaked wines) we are telling you that you must try a Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay before you leave. Hawke’s Bay Chardonnays when made well are world class. Tony’s Chardonnay made in his famous egg fermentors are great examples of Chardonnay made with quality in mind. After a visit at the Urban Winery you will love Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay – that’s almost a guarantee!
However, if we can’t convince you to try Chardonnay, then don’t worry the Urban Winery has one of the best wine lists in the country. You will find excellent local wines by the glass as well as some heavy hitting international wines. Check them out here.
Trinity Hill Winery
At The Heart Of The Gimblett Gravels
The land within the Gimblett gravels area is so sought after that it is extremely rare to find any physical winery cellar doors within the Gimblett Gravels appellation. But if you’re one of the first wineries on the Gravels then you can – first in, first served is what they say!
Introducing Trinity Hill. One of the very first wineries to plant in the Gimblett Gravels. Once the land was identified by district planners as “of National importance” after a historic fight in court by Alan Limmer the 800ha of valuable land was snatched up quickly. In 1993 Trinity Hill planted their first vineyard, mostly with the typical red Bordeaux varieties that still dominate the red wine plantings of the region.
However the grape that Trinity Hill is best known for, and a grape that many pin as the next great variety to showcase New Zealand’s terroir is Syrah. The flagship wine of Trinity Hill is the Homage – a single variety Syrah that is dedicated to Gerard Jaboulet who was founding winemaker John Hancocks late friend and legend in the wine world. Jaboulet was a guiding influence for John Hancock’s winemaking and a key reason for Hancock’s passion for Hawke’s Bay Syrah. In the 1990’s before Gerard Jaboulet’s untimely death he sent Trinity Hill vine cuttings of 3 Syrah clones from his famous Northern Rhone vineyards of Hermitage to plant in Hawke’s Bay.
The Homage Syrah is only made from the Hermitage vines and some original vines from the Gravels vineyard in exceptional vintages when it is deemed that the wine will be world class. If you want to visit the leaders of Hawke’s Bay Syrah this could well be the place.
Is It Best To Drive To The Hawke’s Bay Wineries Or Join A Tour?
Hawke’s Bay is a region that can grow a number of varieties to the highest standard. This is due to the 5 major rivers that have deposited alluvial soils across the region over thousands of years creating microclimates and subregions with distinguishing features. The Hawke’s Bay wineries worth visiting have also followed the pattern of dispersing all across the region. For this reason, and a few more that we have listed below we do recommend joining a guided tour of the Hawke’s Bay wineries if time allows.
Benefits of Joining a Bay Tours Wine tour:
- Local Knowledge & Insight – This article is just the tip of the iceberg. Your tour guide will have an enormous amount of local stories and insights to share with you about the Hawke’s Bay wine industry and the region in general!
- Meet like-minded Travellers & Wine Lovers – There is nothing more satisfying than seeing how well our guests get on with one and other. By the end of the tour it is not unusual for guests to organise to have dinner and drinks at a local restaurant – Or even join our evening tour together.
- Stress-Free – On a Bay Tours wine tour everything is organised and covered for you. That means no corkage fees to worry about, no having to phone ahead to secure a tasting slot, no time spent organising the most efficient route to get to the wineries. Sit back relax and take in the views!
- No need for a sober driver – The New Zealand drinking and driving laws are pretty strict compared to other regions of the world. This is good, it means the roads are safer but it does also mean someone in your group can’t taste if you elect to drive. With a Bay Tours wine tour we will pick you up and drop you off at your accommodation. There is no need to risk driving over the limit.
- We only take you to our Favourite wineries – We understand most people visiting Napier only have a day or two up their sleeve so it is important to get the most out of their visit. We take you to wineries that have great cellar door experiences but most importantly we think the wines are great & we hope you will too!
If you would like to book a wine tour with Bay Tours simply follow this link here.
For more suggestions on things to do in Hawke’s Bay check out our list here.