Thursday, February 23, 2012

Exploring wine country in Hawke's Bay

We wake up Tuesday morning, refreshed after a long night’s sleep with fresh ocean air and very comfortable beds. Gerard serves us a large breakfast, including big bowls of tropical fruits, yogurt, ham and cheese omelets, and lots of dark, thick coffee. We’re exploring some local wineries today, based on recommendations from Ivan at the wine bar last night.

First up is Church Road, which dates back to 1897 and is one of the oldest wineries in the country. For an admission fee of $15, we get a tour of the facility and a tasting. We’re a little early for the tour, which starts at 11:00 am, but since we’ve got a lunch reservation at another winery at noon, we negotiate with our hostess, Daphne, to do the tasting first. This may be the first time I’ve tipped back glasses of wine at 10:30 in the morning!

Our tour guide, Ann, then takes us and two British couples for a walk around the expansive Church Road property. 

Our tour guide tells us that each of these oak barrels holds enough wine that you could enjoy a bottle each day for 65 years. 

A large barn-like structure on the property hosts up to three wedding parties a week.

The barn is filled with oak barrels that have been "retired" - they have been used for 4-5 years and no longer impart their "oakiness" to the wine. They are for sale for about $70 each. 

These fine specimens, aged to perfection, are NOT for sale for $70 each. 

An olive tree and me.

The tour included a visit to the old cellars and exhibits about the vineyard's history.

We leave our tour a few minutes early to drive to the next vineyard up the street, Mission Estate. It is a stunning compound and we are guided to the back of the main building and out onto a terrace for our lunch. About two dozen tables are set up for the mid-day meal, all under canopies or large umbrellas to protect diners from the warm early afternoon sun. The tables are set with heavy, starched, and perfectly-ironed linen napkins and fine wine goblets. The yard is perfectly maintained and I can imagine many a wonderful dinner party has been held on these grounds. 

We each start our meal with a glass of white; Chardonnay for Peter, pinot gris for Mark and me. 

A short time later, our food starts coming out of the kitchen: 

Ceasar salad

Corn and pepper chowder

Steak tartare

Fish and chips

Bluenose (deep sea fish) and buttered potatoes

Homemade gnocchi

On our way out of the Mission property, we see workmen constructing large stage platforms and dragging porta-potties into formation, all in preparation for a weekend concert featuring Rod Stewart. We walk around town later in the afternoon, and posters for the event are plastered everywhere and all of the shops are playing his tunes. I’ve never been a fan and it seems I can’t escape the sound of his raspy wailing.

We divert into a local supermarket to pick up two bottles of wine and some salty snacks for our pre-dinner gathering out of the balcony of our second-floor room. Dinner couldn’t be any more convenient: the Indonesian Kitchen is literally next door. We order rijstafal for three and our server brings out bowl after bowl of delicious and aromatic food. We eat like we’ve not been fed for days, and then head back to our inn for a good night’s sleep.


  1. The steak tartare has no raw egg. Requested so? Fish and chips--now I need to go out for fish and chips. Yum. And Indonesian food, and I don't even know what they eat there.

  2. Funny, Joseph -- until you mention it, we didn't even think of the egg component. It must not be the standard way that the Mission serves that dish. The fish and chips was my entree -- it was fresh and light and delicious. Definitely a treat



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