by Gary Dickson
Spending time following my nose from Pinot to Chardonnay to Sauvignon Blanc and back to Pinot sounded like my idea of a good time. After all many of the World’s top wines come from these “shakey isles” at the bottom of the globe. Church Road, Te Mata Estate, Allan Scott, Ata Rangi, Hans Herzog were all names very familiar to me but over the next five days I was to discover several others new to me as well. It was a tough assignment, but someone had to do it. ??My journey began in Napier. Art Deco capital of the world – because of the destruction of the devastating earthquake of February 3rd, 1931. 261 people lost their lives as a result of that day – 157 in Napier and 104 in nearby Hastings and Wairoa. As a result Napier has become as iconic a place to visit as Egypt is for its pyramids.??I had been to Napier several times previously but never had I taken a guided tour of the city. This time it was in true Deco style – and one I would genuinely recommend to all who visit. Vintage Deco Car Tours depart from the Deco Trust offices in Tennyson Street. When my driver informed me he would be taking me on “a three hour tour” I had the theme song from Gilligan’s Island stuck in my head for almost an hour. I am glad to say that our fully restored 1934 Buick held up better than the SS Minnow did. You simply must do this tour, if only to see the look on everyone’s faces as you pass by them. I could almost read their minds – “I wonder which famous person is in there now?” And indeed my driver had taken many famous people around the Hawke’s Bay in this beautiful old car. He rattled off a list of veritable who’s who he had driven but my interest peaked at the mention of one…John Cleese – an idol of mine (and of the driver’s) for many years. The next three hours were interspersed with failed attempts at reciting Monty Python quotes whilst I tried to remember the name of the vessel moored at West Quay that was able to transmit news of the tragic earthquake to the outside world. The boat was, of course, the HMS Veronica and its original bell is still bought out on ceremonial occasions.??My thirst for all things historical sated it was time to depart and partake of the very reason I was here…fine wine, great food, excellent location and supreme company. And I was to succeed at my very first stop. Brent Pilcher is the Visitor Centre Manager for Church Road Winery and he guided me through the history of this iconic estate.??Wine has been made in this area for over 100 years and Church Road boasts New Zealand’s only winery museum. The museum is housed underground, in the old concrete wine vats and the walls have an almost crystalline look as you walk inside them. “The effect of the tartaric acid in the wine that was once stored here,” Brent tells me. Visitors to Church Road get the red carpet treatment. You can taste and buy all Church Road wines, including the limited release Cuve Series and iconic TOM range. The TOM range is named after Tom McDonald, who was a pioneer wine maker at Church Road, having bought the business back in 1927 when Tom McDonald Wines began. The blend that bears his name today is truly a fine wine – either the Chardonnay or the Bordeaux style red. The red is in its 6th vintage (2005). “TOM represents the pinnacle of our winemaking,” Brent chirps with a rye smile on his face. That it is! Our tour of the working winery over Brent and I sit down to a fantastic platter of local produce – called (as you might expect) the Bay Platter. Along with a bottle of Church Road Chardonnay Brent gibed me about how strenuous my life must be travelling the globe in search of great locations, stories, people and more importantly, wine and food! Other wineries you might like to endure include Mission Estate, Te Mata Estate, Sacred Hill, Trinity Hill or Clearview Estate. ??There are many accommodation options in “The Bay” – Bed & Breakfasts, Farmstays, Holiday Parks and hotels. My place of rest was to be in the lap of luxury at Mangapapa Petit Hotel. A mere 5 minutes from Hastings (15 minutes from Napier) this more than century old grand country estate was home for many years to Sir James Wattie and his family. Today, it is a beautifully restored piece of grandeur that would not look out of place in the Loire Valley. After all my “hard work” (as Brent puts it), I was treated to a pampering at the recently opened Spa at Mangapapa Petit Hotel. Located behind the main building and adjoining the spa pool, the Spa at Mangapapa is everything a high quality spa encapsulates. Your whole Mangapapa experience can be as full or relaxing as you wish, from soaking up the sunny Hawke’s Bay sunrays around the heated swimming pool or enjoying tailor made rejuvenation packages. My deep tissue massage and hot stone treatment revived me to the point where I was ready, willing and able to engage my next mission…dinner. The menu changes daily to incorporate seasonal influences and its focus, by Executive Chef, Miyano, is based on the “complete dining experience” for which Mangapapa Petit Hotel is famous. My pre-dinner drinks and canapés (from 7pm) were welcome as my hunger grew exponentially the more I talked to the staff about the menu for the evening. Candle-lit dinners are the norm at Mangapapa as you soak up the view across the manicured lawns – something akin to the fairways at Augusta sprung to mind. Yes Brent I do have a hard job!
Vintage Deco Car tours – www.artdeconapier.com – the Art Deco Trust run guided walking tours as well as self drive tours around Napier. They are located at 163 Tennyson Street, Napier – Ph: + 64 6 835 0022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Church Road winery – www.churchroad.co.nz – located (as you might expect) at 150 Church Road,Taradale – Ph: + 64 6 844 2053
Mangapapa Petit Hotel – www.mangapapa.co.nz – Napier Road, Havelock North – Ph: + 64 6 878 3234
Editor: Next issue we take a tour around the Martinborough region