We started the day with a guided walking tour of the Art Deco area of Napier, which wasobliterated by anearthequake in 1931.
Then we were off the the oldest winery in Hawkes Bay: Mission Estate.The winery was started in 1851 by members of the Marist Order who still own the winery. The idea of missionaries introducing wine is so reminiscent of California.
Our private tasting included the Mission Estate Gewurztraminer 2016, with a mild varietal aroma and a rich texture; Sauvignon Blanc 2014 had a delightful passion fruit aroma, but with a bit too much acidity for me; Reserve Chardonnay 2016 with 9 months barrel aging,vanilla aromas with lemon and pineapple overtones, lean and made in a Burgundian style; Vineland Selection 2015 Merlot- soft tannins but green on the edges; Jewelstone 2014 Syrah Gimblett Gravels, dark red color with dark berry aromas and edges of leather and tar in the taste and young tannins; Late Harvest a 3 grape varietal blend 2016- white stone and pineapple aromas, again with high acidity.
Our last visit was to Te Awa in the heart of Hawkes Bay finest viticultural area of Gimblett Gravels.We tasted the Left Field Albariño 2016, lime citrus, peach and melon aromas; Chardonnay 2015, showed its oak aging with a strong oak taste; Left Field Rosé made from a blend of 4 varieties-2 red and 2 white; Left Field Pinot Noir 2015 from Marlborough, wild cherry aroma; Merlot/Cabernet 2013, grown in Gimblett Gravels,a soft and smooth wine with aromas and taste of dark berries; Syrah 2013 from the same Gimblett Gravels district, a deep red color and aromas of spice and pepper.
Te Awa is owned by Villa Maria, the largest NZ privately owned winery. We visited the vineyards with John van der Linden, the Vineyard Systems Manager. It was a very informational visit where we learned about the greywacke stones that make this area famous, and also about the many innovative viticultural practices. An example is testing the leaves with a special apparatus to determine how stressed the plant is. When it reaches a certain level, they release water through the irrigation system.
John also took us to a pit which they dug out to show the different strata of soils and stones. The stones go 9 feet deep and are an example of alluvial soils left after the nearby river changed course in the 1860s.
We also learned that Te Awa means River of God and for wine lovers, there is no finer experience that going to the source with a knowledgeable person, so our thanks to John for teaching us so much.