Hawke’s Bay may be the oldest and second largest wine-making region in New Zealand, but don't be surprised if you haven't heard of it. Although there are more than 50 wineries here, most are too small to export their products abroad -- which means that the only way to sample some of Hawke’s Bay finest wines is to plan a trip to the eastern coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
But wine isn't the region's only claim to fame; Hawke’s Bay is also known for its artisan food scene, with local products including honey, chocolates, and olive oil -- all of which will be showcased at the upcoming Food and Wine Classic in November. (And just in case you do fall in love with the grapes, New Zealand Wine Export can ship a crate of mixed wines back to the U.S.)
Here's where to indulge while you're in Hawke's Bay.
Black Barn winery offers more than a tasting room and cottages to sleep. An on-site amphitheater hosts concerts and movies all summer long, kicking off in October. Just bring a bean bag, order dinner from a food truck, and buy a bottle of Black Barn’s award-winning 2014 chardonnay. The Black Barn retail store is stocked with locally made goods, such as The Village Press olive oil, fig cakes from Te Mata Figs, and craft beer from Giant Brewing.
Chalk 'n' Cheese
Located in a midcentury modern-inspired building, Chalk ’n’ Cheese is the retail store and café owned by Origin Earth, an award-winning dairy that uses biodynamic farming. Head to the back of the café to sample their homemade cheeses, including Sleeping Giant, a hard sheep’s milk cheese, cow halloumi, or a gooey camembert. The yogurt pots come with a thick layer of cream on top.
Tucked in the backdrop of the Te Mata mountain range, Craggy Range's cellar has a sleek, contemporary design. Here, sample the pinot noir, chardonnay, or the rosé; if you’d rather sip wine with food, have dinner at the on-site eatery Terrôir. The circular restaurant is warmed by a huge central fireplace, which is also used to roast meat. Guest cottages are available to rent on the vineyard, or splurge on the four bedroom Craggy Range lodge.
New Zealand is famous for its Manuka honey and Arataki operates more than 20,000 hives. Pull up a stool at the tasting bar to try a range of flavors, from thyme to clover and Rewarewa, a native New Zealand Honeysuckle. The small pots make perfect souvenirs.
Elephant Hill, a German-owned winery with stark architecture, is dotted with aged copper-clad buildings and an outdoor reflecting pool. One of their standout wines is the 2013 Hieronymus, a blend of cabernet sauvignon, malbec, and merlot. The restaurant overlooks the pool and vineyards, and chef Ashley Jones uses seasonal produce and the estate’s own hand-harvested olive oil in dishes such as hot smoked salmon served with baby spinach, and an Asian-inspired tuna with soft-shell crab.
Silky Oak Chocolate Company
All of the chocolates here are handmade from scratch, including dark chocolate covered ginger, caramel sea salt fudge, and mint chocolate logs. Visitors can also learn about the history of chocolate at the on-site museum, which covers 3,000 years, spanning the Mayans up to movie posters of Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka.