Food and wine matching in Hawke's Bay
Hawke’s Bay is a sunny, coastal province, situated in the east of New Zealand’s North Island. The region is gaining repute as a wine and food locale that marries delicious regional cuisine with a diversity of exceptional wines. Hawke’s Bay is New Zealand’s second largest producer of wine, after the South Island’s Marlborough region, known around the world for its herbaceous, tropical Sauvignon Blancs.
While Marlborough may win acclaim for the country’s best Sauvignon Blancs and Central Otago, the finest Pinot Noirs, Hawke’s Bay produces a wide range of award winning wines and has attracted highly regarded, top chefs and winemakers from throughout Australasia and Europe.
Ten of the region’s 36 wineries with cellar doors offer fine restaurant dining. My fianc and I picked out six to try on our recent trip:
Black Barn Winery is set in an elevated position in the hills outside of the village of Havelock North, overlooking rows of old vines, We chose their signature dish which had won the Hawke’s Bay Signature Dish Award for 2007. It was a pan roasted natural lamb short loin, marinated and filled with an olive, rosemary and lemon stuffing and served on a smoked aubergine salsa and matched their 2004 Merlot blend, a rich Bordeaux style wine, brilliantly. Aged in oak, the wine’s ripe fruit, licorice, walnuts and mulled spice were a perfect complement for the complex flavors of the dish.
Te Awa Winery, in the stony soil area known as Gimblett Gravels, offers the warmth of a roaring fire in the cool of winter and the opportunity to eat out of doors on a summer’s afternoon. The extensive garden affords perfect privacy for a romantic lunch for two or a relaxed family outing, playing petanque on the lawn between courses. We sat on rough-hewn picnic tables in the garden with white tablecloth service. We ordered the Te Awa Tasting Plate, which included a selection of Spanish pork empanadas with minted yogurt dipping sauce, curried pumpkin tartlets with locally made Te Mata goat curd with chili jam, and seared sesame and wasabi crusted yellow fin tuna. Although the tastes were diverse they teamed well with the Te Awa Sauvignon Blanc 2006, a 50% barrel fermented wine that integrates the flavors of ripe stone fruit and citrus, along with mineral notes (a reflection of the gravel soils) and leaves a lingering refreshing after-taste.
Vidal Winery, one of Hawke’s Bay’s oldest boutique wineries, is an unexpected oasis in the midst of the small community of Hastings. Vidal’s, as it is known by locals, offers a choice of dining experiences, ranging from elegant meals in the formal dining room, to lunch under the shade of sixty year old vines in the courtyard, to happy hour snacks in a casual indoor setting around an open fire and surrounded by oak barrels. Vidal’s is well known locally for the their chili squid with kefir lime dressing, a spicy dish which paired wonderfully with the floral and lime aromas and citrus flavors of Vidal’s Marlborough Riesling 2007.
Craggy Range Winery is a recently completed multi-million dollar winery, situated in the picturesque Tuki Tuki River valley, overlooking its own man-made lake, Craggy has, as its backdrop, the dramatic cliffs of Te Mata Peak, making for breathtaking views all around. Its French country style dining room, Terrôir, features an open-fire rotisserie, cooking organic chickens, and a wood fire from which came a number of other dishes. We could not resist selecting the simple, yet impressive looking, whole wood-fired fish seasoned with country herbs and lemon. This dish is artfully complemented by Craggy’s coastal grown Hawke’s Bay Kidnapper’s Chardonnay. The white flowers, fresh straw, pear and freshly picked pineapple flavors resonated with the moist fish making every bite and sip a palate sensation
Mission Estate Winery was established by a French religious order in 1851 and still retains much of the character of its past. From the outdoor terrace, diners are able to take in sweeping views over the Art Deco city of Napier, as far as the coast beyond.
Our waiter recommended their aged beef fillet medallions, char-grilled with a red wine roasted Spanish onion, creamy polenta and red wine jus, a superb example of the European influenced cuisine. This exotic combination paired well with both the Vineyard Selection Merlot 2005 with its rich berry fruit sweetness, and the Jewelstone Syrah 2005, for those who may appreciate Turkish delight flavors with fine sweet tannins and a long finish with hints of cedar and spice.
At Clearview Estate Winery, we found diners relaxing amidst the grapevines, glimpsing the Pacific Ocean only meters away. Clearview’s menu proudly proclaims that they use only the freshest local, organic and artisan produce. Unlike many of the other local restaurants, at Clearview, the herbs, olives, citrus and avocados are all from the estate gardens. We ordered the duck leg, rocket and pear salad, with cornbread and cranberry relish. This autumnal flavored dish paired perfectly with owner-winemaker Tim Turvey’s Pinot Noir des Trois which is produced by blending Pinot Noir grapes from three vineyards in different regions of the country. Described by Tim as "not Pinot Noir for the faint hearted” pinot lovers will find this wine full of black cherry, mocha and red berries dominating the front palate, underpinned with a brambly, earthy solidity of ripe tannins and cedary oak - a superlative match for this sensational signature duck dish.
We found that the Hawke’s Bay wine-growing region is both beautiful and bountiful. With its temperate climate, breathtaking scenery, and row upon row of vines, it is immediately apparent that there is something remarkable about this region. It is not just that the restaurants receive accolades for the high quality of their food, nor is it solely the production of wines that are competitive on the world stage. What sets Hawke’s Bay apart from other wine regions is that both superb food and fine wine are showcased so successfully in partnership, one enhancing the other, taste after extraordinary taste.
Trish Gilmore and Hal Josephson live in San Francisco. Hal writes:
Trish is a native born Kiwi and a Reading Recovery specialist teaching up until last year in the NZ public school system.We met when I went to Auckland in 2004 to help the Company that put GPS technology on the America's Cup yachts so a real-time 3D computer animation could be shown of the race.
I am involved in international business development and marketing strategy and for the past 4 years have been taking business executives into China not to outsource from but to do business in the Chinese market. www.chinaaccess2008.com
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