According to Statistics New Zealand, a late Easter holiday this year helped international tourist numbers to New Zealand surge by 12 percent, or 224,000 clients, in April, compared with the same time last year.
To help agents capitalize on the New Zealand market, Travel Agent revisits a trip we took there last year, uncovering some hidden gems in the country's white wine country, Hawke's Bay.
Here's a recap of the selling points we covered for wine enthusiast that agents should be pushing while the destination is still hot.
The Best Wineries of Hawke’s Bay
The first winery we hit upon during our stay in Hawke’s Bay was also the oldest. In fact, Mission Estate is not only Hawke’s Bay’s very first winery, but it is also the oldest winery in all of New Zealand. Beautifully restored, the award-winning restaurant in this historical seminary (which became a winery roughly 20 years ago) in the Taradale hills dishes out lunch and dinner and has sweeping views of vineyards, Napier and the coast beyond.
We had the privilege of eating lunch here and highly recommend the braised crackled pork belly with a glass of Mission Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2010. Just about every wine we tasted was excellent, but our favorites were the Chardonnay and the Mission Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2012, which is very light and sweet and goes very well with lamb. Agents should mention that all tastings here are free. Visit www.missionestate.co.nz.
We concluded our first day in Hawke’s Bay with a dinner and wine pairing at the second winery on our to-do list, Craggy Range Winery. From its vantage point at the base of the Te Mata Peak escarpment, Craggy Range offers spectacular scenery. Respecting the legend of The Fallen Giant, Craggy Range has named its home Giants Winery.
At the heart of the Giants Winery complex is the Craggy Range Cellar Door, a fitting setting for tasting its single vineyard vintages, many of which are not available elsewhere. For a well-matched food-and-wine experience, head to the Terroir Restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner. Three words of advice: Order the clams. Craggy Range is also a popular wedding destination and includes two self-contained cottages. Visit www.craggyrange.com.
One of Hawke’s Bay’s newest wineries, Elephant Hill, is an architectural marvel, located in Te Awanga, looking across to the Pacific Ocean with excellent views of Cape Kidnappers. A trip here is incomplete without taking back a bottle or two of Chardonnay. Visit www.elephanthill.co.nz.
If one winery per day doesn’t suit your clients’ desires, tell them about the Winery Tours from On Yer Bike. New Zealand has 19 official cycle trails—three of them in Hawke’s Bay, best-known as the Hawke’s Bay Trails.
Travel Agent also took part in the “wineries ride,” taking in the cellar doors and vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa wine-growing areas. On Yer Bike offers a unique, one-day, cycling experience, giving visitors the opportunity to taste some of Hawke’s Bay’s finest foods and wines while enjoying the scenery.
The total distance around the Ngatarawa Triangle, including six wineries, is roughly 17 miles. The terrain is flat and easy to ride on. Agents should book these tours weeks in advance if you have clients going in the very popular months of February and March as there are only about 50 bikes available.
The best wineries we saw on this tour were Trinity Hill; Ash Ridge Wines, which is where the bike tour begins; and Ngatarawa. Trinity Hill has three ranges of wines including its renowned Homage wine and the vineyard’s top-of-the-line Syrah that goes for roughly $120 a bottle. Our favorite wine here, however, was the much more affordable 2011 Arneis, an Italian food-friendly white variety that goes excellently with cheeses and cold cuts.
In late 2008, the Wilcock and Peet family established Ash Ridge Wines to produce a range of premium wines using fruit from their own vineyards. The winery now produces a range of four wines, two from each vineyard. The best wine here is the Syrah, which was a little less peppery than the other bottles of Syrah we had on this tour, making it smoother and slightly crisper to drink.
Ngatarawa is located in the Bridge Pa Triangle, a sub-region of Hawke’s Bay on the old Ngaruroro riverbed. This is a smaller, boutique winery with perhaps the best Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc we tried on our trip. Visit www.onyerbikehb.co.nz.