Wine tasting with Frankly Tours

We wake in Waipataki and walk a few minutes down to the beach. A small golden sandy bay, enclosed by rugged looking hills, a world away from the city. The waves are big and the tides are strong. I wouldn’t recommend swimming here unless you are a confident swimmer. I’m not, but can manage a paddle in the surprisingly warm water. The morning colours are starting to appear through the clouds. This beautiful little place is still and peaceful.

I wish I could stay longer. However, our wine tasting tour is calling.

Hawake’s Bay is the oldest wine region in New Zealand and the second largest. Today, we are joining Frankly Tours  to help guide us in our wine tasting experience.

At first I was disappointed to learn that the owner, Frank, would not be our tour guide. Frank has many excellent reviews! I need not have worried though, Mark was an excellent host. Friendly and knowledgeable, we were in great hands.

We visit 4 quite different vineyards, the first being the oh so grand and elegant Mission Estate. (Mission estate is another winery that holds concerts amongst the vines.)

Established in 1851, it is New Zealand’s oldest winery. The building exudes elegance. A grandiose colonial styled building with a tree lined driveway, central water fountain and a foliage engulfed porch to welcome you in.

We try 6 wines here while a Mission Estate host shares his knowledge of wine making with us. I learn that pinot grapes grow really well in Otago but not in Hawkes Bay. This is because the pinot grapes have very thin skin and cannot manage with the heat Hawkes bay gets. I also learn that Shiraz and Syrah are made from the same type of grapes.

We then move onto Moana Park, a small boutique winery producing 100% plant based wines. We wine taste, alfresco style, under walnut trees, while snacking on fresh bread, olive oil and homemade dukkah. My favourite wine was from here. A 2019 sauvignon blanc. I’m not normally a fan of sauvignon, but this one was delicious. I wish I had bought more than just one bottle. Small places like this can sell out fast. My advise – if you like it, buy it. You might not get another chance!

After a scenic drive through the country side, we arrive at Oak Estate Wines It is run by and Austrian couple and their wines have a European taste to them. The land in this area was no good for growing crops or raising stock, but it was discovered to be the perfect place for growing grape vines. A platter of delectable treats was included with this wine tasting. The burnt butter mousse was outstanding.

Back into the van and onto the next place. I am quite please we are such a small tour group today (just the 4 of us and our driver Mark) it means there is lots of room on the back seats for our quickly growing collection of wines!

We arrive at Unison Vineyard, our 4th stop and by now I am struggling to walk in a straight line. I have tasted so many wines! We are each asked what type of wines we like and our host tailors the tastings for each of us. We are told a bit about the technicalities of corking wine, but to be honest, I am far too happy to take any of it in.

I leave Unison Vineyard with a few more bottles of wine feeling very merry. We have one last stop – Roosters Brewery . I am not a fan of beer, so opt to have a cider instead. Daniel gets the beer tasting paddle. I am not sure how he managed it, they were very generous servings. Paired with some hot chips; it was a great way to finish off the tour.

Hawkes Bay produces some excellent wines. With Frankly Tours we were able to sample a huge range of wines in a fun and hassle free manor. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend Frankly Tours, it was the perfect way to spend the afternoon. To end the day, Daniel and I decide to head back to Mission Estate for dinner.

We have an early start the next morning. I’m talking on the road by 6am early. My lovely husband forgot that he had someone coming over to our house in the morning to interview him about his turbo motorbike!!

The advantage to this early morning car ride home is that it’s much cooler and I get to see a sunrise – even if it is from the car window.


Car Sauna, a Swanky Macca’s and Dancing under the Stars

Hawkes Bay, it’s one of those places that, whenever I visit, I am left pondering why I don’t live there. Don’t get me wrong, I love Wellington, but the weather is often far less than favourable. But in Hawkes Bay, the sun shines, vineyards are plentiful, fresh produce abounds and everyday life looks like a beach holiday.

Napier is where we are heading today. I am looking forward to the promise of a sun drenched weekend. The car is packed, we are ready to go, but first we have to drop Frank and Ed off at the pet sitters. Somehow, Frank and Ed have more luggage as us. Yes, my dogs are spoilt.

Napier is a 4 hour’s drive from Wellington, but it felt so much longer! The aircon in our car doesn’t work and OMG, it was such a hot drive up. (My husband wants me to mention that it hasn’t worked for years because I didn’t want to pay $800 to get it fixed. I made my bed and now I am sweating in it!) I was so happy to finally arrive and get some water and an ice cream, even if it was from McDonalds.

Believe it or not, our McDonald’s experience was actually pretty cool.

In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Hawkes Bay region, completely devastating the area, including Napier. When Napier was rebuilt, it was done in the current fashion of the era – Art Deco style. Everywhere you go, you will see an amazing variety of art deco styled buildings, including the McDonald’s building. I don’t think I will ever see such a swanky McDonald’s in my life – stained glass windows, ceiling rosettes, décor in the typical 1930’s design and art work, depicting the way of life in this bygone era. If you’re in Napier, be sure to check out the Taradale McDonald’s

Every year in February, the city holds an Art Deco Festival Weekend. People dress up, ride around in vintage cars, attend Gatsby picnic’s and much more. I love how the city has embraced the era.

Writing about it now, I think it needs to go on my bucket list.

The reason we are in Napier though is not to go to and Art Deco Mcdonald’s or attend Art Deco weekend. We are here to see Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminal’s concert at Church Road Vineyard.

Every year, Napier holds a variety of concerts in some of their beautiful wineries. They have had a multitude of famous artist such as Elton John, Michael Buble, Sting, Eric Clapton and more, filling the vineyards with songs. This is my first time attending one of these events and I am really looking forward to it.

We arrive as the doors are opening and find a spot on the lawn to set up our picnic. (You can take your own food in.) There are a number of food trucks you can purchase meals and snacks from, as well as wines from the vineyard and beer.

The atmosphere was great. A warm summer night, dancing barefoot in the grass under the stars. A delectable picnic on hand, wine and some great music.

What more could you want?

Things did get a little awkward as the day turned to night and picnics turned into a concert as wine filled people started tripping over picnic baskets. I wouldn’t recommend setting up your picnic right in front of the stage!

We spend the night out at a friend’s batch at a remote beach called Waipataki. The night air is filled with the sounds of the ocean, chirping crickets and a house party singing ‘don’t go out in the pouring rain’

Away from the city and light pollution the stars are magnificent. I have always had a fascination with stars and it has been a long time since I have seen a night sky this clear, the Milky Way is stunning.  I was disappointed I didn’t think to pack the camera. My cell phone camera won’t pick up this incredible moment.

Next time.