Our friends Sherilyn and Matt were driving up North for the holidays and invited us to join for the weekend. Impromptu trip to Hawke’s Bay? Yes, please!

Hawke’s Bay is an area well known for its wineries, about four hours northeast of Wellington.

We had to, once again, drive over the Rimutaka Ridges, but it was actually quite an enlightening experience. It turns out that I can make it through that drive without getting carsick…as long as Dmitriy isn’t driving!

Along the way we passed through Greytown, just north of Martinborough, where we grabbed some fresh strawberries to hold us over until lunch. Though we didn’t get to try it, apparently many of the farms have stands along the streets where they mix fresh fruit into vanilla ice cream—something we’re looking forward to next time.

Once we arrived in the Hawke’s Bay area, we made it to a few wineries. It was a gorgeous day—about 75 degrees with stunning sun—and we enjoyed a tasting at Abbey Cellar and then lunch outside while listening to some live music. Next, we went to Alpha Domus where we tried their standout Chardonnay. After a tasting at Te Mata, we made the drive up to Te Mata Peak. We were short on time so we had to cheat and skip the hike, but it was well worth the view. For the thrill-seekers, there are two launch pads for paragliding (or perhaps squirrel suiting? I’m looking at you, Dad.)

After Te Mata Peak, we made it to one more winery: Askerne Estate. With quite an enthusiastic sommelier, we learned a ton about food pairings and tasted several great wines. The Bordeaux blend, Rosé and Viognier were all fantastic.

We had an accommodation in Havelock North, just a short walk to the restaurants and shops in town. We went to Pipi’s for dinner, and while they’re known for their pizza, we had some tasty main dishes and great desserts—shout out to the date pudding.

The next morning we woke up and went to the Sunday Farmers’ Market in Hastings. The park was filled with stalls offering tastings and selling products to enjoy on spot or take home. From cheese and cider, to hot sauce and fruit, we had a great time wandering from stall to stall trying the local produce and soaking up the sun.

Our flight back to Wellington wasn’t until the early evening, which meant we had time for a couple more wineries. We went to Elephant Hill, located right along the water. This winery had quite a few standouts: their 2013 Chardonnay was one of the best I’ve tasted and though a bit pricey, the Hieronymus—a dry, red blend—was a highlight.

I can’t remember the name of the last winery we went to…but it wasn’t particularly great and we were awkwardly crashing someone’s wedding, so perhaps it’s best left unsaid.

We also had time to wander through Napier, which I highly recommend passing through if you have the chance. There was an earthquake in this area in 1931 that completely leveled the city. It was rebuilt in the popular Art Deco style of that time, much of which has been conserved to this day. It felt like entering into time warp. We had lunch at Mister D, though we mostly went for the dessert: deliciously fried donuts served alongside alcohol-infused fillings loaded into syringes. You inject your donut with a filling of your choice and enjoy!

If you couldn’t gather from our frequenting of wineries, we’ve learned so much about wine since coming to NZ. We’ve had a hard time finding the deep, full-bodied reds that we’re used to back in the States (as the climate here is just not warm enough), but because of that, we’ve been introduced to some spectacular whites…I’m looking at you, my delightful, oaky Chardonnay.

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