I have quite elegant visual as well as flavorful memories of my recent visit to the Hawke’s Bay wine region of New Zealand. The vineyards stretch for miles along the seacoast, and the red Bordeaux-style wines are pleasingly well-made, as are the bold Syrah wines – though this is half a world away from France. The major municipality in Hawke’s Bay is Napier, a beautiful town built in the Art Deco style of architecture; it is a one-hour flight (or 5-1/2 hour drive) south of Auckland.
Though I have heard about Central Otago’s famous Pinot Noir wines for years – and sampled some of them – I was completely unprepared for the magical experience of seeing the Central Otago wine region for the first time. We had driven up from Queenstown through a desert-like landscape with steep, rocky mountains on both sides of the highway, surrounded by drab scenery in tans and greys. Then suddenly we went through a mountain pass and a dreamlike green and fertile valley opened up before us, with miles and miles of lush fields, pastures and vineyards surrounding a very large, elongated lake. It was beautiful.
The wines were also wonderful at many of the other well known chateaux, including Mouton Rothschild, Pichon Baron, Leoville Las Cases, Ducru Beaucaillou -- with slightly more or less fruit and tannin depending on their styles and locations.