It was a beautiful day in Hawkes Bay, the sky was blue, the sun shining; it was the perfect day to drink cold wine in the sun with friends. Becks had encouraged us to get tickets and go with her to the Bridge Pa Wine Festival, which she’d been to last year and loved it. The seven participating wineries are part of the Bridge Pa Triangle wine district, so they’re all on three joined up roads – perfect for a hop-on hop-off bus ride.
We decided to start the day at Ngatarawa (pronounced Naa Taa Raa Waa), a beautiful winery housed in a renovated racing stables. Becks recommended we start there because it was so picturesque and she wanted to make sure we definitely saw it (we didn’t want to get too drunk and not make it all the way round). Although it was before 11am, we each got a small glass of wine and found a spot in the shade. We sat at a table between the trees where on one side were the grape vines and the other a beautiful lily pond with a folk band playing behind. As we sat drinking our first glasses I thought to myself, ‘this is what New Zealand is all about!’
Our favourite tipple: Stables Rosé and Sauvignon Blanc
After a couple of glasses each we caught the bus for the first time to the second stop of the day, Ash Ridge. Our wine glasses were attached to string which was looped round our necks so we didn’t lose them (although I almost did on several occasions!). Ash Ridge is a small boutique winery, with a pretty garden but with less charm than Ngatarawa. We had a quick small glass of wine at Ash Ridge, but soon decided to hop back on the bus to see what the next stop on the tour had to offer.
Our favourite tipple: Pinot Gris
Next stop was Paritua, a winery that Becks hadn’t liked much the year before, but we wanted to visit them all so we gave it a go. The main building is large and concrete, and the outside seating area is gravel, but the scenery was rescued by some neat, green hedges. Again, much less picturesque than Ngatarawa – perhaps we made a mistake going to the prettiest one first. Both Grace and I dislike Chardonnay, but we thought a fancy winery would be a good place to try a nice one. Grace thought it was passable, but I have to say I wasn’t a massive fan. The highlight of Paritua for me was the funk and soul music by Boutique, who welcomed us with a great rendition of Earth Wind and Fire’s ‘September’.
Our favourite tipple: another fresh Pinot Gris (and not the Chardonnay!)
The next winery was Sileni, another fairly large stone building, but with a beautiful garden. The day was really heating up and we decided a sparkling Pinot Gris would go down a treat. It was crisp and fruity – large glasses were in order. Toby had Chinese five spice pork belly on a noodle salad to curb his hunger pangs, which he said was tasty but small. We had some more acoustic mellow music from a local band called Verdent Blue.
Our favourite tipple: Sparkling Pinot Gris
We were keen to move on to the next winery, Alpha Domus, not so much for the wine, but for the food they had on offer. I had a yummy lentil and feta sales, Grace had a pork bun and Becks had a Pippi pizza garlic and cheese bread. The wine we had was Viognier, which Grace enjoyed, but Becks and I found it a little bitter. Once we’d finished our lunch and played with their resident dog, Alfie, we hopped back on the bus to Abbey Cellars, our next stop.
Our favourite tipple: We were too distracted by the food and the dog!
Abbey Cellars was where we may have had the tipping point. Becks recommended their mango beer made by the Fat Monk Brewery, which was absolutely delicious. However, as the saying goes, ‘wine before beer, oh dear!’. The bottles were a hefty 500ml, and at 6.6%, packed a punch. We merrily enjoyed sitting in the garden of Abbey Cellars, which was an unusual gothic-meets-contemporary church like building. Feeling very ‘loose’, as Becks would say, we hopped/stumbled back on the bus to go to the final stop, Triangle Cellars.
Our favourite tipple: Mango Infused White IPA
Triangle Cellars was distinctly underwhelming, perhaps because it wasn’t very busy and the food trucks had already shut up shop. There was a very friendly lady working there who recommended their sparkling rosé, which was very fruity and refreshing, but by this stage I think we could’ve drunk anything!
Our favourite tipple: Sparkling Rosé
With about an hour left we decided to get back on the bus one final time and head back to our all round favourite, Ngatarawa for another drink (eek!) and a boogie. Here’s a before and after shot.
The Bridge Pa Wine Festival was a great way to experience a fair few Hawkes Bay wineries in one day. We drank some lovely wine and we now know a little more about what to look out for in the local supermarkets. We’ll definitely be heading to a few more wineries before we leave the bay and look forward to more wine tasting in other wine regions like Marlborough. It’s a hard life!