"The Unexpected Journey"
28.03.2013 - 01.04.2013 22 °C
The strap line The Unexpected Journey from the film The Hobbit seemed appropriate as I'd just been to Hobbiton and prior to my arrival in New Zealand I did not have any plans to visit the North Island's East Coast. However when the opportunity arose to spend Easter with family in Hawke's Bay it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
Hastings is the largest town on Hawke's Bay, renowned for its fertile farmlands, almost Mediterranean climate and red wine. My second cousin and his wife have a small holding a few miles out of town where they are growing vines, truffles and olive trees in readiness for when in a few years time the time comes to give up their day job. It's an idealic spot, far away from the bustle of the town with only crops, sheep, cattle, trees and crags visible on the gentle hills around it. On most days we also the saw the occasional hawk close by surveying the land below for prey.
Much of the front is given over to Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc vines and I had my fingers crossed that I would be there to help bring in the 2013 vintage which was very close to being ready for picking. However it wasn't to be and I missed out by 2 days while we waited for the brix (measure of the vines sugar content) to reach the magical 23 mark but I did get to see where the wine is made. Not surprisingly the process was very similar to what I had seen on the winery tour in Margaret River WA a fortnight before but on a smaller scale.
In addition to the wine my cousin and his wife also produce a range of delicious liquors such as damson and walnut. There was an olive grove and beside them rows of young trees such as oak cultivated to harvest the truffles growing from the spores planted amongst their roots. There were vegetable and herb plots and there was also a bee hive I narrowly missed out doning a bee suit for to help harvest the honey. There were a handful of chickens inquisitively running about and also a ewe with three lambs. One of these had been slaughtered the previous day (they picked the one who kept escaping through the fence as he was causing too much extra work!) and I watched as the carcass was carved up for the freezer.
On Easter Sunday we went down first thing to the farmers market held in Hastings where the large range of fresh produce was all grown locally (including not surprisingly for Hawke's Bay some wine) and had a cooked breakfast before wandering amongst the stalls deciding what we were going to cook for dinner. Afterwards we drove up to Te Mata Peak (1,309 feet, 399 metres) from where there were terrific views across the whole of Hawke's Bay, much of the surrounding valleys and on a clear day even as far as Mount Ruapehu. There was also a ramp for hang gliders to jump from - this is New Zealand after all!