It's always wine o'clock in Hawke's Bay. One of the best things about living in this region is having wineries and vineyards at my finger tips. It's not often that you can climb a mountain and stop for a bottle of wine and a cheese platter afterward, but in Hawke's Bay, it totally flies! While I'd probably never even consider wearing my hiking boots to a wine tasting in Sonoma, there's something so friendly, rugged and unpretentious about most of the wineries I've visited in Hawke's Bay.
But if I had to choose an all-around class act winery, it would be Black Barn Vineyards. They've got it all. Black Barn Vineyards is a boutique vineyard located about 20 minutes from Napier. Award-winning wines aside, Black Barn Vineyards has mastered the overall winery experience. (As an Advertising graduate, I absolutely love the brand experience that they've created.) Here are a few Black Barn experiences that are not to be missed!
Open air cinema
Here’s a must do for summertime in Hawke's Bay: Movie Night at Black Barn's Open Air Cinema. Every Saturday in the summer months (December to February) locals and tourists nestle into the contoured grass in the middle of the vineyards for wine, nibbles and movies. Bring your own food and buy their wine!
This was one of the first activities we did when my sister Gabrielle and I arrived in New Zealand. She and I opted for some cheese, olives, and crackers; and Joe opted for some classy bucket of KFC (an excellent pairing with wine). We settled into the hillside with a bottle of Black Barn Sauvignon Blanc and watched The Great Gatsby - quite fitting for the Art Deco town we'd just moved to. It was such a neat experience and a fun night! From then, I knew I would have no problem settling into this little wine country.
Under the halo of Plane trees in the heart of the vineyard, you'll find the Grower's Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings through summer. Here you'll find fresh seasonal produce, breads, flowers, meats (don't miss sampling the local venison sausage!) and vendor's like Mexi Mama serving up their delicious pulled pork quesadillas.
I can't wait for summer to arrive, so I can finally have some artichokes which I've been craving so much. Sun flickering through the tree branches and live acoustic music dancing through the vineyard always sets the tone for a great weekend.
During one of our visits the Grower's Market, we were lucky enough to catch SOL3 MIO, a Samoan group of opera singers, warming up for a concert in the open air cinema. Their voices traveled over to the market, and we just had to follow. So we made ourselves comfortable in the sun and enjoyed a few songs. Their voices echoed through the vineyard, giving me chills. It was one of those moments that I couldn't help but think, "Gosh, I'm lucky."
Black Barn hosts a number of concerts throughout the year at the open air cinema and inside the circle of trees where the Grower's Market is held. Joe and I caught Pokey Lafarge in the grower's market area during the summer for some good ole fashion American roots music. Their sound almost reminded me of something out of 'Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.' Despite a torrential downpour, it was still a fun show! We huddled under the canvas booths to stay dry and made friends with the locals.
New Zealand is such an outdoorsy place, that when it rains, I'm often at a loss for what to do. Solution: sit yourself down in a lovely indoor space and enjoy good food. Craving some perfectly paired food and wine? Head over to the Bistro at Black Barn. Joe and I finally made reservations this past weekend for a Sunday lunch there. Although the weather was a bit cloudy, the atmosphere inside was warm and relaxing, and the view was still gorgeous. With a little French jazzy music humming through the speakers and a glass of Black Barn Tuki Tuki Sauvignon Blanc in my hand, I melted into my seat and savored my meal.
Joe enjoyed the creamy seafood medley, while I delighted in my tamarind glazed grouper with vegetable spring rolls over a bed of jasmine rice. Ugh, I'm still dreaming about it. I can't wait to return in the summer to enjoy the seasonal menu and outdoor atmosphere as well.
As if a winery, market, open air cinema and bistro wasn't enough, Black Barn also offers 16 unique rental properties around the region for vacation rental. While I've yet to have the privilege of staying at one, from what I've seen, they are absolutely stunning! I can imagine they'd be perfect for a luxury getaway with friends, for hosting wedding guests or a romantic weekend for 2. What better way to enjoy Hawke's Bay wine country than sleeping in the heart of the vineyards.