Tukituki tiki tour of tastebud treats

Words by Alex Hannagan, for the Otago Daily Times

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Nothing beats getting away for a mini-break these days, especially when our lives have felt slightly mundane after what we have endured over the past 18 months. A change of scenery? Yes, please!

Our mini escape started with a late evening flight to Wellington where we met up with friends. Early the next morning we drove eagerly to Hawke’s Bay with no stops and reservations for our 1 pm lunch date at the Bistro at Black Barn Winery, about a four-hour drive.

Having not been to this part of New Zealand for some time I was very eager and excited to sample the amazing food and wine this region has to offer, with the best backdrop you could ask for.

The Bistro’s a la carte menu is exquisite and we should not have been surprised, knowing that Hawke’s Bay is one of the largest organic growing regions in New Zealand.

After much deliberation (people that know me will understand this) I decide on the onion and smoked cheddar arancini for a starter and for a main, the market fish: hapuku with a risotto of grains and mussels, roasted cabbage, fishbone sauce and crayfish mayo. I devoured each and every bite, matched with a glass of Black Barn rose followed by a beautiful Pinot Gris.

Time swiftly came around for us to uplift our keys to Riverside Lodge 2, on the banks of the Tukituki River. All I can say is wow!

We entered our three-bedroom haven through the rather impressive entrance that leads to a very welcoming outdoor area with a pool. It was slightly too cold to have a dip so after quickly settling we nestled into the sitting room to lounge in front of the roaring fire and discuss tomorrow’s ventures.

It was an early start the next morning with a big day ahead of us, so we cooked up our gourmet breakfast hamper full of local produce supplied by Black Barn which definitely set us up for the rest of the day.

After breakfast, our luxury Mercedes 16-seater van pulled up outside the lodge - time for the winery tour to begin!

Over the next few hours, transported in style, we enjoyed wonderful wine tasting at Seleni, Te Mata and Craggy Range wineries. I loved the fact each winery has its own unique history and story that flowed through to the wine we were tasting, creating a great experience for us all.

In between our wine tastings we stopped off for lunch and cider tasting at the Three Wise Birds Garden Bar, set among the orchards where they grow all their own apples to make the cider you are sipping. On a sunny day it is such a sun trap, so proved very hard to leave.

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Later that afternoon we were dropped off back at our Riverside lodges to relax, shower and get ready for dinner. Local chef Terry Lowe arrived at our lodge to create our very own Hawke’s Bay dinner — so exceptional, it was well worth the trip from Dunedin to experience.

Tying into the theme of our weekend away, I discovered that the word Seleni was inspired from ancient Greek mythology meaning the love of wine, feasting and having a good time. Enough said.

For more information about Black Barn Retreats click here