Englishman Robert Bird first planted grapes and built his winery here in the Esk Valley in 1933, including the concrete fermentation vats still used today. One of Hawke’s Bay’s most famous cellar doors, Esk Valley boasts superb sea views. Sue Cranswick has been in charge of the tasting room for eons, having started with the company in 1991 – there’s nothing she can’t tell you about the wines or the history of this place.
Things to know
Since the late 1980s, winemaker Gordon Russell and the expert viticultural team here have steered Esk Valley towards many of New Zealand’s most prestigious wine awards. His nickname is “Mr Merlot”, thanks to a long list of successes with the variety, and now he’s able to lend his talents to riesling, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir sourced from Marlborough.
If there’s such a thing as a cult wine in this country, Esk Valley’s The Terraces fits the description. It’s released only in years when the terraced vines on the banks above the winery produce an exceptional vintage. Rarer whites, including chenin blanc and verdelho, are also tasted at their best here.
Soak up the view from a picnic table in the sun; plus, if you ask politely, you might be taken on a tour of the quirky, maze-like winery.