Cycle tour's wine-ding road

By Corey Charlton

Hawke's Bay has many well-known features but it also has some hidden gems that even locals don't know much about. We are searching for those tiny bits of magic. They could be people who are quietly doing wonderful things, businesses or tourism ventures taking off or undiscovered slices of paradise. In this series, Hawke's Bay Today celebrates the unsung successes in our region.

The much-heralded bicycle winery tours around Hawke's Bay are one of the region's major tourism selling points.

In particular, the Taradale trail boasts a number of deservedly renowned stops, such as Mission Estate Winery, Church Road Winery and the Filter Room.

However, it is the much less trumpeted but arguably more affable Brookfields Winery which is the true highlight of this trail.

A decent cycle down a long gravel driveway past dozens of rows of grapes, in scorching heat, and with a t-shirt stuck to the body in sweat works up the thirst. It is only then that one arrives at the cellar door and in the capable hands of tasting guide Sharon Robertson.

Sitting amongst the wine barrels in a cool and darkened cellar, the visitor is offered the full range of Brookfield wines, with generous samplings accompanied by wit, knowledge and a passion for her product.

While she is quick to assert that some have a tendency to romanticise owning a winery, this is unsurprising when you experience Brookfield, as her basic tasting guidance is underlined by a subtle, subconscious and masterful lament of an ancient craft adapting to the modern world. One leaves dismayed with the realisation the age of the $20 supermarket wine is upon us.

Owned by Mrs Robertson and her husband and winemaker Peter Robertson, the family business is the result of decades of hard work. Mr Robertson purchased it in 1977 when he was 26 years old.

"We're at the boutique end, but for us it is fulfilling a dream that we've always had," he says. "I've never wanted a large winery. It's a family winery and, for me, that's very special."

An emphasis was placed on "one on one" engagement with their visitors.

"I think if you can't give visitors a good experience you shouldn't be doing cellar door. We have people that have been coming to us for years and years, and obviously, if they have a bad experience they wouldn't come back."

Far from a bad experience, it is a throwback, an insight and a compelling journey into a winery with wonderfully cultivated character.

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Do you know of a person or place which is a hidden gem in Hawke's Bay? Please email and include a contact phone number.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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