The Food and Wine Classic summer series kicks off tonight with a cocktail party hosted at Craggy Range in what organiser Annie Dundas says will "set the scene for the whole week".

Ms Dundas, general manager at Hawke's Bay Tourism, is hoping for dry weather and said guests should expect a "very fun night".

About 450 people are expected to attend and will be treated to an array of culinary delights from Craggy Range's own chef Leyton Ashley and Simon Wright from the French Cafe in Auckland.

"The menu is looking out of this world. There's pork and watercress sausages and a wagu shortrib and a very special whitebait sandwich. Everything is matched with Hawke's Bay wines."


Ten different wineries will be featured at the event and champagne will be available courtesy of Euro City who will have a range of cars on display.

The evening will also feature the auction of a Leanne Culy piece, created especially for FAWC.

Ms Culy, who is based in Napier and known for her painted oars, said she was asked to paint on a fork originally. "That was going to be the challenge. Forks are a lot smaller than an oars, so a sort of collaboration was born."

Her husband, Brian, photographed a fork and blew it up to 1.5 metres so that Ms Culy could work her magic.

She said it's "fantastic" to be involved but admits she is nervous about the auction.

"It's always scary when you're own work is being auctioned!"

It is only the second year the event has been held but Ms Dundas said it has taken on a life of it's own.

"The first year we had about 330 people, this year we've got more people and it sold out very quickly, where as it didn't last year. It's really taken off.

" It gets people wound up for the whole week."

She said this year there are quite a few people staying the duration of the 10-day long event. "Last year we had one couple who stayed for probably three quarters of the time and they are back again this year. There are quite a few people coming for the whole time."