NESTLED, A BIT like a secret garden, in the centre of Havelock North behind Porters Hotel is Smith & Sheth Oenothèque - an amazing space with a unique purpose - making top quality wines accessible to everyone.
First there is the cellar door - yes a cellar door in the middle of the village - then there is the cosy wine lounge. However, it was the Heretaunga Studio that blew me away. More about that later.
The tasting room is where you get to taste the stunning Smith & Sheth wines.
The story behind Smith & Sheth is one of determination and a desire to bring wine to the people rather than the people going to the wine.
Steve Smith, who played a huge part in founding Craggy Range, and Brian Smith decided to do something different and work as contemporary negociants.
Together they purchased two New Zealand wineries, Pyramid Valley and Lowburn Ferry. They also scoured the country looking for special vineyard parcels.
Chief executive officer of Aotearoa NZ Fine Wine Estates, Michael Henley, said their intention was to find great growers so they could produce beautiful wines. Their CRU labels is testament to this.
"We not only find the best possible grapes for our wines, we also pay attention to our culture. Every wine has Maori designation that relates to its whenua (land) origins such as the Smith & Sheth CRU Heretaunga Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2016," Michael said.
Smith & Sheth opened its doors just before Christmas and they are thrilled with the response from the public.
"At Smith & Sheth you get to sit down at a table and one of our sommeliers, Troy or Sonia, who are both from the US and have amazing wine knowledge, will take you through our menu of seven wines which have been made in Hawke's Bay with the grapes sourced from the very best vineyards.
"We are firm believers in buying from vineyards of exceptional quality to produce some of the best wine in the country. Our first wines have been a runaway success and we want to share the pleasure we get from our wines with you."
The tasting room is just beautiful. Think leather, wood, velvet, soft lighting, elegant glasses - the attention to detail is evident everywhere you look.
There is also the option to use a tasting app and email the results to yourself. No more trying to remember a week later what that exceptional wine was you tasted. You have a record of it. Guests are also encouraged to "doodle" on the back of the coasters.
"It's a bit of fun, really. We get all sorts of comments and some great drawings."
The wine lounge is inviting and cosy.
"Come along and have a glass of wine after work or perhaps before or after dining out. It's a lovely place to meet with friends and just relax," Michael said.
After looking around the cellar door and wine bar, Michael took me to the Heretaunga Studio.
He gave nothing away as we approached double doors except to say this was the third part of Smith & Sheth and they were very proud of it.
I couldn't see anything through the glass doors except darkness. He opened the door and as I stepped inside, a waiate began and ... I promised I wouldn't give it away.
I will tell you that I was in awe of what they have done in the Heretaunga Studio. On their website it says, "Experience our culture of wine with a personalised tasting and sensory journey through our craft. You'll enjoy tasting through our family of wines across distinctive regions in New Zealand, exclusive samples direct from the barrel, and revel in audio-visual delight in our intimate studio theatre."
The wines tasted in the Heretaunga Studio are not available in the wine bar. They are top of the line.
The experience lasts for an hour to an hour and a half. I was only in there for 10 minutes and came away understanding just why they are so proud of the Heretaunga Studio - it is fantastic.
The Cellar Door is open from 10am until 4pm, then you can move through to the wine bar which is open from 4pm until 8.30pm. Bookings are not essential unless you have a group of more than six "then we'd appreciate a call ahead if possible" on 06 650 5550.
Bookings are essential for the Heretaunga Studio.
Platters available all day.