Hawke's Bay syrah is now well and truly top of the vine.

As is Hawke's Bay Villa Maria, which has claimed the New Zealand Wine of the Year Champion 2019 Trophy with its Cellar Selection Syrah Hawke's Bay 2018.

The trophy was handed to the delighted Villa Maria crew at the national awards event held in Blenheim over the weekend — and to top the evening off nicely they also picked up two other awards in the Champion Syrah Trophy and the Champion Wine of Provenance Trophy with their Reserve Gimblett Gravels Syrah Hawke's Bay.

It was the second year in a row Villa Maria's Hawke's Bay wines had gathered up a treble of awards at the prestigious event, which had previously been known as the Air New Zealand Wine Awards.


And at the 2018 event their syrahs won two of the categories.

Hawke's Bay-based Villa Maria chief winemaker Nick Picone said it was a huge result for the whole devoted winemaking and viticulture team, as putting the 2018 vintage together had been "challenging".

It was achieved in the wake of Mother Nature delivering a few weather challenges as well as at a time when their new winery was being built at the Te Awa vineyard site off SH50.

"We were trying to get the wines finished and the workers were still coming in every day to finish off the winery," he said.

"So this was a massive result for us and it shows the quality of the vineyards and all the people involved."

He had been unable to attend the event as he and partner Mandy's young daughter was playing soccer for her regional age group in Napier and he wanted to be there for that.

"But the crew kept me in touch during the awards — and it sounded like they were having a pretty good time."

The latest accolades added to an already impressive year of national and international awards for Villa Maria, and highlighted the now international-class syrahs and Bordeaux-style red blends coming out of the Bay.


In terms of maybe making it two New Zealand Wine of the Year awards in a row at the 2020 event, he laughed and said the 2019 season had been amazing and there were some very exciting wines in the barrels.

"So, no excuses."

Chair of Judges Warren Gibson described the winning wine as "immediately appealing and seductive on the nose — delicious and savoury on the palate — exceptionally well crafted".

There was further fine spotlight on Hawke's Bay at the event, with Church Road Winery winning the inaugural New Zealand Cellar Door of the Year Award.

The award was developed to recognise "outstanding" visitor experiences that wineries were able to offer domestic and international visitors.

There had been 32 cellar doors across eight regions in the running.

Judges noted that Church Road's cellar door "celebrated wine in the past and present with an eye on the future — with a wide range of different, immersive and interactive experiences available for visitors".