A Day of SUP and Wine in Hawke’s Bay

… But not at the same time…

… Although, after seeing how much we’ve improved on our stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) this morning, we definitely think we could spend a day on a SUP board drinking wine.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, this morning we’re doing something pretty cool, we’re going to be having an introductory lesson to the world of SUP or stand-up paddle boarding. It’s a just a quick drive over or around Bluff Hill from our accommodation at Archies Bunker to Napier Harbour. We meet the team at Paddle Boarding Hawke’s Bay, Earl and Elisha, alongside a harbour full of fabulous yachts to get started with our lesson.

A lesson in Stand-up paddle boarding

By giving our height and weight, we are given suitable inflatable SUP boards, that are lying on the grass in front of Earl’s board. We are given tiny life jackets that just strap around the waist (kind of like a fanny pack) and Earl adjusts our paddles to our height. With that, the lesson gets underway with where to stand on the board for optimal balance, how to get from your knees to your feet and vice versa, what to do if you fall off, and more.

Getting out onto the water

10 minutes later comes the hard part: getting on your board in the water for the first time. Or, at least, you get images of the board flipping over, but in reality and with the help of Earl, we get on without incident. Easy!

Starting with our knees, we navigate the harbour following Elisha who takes us down rows of yachts and even doing the Limbo under a low-lying bridge. Once we are more in an open area, it’s time to stand up!

Learning the techniques Learning the techniques
A paddle around Napier A paddle around Napier
Nothing like a splash around to start your day Nothing like a splash around to start your day
Our mode of transport: SUP board! Our mode of transport: SUP board!

Riding the wakes

Following the technique we learned on shore, we make it into the stand position! We’re finally SUPping! Then Earl makes the mean request for us to get back on our knees straight away which appears to be harder than standing up. Nevertheless, it’s a good safety precaution should a boat come out of nowhere causing a bit of a wake. It turns out that the harbour is a great place to practice this incident occurring!

SUP-er comfortable Sup boards

Back on our feet for the rest of the trip, even Robin who has mostly done SUP trips in the past on his knees, we feel like we’re nailing it! The new-found confidence on a SUP board also allows us to appreciate how cruisy stand-up paddle-boarding is. Perhaps the large inflatable boards give us more stability on the water too. Plus, they’re so comfy on the knees and feet that we could definitely end up falling asleep on them.

Limbo back to land

On the way back to shore, we tackle the Limbo bridge actually standing up, showing a bit of obscene flexibility, especially by Robin who is too tall for his own good.

Learning how to stand-up paddle board before 10am is a morning well-spent in our eyes! To reward our new skills, we hop back in the car and head into the Hawke’s Bay wine country for a behind-the-scenes winery tour (complete with tastings).

Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday Morning on a gap year in NEw Zealand

… And then we were in Church Road Winery

From harbourside to a wine estate, we’ve had quite the change in scenery as we walk into a grand cellar door of Church Road Winery with half the room stacked with classic wooden wine barrels.

We sign in for our Behind the Scenes tour, are given an empty wine glass, and the tour quickly gets underway with our guide taking us out into the gardens to introduce Church Road, the oldest commercial winery in New Zealand.

Going behind the scenes of NZ’s oldest winery

When they say “behind the scenes” they mean behind the scenes, as we literally go around to the back of the winery to where the magic happens. Various machinery to separate the grapes and unwanted objects and towering vats are in sight, while our guide talks about the initial process of wine-making.

Our glasses remain empty until we start going down various row of metal vats – huge tanks of fermenting wines. While our guide talks about the technicalities of wine-making, she fills up our glasses straight from the vats, tasting wines through different stages of the fermenting process.

Learning about the first wooden vats in New Zealand Learning about the first wooden vats in New Zealand
And the tasting goes on! And the tasting goes on!
Time to match our wines with these delightful treats Time to match our wines with these delightful treats

Vats of glory

Then we move onto the most impressive sight in the working winery, the giant French oak vats. Church Road was, in fact, the first winery in New Zealand to use such wooden vats to reinforce that oak taste in the wines. Of course, we get a taste from these bad boys too.

A museum inside a wine vat

Behind some rustic wooden doors, our guide takes us into what appears to be the basement of the winery. The dimly-lit floor contains various different rooms with open doorways to pass through. This is Church Road’s very own wine museum, decorated with various scenes from the old wine-making days. The relics of traditional wine-making are perhaps not the most impressive thing about this museum, though. Our guide reveals to us that we are actually standing in what used to be concrete wine vats! Each room used to contain hundreds of litres of wine. The walls actually sparkle with crystals formed by tartaric acid of the wine once stored here.

Wine and food-matching

Back in the glaring daylight, we head the the restaurant for a wine-matching food tasting. As this is the first time we have ever properly matched food and wine, we are thankful that our guide shows us the proper way to do so. We taste five varietals with bite-sized prawns, blue cheese, olives and some sort of deep-fried mac n’ cheese ball (forgive us for forgetting the appropriate name!) We have to say, we did notice a difference in the wine taste before and after tasting the food, with everyone’s taste buds translating different things. The guide insists that there are no “wrong answers” when it comes to tasting wine.

On that note of cinnamon with an aroma of oak, Laura is feeling a little bit tipsy, while Robin understands the value of pouring the wine away once tasted. At least he can drive us back to the Archie’s Bunker in one piece.

Join us tomorrow where we explore a different side of Napier, the criminal justice side in a spooky tour of New Zealand’s oldest prison!

Laura and Robin

Checking out the displays of traditional wine-making in Hawke's Bay
Checking out the displays of traditional wine-making in Hawke's Bay Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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