Sunny and surf-washed the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula seems an unlikely location for viticulture. But Cooks Beach on the shores of Mercury Bay is ideal for growing pinot noir. The area enjoys a unique microclimate and the considerable day/night temperate exchange extends the growing season and assists with flavour development.
Mercury Bay is a historic inlet where Captain James Cook observed the transit of the planet Mercury on 10 November 1769. Five days later, while still there, he took possession of New Zealand in the name of King George 111. His shore station is now called Cooks Beach. Unfortunately for Cook and his crew there were no wineries where they could enjoy a knees-up to celebrate the event.
With long careers in the New Zealand and Italian wine industries behind them, Simon and Veronica Ward knew the Mercury Bay Estate — vineyard, winery, cellar door and restaurant — was the perfect venture for them. The stunning property is located at Cook’s Beach on the Coromandel Peninsula and is compact and very hands-on.
Veronica is proudly Italian. ‘In our restaurant kitchen we definitely embrace the Italian mentality,’ she says. ‘Use the best quality products available and don’t over complicate things. Simplicity is often better. The same applies to our grape production. All the grapes are hand-harvested, allowing for a high level of quality control, which ensures only the best fruit is used to make our wines.’
‘What I love about wine is the joy of discovery,’ observed Andrew Lloyd Webber, musical theatre composer. ‘It’s the fact that wine is so obviously affected by what people do to create it.’