Luxury Adventures are conducting a series of interviews with some of our key suppliers looking at the different aspects of their lives and how these influence the experiences they offer. Near the banks of the famed Tukituki River in the Hawkes Bay you’ll find supernatural accommodation in the form of Millar Road – a seriously stylish abode just waiting for you.
How would you describe the Millar Rd experience and why should people choose you over another property? We are biased, but we think we have one of the best sites in “the Bay”, overlooking our vineyard, orchards, farmland and the Pacific Ocean. As well as the amazing views, we set out to create a truly New Zealand experience with our accommodation. So the buildings hark back to New Zealand river baches (holiday homes) of old, while the interiors are very modern with furniture and art by leading New Zealand practitioners and all designed with travellers in mind.
You seem to have your fingers in many pies so to speak, tell me what else you’re involved in besides Millar Rd? We launched our wine “The Supernatural” in late 2009 using grapes from our vineyard at Millar Road – our wine is a field blend of the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris grapes grown on the estate. We farm the vineyard organically and vinify naturally because we think it’s important not to add acid, sugar, fish, egg, milk, etc. We want to taste terroir, and feel purity – when we’re drinking, and the next morning. The wine is a very atypical Sauvignon Blanc for New Zealand with specific spicy and smoky notes which come from our soil type, and the concentration we get from being on a hillside. Our vines are now 10 years old – vine age and the growing health of the vines and soil through organic farming is improving the quality of our wine every year. The Supernatural is primarily sold in avant garde bars, restaurants and retailers across the US, Canada, UK, Scandinavia, Europe and New Zealand. Guests at Millar Road enjoy a complimentary bottle on arrival!
There are several great dining options in the Hawkes Bay region, what do you recommend? One of our favourite places to eat is Taste Cornucopia in Hastings. It is a daytime cafe in a largely unexciting part of Hastings, but the chef James Beck came back a couple of years ago from working in a series of Michelin-starred places in Europe and set up this amazing little cafe. All of the food is organic and locally-sourced and we know James would love to create a farm to table restaurant at some point in the future. He does dinners on “Tasty Fridays” where you can have Michelin star quality food at cafe prices. Our other current favourite is the new “Mr D” in Napier which is open 7.30am to 4.30pm every day and also for dinner Wednesday to Saturday. They make all their own bread, pasta and pastries daily and they use only fresh Hawke’s Bay produce.
If you visit the Hawkes Bay region undoubtedly you’ll end up visiting a winery – tough to answer with so many world class wineries but give us your top 5? Te Mata Estate is a consistent favourite because they take a traditional, quality focused and meticulous approach to everything they do, and their Coleraine is consistently ranked as New Zealand’s leading red wine. Craggy Range and Elephant Hill have to be visited for the experience – both have been built with no expense spared so their cellar doors and restaurants are amazing. We are also supporters of artisan and organic producers in Hawke’s Bay. Stonecroft is the original Gimblett Gravels producer and now farms organically. Murdoch is also an organic producer on the Gimblett Gravels. Appointment only boutique producers creating really interesting wines are Dada, Bilancia and Easthope. We can help arrange appointments for guests.
Aside from wine tasting what else do you recommend guests see and do in the region? Whats ‘not to miss’? As well as the wineries, Hawke’s Bay has a thriving food scene. If you are there on the weekend, the Black Barn Farmers Market on Saturdays or the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Market on Sundays are both great for picking up artisan food products or just drinking coffee and people watching. If you are a golfer, then playing a round of links golf at the Cape Kidnappers course on a peninsula jutting out into the Pacific Ocean is spectacular. Or if you feel like simply chilling out by the sea, we have huge, uncrowded golden sand ocean beaches 20 minutes south of Millar Road. We produce “The List” for our guests which is our one-page biased guide to our favourite things to do in Hawke’s Bay taking in the main attractions plus giving tips for the best coffee, eating and drinking, shopping and art experiences.
You’ve got a weeks holiday, where would you go in NZ other than Hawkes Bay and why? People always underestimate the size of New Zealand and think they can do the whole place in two or three weeks. Our advice is to choose the areas that you would most like to visit and make sure that you do them justice individually, rather than rushing from one spot to another. For something a bit different, spending a couple of days driving around the East Cape of the North Island will provide a glimpse of untouched New Zealand plus some quite stunning scenery and incredible beaches. And of course, you have to spend time on the West Coast on the way to or from Queenstown. Standing on the beach looking up at the Southern Alps is pretty special.
Ive been a big fan of the Hawkes Bay region ever since visiting the annual wine festival on a regular basis years ago. What other events in the region are worth coming for? The wine and food event changed shape as of late 2012 and is now a two part affair with week-long festivals in winter and summer. It’s called Food & Wine Classic (F.A.W.C.) and is a series of sophisticated food and wine events at different locations around Hawke’s Bay. With Napier being an Art Deco city, there are several Art Deco related events during the year, including the Art Deco weekend in February. It is a fantastic atmosphere with everyone dressed up in Art Deco clothes, classic cars from all around the country, vintage aircraft flyovers, the Art Deco picnic and general good fun. Other events worth making a special trip to Hawke’s Bay for include the Great Long Lunch in February, the Mission Concert in January or February with 25,000 guests in an open air natural amphitheatre (this year it’s Barry Gibb from the Bee Gees!) and the Black Barn amphitheatre season from December to March with live concerts and open air cinema. There really is so much going on from November to March that it’s almost impossible not to strike something good.
Whats the make up of your guests, more local or international and predominantly which countries? We have a very strong following in New Zealand and many many return guests which is great. Australians have finally discovered New Zealand and Hawke’s Bay, so we have had an increase from across the Tasman over the last few years – we have several guests who also visit us once or twice a year. After that it is the UK and the US – numbers have been down a bit in the last couple of years due to the crisis, but it is encouraging to now see those guests returning, particularly out of the US. And we have noticed an increasing trend out of Asia, in particular Hong Kong and Singapore.
Having stayed there in the past I can endorse this! I’m hot and parched poolside at Millar Rd what do you recommend? Well, of course it has to be a super chilled crisp glass of our wine “The Supernatural”, perhaps accompanied by some organic goat’s cheese picked up at one of the Farmers Markets. We also have cocktail making facilities in our pool bar so you can also knock up the perfect G&T if you so desire!
I notice a number of art galleries in the area, for those interested in New Zealand artists where would you send them? Hawke’s Bay has a really nice arts scene and some very strong artists based there. We send our guests to Black Barn Gallery where Bron Thorp has a really good stable of artists, Paper-works in Napier which specialises in easily transportable works on paper and Judith Anderson Gallery (by appointment). The Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery is due to re-open in April 2013 after a multi million dollar refurbishment and will be a super addition to the arts and culture scene. It is curated by Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins, probably New Zealand’s leading historian of the modern age.
And finally I’m amazed at New Zealand’s beauty and authenticity but now I want a knees up with the locals where do you send me? Then you would have to go to either Pipi’s in Havelock North which is a great pizza and pasta joint with a humming bar across the road or Milk & Honey in Ahuriri, Napier which is an all day and all night cafe, bar and restaurant by the sea.
Greg Collinge is the owner at Millar Road, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand
Tony Townley is a luxury lifestyle specialist and owner of Luxury Adventures. Talk to us about planning your next visit to New Zealand, Australia or the South Pacific Islands.