Automatic cars present a modest but real challenge : how to avoid a hyperactive left foot trying to depress the brake pedal which it mistakes for the non-existent clutch. My footwork left a lot to be desired, resulting in some sudden emergency stops at quite the wrong moments. Fortunately the impressively empty trunk road was very forgiving.
The winding road from Gisborne to Hawkes Bay meanders through beautiful hilly countryside making for a slow if scenic journey. At Napier we had a superior takeaway version of fish (very large, very fresh prawns) and chips before arriving at Chardonnay cottage in the immaculate grounds of Craggy Range Giants winery and restaurant. The sleeping giant, inevitable subject of local folklore, dominates the skyline.
Their Gimblett Gravels vineyards are a recent development on the other side of Hastings, near Fernhill. In 1872 the river Ngaruroro dramatically changed its course after serious flooding, exposing gravel beds and terraces attractive first to gravel quarriers and now to serious winemakers. Matt Stafford is the present incumbent, not only an attentive and considerate host in the restaurant but passionately engaged with the vines, clearly in training for the demands of this year’s vintage.