Located on the east coast of the North Island at 39-40 degrees latitude south, Hawkes Bay enjoys a superior reputation for fine wines from the intermediate and cooler climate grape varieties. Climatically speaking Hawkes Bay is diverse, spanning the cool to very warm spectrum, thanks to the influence of local topography. Typically (although there are exceptions):

  • the coastal fringe is moderated by cooling easterly sea breezes
  • inland areas on the plains enjoy warm dry Fohn winds from the westerly Ruahine, Kaweka and Tararua ranges
  • western and southern hill-country skirting the region enjoys generally cooler and dry weather

Therefore careful matching of vineyard sites to grape varieties gives Hawkes Bay the ability rarely seen in other regions to successfully grow a wide array of grape varieties. The majority of grape vines however are found on the lower Heretaunga Plains of Hawkes Bay, which is broadly classified into the following districts:

  • Coastal - Bayview, Meeanee and Cape Kidnappers
  • Inland - Taradale, Gimblett Gravels, Triangle, and Havelock.

Other areas found in the hills and valleys include Eskdale, Dartmoor Valley, Tukituki, Southern Foothills and Central Hawkes Bay.

Mills Reef's five vineyards are located exclusively in Hawkes Bay, in the following specially selected sites:

  • stony soils of the warm inland Gimblett Gravels district for fine Bordeaux-varietal reds and Syrah wines
  • sandy soils of the cooler coastal Meeanne district for ripe expressive Chardonnay, and
  • alluvial soils of the Mangatahi (southern) foothills for fresh lively Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.

Mere Road Vineyard

Varieties: Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay

The "jewel in our crown", our flagship vineyard. A 16 hectare block painstakingly managed for low yields to produce the very best grapes for our multi-award winning "Elspeth" and "Reserve" wines.

As the vineyards name suggests, it is found on Mere Road, at the westerly river end. Sited in the renowned Gimblett Gravels, the vineyard soils (class 1, 1a, 1b) are extremely stony and the climate very warm, being perfect terroir for fine grapes. The viticulture is intensive with vines planted only a metre apart and grape yields kept incredibly low to ensure only the very best quality at harvest time. The wines from this special vineyard have garnered a long and fine award winning reputation - trophies, gold medals and five star awards. The vineyard is also rated by leading NZ wine critic, Michael Cooper, as one of New Zealands "notable vineyards", an endorsement granted only after many years of producing consistently excellent wines.

Mills Reef Trust Vineyard

Varieties: Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon

Sited on the corner of SH50 and Mere Road in the renowned Gimblett Gravels, this is our youngest vineyard, but already producing gold medal and trophy winning wines! Just 4 hectares in size, it was chosen for its extremely stony free-draining soils (class 1, 1a) and warm climate, ideal for Syrah (80%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (20%) planted there. The vineyard design is modeled on top Bordelaise vineyards, hence the viticulture is extremely intensive:

  • planting density 6300 vines per ha (HB typically 2300 - 3700 vines per ha)
  • low trellising and cordon to take maximum advantage of heat radiated skyward from the stony soils
  • yields kept extremely low for ultra-premium quality grapes and wines

Needless to say, the vineyard is much more labour intensive than the norm and with a low cordon the work more back breaking! However when the result is exceptional wines, it makes all the pain and effort worthwhile!

Sandy Road Vineyard

Varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
As the vineyard name suggests it has the sandiest soils of all our vineyards, and enjoys cooling afternoon sea breezes. This combination of site location, soils and microclimate has proven superb for the varieties planted, especially Chardonnay which yields stunning, fruit driven, delicate and beautifully textured wines.


Varieties: Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc

Sited in the Ruahine foothills, Mills Reef sources grapes from two riverside vineyards, specially selected for their free-draining alluvial soils, and a climate with a high diurnal variation (cool nights with hot days). This combination is ideally suited to these varieties, yielding ripe expressive wines, whilst retaining lovely acidity and freshness.

To learn more about our approach to viticulture please click on the following link: Click here

TV programme Thirsty Works looks at the story behind the Gimblett Gravels