Our Focus
Although New Zealand is known primarily as a cool climate winemaking country, there are exclusive regions, one of which is Hawkes Bay, that lend themselves to a warmer style of winemaking. The Gimblett Gravels appellation is a sub-region of Hawkes Bay, and is a gem in the NZ winegrowing landscape, with its particular stony soils that enable winemakers to produce superb Bordeaux style wines, hence our focus.


Our Winemaking Story
The Winery
It began in 1989 and over the years, we have built a relationship with the fruit coming off these vines. We know what to expect, and are excited to see consistently high quality, intensity and varietal character emerging with increasing vine age - our wish list for premium winemaking and it can only get better!   Mills Reef Winery itself stands proud on a purpose built complex in Tauranga that was completed in 1995. It is a modern full winemaking facility with sufficient tank capacity to crush 750 tonne of fruit each year. Predominantly our tanks hold 16,000L-20,000L. We also have blending tanks holding up to 50,000L, and much smaller ones down to 1800L to manage the full spectrum of activities involved throughout the wine's life cycle. The working winery is complete with in-house laboratory facilities, bottling plant capable of processing 10,000L of wine each day, and a warehouse that serves as our distribution centre.

Our award-winning winemaking team is led by Tim Preston and Paul Dawick who apply their considerable talents to make Mills Reef wines what they are today.


Winemaking at Mills Reef
As soon as the fruit is harvested, we have a clear vision as to what we want to achieve. We believe that each wine has its own unique personality, which first presents itself, and is acknowledged, as the fruit comes off the vine. From then on, its individuality is sympathetically nurtured throughout the winemaking process.

Machine picked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc fruit is harvested in the cool hours of early morning and then delivered to a winery in Hawkes Bay, who dejuice the fruit for us. The ensuing juice is settled, then immediately dispatched to our winery in Tauranga, where the wine-making team is ready to begin the fermentation process.

Fruit for our Reserve and Elspeth ranges is selectively hand-picked in the early morning and delivered directly to Tauranga where it receives the special handling necessary to extract the full potential of this venerable fruit. Fermentation may proceed spontaneously or via inoculation of wine yeasts specially selected for a particular style. A spontaneous fermentation can be unpredictable, but with careful management can add stunning ethereal qualities including luscious mouth-filling weightiness to the wine.

Our premium Syrah is fermented within barrel to promote earlier integration of the aromatic oak, conferring greater complexity, with seamless softer tannin structure. This is a more labour-intensive process, but we believe is well worth the effort.
  Fermentation of our Bordeaux reds take place in open top stainless steel vats that allow gentle hand plunged cap management and delestage to extract the wonderful colour and structure we are seeking.

Once the wine has completed fermentation, we match the wine with carefully selected barrels from our list of preferred coopers, for aging. Our preference is for 300L hogshead and 400L Integrale barrels coopered from tight-grained quality French and American oak, to impart subtle structure, weight and also to progress each unique personality of the wine. This is one area where quality cannot be compromised, and isn't.

We have two wine cellars for aging the wines; one each to accommodate the red wines and another for the barrel-aged white wines. Each wine style has a preferred environment, and temperature control is a key factor. The wines are left undisturbed but under close observation until ready for blending under the skillful eyes of Tim and Paul.

Blending is the final master stroke in wine-making. It is a true test of the palate where the winemaker finely tunes the wine to achieve that celebrated, yet sometimes elusive, perfect balance. Something we can pull together in bucket loads!


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