Mills Reef is not strictly a Hawke’s Bay winery, except that it’s Vineyard is located in the Bay’s Gimblett Gravels appellation. This appellation is strictly determined by the gravely soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which was exposed after a huge flood in the 1870’s.
The climate of the area is relatively dry and warm with summer daytime temperatures between 2 and 3 degrees Celsius warmer than in other Hawke’s Bay areas.
The winery was first established in 1989 in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty, by the Preston family. Since then, the company has gone on to receive significant critical acclaim. Mills Reef Wines have won over 250 medals in both national and international competitions. Top of the winery’s range in terms of quality are its Elspeth branded wines, made from the traditional Bordeaux varieties, and Syrah.
The Tauranga based winery includes an award winning art-deco style a la carte restaurant, landscaped grounds including expansive patios and grassed areas, with plantings of ornamental trees, colourful flowering shrubs and a sea of lavender. Mills Reef is open for food and wine 7 days a week from 10am to 5pm and evenings for dinner.
HAWKES BAY VINEYARDS
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 vineyard’s 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 Zealand’s "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 and 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.
Founded by the Preston family, Mills Reef Winery’s inaugural vintage was in 1989, embracing a passion for quality Hawkes Bay wines crafted with great care and enthusiasm, in humble facilities located on the foothills of the Kaimai ranges on the outskirts of Tauranga.
The idea for the Mills Reef name was born of a desire for a brand that had unique and special meaning.
The birth name of Patriarch Paddy Preston is Warren Mills Preston. His second name being reference to his great grandfather, Charles Mills, both a sea captain and involved in mining pursuits, prior to becoming a prominent Member of Parliament from 1890 - 1908, latterly as the Minister of Trade and Customs.
The Mills Reef name therefore honours and references Charles Mills’ pioneering exploits, watching for reefs at sea, mining for reefs of gold, and leading the ‘beachhead’ development of international trade during New Zealand’s formative years. At the same time also a fitting tribute to current day family embracing this same pioneering spirit through its hand-crafted wines.
It was very much a family affair in the early days, all helping where necessary, including the winemaking role taken up by father-and-son team Paddy and Tim Preston.
Typical of many great NZ success stories, these modest beginnings combined with determination and hard work soon saw Mills Reef receive significant critical acclaim at both national and international shows. Several years on and with a rapidly growing following of loyal wine lovers, there was a need to expand the winemaking facilities and establish a fitting home for the brand, where Mills Reef lovers could visit to experience and enjoy.
In 1992 the perfect site was found on the outskirts of Tauranga, in the semi-rural setting of Bethlehem. A purpose-built winery was conceived, in a design that honours the art-deco style of Napier City within Hawkes Bay, following its rebuilding after the great 1931 earthquake. The new winery was officially opened in 1995 on Queens Birthday weekend, and continues to be heralded as one of the most stylish and attractive in the country.
Also at that time, Mills Reef was joined by winemaker Paul Dawick, who today with Tim Preston share over 50 years of combined winemaking experience, with a particular specialist knowledge of the Hawkes Bay region that has seen Mills Reef go on to achieve wide and repeated Trophy-winning acclaim at national and international shows, along with being twice-awarded the ‘Champion NZ Winemaker’ title.
Another very important step early-on was the recognition of stunning Bordeaux-varietal red wines that could be grown in a special inland area within Hawkes Bay, where Mills Reef sourced grapes from its very first vintage in 1989, in the Mere Road Vineyard. The warm climate and deep stony free-draining soils proved ideal for exceptional world-class wines. Today those soils upon which the vineyard is sited are known as part of the renowned Gimblett Gravels, as officially proclaimed in 2001.
The Mere Road Vineyard was initially leased by Mills Reef in 1989, of which a 10 hectare portion was purchased in 1993, followed three years later by acquisition of the two remaining and adjoining 4 hectare blocks. The entire 18 hectare vineyard was then progressively replanted from 1993 through to 2001 with ideally suited varieties of the modern clones and rootstocks, including one of the district’s earlier plantings of Syrah in 1996 within the ‘east block’, going on to become arguably NZ’s most successful Syrah.
Mills Reef also sources grapes from other carefully selected sites matched to ideally suited varieties, particularly, Chardonnay from sandier coastal sites enjoying a temperate maritime climate, and Pinot Gris from inland alluvial sites with a greater diurnal variation on the Ruahine foothills, both proving ideal for exceptional wines.
This careful attention to detail and commitment to hand-crafted wines has seen Mills Reef rise to enjoy an enviable international reputation as one of New Zealand’s leading producers, its wines enjoyed globally, from Great Britain to the USA, China and beyond!
Whether or not Charles Mills ever found his "Reef” we can’t say for sure, but we do know the Preston family has certainly found theirs, in the pleasure and passion of making fine Mills Reef wines.
- Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Syrah Merlot 1999 (Liquorland Top 100 2002, Top 100)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot Block 3 2002 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2004, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot Block 4 2002 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2004, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Merlot 2002 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2004, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Riesling 2004 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2005, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2002 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2005, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Malbec 2006, CHAMPION WINE OTHER VARIETALS (Royal Easter Wine Show 2008, Gold and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot 2007 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2009, Gold Medal and Trophy Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (Royal Easter Wine Show 2010, Gold Medal and Trophy Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Gewurztraminer 2002 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2003, Award Winning Wines)
- MILLS REEF ELSPETH SYRAH 2007 (Sydney International Wine Competition 2010, Award Winning Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Malbec 2003 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2004, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2004, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Chardonnay 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Merlot 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot Block 4 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Malbec 2002 (Champion Other Red Varieties Trophy) (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Malbec 2002 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2003, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot 2004 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2005, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Cabernet Syrah 2001 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2005, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Malbec 2004 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2005, Gold Medal and Champion Wines)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2007 (Rabobank Champion Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot/Cabernet Blend Trophy) (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2009, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef|Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2007 (Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2009, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth One 2005 (International Wine Challenge 2008)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Syrah, 2009 (International Wine Challenge 2011, Gold Medal Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah, 2010 GOLD AND TROPHY (International Wine Challenge 2012, Gold Medal Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot, 2010 GOLD (International Wine Challenge 2012, Gold Medal Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Syrah 2011 (International Wine Challenge 2013, Trophy Awards)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2009 (International Wine Challenge 2013, Trophy Awards)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (TROPHY) (Bragato Wine Awards 2008, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Winery Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Malbec 2007 (Bragato Wine Awards 2008, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Winery Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2006 (Bragato Wine Awards 2008, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 TROPHY (Bragato Wine Awards 2010, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Syrah 2007 (Bragato Wine Awards 2010, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot 2010 - (Bragato Wine Awards 2012, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
- Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010 (Bragato Wine Awards 2012, Gold Medal and Trophy Winners)
Mills Reef Winery Restaurant
Mills Reef's art-deco style restaurant in Tauranga is purpose designed for dining in an ambiance which compliments fine wine and cuisine.
Seating up to 150 guests in comfort, the restaurant also offers relaxed outdoor dining on glorious sunny Bay Of Plenty days.
The award-winning cuisine served in this Tauranga restaurant is best described as Antipodean/Pacific-rim style, blending the best of local produce and latest culinary innovations.
Mills Reef Winery Restaurant Tauranga has established itself as an award-winning Tauranga landmark situated on 20 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds with stunning rural vistas and relaxed surroundings.
Famous for alfresco dining, the restaurant is also equally popular for many celebratory occasions, corporate functions, and events – the perfect venue for weddings, birthday parties, conferences, seminars, concerts and much more.
On sunny days the restaurant's outdoor dining area is extremely popular, as is the eight metre solid wood feasting table which is ideal for a large group or for several smaller groups.
Mills Reef welcomes families with young children. With an abundance of grounds and trees, there is plenty of room to run around – bring a ball!
Whether going out to enjoy a wine tasting, or a meal, a visit to Mills Reef is an occasion not to be missed.