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A Visit to Scenic Cellars & The Vine Eatery

By December 27, 2012No Comments
                                        Scenic Cellars and The Vine Eatery                                                  
It has been nearly a year and a half since Scenic Cellars moved premises from their lakeside frontage site in Taupo, one block in to 37 Tuwharetoa Street, and gave a larger emphasis to The Vine Eatery part of their business. There were some who felt the loss of an iconic, all-conquering wine shop destination and the morphing into a combined wine retail and café style operation as a sign of doom, but I’m happy to say the changes appear to be extremely successful. I certainly felt it was a move to suit the current economic climate and changing the operation to fill a strong need in the market, especially in Taupo which booms in the summer holidays and for sports events at various times of the year. (Click here to read my article on the proposed move.)
I’ve called in to see Ian, Sarah and Cate a number of times since the changes, and it’s always a bustling and busy place. The food, served in the contemporary ‘shared small plates’ format is tasty and hearty, in a rustic, country-fare style, but with a surprising sophistication for those who hanker for things interesting. The coffee is excellent, as it should be, with very discerning palates the norm nowadays. And the wine list is all one could hope for. A very good selection of wine by the glass is available. But for those with very specialised tastes and requirements, the whole inventory of Scenic Cellars is available to choose from for service by the bottle. So first-growth claret, classic Barolo, sublime German Riesling, hearty Argentine Malbec or Sonoma Zinfandel, and intriguing Australian Semillon is available if you’re not going to be satisfied by the huge range of New Zealand wines.
A Wine2Trade Business Call
Between Christmas and New Year, I accompanied my partner Sue Davies in calling in on Ian Isaacs, as she wanted to update him on news with her wine portfolio, and show him a few recent arrivals. Our intentions were to have lunch first. Even though it was after 1.30 pm, the tables for The Vine Eatery were full, and we were lucky in getting in a seat. Talking to Ian and Cate, this was the normal scenario at this time of year. Though there has been an increase in the number of food places in Taupo, they found they were busier than ever. Clearly, the shared plates, extensive wine list and spacy, bright and accessible, family-friendly environment is in demand.
We shared plates with beans, bacon and blue cheese, a whole smoked eel, pork belly, and duck breast with liver. And a glass each, from the regular wine list, of S.A. Prum ‘Essence’ Riesling 2011 from the Mosel and Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2011. By the time we finished lunch, it was sufficiently calm for Sue to show her wines and talk business. Throughout, there was a constant stream of shoppers picking up bottles and asking questions of the staff.
Sue – The Hard Sell, Ian – The Pensive
A Change for the Better
I know that the partners of Scenic Cellars agonised how to move forward with their shop for some time. I can deduce from their smiling faces they’ve made the right choices and decisions. It may be a bit of a monster, with the continuing growth of The Vine Eatery, requiring greater staff number and a change in emphasis towards the food. But wine alone was not going to make it for them. As it is, the wine side seems excellent, interesting and unique. Maybe not carrying the depth and breadth of the past, which were indeed better times for fine wine, but the ranging is as good as (if not better than?) any specialist wine store in the country, such as Caro’s, Regional Wines and Vino Fino. There’s always been a superb range of Kiwi offerings, including some of the rarer, small producer, or limited edition award-winning wines, that Ian has a knack of obtaining.

Scenic Cellars still runs plenty of wine tastings and events. The expertise is as good as ever, and the combination with Sarah’s culinary skills has lifted the game in wine and food themed dinners. The up-coming ‘New Year’s Eve Long Table Dinner’ on Monday 31 December will be a case in point. A full variety of shared plates matched with great wines is promised. I understand there are still some places available, but there will be the customary last minute rush. The New Year’s Eve Long Table Dinner, will be held at The Vine Eatery, 37 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo starting at 7.30 pm and the cost is $130.00 pp. Bookings can be made on Tel: 07 378-5704. www.sceniccellars.co.nz


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