Historic architecture and fine wine combine this summer

The National Tobacco Company building is regarded by many as one of Napier’s most elegant commercial buildings, dating back to the 1930s. Image: Alan Liefting


Ahuriri’s iconic National Tobacco Company building, which closed last year for maintenance and redevelopment, is open for business.

The Heritage 1 listed building, owned by Big Save’s McKimm family, has proved a popular visitor destination in the past and now also houses The Urban Winery.

This summer, visitors to The Urban Winery can also get a sneak peek of the historic parts of the building – public access is by gold coin donation or as part of a $10 ‘deco experience’ which combines wine tasting with a short guided tour of the private wood-panelled boardroom and architecturally impressive foyer featuring a domed glass ceiling, marble columns and rose detailing.

A ‘secret back door’ connects the historic spaces to the new home of Tony Bish Wines and The Urban Winery, a premium boutique operation exclusively producing Chardonnay from some of Hawke’s Bay’s finest vineyards.

Winemaker Tony Bish says innovation is at the heart of his wines, embodied in the unique concrete and French oak egg-shaped fermenters he uses.

“The ferment and maturation barrel room is visible through a large plate glass viewing window, and an impressive oak Cuve sits adjacent to our cellar door.”

The new tasting room has an inviting ambiance, and wine-savvy staff guide visitors through a flight of Tony Bish Chardonnays plus various other premium Hawke’s Bay wine producers showcased at The Urban Winery.

“After many months of hard work behind closed doors our unique cellar door and wine bar is now open to the public, and we’re loving sharing our stories and wines in a stylish yet relaxing atmosphere. We’re also thrilled to be managing public access to the historic foyer and boardroom for the summer too.”

The winery redevelopment recently won an Art Deco Trust heritage award.

Shane Gorst, the Trust’s General Manager, says re-purposing is a fundamental part of securing the preservation of Hawke’s Bay’s heritage buildings.

“The re-opening of this iconic building is a case study on how passionate owners and tenants can work together to breathe new life into a building and effectively give our past a brighter future.”

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