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Cellar Door on the Doorstep

When you think “cellar door” it’s likely certain images will spring to mind: cycling around Wairarapa from vineyard to vineyard or driving amidst vine-covered hills to delve into the historic cellars of Champagne.

3 October 2023

Cellar doors are a delight for wine lovers, but a visit usually means travel, which for many happens only once or twice a year.

Somm, located on Auckland’s Princes Wharf, provides Aucklanders (and visitors) with its first urban cellar door. Established as a showcase of New Zealand’s finest wines, it also offers an excellent food menu that has been created by executive chef Gavin Doyle, from sister establishment SOUL Bar and Bistro. And best of all, Aucklanders don’t have to travel outside the city to sample the delights.

Somm (named after the word sommelier or wine steward) is located behind an unprepossessing door at the heart of the harbour precinct. It may not look exciting, but on entering Somm you are greeted by a Nott Architects' interior fitout – all oak and walnut timbers, stone and clay, reflecting the materials you may find in a New Zealand winery. It’s dark and delightful, warm and rustic, with luxe overtones.

Flights of fancy

My two companions and I are led to a low table with comfortable chairs, and one of the waiting staff explains how Somm works.

Somm represents wines from Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough, Marlborough and Central Otago. The wine curious can order “wine flights” – four glasses from different regions, or varietals. This is possibly their “signature” offering, but there’s also an extensive by-the-bottle wine list, plus beers, cocktails and champagne.

The three of us chose different “wine flights” – I decide on drops from Hawke’s Bay, my partner opts for the Central Otago flight, and my friend chooses sauvignon blanc.

These flights are swiftly presented on cardboard, with the wine’s name and helpful tasting notes. Ranging from $29 to $55 for four tastings, you can get a real sense of the style of each vineyard and the characteristics of each variety.

Raising a glass

My favourite from the Hawke’s Bay flight was the 2020 Church Road Grand Reserve Chardonnay, an award-winning wine with flavours of roasted stone fruit and wood tannins.

It’s also a sentimental favourite, for this was the dinner wine choice of my much beloved (now sadly departed) stepmother and (as flavours can do) brings back wonderful memories.

We decide that eating is a good idea, so order. This included a sharing plate (Jersey cow halloumi with parsnip, apple, honey and hazelnut), market fish ceviche, and 72-hour polish dough potato, truffle, thyme and smoked-brie pizza. They are lovely and represent the overall vibe of Somm: unpretentious, local, and perfectly crafted.

The service at Somm is excellent and the low-lit, warm, wood-and-earth interiors the perfect location for a long winter’s night.

I asked my party to rate the place out of five – they all gave it a 4.5 rating. The only downfall was the table’s location by large glass doors (it was a little chilly). We agreed it was worth a return visit.

Somm is a lovely spot to sample some of New Zealand’s most exhilarating exports and sup the cares of the day away.

- Reviewed by Joanna Mathers

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