The first serving of Hawke's Bay's inaugural 56-event Food & Wine Classic was launched in delicious style last night with assurances the festival would be the first of many.
F.A.W.C. runs for 10 days and had already tempted the tastebuds of many from outside the region with individual tastings and themed meals to suit all palates.
Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said last night's soiree launch at Craggy Range had sold out, with tickets for other events already selling strong.
"About 40 to 50 per cent of current sales are from people from out of town. Big events with a capacity of 50 to 100 are sold out or close to it.
"I have been out and about and there are lots of people floating around the place, which is great to see. A lot of visitors will be attending events but they will also be having breakfast and lunch at cafes and hopefully indulging in some retail therapy."
Tourists from as far off as New York, London and The Netherlands had purchased tickets to F.A.W.C online, while Auckland and Wellington proved popular domestic markets.
Worldwide media representatives also descended on Hawke's Bay to be wined and dined, with the aim of promoting future events and cementing our region as a "must see" wine and food destination. Among them are The Huffington Post from London, Canadian Living magazine, German publication The Rhein Main Presse, The Daily Meal (US), Madison magazine from Australia and New Zealand's Cuisine magazine.
"It's about putting Hawke's Bay on the map. We have got some pretty influential journalists coming, so that's future proofing and putting building blocks in place for coming years. This is not just a one hit wonder," Ms Dundas said.
Mangapapa Petit Hotel, one of the recommended accommodation venues on the official F.A.W.C. website, had seen a huge bookings increase, thanks to the event.
"A lot of the people who are staying the weekend, stayed [Thursday] night through to Monday, the following weekend is the same," the hotel's general manager, Catherine Hobbs-Turner, said.
"It's been absolutely massive for us: The hits we have had since appearing on the website have been massive, not just over the next 10 days but in the months before and after, too. The number of people we have had through just blew us out of the water."
An increased number of guests was not only a plus for the hotel but the wider community, she said.
"It's not just the boutique places like us who benefit, these people are staying four or five nights and they're spending money."
Tukituki MP Craig Foss agreed F.A.W.C. was a quality event which was supporting the local economy: "This is exactly what we needed to do, taking a gap in the event calendar and filling it up. It's not just the initial spend, it's about visitors going home and buying Hawke's Bay produce and coming back."
Launch party host John Hawkesby said Hawke's Bay was New Zealand's most versatile wine region and the food basket, yet this was the first time they had been packaged together.
"What I want to know is, what took you so long?" he said. "In a hundred years they will say at the first one we had 300 people and now we have 3.6 million."
He marvelled at the many events, especially today's Syrah at Elephant Hill with John Hawkesby.
"If you aren't in Hawke's Bay this weekend you're a friggin' mutant."