Our day trip spent tasting one of the finest New Zealand wines on Waiheke Island was an absolute highlight of our time in Auckland. Waiheke Island, located just 40-minute ferry ride off the shores of the city, is renowned for its expansive vineyards and stunning views. However, you don’t have to be a wine connoisseur to appreciate the island. In fact, it’s beautiful white-sand beaches, numerous outdoor activities (hiking, zip-lining, archery, Wild tag and laser clay bird shooting), art galleries and, most importantly, great food scene are enough reasons to trade the hustle and bustle of Auckland for an idyllic day here.
Since we wanted to fully enjoy the food and wine tasting, we decided to book a full-day tour via Viator and don’t worry about driving. While the tour lasted four hours and included three of the best vineyards on Waiheke as well as a visit to Rangihoua Estate to sample their olive oil, we decided to make a full day out of it and visit one more vineyard, plus stay on the island for dinner. Waiheke is known to be a gastronomic heaven and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Thus, we got to fully enjoy the island and explore a bit more of it than was initially included on the tour. Apart from the high-quality wine, what impressed me most (like everywhere else in New Zealand) was the stunning landscape. Imagine rolling hills carpeted with vineyards and olive groves, and the blue ocean as a backdrop. New Zealand is so picturesque it has a tendency to make you want to write poems or start painting, only I am sadly rubbish at both.
But I digress. Our tour started at 10:30 a.m. at the Pier 2 of the Ferry Terminal (ferry return trip tickets included in the price of the tour) and we managed to see total of four wineries and an olive farm at a relaxed pace in one day.
Stonyridge specializes in producing the ultra premium red wines by emulating the Bordeaux method of growing grapes. It is a perfect place to sample the finest Cabernet blends (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot). Their Larose – first produced in 1987 – brought international fame to the winery and was named as the greatest red wine ever made in New Zealand. The winery was founded in 1982 by Stephen White who got his inspiration and love for viticulture during his years spent working at wineries in France, California and Italy. Stonyridge is referred to as “One of the Top Ten Must Visit Wineries in the World” Guardian UK and topped the list for the best Cabernet Merlot in The Age/ Sydney Morning Herald Good Wine Guide 2013. Besides their fine wine, Stonyridge produces quite impressive olive oil which we had a chance to sample during our breakfast there.
We were warmly welcomed by the owner herself who escorted us to their beautiful terrace adorned with Gaudi-esque mosaic and allowing sweeping views over the island. It was a perfect setting for the fantastic food and wine paring. Casita Miro on the Bond Estate was founded by a charming couple Barnett and Cat Bond over 20 years ago who put their heart and soul into this trade. They focus on red grapes such as Syrah and Bordeaux varietals, but they also grow beautiful Pinot Gris and a small amount of Viognier for blending with the Syrah. I found their wines to be packed with flavor resulting from the favorable climate and elements from the rich local soil. Their Madame Rouge is truly the best aperitif wine I have ever had in my life – a full bodied, rich blend packed with flavors of berry fruit. Cat is the one in charge of the restaurant, and I must say the pairing was excellent. You can enjoy more food in their tapas style restaurant offering Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine cooked with locally sources produce.
Taking a little break from the wine, we then headed to the Rangihoua Estate which is a prime producer of olive oil on the island. We had a chance to learn about the olive oil production process as well as sample their products. I purchased their mango chutney and pesto, which both add delicious flavor to my breakfast avocado toast and egg.
Cable Bay was not included on our tour, but after reading tons of great reviews I really wanted to visit. Founded in 1998, it initially specialized in Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Gris but eventually branched out into growing eight varietals across New Zealand including Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc grown in small batch vineyards in two locations within New Zealand – Waiheke Island and Marlborough. The winery itself features minimalistic modern architecture and offers spectacular views over the Hauraki Gulf to Auckland city. It houses two dining facilities – the dining room (a restaurant based on a garden-to-table concept and serving New Zealand cuisine) and the verandah (offering a menu of sharing plates, slow-roasted meats and pizzas from our outdoor kitchen with wood-fire oven). The lawn area in front is a perfect spot to while away a few hours with a glass of wine and that’s exactly what we did before heading for dinner at Mudbrick.
We visited Mudbrick before Cable Bay as part of the tour and liked it so much that we decided to book a table for dinner in their restaurant. Mudbrick was established in 1992 as a result of endless hard work of Robyn and Nicholas, enthusiastic couple in their late 20s who dreamed of quitting their mundane desk jobs and creating something that would bring them immense enjoyment apart from money. So, they bought a lifestyle block on Waiheke Island and started cultivating it slowly. It has now been over 18 years since they opened the restaurant – 20 years since the first plantings. Mudbrick has become a highly acclaimed winery winning gold medal recognition for its wines and attracting crowds every day.
The estate has gorgeous grounds and meticulously manicured gardens. So much so that apparently it has become a favorite wedding venue among locals. They even have an on-site lodging. We greatly enjoyed our 7-course chef’s tasting menu at Mudbrick Restaurant which featured some of the best local produce cooked beautifully by the Executive Chef Matthias Schmitt.
Our idyllic evening ended with an absolutely epic sunset over Auckland. Overall, it was a fantastic and one of the most memorable day of our trip. Waiheke makes a perfect day trip from Auckland and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
If you decide to do an independent trip, have a look at New Zealand Tourist Board’s official page for inspiration on things to do on Waiheke. It includes activities as well as restaurant recommendations, and can be a great source of general information while planning your New Zealand trip.
Have you been to Waiheke? Which wineries did you visit?
Linking up with wonderful ladies at Monday Escapes
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