Today we visited Waiheke, New Zealand’s Island of Wines, located just half an hour by ferry from Auckland. I had read a lot about the island over the past weeks, so I was very excited to see it with my own eyes. I expected a nice island, but nothing too special. But I was wrong, this island is a dream come true.
The island is quiet and has a real holiday feeling to it. It is very green (the recent rains certainly helped), and when you drive along one of the few roads on the island you often have fantastic views of the sea.
There are lots of beautiful beaches, many very quiet despite the fact that this is the last week of New Zealand’s summer vacation. And of course there are lots of wineries, which was the main reason we were visiting.
When you arrive you are immediately in a holiday mood. The ferry lands at a secluded bay where sailboats are moored on anchors and where there is a small beach. The bay is surrounded by hills with some very nice villas on it.
A small bus was waiting at the ferry terminal for us to drive us to several of the island’s wineries for wine tastings. We had a guide who explained us everything about the wineries, their vineyards, their locations and the resulting quality of the wines from these wineries.
We spent most of the day at Te Whau, which not only had a stunning location, overlooking the sea on 3 sides, with a private beach, some jungle and even a view of Auckland in the distance, but also excellent wines.
We talked to the owner for quite some time and he showed us the whole property. We had a very good lunch there, the restaurant is well known for its high quality food and cooking.
And of course he let us taste some of his best wines. His Chardonnay blew me away, what an amazing taste. Much better than the Chardonnay that we had last night during a seafood dinner at the Viaduct Basin in Auckland (we ordered at least 4 bottles of Chardonnay last night, so it was certainly not a bad wine!). Also his cabernet sauvignon was very nice, I had not expected a full bodied cabernet sauvignon from this island. And at the end he also gave us a Syrah to taste, once again WOW!
The last visit of the day was to Cable Bay Vineyards, where we also had some very nice wines. The winemaker showed us their facilities and then gave us a private tasting. Cable Bay is very different from Te Whau, it’s a much bigger operation and the winery is very nicely designed (modern, we all liked it). Their wines were great as well – I guess we only had good wines today… Should you drop by try out their Syrah and their Syrah Reserve, and if you want to try a special dessert wine ask for the Viognier one. Especially the women in our group loved it!
The wine tastings were so good that we almost missed the ferry back, we made it with just a few minutes to spare. On the ride back I fell asleep (jet lag or too much alcohol?) and had dreams about one day living in a place like this. I loved it. Should you ever be in Auckland make sure you take a day out of your schedule to visit Waiheke. Combine it with some wine tastings and you’ll have a day you won’t easily forget!
I put all pictures that I took so far in a set on Flickr, over the next days I’ll add more pictures of our trip. You can see the set here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chijs/sets/72157628999856845/