Wobbly Waiheke, named as such as I was pretty unstable after trying 11 different types of wines! With well over 20 vineyards on the island, Waiheke is the perfect place to visit for wannabe wine-connoisseur, or anyone who just likes a glass or three. Team gorgeous wines with the most stunning views and you will find a happy (and tipsy) Domino. Here is what we got up to on our day at Waiheke’s vineyards.
You will find the island of Waiheke 20km east of New Zealand’s capital, Auckland. When translated from Maori to English, the word ‘Waiheke’ means cascading waters. As soon as you reach the island you notice how peaceful it is. The reason may be because there is only 9 thousand residents on the island. During peak season, the number of people on the island can reach up to 50 thousand! Also, there are no traffic lights, no fast food places and no motorways. We walked some of the streets and didn’t see a soul. In November 2015, Lonely Planet named Waiheke Island fifth best destination in the world to visit. I’ll have to agree. This island is perfect for grape growing as it is, on average, 2-4 degrees warmer than Auckland. So, grab your ticket to Waiheke and get your taste buds ready for a wine-filled adventure.
To explore the island we bought an inclusive ferry and hop-on hop-off bus ticket with Fullers. This cost $55 each (£31). Take a ferry from Auckland on the hour to match with the bus times. Otherwise, like us, you will end up walking part of the route or waiting 40 minutes for the next bus (in the winter they only have one bus an hour). If you have arrived into New Zealand by plane, grab an A-Z Auckland magazine for numerous discounts across the city, including ones for the vineyards on Waiheke.
Cable Bay vineyard was our first stop. As you walk into the restaurant and tasting area you are greeted by a ludicrous view over the water and across to Auckland. Green hills and evergreen trees frame the scene, the perfect ‘take your breath away’ moment. Here, you create your own tasting menu, so you can have as much or as little as you like. Each wine is between $2.50 – $3.00 (£1.15 – £1.70). We had four – Awatere Valley Pinot Gris, Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Sweet Gloria and a freebie of Awatere Valley Pinot Rose. Our favourite was the Pinot Gris. Pete, who isn’t a wine drinker, happily sipped on this wine like it was water. The wines here were so fresh, cold and crisp on the palette. The Sweet Gloria was a desert wine, so sweet and full of flavour. Delicious! The interior of Cable Bay resembled a fancy art gallery, minimalist, swanky and upmarket. White and chrome being the main colours of this neat and tidy setting. It all comes across as very ‘cool’. But with the friendliest and most informative staff, Cable Bay is definitely one to add to your list!
At Batch vineyard I drank four wines, Field Blend Rose, Cabinet Sauvignon, Blanc de Gris and Flora – Pete had a beer! The tasting menu cost $15 (£8.50) but it was here we received the least amount of alcohol for our money. I will also say, these were my least favourite wines of the day, but don’t let that put you off! Set up high on a hill, you have unspoilt views of Waiheke. When sat inside (we sat next to a cosy fire) glass shutters can fully open so you can see right across this picturesque island. It had more of a restaurant feel than vineyard with no specific tasting area. We did see some people order food and it looked delicious. So, one to visit but not at the top of our list.
Mud brick is the winner of our favourite vineyard, why? Sculpted gardens, exquisite views and the perfect, country-house feel, this place is stunning. Oh! It has pretty tasty wines too. The restaurant and tasting area is set in the hill, surrounded by gorgeous gardens. Purples of lavender, green topiary, and blooming flowers, the garden alone is a reason to visit this vineyard. The building itself looks like the perfect wedding venue (which it is by the way!) as it has a glass front to show off the views, set in a stone frame, it looks like a British stately home. Here we drank another four wines, Methode Traditionelle NV, Pinot Gris, Mudbrick Rose and Reserve Pinot Noir. The Rose would be perfect at Wimbledon as it tasted like sweet strawberries and cream! We sat on rustic, wooden furniture, surrounded by old barrels, in our own secluded garden. Bliss. We could have sat there all day, sipping wine and soaking in the view, and at $10 (£5.70) for four wines, I don’t know why we didn’t!
We only managed three of Waiheke’s numerous vineyards, but we were there from 11.30am till 5pm! If you have the time and money and love wine as much as I do, I’d definitely suggest staying on the island and have a good couple of days of vineyard hopping. Your taste buds will thank you. We are 11 wines in and the sun is setting over Waiheke, it’s time for us to wobble back to the ferry and sleep! All that drinking in the sun is tiring business!