Green, gorgeous, and full of wine, New Zealand attracts plenty of wine lovers here to sample its world-renowned Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. If you’re traveling to this welcoming country, chances are you’ll land first in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. And while you might be tempted to head straight to the more well-known wine regions of Hawkes Bay in the North Island or Marlborough and Central Otago in the South Island, you’ll be pleasantly surprised if you first spend some time visiting wineries near Auckland.
Auckland Region for Wine Lovers
The Auckland wine region is sometimes referred to as the “forgotten” wine region due to Marlborough’s international reputation. Home to some of New Zealand’s oldest vineyards, and just a 30-minute drive from Auckland, there’s plenty to choose. Two favorites are the Hunting Lodge and Westbrook just west of Auckland off Highway 16.
The Hunting Lodge
The Hunting Lodge, whose estate dates from 1868, is the best of both worlds with food and wine tasting. Guests can sample wine in the comfortable tasting room or outside on the lawn bar when the weather is warm. Wood-fired pizza is available for a casual lunch. For a gourmet experience, step next door to their restaurant. Dishes are prepared in a converted farmhouse, with produce from the estate garden or locally sourced fish, meat and cheeses. Your server will help you choose a perfect wine pairing.
I loved the Marsanne Viognier 2017, a creamy blend of two French varietals, and the Pinot Noir 2018 from Central Otago. Offering a wide variety of wines made from grapes sourced from all over New Zealand, everyone will find something to please their palate at the Hunting Lodge.
Nearby Westbrook Winery is much smaller, but warm, welcoming and worth a visit. Established in 1935 and still family-owned, we received a personal tour from Tracey Larson, one of the winery’s long-time employees. I’m a chardonnay lover, and Westbrook makes one of the best. The Chardonnay Barrique Fermented 2016 is lightly oaked with butterscotch and notes of baking spice. Our friends loved the Crackling Rose, a dry, flirty blend of pinot noir, malbec and cabernet franc.
Be sure to visit the lounge upstairs for a view of the winery operations on one side and the brook-fed lily pond and vineyards on the other.
Villa Maria Estates in South Auckland
In South Auckland, just minutes from the Auckland Airport, one of the best-known wineries is Villa Maria Estates. Among New Zealand’s largest and most awarded wine producers, Villa Maria began here in Mangere in 1961. Today, it grows 28 different grape varieties and exports to 60 countries. Tours are available at 11:00 and 2:00. The Auckland Vineyard Café is open for lunch seven days a week.
With so much to see, you’ll need a car and a few days to explore more of this scenic region. And if I’ve piqued your interest, don’t finish those travel plans just yet. My next column will explore the delightful Waiheke Island, a distinct wine region, and a short 45-minute ferry ride from Auckland. Until then, as the Kiwis say, “kia ora.”