Just a short ferry ride from Auckland, New Zealand, through the Hauraki Gulf’s sparkling waters, the beautiful Waiheke Island is well worth a visit. This 36-square mile island, surrounded by 83 miles of coastline, boasts 25 miles of stunning beaches. Yet it is also a distinct wine region. As unlikely a wine-growing region as this might seem with its sub-tropical climate and ocean influence, Waiheke Island is home to more than 20 boutique wineries. Known for its high-quality red wines, Waiheke draws wine lovers to it daily.
Curious and always up for a wine adventure, I had to go! With ferry tickets in hand and a wine tour booked, my family and I set off for a day of sunshine and wine.
Greeted onshore by our tour guide, we piled into a van for the drive to our first stop, and I quickly began to see what draws so many visitors to this lush, hilly island. As we passed turquoise-blue waters below, sweeping views of the mainland, tiny towns, and of course, vineyards, the magic of Waiheke won me over.
Kennedy Point Vineyard
Waiheke Island Wine Tours will take you to three boutique wineries, with a stop for lunch. At Kennedy Point, views from their tasting room of the ocean below are a bit of a distraction. But their wines are up to the challenge. The 2017 Cuvee Eve Chardonnay, a full fruit-driven white wine with aromas of ripe pear and melon, was delightful. But the Red Trumpet, a 50/50 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend, named for Miles Davis’ red trumpet, was my favorite.
Te Motu Wines
An unpretentious cellar door, Te Motu is owned by the Dunleavys, one of the pioneering families of the Waiheke wine movement. The name “Te Motu” comes from the original Maori name for Waiheke.
Seated outdoors overlooking the Onetangi Valley, we enjoyed a tasting of one rosé and three reds. Their award-winning Kokoro, a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec and syrah was delightful. Their flagship wine, named simply Te Motu 2014, a cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc blend, was the crowd pleaser.
Casita Miro, inspired by Spanish wine, cuisine, and art, proved to be the most fun. A combination cellar door and restaurant, our wine tasting included two whites, two reds, and fortified wine, all paired with small bites to complement the wine. But it was our wine server – witty, knowledgeable, and entertaining – that made our wine tasting experience so delightful.
Be sure to book lunch afterward. An extensive tapas and shared plates menu from locally sourced food offer something to please everyone.
After a day of wine tasting, the scenic 45-minute ferry ride back to Auckland was relaxing and gave me time to reflect on the wines I had tasted. But it was the beauty of Waiheke that left a deep impression, and I knew someday I would have to come back to this magical place.
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