TIPSY TOURIST: Waiheke Island, NZ

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Cable Bay is one of about 30 wineries on Waiheke Island, a 40 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland.

Waiheke vineyards

The only vineyard we were able to see, due to weather, was at Mudbrick. But with a profusion of daisies and lavender, and water views — in addition to hectares of grapes — it was one to remember.

Our trip was not the ideal. Heavy clouds loomed overhead. At first they threatened but then they opened up and drenched everything in sight. There was no way of staying out of the deluge.

Luckily, we were on a wine tour: a glass of something wonderful in our hands and a smile on our face. It wasn’t that we didn’t care at all. After all, the winemakers were fretting at the amount of rain pouring down during harvest season. A bad harvest would certainly endanger  these New Zealand elixirs.

It’s easy to visit New Zealand vineyards when you’re in Auckland. Go down to the Ferry Building and take a 40 minute ferry ride to Waiheke Island. Once on the island there are plenty of cabs and a bus to take you. Or join a hop-on-hop-off tour or rent a bike or motor scooter. Or you can do what we did and get on a tour bus. With all that rain, we were thankful we had an assured ride and places to stop.

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Mudbrick is an old-fashioned, romantic kind of place. The winery is named for the materials used to build it.

Our friendly guide took us to three wineries for tastings and a bit of a tour of the vineyards — at least until the skies opened up.

Mudbrick Vineyards is an elegant place — their logo includes a crystal chandelier — with views of lavender fields and grapevines, two restaurants and, of course, lovely wines. Their vines grow everything from chardonnay to viognier to tempranillo.

Nearby is Cable Bay, where a Kansas City-born sommelier introduced us to her winery’s wide variety of wines. I particularly liked their Waiheke Island Rose. Pretty color, berry nose, crisp and bright for summer drinking.

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Te Whau was a distance from the other wineries on the island. While about seven are clustered together the rest are dotted around the island.

Our final stop was Te Whau, an organic winery where the founder prides himself on keeping the winemaking as natural as possible. We tasted two vintages of Te Whau’s dark Bordeaux blend, “The Point.” This was the only wine we decided to take home — and that meant it had to survive five flights (and six sets of baggage handlers) Thank you, Wine Skins, it did survive.

By this point, the rain had turned into a cyclone. Really. Howling winds, slicing torrents of rain. So we did what any normal tourist would do. We stopped for dinner. Now all three of the wineries offer dining — but we wanted to “see” the island’s main town, Oneroa. I laugh as I write this because we saw it in a blurry, damp sort of way through sheets and sheets of rain.  The restaurant we chose, Vino Vino, — because it was only a dash away from the bus that would take us to the ferry wharf — had lovely water views. Or so we hear. But we did have a delicious Mediterranean style meal that topped off a day of wine and fun. And rain. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that rain.

Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman

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2 responses to “TIPSY TOURIST: Waiheke Island, NZ

  1. Great consolation to be on a wine tour then!
    We did realize that weather on New Zealand can be unpredictable even in summer and autumn!

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