The Island of Wines

Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
Trip End Jul 08, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Friday, May 14, 2010

Shocking as it may seem, it was time for more wine-tasting. The distinguishing factor being that this trip was to an "island of wines" situated east of Auckland, accessible only via air or sea. We took a ferry, a short 40 minute ride from the city port, and had pre-arranged a rental car which we conveniently picked up at the dock. After a quick bit of instruction from the company owner whose office was a van on the lot, we were on our way!

Waiheke Island is a gem of a place. Unassuming with approximately 8,000 people on the island off-season, its population will rise up to 30,000 in the summer months as it is primarily a summer home destination. The small island of 36 sq mi. is quite varied with tropical, winding roads, hilly terrain and sweeping views of the Hauraki Gulf and the Auckland skyline in the distance. Sam likened certain aspects of its lush, hilly terrain and ocean views to Hawaii, but the beaches are understated with a small town sensibility. On top of all that, what really makes the island unique is its terroir. Up until now, I never fully appreciated the meaning of terroir, but this small island with its temperate weather and ocean breezes from all sides produces very distinct wines. While Waiheke Island is known primarily for its reds, we found the whites to be just as enjoyable. The island is home to about 35 vineyards but fewer wineries (where the wines are actually made). Most of the vineyards are very small producers, yielding less than 10,000 bottles a year on the higher end. The first vineyard began in the late 70s and since then, Waiheke has become a beautiful blend of abeach island and wine destination.

The wines we tasted were some of the most memorable ones yet. Only on the island for the afternoon, we visited Stonyridge, Te Whau and Cable Bay Vineyards. All three were unbelievably beautiful and offered delightful Pinot Noirs, Bordeaux-type blends and uncharacteristically good Chardonnay (we don't like the oaky variety). Te Whau is located high on a point offering 360 degree views of the island and run by Tony and his wife who were kind enough to share some wines that haven't been released yet. Stonyridge was on the more casual side, offering a familial feeling and a pourer who spoke unintelligibly fast. We tasted and had lunch at Cable Bay, which had great views along with a couple modern kinetic sculptures perched on the hillside overlooking fields of sheep, the water and Auckland off in the distance.

This was a day trip we absolutely loved, but it was unfortunately cut short as we needed to get back to the city to tend to our broken camera : (  Despite not being able to capture our day on film, the island of wines left its imprint in our minds and we've included a few photos from the Internet for a taste of Waiheke Island.
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Raj on

Beautiful place. Seems your trip is centered on wines and come back as wine experts.

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