I picked New Zealand for Thom’s birthday trip based on Bruce Springsteen’s tour schedule. A bonus was that the beach cottage I selected to be our home for the week was on Waiheke Island, the so-called “Island of Wine”. Score! Small boutique wineries abound, a total of 20+ on a gorgeous South Pacific island with only 8,000 residents but lots of wine-loving tourists. The unique warm micro-climate here is perfect for producing grapes that transform into gentle Rose, fruity Merlot and expressive Syrahs.
Right next door to our cottage was Goldie Estate. How convenient! A popular place for island destination weddings, you can see why when you climb through their vineyard to the top of the hill by the spreading tree overlooking the bay, which has surely been the backdrop of many a wedding photo. This was our first stop and I was taken aback by the boldness of the tastings. This is some serious kick ass wine. Only 4 short nips and I was ready for a nap afterward. What is in the fertile soil of this island that packs such a punch? Damn.
Next up, we spent an afternoon walking several miles uphill to three wineries conveniently located in a cluster so you can stumble from one to another. We were good and ready for a rest when we arrived at Wild on Waiheke. A destination for tour groups, this winery was like a playland for winos, offering laser skeet shooting, archery (always a good idea when drinking) and lawn chess. We spurned all activity after our hike and sprawled in the always present and now my favorite furniture in the world-lawn bean bags. Under a tiki umbrella, we rested in the shade and I tasted their Merlot and Syrah while Thom sipped a non-alcoholic ginger beer made locally. I don’t care for ginger beer-it tastes like Airborne but that’s just me I guess.
Because the wineries are mostly only open from 11-4 p.m., we reluctantly rolled out of the bean bags and off we went racing across the nearby field to Te Motu Vineyard, which overlooks the Onetangi Valley. I went for a trifecta tasting of their Rose, Merlot and Syrah. Not having eaten lunch, I ordered a basket of bread and olive oil (locally made) to soak up the alcohol and Thom enjoyed a Pear and Basil organic soda. Very interesting and refreshing. Their Syrah blew me away-the peppery kick to it that comes natural here plus fruity overtones was devine. A bottle to take home and savor was safely tucked away in the backpack and off we ran once again through the vineyards to the next winery, Stonyridge Vineyard.
Next to a vine-covered brick building, Stonyridge has olive groves and vineyards that surround a large deck with comfy couches. Best of all, large pillows were strewn all over the hillside with umbrellas inviting you to lie back, enjoy the wine and gaze at the grapes ready to be harvested soon. Alas, I was at my capacity for the afternoon and I didn’t partake of a tasting there but perhaps another day. So much wine, so little time. Cheers!