A year ago if you had asked me where is Waiheke Island, I probably would have guessed Hawaii.But now that I have become a Kiwi expert,I can proudly answer correctly: 35 minutes by ferry northwest of Auckland.
Why would a winelover want to go to Waiheke? Because of its outstanding wines and breathtaking beauty. But first and foremost the wines, and we visited the top 3 wineries on the island. We
began with Stonyridge and its spectacular setting.In fact it has become very popular for weddings and there was one right after our
Our next visit was Destiny Bay which opened especially for us and we were greeted by owner Mike Sprott, an ex-pat from California who moved to NZ 17 years, determined to make the best wine in the country. Everyone agreed that his 3 wines would make cabernet lovers out of anyone who tried them.The winery produces from 10-20,000 bottles annually. Mike is meticulous with his vineyard and winery practices, e.g. they use synthetic copper which breaks down and doesn’t harm the environment; only 1/3 of the grapes make it into the winery so there is an extreme selection.
Our visit wine was Destinae 2012, a blend of 5 bordeaux varieties, with silky tannins and my personal favorite.then we tried Mystae 2012, with the same 5 variety blend; and finally his masterpeice, Magna Praemia, with a predominance of cabernet sauvignon (75%) in addition to the other 4. A great wine with the blackberry fruit and chocolate aroma and the distinctive soft, silky tannins.
Our last visit was not too shabby either with a restaurant with spectacular ocean views: Cable Bay Winery. This is a happening winery with a crowded cellar door and a sought-after destination for weddings. Our American born tasting moderator guided us through 5 wines: the Sauvignon Blanc Reserve Marlborough 2015, barrel fermented with a creamy texture and lemon grass aroma, made in the fumé blanc style; Viognier Waiheke 2016, with a little Marsanne and foot-stomped! Aged in oak and acacia barrels, it was fruity, rich, with the right amount of acidity; Rosé Merlot 2016 with delightful strawberry aromas and enough acidity to make it a wonderful food or sipping wine; Syrah 2015 Waiheke, 98% syrah with 2% viognier, a great interpretation of a Rhone-style wine; Five Hills 2015, a blend of merlot and malbec.
Waiheke Island is still isolated enough that it retains an authenticity but try to visit it because it’s becoming more and more popular with tourists.