Eating Abroad New Zealand

Waiheke Island – A Wine Tour

July 18, 2017

Whenever someone says they don’t like New Zealand wines, it feels as though they are dishing out a short but sharp stab to my heart. I’m not patriotic about many things, but I am precious about our wines. Of all the inherently ‘kiwi’ things that New Zealand produces, (All Blacks, proper Marmite, golden kiwifruit, pineapple lumps, to name a few…) the wine is the one I know and love the best! In a recent friendly debate with my new wine snob colleague, I did admit through gritted teeth that he was right, New Zealand wines aren’t the best in the world, but they do have a unique quality to them. And if he did insist on getting all personal, we are further up the wine ranks than the English!

A certain someone and I have our favourite wines from all over the world, but it always makes us smile when we spot a New Zealand bottle on a wine list somewhere. If we’re ever undecided or slightly flummoxed by a gargantuan wine list, then we will opt for a drop from the motherland as that’s always a safe bet. I thought I was fairly well-versed in my Sauvignons to Pinot Noirs of New Zealand wines until someone asked me about Waiheke Island and I realised that in all my wine-drinking days at home, I had never ever ventured across to the island. On our last trip home to New Zealand, I finally righted that wrong!

With my sister and brother in tow, we boarded the ferry from downtown Auckland one midweek morning and took the forty minute journey across to Waiheke Island. The plan for the day was simple: a quick visit to the beach, a little bit of walking, and a lot of wine tasting! Once we arrived, we jumped on the first bus and made our way to the first stop…

Wild On Waiheke

This unique site is not only home to Wild Estates winery but also Waiheke Island Brewery so sampling both the wine and beer is a must here! I would recommend ordering the tasting trays as you get to try all six of their wines and all seven of their beers; it means you can try before you commit to purchasing whole bottles or if like us, you’re planning on touring round a few wineries, it will help you pace yourself.

We particularly enjoyed their flagship wine, Wildling, which is well-rounded blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, and I was definitely a fan of the Onetangi Dark Ale, a smooth chocolatey porter. Had we more time, we would have happily spent most of the day at Wild On Waiheke. I really liked the laid back atmosphere, and it also hosts a range of activities suitable for the whole family. There are plenty of tables and deck chairs laid out on the lawn for guests to relax in between games of giant chess or petanque, or even rounds of archery or clay pigeon shooting.

Te Motu

Bidding goodbye to Wild On Waiheke, we wandered next door to Te Motu, one of the oldest wineries on the island who produce two estate ranges – Te Motu and Dunleavy. In contrast to our previous tasting, the five wines we sampled here were mostly reds as they specialise in rich Bordeaux-style wines. Having done a wine tour in Bordeaux and drank some exceptional wines, I was pleased to see that our homegrown efforts stacked up just as well. The tasting experience here was quite informative which I liked; the history and blend of each wine was carefully explained, alongside some tasting notes and food pairing suggestions. Definitely a must-visit for those looking for a taste of Bordeaux, down-under.

Casita Miro

From Te Motu, we took the signposted path across some lush vineyards to Casita Miro. This option was far more scenic than taking the bus, but it was not quite the short cut we anticipated, especially in the searing New Zealand sunshine! By the time we arrived, we were absolutely ravenous which was probably a good thing as Casita Miro is as well-known for its food as it is for its wine. As you might have guessed from their name, they serve Spanish-style tapas so in true Spanish style, we ordered a couple of wines, sangrias and tapas to share amongst us. We were a fan of their vibrant dishes, especially the seafood paella, but nothing can compare to eating the real deal in Spain. That said, when you combine it with the striking decor, animated atmosphere and glorious views, you might just be transported to Spain for the afternoon!

So Make A Move…

We only managed to visit three of Waiheke Island’s twenty-something wineries which means we barely scratched the surface of what is on offer. But from what we did see, do, and drink, I am definitely keen for a repeat visit. It’s the perfect day trip from downtown Auckland, but hopefully next time we can stretch it out to an overnight stay and also spend some time on the beach!

  • Take the Fullers Ferry from Downtown Auckland – a return ticket costs NZ$36 and the ferries run every 30 minutes in both directions.
  • Getting around the island by bus – a day ticket costs NZ$10, the bus will get you round to all the wineries, and it runs fairly regularly. If the bus doesn’t appeal, you could rent bikes or even book a private tour.
  • Don’t get there too early – most of the wineries will open from 11am or 11.30am so don’t think that the early bird catches the worm or the wine, in this case.
  • Wild On Waiheke, 82 Onetangi Rd, Waiheke Island – open Thursday to Monday.
  • Te Motu, 76 Onetangi Road, Onetangi, Waiheke Island – open everyday for tastings.
  • Casita Miro, 3 Brown Rd, Onetangi, Waiheke Island – open everyday for lunch.

Have you been to Waiheke Island, what was your favourite winery?

Where does your favourite wine come from?

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  • Connie, this couldn’t have been more timely and inspiring. As I’m planning our Auckland visit, Waiheke island is definitely on our list of places to enjoy a leisurely afternoon. I just can’t decide if I want to do the organized or independent tour. I shortlisted the following four wineries in the end: Rangihoua Estate for olive oil tasting, Stonyridge, Mudbrick, ending with dinner at Cable Bay. Your thoughts? Also, do you know if it will be easy to go from one of these to the other?

    xx, nano |

    • I’m so pleased you’re headed to NZ – are you touring round the country?
      Given our experience, I think if you want to make sure you get round to all the stops efficiently, then a private tour might be worthwhile… we took the public bus round the island which is easy but also goes at a leisurely pace. It was fine for us as we didn’t have any concrete plans… that said, had we stayed longer into the evening (we left at 4pm-ish as we had dinner plans in the city) then we could have done more as the island isn’t very big and the wineries tend to be in clusters!

  • Melissa Beare

    I first heard of Waiheke less than a year ago and it is a must do for us whenever we can make our New Zealand trip happen. I’ll be sure to save this link! I’d also be interested in visiting the Marlborough area of the North Island which is where most of the wines are made (at least from my understanding – I am no expert on NZ wine). Great post.

    • Marlborough is absolutely NZ’s largest wine region and most famous for sauvignon blancs – definitely worth exploring but there’s also the Hawkes Bay or even Central Otago if you’re a fan of Pinot Noir! I hope you make it to NZ soon!

  • Wild on Waiheke looks like the perfect stop for my husband and I – he likes craft beer and i love to taste the wine. Note to self – do not ready your posts at lunch time before food. AHH! So hungry now. Looks like a beautiful place to explore and taste. (I feel the same slightly defensive and possessive feeling about Oregon wines – I totally get it!) Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

    • Exactly – I loved that Wild On Waiheke caters to both tastes! I don’t know much about wines from Oregon… we didn’t venture there on our great American road trip so might have to plan something for the future!

  • Untold Morsels

    I LOVE NZ wines. Especially Pinot Noir. In the UK you can only really buy dodgy Sauvignon Blanc and it’s the same for Australian wine. I have done a lot of wine exploring in the South Island but you’ve now put Waiheke on the list for our next trip to beautiful NZ. Thanks for joining #FarawayFiles

    • The Central Otago Pinot Noir is the best! I’m partial to a a classic Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc if I’m desperate for a taste of home but otherwise, we have been very good at trying all the Old World or South American wines which are so accessible here!

  • Traveling is all about learning about other countries and that includes products produced in that country. I am not going to go to New Zealand and start comparing its wines with wines from other countries. I want to taste, hear the stories of the winemakers, meet people and have a food time. This tours looks like so much fun #FarawayFiles

    • Absolutely – the best part is finding out more about the history or culture related to food! We are so keen to return – we’ve bookmarked it for our next trip home in December!

  • Clare Thomson

    Wish I had eaten before reading this, Connie! Those three dishes of food are all perfect with a good glass or two of red. I do love a wine tour and I’ve drunk some delightful NZ Sauvignons (not dodgy at all as per Katy’s comment!) but I can’t recall ever trying a NZ red. Clearly that’s something I need to rectify. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

    • Definitely try a Central Otago Pinot Noir – I’ve tried a fair few in my time but even I was surprised by the intense range when I went to a wine tasting specifically for that wine and region!

  • How can anyone not like New Zealand wines? I LOVE them! I can’t wait to some day go wine tasting in New Zealand – have never been but it’s on the list! Btw – great blog name ;). #farawayfiles

    • New Zealand wines are rather fantastic, aren’t they?! I hope you make it to NZ one day for a wine tasting experience – I have a feeling you would love it! Hahaha thank you – it’s a pretty honest, straight to the point blog name which suits me perfectly I think!

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