Food and Wine Tour on Waiheke Island

When my girlfriend Sarah was in town over the Christmas period for a visit, I decided to treat us both to a wine tour of Waiheke Island. We've both shared many a wonderful conversation over a bottle of wine in many different countries over the years, so it seemed like the perfect thing to do with one of my favorite people in the world. 

Waiheke Island is really special to me, as it is also home to one of my most beautiful memories of this country - our wedding day - nearly eight years ago now. 

After some careful research, I decided to book us on one of the food and wine tours on Ananda Tours, which seemed to have the best fit as to what I wanted for our afternoon on our island. I opted for The Essence of Waiheke Wine Tour, which included a visit to three vineyards on the island, tastings at each, as well as a two-hour lunch stop at a restaurant of our choice. 

View of Cable Bay Vineyard
The vineyards were chosen on the day by our guide according to seasonal availability, from a list of about twelve vineyards. We can also include ferry tickets in our online booking, and collect them from the ferry terminal just before departing the city. 

The booking process was easy, and we were well looked after from beginning to end. Our guide met us at Matiatia Ferry Terminal upon arrival, and we embarked on our trip in a large, comfortable air-conditioned bus designed for the tours. The vineyards chosen for us on the day were Jurassic Ridge, Obsidian Wines as well as Stonyridge Vineyard.

Lance Blumhardt, founder and winemaker of Jurassic Ridge
I'd never heard of Jurassic Ridge before, but it turned out to be our favorite winery visit. A small family-owned vineyard situated in the historic Church Bay of Waiheke Island, Jurassic Ridge focuses on natural and sustainable wines made with organic principles and minimal intervention. Not only did we have the pleasure of tasting some truly special wines here, we were also able to learn about them from the winemaker Lance Blumhardt, himself - a truly remarkable man with a background in both medicine and geology, who's now making remarkable wines. 

I bought several bottles of the Jurassic Ridge Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 here, an absolutely delicious and lively drop with good acidity and balance, made in a style similar to the French Sancerre, which is without a doubt one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I've ever had in New Zealand. I also splurged on a bottle of 2009 Montepulciano, which was rich, complex, vibrant, and could probably age for a whole decade more should we not be leaving the country in three weeks and having to clear out our pantry.

Ms. Sarah and I
Obsidian Vineyard
Our next stop was Obsidian Vineyard, which coincidentally was where The Husband and I ordered our wines from for our wedding day, although back then it was called Weeping Sands. I'd never been to the actual vineyard as we ordered the wines through a tasting back at our wedding venue, so I was really excited to be at the vineyard in person. 

Obsidian Vineyard Tasting Area
Although the name has changed, the wines are still fantastic. We tasted a lovely series of red and white wines in the warm afternoon sun accompanied with cheese and crackers, and I loved the rustic and cosy setting of the cellar door and simple wooden tables and benches that blended right into its natural environment. 

I couldn't leave this vineyard without buying a bottle, and left with a 2013 Cabernet Merlot Malbec Blend, which really did remind me of the red wine we had at our wedding - rich in deep red fruit characters as well as pleasant cedar and oaky flavors, ending with a long, lingering finish and a silky mouthfeel. 

My Happy Place
Obsidian 2013 Cabernet Merlot Malbec
Our last official stop was Stonyridge Vineyards, and this was probably my least favorite simply because it was also the largest and busiest one, although the setting of the vineyard was the most beautiful. There is a huge cafe on site, which the other two didn't have, perfect if you're looking to indulge in some good food alongside your tasting.

This establishment however, felt rather touristy to me, probably due to its popularity and this is certainly for due reason. However, I simply preferred the smaller, more intimate tasting venues where you actually got to study the wines at length and speak to the winemaker. Because we were out in the gardens away from the crowd, I couldn't actually bring myself to focus on the wines we were tasting as the view was just so lovely!

Stonyridge Vineyard
MudbrickVineyard and Restaurant
I'd opted for us to have lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, which has to be pre-booked when yore booking your tour and for good reason! Sarah and I were dropped off shortly after our time at Stonyridge, where I was surprised that we got to do another tasting with our lunch.

This was again a large, busy establishment, in an absolutely beautiful setting. There is a main restaurant, and also a smaller bistro out on the courtyard, which was where we sat to share our Vineyard Platter - an absolutely delicious plate full of all my favorite nibbles - prosciutto, salami, prawns, ceviche, cheese twists, roasted vegetables, meatballs, with a garden salad and some locally made bread.

Vineyard Platter
Wines at Mudbrick
We sat out in the beautiful courtyard for over an hour enjoying our food, more wines, and catching up on conversation and friendship. At the assigned time, we were promptly picked up and taken to the ferry terminal to catch our ferry ride back to Auckland.

It was a perfect day on the island, and all in all, an easy, wonderful tour that I would recommend to anyone looking to do something a little different in New Zealand. Waiheke Island is a renowned wine region, though probably not as well known on an international level, and I consider myself blessed to have such special memories of this place and to have the pleasure of tasting so many beautiful, artisan wines over the years.

Comments

  1. They helped us put together a great menu, from the consultation to the tasting to the actual event. At San Francisco wedding venues they had biscuits and gravy, cornbread muffins, fried catfish, jambalaya, enormous pieces of fried chicken

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular Posts