There is something in Auckland I have always wanted to do but, for various reasons, have just never gotten around to doing – wine tasting. New Zealand wine in world renowned and there are many ‘wine centres’ around the country: Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, and Waiheke Island being some of the famous ones.
As it’s Easter Weekend and everyone has an abundance of free time, a friend and I decided to head over to Waiheke to partake in some socially acceptable drinking. Waiheke Island is about a 30 minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland. For $57 you can buy a return ferry ticket and Wine Hopper bus pass. Reputedly this ticket also works on public buses, but every driver we spoke to said it didn’t. So things might be cheaper if you just buy a ferry ticket and a public bus pass. Stern words coming to Wine Hopper about their misleading brochures!
We decided to tackle five vineyards in a day: Kennedy Point, Goldie (the original Waiheke vineyard), Wild on Waiheke, Stoneyridge and Saratoga (as Te Motu closed early for an event).
Kennedy Point is not on the hopper bus route so we took the public bus and walked the 1.5 km to and from the vineyard – our first stop as we naively hoped to get all out walking done in the morning. It is a lovely spot, overlooking the car ferry wharf, with bison roaming their paddocks and a gorgeous balcony from which to survey the view. The woman doing our tasting was extremely lovely and helpful (we were embarrassed at drinking before lunch time) and I have to recommend their avocado oil, which I intend to buy an awful lot of!
Next up was Goldie, not originally on our itinerary, but as the hopper bus was supposed to leave from their we thought ‘why not?’ This is where we first encountered the pretentious, wine connoisseur wanna-be’s that tend to go wine tasting. Yeah I’m talking about you feathered hat guy! But we were not to be deterred! Another lovely lady filled our glasses and told us about the wine – albeit forgetting which one we were up to as she’d had a rather ‘late night’ the night before. Wine and Waiheke is an interesting combination so fair play I guess.
This was the point where the wine hopper bus failed us. The bus was not only not on time, but the bus going our way around the circuit never showed up. Insert fifteen minute walk down to Ostend for sandwiches here. We then waited for another public bus, walked five minutes up to Wild on Waiheke where the hopper bus arrived at the same time we did.
I would have liked Wild on Waiheke except there was to be a function that afternoon. It was not the wedding that annoyed me but the fact that we got there before the last call for food and drinks and the staff acted like it was a huge inconvenience. Our waitress was lovely, though and really made up for the rest of the place by sympathizing with our bad day and bringing us beer. For this reason I will recommend Wild on Waiheke as one of the better places to go on your tour. Nothing like a beer tasting to break up the monotony of the wine (not being a wino myself, unlike my mate Brigette who most certainly is!).
By this stage my cynicism was mellowed enough by a concoction of beer and wine brewing in my gut to wander up to Stoneyridge next door. This is a buy your tasting by the glass deal rather than the other places where you would pay between $5 and $12 for a selection. We grabbed five glasses between us and took them to a table on the canopied deck with a lovely view of olives that lets you know why Stoneyridge is one of the more popular visits.
Lastly, at about half five we meandered over to Saratoga. We had a bee in our bonnet about going there as they recently filled in a wetland that had inconvenienced them. They environmentally unfriendliness was made up for by their lovely staff who served us despite being so close to closing and let us stay even after the winery was closed. We sat in big wooden chairs watching the sun go down behind us and anticipated our public bus ride back to the ferry. I have to say – this was the highlight. Peace and quite, wine, good weather, beer.
If you have any wine tasting stories please leave me a comment 🙂 And do check out any or all of these places if you’re ever in Auckland.