We just bought our first home this week – a bach on Waiheke Island! The island in Auckland’s harbour famous for wineries and surrounded in beaches and bays. Ours is a little 1972 classic Kiwi bach (holiday home) that has just been beautifully renovated and as I type I am sitting on my deck listening to the summer cicadas.
So in the name of getting to know my new surrounds, I have been visiting Waiheke Island’s wineries for a wee nibble of their fare and a splash of the local nectar. In fact I had been taste-testing vineyards long before we bought our little place, but now my mission is to add to this list as I down each glass. So here’s my current review of seven wineries that all have restaurants or at least cheese platters available to sit outside:
You can walk here from Oneroa or even the ferry at Matiatia if you feel like a 2km hike up hill. And you should. In the last couple of years Cable Bay has undergone a transformation. The white cloths are still thrown over tables in the newly renovated restaurant but it’s the outdoor lounge they’ve created in a sunken veranda under a huge canopy, the bean bags strewn across the lawn lapping up views of the city, the hip music of an afternoon, and the new pizza oven that’s got me. Don’t be surprised if a helicopter hovers in dropping off guests or a live music session plays on the lawn. But it’s the views that I’ll be bringing friends and family for time and again.
Located in Surfdale, just near Oneroa, this gorgeous little winery was in the throes of setting up for a wedding and as the clouds rolled around the seating for the ceremony moved from inside to outside under a monstrous tree on top of a hill with sweeping views over Putiki Bay. Now owned by the University of Auckland and home to the Goldwater Wine Science Centre, named after the founders of the vineyard in the 1970s, where students are immersed into the operating and creating of wines in a hands-on way. We ordered a charcuterie and a cheese platter for four of us, and tried wines by the glass outside as a group of lads played petanque and their girls drank wine and giggled at a table beside them. A perfect couple of hours!
It’s a hike to get to (about half an hour on a dirt road) across the island, or you could arrive by boat at high tide and get off on the jetty, to enjoy one of their famous platters. There is limited indoor seating, but a large marquee with roll-down wind shelters makes for the best of both worlds, right on the beach and without the wind. There are several picnic tables dotted on the lawn, kids playing cricket, and those platters. A really great winery for a casual lunch with friends sitting on the edge of lapping waves.
As we arrived a helicopter was just lifting off only to travel about 1km over the trees and put down its thirsty guests at Cable Bay. The first thing that wows you is Italian-inspired gardens with their views towards Auckland. There are two dining areas here : the tables and chairs outside the tasting room and gift shop or indoor casual dining if the weather is being awkward, and the fine dining restaurant where many bride has sat. The perfectly manicured hedges are stunning, and again you can eat and drink inside at the fancy tables, or sit under one of the umbrellas outside for a sip, and swoon at the trimmed hedgerows.
This casual winery has outdoor seating virtually among the vines. The woodfired pizza oven spits out the best pizzas on the island, according to the New York Times, and their syrah has won 18 awards since 2004. This is a great winery to visit if the kids are in tow, meal sizes are generous and the trampoline, sandpit and bikes will keep them amused while you taste.
The drive along the peninsular to Te Whau is so impressive it’s worth coming here just for a quick tasting. You can see Kennedy Point across vines draped in white nets from one side and Auckland’s far eastern beaches stretching all the way to the city from the other. The tasting room and small restaurant are in a building high above the vines below, which was a pity as I would have loved to be able to take my meal and sit down among them. I’d recommend this for a taste as I felt the restaurant looked more like a cafe but the prices more like white table cloths.