I love summer! I love the long days, the summer holidays when everyone else is out of town and the suggestion to have a cheeky wee wine of an afternoon simply rolls off the tongue, the balmy evenings…
I asked my Twitter and Facebook friends for their recommendations and here are some of my favourite New Zealand wineries along with the most popular ones as voted by you, that offer great food with your splash to while away the summer.
Starting from the top of the North Island and working my way down:
Named after Samuel Marsden who introduced the first grape vines to New Zealand in 1819, it’s only right we start here. And having just won Champion Chardonnay and Champion Wine at the NZ International Wine Show against 2130 wines, this little vineyard kicks off my list starting at the top of the north and working my way south. I was last here for a wedding (ages ago now and yes they are still happily married!) but the restaurant is still highly acclaimed. Sit inside or out on the terrace and enjoy drinking in more than just the view.
We all know Matakana for its fabulous Saturday Farmer’s Market (40 minutes north of Auckland), so hit that first for brunch and little goodies, then head down the road to Brick Bay where art and wine hold hands. Begin by grabbing a map and taking a self-guided tour through the 2km scultpure trail of modern and classic pieces, twists on ideas and quirky originality, all celebrated in hidden nooks or in pride of place, then make for the Glass House for a taste and a splash.
This has had a lot of love lately, and with good reason. Since last summer a woodfired pizza oven has been added to the outdoor area under giant canopies to protect from the elements – sun or rain. But the bean bags on the lawn positioned for best views of Auckland city are a great touch. You could dine in the restaurant for a fine dining experience, but personally, I love their small plates outside with a bottle of Rose and that view.
I adore their Sauvignon Blanc but didn’t realise until I asked on Twitter for people’s faves that you could spend an afternoon here at Man O’ War Bay way out the back of Waiheke Island. For boaties, just pull up on the beach and hop ashore. The rest of us will need a car (or private helicopter) and I have it on good authority their platters are delicious. On my winery bucket list!
On the rugged Te Awanga coastline where my family used to have a bach (until it got washed out to sea), Elephant Hill is a masterpiece of design with a moat beside the veranda and dining is inside or out. The restaurant won ‘Best Winery Restaurant’ by Cuisine Good Food Guide 2014, so that’s reason enough to go. But whether you go for a fancy lunch or dinner, or just a sip in the sun, take a sunhat and plenty of time.
There are so so many great Hawkes Bay wineries to choose from, but I’m going to put Mission Estate on this list because if it’s a nice day, there is something really magical about sitting at a table outside on the lush green lawn overlooking the vineyards below. And of course, there is a history lesson here too with the Mission Brothers planting the first grapes in 1851.
Skipping across the strait, my next recommendation is the Swiss-family owned and operated Hans Herzog Estate. The Herzog family have been making wine since 1630 and in the 1990s Hans and his wife Therese moved to New Zealand and brought their skills (and Michelin-starred restaurant) with them. Sit outside by the little pond under a canopy of leaves and enjoy a fabulous lunch from the award-winning chefs in the kitchen. And if you really can’t bear to leave, book a night in their very cute luxury cottage.
On a cracking southern afternoon, the views from the restaurant and veranda with its cute water feature high above Lake Dunstan beg to be savoured. And what better way to do that than with a drop of Mt Difficulty’s silver medal winning Roaring Meg Pinot Noir over lunch.
If this winery is good enough for Prince William and the smashing Kate, then it’s surely worthy of this list. I last visited in the winter and sat outside beside the roaring fire nibbling on their bistro food and sipping a big red. The winery overlooks Lake Hayes and the bistro was runner up for Best Winery Restaurant 2014, so book ahead.