Travel: Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Part of the North Island of New Zealand and just a short 30 minute ferry boat ride from downtown Auckland, is one of the country’s most accessible and fascinating wine areas:  Waiheke Island.  It has a unique maritime micro-climate that supports growing of outstanding red wine grapes.  We are talking mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.  While many other excellent varieties of wine are available on Waiheke, red certainly dominates.  When it comes to wine, New Zealand is certainly most famous for Sauvignon Blanc, but don’t think for a minute that their other wines are not world class, especially those on Waiheke.

Waiheke Island New Zealand 2-4-2011 10-10-56 AMAs you can see, the day was a bit overcast for our trip to Waiheke, but it certainly did not change our attitudes over the wine. In this picture you can see that most of the grapes are covered with netting.  This is to keep the birds from stealing the ripening grapes.  We were told that the Pukeko (most commonly pronounced “Poo Kicker”) birds would move along the top of the nets until they found a hole, then dive in for a bit of a feast.  A great idea!  We were ready for a taste as well.

There are literally dozens of wineries to stop at.  First you hop off the ferry, rent a car for the day, grab a map at the visitor Stonyridge winery Waiheke Island New Zealand 2-4-2011 2-21-41 PMcenter and get your journey going.  One of the most famous reds on the island is Stonyridge’s Larose.  Don’t jump right to the big boy first though, you need to sample the other gems they have to offer first.  Check out the tasting menu and ask for advice and expert guidance from your host or hostess.  The wines listed as “Stonyridge” are estate grown on Waiheke.  The Fallen Angel wines are produced from grapes grown elsewhere in New Zealand.

Here is the flagship wine – Larose.  One of the world’s largest wine publications named Larose as one of its’ top 100 wines.  Not only was it available for purchase while we were there but it was also on the tasting menu!  It is Stonyridge winery Waiheke Island New Zealand 2-4-2011 2-37-55 PMquite complex and powerful – certainly at the top or our list as well.  We did manage to find a place in our suitcases for one bottle to take home.  The bottle in the photo was placed on the railing near the Winery’s café.  Great location overlooking the vineyards and olive groves.  We could have spent all day here, but alas other wines also needed tasting.