When I first arrived in Auckland, I still hadn’t decided if I wanted to do the Waiheke Island wine tasting circuit. Going there involves a ferry ride and then finding my way around the island without a rental car. I wasn’t sure if it would be worth the trouble. Now that I’ve been there and done that, I know it was definitely worth it!
I took the 10:00 ferry (Fullers, 36 NZD RT) and by 10:40 I arrived to stunning scenery and cloudy skies, but no rain. I decided to take the Hop On Hop Off bus (25 NZD) because not only could I take this bus to my choice of about 15 wineries, I could also catch the local buses if I didn’t want to wait. They are included in the price of the ticket. It’s like every bus is a Waiheke Island wine tasting bus!
I’m not going to critique wine and expound on what I tasted and smelled in each wine, because I frankly don’t remember and I’m a total amateur. I know what I like, what I don’t, and what I’ll buy and what I won’t. You’ll find out more about this later. But I can tell you a bit about the wineries I visited and why this island is dangerous. Dangerous on your wallet, that is…
By 11:00, I was on my way to the first winery where I learned that most of the wines on the island are reds since it is too cold to grow many varietals of white grapes. I prefer white wine. The fact that most of the wines I tried on this day were red did nothing to prevent the pain that would be bestowed on my wallet later.
I decided to visit both wineries at Stop #4. Stonyridge and Te Motu are only 500 meters apart if you walk as the crow flies. Bring your gum boots for this one! I started at Stonyridge, where they only have red wine and charge 9 NZD for a tasting of three wines. I bought a bottle of Merlot, and they still charged me for the tasting. While I really enjoyed my experience here and chatting with the young French guy who works here, I thought the tasting fee should’ve been waived with the purchase of a bottle of wine.
Next I walked across an old airfield to Te Motu, where a tasting of four reds is 20 NZD, which they waive if you buy a bottle that costs more than 45 NZD, which I didn’t. I didn’t mind that they didn’t waive the fee. I minded that it was 20 NZD and each taste was just a sip. But Brian from California is knowledgeable and he didn’t seem to hold a grudge when I didn’t buy anything. I walked back to Stonyridge to catch the Hop On Hop Off bus to my next destination, Stop #6.
At Stop #6 there are two wineries, but each requires about 20-25 minute uphill walk with amazing views. The first winery I passed was Miro, and I decided to give this one a miss and head on to Obsidian. They had Viognier, which I’d had in Australia and loved. It’s white and sweet. But at Obsidian, they pride themselves on the fact that their Viognier is NOT sweet. I wasn’t crazy about it. A tasting of four wines at Obsidian is 10 NZD, but I actually tasted five. I liked this winery, the wines were good, but I was still in search of a sweet white wine.
I was also feeling pretty good, so a 20 minute walk back to the bus, taking time to admire the scenery, did me a lot of good. I thought. Back on the bus I headed to Stop #14, Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant. Keep in mind that I was still feeling pretty good…
I’d heard good things about Mudbrick, and loved the whole setup of this winery and restaurant. I stepped inside the tasting room thinking I would dish out 12 NZD for their least expensive tasting menu and walk out empty handed. That was the plan. I chose the menu with two whites and two reds. The second white was a Pinot Gris, and I knew I was in trouble. I loved it. Perfect wine for summer in the desert. Then I just happened to mention that I liked sweet desert wines. She flipped the menu over, and pointed out that I could taste the Reisling for 2 NZD.
So I did. Oh no. Danger! Danger! It was white and sweet, but not too sweet, and it was perfect! It was also 47 NZD a bottle. I could feel my credit card begin to pulsate. “You’re unemployed!” yelled the angel on my right shoulder. “Who cares? She has a credit card and no mortgage!” yelled the devil on my left.
I shipped four bottles of Reisling and four of the Pinot Gris home to the US. But she didn’t charge me for any of the tastings! Finally, a win!
But this day wasn’t over yet. Two of the wineries I wanted to visit, because they also brewed craft beers, were both closed for the month of August. So after Stop #15 at Cable Bay winery, which I decided not to visit, I walked to the main village on the island. Oneroa is a lovely little town, but I was in search of food and beer. I found it at Cove Bites and Brews thanks to a sign on the sidewalk that sent me down the stairs.
They had a great menu and served craft beer! Clearly I hadn’t had enough alcohol today, so I needed beer. I tried two of their IPAs, one of which was called Pontoon in a Monsoon. Loved them both. I actually ended up eating with the owner, Julia from El Salvador, and the chef’s wife, who was from Brazil. They took pity on me eating alone.
This company at dinner had a downside. Sort of. When the combination of food, beer, and company is good, I tend to have more fun and spend more money. I walked out 54 NZD lighter, and headed towards the ferry. Luckily, there was no place to stop for drinks before I reached the ferry.
Waiheke Island. What a great day. Just grab your credit card and go. I’ll be looking for a job soon, after I visit Wellington and then head home. Wonder if Mudbrick Winery is hiring…