On an island in the sun
We’ll be playin’ and havin’ fun
And it makes me feel so fine
I can’t control my brain
Ah, good old Weezer. A great song and our expectation for today’s trip. When we planned our trip to Auckland we decided that we would need to go and see one of it’s wine regions. The nearest one would was only a ferry ride away in Waiheke Island, so we went online and booked a tour.
That morning we began with our complimentary 8th course from Clooney. Nice!
Old man is snoring…
It was raining as we walked to the ferry and being a tad early we stopped for a drink on the way. As we drank some coffee – tea for Karen – in the Store again, we got a phone call from our tour guide. There was a major storm brewing on the island, all the roads had been taken in, flash flooding, cats and dogs living together – mass hysteria. The bottom line was that our tour was cancelled. #Deflation.
As the news of this sunk in, Karen produced the Ferry Tickets we had bought the previous day and gestured ‘ripping them up’. With the day now cancelled we scrambled to think of what to do. First off we had to try and get our money back on the tickets.
Luckily for us the Fuller’s Ferry Company (Thanks guys) believed our ‘real’ sob story about the tour being cancelled and they gladly refunded us our money. With that done we wandered over to the Tourist Information desk to try and salvage our day.
As it turns out the previous tour company just were not that bothered on going on a tour and the roads were all clear on the island. Feeling sorry for us the very nice lady, called Helen (surprise surprise) used all her moxy to get us on a tour that was leaving in 5 minutes. So we jumped on it (and the ferry!).
Island in the stream
Waihkeke is the 4th Best Island in the World (Conde Nast) and the 5th Best Destination to visit in the world in 2016 (Lonely Planet). It’s also called the Island of Wine. 3 Great reasons to visit.
We arrived off the boat in Matiatia Bay and a nice South African lady (Harriet??) was waiting for us with a clipboard. There would 6 of us on the wine tour, an English ex-pat couple and a Mother and Daughter combo from China.
As she drove out of the ferry terminal we were enthralled with stories of the island and it’s quirks. Our first stop was at Kennedy Point Vineyard. Nestled amongst the Pohutukawa trees it is the only certified organic vineyard on Waiheke Island and specialized in Bordeaux and Syrah Wines. In fact it’s 2007 Syrah was voted ‘Best Syrah in the World’ in 2009).
As we entered the cellar door we were greeted with all manner of jazz artwork and motifs. The Wineyard has close connections to the Annual Jazz Festival on the island (held in March).
After that it was back in the van and up the hills to the island’s highest vineyard – Batch Winery.
Batch is Waiheke’s newest hi-tech winery and it has commanding views from Coromandel to the Sky Tower in nearby Auckland. Here we were able to try more reds (Pinot Gris, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah) as well as some fizz – which is bottled on site using a fancy piece of kit from Italy.
This was quite a unique tasting as we did started outside the winery and there was a little walk between the setting of each tasting, culminating with a glass of bubbles in the bottling plant.
Our next stop was in the Tin Shed Restaurant of Te Motu Wines. Te Motu means ‘island of long shelter’ in Moari and has been run since 1988 by the Dunleavy family.
We were walked through the tastings by the mostly French staff, which was appropriate as we tasted more Bourdeaux style wines – including John’s favourite – Merlot.
As impressive as the wine was the setting, a tin shed overlooking fields of vines all surrounded by the hills that create the Onetangi Valley. Clouds massing above for another barrage of rain.
Our last stop on the tour was for lunch and a final tasting at Stonyridge Winery. Here traditional French wine making methods are used to make decent Cabernet-blends. It was here that it was first recognized that the climate was ideally suited for making Bourdeaux style reds.
As well as some wine we had a very nice lunch in the restaurant – located in an ivy covered farmhouse – and some banter from the waitress who was from Glasgow.
As the clouds still hung above us like the sword of Damocles, yet did not seem like dropping their rain on us anytime soon, we decided to be let off at the village of Oneroa rather than directly back on the ferry. A chance to stretch our legs and do a bit of exploring. The settlement is located on a neck of land bordered by two sandy beaches and acts as a border between the the Eastern densely populated urban areas and the Western Agricultural heartland of wineries and farms.
There is one main street and it has a motley collection of gift shops, cafes, restaurants and bars and reminded us a bit of Leura in the Blue Mountains, except that it overlooks a beach and it had some dodgy dolls in one of the shops. After a bit of sightseeing we had to run for the boat as the heavens had finally decide to open.
On the journey back all the talk on the ferry was about the ‘Chinese Spy Ship’ that was in the harbour. A big white vessel brimming with satellites in the harbour. It was certainly getting everyone gossiping. On further research it turns out that the Yuan Wang 5 Ship is used to support Satellites launched by the People’s Liberation Army Navy of China. So nothing nefarious there then! Oh wait it also supports their ICBMs. Great bunch of lads the Chinese.
The evening of a wine tour is generally like the weather of Auckland – a wash out. We spent about an hour walking the streets of the city before settling on a Vietnamese restaurant for dinner that was not great at all. Not that spicy and more buck than bang. We decided on an early night after that disappointment as we had a very busy last day before our flight in the evening.
Old Forts, the hardest hill climb ever and more wine await us the next day but for now it’s probably best to update those lyrics from the intro.
On an island in the rain
Wine was great so we can’t complain
And it makes me feel so fine
but that Pho was real plain.