My Point of Heu
I must have been about 7 years-old the one time I visited New Zealand, there is a small chance that I was younger than that, but I will just stick with 7. All I recall are green rolling hills and white sheep everywhere. This time around I had the chance to visit New Zealand during the sunny fall season and it was a glorious experience that literally left me wanting more.
Upon arrival our flight got in after 10pm, by the time we got our rental car, checked into the hotel and settled it it was past 1:30am. We went to bed and woke up the next morning ready to explore. We knew we wanted to check out Waiheke Island and drove from the airport hotel to central city terminal in Auckland and hopped on a ferry. The warm sun, soft wind and clean water was inviting. After just 35 minutes on the boat we arrived at Matiatia Bay. What a splendid bay it is with small sail boats and kayaks. The air was crisp and the docks clean. There we purchased $10 all-day city bus passes and ventured to the wineries. You can also book a tour, rent a car/bike or even catch a taxi.
Waiheke Island is a haven for artists, ocean-lovers, nature enthusiasts and wine drinkers. One 20 minute bus ride and you'll arrive at a stop that features 3 vineyards all right next to each other and poised with differing activities and wines to sample and delight. Our first stop was at Wild on Waiheke, a brewery, winery and multi activity experience, we enjoyed a wine tasting and light lunch. The cool thing about this place is the outdoor activities and games you can enjoy on-site. There's clay shooting, archery, massive chess, a large trampoline and laser tag. Nestled in the midst of the vineyards is a beautiful garden and large flat green grass area to frolic. The food was great, nicely done and the wine tasting pours are smaller than what we are used to in America but enough to give you just a taste. The sampling included 6 wines for $13 - Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rose, Wildling and Syrah. It's a beautiful and fun setting with many options.
Next door is the impeccable Stonyridge Winery, this vineyard is about a 10 minute walk from the main road and up the mountain. Once you arrive you are greeted by hundreds of olive trees. Stonyridge is positioned as a more luxurious wine with notable awards, cafe, VIP club and more. They also offer tastings, an indoor and outdoor patio and really cool mountain sloped seating overlooking the vineyard. This location had pristine views with a more lively setting. This vineyard is divinely elegant with veranda cafe, yoga, helipad and full range menu items from cheeses, to mains, desserts and more. A tasting of 3 wines is $10, served outside and poured one-at-a-time, in a group setting where people can ask questions and engage with their host and each other.
The tasting is nestled under one of their many olive trees and it is there that you can sample 3 of their wines grown and created on-site from the 25 acre sustainable facility. We were still full from the 2 starters we had at the other winery that we only relaxed under the trees and enjoyed the tasting and didn't eat.
Here's their story: "Stonyridge Vineyard is the ongoing dream of owner Stephen White. In 1981 Stephen returned to New Zealand after sailing a Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, skippering yachts in the Mediterranean and Caribbean, and working at wineries in France, California and Italy. It was during this 3-year adventure that Stephen came to love the culture and lifestyle of the Mediterranean and the great red wines of France, Tuscany and California."
Surprisingly, another person from Hawaii spotted us and invited us to join their group. There we met with some of the locals including one of the owners of Stonyridge. We sat enjoyed more wine and talked for a while, until we had to catch our bus for an early dinner, then hop back on the ferry just as the sun was setting and make our way out of Auckland and toward Cambridge, which is just under 2 hours away.
Stay tuned for more on our amazing journey to New Zealand. Also watch this short video detailing our experience on Waiheke Island.