Wine Tasting on Waiheke Island

On our last full day in New Zealand we decided to get out of the city again.  After a morning full of souvenir shopping, we hopped on a ferry bound for Waiheke Island, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf.  

Even though it was overcast, we still got some great views of Auckland from the water, and got to see some of the smaller islands in the Gulf.

In just over half an hour we docked at Waiheke Island.  We had booked the Wine on Waiheke tour, and got right on the tour bus to set off for the first winery.  The island has its own little micro climate, which combined with its volcanic soil apparently makes it an ideal grape growing area.  There are 22 wineries on the island, and we visited three on our tour.

First stop was Mudbrick Vineyard.  The first thing you notice when you arrive at Mudbrick are not the grape vines or even the beautiful tasting room and restaurant, but rather the lavender plants that are absolutely everywhere.  The smell is unbelievable!  We were all given a glass of sparkling wine while a representative of the winery told us about the vineyard and the wine making process.  

We got to taste two other wines at Mudbrick while we were told about the grapes as well as given a little tour.  Before we got back on the bus I actually picked up a little bottle of lavender essential oil made from their lavender.  

The second stop on our tour was the oldest vineyard on Waiheke, Goldie Vineyard.  While we tasted their award winning Syrah and nibbled on some snacks, the owner's wife (a Texan!) told us about the vineyard.  Goldie was the most homey feeling of the three vineyards we visited, and the owners spoke with such pride and was really nice!

After taking in some absolutely spectacular views, Bryn and I picked up a bottle of the Syrah to take home...we're thinking of saving it for Thanksgiving.

Finally we came to our third and final vineyard of the day, Te Whau Vineyard.  It is set up on a cliffside, which apparently allows them to make their wine by using gravity or something.  It's also completely organic.  The owner and winemaker was very proud of this, but it all sort of went over my head!

He spoke to us at length about what makes a good wine, and finally got around to pouring us a glass and giving us a little lesson in wine tasting.

Step 1: Hold the glass at the base, and tilt it slightly to look at it.

Step 2: Swirl to release the aroma.

Step 3: Sniff ("we're sniffing wine people, not snorting cocaine" - I believe those were his exact words!)

Step 4: Taste.  Take a big mouthful and hold it in your mouth for 5 seconds, swishing it a bit.  Then swallow and suck in air through your teeth.  

There you go, now you too can look like an wine expert!

The tasting room and restaurant at Te Whau had some pretty amazing views, and I think it's meant to be a pretty swanky dinner spot.

We picked up a bottle of the Te Whau wine to take home as well (their table wine, which was really, really nice...that's coming from someone who doesn't really know anything about wine!!)  Perhaps we'll save this one for Christmas?

Even though the Wine on Waiheke tour ticket included a day long bus pass, we went ahead and took the ferry back to Auckland.  The sun had come out by then and it was a beautiful, but VERY windy ride home.

We definitely could have spent more time on Waiheke Island and plan on spending a night or two there on our next trip to New Zealand.

Sleepy, wind-blown and well wined, we decided on a quiet "dinner" in our hotel room while we watched The Block NZ.  It was the perfect way to round off an amazing day.

Well, there you have it - our short, but very sweet trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud.  I'm so happy we got to spend our little trip with Jannie, who we hadn't seen since our wedding back in 2010!  I cannot wait to get back to New Zealand, sooner rather than later I hope.  And I promise you, we will be there longer than 8 days next time!

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