Leaving Auckland behind for a day on Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island is a 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland, New Zealand in the Hauraki Gulf.
It is pastoral and picturesque, with a beautiful maritime climate and Jurassic-era soil,
perfect for what it is today, New Zealand’s Island of Wine, home to 27 artisan wineries
and vineyards in just 36 square miles and part of the Auckland wine region.
Because of the sunny, warm growing season, the red Bordeaux varietals thrive, along with
the more recent addition of Syrah. The predominant white grape varietal is Chardonnay,
along with Viognier, some Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.
My visit to Waiheke Island was certainly serendipitous. I was sitting on the ferry next
to a New Zealander, who was chatting with some folks, also from Los Angeles, about the
winery on Waiheke Island, where he works.
Being my curious self and eavesdropping on a conversation about wine, I introduced myself
and asked him about his work. It turned out that he was Brett Taylor, the Director of Global
Distribution for Destiny Bay Winery, one of the more exclusive and appointment-only wineries
on the island.
Upon learning of our interest in and knowledge of wine, Brett invited us to join him and the others
at the winery for a tour of the vineyard and tasting of the latest wine releases.
On the way to the “Cellar Door”, the term that New Zealand wineries use for “Tasting Room”,
Brett gave us a tour of the expansive vineyards that overlook the Hauraki Gulf, complete with a
few lovely little equine residents.
Since New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, the seasons are reversed, meaning February
is equivalent to August. Veraison, when the red grapes begin ripening, thus changing color from
green to red or purple, also marks the beginning of the netting season.
Each row of vines is covered with netting to protect the grapes from the onslaught of birds that eye
the changing color and try to feed on them.Destiny Bay is a fully accredited
Sustainability Winegrowing New Zealand® vineyard & winery, adhering to ecologically responsible
practices in the vineyard and the winemaking process.
We tasted their 2009 Bordeaux blends… Destinae, a “Right Bank” style with a higher percentage
of Merlot, Mystae, a balance of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but a blend of 5 Bordeaux varietals,
and their signature Magna Praemia, which is “Left Bank” (Cabernet Sauvignon dominated) in its
structure, but “Right Bank” in its character.
All of these wines are beautifully balanced with lush fruits, fine tannins and aging potential.
I especially enjoyed Destinae.
The fastest way to get to Waiheke Island is by Fullers ferry that leaves from downtown Auckland,
if you are going on foot. When you buy your ticket, consider adding the Hop on-Hop off bus that
goes to several vineyards, a nice value for $20 NZ.
If you plan to take a car onto the island, the Fullers or Sealink ferry that runs from Half Moon Bay,
southeast of Auckland, can accommodate you and takes 45 minutes. If you plan to stay over for
a few days, lodging is available at various locations on the island.
There is certainly plenty to see and do.My first full day in New Zealand was a winner, made even
more special by that chance meeting and visit to Destiny Bay!
And the sunset cruise was not too shabby either!