After you’ve seen all the attractions included in Part 1 of our guide to the island – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=4982 start heading eastwards on the road towards Onetangi.
This winery was voted Bob Campbells’ “Winery of the Year” on his Real Review website this year. However, it is open by appointment only, and to be honest it is not somewhere that is on the tourist trail. You would need to be someone who was interested in buying or collecting some of New Zealand’s very best (and why not!?), since their world-class wines sell for hundreds of dollars.
I was fortunate to be given a tour and tasting by owner Sean Spratt in December ’21 and it was quickly obvious the immense attention to detail that is at the core of this operation. From how they are managing the vineyard – with specialist equipment but also a mass of hours of work by hand – to the incredible care taken in sorting fruit after picking, and so on.
Yes, prices for the end product are high, but the results are already well known – Winery of the Year, big scores, and an established reputation worldwide. I’d say that their goal would be to be regarded as one of the worlds’ Top 10 Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. And based upon what I’ve seen, read and tasted – this is well on track. The Magna Praemia wine from 2019 was my red wine of 2021, and the best red wine of its type that I have tasted from New Zealand.
Down this bit of Waiheke is a winery that is most certainly on the tourist route – many of the organised tours will include a stop at Thomas Estate Vineyard – Batch Winery at 129 Carsons Road. They are open for their Summer Hours (commencing 26th October) for Lunches on Thursdays to Monday, 11am – 3.30pm, with a Snack menu from 3.30pm – 5pm and Dinner on Fridays to Sunday from, 5pm – 9pm Their Winter Hours (May 1 – Labour Day) are Thursdays, Fridays and Sunday 11 am – 5 pm and Saturdays: 11 am – 8 pm.
This place is the highest vineyard on the island, so views from the restaurant are very, very nice. Thomas’ Bach Restaurant can seat from two to two hundred, and it is popular. You can get here onboard the Batch Bus – it’s just $12 per person return from the ferry. They have a few options for events and hire of spaces, so you can consider a party or wedding here.
Their winemaker is Daniel Struckman, and their range of vino includes ‘Thomas Estate’ and an upper tier of ‘Thomas Legacy’. Varietals from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Flora (always happy to see this around) through to red blends and single varietal Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Hay Paddock at 1 Gordons Road was established in 2003 by Chris Canning. It is a sheltered valley site and known for powerful reds. The 2013 Syrah-Petit Verdot was voted #1 on Waiheke – quite a review by Bob Campbell! Their website www.thehaypaddock.co.nz lists their Cellar door as closed, but there is a phone number for Jules – 021 211 2829.
Frenchman’s Hill Estate at 1 Margaret Reeve Lane, Rocky Bay isn’t a name that many people have heard of, but winemaker Luc Desbonnets has produced his wines under the Frenchman’s Hill Estate and Expatrius labels since founding the vineyard in 2006. Their wines are expensive by New Zealand standards – the 2010 ‘Blood Creek 8’ is available on the website, but is an eye-watering $395. In a picturesque spot on the Te Whau Peninsula, they used to be open daily and offer light meals, but a note on the website indicates that they are currently closed – hopefully this is only temporary. Call 021 285 2903 or go to www.frenchmanshillestate.co.nz to find out more.
SOHO Wine Co. don’t have a destination on Waiheke that you can visit, but their Carter Vineyard is in the Onetangi Valley and the wines are well worth looking into. A friend of mine is a devotee of this label and I’ve tried many of their wines – many from other locations such as Central Otago for their Pinot – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=1009 and I gave their Waiheke red blend ‘Revolver’ a solid 93/100 – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=4750.
The Onetangi Valley is full of things to do, and your first stop might be Wild on Waiheke at 82 Onetangi Road. It describes itself as a multi-activity venue and I’d agree with that. You might be interested in one of the full-on, team building type of things to do, but I’m here to talk about the food and beverages! Wine tasting (Wild Estate) and beer sampling from the Waiheke Island Brewery that is brewed on site, is available. You can get pizzas and burgers, through to platters or more substantial food in their restaurant. It’s a large place – can easily cater for over 200 people, and would be a great stop if you have kids or a family.
On the same stretch of road, and initially sharing a long driveway (it splits further up) are two of the originals of the area – Stonyridge and Te Motu. The elder, Stonyridge was founded by Stephen White back in 1982 when he planted the first vines and olive trees. First vintage was 1985, and in ’87 the first vintage of their famous ‘Larose’ wine was produced. This wine was lauded as the best red wine ever made in New Zealand. So good that in 2000, an elite French sommelier team put Stonyridge Larose 1996 as first equal with Chateau Petrus, Lafite Rothschild, Latour and Cheval Blanc in Grandes vins rouge du Monde (Les Editions du Bottin Gourmand). Current vintage of this wine sells for $375. I gave it 96/100 in this review – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=4980.
A gorgeous property, which reminds me of a European Estate, with one of the best restaurants on the island. You can easily spend a very pleasant afternoon here lounging on the expansive deck overlooking the vineyards. Wine tasting is available, of course, but I would recommend grabbing a table and having something to eat and a glass of one of their wines, and just relaxing for a while. Check back on the website later for an interview with winemaker Martin Pickering which will be online soon.
If you had taken the right hand fork in the road, you’d have ended up at Te Motu vineyard. Just a few years younger then their neighbours, the Dunleavy family planted grapes on the property they bought a year before in 1989. Also intending to make red wines in the ‘Bordeaux style’, the first wines were released in 1993. A family-run affair, I met with Rory Dunleavy in December, and we’ll be putting the interview online in the next few weeks. I also got a first taste of their new Kuikui Syrah and gave it 96/100 – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=4861.
The Shed is the place to eat at Te Motu – having won a few awards since being created, and consistently packed with happy diners. You can also do a wine tasting in one of a few areas on the property – there’s a large covered area next to the restaurant, for example. Alongside the premium wine flight ($20) you can also delve into older vintages by Coravin. The Dunleavy range of wines is also available to try and buy here – I had a lovely glass of ‘The Shed’ Rosé when I arrived, and there’s also a Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet in this range.
Tantalus Estate is a relative newcomer to the Onetangi Valley, having being planted in 1998 and had been operating as a rather down-at-heel operation until the new owners bought and began re-developing the property to bring out its full potential in 2013. With the vineyard re-planted, the wetland was re-invigorated and now hums with flora and fauna, bees and trees. The building has been transformed into a truly world-class venue – housing a brewery, Cellar Door, event spaces and an excellent restaurant. My lunch here in the last few weeks was amongst the best meals I’ve eaten in New Zealand.
There’s a new winery across the wetland from the main building, where winemaker Alex Perez crafts wines that are fit for the restaurant – in other words, superb. My review of the ‘Cachette’ Chardonnay is here – www.winefolio.co.nz/?p=5120, and the two Reserve reds – Écluse and Evoque are of similar quality. The Regional range also brings in fruit from around New Zealand to round out the range with a Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc for example – neither of which would feature too often in wines from Waiheke Island. One final note, and another wine to try – is the Reserve Chardonnay that is made in a concrete egg – these unique vessels have an interesting influence on the finished wines, and are always worth a go. www.tantalus.co.nz
Peacock Sky is tucked away in what is pretty much the centre of Waiheke. The address is 152 Trig Hill Road – turn off to the right before you head down towards Onetangi Beach. All their wines are from Waiheke grapes and they have a range on offer – from a sparkling Reserve Blanc de Noirs, to big reds such as Malbec and Cabernet Suavignons. Established in 2008, they were well known for offering weekend ‘degustation’ style tastings where small portions of tasty food were offered alongside the wines, but according to their website – www.peacocksky.co.nz – they are currently closed to visitors.
When I have stayed on Waiheke recently, I have chosen the Onetangi Beach Apartments. A major reason for this is the location – there are three places to eat at Onetangi Beach and each is only a minute’s stroll from where you are staying – www.onetangi.co.nz. I’ve had dinner a couple of times at Ki Maha and it is an excellent venue with good food. The wine choice is OK too. At the other end of The Strand is Charlie Farleys, which is a Waiheke institution, and on the site of the old pub. Nice breakfasts and coffee, sitting out on their tree-shaded terrace. In between is 372, a big place with an interesting looking menu – I haven’t been, so can’t really comment on how it stacks up – next time!
Back up the hill from the beach are two more wine options – the first is Casita Miro – a place I’ve not had chance to visit yet. People who’s opinion I respect have said “it’s a good place with good, and distinctive food and great sherry, but don’t go for the wine” It is certainly an attractive place, looking at their website – www.casitamiro.co.nz and some of the menu sounds excellent – I haven’t had a cataplana since I was in Lisbon! The vineyard is just 2.6 hectares, and the range is quite wide considering – including Albarino and Petit Verdot. Their address is 3 Browns Road, Onetangi.
Nearby, on Te Makiri Road, tucked away in a natural amphitheatre, is Obsidian vineyard. Planted in 1993 – again – and you’ll hear this quite a bit over on Waiheke – with the intention of making great Bordeaux style red wines. Since that time, new varieties have also been introduced and now Obsidian makes a wide range of styles, including making the island’s first Montepulciano and Tempranillo, across two labels – Obsidian and Weeping Sands. Their Syrah and flagship wine The Obsidian’ and ‘The Mayor’ have a range of over 95/100 scores from critics.
Their Cellar Door is open from 11am to 5pm daily during Summer – check www.obsidian.co.nz for any news or details.
Check back soon for a wrap up of the rest of the island – some great places to visit still to be featured!! We’ll be looking at Man O’ War, Passage Rock, Awaroa, Poderi Crisci and the new Gin Distillery…