Located just to the east of Auckland, Waiheke Island is one of those destinations that can easily be overlooked because of it’s location; however, it’s growing population and numerous successful wineries on the island are starting to put Waiheke on the map for many backpackers and holidaymakers.
With only one day left in New Zealand I knew that I had to take a wee look, and so Dave and I booked a half day wine tasting tour with Around Waiheke Tours – because what else would we want to do on a day before a flight? *sigh*
We had already bought our ferry tickets a few days prior so we rocked up to Auckland’s harbour just before 9 am for our ferry, which had us at the ferry terminal at Waiheke just before 9:45am. The ferry service, with Fullers, was brilliant – quick, easy and beautiful journey past Devonport, downtown Auckland and Rangitoto – and there were plenty of seats for the passengers and commuters on board.
We were met by Julie from Around Waiheke Tours and her golden bus that would be taxiing us and 14 others from winery to winery. There were to be three wineries in total, more than enough for a Tuesday morning, and so we cosied up in the bus and watched as the Island unfolded in front of us. Now Julie, she was great. She reminded me a little bit of my mum, with her silly mum humour fun facts about the history of Waiheke. We were driven past schools and cafes and restaurants and so.many.houses! I had no idea that the island would be as developed as it was, and was surprised to learn that the population was around 8500 people, all of which living in adorable little wooden houses, painted in browns and whites.
We were admiring the lush greens of the native bush (all the while thinking that it the Island looks how I imagine Hawaii to look, and any minute now I would be presented with a grass skirt and those coconut boob things) and voyaging up and over steep hills, until we keep to our first Winery.
Kennedy Point. The only certified organic winery on the island, Kennedy Point overlooks Kennedy Bay, making it the ideal location to sample wines whilst enjoying the view. Now, I definitely, 1000%, do not consider myself a wine buff, by any stretch of the imagination, but since our wine tasting trip in Marlborough a few months previous we’ve really made an effort to pay attention to what we, well, pre-drink. We’ve come to learn that we both really enjoy a Riesling, and of course Pinot Gris, but that with the right food a number of reds are amazing (which gives Dave the perfect opportunity to repeatedly comment on it’s oakiness). And so this was the first wine tasting tour we were doing in which we actually, kinda, knew what we were talking about. Yes – I liked Kennedy Point’s Syrah. No – I didn’t like their Rose, but I find most Rose’s a bit too sweet. And their Sav, well, their Sav was grown in Marlborough which everyone knows is a fantastic location for growing Sav (Yes, I have finished being a wine snob, and yes I will slowly crawl out of my arse). My favourite thing about Kennedy Point was the added option of having a Rose and Oyster shot, although I can’t remember the official name for this, soz. I didn’t have one, but a few others on my tour did and they looked pretty good! And for only $5 too. Had I not tried oysters for the first time only a few days beforehand then I probably would’ve given it a go.
We left Kennedy Point and drove to the other side of the island to our second winery, Dellows, where we were given tastings of Sparkling Wine, Sauvignon Blanc and I *think* another Rose. I wasn’t overly keen on any of the tastings, if I’m completely honest, however we had been pre-warned that Dellows also offer tastings of their Chocolate Vodka and oh my word I think I died and went to heaven. Made with Whittaker’s chocolate, this vodka actually tastes more like a pudding than a vodka, but it wasn’t as rich or sickly as I was expecting which made me love it more. It did cost an extra $4 to try the vodka, but it was so good that I was even tempted to buy a bottle afterwards – for $25, mind. But Dellows actually makes a lot of weird-ish drinks, for example: Cucumber Gin, Rain Water Vodka and Moonshine. All of which looked really interesting, and I would definitely have tasted had I had the spare cash. Oh, and Dellow himself was very entertaining, with a very unique sense of humour – but it was great to be given the tasting by the actual wine/drink maker, and not just the company’s Manager/Assistant etc.
There was also an option to have a $10 cheeseboard at Dellows, which I think as an add-on is a brilliant idea!
The third and final stop off was to Passage Rock. An award winning winery, I have to say this one was my favourite. Finally we were given a Pinot to taste – which, by the way, did not disappoint – along with a number of other varietals, including: Syrah, Sisters, Rose and Sav. All of their wines were very good, and the manager of the winery was very passionate and informative when explaining each of the wines to us. Not to mention that the venue here is stunning, and we were taught a little bit about the grape growing process and the work that goes into the wines before they make it into a bottle (which I knew a lot about after my time with the Easthopes).
As our driver Julie rounded us up it was obvious that we were all feeling very…relaxed. Many of our fellow tour-goers had purchased wine from the wineries we had visited, and everyone seemed very happy with the tastings we had received.
We were driven back to the ferry terminal, and some people were dropped off along the way so that they could spend the rest of the day exploring the islands beaches and cafes in Oneroa (which we would have loved to do had we not had our massive backpacks). It was just gone 2pm by the time we were back on the ferry and on our return journey, getting us back into Auckland for 3pm, and we were chuffed to bits with the way our morning had gone. Our tour guide had been amazing, and we had gotten to see how beautiful Waiheke Island is whilst also getting to learn about its history and geography.
Anyone that’s read through my blog posts before will know that I’m a huge advocate of Bookme.co.nz, and this site came in top trumps with this one – ‘Around Waiheke Tours’ half day wine tasting tour usually costs $149.00 per person, but we got ours for $49.00 each. I’m not entirely sure that it would be worth it’s original price, but if you can grab a discounted tour on bookme then hands down you should grab it!