What’s a honeymoon without some good wine?
We were looking for something to do in the Auckland area that would take us away from the bustle of the city, and our eyes landed on a nearby island just bursting with wineries. Waiheke Island is actually the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf. There are no bridges to it, but there are various water and air passages including small plane flights, helicopters, passenger ferries, and vehicle ferries. For the ease of driving around the island once we arrived, we decided to book a spot on the SeaLink for ourselves and our rental car.
There are two different places in the city to catch the car ferry to Waiheke- Half Moon Bay and Wynyard Quarter. We got a bit lost looking for the port at Wynyard Quarter, which was supposed to be not far from our hotel. Go figure, we managed to arrive just in time to see the ferry sailing away without us. The gentleman in the SeaLink office was able to book us in on the next ferry, which was leaving in about forty-five minutes… from Half Moon Bay. So we had to hustle across a busy city with nothing but a map from a tourism office to guide us with barely forty-five minutes to spare. We did make it, but by the skin of our teeth!
The ride over was pretty long, nearly an hour. There was a little snack shop and some benches upstairs, but I stayed in the car and took a much needed cat nap. We used the remainder of the ride to plan our route for when we arrived on the island. There are TONS of wineries on the island, but many state that you need a reservation for a tasting. Others close up at 4pm or 4:30pm, and with us missing the earlier ferry we wouldn’t even be arriving until after 4pm. So we simply set our sights on the two that were open the latest. Not the most educated or romantic way to choose wineries, but it seemed like the best way to make the most of our time.
Stonyridge Vineyard was very easy to find after we had driven the car off of the ferry. They had a large parking lot with a lovely atmosphere. The tasting wines were sorted into flights of three, with it costing NZ$10 for each flight. We chose to share the tastings rather than each get our own glasses, so we were able to pay NZ$20 and try six different wines. After sorting all of this out at the counter, the gentleman there invited us to choose a seat on the patio. We were a bit confused. All other wine tastings I have been at were conducted with me standing at a bar while a staff member filled and refilled the same glass over and over again and I tried to drink fast enough so that there wasn’t an awkward lull while they stared at me waiting to begin the next spiel but not too fast that it goes right to my head and I can’t enjoy it…
This place was different though, as we settled into a very unique set of benches made out of wooden barrels overlooking a brilliantly beautiful vineyard. We decided to make an event out of it and ordered an appetizer of bruschetta. The bruschetta arrived just a few minutes ahead of the wine. The server gave us a few tasting notes on each of the glasses, three red, two white, and one sparkling. The only downside to the tasting being done in this manner was that I basically forgot the notes he explained by the time I tried each of the wines. However, considering we were here more for the experience than the education, it was a small price to pay.
We had truly the most atmospheric, relaxing, delicious wine tasting we had ever had there at Stonyridge. We were able to take our time, sipping each variety as we pleased. Rather than making small talk with a staff member, we had a pleasant, private conversation. Rather than staring at a wall or a line of bottles, we enjoyed the beautiful view. Luckily we were just finishing up when the rain started trickling down, pushing us off the pretty porch and back into the building where we purchased a few of our favorites.
We did manage to visit one more winery before closing time on Waiheke. While it was enjoyable, it paled in comparison to the atmosphere at Stonyridge. And even though we only got to visit two wineries out of so many on the island, we are still very happy with the time we spent there. It had been so disappointing to miss that first ferry, but rather than give up, we made the most out of the time that we had. If you’ve got some time during your stay in Auckland and you enjoy a nice glass of wine, definitely don’t miss Waiheke Island- and while you are over there, be sure to take a seat on the patio at Stonyridge.