With its beautiful beaches, easy access and laid-back vibe, Waiheke is a popular weekend getaway for Auckland residents, much as the Hamptons are for New Yorkers. And, similar to Long Island, Waiheke boasts a small, but high quality wine region.
Accommodations on the island are varied with backpacker options at the low end and five-star, luxury lodges on the other. We had the good fortune to secure one of the four rooms at the Te Whau Lodge, located near Rocky Point. Its elevated position provides guests with an amazing view of Putiki Bay. Hosts Liz Eglinton and Gene O’Neill pamper you from the moment you dock, arranging for transportation from the ferry terminal and greeting you upon your arrival at the lodge. Although it is optional, choosing to dine with your hosts is highly recommended.
Guests who opt to partake in dinner are invited to meet at 7:00 PM in the guest lounge for wine and hors d’oeuvres. Gene is an amazing chef, well regarded on the island. Scallops, gouchères and chicken rolled in fresh herbs from the garden were served with complimentary (and complementary) wine – SoHo Wine Co’s Carter Chardonnay from across the island.
After the appetizers, guests are welcomed into the dining room for a three-course meal and can choose to order wine from the lodge’s selection of local wines. We chose a Montepulciano from Whispering Sands, Obsidian’s second label.
As our visit was coincident with Valentine’s Day, a single red rose adorned each place setting, adding to the festive atmosphere. Post-dinner, Port and Cognac were offered as was coffee. At $60.00 NZ/person, it was not only a fabulous meal, but it was a terrific bargain.
Te Whau Vineyards is a short walk from Te Whau Lodge and a perfect place for a relaxed, al fresco lunch, featuring locally-caught fish. In fact, our server’s husband was among the local fishermen. The restaurant’s wine list features wines from throughout the island as well as more international selections.
After lunch, we tasted through the line-up of open wines, all of which were Bordeaux-style blends, but from different vintages. Unfortunately, our visit on the island was too short to visit any other wineries, but I have tasted wines from Waiheke’s Stonyridge and Man O’War at trade tastings in the U.S., further attesting to the quality of the island’s wines.