Travel Diary: Wine Tasting On New Zealand’s Waiheke Island

man o war

During my holiday in New Zealand last week I headed over to Waiheke Island to stay with my friends Mel and Grant for a couple of nights. Waiheke is one of my favorite places on earth so I’m always very happy to visit it. It’s only a 35 min ferry ride away from Auckland City but it somehow feels like a whole world away. It has a great holiday feel with friendly locals, gorgeous scenery and lovely beaches and most importantly it’s also home to some of my favorite wineries.

Mel actually launched her own wine tour business recently (aptly called ‘Wineheke‘) so I was very lucky to get a real insider’s tour of the local wineries during my stay!


waiheke harbor

I arrived on the island around midday so Mel and I went straight to lunch in the town center. We chose Wai Cafe as we saw that one of their outdoor tables overlooking the beach was free.

wai cafe

After a celebratory sparkling rose and delicious eggs benedict we picked up our friend Coco (who also lives on the island) and drove to our first wine tasting destination: Man O War.

Man O War is located at the far eastern side of the island so driving there is a great way to take all of the island landscape in. Since it’s currently Spring in New Zealand, there were many lambs frolicking around in the fields which got me very excited (cutest.animal.ever). We even saw a gorgeous peacock flock but sadly they all ran away before I could take any pics. Boo.

sheep waiheke view 2 waiheke landscape

After stopping a few times to take photos (annoying bloggers and their pictures) we arrived at the  Man O War tasting room which is in a small cottage sitting on the beach front of Man O War bay. We were warmly welcomed by their staff and we quickly proceeded to taste their yummy wines. I say ‘we’ but really Coco and I drank most of the wine since Mel was driving. It’s in those moments that I’m glad I don’t drive ;)

Although Man O War is famous for their Chardonnay it was actually the Pinot Gris and Rosé that stood out for us. The Rosé had a lovely light pink color and was made in a semi-dry french style which I love.

wine tasting man o war man o war pinot gris

With a bottle of Rosé under our arms we started driving back to Mel’s house, stopping by another vineyard along the way. Unlike many Waiheke wineries, Stonyridge doesn’t have any seas views but this doesn’t mean that it’s any less of a fabulous place. It makes one of New Zealand’s most famous Bordeaux-style red (called the ‘Stonyridge Larose’ and priced at a hefty $125 dollars a bottle minimum) and its Spanish-style building is set amongst beautiful olive groves and vines. The wine tastings are a little more expensive there but the setting and wines are so lovely that I think it’s definitely worth a visit. Just don’t order the Larose by mistake…

olive groves

After a great first day we finally arrived back at Mel’s house where we devoured a home-made stir fry and promptly went to sleep.

The following day, we decided to start the day on a healthy note (in preparation for a day of wine tasting lol) and went for a long walk along the beach. We had most of the beach for ourselves which was lovely (it gets very busy in the summer).

waiheke oneroa beach waiheke beach

After our walk, we left to have lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard.

Mudbrick is a very popular place for weddings on Waiheke and it’s easy to see why. The French-inspired building is beautiful and the views over the water and Rangitoto island are pretty special. Their restaurant is great but also on the pricey side which is why Mel and I decided to eat at their tasting room instead. We ordered a vegetarian platter and salt and pepper squid to share and it was amazing. I was worried it might not be enough food but boy was I wrong! We decided to also try a selection of Mudbrick’s white wine while we were there. All were nice but the sparkling one was our favorite so we bought a bottle to take home.

pearl waiheke mudbrick platter

After our glorious lunch we headed to Cable Bay vineyard where we were joined by Coco again. Although it’s just around the corner from Mudbrick, the two restaurants couldn’t be any more different. Whereas Mudbrick has traditional architecture, Cable Bay consists of a very modern building complete with high ceilings, large open dining spaces and glass windows that look over the water. I’ve always been a big fan of their red wines and their wine tasting didn’t disappoint. Their limited edition Malbec-Merlot-Syrah blend in particular was beautiful.

cable bay cable bay red wine cable bay view

We were starting to feel a little tired by that point but we still decided to visit just one more winery before going home. I had never been to Te Motu before but since it’s one of Mel’s favorite places I really didn’t want to miss it.

It turned out to be the real highlight of my trip!

Again, Te Motu doesn’t boast expensive sea views but their staff and wines are so great that I couldn’t have cared less. Their reds in particular were spectacular and had I had the money I would have happily bought a few of their premium bottles. Our host Mark was so fantastic that I decided to dedicate a whole post to his wine tips. Stay tuned for a post on how to taste wine like a pro in the next couple of weeks!

te motu cellar door te motu wines te motu trailer wine tasting te motu

After Te Motu, we went back to Mel’s house where we ate our weight’s worth in pizza. Not healthy at all, but oh-so-good!

After having such a great time on Waiheke it was sad saying good-bye the following morning but I’m sure I’ll be back soon enough for another visit!

xx Pearl


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