A short ferry ride from Auckland leads you to the natural beauty of Waiheke island. Where sandy beaches span the coastline, emerald waters lap against craggy rock formations, and olive groves encompass scenic vineyards, Waiheke Island is a perfect addition to any New Zealand itinerary.
The island captures the hearts of Aucklanders and International Visitors alike and has the enviable accolade of being labeled by Condé Nast as one of the best island destinations in 2016. In a similar fashion to what the Hamptons is to New York City, Waiheke Island offers Aucklanders a peaceful escape from the pressures and chaos of metropolitan city life.
The Best Wineries on Waiheke
Though the secluded beaches and beautiful scenery are certainly a draw for Waiheke island (read Black Label’s post about making the most of your trip to Waiheke here), one of my personal favourite things about visiting this slice of paradise it that it is home to some of the best vineyards in the country. With the New Zealand summer season now in full swing, and Waiheke’s globally acclaimed wineries opening their doors for the first time this year, there truly is no better time to consider organising a bespoke tour or a tasting. Going far beyond simply offering a chance to sample wines, Waiheke wineries are also home to some of the island’s best restaurants.
Labour Day weekend came and went here in New Zealand, marking the official opening of the country’s wineries in conjunction with the start of the summer season. To celebrate, a number of Waiheke island’s premier wineries and vineyards were hosting launch events to a select and exclusive guest list. Among those in attendance was Black Label Experience who had the pleasure of attending and sampling the wares. As a result, we feel well poised to outline the best wineries on Waiheke.
Among a seemingly infinite number of options, there are a handful of Waiheke wineries which really shine out. Enjoying exquisitely beautiful settings and expertly managed by leading Sommeliers and winemakers, these are the places to see and experience on Waiheke.
Located on the Northern part of Waiheke Island, Onetangi valley is a picturesque, rural haven. Where olive groves and twisted grape vines extend as far as the eye can see and provide a perfect spot for a scenic walk, Onetangi is the picture perfect setting for Tantalus Estate.
Tantalus has received critical acclaim in the international media, and has been awarded numerous awards for their exquisite tipples. Notably, their 2014 vintages and “Evoque” Bordeaux style blends have won silver medals at the London International Wine Awards, among many other accolades.
A tasting at Tantalus provides the wine loving traveller with the opportunity to sample both new releases offered by the winery and old favourites. During my visit, Clare Dunleavy, resident Sommelier selected and prepared an array of blends. Those trialled included the Écluse; Évoque; Voilé and Estate Merlot Cabernet Franc blends. The vineyard’s much adored 2016 Cachette and 2017 Pinot Gris also made their debut.
Wines sampled at Tantalus are accompanied by canapés designed specifically to compliment the flavours of the tipples which is a nice addition to the experience.
If you follow Black Label’s stories, you may recall that I spent a day at Waiheke Island earlier this year while hosting AnaTracey Hawkins, Contributor for luxury New York Lifestyle Magazine, The Hedonist. You can read more about our itinerary for a luxury day trip to Waiheke here.
The name that has been on everyone in the international wine industry’s lips over the past few years is Destiny Bay. A winery owned by California natives Michael and Anne Spratt, Destiny Bay goes above and beyond to ensure quality in all that they deliver. The pair relocated to New Zealand to open a winery after falling in love with the country on vacation, and their passion is evident in their produce.
The unique thing about Destiny Bay is their approach to winemaking – blending ancient traditions with new technological processes in order to produce wines that are not only of superb quality, but which are made with a minimal impact on the environment. The processes adopted by the winery are costly, but enable the Spratts to operate as responsible farmers and horticulturalists. Their vineyard is the first certified sustainable winery in New Zealand, and their operation is hailed by leading Wine Writers as being one of the best producers of cabernet blends in the world. In fact, demand for Destiny Bay wines is so high, that their limited batches are often sold to overseas buyers before they are even bottled!
Further contributing to Destiny Bay’s ever growing successes, at the recent International Cabernet Tasting at Cape Mentelle, Australia, the current Managing Editor of Parker’s Wine Advocate, Joe Czerwinski rated Destiny Bay at the top of the first wine flight, ahead of four Australian cult wines, one esteemed French wine and a Parker 99 point California Cabernet.
As you can envisage, with incredibly high quality comes high demand and a visit to the site is by appointment only. Destiny Bay has had the privilege of hosting and capturing the hearts of a wealth of high profile guests including the likes of Tommy Lee Jones, Eva Longoria, and even foreign dignitaries and royalty.
We would like to give special thanks to owner Mike Spratt who agreed to participate in an interview with Black Label, during which he gave us a thorough walkthrough of the winery’s vision and their production process.
Man O’War Vineyard
At the more secluded, eastern side of Waiheke, Man O’War Bay awaits. The scenery here is more rugged, more mysterious. Sitting beneath the veranda at Man O’War Vineyard, surrounded by pohutukawa trees and overlooking the sprawling white sandy beaches, you are able to glance across the Coromandel coastline to the smaller islands of the Hauraki Gulf in the distance.
This part of the island has a fascinating history, having been awarded the name “Man O’War” by British explorer Captain James Cook who considered the sturdy structures of the pohutukawa trees to be reminiscent of the masts for British Navy Warships. Man O’War winery encapsulates this history into their produce perfectly, with their wines awarded such ferocious war names as Valhalla, Warspite and Ironclad.
An embodiment of local history and family values is evident at every turn, from the old pictures and newspaper cuttings on display in the quaint tasting room, to the tales shared by the owners as to how they got their inspiration for the wines.
Stonyridge Winery is the embodiment of the dreams of international wine connoisseur Stephen White, a Yogi and healthy living aficionado who previously travelled the globe, training as a Yogi at World leading Balinese yoga school “Radiantly Alive” and even teaching yoga to Richard Branson!
During his time overseas, Stephen also had the opportunity to work and study the art of winemaking under the guidance of world leading winemakers and sommeliers in California, France, and Italy respectively. Upon returning to New Zealand, White utilised the expert knowledge that he had acquired to open his own vineyard which quickly captured the hearts of wine lovers worldwide and has received countless acclaims in global media.
Time Magazine raved about Stonyridge, the Guardian UK referred to it as being one of the “top ten wineries in the world”, and the tantalizing tipples produced by Stonyridge are served at high profile eateries across the globe, including Michelin Star restaurants in France, Belgium and the Netherlands.
If you need any more persuasion, Stonyridge prides itself in the fact that New Zealand’s own Prime Minister considers it his favourite wine producer! All things considered, it should come as no surprise that Stonyridge is one of Black Label Experience’s most highly recommended wineries.
Further adding to their accolades, Stonyridge and their smooth “Larose” blend were the deserved first equal place winner of the Guide Bottin 2000 Paris award for the “greatest Bordeaux style wines in the World”.
Passage Rock Winery
A relatively new face on the New Zealand wine scene, Passage Rock has emerged to challenge the major players in the industry. Established in 1993, the winery is rapidly building a name for itself and after participating in a recent tasting, Black Label Experience certainly feel that this is a winery to keep an eye on.
Passage Rock’s Forte blend is considered one of Waiheke’s most distinguished reds and their blends are hailed time and again as being among the highest quality, yet best value products in New Zealand. Passage Rock is also the most awarded Waiheke winery in New Zealand wine shows, receiving over 60 medals in a short space of time, and receiving a gold medal year on year for their Syrah blend ever since its release. Black Label Experience feel that this is the perfect place to visit now, before the crowds flock and the prices soar.
Featuring stunning sea views and nestled among tranquil gardens, and picturesque vineyards, Kennedy Point is Waiheke island’s only 100% certified organic winery. Their products are developed with the highest possible quality in mind and that is very evident in the flavours.
Not limited to just wine production, Kennedy Point are also the passionate producers of organic olive oils and honey, all of which are available for sampling upon organising a visit to the winery.
The Black Label Wine Tasting Experience
When you partake in wine tasting with Black Label Experience, you receive incomparable class and luxury every step of the way. The journey from Auckland to Waiheke is enjoyed in comfort as you are transported by a private chartered luxury boat or a private helicopter. Whatever your whim or fancy upon arrival at this island paradise, our team are available to cater to it.
Though Auckland’s Waiheke Island has been voted one of the world’s best islands (surpassing the likes of Bali, Hawaii and the Greek Islands) by US magazine Travel + Leisure , there is still a chance to get an exclusive experience – a Black Label Experience – with the local authority on luxury, Tania Stoyanof, when it comes to Waiheke best of the best. It is important to note that any bookings for a custom luxury vacation will have to happen really quickly now, as everything is already becoming limited for our summer season.
To gain your own custom luxury experience on Waiheke Wine Island, contact Tania Stoyanof today via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.