Wine Lover's Guide to New Zealand's Waiheke Island
World-class Bordeaux-style blends, sea-to-table fare and pristine beaches are just a 20-minute ferry ride from Auckland. Here’s your gourmet guide to exploring this still-untamed wine oasis. —Lauren Mowery
Man O’ War Winemaker Duncan McTavish and Vineyard Manager Matt Allen, transformed the rugged, hilly landscape here (locals thought they were nuts) into a gem of Syrah and Bordeaux varieties. Try the smoky Dreadnought Syrah or zesty Gravestone, a blend of Sémillon and Sauvignon Blanc. Bonus: The winery boasts its own private, stunning beach—and the views are as seductive as the pours.
Stonyridge garners as much attention locally for its Ibiza-style parties as it does internationally for its flagship wine, Larose. A Bordeaux-style blend, the acclaimed wine proves serious winemaking and weekly DJ sessions needn’t be mutually exclusive.
Sean Spratt, an American winemaker and co-owner of Destiny Bay, helped his father plant vines in 2000 that today yield one of the country’s highest-rated wines, the Bordeaux-inspired Magna Praemia. The $25 by-appointment tasting includes a personal tour of the vineyard and winery.
Purple lavender bushes line the staircase to the cellar door at Mudbrick Vineyard. Sip Chardonnay with a plate of Hauraki Gulf seafood fritters and gaze at Auckland’s skyline from the deck. Be warned: The winery is often taken over by weddings during the summer, so call ahead.
Early Waiheke wine pioneer Te Motu was among the first to see the potential of red varieties, planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah in the late 1980s. Order the $15 Te Motu Heritage Flight for a round of its coveted library wines.
Curious about Waiheke’s unique terroir? Then chat up accessible owner, winemaker and resident geologist Lance Blumhardt while sipping away in his relaxed tasting room at Jurassic Ridge Wines. He makes a range of wines from his grapes, including one seldom seen outside of Italy: Montepulciano.
Start your mornings with flaky croissants and the island’s best espresso at Frenchot.
For lunch, go beach-bum native with organic pies from the wood-fired oven at Dragonfired Pizza, housed in an unassuming food truck at Little Oneroa Beach.
Do not miss Casita Miro. The must-tries at this Spanish-fare mecca: The slow-cooked octopus, the fig tagine with Lebanese couscous and the lamb bacon.
Housed in a Victorian saltbox house in Oneroa Beach, The Oyster Inn is the center of Waiheke’s laid-back nightlife scene. Go for the sunset view and surfer vibe, stay for the complex cocktails and good-enough oysters.
For craft beer, make your way to Deep Creek Brewing Co., order some suds and watch the windsurfers zip across the bay.
No dinner is complete without a stroll to Island Gelato, a cute refurbished shipping container that scoops up a life-changing dulce de leche.