Today we’re taking a tour with Waiheke-Island-Wine-Tours. We know that owner/operator Wayne Eagleton’s wine tours specialises in small groups giving the sort of authentic experience we’re after. Wayne’s passed the first test. He’s right on time and arrives in a beautiful air-conditioned van. Were soon learn that Wayne is one of those true-blue locals’ with the inside knowledge plus he has a great nose for Waiheke Syrah. By chosing this tour option, we’re seeing far more of Waiheke than we would by driving ourselves – we can just sit back and relax in comfort. We’re heading to the northernmost ridgelines with stunning views. Bring it on Wayne!!
First stop, Mudbrick Vineyard and it’s here we learn that 5% of all New Zealand weddings are held in little ole Waiheke! Apparently there’s a 3-year waiting list for Mudbrick and it’s easy to see why. The actual vineyard building has a stylish, rustic dining area rich with with decorative wrought iron light fittings, pristine white tablecloths and gleaming cutlery, yet it’s not overwhelming. There’s an intimate feel to this building and on reaching the top of the stairwell, we’re treated to a gorgeous vista of north-facing vineyards slopping downhill as far as the eye can see.
Big thanks to Mudbrick for chosing someone like Bob Scott to showcase their wines. This guy is such fun. He’s totally focused on the wines and more importantly, on US! Can someone please tell me why so many vineyard staff are also talented artists ? Bob’s a photographer but also has a great nose for Syrah, the predominant grape variety grown here. (I like his styly glasses) Bob shows no disappointment whatsoever when I rave about the Viognier, but I notice him tensing up as I taste Mudbrick’s hope & glory, the 2009 Syrah (from the old vines area). Think Black Doris plums with the merest hint of sweet cherry – an absolute showstopper! Relax Bob.
Now we’re at Kennedy’s Point which is totally organic. Now here’s something different – not only are we tasting, but we’re taking our glasses with us on a tour of the vineyard and the production area. Our lovely wee Irish guide is telling us about the traditional ‘footstamping’ that takes place at this vineyard every March. I so wanna do this! I have a white dress that’s been hanging in my wardrobe for too long and it’s needs a dye job. Wayne, remember you promised that you’d diary me near March next year…
Connie, co-owner of Peacock Sky, is a force of nature. This fiery little Canadian-Italian packs a lot of fire into her delivery. She’s ready and waiting, glasses lined up and food laid out to each of the five wines. We’re instructed to TASTE THE WINE FIRST, then taste the matching morsel of food prepared by Connie, a trained chef I’m getting a sense of Heston Blumenthal here when she speaks of pears marinated in merlot for 7 days, add the vodka, a bit of icecream and voila! Connie bombards us with information, but it’s all good. There are 30 wild peacocks on this 360 degree view property – hence the name ‘Peacock’. Connie says the real owner is ‘Sky’, their beloved Border Collie. Hence the name “Sky”. We’re instructed to close our eyes and let our nose and mouth take charge while we taste the splendour of Peacock Sky’s 2010 cabenet (it was an exceptional year for Waiheke wines) I think about leaving one eye open, but Connie insists and you know what, it really works! Try it at home kids.
Wayne’s booked a table at Casita Miro, a tapas restaurant on beautiful Onetangi Beach and we’re thrilled with his choice. Dining at Casita Miro is like sitting in a large glasshouse anywhere in the Mediterranean – except the accents are all Kiwi. We’re perfectly positioned to enjoy views of the vines and olive trees. Casita Miro has a very cool maitre d’ . It’s as if we’re all part of her extended family. Casita Miro is totally unpretentious. No snotty waiters here folks. We chose a lamb tagine with whole figs, apricots and Israeli couscous. Hey not everyone’s dressed up, I’ve just seen a man opposite dressed like ‘Fred Dagg’, complete with muddy gumboots. Good for him.
Right on the dot at 3.30pm Wayne collects us in the van and takes us back through another great scenic route back to the lodge. We loved this tour. It was the highlight of our trip. Time to pack the laptops away and it’s back to move on… and time for the Travelling Travel Agents to plan their next trip.