Wine in Waiheke

Her cheeks were red as she posed with her final glass of wine. I was starting to feel it too. The alcohol was finally catching up to me. I could also see my breath in the chilled humidity. I was ready to go home.

I was glad I came though. Like many things with this trip, it was kind of a last minute decision. The girl in our group had already booked the wine tour on the Waiheke, an island outside of Auckland, and posted in our program’s Facebook page that there were free spots. I thought, “Why the hell not?” and joined.

On the day of, a cold snap had swept through the country the night before, bringing with it unusually cold temperatures (upper 40s) to the area. We huddled around our warm drinks on the ferry, but the time we reached Waiheke, the sun was out and a man wearing a bowler hat greeted us with a sign and a smile.

“Follow the hat,” he informed us as he led our group of 19 young women to a van in the parking lot.

After a quick introduction in which our guide commented on our states of origin, we set off into to town for a quick lunch before the wine. Most places were closed in the off season, but we managed to find a Thai restaurant that served quick $12.50 lunches. With time to spare we drifted down to the beach and watched the waves and picked up seashells.

It wasn’t long before we were called back to the bus so we could get to our first winery. Comfortably seated, our guide started us along, weaving through the sheep-speckled hills and vistas on the island. He would often spurt out one or two slightly outdated facts, but mostly he talked to the person up front about his time in America and the lack of international travel mentality in the states.

Peacock Sky Vineyard, located near the island’s famous ziplines, was the first stop on our itinerary. A Frenchman greeted us and led us into the tasting room where food samples and wine pairings were laid out for us. He explained the subtleties and origins of the wine as we sipped and nibbled. The girls next to me complained about how now they can’t go back to their standard $6 bottle of wine after tasting this Pinot Grigio. I, for one, only knew enough to enjoy the smoothness of the sample, having basically nothing to compare it to.

After four samples, it was off to our next stop. More sheep, more vistas, and finally we were at Passage Rock Vineyard. The moment we stepped off the bus, a University of Auckland wine science major stepped out with a tray full of Rosé. We sipped as the clouds rolled in and he pointed out which hardened vines produced which grapes. Then it was into the heated patio where we received samples of three more wines including their most popular, Sisters. I felt bad, but I didn’t like it. I’m not usually one for dry red wines.

More sheep covered vistas, and we were at our third stop: Batch Winery, the newest and most modern on the island. I was already feeling warm and content from the last two places, but after Batch’s sparkling wine and Riesling, I started to really feel the alcohol.

With a fresh sample of Rosé in our hands, the winery’s guide led us into the bottling room because unlike others on the island, Batch both makes and bottles on sight.

“It’s like Willy Wonka for grownups,” she explained as we were led into a room full of shinny machinery and humming tanks.

Once the appropriate amount of oos and ahs were said, she led us into their restaurant for a final glass of dry red wine. I couldn’t finish it. All the tastes of the day were starting to blend together for me. So instead, I took pictures of the views and the others, trying not to freeze in the cold, humid air.

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