In Food + Drink

Nine Wonderful Wineries Worth A Day Trip From Auckland

Extending your gaze ever so slightly past the buzzing metropolitan vicinity reveals the perhaps surprising revelation that there’s more to the City of Sails than urban dining, shopping and a trip up the Sky Tower. Further afield, you’ll find pockets of fruitful soil producing some of the world’s best wine – now that’s worth raising a glass to.

In fact, Auckland is one of New Zealand’s oldest wine regions, established in the 1900s by Croatian, Lebanese and English winemakers. It’s home to three distinct areas which produce some of the top drops of vino on offer: Matakana to the north, Kumeu to the west, and Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf.

Before we begin, consider booking a wine tour to take away the pressure of driving between Auckland wineries. But if you are self-driving, please do so responsibly.

Matakana

The region’s iron-rich clay, warm maritime climate and sunny north-facing hills work together in perfect harmony. Purple smudges of blossoming lavender welcome visitors to Ascension Wine Estate.

No, you haven’t arrived in Tuscany; you’ve simply driven less than an hour north of Auckland. But the creeper-covered terracotta façade set against rolling olive-green hills is hard to differentiate between postcard-perfect Italy.

Inside, comfy leather chairs face an open fireplace where guests can enjoy some of the estate’s most popular tipples: rose, chardonnay and port among others.

Nearby, Matakana Estate offers not just state-of-the-art wine, but the chance to stay a little longer in the luxury lodge nestled among the vines. Indulgent dining and wine tasting can be booked in the underground Cellar Dining Room. The estate prides itself on capturing the essence of New Zealand’s premium grape varieties and produces award-winning chardonnay, syrah and pinot gris.

While cheese is the more widely recognised combination for wine, you’ll discover inside Brick Bay Winery its lesser-known match: art. The vineyard is home to a sculpture trail revealing striking works suspended from trees, nestled in flax bushes and perched high on hillsides.

There’s also a restaurant set over an iridescent lake and a domed tasting area known as The Row, where you can taste drops of classic pinot gris, fruity rose and complexed reds.

Kumeu

Auckland’s oldest wine region is renowned for producing internationally recognised chardonnay and merlot. There are many pioneering Auckland wineries producers who’ve stood the test of time, including the hard-working family behind Soljans Estate Winery. It welcomes tours and the chance to show off its top drops including the Fusion Sparkling Muscat and Founders Tawny Port.

Sit out on the veranda of Babich Winery and taste the labour and love put into every vintage. The cellar door stocks both current and speciality wines and the onsite picnic area is the perfect spot to enjoy a glass with a cheese platter or play petanque. You’re also welcome to arrive here armed with your own fresh produce that can be sourced from the array of nearby weekend farmers’ markets.

The Brajkovich family is another well-regarded name not just in New Zealand but within the international wine industry. They are behind Kumeu River Wines and if chardonnay is your first choice then head here because the winery is recognised for producing it to a world-class standard.

Waiheke Island

Less than hour’s ferry from downtown Auckland you’ve got some of the world’s finest wine at your fingertips. Waiheke produces exceptional reds due to its low summer rainfall and consistently high temperatures. For a taste of ultra-premium wine, head to Stonyridge Vineyard which creates some of the world’s best cabernet blends.

The vineyard skyrocketed to fame with its 1987 Larose – a wine hailed as the greatest reds ever made in New Zealand. Today, it’s referred to as one of the top ten must-visit wineries in the world. Set amongst a gentle, north-facing valley – at the same relative latitude as the southern tip of Sicily in Italy – it’s sheltered from cold winds and makes for a picturesque visit.

Enter the modern, light-filled Cable Bay Winery overlooking undulating vines and sweeping views across a cobalt gulf and you’ll find it hard to leave. Settle on the courtyard or inside the bistro and wash down delicious food with award-winning, hand-crafted wine grown a stone’s throw away on the surrounding vines. To choose from are varieties including pinot gris, viognier, chardonnay, syrah, merlot and malbec. Cheers!

Cast in the sun’s rays is the beautiful Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant. Choose between both casual and fine dining in the restaurants, enjoy a wine tasting or tour, or stay a little longer in boutique accommodation.

Mudbrick’s owners, husband and wife team Robyn and Nicholas, were both former Auckland accountants and did what most of us dream about doing: they purchased the winery in the early 1990s to avoid a predictable and mundane lifestyle. They’ve since created a destination that leaves a lasting impression.

(Lead images: Babich Winery / supplied)

Published 02 August, 2019