Waiheke Island is carved with numerous scalloped coves along the leafy mountain coastline about 45 minutes from Auckland. It’s both the weekend retreat for New Zealand’s upper crusts and full time home for eclectic middle-age men and women who spend a lot of time in herb gardens.
Steve Robinson is one of the latter, approaching 50 in shorts and flip flops with an easy smile and genuine way about him. A tour guide with Ananda Tours, he hosts “The Premium Waiheke Wine & Food Experience” visiting some of the 30 wineries on-island. First Steve provides a little background.
“We have less than 1,000 years of human history on Waiheke, which is understandable since we’re pretty much hanging off the bottom of the map,” he laughs. “We have a similar climate to Bordeaux, hence the cabernet and merlot grapes do well.”
We’re at the handsome Cable Bay Vineyards (above) for a tasting. The natural setting is staggering on a wide grassy bluff overlooking the Gulf, and the wine is exceptional. Typically, I’m drawn more to whites during mid-day in warm climes by the sea, so I opt for the chardonnay. I’ve never tasted a chard like this with such a light demeanor and robust character.
“I’m not a wine guy,” I tell Steve. “But this seems quite a lot different from chardonnay back home.”
“A lot of people here got put off because of too much oak so these are a lot more fruit driven,” he explains. “I’m a big believer in the restrained use of new oak.”