Waiheke Island

One of the first things I booked when planning our New Zealand trip was a Taste of Waiheke Tour. With the promise of wine tasting at three wineries, lunch at one of them and olive oil tasting, how could I resist? Waiheke Island is the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf, a very comfortable 40 minute ferry ride from Auckland. Known as the ‘island of wine’, there are twenty-six vineyards to choose from, most offering gourmet delights as well as a diverse range of wines for tasting. The weather couldn’t have been better if we had ordered it. Both the sea and sky were a clear blue as we arrived at Matiatia Bay.

1.Matiatia Bay

Sailing boats dotted the water

2.Matiatia Bay3.Matiatia Bay4.Matiatia Bay

and beautiful homes nestled on the hillside overlooking the bay.

5.Matiatia Bay6.homes, Matiatia Bay7.house, Matiatia Bay

I couldn’t help feeling a little envious of the island lifestyle.

8.Matiatia Bay

Our bus driver and guide for the day was a vivacious local lady who has lived on the island for 25 years and regaled us with stories laced with a good dose of humour. The roads are narrow and winding and, although the island is only 92 square kilometres, it would be easy to get lost. After lunch and wine tasting at Stonyridge Vineyard, we called into Rangihoua Estate to sample their award winning Extra Virgin Olive Oils. As well as four olive oil blends, they have a range of spreads and skin care products.

A floor chess board with magnificent carved pieces occupied a space in the tasting room.

11.Rangihoua chess set

We could have lingered in the immaculate gardens all afternoon

26.garden28.garden

29.garden

but we had another two vineyards to visit and more wine to taste before returning to Matiatia Bay for the ferry journey back to Auckland.

31.Matiatia Bay

With calm waters ahead

32.Matiatia Bay33.toward Auckland

we found a comfortable perch at the back of the boat, soothed by the thrum of the engines and the dancing droplets of the white wake.

34.farewell Waiheke

As we neared the city

35.Waiheke to Auckland36.tall ship37.Auckland

our attention was diverted by the appearance of an enormous sea monster, dwarfing what we thought was our rather substantial ferry.

41.Ovation of the Seas

The impressive Edwardian façade of the ferry terminal awaited, the tour had ended but there was more wine to be tasted that day.

42.ferry terminal

 

Shadowfax & sculpture

While exploring Werribee Park Estate, we wandered a little further to investigate Shadowfax Winery  The rusted sheet metal exterior glowed in the late afternoon sun,

1.Shadowfax Winery

the unique architecture somehow blended with the surroundings.

2.Shadowfax Winery

Established in 1998, the unusual name was inspired by the magnificent silver-grey stallion ridden by Gandalf in Lord of the Rings. The wines are created from fruit sourced and hand-harvested from Shadowfax vineyards in the Macedon Ranges as well as those adjacent to the winery at Werribee.

3.Shadowfax Winery

Although the cellar door was busy with a large group pre-dinner, we were welcomed and enjoyed our own pre-dinner tasting.

4.Shadowfax Winery

Not able to take too much in my hand luggage, I did leave with a bottle of 2018 Minnow red, a delicious blend of Mataro, Grenache, Carignan and Mondeuse grown right there at Werribee.

5.Minnow

Returning to the hotel, we spied an interesting sculpture and discovered the Werribee Park Sculpture Walk. Created in 2004 featuring works by Australia’s leading sculptors, there are thirty pieces installed along a trail from the rear of the mansion, through the gardens to the river. As daylight was fading, we only had time to see a small part of the display. Previous winners of the Helen Lempriere National Sculpture Award are homed here, including The Comrade’s Reward by William Eicholtz, winner in 2005. Described as a traditional 19th century garden sculpture with a camp twist on heroism, the solar powered lights shimmer after dark giving an impression of fireflies.

6.The Comrade's Reward - William Eicholtz, 2004

The monochrome steel ruin, Death of a white good by Alexander Knox, took the award in 2006.

Also from 2006, a commended work by Ian Burns & John Clark, Migration, is “concerned with the movement and relationship between the individual components and the mass they represent in formation”. (Sorry about the photo quality).

The inaugural winner in 2001, Hut by Karen Ward, is intriguing in its simplicity yet the symbolism is quite poignant. “Hut symbolises the house, the home, the shack, the cubby-house and the hermit’s retreat. It also alludes to the potential to dream that is inherent within all of these structures, yet dreaming is only made possible by the Hut’s inaccessibility.”

11.Hut - Karen Ward 2000

Sharmans Wines

We were running a little early for our lunch date at Josef Chromy and took the opportunity to discover Sharmans Wines, a place we had passed many times but never visited.

1.Sharmans Wines

The vineyard was established in 1986 by Mike and Philippa Sharman and is the oldest existing vineyard in Relbia. It changed hands in 2012 when purchased by Ian and Melissa Murrell who have since redesigned and renovated the buildings. The original Sharmans residence is now a bright, welcoming Cellar Door. It is no surprise to learn that Melissa is a very talented interior designer.

2.Cellar Door3.Cellar Door

8.Cellar Door4.Cellar Door7.Cellar Door

The extensive use of timber, much of it reclaimed from the original boardwalk at the Launceston seaport, enhances the warming ambience. We sampled a few wines at the tasting bench, hosted by a very knowledgeable young woman with beautiful autumn locks. We resisted the opportunity to simultaneously work off the calories whilst quaffing.

9.Cellar Door stools

I can think of no better excuse to take time out and smell the roses.

10.roses

The colours of the flowers are echoed in the bespoke light fittings created from recycled plastic by Melbourne designer Marc Pascal.

The floor to ceiling windows make the most of the spectacular view over the vines to the North Esk River and beyond

14.view15.view

and can be opened completely to incorporate the al fresco dining area.

16.outdoor area

The attention to detail continues through the landscaped gardens and exterior design.

Tasty platters, loaded with Tasmanian produce, are available to savour while enjoying the vista, accompanied by a glass (or bottle) of your chosen tipple. We left Sharmans feeling very pleased with ourselves and our purchases.

Josef Chromy

A couple of weeks ago we took Cooper to Launceston for a service, swapped her for a new BMW 120i courtesy car, picked up our lovely friend Deb and wended our way to  Josef Chromy for lunch. A picturesque 15 minute drive from the city, the winery at Relbia was launched in 2007. The cellar door is set within immaculate gardens where carefully trimmed privets, fountains and flowers mingle with majestic mature trees.

1.Josef Chromy Wines

4.outdoor seating5.weeping elm

A popular venue for weddings, the lakeside pavilion is a perfect spot to exchange vows.

6.lake

The view across the lake to the vineyards beyond can be enjoyed whether eating outdoors

7.outdoor eating

or inside the restaurant.

8.restaurant

We took advantage of the week day Winter Lunch Special, two courses and a glass of wine for $45. The complimentary sourdough bread was delicious, as was the 2018 Pinot Gris.

9.sourdough

The main course for the special this day was the Baked Beef Cheek with cauliflower, rhubarb, shaved cabbage, parmesan, parsley & lemon. Coincidentally, it would have been my choice anyway.

10.baked beef cheek

Michael opted for the Wood-Grilled Lamb Rump with baby lentils, baked Elphin Grove celeriac, spring onion & yoghurt. Not being a fan of celeriac, he requested the gnarled root be omitted. Graciously, chef replaced it with baked parsnip.

11.wood-grilled lamb rump

We all chose dessert instead of entrée as our second course, White Chocolate Bavarois was Chef’s special concoction.

12.white chocolate bavarois

The menu offered Hot Chocolate Mousse with leatherwood honey parfait, honeycomb, nashi pear and nib crumb.

13.hot chocolate mousse

Finishing off with coffee, we watched the activity in the vineyard. With 61 hectares to prune and a vineyard stretching for 2km I was grateful to be merely observing.

14.vineyard

Yarra vines

After the challenge of negotiating Melbourne peak hour gridlock, our tension slipped away as the traffic quelled and the road bisected a quilted landscape of farmland and vineyards. The Yarra Valley is renowned for its abundance of wineries and award winning wines. It seems June is the time of year to shorten opening hours to ‘winter time’ or to close doors and concentrate on maintenance but  De Bortoli didn’t let us down.

1.DeBortoli

The family company spans four generations, established by Vittorio and Giuseppina who migrated from Italy in 1928 to settle in Bilbul, New South Wales.  The Yarra Valley Estate was purchased in 1987, the original plantings of 1971 make it one of the oldest vineyards in the Yarra Valley. The bespoke rustic gates at the entrance to the property open to a tree-lined driveway, the morning sun still low in the sky.

2.bespoke gate3.DeBortoli driveway

The Locale Restaurant upstairs serves authentic Italian dishes made with ingredients grown on the estate.

4.restaurant & cellar door

Too early for lunch, we made our way to the cellar door instead.

5.cellar door

The space was warm and welcoming with interesting presentations of products.

There are a few tasting options, including a specialty gourmet selection combined with a cheese platter

8.cellar door

and private Trophy Room Tastings for those wanting to learn more about De Bortoli Italian wines.

9.Trophy Room10.Trophy Room

We opted for a tasting at the counter, the friendly staff happy to share their knowledge. A bottle of La Boheme, Act 1 Riesling accompanied us on our journey to enjoy later. The view is spectacular, 162 hectares of vines merge with rolling hills and distant ranges.

11.view from cellar door

We retraced our tracks to Yarra Glen for a life sustaining sausage roll at the bakery before continuing on to our next point of call. Zonzo Estate is set on 230 acres with stunning views across the valley.

12.view from Zonzo13.view from Zonzo

The 45 acres of vines were pruned and ready for spring,

14.vines

a comfortable perch for the local aves

15.raven

and the young olive trees were bearing fruit.

16.olives

We were disappointed to find the cellar door locked and deserted

17.Zonzo cellar door

but we had a quick nosey around. The old farm buildings have been cleverly resurrected and are a popular venue for weddings. I’d be happy just to sit with a glass of wine and absorb the wonderful vista.

18.Zonzo Estate