Stonyridge Vineyard

A stunning scenic drive from Matiatia Bay along narrow, winding roads brought us to the first port of call on our Taste of Waiheke Tour, Stonyridge Vineyard.

It wasn’t long before we were greeted with a lovely smile and a tray of welcome tipple.

Gathering in the dappled shade of the olive grove, we heard more about the superb wines we were tasting in the company of gnarly aged cork trees.

Stonyridge became the first commercial olive grove in New Zealand after friends and family initially planted the trees in 1982.

The first Bordeaux vines were planted the same year followed by Cabernet Franc and Malbec in 1983. Owner Stephen White produced the first vintage two years later and Stonyridge is now recognised as the home of world class Bordeaux style red wine. There was no shortage of comfortable seating to relax and savour a beverage while enjoying the expansive vista across the north facing vineyard.

Tables were set for our little group and we selected a wine to accompany the delicious quiche & salad.

We would have been happy to stay all afternoon but this was just the beginning.

RetroGusto

Arriving in Bolsena, we found a very convenient car park in Piazza Matteotti, a perfect starting point to explore the town. Through the medieval arch leading to Corso Cavour,

we were distracted from our mission upon discovering RetroGusto. The unassuming exterior belied the wonder within,

this place was much more than just a grocery store.

The range of local produce was boggling

but with a little help and a few samples to taste, we indulged in a delicious platter accompanied by a glass of exquisite vino rosso.

Armed with a selection of goodies for future consumption (the truffle salami could not be left behind), we thanked la bella signora and returned to our mission.

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

Festivale

The first weekend in February brings a very special event to Launceston in the form of Festivale. Our first experience was in 2009 soon after relocating to Tasmania and, even though we had good intentions, we hadn’t attended since. This year we couldn’t resist the drawcard on the music menu. Festivale was launched in 1988 as a big street party in the CBD as part of Australia’s bicentenary celebrations. After seven years in the CBD, the annual event moved to City Park, showcasing Tasmanian gourmet food, wine, beer, cider and spirits along with entertainment by local and interstate artists. Unfortunately, the weather gods did not cooperate this time. We arrived for the 10am opening armed with raincoats and umbrellas and, resisting the temptation at the myriad stalls, sought a hot chocolate starter.

The sounds of jazz filled the park as the Ross Challender Big Band defied the elements,

8.Ross Challender Big Band

their melodies accompanied our survey of produce on offer.

Ample seating, hoping to deflect the rain, awaited in anticipation of the crowds to come.

12.seating

I was more than a little disconcerted when the local constabulary accused me of having them under surveillance but with some smooth talking, I convinced the kindly Commissioner that I was merely there to enjoy the festivities.

15.Commissioner

With wine in hand, we secured seats as the big band concluded their last number.

16.Ross Challender Big Band

The Dave Adams Band changed the tempo and rocked for the next hour before Russell Morris took to the stage. Yes, Russell Morris, Australian rock legend, stirred the gathering with his stalwarts from the early years (I remember The Real Thing from 1969, how can it be that long ago?) as well as his more recent melodies. Natures canopy that had sheltered us from the rain earlier was now shielding us from the sun

17.tree canopy

as the crowd eagerly awaited the main attraction.

18.The Whitlams

The Whitlams have been one of our favourites since their inception nearly thirty years ago yet we had never seen a live performance. They didn’t disappoint and hopefully we will have the opportunity to see them again soon (if you think there are a lot of photos of Tim Freedman, you are absolutely right).

23.The Whitlams

We left our empty friends

28.the last three

and strolled the short distance to our hotel to indulge in a nanna nap before dinner.

29.The Cornwall Hotel