brick bay winery

Brick Bay Winery – One of the five best Auckland wineries for a weekend drive

When you think of wine-tasting trips in New Zealand you imagine scenic drives through Marlborough, Otago, Hawkes Bay and Nelson. What you’re probably not picturing is the roadworks and congestion of Auckland’s motorways.

But the good news for those living in the city is there are some impressive wineries much closer to home than you might realise – some of the best cellar doors are within half an hour of the CBD.

So there are no excuses to get a few friends together; toss a coin for designated driver, or book a tour to venture out to a Matakana winery.

Fine Wine & Food Tours guide Phil Parker chose some top options that feature a cellar door and are within an easy drive from Auckland.

3. Brick Bay wines – Arabella Lane, Snells Beach, Matakana

brick bay matakanaBrick Bay Wines and Sculpture Trail

Looking north of Auckland (about 50 minutes’ drive from the city and 20 minutes from our B&B) this pretty winery is the perfect day trip destination or pit stop on your holiday. Parker says it’s one of the younger wineries in Matakana: its first wines were released in 1998 and cellar door opened in 2007. It’s owned by the Didsbury family who were behind the Matakana Farmers Market and Matakana Cinema.

This Matakana winery produces about 1000 cases per year, specialising in pinot gris, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot.

At the cellar door you’ll find “very stylish architecture by Noel Lane and an airy glasshouse tasting facility and offices cantilevered over a large mirrored pond”, Parker says.

The venue has a sculpture trail, which draws in a lot of families, particularly over summer. Parker says in addition to wine, they also sell their own cold-pressed olive oil and honey, sourced from the property.

Brick Bay winery is about a 20km drive from our B&B – although you can see it across the harbour. A really pleasant way to spend some time although we do recommend you book if you intend to visit for lunch and a wander round over summer. Looking for a weekend getaway from Auckland. See if we have availability at the time you’d like to escape.

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lonely planet

David Farrier Corrects Lonely Planet’s Shamefully Inaccurate Analysis of Waiheke Island

By David Farrier

Many moons ago I penned an article entitled It’s Time We Admitted That Waiheke is Terrible. I told some terrible truths in that piece, and the people of Waiheke were unhappy. The comments section was clogged with vile filth: death threats and winery recommendations.

But today, Waiheke residents are rejoicing. Lonely Planet has named their island the fifth best region to travel to in 2016. It calls it a “utopia of coves, beaches, vineyards, bohemian sensibilities, and above all, fun”.

I call it a water-ringed prison colony for Auckland’s most annoying people. Here I correct the travel bible’s inaccurate take on our biggest city’s shameful excuse for a holiday island.

Lonely Planet: Nestled in the Hauraki Gulf and shouldering the impressive dormant island volcano Rangitoto, a mere 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Auckland sits an island utopia of secret coves, beautiful beaches, rolling vineyards, luxury lodges and bohemian sensibilities. Waiheke Island, known as the ‘Island of Wine’ and home to over 30 wineries and some of the best boutique cellar door experiences New Zealand has to offer. Many wineries boast views of the spectacular Auckland skyline, and you can quaff a Syrah (Shiraz) or rosé, bask in brilliant sunshine, taste local produce and discover the meaning of ‘Waiheke time’. Dionysus would approve.

David Farrier: A mere 35-minute ferry ride? Does that include the time spent lining up like cattle to file onto a musty boat? It’s hard to know what to do while onboard. Your choices include eating a damp sandwich, downing a scalding hot coffee, or getting sea-sick. But soon you’re on the island, wine gripped tightly in hand. Why doesn’t it mention that before quaffing the wine, you have to take a photo of it and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #Waiheke?

LP: Waiheke’s bohemian and hippie past is not far from the surface and the island continues to have a thriving artistic community where over a hundred working artists ply their trades in disciplines such as sculpture, glass blowing, painting and woodwork. Waiheke is an outdoor enthusiast’s playground, where mountain biking, sea kayaking and sailing can all be indulged. The island is an electric, heady mix set against a Buddha Bar soundtrack: fast yet slow all at the same time – there’s nowhere else on earth quite like it. The secret is out and in 2016 Waiheke Island is welcoming the world to sample from its abundant offerings and inviting all visitors to fall under its spell.

DF: By “artistic community”, I think you mean the fiercely defensive, gossip-ridden cluster of marooned residents. In Iceland (also on many of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Lists) the government released an app so that when you meet someone you have a sexual interest in, you tap phones and it tells you if you’re related. This App would sell like hotcakes in Waiheke’s artistic community.

As for those “outdoor enthusiasts”, then you’re probably talking about the weekend visitors to the Island. There’s another name for those visitors: Auckland’s worst people.

Also, it’s scientifically impossible to be fast yet slow all at the same time. Has Lonely Planet slipped through a tear in the wall of the universe to emerge in another dimension?

LP: Life-changing experiences

Book a bach. That’s what the locals do. A ‘bach’ is a holiday house that can be used for short-term rental and it’s the perfect base from which to explore the island’s variety of offerings. And there are plenty of baches – over 450 across the island, bookable online.

On waking to the singing chirrup of the cicadas in summer, take a stroll or scooter to Palm Beach for an early morning swim in the cove’s shallow, sheltered waters. Then it’s off to Wild on Waiheke to sample a beer float before challenging your party to take on archery in the vines. Ride the flying fox zipline across native forest at Eco Zip Adventures before knocking on a few cellar doors such as Mudbrick or Cable Bay to sample the nectar of the island. Finish your evening mingling with locals at the Oyster Inn, where a curated offering of craft beers and local vintages are offered alongside a menu brimming with local produce and fresh oysters. Sleep. Wake. Repeat.

DF: So, are the locals just booking baches every day of the year? Do they not live in their own homes? Or are they just running rampant in the woods, occasionally breaking into a bach to live the high life? But thank God, what’s that noise? The beautiful soothing sound of 100,000 screaming cicadas, New Zealand’s most annoying insect.  Then it’s back to securing your man bun for wine selfies at Mudbrick and Cable Bay and more glasses of craft beer.

LP: Regional flavours

Waiheke Island’s boutique wineries and their accompanying cellar doors and restaurants are the most accessible in New Zealand; a 35-minute journey from Auckland and you’ll find yourself sampling your first Syrah. ‘The Island of Wine’ is best known for its award-winning Syrah, but varietals such as Montepulciano, Pinot Gris, Tempranillo and Viognier can be found among the island’s 30-plus vineyards. With cellar doors offering everything from simple tastings to five-star restaurant experiences, Waiheke has options for all palates and budgets. Many tour companies offer day trips from Auckland that take in a minimum of three cellar doors or, during summer, the popular Vineyard Hopper allows you to hop on and off at the cellar doors of your choosing.

DF: It starts well enough, the sun on your neck and the allure of a decadent vineyard on the horizon. You walk inside, wiping some sweat from your brow, before ordering your award winning Syrah. You drink it slow, trying to forget about the last week. Hell, the last year. You order a bottle – it’s delicious, and you finish that faster than the 35-minute ferry ride. You raise your hand, exclaiming – “Waiter!” and order a Pino, swiftly followed by a Tempranillo. You look up and you’re not even in the winery, you’re walking on the road, singing The Feelers. You think back to their great concert on the island in the mid-90s with your ex. Or are you still with her? You can’t remember. Who gives a fuck. You double over, stomach suddenly cramping. You projectile vomit onto the lush Waiheke roadside grass. A car drives by. “Wankers!” you yell. The car doesn’t slow. It’s 3am. You can’t remember where you put your return ferry ticket. Christ, you forgot to try the Viognier. You throw up a second time.

LP:  Random fact

Waiheke Island was the first community in New Zealand to vote for a nuclear-free zone. It is popularly believed that this stand helped contribute to the whole country becoming nuclear-free under the prime ministership of David Lange in 1987.

DF: This is the only good thing Waiheke has done. Great job.

So we say “why would you?” You’re much better to come to Mahurangi West and stay at our B&B: bed and breakfast accommodation near Auckland but a world away from the city! See if we have a vacancy at a time that suits you.

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mahurangi river winery

Wineries in Matakana

Albariño, Rousanne and Viognier — future wine stars of New Zealand?

This trip through Auckland wineries takes us to Mahurangi River Winery, located in the Matakana region.

Mahurangi River Winery is a small winery, founded in the end of 90s of last century. It was the time when they planted their Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay. Later, in 2011, Albariño and Roussane joined. The winery is located in beautiful neighbourhood, with scenic views of rolling hills and vineyards.mahurangi river winery

What about the wines from wineries in Matakana? Let’s start with Albariño 2014.

Albariño was a classic expression of the grape, resembling the one from Rias Baixas. Full of peach and citrus fruit. Light, refreshing, even mineral. It was another example, next to the one from Ransom Wines, showing that Albariño can give great results in New Zealand. Points: 87+

mahurangi riverThe blend of Rousanne and Viognier was even better than Albariño. Aromas of apricots, oranges, with hint of honey and flowers. Medium+ body and acidity made this wine well balanced and refreshing. Points: 88

Maximus Malbec /Merlot 2012 is a very good wine if someone is looking for rather light and joyful red wine. It has aromas of strawberries, raspberries and red currents. Medium body, medium- tannins and medium acidity — not very exciting, but well done and giving pleasure. Points: 86

Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is much more serious wine, full of black fruit, toasts, black earth and smoky aromas. Full bodied, high and elegant tannins and medium+ acidity. This wine gives a lot of pleasure right now, but it will age well and be even better in next 5–10 years. Points: 89

mahurangi-river-wineThe last wine we tasted was the best one — Syrah Reserve 2013. It was a nice balance between lighter style of Northern Rhone Syrah and muscular Australian Shiraz. Black fruit, herbs, pepper, leather and a bit of coffee. With significant and elegant tannins, medium+ acidity and long finish. Splendid wine! Points: 90

We left Mahurangi River Winery with a bottle of Sparkling Rose 2014 (Merlot + Malbec). Great bubbles with medium+ acidity, red fruit and a small bit of biscuits. You just cannot say you don’t like it! Points: 85

Mahurangi River Winery was another winery which surprised us with high quality and wonderful wines. It also let us believe that there is a lot of good going on outside of the famous New Zealand regions. Moreover, another chance to try Albariño, Roussane and Viognier proved that these grape varieties can give fabulous wines in New Zealand.

Hopefully, more growers will invest in them and they will be more commonly available for wine-lovers joy and pleasure.

Wine Weekly from Kiwiland

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matakana farmers market

Matakana: Looking for Places To Eat?

The pretty township of Matakana is heaven for foodies, discovers Catherine Smith – NZ Herald

I owe Matakana an apology. I’d previously dismissed it as Remuera-in-the-country and I’d driven on through to the Tawharanui Peninsula.

How wrong I was. A winter weekend in the pretty riverside town convinced me that this place could well be the future of gastro-tourism for New Zealand. At every stop along the way we were indulged with good food and wine and lengthy tales of the good life.

matakana farmers marketThe first stop on a Saturday morning, naturally, was the Matakana Markets, and setting the foodie tone was the town’s unofficial food ambassador, Lauraine Jacobs, signing her new book The New Zealand Vegetable Cookbook.

Market manager Michael Kessell had piqued our interest in the newest stall holder – Jamaican Me Hungry. Laughing Larry Clarke, from Jamaica to Matakana by way of New York, plied us with steaming cups of his spicy Jamaican porridge. Smooth and creamy cornmeal in coconut cream and cinnamon makes this dish beat dour Scottish rolled oats any day. He also makes a spicy jerk chicken and delicious curry pasties

We grabbed a top-up from Matakana Coffee and beetled down to Silvana Silvestro’s Gourmet Italian Food to pick up cannoli to go with it.

Artisan cheeses are my weakness, so it is thrilling to see the growing range of buffalo cheeses from Whangaripo Buffalo, Annie and Phil Wills’ new venture. The couple added 17 cows and two buffalo bulls to their horse stud three years ago and with the help of award winning cheesemaker Sue Arthur of Putaruru’s Over the Moon Dairy, now produce a pungent blue, a creamy pecorino-style cheese and soft bries, as well as a tangy yoghurt.

An armful of fresh breads, some chocolates and really, we should have stopped eating then and there. But we’d never been to the famous Leigh Sawmill Cafe, so headed over the hill for a late lunch. We were longing to buy fresh seafood – that will definitely be a summer expedition – but settled for the clean refreshing Blade pilsner, brewed right next door in Bavarian style using malt and hops. Perfect with the thin crust pizza and salad made from ingredients from local farms.

It was fitting that all we had left to do was while away the rainy afternoon in front of a cosy gas fire in the Riverside Matakana villas. We expected the river setting, we didn’t expect that the clusters of cottages would be so smart and flexible (walls slide about to create one or two bedrooms plus a study) nor the landscaping so impressive.

Drinks at The Vintry in the cinema complex introduced us to Lighthouse Gin – the local connection to this flavoursome Greytown spirit is apparently maker James. Botanical flavours such as navel orange and Yen Ben lemon were interesting variations on the expected juniper.

A break in the weather on Sunday morning led us to morning tea with Lynn and the apron-clad women at Brookview Tea House. Steeped in nostalgia, it has unmatched red china, a log fire, pretty napkins and an enviable vege garden and potting shop next door.

The final stop on the way out of town was lunch at Heron’s Flight Vineyard. Here too there is change afoot, as long-time owners David Hoskins and Mary Evans have formed a new affiliation with Clyde and Farida Cooper of nearby Runner Duck Estate. The Coopers sold their business in India to settle here, Farida is overhauling the kitchen and menu, adding nights of Parsi food (her home culture, with influences of Persia and beyond), while the new Italian chef will produce food to complement Heron’s Flight Italian-style wines.

Matakana has reinforced that we can find our local food heroes and great places to eat in our own backyard.

Contact details for places to eat and drink;
Riverside Matakana: 170 Green Rd, Matakana, ph (09) 423 0353.
Heron’s Flight Vineyard: 49 Sharp Rd, ph (09) 422 7915.
Leigh Sawmill Cafe: ph (09) 422 6019.

Matakana Farmers’ Markets: every Saturday, 8am to 1pm.
Silvana’s Gourmet Italian Food: ph 021 668 263.
The Vintry: Matakana Cinemas, 2 Matakana Road ph (09) 423 0251.

– NZ Herald

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matakana winery tour

Wines and Wineries on The Matakana Coast

Matakana is New Zealand’s smallest wine area.The vineyards in the Matakana grow grapes to suit each vineyard’s  “terroir”, a combination of local climate and soil type, and each winery creates distinctively styled wines.

Driving north from Mahurangi West Wing Bed and Breakfast accommodation on your winery tour, you’ll first find yourself at Ransom Wines. With its contemporary  architecture and captivating views this is a fabulous winery to visit and while away some time. Visitors to this small family run winery can enjoy, among other wines at the cellar door, New Zealand’s first Carmenère. You should begin your day with one of fabulous platter for which Ransom’s are famous. This is served with matched wine.

If you are still hungry then lunch at the Mahurangi River Winery and Restaurant might be the next thing on your list. The vineyard lies in a valley between the Mahurangi River and Kawau Bay. The restaurant sits high on a hill and offers lovely views. From there you can choose delicious fresh local food from their a la carte menu. Mahurangi River produces a range of  hand made Chardonnay, Syrah and Bordeaux style red wines.

After lunch you may need a bit of a walk so why not check out the wonderful Brick Bay Sculpture Trail at Brick Bay Wines where you will find an display of around 40 sculpture works along a 2 km track and their outdoor gallery. These sculptures are always changing o there is always something new to see. At The Glass House, their tasting room, you can taste Pinot Gris, vibrant Rosés and intense Bordeaux-style red wine blends.

You may now need a “pick-me-up” coffee so you could finish your tour at Omaha Bay Wines. Omaha Bay is a family owned boutique vineyard and winery, overlooking the Hauraki Gulf to Little Barrier Island. Sit back and enjoy the view!

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