Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Best of the Best - Waiheke Wineries

Story by Miss Bonnie
The "inside vines" with paper bags protecting little gems 
of deliciousness from the birds.... all the more for me!

Post New Years Nick, Little Red and I had the blissful opportunity of staying on Waiheke for a week with the in-laws. It was utterly superb. The weather was balmy, the ocean was inviting and the food (and wine!) was to die for. We schmoozed along to two vineyards while on the island and they were both absolutely fantastic, so much so that as soon as I set foot on Waiheke again I'll be up there lounging in the sun before you can say "Vino, please!"
The view from our table (pictures don't do it justice)

So the first on the list was Stonyridge Winery which was just down the road from our bach. The cafe is huge with comfortable and spacious seating and a beautiful decked area off to the side. Our table was right on the cusp of cafe and vineyard and had gorgeous views down to their lawn (perfect for the kiddies!) which is populated with olive trees and sunflowers and the sprawling vines beyond.

We started with a Fallen Angel Chardonnay from which the grapes are grown elsewhere but the wine is produced at the vineyard. The Chardonnay (and the Sauvignon Blanc which we followed on with) were both stunning and, oh heck, don't even get me started on the food!

Gorgeous sunflowers

Nick had a steak which he has since dubbed "the best steak he's ever eaten" (this coming from a man who loves his steak), the others shared tapas plates which were brimming with delicious olives, salmon, oysters, cured meats, and fresh, melt-in-your mouth bread (just to name a few things) and I had a chicken dish which was, to quote Nick, the best chicken I've ever eaten. Baked and served on bok choy with cashews, baby onions and a tomato and coriander salsa. AMAZING. 'Nuff said.

Grapes picked straight from the vine - bliss!

On top of all this, the staff were fantastic - courteous, friendly, prompt and well educated on the wines, food and history of the vineyard. Upon asking our waitress what the paper bags were for that hung from the vines within the restaurant we were told they were to stop birds from flying in and she reached up and pulled four bunches down for us to snack on. Apologies if I'm starting to sound like a broken record but they were the most delicious grapes I've ever eaten - they were like passionfruit, feijoa and gooseberries all mixed into one sweet little bit of mush. Delish!

The next vineyard on our must visit list was Passage Rock after we'd been told that a writer for the New York Times had declared their pizzas "the best in the world". Even the winery themselves boast their 12 inches of scrumptiousness as "world famous on Waiheke". And I'm not one to turn down a good pizza so off we went.

Well, what else can I say other than that the place is like heaven on earth? It was a super hot day so we were grateful to be seated at an outside table under the shade of a giant umbrella. But for those seeking the comfort of the indoors the restaurant itself is large, spacious and cool and opens out onto a patio and a lawn which has more seating and a swing ball set for the kids right next to rows and rows of vibrant vines. The outskirts of the eatery are adorned in beautiful wildflowers and there's even a pond and a wee footbridge.

 The most delish pizza in the world!

The service, as at Stonyridge, was impeccable as was the wine (I had a Rose and Nick a Riesling). But! Let's get to the important part - the world famous pizzas! Well, the New York Times was right on the money, my pizza was by far the best I had ever tasted. I had the vegetarian pizza (sounds boring, right? But no!) which, on top of a perfectly crispy base, was stacked with aubergine, olives, roast capsicum and pumpkin, artichoke, courgette, feta and mozzarella with a garnish of rocket and basil. Nick had the chicken pizza which I didn't try but given the speed with which he wolfed it down, I reckon it was pretty darn good.

 Our vinos. Red was on the waters (sober driver and all that)

Beautiful wildflowers

 So there you have it, two fab vineyards on the beautiful island of Waiheke. I highly recommend both - everything was superb and best of all they're both kid friendly, yippee!

Stonyridge Winery Waiheke Island - Website

Passge Rock Winery Waiheke Island - Website

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