Auckland & Waiheke Island
posted August 2011
sister site to
by Daenna Van Mulligen
I began week three, the last leg of my New
Zealand adventure, in Auckland. It was a sunny Sunday and I had some free time
to wander through Auckland's downtown and waterfront to shop and discover the
city, which felt was a bit like my own home of Vancouver.
It was also a perfect night to grab a bottle of Champagne Deutz's Marlborough
Brut, head back to the
Hilton far out on the tip of Princess Wharf and simply order room service.
Monday morning I hit the road to visit some of the well-known wineries around
Auckland and region
The soils are primarily comprised
of volcanic greywacke and mixed
The climate here is
warm with somewhat high rainfall
and humidity. Here Chardonnay,
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris are grown.
The industry here owes much to the Croatian immigrants who arrived with their
viticulture knowledge and began planting vines in the 1800s. Later generations
of Croatians are still fully entrenched in this wine producing region, as you
will read below.
Heading to the northwest of Auckland my first stop was at
Kumeu River to meet Paul
Brajkovich whose father Mate established it in 1944.
Paul is one of Maté
and Melba Brajkovich's four children (Michael, Milan, Marijana and Paul), and
all work at Kumeu River. Paul, who is the marketing director, took
me on a tour of the small winery before Michael, Kumeu's winemaker, joined us to
taste their wines.
(right: Paul & Michael Brajkovich)
Paul explained that his
grandparents Mick and Katé arrived
in New Zealand from
their three children, Maté being one
of those three. After
money, the family was able to
purchase a vineyard in the
Kumeu region in 1944.
While Paul's grandfather passed away soon after purchasing the vineyard, his
father Maté and his grandmother Katé continued to work the San Marino vineyard, making and selling wine.
Maté met his wife Melba in the late 1950s and their four children were born during the
Kumeu River (the name was changed to Kumeu River in the md-80s) has developed a
solid reputation as the producer of some of New Zealand's best Chardonnays.
I can truthfully say, that the Kumeu River Chardonnays are some of the best I
have ever tasted - world wide.
(above the beautiful Lyre trained vines at
Kumeu River Village Chardonnay, 2008 read review
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay, 2008 - the oak is slightly more prevalent
than on the Village Chardonnay but still completely in balance. Aromas of
praline and mixed sweet and savoury spices, mineral and honeycomb. Smooth and
attractively weighted on the palate and dominated by flavours of citrus and fine
spice. Bright acidity, nice balance.
Kumeu River Estate Pinot Gris, 2009 - pristine pear and exotic citrus
notes, a hint of peach and saline. The palate follows suit - fresh, smooth and
entirely quaffable. Nice weight and a smooth finish.
Single Vineyard Chardonnays
Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay, 2008 - A step up from the estate wines, the
Coddington vineyard provides richer fruit on the nose, plenty of lemony notes
with spice and smoke. The palate is rounded, creamy and elegant, finely toasted
oak is layered with citrus and stone fruit flavours. Time will assist in
integration, but no doubt this wine will age well.
The finish is long and bright.
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay, 2008 I love this wine and its
feminine notes of honey blossoms, beeswax and praline, mineral citrus and fine
talc. It has a gorgeous, slightly oily texture, it is both lush and lively
delivering citrus, mineral and spice. It has finesse and length - truly
The Hunting Hill vineyard is higher than the others, slightly cooler
and more affected by western breezes.
Kumeu River Maté's Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 compared to the other single
vineyard Chardonnays, the Maté offers quite different aromas, fragrant pear
and orchard fruits, sweet vanilla and honey. The palate is supple and smooth
with good concentration and a long honeyed finish. Planted before Maté passed
away, this two decade old vineyard is the only one still planted with the
Mendoza clone, popular throughout New Zealand.
Ageable - you bet the 2002 I tasted was wonderful.
wines celebrates 95 years.
many Croatian immigrants who arrived in northern New Zealand to harvest kauri
gum (fossilized resin from forests of native kauri trees), so
did Josip Babich.
Josip arrived in New Zealand in 1910 at age 14 and planted his
first vineyard in 1912. In 1919 Josip and his brothers moved to previously
purchased 29 hectare piece of land in a forested region, which is now part of
West Auckland. Josip lived to see the first Babich wines exported to Europe, and
after his passing at age 87, Babich continued to grow in quantities produced and
Today, Babich is one of New Zealand's largest family owned wineries, which is
now being run by second and a third generation Babich, Joe's nephew David.
Joe Babich (top right) met me on the morning I arrived, like the Brajkovich men I had met
earlier at Kumeu River, Joe is an very tall man. He explained that he took over
winemaking in the early 1960s and works with his sister Maureen and his brother
(the Chairman of the company) Peter. He is proud to note that Babich is the oldest family owned
winery in the region and they make wines from Gisborne, Marlborough, Hawke's Bay
and Auckland that are exported to 35 countries worldwide.
(right: On the Babich property which was a very rural
forested piece of land in 1919 now looks across at the expanded West Auckland)
Babich Pinot Gris, 2009 - fresh and lively aromas of pear, peach and honey
blossoms. The palate follows suit with a lovely weight, good concentration and a
smooth, slightly spiced finish.
Babich Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2010 - snappy citrus, gooseberry and
passion fruit with capsicum and a hint of tangerine. Clean and fresh in the
mouth with vibrant but not aggressive acidity and a slightly creamy texture.
Babich 'Black Label' Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2010 - creamier and
richer on the nose than the green label Sauvignon Blanc with a vibrant and fresh
palate. Peach and guava is lashed with flavours of
citrus peel and lees. Lively
but with additional complexity.
Babich 'Headwaters' Organic block Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2010 -
The second ever vintage of this organic single vineyard wine offers pristine
talc floral, peach and delicate herbal nuances. The palate is very bright but
slightly more restrained - mineral, citrus dominate and leesy flavours linger
across the finish. Impressive.
Babich 'East Coast' Pinot Noir, 2008
Aromas of black cherries, mixed spices, cocoa and herbal undertones. The palate
is light and fresh with a smooth texture. Approachable style made from grapes
from Marlborough and the home Henderson
Valley vineyards in Auckland.
Babich Winemaker's Reserve' Syrah, Hawke's Bay Gimblett Road Vineyard, 2008
- white pepper and black raspberry, sweet spice and leather aromas. On the
palate, peppery spices are layered with plum, dark berry and cocoa flavours.
Dark and savoury with fine ripe tannins clinging to the finish.
Babich 'Winemaker's Reserve' Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2008 - Deep, dark
berry/cherry fruit, violets, chocolate, baking spice and leather with forest
floor undertones. Expect a lovely weight in the mouth with bright acidity and
impressive concentration. Smooth and juicy with a spicy finish.
Babich Reserve Port - made from Pinotage.
Sweet, smooth and
rich with dried fruit, leather, sour cherries and some spice. Rich in the mouth
as well with a long toffee flavoured finish and some firm tannins.
of New Zealand's most recognized wineries (and her most awarded) Villa Maria is
a work of love by second-generation Croatian immigrant George Fistonich.
(right :Sir George Fistonich with winemaker David
Established by Fistonich in 1961, the company expanded
quickly in the 1970s and continued to grow solidly throughout the 1980s, 90s and into
the new millennium.
Villa Maria was the first winery in New Zealand to open a
vineyard bar and restaurant in 1979 and was one of the first to see potential in
the Gimblett Gravels region of Hawke's Bay (read
Fistonich received a knighthood in 2009, the
ever recognizing a contribution to the
New Zealand wine industry, which is
why you will
usually see him referred to as Sir George Fistonich.
makes wines from vineyards planted in Auckland, Hawke's Bay, Gisborne and
Marlborough and the wines are made in two wineries, one located near Blenheim in
Marlborough (read about Marlborough
here) and the one I visited in
Sprawling lawns, Gewurztraminer vines, a Pukeko and duck inhabited pond and a
elegant vineyard cafe and patio greet you when you arrive at the Auckland
winery. It is a perfect location for weddings, private events and the concerts
that are arranged each summer. Sadly, I missed the Crowded House concert
held on the winery grounds the day I arrived in New Zealand three weeks prior.
Auckland winemaker David Roper (read about my 2010
meeting with senior Marlborough winemaker Jeremy McKenzie
led me through an extensive tasting with
me before we were joined by Sir George
When you meet Fistonich, you could be forgiven to think he is a member of the
second generation Villa Maria, family - he is very fit and certainly does not
enough to have started a winery 50 years ago.
He also has an endearing character, a soft voice
and ready smile and he loves to talk about all wine, not just his.
The Villa Maria tiers:
Private Bin - offers classic varietal expression has a white label/red
capsule - fresh, approachable and ready to drink entry level wines
Gold label - Cellar Selection wines made just like the Reserve
tier but with less intensity
Black Label - Reserve wines blends of each regions outstanding
vineyards, expressions of excellence.
Single Vineyard - very limited quantities from the best vineyards show
vineyard specific characters.
Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling, Marlborough, 2010 - Fragrant peach and
mixed stone fruit aromas,
honey and spring blossoms.
Juicy but sweet ripe fruit on
the palate, snappy citrus and a long mouth-watering
finish. So quaffable, great value!
$15-$20 across Canada
Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, 2010 - Fantastic,
lively aromas - gooseberry, passion fruit, guava and capsicum. Pristine palate,
fresh and verdant and again with the expected mouth-watering finish.
$15-$20 across Canada
Villa Maria Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Clifford Bay Marlborough, 2010 -
Elderflower and flint, fleur de sel and jalapeno with fresh grass clippings.
Similar grassy flavours, citrus and passion fruit pop on the palate with lively
but not aggressive acidity.
Villa Maria East Coast Pinot Gris, 2010 - Fragrant pear and stone fruit
aromas, with hney and exotic citrus. The palate is ripe and nicely rounded with
mixed orchard fruit and star anise flavours.
Lengthy finish with faint spice and citrus peel.
Villa Maria Private Bin Gewurztraminer, 2010 -
Rose oil, lychee, cold cream and exotic
and citrus notes. The palate has a fantastic, oily weight with perfectly
balanced sweetness. A mouth-watering and spicy finish. Very tasty.
Villa Maria Private Bin Unoaked Chardonnay, Hawke's Bay, 2010 - Fresh and
fruity, orchard fruits, citrus and creamed honey aromas are followed by a nicely
balanced, clean palate with a long finish and appealing weight.
Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2010 - Cherries, violets
and baking spice aromas translate to an approachable palate with juicy cherry
flavours and smooth tannins. I wish this tasty Pinot was
available in BC.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, Marlborough, 2005 - One step up
and quite a bit earthier than the Private Bin Pinot offering cherry and ripe
berry aromas, cocoa, leather and forest undergrowth notes.
Sweet upfront fruit on the palate with lovely concentration
and a silky texture. Nice finesse still very approachable.
Villa Maria Pinot Noir Seddon Vineyard Marlborough, 2007 -
from a single vineyard on the southern bank of the
Awatere River in Marlborough this single vineyard Pinot presents raspberry,
cherry and red plum with savoury notes, forest floor and a hint of violets.
Supple and smooth with very bright acidity, vibrant fruit and flavours of cocoa
and espresso lingering on the finish.
Nice concentration and power but still feminine.
Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon~Merlot, Hawke's Bay,
2008 - Made with 70% Cabernet and 30% Merlot this Hawke's Bay red offers
black fruit, savoury spice, tobacco, leather and herbal notes. There is plenty
of fruit in the mouth, impressive intensity and structure and polished tannins.
A wine you could cellar for a decade yet.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Viognier, Hawke's Bay, 2010 - Although not
available I loved the Viogniers I tasted in New Zealand and want them to receive
some attention. Lime, ginger, exotic spice, peaches
and honey on the nose. Gorgeous and voluptuous
on the palate, it is powerful and mouth-watering with a spicy linger.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah Hawke's Bay, 2008 - A lovely wine and
a good representation of the quality of Syrah coming from the North Island.
Blackberry, licorice, and baking spice, pepper
and mocha. Concentrated palate, great balance
with a supple weight and smooth tannins.
The next day I headed to the ferry terminal right around the corner and boarded
an early ferry to Waiheke Island, only 40 minutes from downtown Auckland.
Waiheke could be considered a paradise of sorts, small enough to drive around
(it is only 20 kilometers across) quite easily, lovely shops, restaurants and
amenities, beaches and of course wineries.
Waiheke Island's vineyards were established
in the early 1980's with hopes making premium wines from, varieties less common
in New Zealand but more associated with Hawke'sBay. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot
and Cabernet Franc were planted first, followed by Syrah, Chardonnay and various
Waiheke is a popular resort Island of 8000
inhabitants (which swells to 50,000) perfect for those craving its warm, dry
climate. A climate also well suited to the 30+ vineyards and ten wineries
Admittedly, I did publicly proclaim via social media,
that if I could live anywhere other than Vancouver,
it may very well be Waiheke Island.
In one short day, it got into my blood.
My first stop was at Stonyridge...
Vineyards to the right, olive trees left, horses
grazing in the distance at Stonyridge on Waiheke Is.
is the vision and the creation of Dr. Stephen White.
White returned to his home
of Auckland in the early 1980s after skippering in the Caribbean and
Mediterranean, working in wineries in California and Italy and participating in
a Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race. As luck would have it, some of his
family was farming on Waiheke Island and White found the perfect home there to
plant the Bordeaux varieties he loved the most.
The first vines and olive trees were planted in 1982 with the help of family and
The winery itself is small, very island quaint and unassuming, not what you
would expect the home of the ultra-premium wines produced here to look
like. But it is also easy to fall in love with this peaceful
of the planet and its open, casual Veranda Café looking out over the organic
Stoneyridge home vineyard and distant
Located on a north facing slope and protected from cold southwesterly winds,
Stonyridge's soils are clay with magnesium, manganese and iron oxide, a perfect
terroir for producing world-renowned wines. The ten hectares here have eight
point five under vine planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Syrah and
Cabernet Franc, plus olive trees.
White was not only the first in New Zealand to make a four grape blend of the
classic Bordeaux varieties, he was the first to make a Rhone-style blend and the
first to plant commercial olive trees and a cork forest. The winery is very "old
school", everything is done by hand
the wines are not filtered or fined.
*Watch for more
on Stonyridge in the October 2011 issue of
(right: a fallen angel guards Stoneyridge vines
above right: Veranda Cafe)
Fallen Angel (this range of wines
are made from grapes from other New Zealand regions)
Fallen Angel Riesling, Marlborough, 2010 - Wonderfully delicious, perfect
for quaffing on a patio it offers aromas of lime and marmalade, white blossoms
and hint of stone fruit. Tangy and snappy in the mouth
with a kiss of sweetness and a fresh, lively finish.
I would love to see this wine on BC shelves.
Fallen Angel Chardonnay, Hawke's Bay, 2007 - Although quite cold when I
tasted it, I did get hints of caramel and sweet spices lifted with orchard
fruits and citrus. The palate is fresh anad citrusy with more sweet spice
flavours and pleasing praline finish.
Stonyridge - all estate Waiheke Island fruit organically farmed.
Stonyridge Faithful, 2009 - This
Cabernet dominant red also has 12% Malbec and 4% Cabernet Franc is very fresh on
the nose with cassis and floral notes, which lead to a palate of plums, peppery
spice, cocoa and coffee flavours. Nice acidity on the palate, a very pleasing
and not brutish red.
Airfield, 2009 - Made up of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Malbec, 13% Petit
Verdot, 12% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Very fragrant nose of blueberry and
cassis, some crushed dark flowers and baking spice notes. The palate is smooth
and supple, very fresh with impressive structure and polished tannins.
Stonyridge Pilgrim, 2009 - This Syrah dominant blend with 15% Mourvedre,
4% Grenache and 1% Viognier - This Rhone Ranger style blend offers aromas of red
berries, saddle leather, and peppery spices. Bright not brooding, a supple
weight, fine-boned and lengthy with firm but fine tannin.
Stonyridge Luna Negra, 2009 - Made from hillside planted Malbec
this red is quite savoury and earthy -
spice, leather, smoked meat and spice with plenty of
Quite focused, fresh but restrained. The tannins are firm but fine, the finish
Stonyridge Larose, 2008 - the flagship Larose is 45% Cabernet with
Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Bright aromas of cassis and
blueberry, leather and graphite, with sweet minty notes to lift it. Lush on the
palate yet still firmly wound with impressive structure. The tannins are dry and
powdery. A gorgeous red.
Bottle number 12233 tasted
Stonyridge Larose, 2009 - blends 52% Cabernet Sauvignon with 18% Merlot,
15% Malbec, 10 % Petit Verdot and 5% Cabernet Franc. This newer vintage offers a
mix of red and black currents, fine spice,
leather, espresso and cocoa. It is a mouth-filling
wine with a solid backbone and firm, mineral focused
palate. Still very youthful - best to cellar it for a few years at least.
Bottle number 138184 tasted
a patchwork of vineyards on the Man O'War estate, high
upon Waiheke Island
last winery visit in New Zealand couldn't have been better.
Breathtaking vineyards, 48 kilometers of the steepest roads and the highest
plantings on Waiheke, gives you an inking of what I experienced at
Man O'War. There is
wealth behind Man O'War, easily recognized by the 1821 hectare farm estate (part
of which rests on nearby Ponui Is.), the 90 individual patchwork vineyards and
the effort behind plant ing an additional 150,000 native trees on the property.
It is a family owned estate, there are 60 hectares of planted vines, all dry
farmed. The soils vary from volcanic loam to iron rich clay.
In 1993 the first vineyard, called Valhalla, was planted to Chardonnay. Now,
their best Syrah is planted on the steepest (think Cote Rotie) north facing
vineyards and Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet
Sauvignon and Petit Vedot make up 43 other
across the estate.
Vineyard Manager Matt Allen drove me through the vineyards at angles up to 30
degrees, which I wrongly suspected were to steep for a vehicle to travel. We
stopping at the island's highest point where I could get a better sense of
Waiheke and it's geography.
It is an stunning place, simply awesome. I suspect those who work in the
vineyards at Man O'War think so too.
*Watch for more on Man
O'War in the October 2011 issue of
(right: Matt Allen & Bronwyn Skuse)
Flagship Black Label range - all estate dry farmed fruit
O'War Gravestone Sauvignon Blanc~Semillon, 2010 - Ten percent Semillon gives
the gravestone its citric, lanolin and white chocolate aromas with the typical
Savvy notes of capsicum, mineral, tropical fruit and herbs. The palate has a
very appealing creamy roundness, not lacking mouth-watering acidity. A long
finish with some additional complexity from barrel fermentation.
(right: Man O''War estate olive oil)
Man O'War Valhalla Chardonnay, 2008 - very attractive aromas of smoke and
toffee, spice and
citrus, mineral and matchbox. Gorgeous weight -
luscious with sweet ripe stone fruit and marzipan
flavours. Bright, balanced acidity - very elegant but
also quite powerful.
Man O'War Ironclad, 2008 - more than half Merlot with 27% Cabernet Franc,
10.5% Malbec, 9.1% Petit Verdot, 1.4% Cabernet Sauvignon this
Bordeaux-style blend. Lush mixed fruit, plums, raspberry, blueberry and violet
aromas with spiced green peppers and mocha. Impressive tannin structure, bold
fruit, saline mineral flavours with cocoa lingering on the finish.
Man O'War Exiled Pinot Gris, Ponui Island, 2010 - Richly scented with
honey, quince, ginger, exotic
citrus and stone fruits. The palate is decadent and
sweet on the palate with plenty of brisk acidity and a
lengthy finish. 60g/L sugar but very well balanced.
Man O'War Dreadnought Syrah, 2008 - Aromas of black raspberries, licorice
and blueberry with baking spices, leather and mocha. Beautiful weight in the
mouth - smooth and supple with dark berry fruit, white pepper and mocha with a
savoury core. Long finish with silky tannins. Gorgeous.
White label - all estate dry farmed fruit
Man O'War Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 - snappy, vibrant aromas of citrus,
gooseberry and grass clippings with jalapeno and mineral notes.
Brisk acidity with passion fruit, guava and peachy flavours.
Juicy with an appealing creaminess on the palate and a long tangy finish.
Man O'War Merlot~Cabernet Franc, 2008 - with the addition of small
amounts of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon this earthy and spicy red offers aromas
of black currents, plums, mocha, herbs and green beans, tobacco and smoked
spices. The palate is lush and supple with nice elegance and solid structure.
The tannins are smooth.
Read more about
New Zealand wine and her wine regions.
22 impressions of New Zealand
Central Otago - the land of Pinot Noir
Marlborough - the savviest place on earth
Christchurch's wine region
Wairarapa (Martinborough) a little known gem
Hawkes Bay - bold reds and elegant whites from Hill, Range &
Don't forget to visit my sister site - where it all began