After landing in Auckland and checking into our hotel, we took a 30 minute drive up to Babich Wines. Being a Wednesday afternoon it was not busy; in fact, the tasting room was empty! Once we figured out how to contact the wine taster (a small doorbell near the cash register), we had a fun tasting with some interesting wines. Many of them are available in the US, so we focused on the varietals that would be harder to get overseas. In general, I thought the wines were solid and reasonably priced. I would have bought more if we lived here – they only charge $5 case for shipment anywhere on the North Island.
We had enough time to visit another winery before closing, but our choice, Landmark Estates, didn’t seem to have a tasting room – at least we drove around and never found it!
Soljans Estate — a Croatian family-owned vineyard with a large tasting room. The young woman giving us the tasting didn’t seem to know that much about the wines but we liked their selection. The Pinotage, in particular, was a pleasant surprise. Eric’s favorite was the Kumeu Sauvignon Blanc.
Kumeu River Wines — Eric loved the Chardonnay here! Our pourer was friendly and had clearly just come in from picking grapes to talk about the wine in the small tasting room. I found their reds very drinkable and a great value. Definitely one of the top tastings we had in NZ, it was hard to leave with only a half bottle of the 2008 Hunting Hill Chardonnay. Next time!
Coopers Creek Vineyard — Our hostess didn’t normally do wine tastings so she was a bit flustered at our presence; oddly, she also didn’t want to pour the reds for me while Eric was trying the whites so we were there twice as long as we needed to be. On the upside, the winery dog, Molly, was VERY friendly. This place sources their grapes from several places all over the country and we both thought the wines were pretty ordinary.
West Brook Winery – Beautiful setting with a big lawn area around a pond, we were surprised to be the only tasters on Sunday morning. The reds were okay but the whites were quite good. Wine was not available by the glass (?!?) but our hostess poured us a big ‘sample’ of whatever we wanted and we enjoyed it down by the pond on a picnic bench. We also scored a local area wine map which helped us pick out two more places to visit.
On our way to Matua Valley Wines we stopped in at a tiny vineyard, Twin Totara, that only grows cab franc and merlot. We had the opportunity to taste a four-year vertical of the reds and two vintages of the roses. Very interesting wine, and the winemaker himself was pouring. We had to make space in the luggage for a 2007 – it was a crazy good value at ~$14! If we had been in the US we would have left with a whole case. Easy.
Matua Valley Wines were solid — they had a free tasting of four reds and four whites so we each took a side. I absolutely loved the 2010 Merlot so I spent the $16 and got a glass to go with the very last of my liver pate and enjoyed both on the wrap-around balcony out back. Eric got a glass of the Sauvignon Blanc and joined me with some caramel corn. The beautiful views were blocked for several minutes by a pop-up rainstorm but we were protected.
It was a wonderful way to end our time in New Zealand. Can’t wait to get back!