Tasting the delights of Tāmaki Makaurau – Part 1

In the words of Queen: ‘It’s a beautiful day, the sun is shining, I feel good, no one’s gonna stop me now’

I leave Daniel sleeping and I head out to explore. We are booked in for a wine tasting tour today, but that’s not till 10:30am so there is plenty of time for me to get out for a walk.

I head to Albert park. I didn’t realise Auckland had so many hills. I mean, the place is made up of lots of volcanoes, but I thought the central city was flat. It’s only a 10 minute walk, but it’s quite the workout. I arrive rather hot and sweaty but quickly forget once I am surrounded by this little oasis in the heart of the city. I am greeted by an old, twisted, gnarly tree that oozes old time fairy tale charm. The birds are singing and the bright blue sky frames the distinctive sky tower.

At the center of the park is a water feature, the symmetry of the area is calming. And the poppies, oh, the poppies, these beautifully formed, spring time blooms are stunning. Their delicate stems gently swaying in the breeze. There is a soft hum of honey bees getting their fill of poppy pollen. Spring is dancing to nature’s orchestra in this park today.

Once I have had my fill of nature, I head back to the concrete jungle, heading to our hotel along the waterfront. But first, I have one more stop to make. On the bus ride into Auckland yesterday, I randomly googled, ‘best donuts in Auckland’. It came up with several results, including Grownup Donuts, a little hole in the wall servery, 2 doors down from our hotel, so I just have to make a stop there. They have a big selection of soft, fluffy filled puffs of deliciousness, but I go for the classics, a plain cinnamon, a dark Belgium chocolate mousse filled one and a custard filled one. With my carefully selected assortment, I go to see if Daniel is awake and ready for breakfast.

We are collected by Phil from Fine Wine and Food Tours from our hotel at 10:30am. We initially take a wrong turn which means we travel over the Auckland Harbour bridge – something neither of us have done before. It gives us some great views and I am starting to see why it is called the city of sails. There are 2 harbours, lots of bays, inlets and plenty of access to water. We also get some great views of Rangitoto.

Today we are doing a private wine tour of the Kumeu region. Phil explains that this area was where a lot of Croatian immigrants settled in the early 20th century and began making wine here. It’s not far from the city, but as soon as we leave the motorway, we are in instant countyside. It’s very pretty here, lots of green rolling hills and trees. There has been quite a bit of development in this area, but it still feels rural.

Out first stop is West Brook Winery. I love the settings at vineyards. They are always so idyllic with their rows of planted grapes and elegant olive trees and this vineyard meets my expectations. We are seated inside and brought 5 wines to taste. We spend some time chatting with Phil and getting to know each other. We will be doing another tour with Phil tomorrow too. While tasting the wines, a little skink pops out from behind a pot plant on the window ledge.

After Daniel has made some purchases, we head to our next stop, Hellertau Brewery. It was meant to be Soljans Estate Winery, but as we will be visiting there tomorrow, Phil changed the itinerary for us so we didn’t go to the same place twice. This venue is mostly outdoor seating and would be an amazing place to spend an afternoon in the summer, it has a really great vibe. For lunch I choose gnocchi which is sensational. This is washed down with a cinnamon and yuzu non alcoholic wine. It’s quite an interesting flavour, the cinnamon is strong but it’s a delicious drink.

Our next stop is The Hunting Lodge. It’s a popular spot, a great place for family and friends to enjoy a glass of wine and soak in some sunshine. We try another 5 wines at this vineyard. They only have 2 wines here that are made from grapes grown on site. It does seem quite common for the vineyards here to have a small block of vines and then vines in other parts of the country like Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Otago. Their home block wines are a chardonnay and a sav aged in oak. After our samplings, Daniel makes another purchase.

Our last vineyard of the day is Coopers Creek Winery. I think this is my favorite winery of the day. The owner is chatty and friendly, sharing stories of their wine and it’s history. I love boutique places that are family owned. They have a personalized rustic charm and passion that larger places struggle to match. I should note that all of the wineries we visited were relatively small, family wineries, I just particularly enjoyed our visit to Coopers Creek. They have a huge range of wines, their menu list is extensive. We got to try 10, all of which were very drinkable. Daniel makes yet another purchase. Perhaps I should start buying shares in NZ wine!

Before heading home, Phil offers to take us out to Muriwai Beach, a black sand beach that is home to a colony of nesting gannets. We stop on the hillside to look down on the beach. It’s a breathtaking view. I love our beaches, they are not your picture perfect, golden sandy beaches (although there are some of these) they are wild and untouched and leave you with a sense of awe as you witness the power of nature. It’s a beautiful coastline.

We arrive back at our hotel, ready for a nap after a day of wine. It’s a quiet dinner tonight at a place called Mezze Bar which serve tapas. I had my fill of wine today so dinner was wonderfully simple, a lemonade and a Spanish omelette, a perfect ending to the day.

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