I last left you on the gorgeously fertile island of Waiheke in New Zealand. Having taken in the highlights of Oneroa in just under 19.5 minutes, you’ll recall that my friend, Josh, and I, zoomed out of town in our little red beater rental car, anxious not to be late for our noon lunch appointment at Te Whau Vineyard. In our hurry, we headed in exactly the opposite direction of the winery. No matter, with the entire island only 12 miles long, the detour didn’t delay us much.
We drive back through town, across a flat marshland, past a typically pastoral New Zealand scene of sheep grazing on a grassy hill, and eventually take a right turn up a road full of twists and turns that brought us to higher ground and stunning views of the bay. We all know that New Zealanders are keen sailors and judging from the number of sailing boats moored in the water, it seems that everyone owns a boat. Suddenly we are in an olive grove, and then just as quickly the vista turns to vines growing up and down hillsides with unspeakably amazing views. There are no words to describe this beauty. And here, right atop of what is surely God’s country, is Te Whau Vineyard.
There’s a café – “café” being a huge understatement as we soon discover – and a tasting room. The winery is known for its red blends and a chardonnay that is in such limited supply that you can’t taste it, can’t order a glass of it and have to just buy a bottle on faith that it’s amazing.
We settle for a table outside on the balcony, eager to drink in the view, but a passing rainstorm quickly pushes us inside. No matter – the place is wrapped in windows. We order a sparking rosé for me and a flight of reds from various vintages for Josh. Then we study the menu. It becomes quickly apparent that this is not your average café but fine dining at its very best.
Wanting to try as much as possible, I opt for two appetizers: kingfish tataki (pictured up top) and gravlax with almond cream, and two sides; kumara (sweet potato) and green beans. Josh goes for the oysters and the lamb loin.
Starting with the bread (they brought me gluten-free) and the unctuous local olive oil which was wonderfully peppery and rich, things just get better and better. Honestly. This is one of the best meals I have had in a long time and I won’t even try to describe everything, I am just going to make you salivate by showing you lots of pictures.
We savor every bite and sip in the views around us. We can’t stop smiling. This sure is the best way to spend a Friday that I’ve come up with in a long time. The staff are knowledgeable and attentive and the resident Burmese cat even pays us a visit. All too soon, the meal is over and with no room for dessert and a ferry to catch back to Auckland so I can head to the airport, we hop back into the redmobile and wind our way back down the hill.
Sitting on the ferry on the ride back, I reflect that I shouldn’t be so cynical. My friends were right. If there’s only one thing you do when you go to Auckland, it’s catch the ferry to Waiheke and go eat at Te Whau Vineyard. The end.
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