November 14, 2011
We tender over to Waiheke Island this morning, forced by southwesterly winds to land on shore rather than the harbor. At sandy Oneroa Bay, we time the waves to make a beach landing, hopping off in rhythm with the surf.
It’s a morning of wine tastings at three of Waiheke’s best vineyards. This once sleepy island was a hippie haven until vintners discovered its climate was a match for Bordeaux’s, and the first vines were planted in the late 1970s. Since then, Waiheke has become a commuter island for Auckland and real estate prices have shot up, our Ananda tour guide tells us, 500 percent in the past five to 10 years.
At Kennedy Point winery, we sip syrah and nibble New Zealand cheese and bread, dipped in olive and avocado oils from the estate. The winemaking is such a traditional French-style process that the staff picks the grapes by hand and, as bar manager Dale Weingott says, “we clean our feet and destem them just like Lucille Ball.”
Te Whau (pronounced Tea Foe) serves up killer ocean views with its Bordeaux-style blends, and Obsidian pours a nice light Weeping Sands pinot gris to send us back to our tender and a beachy exit.
This afternoon, we’re facing into the wind up to Great Barrier Island, “Guardian of the Gulf,” and our displacement catamaran gets rocking and rolling for a few hours — what Capt. Vince calls “a bit lumpy.” We pull into a calm nook off Great Barrier, which blocks the heavy Pacific swells, and finally anchor about 7:30. The Island Passage settles gently in for the evening.