The first serious vineyard on Waiheke Island was planted in 1978 by the Goldwater family who had a love of Bordeaux varietals. They planted Cabernet Sauvignon and their first, very small vintage, was in 1982. It wasn’t until the 1985 vintage, which had Merlot added, that the wine became more readily available. Following very soon after was Stonyridge vineyard with their first vintage of a Bordeaux blend called Larose in 1985.
The 1987 vintage of Stonyridge Larose was such a huge step forward in the quality of NZ Bordeaux blends that it immediately put Waiheke Island on the wine producing map. I last tasted the 1987 vintage in 2017 and it was still very much alive showing just how long well-made wines from the island can age.
Peninsula Estate, Te Motu, and Fenton Estate soon followed but today of these only Te Motu still produces wine although the old Peninsula and Fenton vineyards still exist and provide fruit for other labels.
In the early 1990’s Syrah started to be planted in the Te Matuku area and then at Kennedy Point, and initially Passage Rock, and then Kennedy Point with their 2007 vintage, put Waiheke on the map for production of Syrah in NZ. Red wine production still dominates on Waiheke Island with Cabernet Franc also extensively planted but you will also find Malbec, Petit Verdot, Montepulciano and Tempranillo. Rose wines are readily available and now that they are a much drier style and therefore food friendly they have become more popular.
White wines have long been produced here with the first varietals being Chardonnay, planted by the Delamore family in the 1980s, and Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fair to say that Chardonnay has done very well here with a less oaky more mineral style than from some other NZ locations, but Sauvignon Blanc has struggled although on some sites it can produce a more Bordeaux styled wine. Lately Pinot Gris and Viognier have both been increasing in volume and have been very popular.
Production levels are very small with only about 100,000 cases per year produced in a good vintage. That equates to about 0.02% of NZ’s wine production. Nearly every producer over here is classified as ‘boutique’ and many have excellent restaurants. Today there are over 20 cellar doors with most open at least a few days a week from late October to April but that number reduces to less than 10 at times during the winter.
Please explore the Wineries page for links to Wineries, Cellar Doors & Restaurants in Waiheke, and take some time to explore the number of Waiheke Wine Tours we offer for visitors to the island. If you have any questions please fill in the Contact form or send me an email.