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A Wine Lover's Guide to Matakana

Journey north on your next stay in Auckland to discover wineries filled with quirky sculptures, rare wine varietals and award-winning restaurants.
By Stephen Heard
May 29, 2019
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A Wine Lover's Guide to Matakana

Journey north on your next stay in Auckland to discover wineries filled with quirky sculptures, rare wine varietals and award-winning restaurants.
By Stephen Heard
May 29, 2019
  shares

in partnership with

Wine lovers visiting New Zealand's biggest city are truly spoilt for choice. A cluster of award-winning and family-owned vineyards sit less than an hour's drive from the CBD, making it the perfect destination for your next short break. Dotted among the hillsides and bays of northern Auckland, Matakana has a warm climate that produces elegant reds — there are 28 varieties planted in the region, which makes it one of the most diverse wine growing areas in New Zealand. Here you'll find the only vineyard in the country to specialise solely in Italian grapes, French-inspired drops and an elaborate 'if you build it, they will come' sculpture park. Flights to Auckland from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane are super short — around three-and-a-half hours on average — and Air New Zealand flies direct from all three cities and offers great everyday fares.cp-line

SCULPTUREUM

A Nike-wearing alligator, inspirational quotes from Steve Jobs, an exotic bird aviary and an 80-seat restaurant — Sculptureum isn't your average vineyard. After 12 years of design and development, Auckland-based lawyers Anthony and Sandra Grant opened the doors to their elaborate 'if you build it, they will come' space. The 25-acre site is located less than five minutes' drive from the Matakana village en route to Omaha (north of Auckland).

After strolling through art-filled gardens, seeing a massive chandelier created by American glass artist Dale Chihuly and spotting large rabbits in a grassy arena named Rabbiton, it'll finally be time to sit down for a wine. On a sun-soaked hill beyond the gardens is the vineyard that produces Sculptureum's award-winning wines. Current varietals available include chardonnay, Bordeaux blend, syrah and rosé. They're best enjoyed by the glass with a meal at on-site restaurant Rothko — though you can always grab a bottle for later, too.

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BRICK BAY WINERY

Brick Bay is another spot that incorporates boutique wines, a sculpture trail and a top-notch restaurant. Nestled amidst a patchwork of native bush and farmland, the winery is a magical setting for a short break out of the city. For a little over 32 years, the brand has made a name for itself crafting sustainable wines, notably the classic pinot gris and berry-driven rosé. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, tastings are held any time at on-site restaurant The Glasshouse for $8. Designed by respected architect Noel Lane, the building is exactly as the name suggests — a light-filled glass box, which sits over a lily-filled pond.

For an additional fee, you'll also be given the opportunity to stroll around the sculpture trail and see work by some of New Zealand's top contemporary sculptors, including Paul Dibble, Terry Stringer and Judy Darraugh. The full trail takes around an hour to complete.

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HERON'S FLIGHT

Heron's Flight is the only vineyard in New Zealand to specialise solely in Italian grapes. The winery was established 31 years ago by David Hoskins, whose work as a chemist, philosopher and winemaker makes him quite the renaissance man. Heron's Flight has been consistently committed to sustainable winemaking and can be found in the wine lists of top restaurants up and down New Zealand.

Heron's Flight works with two grape varieties: sangiovese, which translates to 'the blood of Jupiter', and dolcetto, a variety which is often both dry and full-bodied. Tastings are available seven days a week, excluding public holidays.

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MATAKANA ESTATE

Matakana Estate has been around since the boutique wine region first sprung to light more than 30 years ago. Under the care of Australian winemaker Richard Robson, the estate produces stylish, full-bodied chardonnay, syrah and pinot gris.

With expansive views over the vineyard — the largest in the region — the tasting room is one of the most popular to visit for an afternoon of sniffing and swirling. That said, it's recommended to call ahead if you're looking to try a specific varietal. If you haven't sorted transportation for your return journey, the estate boasts a luxury lodge, which stands proudly on a ridge overlooking the Matakana valley and hills. It has room for up to eight merry guests.

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RUNNER DUCK ESTATE

Runner Duck Estate is a boutique vineyard nestled in the Matakana valley, specialising in small quantities of French-inspired syrah, Bordeaux blends, pinot gris, sangiovese and rosé. After leaving behind a successful business in Mumbai and purchasing the estate, it was the objective of owners Clyde and Farida to produce a small amount of iconic red wine that would impress the world's most discerning wine drinkers. Staying true to their word, the pair will not produce wine under the label unless the year been outstanding.

The estate's cellar door can be found at celebrated vineyard restaurant, Plume, which offers tastings of any five wines for $7 per person. Alternatively, tastings are free with any bottled purchased.cp-line

Book your flights to Auckland with Air New Zealand and start planning your next long weekend away. Plus, Vinomofo has released a case of wine featuring six delicious wines representing the diverse and unique sub-regions of Waiheke, Kumeu and Matakana. Every case has a one in 50 chance of winning return flights to Auckland (from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane). T&Cs apply.  

Published on May 29, 2019 by Stephen Heard

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