Mahi Eats: My Top 5 Waiheke Vineyards And Why
BY MAHI K
The next time the girls - (or boys!) are planning a trip to Waiheke, feel free to take some inspo from my top picks.
1 December 2022
It's officially December! That means I’m all for a vino on Waiheke Island, especially as it's now silly season.
If you know me at all, you know I have the propensity to consume delicious food and my favourite hobby by far is lunching with the girls, vino in hand. Waiheke island is the epitome of elegance with their pristine beaches and world class wines. Home to more than approximately 30 wineries scattered throughout the island with exclusive tasting rooms and cellars, ritzy (and in some instances relaxed yet carefully considered!) restaurants and phenomenally breathtaking views of the island, when you head there you are spoiled for choice.
Waiheke is also home to many exquisite restaurants (shout out to Oyster Inn - you are nothing short of divine) but with so much possibility between top quality vineyards which house their own restaurants, I’ve narrowed it down to my top 5 Waiheke Vineyards in no particular order and why. These vineyards are not basic in the slightest, have food which reflects culture, thoughtful coordination and astounding and unique views:
With a beautiful Mosaic wall that escorts you up a hill upon entry, it feels like you’ve instantly been transported to Spain. The restaurant is a tall glass building with views into the vines below.
Casita Miro is open for wine-tasting seven days a week, and they have a lovely hill which you can park up on with a blanket to do tastings, or you can just as easily take a seat on the rooftop where there’s a bar. They have a combination of wines grown from the Miro Vineyard, as well as some of the rare sherries imported from Andalucia (a hilly region in Spain’s southern coast). I’m not the biggest white wine girl, but over the weekend I ordered a bottle of the 2020 Miro Pinot Gris which went down an absolute charm. Being a Spanish restaurant, they also serve a perfectly executed Red Sangria, comprising of their red wine with citrus and caramel flavours.
The food however, for me, is what really sets Casita Miro apart. They have a range of sharing boards and Spanish charcuterie, but the food is inspired from Spanish and Mediterranean cooking. The Goats Cheese Croquetas are absolutely delectable, and are coated in honey and toasted almonds, giving the cheese a slightly sweet flavour and crunchy texture. The Gambas Al Ajillo is my favourite item on the menu being pan seared prawns in a beautiful sauce made of garlic, parsley, olive oil and lemon. The seafood paella, a seasonal special, is unique and especially filling. I would recommend doing the Fiesta menu which is $65 per person, and gives you most items on the menu with a dessert.
Stonyridge in Waiheke feels far more humble and in summer, it honestly brings the vibes. It’s located in a valley of olive trees, and it has the famous house upon entry which is covered in leaves and moss where everybody takes their classic Stonyridge photo.
Stonyridge is picturesque to say the least, but it’s also a world-renowned cabernet-blend wine grower in a bordeaux style after the first vines and olive trees were grown on the premises in 1982.
Their restaurant is beautiful in a partial indoor, outdoor seating space overlooking the vines. The food menu is also often changed to reflect the seasonal produce, with the food and wine taking influence from France, Tuscany, Spain and California. The menu usually has items such as fresh oysters, market fish, and various charcuterie platters.
What I really enjoy about Stonyridge is that if you choose to sit in the bar area, there’s often live music, an open side bar and food trucks with different food also. One of my favourite food trucks they had was the South American oven with fresh empanadas being made to order.
With one of the best ambiances in Waiheke, Stonyridge is likely to cater to the tastes and sensibilities of every member of your group.
A beautiful Italian family-owned vineyard nestled in Awaawaroa Bay, on a North facing slope amassing a whopping 7.7 hectares. Being at Poderi Crisci makes you feel like you’re in Italy, and the food is absolutely incredible with recipes inspired by traditional Italian cuisine using fresh produce.
The wine is produced in their underground cellar on Waiheke and inspired by old world styled wine and grape varieties with minimal intervention from the producers. The Poderi Crisci Merlot Riserva 2015 is my father’s favourite wine here, as it exemplifies an exceptional vintage wine and is full bodied. In addition, Poderi Crisci houses its own herb garden in the entrance to the vineyard. With a dedicated gardener manning the garden, Poderi Crisci sources its own fresh produce all year round.
They offer a Sunday Long lunch which is perfect for a Waiheke trip with the family. The can’t-miss menu items for me are the Lasagne Con Zucchini e Zafferano, which is an insane lasagna layered with zucchini fresh from the garden and creamy saffron in a rich bechamel sauce. The Tiramisu here is unmissable, and probably one of the best tiramisus I've ever had. It’s cooked in the perfect amount of espresso and liquor, and layered with mascarpone throughout.
Man O’ War
Located in Man O’ War Bay, this is Waiheke’s only beach side winery. It gives off a more casual and relaxed vibe than the rest of the vineyards, and the beach side views are phenomenal.
Although transportation to this side of the island is generally hard, Man O’ War has its own shuttle service which takes you from the ferry terminal (or other stops on request) to Man O’ War and back for only $15 each way (which if you know about taxi prices on Waiheke, is so reasonable). This service was impeccable and we really enjoyed the driver pointing out sites on our way over.
The lunch menu is light, with items like a beautifully cured salmon, salt and pepper squid, and delicious buffalo mozzarella. You also can’t go wrong with any of their flagship wines, my favourite being the Exiled Pinot Gris which is light and sweet flavours of citrus and honey coming through.
Man O’ War is my top recommendation if you’re after a relaxed day in the sun, with an option to swim in the bay afterwards too. It’s also dog friendly which gives it an extremely homely ambiance
Last but not least, Mudbrick. Mudbrick is luxurious, sexy, sophisticated and all-inclusive. From restaurants to a home-grown garden which has been established for over 28 years, unique and grandeur accommodation, a hosting venue and a tasting cellar, it really has it all.
Despite being well known, Mudbrick is still a stand out option in Waiheke island for a multitude of reasons.
Housing not one, but two restaurants, Mudbrick has both the Flagship Restaurant serving sophisticated set menus using fresh and seasonal Aoteroa produce or the modern bistro “The Archive” which is far more casual and relaxed with share style plates and charcuterie options. Spoiled for choice, both restaurants provide phenomenal Waiheke island views of the Hauraki Gulf.
Mudbrick’s vineyard is actually on two sites, meaning that they have the benefit of blending separate wines together for a much more satisfying outcome. The wines here are exceptional. If you’re not sure what to come away with, there are different tasting experiences which are very reasonably priced, and I would recommend trying the Flagship tasting to taste the best on offer. They even offer a private vineyard tour for an all immersive experience.