The Tasting Panel magazine

JUNE 2011

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Page 28 of 132

NEW ZEALAND Small But Beautiful NEW ZEALAND’S WAIhEKE ISLAND story and photos by Allison Levine T hirty-fi ve minutes by ferry from downtown Auckland is New Zealand’s “Island of Wine”—Waiheke Island. With only 535 planted acres and 30 growers, Waiheke is one of the world’s most exclusive wine regions, producing top-tier Bordeaux blends and Syrahs, as well as white wines such as Chardonnay, Viognier and Pinot Gris. To get an idea of how exclusive, consider this: New Zealand produces less than 1% of the world’s exported wines, and Waiheke Island contributes less than 1% of this production. While a maritime climate is not unique to Waiheke Island, the features that set it apart from other wine-producing regions in New Zealand are its enviable situation and its ancient soil structure. In addition to a warm, dry climate, similar to that of Bordeaux, almost the entire island is built on 145- to 158-million-year-old rock from the Jurassic period, covered over by thin layers of soil and clay. For tasting notes on current—and very impressive— Waiheke Island wines, see the Blue Reviews featurette on p. 71. Another area just 35 minutes north of Auckland is Waiwera Thermal Spa Resort, where Waiwera water originates. This family-friendly retreat consists of natural thermal pools sheltered by the native bush and hills of the Waiwera valley. Inspired by Steven White, Obsidian owner Lindsay Spilman bought land in 199 and produced his fi rst wine in 1997. With winemaker Mike Wood, who joined Obsidian in 2005, they love Waiheke Island for its remoteness yet proximity to Auckland. Obsidian is currently seeking a U.S. importer. Allison Levine with Stonyridge owner Steven White, who began Stonyridge in 1981-82 as the second winery on the island (today there are 0). With a passion for French wines, he believed that Waiheke Island, with its maritime climate, was an ideal place to grow grapes. Neill Culley moved to Waiheke after making wine at Babich. With a vision to produce elegant, complex wines, Neill planted vines at Cable Bay Vineyards in 1998, producing his fi rst wine in 2002, opening the restaurant and wine bar in 2007. Sean Spratt left San Francisco to join his parents Ann and Mike Spratt when they moved to Waiheke Island in 1999-2000. Producing 2000 cases per year, Destiny Bay is the fi rst fully-certifi ed sustainable winery and vineyard on Waiheke Island.

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