Who knew a winery could be so close to an airport? A mere 5 minutes drive from Auckland Airport will find yourself at one of New Zealand’s most awarded winery’s – Villa Maria Estate.
Villa Maria began over 50 years ago and exports to 50 countries around the globe. They have vineyards in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Gisbourne. The Auckland cellar door and cafe is the perfect spot for a wine tasting or lunch, particularly if you’re on a stopover or simply can’t wait to get stuck into a glass of New Zealand wine after your long flight.
As soon as you drive up the long driveway past all the grape vines you’ll feel immersed in the Kiwi wine culture. You can spot pukekos and paradise ducks amongst the vines before you get to the laid back cellar door. It is a pretty spot and neither my Mum nor I once heard the sound of an aeroplane! We could have been smack bam in wine country for all we knew. Or perhaps the wine and pretty surrounds had impaired our hearing!
A tasting at the cellar door is $5 per person and you can try 6 wines (the tasting fee is refundable on purchase). The tasting is rather orchestrated, it’s only because my Mum mentioned their new release slightly sparkling rosé that we got to try that. It was a bit of a pity we couldn’t choose what to try as there are some interesting wines on their list which I would have liked to give a go. Their wine list is huge, so understandably they wouldn’t have everything open however I probably would have purchased more if I could have tasted styles that I prefer.
We did however try some lovely wines, my Mum loved the slightly sparkling dry rosé (read my tasting note here) and one of the 3 wines made from the Italian grape Arenis we both enjoyed.
After our tasting we had lunch at the Villa Maria Cafe (it was an early Mother’s Day lunch tied in with picking my Dad up from the airport – 2 birds with one stone as they say!). Despite it being a ‘cafe’ the menu is more on the fine dining side of the table. Bookings are essential on the weekend, however we turned up on a Tuesday around midday with no booking and we got a fantastic table overlooking the vineyard.
The menu is absolutely scrumptious, both my Mum and I had a terrible time trying to decide what to go for.. It all sounded so good! The starters weren’t really sharing type of dishes so we opted for one of the side dishes, the warm turkish bread with extra virgin olive oil & dukkah for $7 which was perfect and a bargain when the other starters were around the $20 mark anyway.
Mum went for the smoked lamb loin with crushed baby peas, caramelized pearl onions & galette potatoes for $35. She loved it. However it would have been nice if on the menu they suggested a white wine as well as the red wine suggestion for a wine pairing as my Mum only drinks white and she wasn’t sure what would be good to match. In the end she went for the slightly sparkling rosé since she enjoyed that so much in the tasting.
For some reason I don’t normally order chicken when eating out as it just seems so easy to make at home, however I couldn’t look past the Waitoa free range chicken breast prosciutto wrapped on crisp potato & thyme pavé with sweet corn chilli salsa & jus roti for $32. Beautifully presented and it tasted divine. For a chicken dish I found it very rich, the jus was quite intense especially married up with the prosciutto. It went well with the 2011 Hawkes Bay Chardy (read my tasting note here).
To finish the meal I had a lovely glass of the late harvest Riesling (read my tasting note here) and we shared the Kohu Road ice creams & sorbets with fresh raspberries for $10.50. The berries weren’t to flash, I say berries as I’m sure they weren’t raspberries, more like defrosted berries however the ice-cream and sorbet was delicious. We both enjoyed it very much!
All up the food was fantastic, the service was a bit slow at times despite the restaurant being very quiet however we had a great time and I would definitely recommend it to anyone travelling past Auckland airport. If it wasn’t for my flight back to Perth being at 6 in the morning, then I would of definitely stopped in again.