Greater Auckland is home to more than 110 vineyards. Henderson Valley is the country's oldest grape-growing area, dating to the arrival of Croatian and other Northern Hemisphere immigrants in the early 1900s. Today, the western suburbs and areas north to Kumeu are a major grape-growing region. Cabernet sauvignon is the most commonly planted grape; merlot and pinot noir are also important. Chardonnay and sauvignon blanc are the main white varieties. Most West Auckland wineries also draw fruit from other regions, mostly Gisborne, Marlborough, and Hawke's Bay. The Henderson and Kumeu areas are the most accessible for a day's outing. They're about 30 minutes from Central City. Waiheke Island is about 30 to 40 minutes away by ferry; it's by far the prettiest region and worth the time.
You'll find a good cluster of wineries along Lincoln and Henderson Valley roads, and nestled in the surrounding hills. The small townships of Kumeu, Huapai, and Waimauku also have good selections. For further details on the area, pick up the free vineyard brochures from a visitor center. Following are the notables.
- Babich Wines, 10 Babich Rd., Henderson (tel. 09/833-7859; www.babichwines.co.nz), is only 20 minutes from Central City and is open for tastings Monday through Friday from 9am to 5pm, Saturday from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. One of the most picturesque wineries, it has a pleasant picnic area near its shop and vintages going back to 1990.
- Soljans Estate, 366 St. Hwy. 16, Kumeu (tel. 09/412-5858; www.soljans.co.nz), produces internationally competitive wines. It has cellar sales and tastings, a cafe, and winery complex. Daily winery tours (11:30am-2:30pm) followed by a tasting cost NZ$12 per person. The winery is open daily 9am to 5:30pm; the cafe is open Monday through Friday 11am to 3pm, weekends 9am to 3pm.
- Constellation New Zealand, 45 Station Rd., Huapai (tel. 09/412-6666; www.constellationnz.com), is the country's second-largest winemaker. The winery is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Wine tastings cost NZ$3 per person; no tours are available.
- Matua Valley Wines, 307 Waikoukou Valley Rd., Waimauku (tel. 09/411-8301; www.matua.co.nz), produced the first New Zealand sauvignon blanc over 25 years ago. The winery is open daily from10am to 5pm and has a lovely picnic area. Coopers Creek, 601 SH16, Huapai (tel. 09/412-8560; www.cooperscreek.co.nz), has wine tasting and summer jazz performances. It's open Monday through Friday 9:30am to 5:30pm and weekends from 10:30am to 5:30pm.
- Awa Valley Vineyard,74 Awa Rd., Kumeu (tel. 09/412-6377; www.awavalley.co.nz), is a lovely weekend stop, with free wine tasting, a sandpit for children's play, and a picnic area. They're open Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm, weekdays by appointment. Closer to the city and just 5 minutes north of the airport at Mangere Gateway, you'll find New Zealand's most awarded wine producer, Villa Maria Estate, 118 Montgomerie Rd., Mangere (tel. 09/255-0660; www.villamaria.co.nz), a good place for beginners and experts alike to get an introduction to New Zealand wine. Their winery and cellar are built inside the crater of a 20,000-year-old volcano. Open Monday through Friday 9am to 6pm, and 10am to 5pm on weekends.
- If you're short on time, call at Glengarry Wines, Sale and Wellesley streets (tel. 0800/733-505in NZ, or 09/308-8346; www.glengarry.co.nz), where you'll find an extensive range of varietals from most New Zealand regions. It offers tax-free wine sales, wine tastings, worldwide home delivery, and wine-tour information. They're open Monday through Saturday 9am to 8pm, Sunday 11am to 7pm. Glengarry has several stores throughout Auckland; another convenient location is at 139 Ponsonby Rd. (tel. 09/378-8252).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.