New Zealand Wine: Vilagrad Wines – Hamilton (Waikato)

Vilagrad Wines - Vineyard - Hamilton, WaikatoIt seems only natural when we go only holiday, that I hunt out the closest wineries. Mr. Spittoon’s family actually live in Hamilton, which falls into the Waikato-Bay of Plenty wine region in New Zealand. Of the 10 or so wineries in the region, Vilagrad Wines is one and it’s only about a 15 minute drive from the Hamilton CBD in Ohaupo. Continue reading

Sauvignon Blanc Day – Let’s Get Savvy with NZ Sauv Blanc

International Sauv Blanc DayWith Sauvignon Blanc Day just around the corner, I thought it would be a great idea for the blog to get a little Savvy! Therefore I have invited along the lovely Lisa from The Sisters Wine in New Zealand to share with us some info on what makes NZ Sauv Blanc so great! Enjoy guys! Continue reading

Omata Estate Wine & Pizza – Russell, New Zealand

As some of you may know, I love to invite guest bloggers to share their wine experiences and knowledge on the blog. This week we have a very special guest poster – my Dad!! Naturally he is a big wino (I wonder where I got it from!) and he was recently invited along to Omata Estate in Russell, which is in the far north of New Zealand. Check out what he got up to…

Continue reading

White Diamond Wine at Longview Estate – Northland, NZ

Longview Estate WhangareiSome of you may not know that I’m a Kiwi – and one with itchy travelling feet apparently! When growing up, I spent most of my younger years in the Northland region of New Zealand. Northland is at the very top of the North Island of New Zealand and as they say is ‘subtropical’. Nowhere is the sea more than 50kms away. Northland is also where a lot of the country’s wine growing history can be traced back to with the first vines being planted in 1819 in the Bay of Islands. Continue reading

Lunch at Villa Maria Estate – Only 5 minutes from Auckland Airport

Villa Maria Vineyard Pukeko

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.

About Villa Maria

Villa Maria began over 50 years ago and exports to 50 countries around the globe. They have vineyards in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Marlborough and Gisborne. 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!

The cellar door

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.

Villa Maria Auckland Cellar Door

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 and one of the 3 wines made from the Italian grape Arenis we both enjoyed.

Villa Maria new slightly sparkling rose

Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Lightly Sparkling Rose from the East Coast of New Zealand

Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Lightly Sparkling Rose from the East Coast of New Zealand. This is a new release from the VM team and it retails are a wallet-friendly NZ$15. It is an interesting frizzante style wine made from Pinot Gris, Viognier and Malbec. It is slightly sparkling with a screw cap which would make it the perfect picnic wine. It’s a pretty peach on the eye with aromas of lychee, rambutans and a twist lemon. In the mouth it has a nice sparkle followed by flavours of cranberry, raspberries and a nice smooth watermelon finish. Just a hint from me to you, it’ll be a great Mother’s Day present, my Mum loves it!

Lunch at Villa Maria’s restaurant

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 for 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.

Villa Maria lunch bread

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.

Villa Maria Smoked Lamb Loin

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.

Villa Maria Estate Reserve 2012 Chardonnay from the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Villa Maria Estate Reserve 2012 Chardonnay from the Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. This was the perfect accompaniment to my Waitoa free range chicken breast wrapped with prosciutto on crisp potato & thyme pavé with sweet corn chilli salsa & jus roti at the cellar door cafe! On the eye it was a pretty pale golden colour. On the nose I picked up lovely whiffs of oak, butter, lemon pudding and a touch of smoke. In the mouth it is crisp & juicy with lovely acidity and oak balance. Lovely flavours of golden syrup, pears and lemons. I really enjoyed this wine and the meal.

To finish the meal I had a lovely glass of the late harvest Riesling 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 were delicious. We both enjoyed it very much!

Villa Maria Estate 2011 Late Harvest Cellar Selection Semillon from Marlborough, New Zealand

Villa Maria Estate 2011 Late Harvest Cellar Selection Semillon from Marlborough, New Zealand. I enjoyed a lovely glass of this dessert wine with a selection of Kohu Road ice creams & sorbets with fresh berries. On the eye it was a pretty gold colour whilst on the nose I picked up scents of lemonade ice-blocks, apricots and syrup. In the mouth it had a lovely balance of acidity and sweetness, like sugar covered lemon lollies. The finish was nice and clean which didn’t leave you with a sickly sugar overdose feeling. I quite enjoyed sipping on this vino to finish my meal at the Villa Maria Cafe.

To sum up

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 have definitely stopped in again.

For more information, please check out the Villa Maria website or connect with them on Facebook and Twitter.