Don Kavanagh: The best is close to home

By Don Kavanagh

A tasting bar awaits you at Peacock Sky Vineyard, as does vineyard dog, Sky
A tasting bar awaits you at Peacock Sky Vineyard, as does vineyard dog, Sky

I've been lucky enough to do a bit of travelling over the past year and have visited some outstanding places. Wherever I've been, the standard of the food and drink has been top notch.

Wellington, for example, has always been a crazy foodie city, but the craft beer revolution has also turned it into hop-head heaven, with breweries and bars cashing in on the craze for all things craft.

Nelson is another outstanding spot and a place where anything grows in such abundance that it's a wonder the place hasn't declared itself a self-sufficient independent state.

The food and drink offerings in Melbourne are always fantastic and country Victoria has a lot to offer as well, whether it's beer, wine or simply great food.

So it all got me thinking about Auckland and how we are fixed for hospitality. Pretty good, I think is the answer, with some excellent restaurants and bars on offer and some cracking views. To me the jewel in Auckland's crown is Waiheke Island.

A mere 35 minutes away by ferry, it's a different world and one worth exploring if you like quality food and drink. From enjoying a late breakfast and a few early pints overlooking the sea at Onetangi to a tremendous afternoon at a winery, Waiheke can offer plenty of options, even for people who think they know the island well.

One place I will certainly return to is Peacock Sky Vineyard, where a group of us were looked after wonderfully and where the burgers alone were worth the journey. The wines were lovely too, especially the merlot-malbec, an inky brute of a wine that combined power and elegance in a single glass.

Peacock Sky wines aren't all that common on the shelves, so if you fancy checking them out, a visit to the winery really is worth it. Especially to see Sky, the vineyard dog, a character whose mooching, mournful face acts as the most effective begging bowl I've seen.

The Oyster Inn in Oneroa is another gem of a place, whether you are looking for craft beer, great seafood or astonishingly good wines by the glass, like the Manowar Valhalla Chardonnay, my favourite Waiheke wine.

It's high-end dining, but feels relaxed and it looks fantastic. And best of all, they offer accommodation, so you never have to leave.

Winter is a great time to visit the place and find out for yourself.

- Herald on Sunday

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