Evaluating your Waiheke neighbour's wine is fraught with problems. Be too critical and you risk being frozen out; too effusive and you're accused of favouritism and sucking up.
The vineyards of Cable Bay surround me, and their well-reviewed stunning vineyard restaurant and cellar door is within easy walking distance. In such circumstances, one takes on the mantle of a New Zealand referee who finds himself adjudicating in an international rugby game between the All Blacks and Australia. You leave behind all preconceptions and connections and merely rule on what lies ahead.
The wines have been familiar to me for a number of years and, without prejudice, I can now confirm this is another Waiheke producer who is through the tentative years and is now producing consistently great wines.
This should come as no surprise - chief winemaker Neill Culley has an enviable track record. A self-confessed chardonnay buff, he brings an intelligent approach to all the wines in his care and is keen to provide balance and clean fruit flavours, whether it's grapes from the island for viognier, chardonnay, Bordeaux styles and syrah or a mouth-watering pinot noir made from grapes sourced from Central Otago.
It's not unusual for Waiheke producers to buy in grapes for varietals that don't do so well in a Mediterranean island climate, such as riesling and pinot noir.
Diners like and expect to choose from an array of wine styles and the Cable Bay Vineyard Restaurant not only offers a stunning, eclectic choice of food, its wines under the Cable Bay label also tick the boxes.
The great food and wine is complemented by spectacular water views back to Auckland city, and a large expansive outdoor sculpture park that is best viewed while walking around clutching a glass of wine.
The friendly staff will whistle you back to your table when your meal is ready.
2010 Cable Bay Waiheke Island Syrah, $45
Co-fermented with a small amount of viognier, this is a classic, heavyweight-division syrah. It has a deep black colour with brooding blackcurrant, black pepper and spice flavours ... moreish and memorable.
2011 Cable Bay Sweet Gloria, $45
Late-harvest viognier grapes from Waiheke Island were used to make this delicious dessert wine (375ml) with heaps of personality and a lovely spread of pear and citrus flavours, a swish of honey and excellent complexity. This is great with cheeses.