Drive up the sealed driveway to the striking home of Neal Kunimura and Susan McCarthy or visit the cellar door of their award-winning Kennedy Point vineyard and it all seems so smoothly run, effortless even. But it has taken years of dedication and hard work to achieve all this.
Susan and Neal first came to New Zealand on holiday from Hawaii, but it was also Neal's intention to find some land that felt right to grow grapes on, where he could learn the winemaking process.
"This land had the stunning views and also north-facing slope to grow grapes," explains Susan. "It had the most amazing setting for both living and work here."
That was back in 1994, and Waiheke Island was their last port of call: the one that made the lasting impression. They decided to buy this picturesque 5.4832ha property, just up the hill from the car ferry at Kennedy Point. "A lot of it was covered in beautiful pohutukawa and there was some steep land and bush. But we were able to plant about five acres on the north-facing hills," says Susan.
Another attraction was the island's proximity to Auckland and, with four or five vineyards already on the island, "we knew there was the soil and climate to grow the grapes we wanted to grow".
They starting planting vines, living in the Lockwood home that had been shifted on to the property in 1979 by the previous owners who farmed sheep here.
"The 99 vintage was the beginning of Kennedy Point Vineyard," says Susan. It was also the year they moved into their new Ron Stevenson-designed home. The island architect incorporated his signature curves into the home, which is constructed in steel and finished in plaster.
"It takes advantage of the view nicely and it gives a wonderful eye flow, maximising the feeling of space," adds Susan.
The couple appreciated the way the house is sited, not just for the amazing views across to Te Whau, Maraetai and Beachlands, but also to bring in warmth and light.
Settled in their new home, the couple turned the Lockwood into guest accommodation, making subtle changes to the three-bedroom, two-bathroom layout so it could be rented out in two segments. "Tourism was growing on the island so we created a visitor facility with the guest house and wine cellar."
To establish the winery they needed more grapes, sourcing them from four other island vineyards. All grapes come under the Kennedy Point label, produced using organic and biodynamic winemaking methods. "We can do everything here right through to the bottling."
They grow Bordeaux varietals and syrah - the 2007 Kennedy Point Syrah scooped the International Syrah Trophy at the 2009 London International Wine challenge.
"It made people overseas put their heads up and realise New Zealand can do more than just sauvignon blanc," says Susan.
Photos: Award-winning Waiheke vineyard
The property sale includes the vines, the cellar door, the two homes, utility buildings and the Kennedy Point brand.
"One reason we have put the sale in motion is we have three grown-up children who live in the States and we want to spend more time with them," explains Susan.
"We do as much as we can now but we have limited time we can be gone."
Susan says they plan to be based on Waiheke. "I don't think we would ever leave here."