By GERALDINE McMANUS*
Kennedy Point Vineyard's guesthouse is a relaxing, timbered house on Waiheke Island.
The neat Lockwood with its typical pine interior walls nestles into the hillside surrounded by an extensive lawn and banks of rose garden and peach trees. Beyond the garden fence, sheep graze under towering ancient pohutukawa trees.
The small flock of "designer" lambs, white with cute brown faces, chomp on the steeper parts of the property and alongside the back fence of the guesthouse garden. The magnificent stand of pohutukawa graces the fringes of the property, while the northern slopes run with neat rows of vines - all cabernet varieties.
Beyond these, 240 degrees of the horizon fills with Hauraki Gulf and distant views of Auckland.
The guesthouse entices those seeking a tranquil retreat - a good book, a great vintage and some time out - and those bringing their energy and outdoor pursuits for a weekend of golf, walking, kayaking and, in summer, swimming and surfing.
It was Labour Weekend when I had the pleasure of staying. The weather was mixed, sunburst on Saturday and cloudburst on Sunday. Both days, the winery tasting room was open and a steady stream of tasters drifted in. The guesthouse sits beyond the winery, well removed from the action until my thirst sparked a walk down the driveway through the vines.
The vines were bursting into fresh, lime-green bud as spring turned to summer and the olive trees were a mass of flower buds, starting the process that will lead to trees dripping with olives in autumn.
The winery sells a picnic selection of foods to match with a glass or two of wine. Take a basket, some French bread, tasty cheese, salmon or salami, and the winery staff will open the bottle and provide the glasses. It's just as I remember France - a bottle of wine, a loaf of French bread, a great cheese - and lunch was served.
Susan McCarthy and Neal Kunimura are wine enthusiasts who drifted across the Pacific to New Zealand to create their piece of paradise. In reality, they flew in from Hawaii looking for land to begin a vineyard - small enough that they could take care of most of the vineyard work themselves.
Now, 10 years later, the reward is their 5.5ha neatly planted with 2000 vines, a winery producing astonishingly good reds and an abundant olive grove producing extra-virgin olive oil.
The challenges and the rewards are in doing the work themselves, believe McCarthy and Kunimura. Both are energetic and work hard. Kunimura's passion is for the opportunity to take the process from vine to wine. Swiss-born, now Waiheke-based winemaker, Herbe Friedli, assists with the vintage.
Visitors to the guesthouse need only bring a good book and their tastebuds. Oysters were in season in October and a half-dozen on the shell, matched with Kennedy Point's Sauvignon Blanc (produced in Marlborough) made a delectable entree. Large, plump, fresh Waiheke oysters were available at the winery.
On the island there is plenty to do, but you need a car to get about.
I visited the art market at Palm Beach. An amazing group of creative people live and work on the island. Many local artists displayed their wares - baskets, kete, ceramics and postcards.
The Goldwater art awards had opened at the Waiheke Art Gallery in Oneroa, attracting wide-ranging contemporary artists from Waiheke and beyond.
Homely rather than grand, the guesthouse is about comfort and relaxation, chairs to collapse into, plenty of outdoor seating and a selection of books and magazines.
The property was originally called Sunset Hill by McCarthy and Kunimura because of the wonderful views of the sunset.
Deep yellow rays filter through the trees and the vines. At night, Waiheke is absolutely quiet. Inky blackness, then the sky is lit by moon and stars. The vast pohutukawa were lit by the ghostly light of the moon and reflections sparkled across the water.
* Geraldine McManus was a guest of Kennedy Point Vineyard.
By GERALDINE McMANUS*