A Kumeu Wine Country detour to Muriwai

Is there anywhere more beautiful than Muriwai in the early summer. Actually there is. Muriwai in mid summer, when the pohutukawas are in full bloom. The splendiferous red blooms were just about to burst on our visit there yesterday. I am sure the trees will be magnificent come December through to summer solstice and Christmas time.

There’s something magical about Muriwai, whether it’s simply sitting in the car in the car park at Maukatea (Maori) Bay; gazing out past the horizon, wondering how far I’d have to go to see Australia; picnicking on the cliff edge; and if the wind and tide is right then watching the surfers on the water and the hang gliders soaring amongst the gannets; watching wave after wave curl and crash, roll in and rush up the beach then recede; walking along the black sand beach at mid to low tide, dwarfed by the fascinating pillow lava formations; and later watching the sun set, hoping for that elusive photo the moment it kisses the Tasman Sea and counting the seconds until the flaming ball disappears.

Muriwai lures via Waitea Road and as the car snakes down the hill past the houses to the road lookout, I envy the people who live here. But I know it’s only 40-odd kilometres from home and I can come here almost on a whim.

It’s a must do visit every time I head out west, a detour from the well beaten trail around the cellar doors in Kumeu Wine Country. Only days like yesterday it’s wise not to make too many winery visit plans because Muriwai is just so mesmerising and so hard to drag one’s self away. Look at the pics (below) that I took on the day.


On the way we stopped at Kumeu River, a chance for the wine pourer to taste the glorious new release 2011 chardonnays, and what a surprise to find they also produce a gewürztraminer –Waitakere fruit evidently. I came home with a couple of bottles of the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2011 ($30 a bottle) – my tasting notes of all the new Kumeu River releases to be posted soon.

Then on to Coopers Creek and a taste of the trophy winning Single Vineyard Bell Ringer Gisborne Albarino 2013, which was to receive its second Trophy of the season in Queenstown later in the evening. I really like how this wine has developed since tasting it in June almost directly after bottling. It has an enticing ethereal fragrance and the palate is rounded and smooth with a touch of spice joining the fresh apple, apricot and citrus flavours. I also wanted to retaste the Marsanne. Now this had captivated me when I opened a bottle at home. Yes, those notes will also be posted soon.

The Muriwai diversion took as long as we wanted, there was no hurry. This visit, walking out to the gannet colony was a priority. The lookouts over the colony get you as close as you can get, so close you think you could almost touch some of the birds. And there’s the competing sound of hundreds of nesting gannets calling to a mate returning from a hunting and gathering expedition – and the sniffy smell to go with it.

I was watching and waiting for a nesting bird to stand up and stretch its wings, hoping to get an elusive shot of the egg it revealed. Sadly I never managed to click at the right time.

Where to eat? At Matua Valley for Pizza and Pinot of course. It is currently on Fridays and Saturdays, 4 – 8 pm, for the remainder of November than starts up again in January. We had been here on a Friday evening with the car club last summer and even though Stumpy the pizza man was sick and staff were trying to cope without him, we had a wonderful evening despite some people not getting pizzas until after bar closing time.matualabel

It wasn’t busy at all this Saturday session, which meant the cellar door staff had time to give us a tasting of the selection of wines that were open. It was the Matua Lands & Legends Central Otago Pinot Noir 2012 that was settled on to have with pizza. Lovely juicy drop that’s ready to drink now. Impressive packaging too.

We headed home with a detour along Ararimu Valley Road to drive by West Brook winery, even though we knew by now they would be closed. A u-turn at the gate beyond the winery entrance enhanced the early summer evening effects from the still bright sun. Being about an hour away from sunset made all the colours very vivid. I’ll have to go back with my camera ready next time.

#WineTip: Be sure to take the chilli bin to place any wine purchases in. You don’t want your precious purchases to get heat damage while locked up inside the car.

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