Misha’s Vineyard North Island Road Trip

Misha talks about our recent trip to some of our North Island customers.

Owner & Chef Jeff Dunstan from Domaine in Hamilton
Owner & Chef Jeff Dunstan from Domaine in Hamilton
Last year we enjoyed our road trip visiting customers around many towns of the North Island and so this year we decided to do it again! We thought we’d be a little smarter this year and instead of driving from the South Island we booked flights from Queenstown. However we forgot the unpredictability of spring weather and on our day of departure, we sat at Queenstown airport for many hours watching snowflakes and threatening clouds restricting most flight departures for the morning. Arriving in Auckland several hours later than planned, we finally picked up our rental car and started our Bay of Plenty, Coromandel and Waikato wanderings.

Sonja & Andy at LQ Mt Maunganui
Sonja & Andy at LQ Mt Maunganui
Working to a very tight schedule prepared by Sonja who looks after this region for Negociants New Zealand, (our fabulous distributor), we headed off to Hamilton for our first brief stop. We did manage to fit in a dinner at a restaurant called Domaine which is run by Jeff Dunstan, who’s also the chef. It’s a great spot for enjoying some innovative food and has a small but well-chosen wine list (that we’re on of course!).

The next morning we were off, passing through the wonderful small town of Cambridge and popping in to see Andy and Nikki at the Cambridge Fine Wine Company, then by lunchtime we were in Tauranga. Our first stop there was Somerset Cottage which is run by Anne Butcher with her husband and Chef Rick. It opened in 1986 and is still going strong and operates as a cooking school as well as a restaurant. Then we went on to Mt Maunganui – Andy’s home town. During our driving around “the Mount” over the next day, Andy was reminiscing about growing up in the area, pointing out where he lived, where he’d surfed etc. “The Mount” is still a fabulous spot but these days you need a lot of cash to own a house near the beach but there are plenty of folks that do!

Tay St Breakfast - YUM
Tay St Breakfast – YUM

We had spectacular breakfast at a spot called Tay Street Beach Café which is owned by Hamish Robinson. Andy tells me it’s located where the old caravan park used to be along with the corner store – and most importantly, it was where he bought Buzz Bars when growing up – a kiwi chocolate addiction he’s never managed to kick! Hamish has done a marvellous job with this café as it has that perfect casual beachfront feel but prides itself on excellent food and a wine list which defines itself by having an amazing array of great wines by the glass! We love that!

Whilst in the area we visited various wine shops and restaurants with our last stop at Trinity Wharf Hotel. Wow – what a stunning place and what an amazing location. We were charmed by Alain Degas, Restaurant Manager, and although we were there to show him our wines, we ended up trying some of the lovely wines he’d selected for his wine list! (And yes, we do call this work!).

Thames Wine Club - what a fun team of wine enthusiasts!
Thames Wine Club – what a fun team of wine enthusiasts!

We then made a quick dash to the small town of Thames, and had little time to prepare for our first wine event of the trip at GBD Restaurant at the Junction Hotel. We weren’t sure what to expect with this wine matching evening and we became even more wary as noticed many of the guests that were seated had large glasses of Guinness in front of them – along with 7 wines glasses for the tasting! One of the guests explained to us that “Guinness was a good palate cleanser”. Well now I’ve heard everything! But you know what, that group of predominantly farmers, were just great. We had a very noisy and fun evening and everyone enjoyed our wines and ordered a record amount through our retail partner Golddiggers Thames. Thanks to Karl from GBD and Carl from Golddiggers – a great duo in putting together these wine nights for their very enthusiastic (and very unusual) wine tasting club!

Stu Simpson at the keyboard. Piano Bar, Whitianga
Stu Simpson at the keyboard. Piano Bar, Whitianga
With an early start, our final day was in and around the Coromandel peninsula with visits to Matarangi, Cooks Beach and Whitianga. I think there will be a little more Misha’s Vineyard wine drunk in the Coromandel this summer as we had great feedback on our wines and it was a pleasure to meet all the customers in this stunning part of New Zealand. So if you’re holidaying there this summer, you can find Misha’s Vineyard wines at the new Cask n Cans store in Matarangi – where Wayne “Puk” has an outstanding selection of premium New Zealand wines (in spite of the name of his store!), at Cooks Beach Liquor Store where Raewyn also has a small but lovely selection of wines, and at the Piano Bar in Whitianga where Stu might play a few notes for you while you sip a glass or two.

Andy, Misha & Gary - Tairua Goldiggers Wine Club
Andy, Misha & Gary – Tairua Goldiggers Wine Club
Our final event in the Coromandel was in the small town of Tairua where we had a Misha’s Vineyard degustation dinner at Shells restaurant organised by Gary Barker from Golddiggers Tairua for his Wine Club. This group was very serious about their wines and there was a lot of discussion, but again the feedback to our wines was amazing and I think we left Tairua with a quite a few fans.

We love visiting customers in some of the smaller cities and towns in New Zealand and look forward to next year’s North Island road trip.