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Cable Bay – A Work of Art on Waiheke Island

By May 10, 2012No Comments

Situated just out of Oneroa at the western end of Waiheke Island, Cable Bay Vineyards is handy to the passenger ferry terminal and the ideal place to spend plenty of time at to soak in the Island atmosphere. It’s a beautiful and modern edifice to visit and everything is contemporary, clean and sleek. It is clear to see that a great deal of thought and planning went into designing the winery and cellar door complex. On the surface, it’s the complete hospitality destination with a sophisticated award-winning restaurant, classy small-plate serving wine bar and tasting room, and up-to-date conference facilities. It’s proven to be an outstanding venue for weddings and functions, and visitors can enjoy commanding views out to sea. The lawn is regularly the home for sculpture exhibits, reinforcing the smart-art theme at Cable Bay.

However it’s all in support of the growing and making of fine Waiheke wine. Neill Culley is the man responsible for the wine. With three decades in the industry he is one of the country’s very experienced wine personalities and highly respected as a winemaker. He draws Waiheke Island fruit from around 10 ha of vines from sites that are owned by the company and shareholders, the vineyards all in close proximity to the winery. Some contract fruit is taken from beyond, notably some Merlot from Onetangi. Outside of Waiheke Island, the Central Otago fruit is transported to the Island for vinification, but the Marlborough fruit is dejuiced at Babich’s plant there.

The modern and spacious winery is unobtrusively situated under the visitor complex and well-equipped to handle the 150 tonne capacity. The recent vintages have been somewhat less than this due to lower yields and tighter market conditions. As can be expected, the barrel rooms are immaculate and casks are lined-up with precision. The look is very good and there is room to host special tastings and functions with the pristine and orderly winery as an atmospheric backdrop. The winery has been in use for the last five of the ten vintages for Cable Bay. Neill is very much at home in the winery, and he has been ably assisted by Mel McIntyre over the last four years, Mel changing focus from her initial role in the restaurant finding her vocation in winemaking. She sometimes moonlights as a DJ and is obviously multi-talented!
Wines with Food
As can be expected, Neill and Mel craft thoroughly modern wines. They are definitely works of art for them and not the latest techno-produced fads. It is contemporary, considered winemaking with the wines reflecting the vineyards and shaped to show elegance and refined richness with underlying complexities, and importantly to go with good food. To demonstrate the point, Neill and Mel shared a lunch of small plates and a selection of wines with us. A Cable Bay Waiheke Island Pinot Gris 2011, at 12.0% alc. and 4 g/L rs, was pure and restrained, subtle and refined, well-contained and avoided any excess. The white stonefruit flavours working with any food. Not all wines need to be blockbusters. But then to show a full-on style, a Cable Bay ‘Reserve’ Waiheke Island Chardonnay 2010. Showing the decadence of the vintage, this was rich, fulsome, rounded and ripe with plenty of oaking to match the power of the fruit. Layers of flint, toast, smoke and butter flowed with creamy textures coating the palate. This took on all the full-flavoured food. At the other end of the scale in expression was the Cable Bay Waiheke Island Viognier 2010, picked earlier, tight with flinty complexities, more linear than voluptuous. This will no doubt show increased interest with more bottle development. An elegant style to match with delicately exotic foods. Then a treat, a Cable Bay ‘Limited Edition’ Waiheke Island Malbec 2010, fruit from the ‘Edwards’ vineyard, two barrels only, and available only at the cellar door and restaurant. Impenetrable colour, lusciously rich with black fruits, sweet, yet finely structured and the firmness and concentration to age well. A match with the hearty meat plates. This is worth coming to Cable Bay alone for. And likewise for the Cable Bay ‘Sweet Gloria’ Waiheke Island Late Harvest Viognier 2011. First made in 2009, then this vintage and a 2012 in the wings, incredibly exciting and exotic with guava, figs, apricots and raisins, sheer opulence, this is 11.5% alc. and 246 g/L rs. The 1,000 half-bottles made will not go far. It was the perfect end to a delightful lunch. www.cablebay.co.nz

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