Kumeu Wine Country: West is Best
Escape the hustle and bustle of Auckland with just a short drive north-west to the peaceful orchards and vineyards of Kumeu Wine Country. This is the region’s oldest fruit growing and wine making district and also nicknamed the ‘Fruit Bowl of Auckland’ – strawberry picking is just one of the district’s sweet delights in early summer.
With its farmers markets, artisan food stores and gourmet restaurants, Kumeu is definitely becoming something of a small foodie paradise.There are lots of other things to keep visitors coming back to these parts as well. Nearby Muriwai Beach and Woodhill Forest boast lots of outdoor activities and the settlements of Waimauku and Huapai are home to many cafés and art & craft shops. Come out to Kumeu and you’ll find a small town that offers big rewards for those that take the time to discover its pleasures.
Kumeu Keeps It Fresh
Since there’s so much fresh produce on offer in Kumeu, it makes sense to visit one of the plentiful fruit and vegetable vendors. With a boot full of sweet, juicy fruit and plump, handpicked vegetables you can relax and get down to the real business of sampling some of the fine food products at the local market.
Kumeu Country Market is held once a month on a Sunday at the Kumeu Showgrounds during spring and summer. Here you can buy anything from Hungarian fried bread puffs to pet care products. At this ‘destination market’ you can meet the locals and snack on French crepes or wood-fired pizza whilst you browse the numerous stalls selling jewellery, beauty products, hand-made chocolates and more.
The recently opened Boric Food Market at the junction of State Highway 16 and Coatesville-Riverhead Highway fulfils the demand for artisan food products in Kumeu, both by locals and visitors. This locally owned business has actually been around since 1942, it’s just undergone a revamp. Stop off here for an astonishing array of gourmet food including: Belgian chocolate mousse, dried figs, fresh gooseberries, jams & relishes, French sausages and manuka smoked salmon. Products from all over New Zealand make an appearance like Lavender & Green’s lemon and lavender jelly from Featherston and Wildberry sauce by Peplers from Te Kauwhata. There are even DIY Italian cheese making kits and ready gourmet rice puddings of chocolate and blueberry and raisin and toasted almond.
If these give your sweet tooth a nudge stop into neighbouring Blossoms Café for a selection of delectable homemade treats or BeesOnline Honey Centre and Café near Waimauku for an extensive range of honey and honey products. Complimentary honey tastings are available and you can even see the bees busily at work producing the goods.
When afternoon slips away into evening then try out one of Kumeu’s excellent restaurants. Perhaps Ribier for its French, Italian and Mediterranean fusion style duck and venison dishes, The Fireplace Bar & Brasserie for its renowned gourmet burger or Popina’s Pizzeria for its tasty wood-fired pizza – vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free options available.
While you’re in Kumeu cool your palate with a glass of the flavourful Chardonnay or Pinot Gris the area is known for. Croatian immigrants started planting these early ripening varieties here in the 1930s. They recognised the potential Kumeu had for wine making with its self-irrigating clay-based soil and microclimate.
Today, Auckland’s oldest wine making district produces all kinds of good quality wines, both red and white, including: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Some vineyards, such as Coopers Creek, are experimenting with new types of grapes like Viognier, Grüner Veltliner, Marsanne and Montepulciano which are new to New Zealand.
The list of Kumeu wineries features some of New Zealand’s oldest and best loved brands who have produced many gold medal winning wines over the years including: Matua Valley, Landmark Estate, Westbrook and Nobilos. The Nobilo Wine Group is incidentally the second largest wine company in New Zealand.
The best way to appreciate Kumeu Wine Country if you’re a wine lover is to book into some vineyard accommodation and take your time making your way around the selection. Besides wines Kumeu also has some other great activities on offer so you’ll want to spend some time here.
Get Out and About in Kumeu
Mountain bike enthusiasts will love the premier tracks at Woodhill Forest. Located just a 15-20 minute drive up the road from Kumeu, this forest has trails to suit everyone from beginners to experts. Bike hireage is available either in Kumeu or the main car park at Woodhill. Quad biking, trail biking, orienteering, dog walking and bush walking are just some of the other activities you can do at Woodhill Forest. For some more good bush walking head to Goldie’s Bush near Muriwai which has many scenic tracks overlooked by beautiful native bush and towering kauri trees.
The sound of the sea isn’t too far away with Muriwai beach just a short drive from Kumeu. This is just one of West Auckland’s spectacular black sand beaches and is popular for surfing, fishing, trail bikes and horse riding. Other activities include visiting the gannet colony, playing a game of golf and dining on fish & chips at Sand Dunz Beach Café. Brave souls can swim here but west coast beaches are notorious for rips so always swim between the flags, or just paddle if you’re not a strong swimmer.
Kumeu Events to Mark on Your Calendar
Kumeu likes to celebrate with a number of shows and events on its annual calendar. First up is the Auckland Folk Festival normally held on the last weekend in January. This long-running festival, now in its 28th year, is held at the Kumeu Showgrounds and features a four day fiesta of music, dancing and shows. Next is the Kumeu Classic Car & Hot Rod Festival, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s held in late January and is a must for classic car enthusiasts.
The biggest annual agricultural event in the district, and indeed in the country, is the Kumeu Agricultural and Horticultural Show in March which features sheep racing & shearing, highland dancing, indoor exhibits, a wood chopping competition and a parade of various livestock all over a whopping 34 hectares.
There’s not much chance of leaving Kumeu without a full sensory experience of food, wine, sun and sand. It’s worthwhile taking the time to come out and explore this green oasis of West Auckland where the finer things of country life are thriving.