edited by Sue Courtney
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Wineoftheweek.com features the Vineyard Dining series in 2002.
Cooks Landing Restaurant
Cooks Landing Restaurant
Friday - Sunday: 10 am till late
It doesn't take long when heading out of Auckland down the seemingly endless expanse of the Southern Motorway, before you reach the Waikato District. As you cruise over the top of the Bombay Hills, the rolling farming countryside is laid out on a platter before you. These days the motorway takes you to Mercer and it is not much further to Te Kauwhata and the old Cooks Winery in Paddy Road, which has been reinvented as Cooks Landing Wine Shop and Café.
We made the trip on a spontaneous decision one Sunday and had a most relaxing afternoon. A jazz band was playing my kind of mood music, the female singer crooning the songs of Diana Krall, Cleo Laine, Nicole Kidman and others.
It wasn't too busy - well it was almost 2pm when we arrived and the lunch rush was over - a contrast to our visit about a month later when, on a combined car club rally with the Jags, the Lotuses, the TR's and of course the MG's, the restaurant was full to overflowing.
There's plenty of space with a inside dining area between the tasting area and the band's 'pozzie' on the deck, while another inside dining area runs off the deck at right angles into what must be the old winery barrel room. There's outside dining on the deck itself as well as in the spacious grounds with a grand view of the vineyards and the surrounding rural countryside. It's far enough away from the main highway to be out of sight and sound of the traffic.
The restaurant is also the cellar door for the Te Kauwhata Old Vines wine and those from a nearby vineyard, Quarry Road. These, along with a couple of South African offerings, were available for tasting. The nominal tasting fee did not deter us and we decided to taste the lot. Besides, we might find something we liked enough to buy, thus receiving a rebate on the gold coin investment.
But first we ordered our food. The menu is simple café fare with gourmet sandwiches ($9), pizzas ($12-$16), salads ($14) and 'platters' which can be designed for one ($10-$17) or two ($16-$27). As well a blackboard had some daily specials and the desserts, while for the passing motorist who wants a break, there's Devonshire Teas ($7).
Platters had names like 'Cooks Bread Platter', 'Vineyard Platter, 'La Provence Platter' and the 'Seafood Platter' with smoked salmon, king prawns, gourmet mussels, basil and fresh tomatoes served on a bed of leaves with an assortment of salsa and pesto.
A Gourmet Salad Sandwich ($9) came with lettuce, tomato, sprouts, slices of brie and a choice of ham, smoked salmon, rare beef or wood smoked chicken. This and the 'special' sandwich with turkey and cranberry sauce ($9) looked good value for money. Neil liked them anyway, ordering sandwiches on both visits.
On the first visit I couldn't resist the Kumara, chicken and melted brie pizza, while on the return visit I chose the 'La Provence Platter' with its treats of wood smoked chicken, creamy Kapiti brie, grapes, fresh tomato and basil pesto, a selection of breads and salsa.
All wines are available by the bottle or glass with a $5 loading on the cellar door price as the 'corkage' fee. None are outstanding but they are certainly quite suitable for a lazy relaxing luncheon. I chose the crisp Old Vines Southern Valley Te Kauwhata Sauvignon Blanc 2001 ($16.95) with its more 'classical' sauvignon blanc characters over the baked apple character of the Old Vines Western Ridge Te Kauwhata Sauvignon Blanc 2001 ($16.95) to enjoy with the platter. On the earlier visit I enjoyed the summer drinking style of the Old Vines Te Kauwhata Chardonnay 2001 ($19.95) with its touch of oak and buttery, creamy flavours matching well to the kumara and brie pizza.
For the driver, there's another sauvignon blanc to choose from - a non-alcoholic savvie sparkler. I found this bracingly refreshing although a little sweet. It's a good example of sauvignon blanc in a non-alcoholic style and just $6.95 a bottle.
It was worth the cruise in the MG with the top down on a summer's day to visit this Waikato winery. Then when you've finished, you can visit the nearby Rongopai Winery at the old viticultural research station in Te Kauwhata and drive through the back roads of the northern Waikato to avoid that traffic on State Highway One on your way back to the big smoke.
Note: Bookings are essential for parties of 10 or more for evening meals and Jazz Sunday.
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