We’ve seen it’s snowing back home (he he he), but I’m afraid we only have one complaint about today and that is that the weather is just a little bit too hot!!  I meant to say earlier that the first day we arrived and went to the beach I had tan marks after 2 hours – and that was despite using factor 30 all day sunblock!  The sun here is unbelievably strong and the weather has been getting hotter.  We booked a tour to Waiheke Island which is about 35 minutes away by ferry (although we were slightly slowed down by the Louis Vuitton Pacific Sailing Race – you see what I mean – a total sport obsession).  Our tour was “Taste of Waiheke” and this involved visits to 3 vineyards and one olive farm and tasting 10 different wines and beers and 4 olive oils in the sunshine – it’s a hard life.  We went first to Stonyridge where we tried 3 different wines and they showed us the vines and production process and then provided a light lunch.  We actually paid extra to sample the third wine which is currently priced at $220 a bottle!  We wanted to taste it because it’s very unlikely (short of a lottery win) we’ll ever buy a bottle!  Stonyridge has won many international awards and the $220 stuff is supposed to be the best red wine available in NZ – www.stonyridge.com.  Next we went to Rangihoua olive growers.  It was very interesting to hear how the olives are cultivated, harvested and used to make oil.  We tried 4 different olive oils and it’s amazing how different they taste from the supermarket stuff we’re used to!  www.rangihoua.co.nz   We visited Wild on Waiheke next, which is also a team building venue.  In fact interestingly most of these vineyards diversify.  For instance Stonyridge has a restaurant, grows olives and cork and puts on events.  They also grow a wide range of trees to create as natural an environment as possible.  NZ is lucky because they have almost no pests or diseases that attack vines – they just have to protect from birds.  Getting back to Wild on Waiheke – and incidentally I think this would be an excellent venue for Red Gate’s next Day Out(!) – they specialise in medium, as opposed to top quality wine, but also have a brewery and produce the nicest beer I’ve ever drunk (although maybe that’s because it is such a hot day!) as well as ginger beer.  www.wildonwaiheke.co.nz.  The last place we visited was the beautiful Mudbrick vineyard.  All these vinyeyards are boutique vineyards – most having only around 15 acres each and producing around 20,000 bottles a year.  Mudbrick is just stunning and has a gorgeous restaurant overlooking the town and coastline.  We have a tour of the vines and roast slowly in the heat while sampling wine (see photos to be attached).  We catch the ferry back and return hot and happy to our B&B.  Wait an absolute age for Ursula – who was supposed to show up at 8pm to take us to dinner – and finally spoke on the phone at 9.15pm.  There had been some disaster at the flat she rents out and she couldn’t make it over to meet us.  Am now starving so opt for that timeless classic – a McDonalds burger for dinner!  All thoughts of $220 wine gone, we happily guzzle cheeseburgers and coke.