Wine Tasting – Single Vineyard Specialists – April 30th

Just got back from a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tasting that was totally amazeballs. My mouth and throat is coated with the most wonderful wine flavours…

The event was a tasting at Regional Wines where Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River and Larry McKenna of Escarpment presented their single vineyard wines. The winemakers considered each single vineyard site as having special characters that could be seen in a single-site wine, but which would be lost in a blend.


Flight One – Kumeu River:

Produced in Kumeu, north of Auckland, KR is known particularly for their chardonnays. The chardonnay vintage we were to taste (2010) was their 26th. Vintage 2010 was outstanding for weather, with no botrytis. Having said that, 50% of the bud was lost to a severe frost during Sept ’09. This resulted in a very low yield at vintage, but produced fruit with great intensity of flavour.

Michael sez that KR handpick, whole-bunch press and ferment with wild yeasts. The diacetyl that is produced is consumed by the malolactic bacteria during a long period of lees content, which reduces (deliberately) the ‘buttery’ character of the malo’d wines. They favour a cooper that produecs quite heavy-toasted barrels, but leaves the heads as raw oak. During a low yield year, less new oak barrels are used, and more 1-yr barrels.

Estate Chardonnay 2010  – $$$ – their ‘district’ wine from six Kumeu vineyards. Pale straw. Aromatic. Refreshing acidity; peachy; lean, notes of green apples. 20% new oak barrels with balance of 1 yr old oak barrels. Nice start to the tasting.

Coddington Chardonnay 2010 – $$$ – Light gold; aromatic, perfumed, spicy; rich, with lemons and firm acid. Superb.

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2010 – $$$+ – Light gold; restrained perfume almost austere; expressive fruit, dense, peach and nectarines; some match head character.

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2009 – $$$+ – Light gold; lovely fruit expression

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 – Gold; deep aromatics; warm, showing bottle age with mealy notes, the acids are still very fresh. Drinking well.

Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 – $$$++ – Gold; from the Mendoza/McCray clone; deep, elegant, spicy, with pears and nuts; textural. Superb.


Flight Two – Escarpment:

Centered on Te Muna Rd in Martinborough, Escarpment are known for their pinot noir, though they also produce a chardonnay, pinot gris and reisling. They hand-pick their fruit, sort it on a shaker table, and whole-bunch press. If ripeness levels are good, will also include stems in the ferment.

Larry is also looking to take more control of fermentation by inoculating certain barrels against wild yeasts to slow the alcohol conversion process and keep the alcohol levels of the wine under 14%.

Correct tannins are important, and also producing the forest/ floor/ fungal characters so attractive about pinot noir. Larry maintains the ‘ markers’  each site maintains from vintage to vintage.

Kupe Chardonnay 2011 – $$$+ – pale straw; spicy aromatics; green apples; a lovely cool climate chardonnay with pleasing minerality. Very good.

Escarpment Pinot Noir 2010 – $$$ – the district blend – carmine colour; game-y, savoury, plum-y, fruit-driven; lovely.

Pahi Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$ – dark brownish carmine; herbal/savoury notes; others thought it was corked but it seemed fine to me, perhaps a little more restrained on the nose and simpler in the mouth than the others.

Pahi Pinot Noir 2010 – $$$+ – deep carmine; savoury, aromatic; velvety power, intensity of fruit, supple tannins; wine of the night for me.

Kiwa Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$+ – very dark brown/carmine; delightful perfume; tannic; oldest vines, perhaps strongest site expression of terroir; game-y and savoury

Te Rehua Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$+ – lovely rich carmine colour; powerful; warm ripeness and spicy cinnamon notes

Kupe Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$++ – rich carmine purple; sweet nose, truffles; old world, complex high intensity flavours (1×1.5 planting density which is not far off Bourgogne); lots of whole bunch and stalk character; good tannins. Needs time. GK sez the best Kupe yet. But very expensive…

Wow. I count myself really lucky to have tried these wines. Each was an experience in their own way, and prove that quality shows through and justifies a higher price. I see a Pahi 2010 and Coddington 2010 finding it’s way into the pool room …

What a waste

Moana park

From today:

A Hawke’s Bay winery has lost thousands of litres of premium quality merlot after vandals drained one of its tanks.

Staff arrived at Moana Park Winery in Puketapu, near Napier, on Saturday morning to find their largest tank of merlot had been forcibly opened and the contents left spilling out on the ground overnight.

Owner Dan Barker estimated around $165,000 in premium Hawke’s Bay merlot wine.

”It is gutting to have all our hard work just wasted like this. I mean we’ve invested 12 months of growing, harvesting and then winemaking – it’s a lot of blood sweat and tears to just literally pour down the drain,” Barker said.

2013 had been ”a stellar growing season, and we were looking forward to that merlot being a very nice example of this once-in-a-lifetime season.”

I really feel for the winemaker, vineyard staff and owner.



What’s in the glass tonight April 29th

Selaks Reserve Chardonnay 2011

Selaks Hawkes Bay Reserve Chardonnay – $$

Gold. Quite aromatic with white peach on the nose; more peaches and nectarines in the mouth, with a touch of lemon and honey and vanilla, and the typical bite of oak at the rear of the throat. Medium-rich, round and soft from the malolactic fermentation.

This chardonnay is quite sweet – too much for my taste.

Drunk with roast chicken and olives.

What’s in the glass tonight April 28th

Matua HB Merlot 2011

Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 2011 – $

I tried Matua’s current release Gisborne chardonnay earlier in the month. It did what was required. I thought as the nights are getting colder, I’d better move towards warming reds, and saw this on special. I have no expectations except not to expect a bad wine. My $10 should be safe.

It is as I have foreseen.

Bright red-purple. Light plum and spice aromas. Medium bodied, ripe, fruity, plum-y, typical merlot smoothness, lightly oaked; nothing complex, made for immediate drinking. I’m heeding that instruction. Should be excellent with the slow-braised lamb neck and pearl barley; recipe by one of my favourite UK TV chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. He is passionate and honest about his food, and I really like that.

There is something right about a nice ripe red on an autumn Sunday night, with yummy smells coming from the oven,  and roots ‘n culture on the radio.

Blast from the Past: What’s in, April 24th

Sacred Hill Riflemen 2007

From the cellar: Sacred Hill Riflemans Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 – $$$

Please indulge me: BITD a bottle of this ignited my passion for New Zealand wine.

In ’08 I was still married, and it was my task to do the weekly grocery shop, and buy the week’s wine. My wife and I were both earning more at work and could afford to look a little higher up the shelves when choosing what to drink. I was also starting to read a bit about wine, and follow wine reviews in the paper and The Listener.

We both preferred chardonnay, and I’d read in Cuisine the top review this wine received.  I built up the nerve to spend what was then a fortune on a single bottle ($49), when I was used to thinking that $18 was extravagant. I opened it at home that night and It. Was. A. Revelation. Wow. I still remember that bottle.

So, two years ago two bottles came up for auction. I bought the pair for $100. I tested the first bottle for poison the night of the auction…

…and here is the second. Still with it’s auction tag on.

I’d been saving the bottle for a proper occasion. Last night was the first time I had spent time with L in what seemed like ages, so I thought it would be a good match with her beautiful company.

This is Sacred Hill’s premium chardonnay, made only in good years. Hand picked. Whole-bunch pressed. Wild yeasts. Tony Bish hasn’t made one since ’10. I pick this year will be legendary.

The ’07 Riflemans delivered. Pale straw. Elegant nose, lifted & pure. Refined in the mouth, not a big wine, but had real depth. Restrained fruit evident now, tasting of peaches, biscuits, honey, vanilla; secondary notes of age complexity starting to show, but not yet detracting. A lovely glass.

Like all the good bottles, it had a hole in the bottom, and disappeared too quickly!


What’s in the glass tonight April 23rd

TruBome Pinot Noir 2011

[Tru]Bome Wairarapa Pinot Noir 2011 – $

This wine is so low-priced it is almost embarrassing. Normally I wouldn’t look at a pinot this value-plus-ultra, but because the fruit came from the Wairarapa it gave me reason to think; this might be palatable.

Looks ok in the glass too – deep pinot ruby. It smelt a bit funky when I first opened it, but that blew off quite quickly. Not a lot of fragrance, perhaps a little unripe? Medium weight, lean,  stalky, with some red cherries in the mouth and a strong hint of vanilla. Getting more vegetal the longer it sits.

The winemaker is Michael Mebus, who is also involved with The actual vineyard is a mystery. The wine label looks like a ‘flag of convenience’, a step-up from a cleanskin. But who cares really? It filled a gap, and was worth a crack. But next time I’m broke, I’ll go for a paint-stripper red with tannins drier and rougher than a Coober Pedy opal miner in February.

What’s in the glass tonight April 21st

Craggy Range Te Kahu 2010

Craggy Range Te Kahu (Merlot/Cabernets/Malbec) 2010 – $$

Very tired from a intense working-bee weekend up at my skiclub. Lots of carrying, cleaning, building and driving. So I was up for a wine treat to wind down with, and now Tiger is sitting on my lap and purring like a lawnmower…

Craggy Range is a single vineyard producer in the Bay. They boast an excellent fine-dining restaurant at the winery called Terroir that I visited once. I am not very familiar with their wines as they tend to be outside my budget. (Their flag wines are up to and over $100 a bottle, so I leave them for the lawyers to buy). I might have a Te Muna Rd pinot down in the Pool Room but that’s about it.

However, when a wine like this gets a lot of good press, I have to muscle past the $$ reflex and put my two cents in..

Te Kahu is a Bordeaux-style blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon and malbec from the Gimblett Gravels vineyard.

The colour is deep carmine in the glass. There is a lovely fragrant bouquet. It’s all red plums and pencil shavings. I’m tasting rich fruit, cinnamon, fine drying tannins, hint of woody herbs, subtle oak. This is not a heavy red; more restrained. All the signs point to a long-lived wine, and a good ‘un, so it would be best to keep my next bottle to open 2015-2018.

It is opening up in the glass as I write, and is showing some class.

Last bin of Vintage 2013

Ngawaka last bin of grape vintage 2013

Here is a photo from a mate, fellow BVer, and winemaker Roger Parkinson. He owns Ngawaka Vineyard in Martinborough.

This is a pic he posted online of the last Ngawaka grapes picked from vintage 2013. He writes that this time last year he hadn’t even started picking!

Nom, nom!

What’s in the glass tonight April 14th

Wild Earth Pinot Noir 2008

From the cellar: Wild Earth Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 – $$$

Daylight Saving has finished. The nights are starting to creep closer to the day. I raided the pool room for wine to go with LGs favourite meal – meat pie!

It was a good season according to the producer’s website. Fruit was supplied from their Bannockburn and Lowburn vineyards in April. A combination  of wild and commercial yeasts was used during fermentation, with malolactic fermentation to finish. The wine was then racked in 30% new French oak barriques until the following spring.

What a delight this is. Colour is pinot carmine. Intense florals, violets and savoury characters at back. I taste rich juicy red fruits, sweet preserved plums, toffee, vanilla; the oaking is sensitive; the tannins are fine and balanced with a bit of grip showing with food, it’s silky, lovely and long. I timed this baby just right.

This is why I love New Zealand wine! Too bad the bottle’s gonna end..

Gold medals, and 5-stars from Decanter for this model. My wine of autumn so far.

What’s in the glass tonight April 13th

Matua Gisborne Chardonnay 2011

Matua Valley Gisborne Chardonnay 2011 – $

In 1969 Bill and Ross Spence planted the first sauvignon blanc grapes in New Zealand. In 1974 they founded Matua Valley and produced our first sauvignon blanc wine. In 2001 the business was bought by the wine division of Foster’s, which later de-merged and is now Treasury Wine Estates. Penfolds is its premium brand.

This bottle contains chardonnay juice from Gisborne. I was attracted by the lovely colour of the label, and the very low promotional price. Also, Matua produce an absolute cracker reserve syrah that I love, so they must know what they are about.

I like it. On attack it is well-balanced, fresh and sweet. The colour is bright silver gold. It’s light and elegant, with ripe pears and a little smokiness; and mineral austerity. A bargain really. Other chards in this price range and from the same side of the island don’t show the same restraint. Is it reflecting the rain and cold that the region experienced last year? I was up there then holidaying and visiting vineyards such as Millton, Kirkpatrick and Brunton Road, and it was damn chilly.

Good winemaking. Enjoyed with green-lipped mussels.