What’s in the glass tonight July 30th

Sacred Hill Marlb Pinot Noir 2011

Sacred Hill Marlborough Pinot Noir 2011 – $

My experience should tell me that any pinot noir on special for less that $10 has to be suspect…

But it sez Sacred Hill on the tin. They make Rifleman, Deerstalker and Helmsman, so it has gotta be good, right?

Hmmm…the colour is raspberry cordial. The nose is very light, with only hints of typical pinot savouriness, and candle wax. It tastes thin, slightly bitter, perhaps the grapes were under-ripe or overcropped. Not good enough.

I have been feeling underwhelmed by the orange label wines I have been drinking from this producer recently. I am a big fan of their top Chardonnay, and have an ‘09 Helmsman under the house that I bought en primeur, but they are risking devaluing their name with me if this keeps up. More FLAVOUR please. 2

Straight to the Pool Room – July 2013

Lex Beaux Cailloux

A couple of bargains and a good ‘un:

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 – $ – drink 2016

Sacred Hill Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – $ – drink 2014

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay 2011 – $$$ – drink 2016-2023

Les Beaux Cailloux means ‘the beautiful pebbles’. Geoff Kelly sez, “This may well be the best chardonnay ever made in New Zealand. Sadly it is the last Beaux Cailloux till the 2018 vintage probably. Due to leaf-roll virus, the vineyard has to be completely cleaned out and replanted. Therefore, buy as much as you can afford, and watch wonderful mealy and cashew complexities develop over 5 – 12 years.” I won’t wait 12 years…

PS: Image above from the CR website

What’s in the glass tonight July 26th

Esk valley HB Syrah 2011

Drinking on the job: Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Syrah 2011

At Friday drinks this week we have a nice syrah.

Not particularly floral, or ethereal.  Deep magenta colour.  Nose of pepper and pencil shavings. A typically varietal mouthful of red plums and spice.

Smoothes the rough edges off the week…3.5

What’s in the glass tonight July 25th

Penthouse Chardonnay

The Penthouse Gisborne Chardonnay 2012

L chose this bottle. It has an amusing label – 50’s trailer-trash pulp novel imagery & innuendo: For men who like to go down…

The wine is not bad – easy to drink – light straw, with fresh, fruity citrus notes. Medium length. Went well with the food. 3

What’s in the glass tonight July 16th

CJ Pask Dec Chardonnay 2007

From the cellar: CJ Pask Declaration Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 – $$$

This has bottle age and more.

When I first opened it, I thought it was a year or two too old. Now that I have sat with it a bit longer, and using the smaller-pour xl5, I see it is opening up, and rather than it coming to me, I am going over to it. I suppose it takes time and effort to ‘get’ a mature wine like this. To say too quickly, oh, this one’s gone off, is doing the aging process of wine a real dis-service. This was an expensive bottle, produced with a lot of new French oak. It was made to handle age. But how much age? Don’t know yet. I’ll know better after I work through a few more of the sleeping Chardys I have in the Pool Room…

I can say with assurance it is light straw in colour. It’s dense and structured, with bitter oak and nut and wholemeal aromas and flavours. Grapefruit, nutty, pepper, intense. A ‘learner’, I think. I wish I had another for next year. 4



What’s in the XL5 tonight July 14th

Thornbury Gis Chardonnay 2012

Thornbury Gisborne Chardonnay 2012 – $$

How do you know when you are taking your hobby a bit too seriously?

A sign surely must be when you start buying esoteric pieces of kit to improve your performance at something in some small way. Like spending $120 on a carbon bottle cage to save a few grams in weight on your road bike, or $700 on a driver to belt a ball 10 metres further down a fairway.

I spent $10 on a box of XL5 215ml tasting glasses like they use at wine tastings. Does that count?

A guy on Sue Courtenay’s wine review website thinks XL5s are the ‘ poor man’s Riedel’ glasses , and outperform most other glassware when it comes to presenting wine at it’s best in terms of smell and taste.

I read this and thought I would give them a go. The showboat glasses that I usually drink from are so large that a lot of the bouquet is used up just filling the bowl…

L brought this bottle over to mine a week ago, and now I’m taking it back to hers, along with an XL5, to have with her home-cooked butter chicken. Yum!

Light yellow. The glass is doing its job – the wine smells like a memory: lifted fruit bouquet, white peach, thyme. In the mouth there is stonefruit, butterscotch and honeysuckle. Some lees-stirring here, and 35% in French oak barrels. 3

They call the wind, Mariah. Or, I’ll have a Cardonnay, the ‘h’ is silent

Villa Maria CS Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon HB 2010(2)

Names can be funny things. Ask a Nigel.

Tonight I am enjoying a glass of 2010 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon. I love this wine. I reviewed it back on April 1st.  It wasn’t a joke then, and it isn’t one now: it is dark and smells great; a rich mouthful of plums and boysenberries and fruitcake. 4.

Me being an English speaker, and monolingual, there are a few fishhooks to be found in pronouncing the name of the grape blend of this wine. It is no accident that a lot of folks shorten it to Cab Sav.

Yesterday I was listening to an interesting discussion on the radio between Jim Mora and Yvonne Lorkin. Yvonne was talking about how some wine producers were claiming to suffer reduced sales of their Gewurtztraminer or Viognier wines because customers were unsure how to pronounce their names. Rather than be embarrassed, they reckoned a buyer would choose a wine type that they could pronounce, instead of trying a new variety. I don’t know how true this is, but then I don’t remember what I did before I learnt that the ‘w’ is a ’v’, and the ‘g’ is silent and the ‘er’ is ‘ay’.

Those suppliers were thinking about inventing new names for these varieties, perhaps a name with a local or kiwi flavour, or an informal name. The names ‘Trammy’ or “Vinny’ were bandied about. I’m not sure those are an improvement, but it’s an idea.

The radio people talked also about how some Hawkes Bay producers of fine reds were not happy at having their products described as ‘Bordeaux-blends’. They would prefer a name that was more expressive of the local terroir, rather than borrow the nomenclature of an insular wine-producing community on the other side of the world, no matter that it is a useful shorthand to describe the wine-style. I agree, but what? Any ‘premium’ name with a local or Maori connection is likely already be bound-up with an established brand i.e. a red wine blend being a Pohutukawa, or say, Kotuku for a white.

Another issue was the idea of labelling a Chardonnay as Unoaked or Unwooded. This implies to the uneducated consumer that something has been left out, and the resulting wine is inferior. It isn’t – a Chablis, anyone? But you are talking about ‘no oak’ and oak is expensive innit? It is a dilemma, and those producers are also in the market for a name that implies that something great has been created, rather than removed.

Here is my stab at it:

An Unwooded Chardonnay is a Long White Chardonnay (Aotearoa) and a Bordeaux-blend is a Rata. Done.

Ps. The Cardonnay gag in the title is from the great Aussie comedy Kath ‘n Kim. I have dined out on it ever since. Thanks Kim. And the Mariah thing is a song title from the great film, Paint Your Wagon

What’s in the glass tonight July 12th

Blackenbrook Nelson Chardonnay 2011

Blackenbrook Nelson Chardonnay 2011 – $$

I bought this wine after a broad tasting of Blackenbrook wines with Ursula Schwarzenbach (Black brook), one of the proprietors, at Regional Wines last weekend. I really liked their Muscat and Gewurtz, but really liking does not always translate into buying. I should be more adventurous…next time.

This wine is light gold, with hints of green. 14% alcohol; made from Mendoza clone grapes; extended lees contact; 12 months in French and American oak barrels.

The nose is strong with warm biscuity aromas, white peach and green herbs. I get a big mouthful of oak and vanilla from the barrel ferment, and butter from the partial malo treatment. It’s a medium-weight wine, in a dryer style, with fresh fruit and crunchy acids (a little pseud, but I swear that describes the mouthfeel). The finish is long, and the label is elegant.

I read they use lighter weight bottles to reduce shipping costs. And it’s suitable for vegans. I didn’t think vegans had any fun, but you learn something every day.

A show/tasting wine this, it impresses up front, but on reflection, could benefit with less oak. I should have bought the Muscat. 3.5

What’s in the glass tonight July 8th

Millton Shotberry Chardonnay 2011

Millton Crazy By Nature Shotberry Gisborne Chardonnay 2011 – $$

Wow, this is a weird wine. After tasting so many older, dry or lighter style wines lately, it is a real wake-up call to try this sweet fruit bomb.

Millton are one of my favourite producers. They are organic and bio-dynamic. They run a beautiful cellar door. I think they make fruity and flavoursome wines with flair and class.

Because of Milltons bio-dymanic cultivation methods, I suspect that their results differ from other more conventional wineries. Or I reckon so if this wine is anything to go by…

It is very big and volatile on the nose, and with the yellow gold colour, makes me think it is a mature sweet riesling. In the mouth I get lashings of white peach and ripe apricot and honey. I swear there is some viognier in there too…oak as well, but no malo.

Although the wine is a blend of fruit from two vineyards –the Millton Riverpoint and Opou vineyards – I still think I am tasting a true expression of terroir, and that has to be applauded!

This is a really interesting and unique Chardonnay. Not a sophisticated drop, but bottled sunlight. 4.5


What’s in the glass tonight July 7th

CJ Pask Syrah 2006

From the cellar: CJ Pask Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Syrah  2006 – $$$

L was returning from her skiclub working bee for a Sunday dinner at mine of slow-cooked beef shin and mushrooms with bay, cinnamon and star anise. Here was another good bottle from winemaker Kate Radburnd to enjoy with our meal…

CJ Pask is one of the pioneers of the Gimblett Gravels, the sub-region or terroir in the Hawke’s Bay wine region that produces great NZ red wine. Chris Pask was the first to plant here back in 1981.

I don’t know yet whether this style of wine should be drunk young, for florality and fruit acid, or be kept to settle down to a level of easy smoothness like this has…

Deep dark ruby, with light spicy floral notes on the nose, and a touch of forest floor. It is medium-weight, and still fruit dominated with black plums and blackberries. Some ageing complexity stops the wine from being too simple, as it may have been in its early days. Dry, soft and smooth. 4

The weight of their bottles gives an impression of quality. The downside is that I think the bottle still has some wine left in it, when alas it doesn’t..