What’s in the glass tonight Sept 29th


From the cellar: Craggy Range SV Te Muna Rd Pinot Noir 2008 – $$$

This is a celebration bottle for the first night of the ski week I am doing with LG, L and her boys.

I am attempting to post this through my Samsung S4. A tiny screen. Wrestling with the mobile technology. Zoning in and out from the conversations around me

The wine is deep ruby in the glass, browning off. Tawny funky bouquet, red cherries. Delicious ripe full fruit flavours of red cherries and plums. Dense but not heavy. Really enjoyable wine. The buy recommendation from three years ago was a right one. Gotta make it last through to tomorrow night though. It’s hard work carrying full bottles up the piste and I have to make wines the I brought up last the distance. 4.5

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 26th

Clearview Awanga Chardonnay 2012

Clearview Estate Te Awanga Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 – $$

L brought this bottle over to mine to share with a late dinner, after we had both done a couple of hill repeats of Mt Vic on our road bikes. We felt very virtuous for it. As L put it, it was real nice to be able to exercise like grownups in the evening rather than frantically trying to fit it in before the school-run or work.

I don’t think I’ve tried a Clearview Estate wine before. The property is near CapeKidnappers in HawkesBay. Been there since ’89. From their website they appear to make an example of pretty much everything in the way of NZ wine varieties.

This is their bottom tier Chard – the ‘approachable, easy-drinking’ one. What does that phrase really mean?

Pale straw in the glass. 13%. Aromatic nose of Packham pears. Loads of ripe fruit in the glass, medium-weight, soft mouth-feel, simple. We saw subtle oak, light citrus tang and a touch of creaminess from 50% malolactic fermentation. 3


Straight to the Pool Room – Sept 2013

Pool Room Sept 2013

This month’s candidates for the Big Sleep:

Craggy Range SV Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010 – $$$ – drink 2015-2022. Recommended for cellaring by Geoff Kelly.

Saddleback Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 – $$ – drink 2015. Gold medal – NW Under $25 Wine Awards. Second label of Peregrine Wines.

Spy Valley Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 – $$ – drink 2016. Champion White Wine – NW Under $25 Wine Awards. House wine for the GCSB.

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 22nd

Villa Maria CS Marlb Chardonnay 2011

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 – $$

L and I shared this bottle while we ate Jax Hamilton’s Chicken Biriyany. Yum both ways.

13.5%. Very pale. Fresh, lightly aromatic. Refined, restrained, Chablis-ish. Citrus. Mealy. 3.75


Ata Rangi Tasting with Helen Masters

Ata Rangi tasting 2013

I attended an excellent wine tasting at Regional Wines on Thursday night. It was hosted by Alistair, and the tasting was led by Head Winemaker at Ata Rangi, Helen Masters.

I am a huge fan of this producer. Over the years I’ve loved drinking their pinots and Celebre and Summer Rose. I’ve got some good bottles in the cellar too, so was real excited about this tasting.

Ata Rangi’s vineyards lie close to, and north of, Martinborough village. The raised ancient seabed that formed the South Wairarapa plain is exposed to the south and sea, so it is surprisingly a cooler climate than Central Otago. The barrier mountain range on the western edge collects most of the rain from the prevailing winds so the climate is dry. Drying winds are a factor, and extensive shelter belts are needed to protect the vines. It is springtime in the vineyard at present, with bud burst approaching, so frost is a concern. It’s an expensive business flying those choppers around keeping the air circulating on still cold nights.

The vineyard was established in 1980, so some of the wines are coming off vines 32 years old. Helen uses fine French oak barrels with a medium toast.

Two flights were presented – whites and reds. I won’t claim to set any serious scores, save to say they all tasted pretty good to me…

Whites Flight:

Riesling Craighall 2009 – 27yr vines from the Craighall Vineyard (was part-owned for a time with Dry River), handpicked, 80 cases made. Light straw colour; leggy; volatile nose; bracing acidity; lovely texture; some citrus, some stonefruit, definitely green apple/apple skin; age-worthier. 4.5

Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Coolest year since 1993, a hand-picked sav! Helen told us she was after a neutral fruit expression, and used small tanks, lees contact and indigenous yeasts for the ferment. Same colour as the Riesling. Again leggy. Grassy, herby nose but not big with it. Dry and tart. Good Martinborough varietal examplar. I liked it. 4

Pinot Gris Lismore 2013 – A classic Martinborough summer. Fermented in old barrels for texture. Pale yellow. Lightly floral, lightly spiced, in an Alsace style. 8gms residual sugar. Luscious pears, lively sweet with lovely lemonade flavours. One taster thought it was a bit dumb in the bottle yet (2013) but will improve. 3.5

Chardonnay Craighall 2011 – from the eponymous vineyard, vines planted 1983 with the Mendoza clone. This clone is called the ‘hen and chicks’ for the large and small berries produced, with lots of flavour and concentration. Wine is light gold colour. 13.5%. Honey and butterscotch bouquet; ripe fruit taste, balanced with the acid, peaches, stonefruit. Restrained at the moment but will deepen in a few years. 4

Chardonnay Craighall 2008 – Wonderful. Mid gold. 13.5%. I loved the funky smell. Developed, smooth, integrated, the acidity was gone; lashings of unctious butteriness. Yum. Oh why wasn’t the KR Mates ‘08 like this…? 5.

Chardonnay Craighall 2005 – Purity of fruit presence was remarkable in this old kiwi wine. It was deep yellow, but not oxidised. It was funky and rich and luscious. Amazing to see fruit and oak and acid integrate in a bottle. Worth the price of the ticket alone. 5

Reds Flight:

Pinot Noir 2011 – the big ‘un. In 2010 this flagship wine of the company was honoured with the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or “Grand Cru of New Zealand“. It is made in a burgundian style with the typical Martinborough savoury olfactory and taste profile. Helen told us it doesn’t go down too well with American consumers who have been raised on Oregon pinots, so Ata Rangi’s main markets are the UK, Oz, Japan and China. The wine is pinot ruby in colour. 13.8%. Floral. Ripe and fruity, grippy, good palate weight. It lingers. Structured, should age well. 4

Pinot Noir 2008 – I loved this. Pinot ruby browning. 13.5%. Mushroom and forest floor bouquet. Ripe berries. Softened. Integrated. Magic. And I’ve got one in the Pool Room. 5

Pinot Noir McCrone 2008 – Younger (2001?) vines. Less shroomy. Pinot Ruby. 14%. Younger, tauter, a bit austere still? Later vintages should be a looker. 3.5

Pinot Noir 2006 – Pinot ruby browned off. 13.5%. Odd, tasted younger than it should have. Some grippy-ness, with bright fruit. Packed with wonderful flavour. 4

Syrah 2009 – 100% syrah. 40% new oak.  First one out of the blocks. Deep magenta. 13.5%. Bit of funk on the nose with white pepper. Savoury edge. Elegant. Fruitful mouthful, fine tannins. A delightful way to end the tasting. Some attendees contended that the wine deviated from type, but I wouldn’t kick it out of bed… 4

After an evening supping quality drops like these, I was replete. The length of the reds were astounding. I still had taste echoes from them in my mouth an hour afterwards.

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 20th

Stoneleigh Latitude PN 2012

Friday Work Drinks: Stoneleigh Latitude Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012 – $$

The Latitude series represents the mid-tier offering of this Pernod Ricard producer. The 2010 and 2011 vintages got pretty good reviews. Not sure that this vintage scales the same heights, perhaps due to the difficult cool and wet season that year.

13.5%. Dark ruby colour, with a savoury nose, white pepper.

Bit thin to taste, lightly fruited, slightly bitter on the back palate, with grippy tannins and a short finish. I don’t see the ripe fruit flavour I like, so it falls short on my GPI (good pinot index) 2.5

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 16th

Invivo Marlb Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Invivo Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – $

My last post was a bit of a rant. Time to dial it down and write quietly about a nice cheap wine…

I tasted both this wine and a pinot from the same producer as I swung through New World Chaffers on the grocery run last week. The red was ok, but me and cheap pinots have an understanding. Sav it was going to be.

This is a brilliant white straw colour. 12.5%. Light aroma of white pear out of the glass, with a hit of varietal cut-clover. It is slightly softer in the mouth than others down that way; I see typical fresh fruit expression and citrus and melon. Quite good.

I’m having a pretty good run with my wine choices. I’d better find some crap…for ‘journalistic balance’. 4

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 14th

Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chard 2008

From the cellar: Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 – $$$

While driving back from Turoa skifield today, L and I listened to the TED Radio Hour on RNZ National. TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design. It is the name given to an American non-profit organisation that arranges for very clever and passionate people to give an 18 minute ‘talk of their life’ to a conference audience, from one of those three subject headings above. Their talks are recorded, and made available for viewing for free on the Net. Extremely interesting and inspiring, check them out on TED.com.

The speaker today was Barry Swartz. He was talking about his research into the ‘secret of happiness’. He contended that the surfeit of choice available in modern western-style societies actually contributes to a reduction in peoples happiness levels.

His conclusion was that the secret of happiness lay in having Low Expectations. This struck a nerve with me.

You see, I plucked a special bottle from under the house to have with L up at the mountain in the weekend. Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay it was…

The wine came with lavish praise from pundits, great provenance, from 18yr old vines, and had an impressive price tag. This is gonna be amazeballs, I thought. I even had a tasting of their 2010s, and loved them (tho the Mates was not my high point of the tasting).

I cracked the lid. The wine was light gold. Hmm. Should it have been darker? Light aged-wine bouquet of honey citrus and butterscotch on nose. Pear flavours in the mouth, restrained oak and malo. Very fine, but not particularly remarkable. And it was this lack of remarkableness that disappointed. L liked it, it was clearly a well-made quality wine, but where was the wow factor? The big flavours? I expected to be blown away, like I was by the first Sacred Hill Riflemans I tasted. Is this an example of marketing over substance? I’d have to taste it again to be sure, but at the current price per glass that is unlikely.

I will give it a 4, when it should have been a 5, and that makes me grumpily want 2 say 3.

One good thing is that I have a KR Coddington Chardonnay from the same vintage still to drink. That vineyard site scored highest with me in the earlier tasting, so I hope it delivers better.

This is the second high-price NZ cellar wine that has left me feeling flat in a month. I had a glass of 2011 Palliser Chardonnay earlier in the week which was sensational, and that was half the price of the latest KR Mates Vineyard offering.

I am going to drop my price ceiling, and seek wine happiness through modest expectations…

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 9th

Sebastiani Zinfandel 2009

Leaving the Reservation: Sebastiani Sonoma County Zinfandel 2009 – $$

I have never tried a Zinfandel. I’ve never bought a wine from the United States of  America, either. Here I hit two Goliath’s with one rock.

USA wines we get ‘round here are somewhat rare, and expensive with it. We are part of the New World, so I am not in a big hurry to get acquainted with other new world suppliers unless they happen to be close, like Aussie. I save my overseas dollars for Bordeaux…

But I do have a desire to try an Oregon Pinot Noir, a good Californian Chardonnay, and a Zinfandel, just to see what the fuss is about…

Why is this particular wine so affordable? Caros Wine Merchants offers a clue: The weakness in the USD and with Bill Foley being the owner ( he owns Vavasour, Clifford Bay, Te Kairanga etc ) these wines are now being imported into NZ. Ahhh…

This wine is 79% Zinfandel, 17% Petite Syrah, 2% Syrah, 2% Barbera. From three areas Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and Russian River.

The wine looks scarlet black in the glass. 14.5% and very leggy. Lovely rich nose of blackcurrants/black plums and black tea, like nothing I have ever smelled in a NZ wine. The syrah component really lifts the bouquet here.

In the mouth there is dense packed ripe black fruit. I taste liquorice, vanilla, cedar, and dark chocolate. It’s a straightforward wine given weight of 4 years in bottle. Long and very moreish.

Sensational. I am buying more. 4.5

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 8th

Tiki Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Tiki Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – $

This wine is all about fresh.

Straw colour. 13.5%. Fresh light floral aroma of pink grapefruit and Golden Delicious apples. Fresh fruit and refreshing acidity on the palate. Grapefruit and gooseberry flavours.

What a lucky buy this bottle was – spring with a splash. Nice. 4