Villa Maria tasting with Jeremy McKenzie – 30 October 2013


Villa Maria tasting 301013

Hurrah! Another tasting rolls around at Regional Wines.

This time it’s my turn to try some single vineyard and reserve wines from a favourite producer of mine – Villa Maria. The tasting was led by VM winemaker Jeremy McKenzie, who is based in Marlborough. I see that GK is here too. He talks up VM wines as great value for money, especially at auction (I agree – it is hard to walk past their Cellar Selection wines when they are on special at my local). $25 entry.

Fun Facts: 80% of Villa Marias output is Sauvignon Blanc. They produce over 100 different parcels of Pinot Noir. Sir George Fistonich and the people at Villa Maria think a lot about who is drinking their wines, and they try to produce wines that encourage diners in the restaurant to have that second glass. A noble pursuit. But dont drink and drive. Or drink and write…

We had two flights to look at: firstly some white wines including a mini-vertical of Keltern Chardonnays, then a flight of reds including a mini vertical of Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlots from the Gimblett Gravels.

Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – 13% – The 2012 vintage was one of the coldest. It led to smaller bunches and an extended ripening period. This perversely produced wines with very balanced acidity, and Jeremy reported that some winemakers claimed they had made their best wine ever.

This sav is interesting. Being from the Wairau valley in Marlborough this wine is not made in the typical ‘punchy’ style of tomato stalk and herb notes that you find in the classic Marlborough region of the Awatere valley. Rather it has a light aroma, refined, slightly grassy and elegant. The wine is very pale. I taste bright fruit in the mouth, balanced acid, and pronounced passionfruit flavours. Rich and soft and slightly flinty. Fermented in 5% oak which may explain that. V nice. 4

Villa Maria Omahu Gravels Viognier 2010 – 14.5% – Villa Maria is one of NZs largest producer of viognier. This is a hard grape to sell to general consumers as many of them can’t pronounce the name with confidence.

Single vineyard wine from the Gimblett Gravels. 10yr old wines. Light yellow. Warm honey on nose, very leggy. Typically luscious with spice notes. Also typically hot on the back of the throat but this has been deliberately dialled back, and is definitely dryer and more refined than other examples I have tasted. Better for it too. GK sez subtle use of oak. Well textured, very nice example. 4.5

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 – 13% – The Keltern Vineyard is a cool inland site, made up of red metal soils, and lies beside the Ngaroro River. The wine is produced from a mixture of predominately Clone 85 grapes, and 10-20% of Mendoza and Clone 15. Pale straw colour. It is refined on the nose with honey and peaches. Very appealing ripe fruit, acidity, pears and green apples. 4

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 – 13.5% – Pale straw colour. This one smells funkier. Fruit notes and big hint of gunpowder on the nose. The wine is clean and rich and unctuous. Ripe peaches. Top drop. I’ve ordered one for the Pool Room. 4.5

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 – 14% – Yellow pale straw. Deep bouquet, Vanilla. Soft. Big taste. Buttery toast flavours at finish. Mature – drink now. I had a bottle last year and loved it. 4.5

Tasting this vertical has shown up some definite vineyard traits expressed by this Chardonnay. It is consistently refined, with good palate weight, and an intriguingly complex swirl of flavours I can’t all quite name, but can sense and enjoy all the same.

Then its the reds turn at bat…

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010 – 13% – 100% Marlborough fruit sourced from the Awatere Valley, Wairau southern valley, and selected single vineyard parcels. Jeremy said 2010 was a great vintage – clean, with physiological ripenes, and plenty of ‘hang time’ for the grapes. The wine is a dusky pink magenta. Its lightness and tasting position behind the Kelterns does it no favours. Lightly aromatic; ripe plums and reasonable depth. 3.5

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009 – 13% – Dark red plum colour. Nose of choc and ripe black plums. Delicious vanilla and more plums to taste, and tannic. Lovely. Quite elegant, and will age well. I have ordered one of these for the Pool Room as well. 4.5

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 – 14% – A good year in the Bay. This is funkier than the ’09, and spicy. Colour is rich brown black. Its dry in the mouth and rich and grippy and intense. Fruitcake characters too. Best drinking now. Big Yum. 4.75

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2006 – 14.5% – Dark red plum colour. Grippy and rich and deep, and more fruitcake. I like the way the tannins are still big in this wine and holds the whole thing together, stopping it from getting flabby. This wine should age and develop longer. I would like to try this again in 2016. 4

Villa Maria Reserve Grenache 2007 – 14%In a word, YUM! I WANT THIS. But it’s too expensive for me at over $60 regular price. Deep magenta in the glass. Turkish delight and confectionery on the nose. In the mouth it is light and sweet, lots of rich ripe red fruit jam, bags of flavour. What a wine to finish the tasting! A rare treat. 5

Big thanks to hosts Alistair and Jeremy.

Straight to the Pool Room – October 2013


Pool Room Oct 2013

For laying down and avoiding (for a time): several value choices inspired by a tasting I attended earlier (which I will write about later)…

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Chardonnay 2011 – $ – drink 2015-2016

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2011 – $ – drink 2015

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 28th


Ata Rangi Summer Rose 2013

Ata Rangi Wairarapa Summer Rosé 2013 – $$

I think of this wine as one of our local rock stars. While I am not a huge fan of rosé, I have been drinking this version on and off for over a decade.

Years ago I remember heading over the hill to Toast Martinborough (the wine festival held each November), after telling my ex “it is never cold over there so dressing light is fine”, then standing inside a chilly marquee at Ata Rangi, wearing a T-shirt and sandals and drinking this wine while freezing southerly gales raged outside!

Moving to the present-day, I have survived three intense sessions of cycling training this weekend and was feeling pretty knackered this afternoon. L is heading over to the US for a conference next week, and I’ve been saving this bottle to drink with her before she went, as I know she likes a nice rosé.

First off, it sez Wairarapa on the label. Usually it sez Martinborough. Now, I’m a bit picky and to me Wairarapa does not mean the same as Martinborough when it comes to wine provenance. At least to me, anyway. So I had a look at their website and read that the grapes for this wine come from a variety of sites: mostly Merlot from Ata Rangi’s Di Mattina block, with a bit of Mebus Syrah from Kahu Vineyard, both in Martinborough, and a little Pinot Noir from the leased Waiora Block which is about 7kms south. I guess the spread of properties meant the producers had to put the Wairarapa appellation on the bottle.

The wine looks really appealing to the eye in the afternoon sun. L sez it is like drinking jewels and rubies. It is the most brilliant pink ruby colour. 13.5%. Lovely light nose of florals and melons. Watermelon and cranberries in the mouth, and hint of red capsicum too. Medium-dry. Doesn’t disappoint. 3.5.

Sileni Cab Franc Rose 2013

Then I was offered a glass of Sileni Hawkes Bay Cabernet Franc Rosé 2013

This was paler in colour – a light dusky pink. It was sweeter too, raspberry on nose and in mouth. Softer. 2.75

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 26th


Hihi Albarino 2013

Hihi Gisborne Albarino 2013 – $$

My parents brought this bottle when they came to stay with me this Labour Weekend. I have never before tried Albarino, a varietal white wine made from a white wine grape originating from Galicia in Spain, also known as Alvarinho, and sometimes as Cainho Branco.

Wikipedia sez the grape is noted for its distinctive aroma, very similar to that of Viognier, Gewurztraminer, and Petit Manseng, suggesting apricot and peach. The wine produced is unusually light, and generally high in acidity with alcohol levels of 11.5–12.5%. Its thick skins and large number of pips can cause residual bitterness.

Hihi Wines website also sez [they are] a small boutique winery based in Ormond, Gisborne. The label was launched in 2005 with 200 cases sold in the first year. Growth has been rapid with over 2,000 cases sold in 2012.

Hihi means “rays of the sun” referencing Gisborne, the ‘first city to see the sun’ and is also the name of the Stitchbird, Notiomystis cincta, one of NZ’s rarest birds.

This is what I sez: pale greenish straw colour, 14%. Smells sweet and fruity, a combo of sav blanc and viognier. I taste bracing fresh citrus fruit, and honey sweetness. There is acidity as well as ripeness.  No bitterness here. It’s a bit like a fresh medium riesling in that regard. A light wine, well suited as an aperitif with finger food.

L sez I am not one to change gears quickly, so it is good for me to say I like this wine. And will try again.

As well as Albarino, Hihi Wines is also growing uncommon grape varieties (in NZ) such as Verdelho, Tempranillo, Nebbiolo, Barbera, Grenache, Mourvedre, Pinotage, Carmanere, and Touriga Nacional. They are someone to keep an eye on, as is this easy-drinking wine over the next 1-2 years. 3.5

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 23rd


Wooing Tree Beetle Juice PN 2008

From the cellar: Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008

This bottle was a gift from an old mate at my housewarming a few years ago. We never got around to drinking it at the time, and I put it away for later.

It is the second label of Wooing Tree Vineyard, found in a beautiful part of the world near Cromwell in Central Otago. The vineyard is named for a magnificent tree at its centre that was known as the ‘wooing tree’ long before vines were planted, and a few locals have surely been conceived under its wide canopy.

BeetleJuice is named for the endangered Cromwell Chafer Beetle Prodontria lewisii, and is not a homage to Michael Keaton.

This pinot noir is a bright plum colour, 14.5%, with a lovely aged savoury nose that opens out in the glass as it sits. Even after five years of just sitting around quietly the wine is still very fruity in the mouth, with the taste of ripe red cherries. Good intensity and depth. Fine tannins, and balanced.

It won gold back in the day. Really delicious. Tastier than the Saddleback from earlier in the week, and it makes me happy again. My mate’s not here to drink it, but as I’m having lunch with him Friday I’d better shout him a good glass of something. 4.

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 21st


Saddleback Pinot Noir 2011

Peregrine Saddleback Central Otago Pinot Noir 2011 – $$

This wine’s been winning a few friends lately. I have a bottle in the Pool Room, but I thought I’d get in early and see what the fuss is about.

First impressions, it’s pretty good. Lighter that the Peregrine big sister, but also half the price. Deep bright magenta. 13.5%.

Light floral top note, some foxglove. Definite mushroom/forest floor bottom note, and slightly herby. Nice one. I could sniff it all night.

In the mouth there are red fruits, sweetness, fine tannins, balanced with body and depth. Lovely weight in the mouth for a sub-$25 pinot. Bit o’length as well.

Like any lighter pinot it doesn’t like being left alone in the glass for too long, and will develop that metallic tang thing. Just as well I’m thirsty. Solves that problem. It will improve in bottle two years I think.

Alas I am ruined for this level of pinot noir, it makes me want to drink the real thing… 3.75

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 18th


Delas Ventoux 2012

Leaving the reservation: Delas Ventoux Rouge 2012

What I have imbibed this week I have blogged about already, like the rapidly-becoming-favourites Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2010 and Yealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2012.

Or forgettable like the Brancott Estate South Island Pinot Noir 2011 brewed for the indiscriminate World Of Wearable Arts crowd…

So I am left with this clunker:

A cheap Rhone blend I picked up from Regional Wines. Dark red. 14%. Soft tannins. Red berry fruit. Non-complex. No ambition. Dying in the glass. Might even be making me feel ill. That’ll learn me for not buying local.  Not even gonna score it.

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 10th


pop up zombie by ssamanthaa

Church Road Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2012 – $

I blogged about this wine back in Jan…and here it pops up again, en speciale,  like a zombie back from the dead. I wrote at the time, “This is mealy and nutty on the nose, pale yellow, and with some weight and mineral/white pepper behind the ripe white stonefruit flavours”

And like any good zombie it’s aged a bit in the interim. The flavour notes run true, it’s still dependable, and weighty, but starting to smell and sag a little. Drink it all up, folks, and wait for the 2013’s: they will be Pg3 stunnas. 3.5

The image above is from the website BoingBoing – ‘Pop Art Zombie’ by makeup artist Sssamanthaa

What’s in the glass tonight Oct 9th


Penthouse Chardonnay 2009

From the cellar: Pencarrow Martinborough Chardonnay 2009 – $$

This bottle was left too long in the scratcher.

Light gold. 13.5%. Toasty on the nose, with vanilla and big hint of oxidation. The oxidation character continued in the mouth with that typical phenolic tang and the bitterness at the back of the palate. It was not dominant though, and I could still taste the fruit, though quite dried out, and there was honey and apricots there too.

This is the second label of Palliser Estate, so maybe the fruit was too light to handle the extra time in bottle? Never mind, it was interesting to try an older, easier-style chardonnay. 2.5

What else was in the glass on my ski holiday


CJ Pask Gimblett Syrah 2008

From the cellar: CJ Pask Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2009 – $$

An apres-ski tipple with my fellow RSC club members out on our sunny deck. Note the snow level, and compare to previous post…

Some wines prove not meant for keeping. They are meant to be consumed young. This turned out to be one of those for me. The wine was ok, and the quality fruit and winemaking that went into it meant the aging did it no harm. But neither did cellar time move it along much.

Deep scarlet. 12%. Medium-weight. The wine was unremarkable with little nose and only red fruits to taste. It had dried out a little, and not developed any pronounced age characters to replace the fruit freshness. It would have been better in 2011 I think, though the winery website says it was good for another couple of years yet. 3

Sebastiani Zinfandel 2009 in the snow

Sebastiani Sonoma County Zinfandel 2009 – $$

See my post Sept 9th – more US deliciousness…and see the snow level lessen. This has not been a stellar season up at Whakapapa skifield. 4.5

Dashwood Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012 – $

This was consumed at L’s ski-club lower down the mountain another night. This was the real deal as far as cheap, light, fresh, fragrant PNs go. A treat. Bright pinot ruby. 14%. Good bouquet. Ripe red cherries in the mouth. Yum, drink it young and in the sun. Gold medal winner. 3.5

And all the snow melted around my lodge..