What’s in the glass tonight Sept 26th


Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough 2012 – $$

I’ve walked past this supermarket wine a few times, but finally decided to give it a try as part of the regular office wine order (which I arrange, of course).

Ara Estate lies at the elevated end of the Wairau Valley in Marlborough, near the Waihopai Valley. The vineyard is sited above the confluence of the Waihopai and Wairau Rivers. Ara Estate aim for sustainability in their wine production.

Here is a wine dark carmine in colour. 13%. A savoury, dense nose – a surprise really – as I consider Marlborough wines to be generally lighter that this. It could even be described as “brooding”. (Ha! Pseud alert!). Floral also.

In the mouth, I see dark cherries + spice, again savoury notes, slightly stalky perhaps. Serious fruit weight this, and mid-length. Rewarding. 4

Straight to the Pool Room Sept 2014

Pool Room Sept 2014

Two more bottles destined to nestle in the arms of Morpheus:

Peregrine Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012 – $$$ – drink 2015-2020. I scored this a 4+ at the Pinot Noir Worth Cellaring tasting and needed no prompting to acquire a bottle.

Stoneleigh Latitude Chardonnay Marlborough 2013 – $$ – drink 2017. L and I really enjoyed this Reserve Chardonnay a few times earlier this year. From the great 2013 vintage. I would have bought it earlier but couldn’t find any on the shelves when I was looking. This will age dependably.

Now to save up for the 2012 Greystone and Ata Rangi Pinots…

New Zealand Pinot Noir Worth Cellaring


Regional Wines of Wellington ran two pinot noir tastings earlier this year, under the general heading: Are They Worth Cellaring: Pinot Noir. The first week comprised NZ wines under $30, and the second week NZ wines over $30. The tastings were presented by Geoff Kelly, and were designed to complement his occasional short articles for the Regional Wines website, titled Worth Cellaring.

I attended the second over $30 tasting. I was lucky to attend the same a year earlier. I thought it would be fun to compare the two events, and vintages.

Geoff writes of the tasting on his excellent website, geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz:

Pinot noir continues to be the red wine of choice, perhaps because it can be so fragrant and delicious, perhaps because it bridges the gap beautifully between white wines and ‘serious’ red wines. Rosé, which in theory should do that job, usually fails to be satisfying. Thus pinot noir provides the perfect pathway to move from enjoying white wines to appreciating reds.

There are hundreds of New Zealand pinot noirs now. To select 12-only for each of these two exercises is therefore invidious. Our selections include wines which have won gold more than once. We then listed the wines which sell most at Regional Wines, and for the expensive set some labels which everybody wants to taste but maybe can’t afford on their own, and then there was the desire to make sure that each pinot noir district was represented somewhere in the two flights. We also put in Michael Cooper’s 2014 red wine of the year, since he has a consistency of approach which is admirable”

As before, Geoff presented all the wines blind, and decanted them into bagged bottles. They were arranged in order stylistically so that the wines followed each other in the most complimentary fashion possible, with the first of each flight “stylistically correct” as a benchmark.

The single bottles were then passed from hand to hand around the room for us 24 participants to measure out 27.5ml quantities, via wee plastic jelly-shot glasses to a level marked, and pour into our tasting glasses. We were asked to examine the wines at leisure, then discuss our impressions, and vote for our best and worst wines.

Geoff writes further; “In the preamble to these two highly enjoyable tastings, I mentioned that I had cellared my first case of grand cru burgundy from the 1969 vintage, a great year in Burgundy, and it was a wine from a vineyard which still remains stellar in my view, yet underrated: 1969 Drouhin Clos de la Roche in Morey-Saint-Denis (Cote de Nuits). My goal in such a statement was to introduce the notion, [ ], that a New Zealander not in the practical winemaking side of wine should actually know something about pinot noir the grape, and burgundy the winestyle.

So in these introductions, we talked about the notion of the pinot noir winestyle, that in the good ones it is a wine of florality, complexity and delight on bouquet, and soft sensuous and often subtle yet essentially satisfying beauty on palate. We contrasted it with the more authoritarian firm aromatic flavours and character of good cabernet, with its need for greater new oak to complement the stronger flavours of the bordeaux grape varieties.

We went on to discuss the fact that beauty in bouquet for pinot noir is a function of not over-ripening, that bigger and riper and darker is not better in pinot noir (as too many in the industry mistakenly believed in the 1990s, continuing through to this century), that the quality of pinot noir must never be judged from its colour, and that great pinot noir sustains the beauty of its bouquet right through the palate. Thus the palate must be long and supple in its fruit / oak charm and beauty, but it does not need to be strong, at all. We mentioned that in evaluating the wines, we should seek what pinot aficionados call ‘layers’ of texture as well as flavour, noting this is a pretty abstruse concept.

Basically we are seeking beautiful sweet floral smells and flavours, where the florality permeates the palate, and the whole lasts and sometimes even expands in the mouth. We mentioned that leaving aside the florals (in their hierarchy from fresh sweet pea → buddleia → rose → lilac → violets and boronia) that simple pinot noir might smell of red currants, strawberries and raspberries to a degree, but quality pinot noir smelt of red grading to black cherries, sometimes with an elusive aromatic quality hard to define, but enticing.

We then discussed the concept of over-ripeness, that the key beautiful floral aromas are simply lost in over-ripening in hot climates (why good pinot noir cannot be grown north of Martinborough (or maybe Masterton), or much south of Beaune), and that when the wine reaches the black cherry stage, be on guard, for it may all too easily pass to black plums, and that is over-ripe for absolute pinot noir beauty, with its increase in size, but the loss of florality, varietal quality and complexity.

We also raised the question of the perceived Central Otago pinot noir style, and remarked that it has been caricatured by pinot-producers from other wine districts, perhaps out of self-interest, as tending to wines which are a bit too big and fruity, though nobody would dare say jammy. There does seem to be some evidence emerging that Otago winemakers are now aiming for a less ripe, less alcoholic and less dark wines. Such a move will certainly increase florality and therefore beauty and complexity, but great care will be needed to not at the same time introduce leafyness and stalkyness. That risk is exacerbated by including stems in the ferment – the whole bunch approach – yet this technique is indisputably part of some of the greatest pinot noirs in the world.

The ripeness of the tannins in the stems (and seeds) is critical, and that seems to be a function of a climate critically appropriate to achieving full physiological maturity of flavour in pinot noir. Loosely speaking, such climates show greater continentality. The goal of such moves is to close the gap on the winestyles found in the Cote de Nuits, which by general agreement is home to the most complex expressions of pinot noir in the world.”

What a great introduction! I learnt a good deal listening to what Geoff said.

What I write below is collated from what I thought of the wines, and what others thought, before and after the wines were finally identified. In a departure from usual form, I attempted a comparable score or valuation to identify the wines I thought were wonderful.

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2011 Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir Marlborough – the ‘sighter’ of the flight. Pink carmine colour. Fruity nose, lightly scented. To taste; bright red fruit, some acidity, light & fresh, a touch of watermelon. Quite delicious. Beautifully ripened to perfection, no stalks, not long. I like this producer very much – I adored their 2010 Brancott Vineyard PN. 3+

2012 Grasshopper Rock Pinot Noir Earnscleugh Vineyard Central Otago – a serious mover. Pink carmine; expressive nose, herby, brambly, elegant. Red cherries in mouth, solid depth of fruit, firm & long, a bit acidic, a bit of stalk , considered in the top three of the tasting. 4+

2012 Peregrine Pinot Noir Central Otago – a personal fav of mine. I don’t drink enough of it. Deep pink carmine; light florality, red cherries, roses, brambles. This has ripeness and depth in spades, taut, a firm structure with tannins, length, dense fruit delivery, celery nose, clipped, elemental florality, little more complex (due to Central terroir?), pretty, gratifying. This is a keeper. 4+

2011 Escarpment Pinot Noir Martinborough – Larry McKenna’s ‘collective statement’ pinot, as distinct from his SV wines. Deep pink carmine; Light floral red fruit. Shows depth and intensity, ripe red fruit in the mouth, elegant. Would keep well. Good acid balance, finesse, noticeable tannins (hence cellarability). 4

2012 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago – Pink carmine; Stronger floral bouquet, herbs and black fruit. Complex depth, black cherries to taste, and vanilla, nice fruit & length, firm, good body, a light touch of funk. 4+

2012 Valli Pinot Noir Gibbston Central Otago – Pink garnet; Burnt match nose, dark cherries, strong aromatics, power. Deep and structured, ripe long and velvety, even seductive. I liked it very much. Then I was told it was reductive. I have a nose for (and liking of) reductive wine. Others opined: grubby, cured meat, dull, leaden. I scored this highly for CHARACTER and INTEREST. 4+

2010 Ostler Pinot Noir Caroline’s Waitaki Valley – Deep carmine; an impact nose – all spice and all the red fruits. Delicious, with ripe red fruit & pointy lusciousness. Others saw freshness, leafy and green, sweet, lolly-like. I saw LIKE! 5

2012 Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block Cromwell Central Otago – Pink carmine; very floral, forward, impactful, a show wine. Warm & round, very ripe, almost jammy, long. Some saw brooding palate weight. Hmm, a bit too pseudo even for me. I saw 4 and cellar potential.

2012 Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Cromwell Central Otago – An over-achiever this one. I have enjoyed previous editions. Deep pink carmine; very leggy. Light, medicinal nose. Tannic and bracing and ripe and very delish. A clear floral component, diffuses through mouth, very pleasing. Top 3 in the tasting. 5.

2011 Black Estate Pinot Noir Waipara – Deep pink carmine; Aniseed nose, thyme. A bit underripe, tho elegant and stylish. Short. 4

2011 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough – Pink carmine. Roses and red cherries. This shows great depth and intensity of fruit expression. Elegant, pure and refined. Very straight and restrained, with absolutely spot-on structure and balance. Did I say it also tasted wonderful? Top 3 in the tasting. 5

2011 Neudrof Moutere Pinot Noir Nelson – Pink carmine; Medicinal, light and elegant bouquet; herbs and black fruit. Tannic and drying; the boldest structure of the flight. Grippy-ness got in the way of any appreciation of the fruit/ripeness qualities of the wine. Long finish. Will cellar for a while, and needs it. 4+

2012 Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara – this was the leading wine from the Under $30 tasting, so was included here for comparison. Smells great – brambly, complex, very purple florals; involving. Light red fruits, delicious, sweet but very correct PN. 4+

This was a great reference journey through New Zealand Pinot Noir. Many thanks to GK and Regional Wines.

My only regret is that the lower boundary of the pinot bliss curve is now shading $30 per bottle…







What’s in the glass tonight Sept 14th

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki 2008

Hammer Time: Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki Hawkes Bay 2008 – $$$

From the cellar by way of a Dunbar Sloane wine auction a while ago. Don’t remember how much I paid for it. Don’t recall it was a bargain. Blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sav. 13% alc. It’s a bit flash this wine, cos the bottle was individually numbered. Which I think is a bit pseud, considering a wee rodent nibbled away at the label when I wasn’t looking.

Raymond Chan writes of this wine in 2011: ” The flagship label for Kidnapper Cliffs, from a cooler vintage in Hawke’s Bay, producing wines of real aromatic interest. 75% Merlot from ‘Zone 6′, 20% Cabernet Franc from ‘Zone 11′ and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from ‘Zone 24′ in the Gimblett Gravels, fermented to 13.5% alc., aged in 33% new French oak for 18 months. Vinification and bottling at Dry River winery, Martinborough.”

In the light, inky black with a tinge of scarlet on the rim, not browning. Built for the long term I see.

A warm, rich nose. Aniseed, baking spice, vanilla.

Very balanced. A dense core of ripe fruit tasting of black plums and dried fruit; cocoa and cedar wood. Sensitive oak handling. Length. This was a top wine. It could easily have hung out in the cellar for another 5 years. A great buy at the auction. 5

What’s in the glass tonight September 7th

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009

From the Cellar: Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009 – $$$

Kumeu River hails from Kumeu, just north of Auckland. It is one of NZs more humid winegrowing regions. From an earlier review of mine, “KR handpick, whole-bunch press and ferment with indigenous 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 produces 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.”

Here we have a wine that is pale gold in colour, with alc 13%.The mid-level offering from this producer – one step below the Coddington or Mates single-vineyard wines – which you could say represents the  ‘house style’ of the brand. It had a rich oatmealy nose, with aromas of white blossom, vanilla, almonds, mandarin peel, lemonade, and oak. Good stuff.

It was full and ripe to taste. There was a fresh citrus tang that was very appealing. Full MLF, but was no butter-bomb. The oak was restrained. Mouth-watering and luscious. Secondary characters starting to protrude as well.

Opened at just the right time. I really liked it. Age-worthy. 4+

What’s in the glass tonight September 4th

Pencarrow Chardonnay 2013

Pencarrow Martinborough Chardonnay 2013 – $

Palliser’s second chardonnay. This one’s pale gold. Nutty oaty aroma. A light chardy, not particularly full or rich, but it has good ripeness and balance. Exhibits the producer’s artisanal heritage which differentiates it from more industrial offerings at a similar level. 3+

What’s in the glass tonight August 30th


From the Cellar: Clos St Anne Gisborne Chardonnay 2009 – $$$

From Millton’s Naboth Vineyard in Gizzy. The 2007 edition of this wine came this close to being my wine of the year last year. I recall buying this particular bottle at the cellar door when LG and I went up to Gisborne for a week’s holiday the year after I broke up with her mother. We two stayed in a cabin at the camping ground on Waikanae Beach. It was such a great time. We swam in the sea and in rivers. Toured about the land. LG scaled the local playgrounds, the Olympic pools and waterslide. I recall I fixated on food. I was calorie-counting and trying desperately to lose weight. And trying all this great wine, but keeping it down to only two glasses a day. And NO beer. While on HOLIDAY.

My efforts worked and I lost 10kgs over the next four months. Yay. A bit has crept back on since tho…

So, I hauled little sister 2009 out of the cellar to share with R and J who came over for dinner with L and I. Then I found out R was not a Chardonnay fan. And J was driving. Oh well. More for me!

Pale gold. 14%. Lovely almonds/cashews/general nuttiness on the nose. In the mouth it was balanced, rich (tho no MLF) and round, with gorgeous citrus on the mid-palate. Medium weight. A lingering finish. There were secondary age-flavours of burnt caramel, nougat and hokey pokey. It had all the qualities I expected and more. Again, shame the bottle emptied so fast. 5

We then cracked a sticky to go with dessert…


Beach House Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2009

This was a great wine too. Packed full of sweetness and fruit flavour. Interesting, complex phenolics. A sav ‘edge’ in there as well. Complimented the fruit compote and meringues. 4+

Straight to the Pool Room – August 2014

Pool Room August 2014

This month I am laying down and avoiding two cheapies, a belter and a legend…

Stoneleigh Malborough Chardonnay 2013 – $ – drink 2015-2016. This came out tops in my informal survey of value 2013 Chardonnays, so down into the Valley Of The Dolls they go!

Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2013 – $$$ – drink 2018-2028. GK scored this 18.5. ‘Twas also recommended by the good folk at RW. I loved last years model, and it was a good vintage in the Bay.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Rifleman 2013 – $$$+ – drink 2018. I have adored this wine from earlier vintages – the 2007 started me on my wine journey. It has been a few years since the weather gods have allowed this wine to be made. Can’t hardly wait…

Wellington on a Plate – August 29th


Every year for the past few, the Wellington hospo sector has organised a fortnight-long food festival that showcases the culinary creatives who reside in our wee Creative Capital. Wellington on a Plate. There are pop-up restaurants, special menus, themed menus (Hobbit fayre at Fran Walsh’s Roxy Cinema for example), best burger competitions – lots going on. They even managed to shoehorn a craft beer fest into the middle weekend – Beervana. Shame I was away skiing that weekend 😦

As part of her birthday gift from me I took L out to The Larder, a restaurant close to the Weta Workshop / 3 Foot 6 Wellywood empires. It gained local fame for espousing the intent of serving all parts of a animal to their guests, not just the filet. Having checked first that wasn’t any offal on their WOAP menu, I booked a table for dinner.

With each course there came a matching wine. So we ordered some bubbles to have with crispy ciabatta and butter:

Quartz Reef NV Brut Central Otago – bright fresh nose, French stick in the mouth, dry on the middle palate, and a sweet finish. Lively. 4

We were then served a entree of pork belly with witloof, pickled shallots and walnuts. With it we drank:

Craggy Range Te Muna Martinborough Riesling 2013 – lifted aroma, very Riesling with citrus and pear, early kero; off-dry, light ripe and luscious to drink, Great match. 4. Ls favourite dish.

Next up was duck leg confit with roast cauliflower, kale, pomegranate and clove, with:

Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2011 – classic Martinborough Pinot, savoury with red cherries. Smooth and balanced and great fruit weight, with some heat on the back palate. A pleasure to sniff and drink. 4+ The food was delicious.

Up next was Brie and Blue with honey and fennel crackers. With this a Chardonnay:

Craggy Range Kidnappers Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2011 – pronounced light pears on bouquet. Light malo and little oak to taste. First impressions was ripe and quite light, but this was deceptive as I saw some weight in the middle palate and a long finish. It also had the citrus acidity that I like. Went very well with blue cheese. 4

A marvellous dessert finished off the meal – Quince Tart Tatin with almond ice cream. My favourite dish. We enjoyed with it:

Craggy Range Te Muna Noble Riesling 2009 – the last bottles of this wine lie in The Larders cellar. Wow. What to say about this sticky? Just gorgeous. Complex golden syrup nose that blossoms from the glass. Honeyed and sweet and rich in the mouth. Honeycomb and solvent and Turkish delight. A delight. 5

A great meal, with some excellent wine matches.