The Little Red Book

Little Red Book

Whenever I add to the Pool Room cellar collection, I record the details of the wine into a cheap wee red 3B1 notebook.

I’ve been filling in such a book since 2009, and although my buying has been pretty modest, I have just filled my second notebook. So it’s off to the shops tomorrow to buy a third!

I record things like winemaker, style, vintage, region, price, any awards, and the year when I guess I should knock the top off. I used to record notes about the wine after I drank it, but now I do that on the pages of this blog. The size of my collection limits the raids on the cellar to no more than once a week, so it is always exciting to flick through my books to choose which wine I will liberate next.

Consequently the books get kinda doggy after a while.. A bit like a chew toy for grown-ups…

What’s in the glass tonight October 18th

Coopers Creek SR Chard 2013

Coopers Creek Chardonnay Limited Release Gisborne 2013

L’s friend R came around for a wine with us, and brought this welcome bottle. I have really liked the odd glass of their top Swamp Reserve Chardonnay in the past, so was keen to record my impressions of this wine while I knocked up a meal of the finest home-made mix-tape Margherita pizzas this side of Italy…

Light gold. 13.5%.

Vanilla nose, elegant and aromatic. Citrus fruits, orange blossom.

Golden fruits to taste, with oak and vanilla, almonds and cashews and oatmeal. Balanced acidity. Some secondary characters.

Lovely. 4

Margherita pizza



What’s in the glass tonight October 17th


Kumeu River Estate Pinot Noir Kumeu 2009 – $$

Only a month ago I was reviewing my cellared 2009 KR Estate Chard, and up comes this pinot option for work drinking via my firm’s online supermarket order. I’ve never tried a pinot noir from this far north in New Zealand before, so couldn’t resist.

I would have thought the Auckland regional climate was too hot and humid to be that convincing a place to grow a correct cool-climate varietal wine? But what would I know right? The people at KR are good winemakers. They must think the local terroir is suitable, or otherwise they are jumping on the NZ pinot train.

From their website: 20yr vines; 100% hand harvested; indigenous yeasts. Let’s see…

Deep ruby colour. 13%. Nose of plums. I smell lanolin, underbrush. The wine opens up in the glass over 20-30mins to become appealingly aromatic.

In the mouth I am surprise how tannic the wine is after 5 years in the bottle. It has an assertive structure, bright with acid, almost ‘tingly’. Red plums and cherries, with some stalkiness. Hot and spicy on the back palate. Bitter final taste.

That said, I do see it as a somewhat ‘one-note’ pinot noir. The current ’12 vintage is branded ‘Village’ so my reservations are well-founded. 3

Straight to the Pool Room – Oct 2014

CDR A foreign crop for the cellar:

Leaving the Reservation: Côtes du Rhone wines, and one other

In September L and I attended a Côtes du Rhone: Worth Cellaring evaluation tasting with Geoff Kelly.

He contends that for wine-lovers of average means, the wines of the Southern Rhone valley are the most appealing, food-friendly and affordable red wines on earth.

In his opinion, affordable Aussie reds are too alcoholic, young, raw and oaky; too many cab / merlots are either unripe or too oaky; and good bordeaux and all burgundy’s simply too expensive, as are the better NZ pinot noirs. Reds of Spain and Italy offer good value, but are an unknown quantity to most New World drinkers.

For Geoff, good quality CdRs are well suitable for the cellar, contrary to the views of some overseas winewriters who favour consumption within 3-5yrs over longer conservation.

So, during the course of the tasting we tried blind 16 different CdRs – including Côtes du Rhone, CdR-Villages, CdR Named-Villages and odd wines from districts graduated to their own appellation i.e Cairanne. Chateauneuf-du Pape and Gigondas are the most noted so a couple of Gigondas wines were included in the hope that they set a benchmark.

As further background to the tasting, we were told that the better Southern Rhone reds are made from blends which must include Grenache (min 40% and upwards) and the noble grapes syrah and mourvedre in the greater wines, and carignan and cinsault in the lesser ones. Such wines when not over-ripened are gloriously fragrant, and redolent of pink roses, Sweet William, carnations, thru dark roses to cinnamon and black pepper.

Also, as we southern-hemisphere drinkers are used to ‘clean’ wines ie not tainted by sulphides, it was suggested we might find it a challenge to discover Rhones that are not ‘dumb’ with sulphide compounds. As I personally have found such funky wines appealing in the past, this ‘threat’ did not faze me in the slightest…

Vintage notes:

2010 – vintage with good ripeness and fine balance. The best wines will cellar very well.

2011 – generous crop in average temperatures. Commercial vintage. Some cellar-worthy wines.

So we drank, and judged, and discussed, and between L and I we selected a bunch of wines to buy for the cellar; as listed below, with comments from us and others:

Dom. Guigal Côtes du Rhone 2010 – $$ – drink 2015-2020 – Dark carmine colour. 14%. Floral nose, precision; tannic, rich, good extract and intensity, purity and expression. Epitomises the idea of CdR. Pure and wine-y, with a touch of oak. Long finish. 2.6m litres made!.

Famille Perrin Côtes du Rhone Reserve 2010 – $$$ – drink 2015-2016 – Dark carmine. 13.5%. Warm nose, floral. Soft in the mouth, with some spice. Correct depth and finish. Mellow and more substantial that other Rhones in the tasting, more ripeness and fruit weight. L liked this one.

Dom. Des Espiers Gigondas 2011 – $$$+ – drink 2015 – 2020 – Dark carmine. 14.5%. Slightly funky (ha!) and reductive. Pleasing richness of fruit. Very deep, bags of flavour, spice, pepper. Long finish. Wonderful aromas of black doris plums – it truly ‘rests on it’s fruit’.

Dom. Guigal Gigondas 2010 – $$$+ – drink 2016-2022 – dark carmine. 14%. A great nose. No words. Superb wine. Wonderful fruit, with cinnamon notes and cedar. Greater oak complexity in this wine, with stronger grip than others seen here. The last wine of the tasting, and what a finish!

We also absolutely loved the inexpensive Dom. Les Grands Bois Côtes du Rhone-Villages Cairanne Cuvee Maximilien 2011. It was up there with the Guigal Gigondas, and would have lasted 30 years but alas, RW’s allocation was sold out, and we couldn’t get any…:-)

Therefore, as our  case had a couple of holes, I filled one with a bottle of:

Greystone Pinot Noir Waipara 2012 – $$$ – drink 2016-2018 – This was the leading wine from the Under $30 Worth Cellaring NZ Pinot Noir tasting.

And the other with:

Plaisir De Merle Chardonnay Western Cape 2011 – $ – drink 2016. The SA cheapie L and I have enjoyed a few of recently. Let’s see how well it sleeps-in.

A is for AFD


I just wrote my 250th blog post on via WordPress. And I did it wine-free.

I have two significant milestones approaching: my 50th birthday (and party), and my 10th attempt at achieving a sub-5 hr time for the 160km Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge for the first time.

I want to look my best for the party, and be in my best shape to smash the course. That means losing weight. Which means seriously pushing the plate away. And having Alcohol Free Days during the working week, Monday through Thursday. The wine bloggers bane…

Ugh. Easy to say, less easy to do…Makes me consider the idea of (whisper) A is for Addiction, and H is for Habit. Hmm, interesting..

Still, I got through last week ok, and tonight, and I suspect the rest will be fine. My lovely L is coming along for the ride. And I have lots more time for stuff, rather that just sitting around with a glass in hand feeling somnolent of an evening…

What’s in the glass tonight October 4th

Thistle Ridge Pinot Noir 2013

Thistle Ridge Waipara Pinot Noir 2013 – $$

A Pinot Noir from Waipara. Planted on the Teviotdale Hills towards the north end of the Valley. Named for a ridge cleared of thistles and planted in vines. Of course.

This is a region most noted (to date) for its Riesling wines, so I’m interested to see how it stacks up. The wine was voted Champion Red at the recent New World Wine Awards. Given the low-ish price point for wines considered for these awards, it should be acknowledged that we are fishing in a somewhat shallow pool.

Pinot Noir is considered a tricky grape to grow and ripen here, and the resulting wine is pricier than, say, Sav Blanc to make. I suspect this encourages producers to lift their cropping levels, ripen more fruit and thus increase wine production, so to get the price down and the supply volumes up to the point where supermarket chains would be interested. As pinot quality is directly influenced by dry extract and careful ripening, it is a careful balance a volume producer must strike.

However, the judges taste blind, and this wine must have shown the goods to win. And further investigation uncovers that this wine is the ‘younger brother’ of leading Waipara producer Greystone wines, whose own Pinot Noir I rated pretty well when I tasted it a while back, and intend to buy for my own cellar. The pedigree is there.

In the glass the wine is very deep pink carmine. 12.5%. Spice and dark stonefruit on nose, with some savoury character. It took 24hrs to open up and lose a metallic aroma, which also influenced the palate, so I would recommend splashy decanting if you want to drink it in one sitting. Not a good look, to be frank. Most supermarket wines are consumed immediately following the shopping excursion, so it should have been primed and ready to go.

After a day’s rest the aroma softened markedly. Savoury and floral characters came forward. Good fruit weight showed to taste, quite sweet and rich, with ripeness galore. Smooth, not dense. A simple wine, and a good return on the $$. Could improve with a year off. 3+

I followed this up the same night with a wine that tasted like it was truly from somewhere else. A startling expression of a foreign terroir:

Plaisir De Merle Western Cape Chardonnay 2011 – $$

Plaisir de Merle Chardonnay SA 2011

I am so used to NZ Chardonnays. It was a surprise to taste my first mouthful of this South African wine from the Paarl Winelands in the Groot Drakenstein Valley. A Meursault-like nose. Rich and buttery and spicy, with toasted nuts. Yum! Not sure really how good it is cos I couldn’t get my head around it. Really cheap at $10 a bottle, so will have another go quite soon 🙂