Aromatic distractions


Someone gave us one of those aromatherapy bottle things with the solid wicks that diffuse the scent into the air. It said ‘Chefs Diffusion’ so we put it on the window sill above the kitchen sink.

The scent it gives out smells really strongly of hops – the sort you find in heavily-hopped beers like IPAs and APAs. Now I like those beers, but it is very distracting to me walking into the kitchen all the time and thinking, “Someone’s got a beer open around here?” Hardly restful…

Wine of the Year 2014


It’s odd but I have the impression, or perhaps it is merely a false recovered-memory, that my wine experiences this year were a bit underwhelming in toto. Why is this? In reviewing my wine tasting notes for the past year I see that I enjoyed some really good wines.

Maybe my palate is becoming a bit jaded? Or am I just getting ‘a bit over’ this blogging thing (I am up to over 280 blog posts on WITGT now)? Or is it perhaps due to me and my daughter moving into a new house with L and her boys and us building a new life together with them, which had the downstream effect of shifting my approach to wine appreciation from a solitary, contemplative and somewhat chin-stroking activity to one where I now share the experience with L within the hubbub and chaos of a busy household, and with the result that it all seems so damn less important now? Who knows. Let’s see if the NY changes things…

In the meantime, here were the wines I recorded as either Outstanding 5 or Better Than Very Good 4+ this year:

Vidal Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 and 2008 – these were both fantastic wines which I heartily recommend to any lovers and cellarers of red wine. They demonstrate you don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy a local cellar-worthy wine (under $15 each for these wines).

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2008 – no list would be complete without a top KR Chardonnay. I was fortunate also to drink and love the Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009. In an embarrassment of riches I have also been drinking their Village chardy all year, and served it at my 50th.

Roaring Meg Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012 – this was a delicious surprise, served by the glass at Christchurch airport

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough 2008 and 2011 – this wine should win each year, just like Billy Connolly should be awarded Best Comedian every year. Just SO good. But SO expensive now.

Martinborough Syrah Viognier Martinborough 2009 – from the same ville, and just as nice.

Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah Hawkes Bay 2008 – outstanding, thrilling.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Chardonnay 2010 – so totally delicious, and such incredible value.

Blackenbrook Pinot Gris Nelson 2013 – another delicious surprise!

Wooing Tree Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012 – from one of Geoff Kelly Worth Cellaring tastings. A winner.

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki Hawkes Bay 2008 – a stunning cabs merlot blend. An auction win. A runner-up for Wine of the Year.

Millton Clos Ste Anne Chardonnay Gisborne 2009 – an outstanding Chardonnay from a beautiful place.

Craggy Range Noble Riesling Martinborough 2009 – a superlative way to end a wonderful Wellington On A Plate dinner out with L.

Greywacke Pinot Noir Marlborough 2012 – this wine went head-to-head in a tasting alongside two top Burgundies, and triumphed. Another runner-up for Wine of the Year.

Two wines that I thought were a revelation are sadly out of the running due to where they hail from – AUSTRALIA – namely Bannockburn Chardonnay Geelong Victoria 1986 and Tyrell’s Wines Chardonnay Vat 47 Hunter Valley 1986 – they were absolutely terrific at a tasting of old Chardonnay’s.

Cotes du Rhone – My eyes and horizons were widened during a tasting of CdRs, and nothing will ever be the same. I tried, and bought for my cellar, some delicious wines, which are also, sadly, out of the running cos they are FRENCH, and not WINE OF NEW ZEALAND – Guigal Gigondas CdR 2010 and Espiers Gigondas CdR 2010.

Delicious, delicious…

Also out of the running, but amazing due to their innate amazing-ness, are the shy and unassuming Ch. Margaux 1978, Ch. Palmer 1978, Dom. Vieux Telegraphe CdP 1978, Jaboulet CdP Les Cedres 1978, Pio Cesare Barolo Piedmont 1978 and the new kid, Boillot Criots-Batard-Montrachet GC 2011.


But the winner is…


… a wine which I drank three different vintages of at various times of the year – 2007, 2008 and 2011 – and rated them all outstanding…


… I think this wine is the producer’s best product, although it is not what the producer is famous for…


… and, this variety put NZ on the world map, but not with grapes from this area…


Te Mata Cape Crest 2011

WOTY 2014: Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc Hawkes Bay 2007/2008/2011

My notes read, variously:

2011 – Powerful herby nose of lemongrass, flat leaf parsley and coriander. Crisp citrus in the mouth, with a loooong finish of parsley and bags of fresh mint. Supa yum!

2007- This was drinking superbly. Been a fav of mine for a while. One of the two best things they do I think…powerful nose, I see paint-thinner, but in a good way, and brand-new socks, weird…sweet and acidic and fresh to taste. Hint of vanilla from the eight months in French oak barrels, carraway seeds, any lime has mellowed. Additional of 13% semillon cuts through the directness of the sav

Here’s to 2015!

What’s in the glass tonight January 5th

Mudhouse Merlot HB 2013

Mudhouse Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013

My folks left this behind when they came to stay with us after Christmas.

Dark carmine colour. 13.5% alcohol.

Correct varietal bouquet. Plums etc.

To drink there were lots of soft ripe dark fruits and spicy fruit cake. Black plums, black currants. Medium weight. Fine tannins. Smooth, but with enough grip to keep things structured and interesting for me. I am not a huge fan of Merlot. It’s often bit too soft and lush for me, I prefer either an grippy edge to my reds, or florality. But this was a good drop.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight January 3rd

Te Mata Bullnose 2010

Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah Hawkes Bay 2010 – $$$

R and J came over for a dinner BBQ. I pulled this wine out cos I knew they both liked a good red, and this should be a peach…

Deep, dark crimson in the glass. 14%

An involving meaty nose, with dark red stonefruit, vanilla and oak underpinning floral hints of red roses.

In the mouth, dense, with perfectly ripe fruit. No hint of stalkiness or vegetal notes, or overripe ‘jamminess’ evident. I tasted the varieties correct notes of white pepper and licorice. Well balanced. Medium grained tannins. Good heat and dryness on the back palate. A very well-built NZ syrah. Delicious with the marinated BBQ chicken.

I also thought the Riedel Pinot ‘O’s would show this wine off well too.


What’s in the glass tonight January 2nd

Coney Pinot Gris 2013

Coney Piccolo Pinot Gris Martinborough 2013

The story of Coney Wines from their website:

When people ask us, as they frequently do, why two city dwellers should suddenly buy a 16 acre bare paddock in Dry River Road, Martinborough, dismiss the sheep and plant 10,000 vines by spade, the answer is palpable – we’d simply lost our marbles.

What had been envisaged as a gentle descent into middle age retirement has turned into a thriving 24/7 bustle of vinetending, winemaking, marketing and restaurateuring – each operation undertaken in the hallowed, self-flagellating Martinborough tradition – by manual labour. Be it leaf-plucking or bunch thinning by hand in the vineyard to ensure umblemished, perfectly ripe fruit, or the sheer tastiness of Margaret’s cuisine which derives from the traditional “homemade” quality of every ingredient served to appreciative diners – the Coney aim is to pay keen attention to detail.

And so the old-fashioned notion that small is beautiful, that honest sweat produces happiness turns out to be our guiding principle. In the modern world, a small vineyard/winery represents one of the few remaining occupations where a bloke can go from planting to bottle, get out of the house/office and enjoy the sun on his back to music.

Our logo, the treble clef, with grape bunch delicately appended, comes from the family’s love of music – it is also a nice metaphor for the harmony experienced in a lovely wine. Headphones are mandatory in the vineyard, and many a passing local has marvelled at the gangly Coney legs in gyration to an Eagles, LRB or Beatles number. Scientific tests also confirm that grapes respond positively to a diet of 1970’s music!! The wines themselves have harmonious names – Rallentando, Ragtime, Ramblin’ Rose and Pizzicato. These three have now been joined by tiny quantities of Piccolo Pinot Gris and Que Sera Syrah.

I am advised that Piccolo is made in the fuller, broader Alsace style.

Pale straw colour. 13.5% alcohol.

Floral and fragrant, with forward ripe stonefruit on the nose. Pears, apricots and ginger on the palate. Substantial body. I like it! Very Good 4

Happy New Year!


L and N and I drove up to Owhango on New Year’s Eve in preparation for walking one of New Zealand’s Great Walks– the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

The Crossing is a 20km hike though NZ’s oldest National Park and World Heritage Site. It starts from Maungatepopo and proceeds up to and over the saddle between mounts Ngauruhoe and Tongariro, and wends its way past steaming volcanic craters to Ketetahi Hut and down to the Ketetahi roadend.

So, all we did on NY Eve was share a bottle of Lindaur NV, and be in bed by 10pm so we could rise the next day at 5.15am to get ready for the walk…


…which was truly magnificent. The weather was perfect, the scenery was breathtaking, and L and I agreed how lucky we were to experience it.

Because we added in a walk to Soda Springs and an ascent to the top of Tongariro (1997m), the walk length grew to 23kms, and almost killed us. We were in bed that night by 9.30pm, shattered. I even brought a special bottle of Syrah from my cellar to drink in celebration, but it was laid aside as all I wanted was beer!

A day later, I can still barely walk. And I call myself a cyclist!? Still, as a cyclist I don’t use my leg muscles to descend, whereas on the Crossing I descended about 1200m, so that’s my excuse..

A wonderful, wonderful way to bring in the New Year!

What’s in the glass tonight December 27th

Brancott Flight Sav Blanc 2014

Another tough summer’s day. Lawn mowing. Taking the kids to the beach. Drinking a medley of wines with friends in the sun.

Brancott Flight Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 – $

Practically no discernable colour. 9%. One of a number of low alcohol wines being brought to market in these sober drink/driving times. Interesting to see how this wine fares in the taste test…

..Not much bouquet. To taste it is light and bright and quite spritzy. I see citrus and green apple. No bold grassy notes as would be typical of a Marlborough sav. It is pleasant enough, but I wouldn’t choose it as my standard quaffage unless I knew I was likely to be called upon to perform an emergency heart operation while piloting a plane during an emergency landing, in an emergency-type situation that would require a wise and sober head: I like the buzz too much. Good 3

Ata Rangi Summer Rose 2014

Ata Rangi Summer Rose Wairarapa 2014

New Zealand Rosé royalty. Light cranberry colour. 13.5%. Sweet strawberry nose. Light strawberry fruit in the mouth, bitter in the middle palate, long tannic finish. An intense attack, quite robust for a rosé. Not sure how to rate this. Good 3 I guess.

Esk Valley

Esk Valley Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2013

Pale gold. 13.5%. Rich involving bouquet of ripe warm peaches and vanilla. Buttery and rich to drink, with cooked peaches, manuka honey and vanilla on the mid palate and a brusque fnish. Managed to be both tannic and unctuous. Better Than Good 3+

What’s in the glass tonight Christmastime 2014

L and I drove up to New Plymouth to spend Christmas Day with my sister S and my folks D and P. We took L’s folks along for the trip also. It meant a really early rise to get up there by midday. S made us all feel very welcome. It was really nice to see her in her new home.

We relaxed with a few wines out on the deck, before tucking into a fantastic Christmas lunch of turkey and ham and Christmas steamed pudding, then staggering through to the living room to open our presents. I was appointed Santa…

I was really lucky to be given a brace of Riedel ‘O’ series Pinot Noir stemless wine tumblers by L. Lucky me! I had been coveting a set of proper PN glasses to enjoy what is becoming my favourite grape variety. They have a generous bowl shape to generate a good head of bouquet, and a narrow opening to convey the aromas up to the nose.

I had a hunch this might be my gift, so I put a bottle of Gibbston Valley Gold River Pinot Noir 2013 aside for Christmas Day so I might give the glasses a proper ‘test drive’. The wine only rated a 3 however, and I won’t say anything more about it, save I think that reflected well on the glassware, but less well on the wine…

Otherwise on Christmas Day we all drank Lindaur Special Brut NV and Special Reserve Brut NV. This bubbly is acceptable and does what it sez on the tin. We then drank a bottle of Moet & Chandon NV which exhibited a far greater degree of class and restraint – an elegant and moreish drop. L drank one of her favoured Roses’s, Kim Crawford Pansy Rose 2014 which she enjoyed, and we also tucked into one of our favourite Chardonnay’s, Stoneleigh Latitude Chardonnay Marlborough 2013. A big day on the turps.

The next day we had to drive back to Wellington to pick up the kids from the ex’s. On the way we stopped off at Windermere Berry Farm just north of Whanganui to have a really nice lunch. Someone parked a vintage truck outside the café that played a medley of oldtime tunes on some sort of automated wind ensemble thing. Jaunty and weird. On the way out we picked up a bottle of their strawberry fruit wine. I’ll open this sometime over the summer…

Back in Wellington, the weather was wonderful, so we sunned ourselves in the back yard before dinner with a glass of this wine…

Ohau Gravels Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Ohau Gravels Sauvignon Blanc Ohau 2013 – $$

Straw colour. 13.5%. Nose of green green grass and tom stalk. Hints of honey and vanilla.

Austere, elegant fruit flavours – green capsicum, green apple, tangy citrus. Rain on river stones. A long, somewhat brusque finish. Better Than Good 3+

Not a great pairing with my own Christmas Cake and L’s warm toffee sauce. But it survived.