What’s in the glass tonight Aug 26th

Ara Pathway PN 2011

From the Cellar: Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir Marlborough 2011

Ara Wines say on their website, “As if New Zealand wasn’t already on the edge of the earth, welcome to Wairau Valley, Marlborough. At 41.38S 173.57E, we’re literally on the edge of the edge. Slightly elevated, with rugged mountains on either side and two icy rivers cutting through, it’s a pretty extreme place. The very definition of raw, cool climate conditions. It’s even hard to get here, unless you know roads that aren’t on any map. To say this presents challenges to grape and man, would be an understatement. But in winemaking as in life, challenges build character – and strong character makes great wines.”

This wine is their first tier Pinot Noir. A gift from S.

Deep carmine crimson. 13.5%.

An involving floral nose, with aromas of buddleia, cherries, and dusty earth. More savoury the second night…

In the mouth, a lighter-weight wine with moderate intensity and fine tannins. A raspy acid line on attack. Black cherries and a bit of herbaceous leafiness on the back palate. Medium length.

Rewarding, easy drinking.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight Aug 24th

Grasshopper Rock PN 2010

From the Cellar: Grasshopper Rock Earnscleugh Vineyard Pinot Noir Central Otago 2010 – $$

This Pinot Noir was the top wine at that Under-$30 NZ Pinot Noir tutored tasting I wrote about recently. It was then included in the Over-$30 NZ Pinot Noir tasting that followed, and showed very well in that company also.

From their website, “Grasshopper Rock is one of the world’s southern most vineyards, established in 2003 and dedicated exclusively to pinot noir.[ ] The vineyard is situated on Earnscleugh Road, across the Clutha River from Alexandra. The site enjoys high sunshine hours by day and very cool temperatures by night and is sufficiently harsh and difficult to make the vines work their hardest.”


Champion Wine of the Show Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2012

Champion Pinot Noir Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2012

Cuisine magazine Top New Zealand Pinot Noir 2012

and, now….Deep carmine blush…13.9% alc.

Bright floral aromatics – red cherries and pink roses. Hint of thyme, with some gamey savouriness and spice.

Red berry fruits on the front palate, a bright line of acid, complexity and layering on the mid-palate, and a long finish with spice. I see slight under-ripeness at the death which I guess is the quid pro quo for the florality on bouquet.

Bright and forward. A wine to think about and savour, and a very good expression of Pinot Noir at an affordable price.


Sticky Bottle

Wine bidon

Following Nibali’s expulsion from the Vuelta a Espana for getting a ‘sticky bottle’ tow by his team car, he might prefer one of these bidons to help dull the pain…

Straight to the Pool Room – August 2015

Pool Room Aug 2015

My purchases from the recent Elephant Hill Reserves Release tasting:

Elephant Hill Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – $$$ – Drink 2018-2021

Elephant Hill Syrah 2014 – $$ – Drink 2018-2024

Elephant Hill Syrah Reserve 2013 – $$$ – Drink 2018-2023



What’s in the glass tonight Aug 22nd

Wiffen Pinot Noir 2009

From the Cellar: Charles Wiffen Pinot Noir Marlborough 2009 – $$

This wine commended itself to me for two reasons:

Firstly, it bears one of the best-looking wine labels in all of NZ, in my opinion. Elegant and sophisticated, bearing an elegant crux mark, and the use of the colour burgundy sets it apart from the competition.

Secondly, this wine came out very well-reviewed at an Under-$30 NZ Pinot Noir tasting tutored by Geoff Kelly that I attended a couple of years ago. On the strength if how it showed then, and being great value for money, I bought this bottle and stowed it away under the house…

From their website, “The Wiffen family have owned their Marlborough property, St. Clair, since 1907. [ ] Situated on the southern side of the Wairau Valley floor, the property has free draining alluvial soils with some pockets of richer soil. [ ] The vineyard now totals 50 hectares, producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Merlot, Pinot Noir and we have new plantings of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer.”

And here it is…

Carmine colour…14% alc.

Lovely and floral aromas in the glass. Savoury, with black cherries and dark chocolate notes. This savoury nose developed further on the second night, with a pleasant meaty character underpinning the whole. Nice.

In the mouth, black cherries again, good ripeness and body, with a spicy pepper and fine tannin finish. Not particularly long.

Good varietal expression from Marlborough. A lovely wine.

VG 4

Human Error.

Human error

Someone made a boo-boo. One of Wellington’s leading supermarkets is serving a  five-day alcohol ban after selling to two 16-year-olds who showed their genuine passports. No wine sales here today, then.

Elephant Hill Tasting – Aug 2015

Elephant Hill tasting

M shouted me to this tasting at Regional Wines and Spirits hosted by Richard Sherriff. I tried this producer’s Syrah after a Taupo Cycle Challenge a couple of years back and I was really impressed at what they were doing. So I was well pleased to be invited along!

Elephant Hill is owned by the Weiss family. It is a boutique producer of sustainably-produced hand-crafted wines, located on the Te Awanga coast of Hawkes Bay. It produces about 20,000 cases PA at present. I am told it also boasts a fine restaurant, which features dishes well-paired to the wines. The site is named for a life-size teak sculpture of an elephant the owners brought back from a trip to the sub-continent. As you do.

Elephant Hill has three vineyards – Te Awanga with coastal shingle and clay, Gimblett Gravels with inland stony gravels, and Bridge Pa Triangle with inland alluvial and red metal soils.

The wines were poured in advance, non-blind. They were presented by winemaker Steve Skinner and Marketing Manager Vince Labat.

E H Viognier Te Awanga 2014 – No malo, small barrel ferment, short time on lees. 13.5%. Steve admitted that they (EH) liked a cooler climate style of wine. The Viognier grapes were planted in 2007, the estate’s oldest vines. It is a fickle grape to grow, with ripening being problematic. Apparently M. Chapoutier has said, “Making Viognier is an act of Charity”.  EH fight to keep the alcohols from going over the top, and maintaining lovely aromatics. I saw good fruit aromas here – mandarin, passionfruit, nectarines. There was ginger spice and mandarin in the mouth, dry, with a citrus burst and some salinity. It’s an easy Viognier, not oily. I liked it. 3+

E H Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Te Awanga 2014 – They say Reserve designation refers to more time spent in the vineyard and winery. A simple wine picked at optimal ripeness. Fermented in old oak puncheons, wild yeasts, with lees complexity.  Herbaceous nose with some tomato stalk character. Food friendly. In a Sancerre style. To taste – a strong line of citrus, refreshing green apples, lean and elegant. Others remarked about liveliness and saltiness (the end rows are only 25m from the ocean…). I thought this was great. 4

E H Chardonnay 2014 – Burgundian whole bunch pressed. Fermented 11 months in 25% new oak barrels, wild yeasts, on lees, no malo treatment.  The vintage was slightly warmer than 2013. I saw a very fine nose. There was richness and delicacy, biscuity notes, vanilla and golden fruit. It was delicious to taste too – open and fine and with a light touch. Very good. 4+

E H Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – From vines planted in 2003. Exceptional vintage. Wild fermented in oak, more lees complexity, no malo treatment. I noted a hint of apparent reductive character, but this blew off as I swirled. My notes said: powerful, rich, beautiful Chardonnay. Luscious viscous richness. Elegance. A 12 yr wine. Fantastic. 5

E H Syrah 2014 – Syrah is Elephant Hill’s flagship variety. Here it is a blend of grapes from the Te Awanga, Gimblett and Bridge Pa sites. Very ripe fruit, soft and sweet on nose. Still young, tastes young. Remarkable 32.5g dry extract. Taste is reminiscent of the E Guigal CdR 2010s I have been drinking. A very exciting Syrah. Will look fantastic in a few years, very good now. 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2013 – Here the blend of grapes from the Te Awanga and Gimblett Gravels sites, with 1% Viognier co-fermented. This glass was poured three hours before the tasting.  A big black carmine colour, it shows vanilla, elegance, density of fruit on the nose. Still a baby, but made to last. To taste, tannic and rich, rich black plums, held together refined and closed. Very Good 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2009 – This was a treat. An older bottle. Made from EL Chave clone grapes. Almost meaty character, overlaid with gorgeous fruit flavours, almost feminine. Silky tannic structure, elegance in the glass. Just superb. 5

E H Merlot Malbec 2013 – A young wine from young vines (2011). Trophy Champion NZ Red Wine at the Int. Wine Challenge. Eminently drinkable. Soft, perfumed, dark fruits. Approachable tannins. Sweetness on palate, coming from low cropping 4

E H Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 – A blend of 64% Merlot, 35% Cabernet and 1% Malbec. Rich, tannic, mouthfilling and mouthcoating. Dense. Will be really worth watching as it ages. I didn’t pay too much attention to this wine as I was still reeling from the Syrahs and Chardonnays…still, 4+

What a great tasting. I was very impressed with the breadth and quality of the wines we were offered. I already have a ’13 Syrah in the Pool Room, and am keen to supplement it with a brace of these…

Beervana 2015

Me at Beervana 2015

A few mates and I joined hundreds of fellow beer drinkers at the final evening session of Beervana 2015.

From their website: Beervana is a two day celebration of beer like no other. This August beer lovers from all over descend on Westpac Stadium to sample the latest offerings from breweries here in New Zealand, Australia and a few handpicked from around the world. Be enlightened with informative seminars on how to appreciate craft beer even more than you already do. Budding beer geeks get your notebooks ready to fill in flavour notes and discuss mouth feel with friends or possibly with the very person that brewed it.

There were hundreds of beers to try – IPAs, APAs, stouts, porters, ales, white beers, red beers, ciders. There was no way I was going to make any inroads into that! So rather than subject my palate to too broad a range of styles, I made the call to restrict myself to buying tasters (75ml serves) of only English-style ales, preferably hand-pulled. I drink India Pale Ales and American Pale Ales usually when I drink beer, so this was a chance for me to try something different.

Now, it didn’t work out totally that way, but I gave it a good crack! Here is a list of the brewers and their beers I tried:

Garage Project


Garage Project – Artful Dodger – English pale ale with UK hops Jester and Archer.

Garage Project – Los Lobos APA with Simco, Amarillo and Citra hops. Golden colour. Very good.

8 Wired Brewing – Hopwired Unchained – Brown ale, oak aged for two years with brettanomyces

Kereru Brewing Company– Old Red Oak – dark amber ale – handpull

Te Aro Brewing Co – Schoolmasters English Bitter – handpull

Renaissance Brewing – Eng vs NZ ESB – all English ingredients, floral hop aroma. Very good.

Renaissance Brewing – NZ vs Eng ESB – 100% NZ ingredients. Floral hops, bitter finish.

Yeastie Boys – His Majesty 2014 – triple stout porter.

North End Brewery Co – Old Island Burton Ale –  old style of British ale, well hopped – handpull. Very Good.

North End Brewery Co – Rivage Brux – Sav Blanc barrel-aged farmhouse ale with Brett, dry-hopped with Wai-iti hops.

Townsend – Bodger My Badger – session ale with Riwaka hops – handpull

Emersons Brewery – Stagger Lee – brown ale with lots of hops and malt

Mac’s – Smokehouse – ale with cherrywood smoked malt, Sauvin and Moyueka hops (buy a Taster, get a free beard trim! And I did!)

Lakeman Brewing Co – Black Jack Stout – full bodied with roasted barley and raisins. Very good.

Lakeman Brewing Co – Lahar APA – grapefruit finish. Very good.


Most of the above beers were between 5 – 6.5% alc. Some favs were the Lola Lobos, Black Jack Stout, and Lahar APA beers, but the best in my opinion was the Old Island Burton from North End Brewery Co, brewed by Kieran Hazlett-Moore.

Interestingly, a lot of brewers were showcasing stronger ales aged in oak wine barrels for up to two years, (usually Pinot Noir barrels) which were infected with Brett. This must be A Thing. I thought this approach produced flavours that were metallic and thin, and not what I think beer should taste like (I tipped those glasses out without finishing them). But hey, I wouldn’t think of putting oysters in stout, but that works…


And while we were drinking, the TVs were all showing NZ thumping Australia in the second Bledisloe Test, so that helped the attendees general joie de vivre (photo via theguardian.com). I also ate some great food – especially the succulent roast beef served on a large Yorkshire Pud with a creamy horseradish sauce over – yum!

Even better, I finished the evening in a composed fashion, with money still in my pocket, and I woke with a clear head in the morning.

Craft Beer is Good For You.


The Drops of God

japanese wine2

I was cruising Facebook today when I saw a post from Ata Rangi, a wine producer in Martinborough. They had posted a photograph they took of a page from a Japanese manga comic that featured a bottle of their Pinot Noir, with some characters drinking the wine and talking about it. In Japanese. They went out to the FB community for help with translating the text…

Various responses came back say things like, “Although there are calm than California Pinot Noir, and Pineapple, mango, a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg, and Drank so far are mixed few tropical fruit that didn’t feel little to Bourgogone.” Quite literal translations I think, and ungrammatical…

I was intrigued and did a bit of Google stalking. I translated the French text from the comic title page. It turns out this comic is a bit of a thing…

japanese wine

From Wikipedia: The Drops of God (神の雫 Kami no Shizuku?) is a Japanese manga series about wine. It is created and written by Tadashi Agi, a pseudonym employed by creative team of sister and brother Yuko and Shin Kibayashi,[1][2] with artwork by Shu Okimoto. All the wines that appear in the comic are authentic.

The series was first published in November 2004 in Weekly Morning magazine in Japan. However, it ended on June 2014, with the final volume out in July.[3] It is also published in Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Since April 2008, volumes have also been published in France by Glénat. As of December 2007 the series had registered sales of more than 500,000 copies.[1]

Vertical Inc. is publishing the series in North America under the title The Drops of God. After publishing four volumes (covering the first eight Japanese volumes and the first two Apostles), the fifth volume jumped ahead to the story arc for the Seventh Apostle (volumes 22 and 23 of the Japanese edition), published under the name The Drops of God: New World. Vertical stated that this was done “by author request” and urged readers to “tell all your friends about the series so there will be second and third seasons to fill in the gap

Plot: Kanzaki Shizuku (神咲 ) is a junior employee in a Japanese beverages company mainly focusing on selling beers. As the story opens, he receives news that his father, from whom he is estranged, has died. His father was the world-renowned wine critic Kanzaki Yutaka (神咲 豐多香), who owned a vast and famous wine collection. Summoned to the family home, a splendid European style mansion, to hear the reading of his father’s will, Shizuku learns that, in order to take ownership of his legacy, he must correctly identify, and describe in the manner of his late father, thirteen wines, the first twelve known as the “Twelve Apostles” and the thirteenth known as the “Drops of God” (“Kami no Shizuku” in the original Japanese edition and “Les Gouttes de Dieu” in the French translation), that his father has described in his will. He also learns that he has a competitor in this, a renowned young wine critic called Toomine Issei (遠峰 一青), who his father has apparently recently adopted as his other son.

Shizuku has never drunk wine, in part a reaction against the ruling passion of his late father, nor had any previous knowledge about wines. However, with strong senses of taste and smell, and an uncanny ability to describe his experiences from those senses, Shizuku submerges himself in the world of wine and tries to solve the mysteries of the 13 wines and defeat Issei. In this, he is also helped by knowledge gained from his time as a child with his father, and supported by his friends (including trainee sommelier Shinohara Miyabi (紫野原みやび)) and colleagues in the newly formed wine department of his company, which he now joins.

To win each round of the competition to identify the 13 mystery wines, Shizuku and Issei have to present a correct choice of wine and a justification of the choice which most closely matches Yutaka’s description of the wine in his will. The judge is Yutaka’s old friend Robert Doi (土肥 ロベール). So far, the identities of ten “Apostles” have been disclosed.

First: Shizuku’s choice

Second:  Issei’s choice


First Apostle

 2001 Georges Roumier Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses

 1999 Georges Roumier Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Amoureuses


Second Apostle

 2000 Château Palmer

 1999 Château Palmer


Third Apostlea

 2000 Santa Duc Gigondas

 1981 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape



 2000 Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée da Capo

 2000 Pégaü Châteauneuf-du-Pape Cuvée da Capo


Fourth Apostle

 1992 Château Lafleur

 1994 Château Lafleur


Fifth Apostle

 2000 Marc Colin Montrachet

 2000 Michel Colin-Deléger Chevalier-Montrachet


Sixth Apostle

 2001 Luciano Sandrone Barolo Cannubi Boschis

 2001 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Falleto


 Seventh Apostle

 2003 Glaetzer Amon-Ra Shiraz Barossa Valley

 2003 Sine Qua Non The Inaugural (Eleven Confessions) Syrah Central Coast AVA


Eighth Apostle

 Jacques Selosse Cuvée Exquise NV

 2000 Billecart-Salmon Cuvée Elisabeth Salmon Brut Rosé


Ninth Apostle

 2005 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio di Sotto

 2005 Brunello di Montalcino Poggio di Sotto


Tenth Apostle

 2002 Grands Échezeaux Grand cru Robert Sirugue

 2007 Grands Échezeaux Grand cru Robert Sirugue


A 2007 Reuters feature asserted that “wine industry experts believe part of the manga’s appeal is that it teaches readers enough about wine to understand the drink and impress their friends, but does so in an entertaining way”.

 In the July 2009 Decanter publication of “The Power List” ranking of the wine industry’s individuals of influence, Shin and Yuko Kibayashi placed at number 50, citing that the work was “arguably the most influential wine publication for the past 20 years”.

Wow. There are some flash wines on that list. I would love to know what the Twelfth Apostle and the Drop of God wines were…

What’s in the glass tonight Aug 10th

Beronia Rioja Reserveva 2008

From the Cellar: Beronia Rioja Reserva Spain 2008 – $$

D, a mate of mine, and I went to a Negociants tasting a wee while back, and I chose a couple of bottles of this wine to bring home with me afterwards for the Pool Room. However, being a 2008, it was already quite well-hung (in a game-hunting butchery kind of way), so I saw no issue in knocking the top off this bottle sooner rather that later…

I recall from the tasting that I liked this wine because it was well-advanced, with no faults, and exhibited a great sense of place. Here in this part of the New World, older local examples are hard to come by. If I do find them, I don’t know their storage provenance, and I have had some that have tasted stewed or oxidised through poor cellaring (I am guessing). So this obviously dilutes my pleasure, masks whatever characters of terroir the wine may impart, and the risk puts me off! So when I am offered a chance to buy an older wine out of the box, from a reputable supplier, and at a good price, then I am very keen to.

Pitch dark crimson colour. Browning at the edges. 14% alc.

A very developed tertiary nose. I saw licorice, dried fruits, vanilla, spice and cloves. Lovely!

In the mouth the wine was dense, with receded purple stonefruit flavours. There was licorice on palate too.  A meaty character. There was oak and vanilla, to be expected. Good tannins, not rough, with a long spicy finish. Fabulous.