What’s in the glass tonight January 25th – Syrah

Craggy Range Syrah 2010

From the Cellar: Craggy Range SV Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2010 – $$

Inky plum. 13.5%.

A Geoff Kelly recommendation and it shows. Wow. Gorgeously floral. Dark fruits and pepper intense and powerful. Smells ripe and inviting and delightful.

In the mouth it is full and so flavoursome. Lovely pepper kick at the back. Sweet round fruit at the front. Very northern Rhone. Dense Fine tannins.

This so convinces me to hold on to our Syrahs for a min 5 years each. Hopefully the mice don’t to take a liking to any more of my wine bottle labels…

VG 4+

What’s in the glass tonight January 24th – Albariño

Aronui Albarino 2014

Aronui Single Vineyard Albariño Nelson 2014 – $$

Pale straw colour, 13%.

This wine smells forward and crisp, very attractive apple & citrus.

A refreshing dry wine to drink as well. Bracing acidity, salinity, and hard white peach flavours. A grunty, strong finish. Long and mouthwatering. Perhaps a little too dry for my taste.

Good for a summer’s evening on the grass listening to an outdoor concert.

BTG 3+

What’s in the glass tonight January 23rd – Riesling

Framingham F-Series riesling 2010

From the Cellar: Framingham F-Series Old Vine Riesling Marlborough 2010 – $$$

Great Germanic-style label. Bought from the Winery. 12.5% alc

Green gold colour. Just gorgeous.

Luscious fruit ‘n phenolics, tropical fruit aromas, lychees, fresh crusty bread, and that fantastic Riesling ‘tang’. This has it all going on. On a hot arvo it can’t be beat!

In the mouth: an off-dry style of Riesling. Delicious fruit flavours: Braeburrn apples meet pineapple lemon ice blocks. A hit of citrus, refreshing and mouthwatering.

This is a simple Riesling, but still expressive. It shows off what we look for in wine – balance and structure – which in this case is the right sweetness balanced by the right acidity.

Abso lovely.


Straight to the Pool Room – Jan 2016

Maude Pinot Noir 2014

Just one bottle for the long goodbye this month. I put my money instead into rebuilding my road bike in time for the Taranaki race on the 30th.

But it’s a good one – a great value fine Central Otago Pinot Noir recommended in the December 2015 issue of Decanter..

Maude Pinot Noir Central Otago 2014 – $$ – Drink 2017-2026.

Cameron Douglas sez: Rating: 18.25/20pts Dark cherry, plum and dried raspberry, full of energy and tension, with oak spices. Dry, generous and fruity, fine silky tannins [] tense and flavourful.

What’s in the glass tonight January 15th – Chardonnay

Villa Maria CS Chardonnay 2010

From the Cellar: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Chardonnay Marlborough 2011 – $$

Pale Gold colour. 13.5% alc.

A big nose. Cashew, honey, peach, pear. Warmth that cloaks a backbone of citrus. Poised, Refined.

In the mouth, I see lean golden fruit and citrus flavours. The wine is linear and long, graceful and powerful. There are nutty, crunchy characters on the mid-palate and a strong line of acidity at the finish.

The nose shows some great development in a short time. There isn’t enough fruit weight or overall acidity to make this a very long-lived example, but it does what it does when it did very well. (smiley face!)

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight January 8th – Picpoul

Dom. Felines Jourdan 2013

Domaine Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2013 – $$

Summertime is getting hot. Time for another look at this hot-weather white with another year under the hood.

13%. Light straw. Distinctive light aromas of lemon and pear. Delightfully fruity to taste, crisp, with a slightly bitter finish like a Pinot Gris. This is great value drinking while re-painting furniture.

VG 4

A Vineyard on the Edge – MS Rippon Vineyard tasting, November 30th 2015

MS Rippon Tasting 2015

This was the final tasting of 2015 for the Magnum Society, and a special one also, because the Society invited Nick Mills the winemaker at Rippon Vineyard to speak and present his wines.

Rippon sits beside Lake Wanaka, on the edge of the Clutha Basin in Central Otago. It is way far south. It kisses the Southern Alps. The area is about as ‘on the edge’ as you can get in New Zealand for growing and ripening grapes.

Rippon is a family-owned wine grower and producer. The business started as a sheep and stock station, and when Rolfe Mills the previous patriarch wanted to expand the land-use of the property, he experimented with growing a wide range of vinifera until he landed on the varieties that he thought best suited the site and climat.

Nick has carried on his work. Nick is passionate about his land, and its history, and about  biodynamic farming. He is also incredibly driven towards finding a way for his property to pay its way, and remain in use as arable, food-producing land. You see, Rippon is ‘on the edge’ for another reason – Wanaka is one of NZ’s pre-eminent tourist locations, and the land along the lakeside has become so valuable, and so coveted as sites for expensive holiday homes, that it is practically uneconomic to farm based solely on return on capital land value. I have been there and it is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth.

We were presented with the following wines:

Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2013

Rippon “Emma’s Block” Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2013

Rippon “Tinker’s Field” Mature Vine Pinot Noir 2013

Rippon Pinot Noir 2005 En Jeroboam and donated for the tasting by Nick

Rippon “Rippon” Mature Vine Riesling 2011

Rippon Gewurztraminer 2015

As usual, we tasted first without, and then with, food.

The tasting was very interesting to me. I won’t go through them wine-by-wine, as there are Society members far better skilled to comment on the quality and characters of the wines than me, elsewhere. I looked at them instead as a total expression of the site’s capability, strengths and terroir. And I came up with a potentially contentious conclusion…

The pinots are all quality products. The vineyard management, cropping, and vinification is bio-dymanic and first-rate. What is in the bottle I expect to be the best wine that can be wrought from this site. The Tinkers Field Pinot Noir 2013 was a stand-out, as was the Pinot Noir 2005. The eponymous Rippon Pinot Noir 2013 was a great example of a house style. But not one of these wines blew me away as I had expected to be. They weren’t as perfumed or as brambly or as dense as I have come to expect and treasure in a beautiful Central Otago Pinot Noir. What’s going on here? Is the site not as suited to this grape as I was informed?

You see, when I tried the Gewurztraminer 2015 I was blown away. This was easily the best Gewurz I have tried in ages. It was delicious, perfumed, expressive. Then it was followed up by the Riesling 2011. Again, delicious, superlative. Many of the tasters agreed. A truly fine wine.

What if the Rippon site is best suited to growing fine aromatics, in the Alsatian or German mold? What if this is the one place in NZ where these varieties can be grown to the utmost extent of their beauty, precision and expression? And rival the northern hemisphere? Should Nick seize the opportunity and forge a new path towards being a sole monopole grand cru aromatic white producer?

I guess not. Wine growing is a business. Buyers of New World wines are followers of fashion and marketing. NZ Pinot Noir is hot. Buyers will pay more for it. Whereas Riesling has nowhere near the same demand or $ attached to it. And I expect you can barely give some Gewurtztraminers away. So producers like Nick are in an invidious position. They have to follow the money, and do the best they can.

What I can do as a consumer is to buy Rippon pinots and support their endeavour, and buy their Rieslings and Gewurtztraminers for their beauty. I urge you to do the same.

MS Rippon Tasting 2015 2


What’s in the glass tonight January 7th – Syrah

John Forrest Syrah 2009

John Forrest Collection Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2009

A wedding gift wine. Deep carmine. 13.5%. Expressive and savoury nose, with red fruit, matchbox, white pepper and forest floor aromas. Lovely.

Well-structured in the mouth with good (but not over)ripeness, plenty of flavour and fruit weight, crunchy tannins. A mouthwatering and spicy finish.  Stylish.

Delicious. Another 4 years left in this baby, easy.





My beloved L is Australian. This Christmas she took me and the kids back to her homeland for a big family holiday. We had Christmas at her brother’s big house in northern NSW, and then spent a week in Queensland on the GC. We had a fantastic time with friends and family, enjoying swimming pools, BBQs, beaches, theme parks, and river rockpool jumping.

It was a great opportunity to try a bunch of unfamiliar Aussie wines. We had no inside knowledge on any of the wines we bought. L and I just liked the labels…

Ad Hoc Chardonnay

Ad Hoc Hen and Chickens Chardonnay Pemberton WA 2014 – 13% Average, some citrus, not as oaky as the staff claimed in the Bottle-o.

Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro

Penfolds Bin 2 Shiraz Mataro SA 2013 – 14.5%. Soft ripe black plum stonefruit firm tannins refined. Heaps of extract. I have never tried a wine made from the Mataro grape.

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz

Wolf Blass Grey Label Shiraz McLaren Vale 2012 – 14.5. Velvety and dense nose of spicy fruit and dark choc. Great structure, fruit weight, tannins and acid. Long. Choc. Very impressive wine. Would be fantastic from 2017+.

Butterball Chardonnay

Evans & Tate Butterball Chardonnay Margaret River WA 2015 – 13.5%. Fine tropical melon and nectarine, round soft and creamy with a subdued acid line.

Cassegrain Verdelho 2015

Cassegrain White Label Verdelho Central Ranges Hunter Valley NSW 2015 – 12.5%. Fragrant Light fruity and vibrant. Good acidity. Delicious

Grapevine Shiraz 2014

McWilliams On The Grapevine Shiraz NSW 2014 – 14%. Rhone-ish but bigger. Soft and full. Savoury on nose. Peppery spice. Licorice. Fat.

Ninth Island NV

Ninth Island Sparkling NV Tasmania – A blend of Chardonnay Pinot Noir Pinot Meunier. I’m guessing in a very Brut style. Crisp attack with vanilla creamy mid-palate citrus finish

Mad Fish Chardonnay 2015

Mad Fish Gold Turtle Chardonnay Margaret River 2015 – 13%. Light pears, somewhat bitter overall. Some may say elegant, I say thin. This was released too young.

Pepper Tree Chardonnay 2013

Pepper Tree Chardonnay Orange 2013 – 13%. No notes.

De Bortoli Shiraz 2014

De Bortoli Gumboot Shiraz Heathcote 2014 – 14.5% Round warm nose of dark fruit. Lean and stalky flavours and mouthfeel to begin with. Grippy tannins. Licorice. Bitter finish. I liked this more than the softer, fatter McWlliams, but it would have benefitted from the sweetness of riper fruit.

Penfolds Reserve Chardonnay 2014

Penfolds Reserve Chardonnay 2014 – 12% Adelaide austere refreshing light lemon citrus flavours. Lightly aromatic.


Champagne Bollinger at the revolving restaurant atop the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Delicious! Local sparkling doesn’t come close.

My New Zealand Wine of the Year 2015


On reflection it felt to me that I had a somewhat subdued blogging year. I cut down on the amount of time I was spending on the blog to free up time for other matters, and also drank wines which I had either blogged about before, or had no interest in writing up. In any case, my posting output was down.

Still, there were a great many highlights of my vinous year. For a starter, I really got into reading Decanter, and began to look forward to the monthly call from my newsagent telling me that my latest copy was ready to collect instore. I learnt a bunch of stuff about all types of wine, and enjoyed reading the tasting notes for all the different ways the writers describe what is essentially the same stuff. I also got a kick out of whenever a New Zealand wine featured prominently in the magazine (which was surprisingly often). And I began wishing (like you all reading this) that fine Bordeaux, Burgundies and Barolos were far more affordable for someone of average means like me, cos they all taste so boss, and I am missing out!

Nevertheless, there were a few new European varietals that passed my lips for the first time – a Vouvray Chenin Blanc, a Picpoul, a Cahors Malbec, a Cote Du Provence Rose and a Fiano.

I attended a few great tastings during the year, so big thanks to Regional Wines & Spirits and Glengarry Wines & Spirits for the opportunities (one downside was missing out on tasting that old Petrus). I was also pleased and honoured to be invited to join the good folks of the Magnum Society for several hugely enjoyable and educational tastings.

Finally, and this was a biggie, I was pleased to see that the Pool Room climat settled down, and started to produce a reliable stream of good bottles for the table.

Oh, and I got married!!!! 

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My New Zealand Wine of the Year Longlist

As usual, I have combed the year’s posts on WITGT and pulled out the New Zealand wines I scored as either Outstanding 5 or Better Than Very Good BTVG 4+ along with a selection of my notes at the time. It turned out to be a long list…

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Dry Riesling Marlborough 2013

TerraVin Soloist Pinot Noir Marlborough 2009

Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah Hawkes Bay 2010

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2007 – 5Gorgeous bouquet of soft ripe red fruits, voilets, lots of vanilla and fresh baking notes. I could sniff this all day. In the mouth it is smooth and balanced – ripe luscious soft black plums – great extract and density, just what I am looking for in a cool-climate syrah. Top stuff.

Carrick Excelsior Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago 2007 – 5Perfect ripeness. No vegetal or metallic characters. The wine has a rich velvety texture that is totally involving. Tannins are firm. Length is out through the door into the car park.

Pegasus Bay Riesling Waipara 2009

Craggy Range Kidnappers Vineyard Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2013

Te Mata Estate Awatea Cab Merlot Hawkes Bay 2005

Te Mata Estate Merlot Cabernets 2013

Te Mata Estate Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – 5I smell white flowers, fresh apples, oak-softened fruit aromas. Fresh crisp concentrated fruit on initial attack, and a perfect finish of acidity and length.

Te Mata Estate Elston Chardonnay 2013

Te Mata Estate Awatea Cabernets Merlot 2013

Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2013 – 5This is a huge quality wine. I can’t describe it and do it justice. There is density and purity and red roses and richness and concentration and so much deep fruit and tannin attack

Te Mata Coleraine Hawkes Bay 1990 – 5 – Brambles, age evolved blackcurrants and plums, and old woodshed. Thinnish fruit in the mouth as expected (25 year old wine), but it opened up well in the glass and showed great quality, character and class. It stayed true in the glass over time. Lots to think about when nosing it. Leather and cedar notes.

Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay Martinborough Terrace 2012 – 5Effortless summer stonefruit, butterscotch and citrus. In the mouth there is balanced fruit, tannin and oak. Minerally and fresh in equal measure, with a gorgeous citrussy finish. Such easy drinking, with fruit weight and elegance. Absolutely perfect. Drink more, people, all of it. Because Chardonnay.

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir Martinborough 2008

Man O’ War Ironclad Waiheke 2008 – 5This wine was bloody marvellous. Deep and aromatic with an intense attack and soft smooth texture following on, and with nicely concentrated black fruit flavours and cedar and spice. Firm tannins and a fantastic finish. Age, grace and power.

Mills Reef Winery Syrah Elspeth 2013

Mission Estate Syrah Huchet 2013 – 5 – Fruity apple notes and citrus. Quite distinctive. Wonderful flavours, involving and powerful. A great individual expression of Syrah.  Grapefruit and orange zest characters, fresh, textural and sinuous

Matua Syrah Matheson Single Vineyard 2013 – 5 – Leggy and wonderfully floral. Amazingly rich and lengthy. Pots of fruit weight and goodness. I loved this wine. Intensely perfumed with violets. Reminds of hermitage. Beautiful components

Elephant Hill Syrah Airarata 2013

Villa Maria Syrah Reserve 2013

Fromm Brancott Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009

Matua Valley Reserve Syrah Hawkes Bay 2010

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2009 – 5 – Brilliant bouquet of gooseberry, lemon zest, lime and crisp apple. Oaked and age-softened in the mouth. Balanced acidity and fresh fruit. Mouthwatering and zesty, but shows perfect restraint. Not too brash. A burst of sunshine smiles.

Bridge Pa Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2009

Vidal Reserve Syrah Hawkes Bay 2010

Ascension Vineyard The Benediction Merlot Hawkes Bay 2010

Kumeu River Coddington SV Chardonnay Auckland 2010

Elephant Hill Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2014

Elephant Hill Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – 5 –  Powerful, rich, beautiful Chardonnay. Luscious viscous richness. Elegance. A 12 yr wine. Fantastic.

Elephant Hill Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014

Elephant Hill Syrah Reserve Hawkes Bay 2013

Elephant Hill Syrah Reserve Hawkes Bay 2009 – 5This was a treat. Made from EL Chave clone grapes. Almost meaty character, overlaid with gorgeous fruit flavours, almost feminine. Just superb.

Elephant Hill Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve Hawkes Bay 2013

Grasshopper Rock Earnscleugh Vineyard Pinot Noir Central Otago 2010

Martinborough Pinot Noir Martinborough 2009

Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Martinborough 2009

Escarpment Chardonnay Martinborough 2012

Escarpment Pahi Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013

Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 – 5Spectacular in structure and depth. A fine blend of balance and power. Dusty and dry, fruity and powerful. Lots of ‘stuffing’ in this wine. Gorgeous, I was blown away.

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2013 – 5Peaches and apricots, firmness and purity on the nose, oak influence, delightful to smell and savour. The ripeness showed on palate, with purity of fruit concentration, ripeness, freshness and sharpness. A high-def wine. Superb.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2013 – 5Bouyant, and shows such energy! An explosion of bright citrus with charm and such persistance of flavour.

Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 1er Cru 2013 – 5A clear, linear expression of superb quality of winemaking, site and fruit. There is more texture, fruit weight and density here of all the previous KR wines. Outstanding.

Gillman Cabernet Sauvignon Matakana 2008

Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay 2007

Rockburn Pinot Noir Central Otago 2010

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There were a large number of delicious overseas wines I loved: Joseph Angel Gully Shiraz Clarendon McLaren Vale 2011, Joseph Moda Cab Sav Merlot McLaren Vale 2011, Chartron Clos de La Pucelle 2012, Bonneau Corton Charlemagne GC 2010, Alex Gambal Puligny Montrachet 2011, Finca Allende Rioja Calvario 2005, Beronia Rioja Reserva 2008, Dom. Faiveley Gevrey Chamb. Les Cazietiers 1er Cru 2011, Wolf Blass Grey Label Cabernet Sauvignon Langhorne Creek Australia 1975. Alas they were out of the running for my WOTY.

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Well, It was wonderful to see how so many of my cellar wines performed. Very satisfying. I enjoyed some stellar Pinots, Syrahs, Bordeaux-style reds, Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs (and one Riesling!). So many it was hard to pick the shortlist:

Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay Martinborough Terrace 2012

Man O’ War Ironclad Waiheke 2008

Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 1er Cru 2013

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013.

Martinborough Chardonnay 2012

My New Zealand Wine of the Year:

Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay Martinborough Terrace 2012

NZWOTY Runner-up:

Man O’ War Ironclad Waiheke 2008