What’s in the glass tonight March 27th – Various reds

Escarpment Pahi PN 2010

From the Cellar: Escarpment Pahi SV Pinot Noir Martinborough 2010 – $$$

G came around tonight for dinner with L and I. As promised, I cracked a bottle of Pinot Noir from the cellar to match the bottle he bought for our wedding last year. It was, alas, not up to the occasion…

…Vegetal, stalky, angular & thin. A true cool climate example, but showed light fruit, less than ripe, certainly not luscious, and showed green. A MAJOR disappointment. I do recall, at the 2012 tasting from which I bought this wine, that I was charmed by the floral femininity of the wine, but that I was the only one in the room thus charmed…therefore; lesson: note the ‘ wisdom of crowds’ in future…

82 points

Te Mata Various reds - Graeme N

Te Mata Woodthorpe Vineyard Syrah Viognier Hawkes Bay 2003

G supplied two bottles for dinner, ex an auction he had recently bought at. What a treat!

This wine was savoury and spicy, with white pepper notes, sweet ripe fruit, balanced tannins and fruit. Yum. A total delight!

94 points

Te Mata Woodthorpe Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Hawkes Bay 2006

An upfront nose of vanilla and baking spice. Balanced fruit, structured tannins, licorice and cocoa. Dense and flavoursome.

91 points

Straight to the Pool Room – March 2016

Pool Room March 2016

For the cellar: a couple of stellar and age-worthy Felton Road wines from a recent tasting, and a Martinborough Savvy from a new producer that totally charmed me at an instore tasting recently …

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay Central Otago 2014 – $$$ – Drink 2019-2029.

Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling Central Otago 2015 – $$ – Drink 2018-2026.

Grava Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2015 – $$ – Drink 2017-2020.

Felton Road Tasting with Blair Walter

Felton Road tasting 2

Felton Road at Regional Wines & Spirits – February 23 2016 – with Richard Sheriff

This was probably the best tasting I have ever attended…

Blair Walter is the winemaker for Felton Road. I believe he leads one of New Zealand’s few producers that could claim Premier Cru status if we had it. He honoured us all who attended the tasting by raiding his library and presenting mini verticals of his Rieslings, Chardonnays, and Pinot Noirs. The tasting accommodated 30 seats, and sold out in 25 minutes. I was one of the lucky ones.

Blair runs his place like a clos. He caps production at anywhere from 9000-12000 case PA. The owner does not look for growth or acquisitions. Felton Road aims to produce the best wine they can off their land, and bio-dynamically since 2005. Demand outstrips supply. They sell all that they make – 75% is exported. They have a strong and loyal customer base within New Zealand. There is a waiting list for Block allocations. You must request an appointment to visit the Cellar Door.

Here is what we tasted:

Felton Road tasting 1

Felton Road Riesling Bannockburn 2015 – At 8.44% measured alc, this produced a small problem for Blair – the wines were too low in alcohol to be accepted into the EU as ‘wine’, (or something legislative/regulatory like that), and the shipment had to be returned to New Zealand! Pale green straw colour. Off dry. Sweet nose opens up in the glass. Sweet attack, bracing fresh apples – delightful. Germanic in influence. Very balanced acid with fruit. So approachable now, can age for 25 years. I bought some of this.

Felton Road Riesling Bannockburn 2010 – Pale green straw colour. Sweet again on the nose, I smelt Golden Delicious apples amongst everything else. Balanced in the mouth, smooth, notes of honey, not as acidic as the ‘15

Felton Road Riesling 2005 – Pale gold green straw colour. Sweet, big, bold, bracing. Lots and lots of flavour. The wine has a gorgeous aged tang about it – so Riesling! Drinking fabulously.

Felton Road Riesling 1997 – Brilliant gold colour. A funky nose, slightly bitter and burnt. Lean, receding ripe fallen orchard fruit, biscuits, surprising acidity. Stunning.

Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2 2014 – Pale straw colour. An old-world nose, lean, elegant, green citrus notes. Minerally austere stone fruit to taste. Good depth of fruit, quite linear. Tight, crisp, salty finish. Oyster shells. I bought this too.

Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2 2011 – Pale straw. An European nose again, remarkable. I haven’t see this so markedly in a New Zealand white wine before. Notes of burnt match and flint. This is a cool climate wine – green leaf, lesser ripenes, mineral, austere. Like a Chablis. Showing some age development.

Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2 2007 – (served in Magnum) Pale straw colour. Made in oxidative conditions. Showing good development. Gorgeous floral notes on bouquet, also a ristic feel. Totally European in expression. Marvellous.

Felton Road Chardonnay 2001 – Developing straw gold colour. An old nose – showing caramel, cashews.  No oxidative characters. Solid fruit flavours, muscular, a strong backbone of acidity. A treasure in bottle. Totally remarkable.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2014 – Pinot ruby. Delicate sweet fruit, opening up in the glass as I write this. Subtle oak handling. Big ripe, soft flavours, freshness and ripe cherries. No green flavours. Delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2008 – Pinot ruby. Showing age development, warming and sweet manuka honey, very elegant, with savoury and savoir characters. Density and cleanliness of flavour, dark cherries and a hint of burnt tobacco. Big again.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2004 – Pinot ruby. This wine is truly ‘kicking’ – savoury, herbaceous, slight underripeness/green leaf & funk. Big body, density and acidity, & strong fruit expression. Aging wonderfully.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2004 – Pinot ruby. This wine was provided for tasting by a participant guest. This wine was more developed than the Block 5, and showed more fruit. It was gracious, rich and intense. Delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2001 – (served in Magnum) Pinot ruby, tending brown. Sweet tobacco, toffee, caramel on bouquet. Great acidity, quite advanced on the pinot flavour/age profile. Splendid fruit density and intensity. Another treasure in bottle.

*                                                     *                                                          *                                                     *

Across all their grape varieties I think Felton Road is the best producer of fine wines in New Zealand. They drink superbly when young, and they appear to age impeccably and reliably. The winemakers totally get their terroir. They make wines that are to be admired and emulated, coveted, and enjoyed, by drinkers, not collectors!

It was a total treat & privilege to be there.

Kia ora Blair and Richard.


What’s in the glass tonight March 25th – Sauvignon Blanc

Grava SB 2015

Grava Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2015 – $$

Grava is a brand-new winegrower and producer in Martinborough. They make a Savvy, a Riesling, and a Pinot Noir (natch). They have taken over an established vineyard, but I know not which one. The Grava Wines website is a single-page affair at present – no doubt this will evolve as their wines do.

I tried the first two varieties at an instore tasting a week back. The Sauvignon Blanc won me over immediately and I bought a bottle for the Pool Room, and one for the table.

12.5% alc. Nice to have a wine slightly lighter on the alcohol scale. Whole bunch pressed.

This wine is refined and restrained for its variety. The bouquet is clear elevated citrus, pear and gooseberry. What’s missing, but not lacking, is the assertive green capsicum notes of its southern counterparts. Very attractive.

Impressive in the mouth also – elegance and freshness, with sweet ripe fruit on attack, a citrus acid burst and passionfruit on the mid-palate, and a long acid/bitter finish. Terrific.

A distinctive and innovative label also – featuring a bunch of grapes on a white background but the grapes are replaced by grey stones. Clever.

93 points

What’s in the glass tonight March 16th – Saint-Chinian

Ch. Saint-Cels

Off Topic: Ch. Saint-Cels Saint-Chinian 2014 – $

Imported direct from the co-op by Regional Wines and Spirits.

Dark carmine. 13.5% alcohol.

Initial brooding tannic dark fruit and sweet confectionery on the nose.

In the mouth smooth and rich, with ripe fruit, licorice and cocoa characters, minerals and a bright spicy finish.

This was a bright cheery easy-drinking red with enough to interest the palate. On the 2nd night after standing in bottle, the wine evolved to show charming savoury pinot-like notes on the nose. Nice one.

85 points

What’s the score?


WITGT is moving to the 100 point wine scoring scale.

Decanter did it recently, and after publishing 480 posts, and giving the idea a lot of thought, I think I should too. My old 5-point scale is a bit too ‘broad brush’ and simplistic, and I think it is about time I swapped out my old adhoc scoring system to acknowledge more nuance in the wines that I taste.

Of course, it doesn’t mean I will be any more ‘right’ than before….

Happy Easter!

Straight to the Pool Room – Feb 2016

Pool Room Jan 2016

A few charming Hihi Wines for the cellar…

Hihi Nebbiolo Gisborne 2010/2011 – $$ – Drink 2017-2021. Needs time, this.

Hihi Tempranillo Gisborne 2013 – $$ – Drink 2016-2018. Yum.

Hihi Lock Stock Gisborne 2013 – $$ – A Bordeaux-style blend. Drink 2016-2023. I am interested in this…

Hihi Malbec Gisborne 2013 – $$ – Drink 2017-2021. And this one also…


What’s in the glass tonight March 12/13th – Chardonnay, Viognier

Secret de Lunes Chardonnay

Off Topic: Secret De Lunes Vignobles JeanJean Pays D’oc Chardonnay 2014 & Viognier 2015

Imported direct from the co-op by Regional Wines and Spirits, and being simple, value wines showcasing pure fruit and a minimum of winemaking artifice.

The Chardonnay was great sunny afternoon drinking. Un-oaked, the fruits flavours were light, clean and refreshing. The European provenance added a nice touch of difference from the usual fruity Chardy’s we drink from NZ.


Secret de Lunes Viognier

The Viognier the next day was great over dinner. A good food wine. Not complicated, with open sweet fruit flavours, & that viognier spiciness, but not in a bold style. Un-oaked. Lovely.

VG 4


What’s in the glass tonight March 11th – Chardonnay

CR McDonald Chardonnay 2015

Church Road McDonald Series Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2015 – $

13.5%  Pale gold  $$

Premium fruit, whole-bunch pressed and wild fermented.

Layered, funky, old-world nose, with nutty and crusty bread aromas. A little reductive, which appeals to me.

Weighty ripe stonefruit in the mouth up front; then there is the soft mouthfeel in the mid-palate from the malo treatment, laying off then to the texture and bitterness of toasty oak. A raspy stoic finish.

I liked it very much. A bit more acidity would make this champion.

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight March 10th – Nebbiolo Barbera

Hihi Nebbiolo 2010 2011

Hihi Wines Nebbiolo Gisborne 2010/2011 – $$

This is a new variety for me (if I discount the incredible 1975 Barolo I tasted a couple of years ago).

Jancis Robinson writes about Nebbiolo on her website – www.jancisrobinson.com/learn/grape-varieties/red/nebbiolo: “If Pinot Noir is the world’s most tantalising grape, Nebbiolo runs it a close second []so uniquely delicious that winemakers all over the world are enticed to give it a try.[] Nebbiolo is exceptionally finicky about where it will happily grow and ripen. The Nebbiolo heartland is the tiny Barolo region, a cluster of fog-prone hills around the village of the same []it is not only late-ripening but also early flowering, so there is no point in planting it anywhere that might suffer from spring frosts. []Perhaps the most wonderful thing about Nebbiolo is its perfume. The wine is typically intensely aromatic, developing the most extraordinarily haunting bouquet in which, variously, roses, autumn undergrowth, woodsmoke, violets and tar can often be found – together with a greater variety of other ingredients than most other grapes. On the palate, the wine is typically high in acidity and, until after many years in bottle, tannins.”

14% alc. Carmine colour, tending brick. Leggy.

This is a blend of Nebbiolo and the vigorous, tart and less flavoursome Barbera grape from the 2010 and 2011 vintages. I have no idea from the bottle or the website as to the relative percentages.

2010 was a good vintage, whereas 2011 was more variable with cooler periods and rainfall and smaller yields.

I saw a very tantalising bouquet on the nose, quite lifted and distinctive, showing cool-climate fruit, forest floor, smoke,  and some green characters. Vanilla and oak are dominant, but there is that beguiling perfume too. Perhaps faulty, but I really liked it.

On palate there a firm tannins, quite dry, with light fruit tending blackberry. There is a slight lack of fruit ripeness, so the wine is not as rich as I had expected, and bears some stalky notes. You could even say it’s a bit rough. Too bad, but not too bad – I think a rough(er) red is a lot more appealing than a soft fruit bomb any day anyway. The nose shows there is definite promise for this variety under the tutelage of Andy Nimmo, winemaker.

Nebbiolo’s are a slow maturing wine. The acidity and tannins here could hold this wine for another 5 years, if the fruit can support it. I’ve got a couple of bottles – I’ll give it a go.

I’ll give it a day to see how it softens in the bottle with some air contact.

The 2013 vintage was a cracker, and 2014 looked good too, so I’d expect a riper example to come rolling down the track in due course.

BTG 3+

After two days left alone on the bench, then wine showed remarkably well. The acidity had softened, and allowed the tannins to come forward. Good news for me wanting to keep the other two bottles in the Pool Room for a few more years.