What’s in the glass tonight July 27th – Viognier


Yalumba Y-Series Viognier 2015

Off Topic: Yalumba Y-Series Viognier 2015 – $

L is drinking a bit of Viognier now. She liked this so I had to try.

Greenish straw colour. 14% alc.

Very floral. Apples. Spice. Turkish delight. Grape-y. Honey notes. Perfumed

Fine and sweet and ripe to taste. Gorgeous depth of fruit and flavour. Quite refined. Pleasant bitter biscuit notes in there too, with a ginger spice finish.

90 points

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Straight to the Pool Room – July 2016


Pool Room July 2016

A trois of aromatics this month:

Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir Martinborough 2014 – $$$+ – Drink 2019-2024. Tasted at an instore presentation, and highly rated – worth the splurge.

Te Mata Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$ – Drink 2019-2024. A long-standing favourite of mine, & rated by GK at 18.5pts.

Felton Road Bannockburn Riesling Central Otago 2015 – $$$ – Drink 2025. A second bottle secured for the Long Haul.

All bottles stored under the careful watch of cellarmouser Mimi. Don’t give me that look, puss….

What’s in the glass tonight July 22nd – Cairanne CdR Villages


Dom. Les Grands Bois CdR 2014

Off Topic: Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Cairanne Côtes du Rhône Villages 2014 – $$$

Carrying on the Rhone theme, here is the real deal, a Cairanne CdR Villages blend 50% Grenache, 35% Mourvedre, 15% Syrah grapes.

The Cairanne appellation in the Côtes du Rhône was promoted to Côtes du Rhône cru status earlier this year, joining well-known names such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Crozes-Hermitage. The winemakers of Cairanne first submitted their application for cru status to the Institut National des Appellations d’Origine (INAO) in 2008. Cairanne achieved Côtes du Rhône status in 1953 and became a Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation in 1967. Cairanne is the 17th appellation to get cru status; before that Rasteau was the most recent, which was promoted in 2010.

I am super-excited to drink this wine…Back in October 2014, L and I attending a Rhone tasting hosted by GK. We tried a bunch of wines from the region, and it was my first exposure to them. It started off my love for the wines of the Rhone valley.

Here are some notes from that tasting…”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…”

A-ha! Here is the 2014 edition…

Dark carmine. 15% – big!

Aromatic nose of herbs, sweet black fruit, a bit earthy and funky.

Very textural in the mouth, medium-to-full weight, with ripe sweet fruit – blackberries, prunes – and licorice. Crunchy forward tannins and bitter edge give this wine a rustic quality, but the fruit intensity lifts it up a level. The blend of grapes gives this wine a complexity you don’t see from straight syrahs, and the youth and tannic heft give this wine a distinctive sharp nip on the tip of my tongue. Best keep half a bottle for tomorrow. A day’s softening will give a good pointer to this wines age-ability.

The next day the wine softened and lost a lot of its sharp edges. The palate was still substantial with complex sub-notes, and held an attractive drying finish.

91 points

What’s in the glass tonight July 21st – Syrah


Te Mata Estate Syrah 2015

Te Mata Estate Syrah Hawkes Bay 2015 – $$

Another Syrah! I’m on a roll.

This is the Estate model, a bit of a step down from the Bullnose Rhone-ster. This will be a young wine, fresh off the boat, so I would expect a tannic edge, and a touch of metallic flint…

…and no surprise. Dark garnet. The florality is lifted by 2% Viognier in the blend. 13% alc.

Soft red cherries and underripe blackberries on the nose, not too lifted or exemplary, a bit green. Tannic and lean to taste, there is some fruit there, and needs vigorous decanting to show its best side. It doesn’t grow in the glass, and for me, is not as accomplished as earlier vintages were.

86 points.

What’s in the glass tonight July 19th – Pinot Noir


The Luminary PN 2013

The Luminary Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013

Another wine beginning with The…

Pinot Ruby. 14% alc. Ex Palliser Estate, tho it doesn’t show up on the website. Probably third tier.

At first look the wine was aromatic, tending stalky. Red cherries and brown paper. Slight notes of spice and savouryness.

Slightly under-ripe red fruits, lean and tannic. Bright and brash mouthfeel. Unbalanced with too much acid. This will probably look much better tomorrow, or with vigorous decanting….

…and it did. I saw on the second night more attractive, smoky savoury expression and fruit on the nose that masked the green tinge somewhat. This fruit then showed through on the palate. Much better, although I’d say this is a wine priced for immediate quaffage straight from bottle to glass.

Even if this wine does somewhat under-deliver, it goes to prove that it is hard to make a bad wine from Martinborough grapes.

85 points

What’s in the glass tonight July 16th – Pinot Noir


The Admiral PN 2013

The Admiral Reserve Estate Pinot Noir Central Otago 2013

Back to NZ Pinot’s…

Pinot Ruby. 13.2% alc.

A negociant’s wine, this Pinot Noir is produced for Paddy’s Wholesalers who hail from Seaview, an industrial section of Hutt City. Nary a vine in sight in that part of the world. And no vineyard or winemaker identified on the label either – I don’t like that at all. And what is a Reserve Estate? There are several paid-for glowing reviews on the label, mind, so let’s see if it’s any good…

I can’t see much on the nose. It’s quite dumb. There is a bit of light fruit, pepper and herbaceousness if I try hard, but little expression save a bit of green.

On palate it is light and thin and somewhat metallic. It’s not vibrant or fruity, and almost tastes sour. The fulsome reviews do not describe the wine I am drinking here. Perhaps this bottle was poorly stored.

80 points

Tell the Executioner the password is…Homage


GOR 2016 2

Game of Rhones Wellington – July 9th

Last Saturday L and I wandered along the harbour waterfront to the site of the Wellington edition of the Game of Rhones celebration. It was held in the function centre at Chaffers Dock. A big crowd was well esconced by the time we got there (we were waylaid on the way by an wharfside snack of delicious piping-hot chips twice cooked in duck fat & served with homemade aioli) and a babble of happy voices greeted us as we walked in to receive our wristband and Plumm wine tasting glass (to keep).

The idea behind Game of Rhones was to try the various Rhone style whites and reds from the stands of the participating producers, and vote for your favourite. You then went into a draw to win a prize, but I didn’t win the big Lotto draw that night either…

We didn’t know where to start…so the nearest attendant suggested an aperitif tasting of the attractive d’Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2014 to get the palate working, and we went on from there…

I tried tastes of a whole bunch of wines…tipping out and spitting as required…including Langmeil Three Gardens SMG 2012 and Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2013 (v good)(love the black and gold label design). I dragged L to the stand of one of my favourite producers Elephant Hill where we tried the Elephant Hill Syrah 2014 and Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2013 (both great)…L then got into a Viognier kick after trying their Elephant Hill Viognier 2015, and she was away…

Then it was time for a taste of France, and a version of the real thing…first up was Delas with a run-through of their wines starting with the simple and straightforward Dela Ventoux 2014 and Delas Syrah Vin de Pays de l‘Arleche 2014. It got a bit more interesting with the regional Delas St-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone 2013, then it got really nice and tasty with the Delas Les Launes Crozes-Hermitage 2014. L liked this.

I moved sideways to taste the decent M.Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone 2015, then the rather good M.Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage 2014 (prob. the closest I will ever get to a Hermitage…) and then a truly lovely M.Chapoutier La Bernadine Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013…yuuumm…L tried the Vin de Pays Rose 2015 and then the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2013, which were both too sweet to interest me. The CdP was gunning for wine of the day by that stage…

Next door was the Craggy Range table. They had the Le Sol Syrah 2014, and therefore had me at hello. This was delicious, revelatory. Probably my wine of the day now.

Still, I had to move on. Other wines to try, gotta give everyone a go, etc. And that was a great idea…

L found an amazing Viognier – Seresin Estate Viognier 2012 – it was incredible. L described it as musty and fusty, with oranges and mushrooms. I thought it was great. L went on to find a delicious Villa Maria Cellar Selection Viognier 2015 and the Alpha Domus Wingwalker Viognier 2014, which now puts her in danger of being turned away from Rosés (which tells me it’s serious)…

I fell into conversation with a fellow Magnum member. He told me, “Tell the Executioner the password is …“homage”. I didn’t know what he was on about, but then it dawned on me.

In New Zealand there is currently a bit of an “arms race” between various producers for the title of NZ’ s finest Syrah. There is the Matheson from Matua, Airavata from Elephant Hill, there is Le Sol from Craggy Range (which I tried here), and hiding under the table of the stand across the room, a single bottle of Homage Syrah 2013 from Trinity Hill

I approached the winemaker who was dressed as an executioner. I spoke the password and asked for a taste, and he poured me the last drain of the bottle. And it was delicious. I wish I had time and space to consider it properly and tell you all about it, but it was very, very good. Wine of the Day?

After that I thought it would not get any better. And for a while I was proved right. The Vidal Legacy Syrah 2013 at almost $80 a bottle disappointed me; and the Pask Declaration Syrah of 2013 and 2014 were both unremarkable. The Te Whare Ra Single Vineyard 5182 Syrah 2015 didn’t stand out for me either. But along came the Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2012 to totally blow me away with its bouquet and persistence and heft, and I thought I had found my wine of the day (again)….

But then I visited the friendly people from over the hill. The Schubert Syrah 2013 from Martinborough was lovely, but the Schubert Syrah 2008 was some thing else again. Refined, powerful and cellared very well. This wine built a great rep in the room as the afternoon wore on.

Sharing the same table were the guys from Martinborough Vineyard. They shared with me their Martinborough Syrah Viognier 2013 and 2008, which were two splendid ways to end the afternoon. They know what they are doing in the vineyard.

Were there any great wines? You bet – the Le Sol and Homage were very memorable (and the chance to try them both side-by-side, priceless), as was the Seresin Viognier and the Shubert Syrah 2008. The M. Chapoutier CdP was fantastic. However, my wine of the day had to be the Dreadnought for its flavour punch, extract and complexity, which was a lovely surprise. But it shouldn’t have been, as the Man O’War Ironclad I drank two years back was my runner up for WOTY 2014.

GOR 2016

As for GOR itself, the hard floors and walls, loud music, and high ceilings made it all a little loud, but we got into the spirit of things nonetheless. Big thanks to all the producers who were there. I was told it was expensive to take part, and so I appreciate the commitment from all involved, especially the Martinborough crews. You guys rock!

I expect the danger of these events is that they turn into a posh kind of piss-up, but a piss-up all the same. The organisers tried to keep it classy, and I think they succeeded. I wouldn’t know what to suggest in the way of improvements if there is a next time, except look for a quieter venue so I can hear myself think and hear others talk. Oh, and more food. The wines on offer were a wide and deep selection, with enough stars to satisfy someone like me, and the service staff were friendly and attentive.

I liked all the dressing-up of the servers too.

Disclosure: L and I were guests of Bottle Shop Concepts.

2014 Craggy Range prestige wines pop-up tasting


Craggy Prestige 2014 tasting

2014 Aroha Pinot Noir, Le Sol Syrah and Sophia Melot Cabernet

I was pretty excited to read about a small pop-up tasting being hosted by Regional Wines to celebrate the release of the 2014 Craggy Range prestige wines – the Aroha, Le Sol and Sophia. Craggy Range is known for great wines, some of which I have collected in the Pool Room already, so I headed over to where winemaker Matt Stafford was on hand to take me through the wines.

It was just the three reds we looked at, starting with the Pinot Noir Craggy Range Aroha Te Muna Road Martinborough 2014 (14% $121). As with all the wines here I did not make any direct notes (it felt too gauche to do that) so I just tried to remember my impressions as I went along…we then tasted the Syrah Craggy Range Le Sol Hawkes Bay 2014 (14.5% $121), and finished up with the Merlot Cab blend Craggy Range Sophia Hawkes Bay 2014 (14% $96).

The wines all looked very aromatic and very fine. The fruit quality was there in all of them, the Aroha in particular was looking great and very varietal, with lovely red cherry fruit, and showing the developed rewarding typicity I am starting to see from Te Muna sites. The Le Sol, a much-lauded, and famous, NZ Syrah, was drinking a bit younger and less closed than its ’13 predecessor, with much beauty and grace (I did confess to Matt that I am kinda bewildered about NZ Syrahs, and am finding it hard to get my head around them). Meanwhile, the Sophia was showing much of the density and finesse you would expect of a top HB red blend but perhaps not as deep as I would want, if I have to quibble, but still a very good wine…

I would likely score all these wines in the low to mid nineties if I had the time and opportunity to do so…I liberated an Aroha for the Pool Room so I will see how it looks in five years time…

Craggy Range Te Kahu 2013

In keeping with the evening, I also bought bought a (much cheaper) Craggy Range Te Kahu 2013 for the home table…lovely, intense dark fruityness, dense & aromatic…didn’t disappoint. I have a couple more bottles Below Stairs which I will look at properly from 2018 onwards…

What’s in the glass tonight July 5th – Shiraz


Hogshead Shiraz 2014

Off Topic: Hogshead Old Vine Shiraz South Australia 2014 – $

And it’s time for yet another Aussie Shiraz. I am loving the intense fruit flavours and enveloping softness of these wines…

Dark red. 14.5% alc.

Aromatic, soft ‘n fruit. Savoury character, with blackberry fruit, lightly oaked, and light on the ol’ vanilla…

Sweet entry on palate. Spice and full-bodied fruit, medium tannins, and a typical touch of chocolate. Quite smoky this one, nice. Medium length, with bright acid on the finish.

I liked the smokiness. 89 points