What’s in the glass tonight September 2nd – Merlot

Villa Maria CS Organic Merlot 2014

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Merlot Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$

This wine was awarded a gold medal at the recent 2016 Bragato Wine Awards. Geoff Kelly highly praised the previous vintage, which I never managed to hunt down to taste, so when this appeared in the shops I defo wanted to give it a go.

The fruit was sourced from the certified organic Joseph Soler vineyard in Hawkes Bay.

Inky scarlet colour. 13% alc.

Soft taut savoury dark fruit on the nose. Dense, with cedar and boxwood and cardboard. Smells sweet with vanilla.

Soft fruit in the mouth. Ripe enough. Good fruit weight and depth. Fine tannins. Enough acid to keep things interesting. Other thoughts – warmth, elegance, studied ripeness. I suspect not as ripe as the lauded ’13.

Far too young now, this will look really good from another 3-4 years in bottle, benefitting from the time for the flavours to develop and marry up together. Ideally wait until 2024 and appreciate its class.

90 points

Everything Must Go!


My favourite wine shop has been sold!

Regional Wines and Spirits has been sold!

Stuff reports:“In an email to customers, managing director Moira Gaffney announced the business was being acquired by Scenic Cellars of Taupo.

“The team at Scenic Cellars have some exciting plans for Regional Wines to continue its mission in providing expert advice and a range of top-line wines, beers and spirits throughout the greater Wellington region and New Zealand as a whole,” Gaffney said.

“[I’m] excited to be able to hand Regional Wines and Spirits over to a team of passionate people with a proven track record, who will take it to the next level, and would like to sincerely thank you all for your custom over the last 29 years.”

Often referred to by locals simply as “Regionals”, the fate of the business had been in doubt in recent years with the site directly in the path of the Basin Flyover and proposed second tunnel through Mt Victoria.”

I hope the shop maintains its high standards, and keeps stocking boutique wines from all over the world, along with NZ’s best producers. I hope the new owners keep their allocations of good NZ wines, and they keep up the tradition of hosting wine tastings in the upstairs room and instore. It would be tragedy for the Wellington fine wine community if the new owners muck around too much with this iconic shop.

My tips to them are:

  1. No RTDs.
  2. Keep the beer taps.
  3. Stock more USA wines.
  4. Host a DRC tasting…


Photo by Kent Blechynden

What’s in the glass tonight – Pinot Noir

worth cellaring PN 2016 3jpg

Kusuda Pinot Noir Martinborough 2010 Bottle no. 4862 – $$$+

I have never drunk a Kusuda Pinot Noir. I have heard of the producer, read the odd review, seen a few pricey bottles in the shops, but never had the spare readies and access to buy at the same time. Known for high quality and made in Lilliputian quantities, and somewhat of a “cult wine” in these parts.

Proprietor and Winemaker Hiro Kusuda was profiled by Tim Atkin MW in the March edition of Decanter alongside other small producers who were all “Tearing up the Rule Book”. Hiro left the Japanese Foreign Office to stuffy Oenology in Germany, despite not knowing the language.

Atkin writes, “Perfectionism characterises everything that Kusuda does. Working at the sorting table, he and his team wear gloves to handle the grapes, inspecting every berry for the slightest imperfection, discarding anything that isn’t porcelain perfect”. The 2014 Pinot Noir is “drinkable, focused and beautifully refined, reflecting the values of the man who made it”.

And then, Stephen Spurrier in the June edition of Decanter tasted Kusuda’s 2015 Riesling (“beautiful expression of flowers, fruit and minerals”), 2014 Pinot Noir (“incredible purity”), 2013 Syrah (“a superb modern classic”). Great stuff. Makes me want…

Imagined how pleased I was when AS generously brought out a bottle of the 2010 Kusuda Pinot Noir to share with those of us taking part in the recent Worth Cellaring Pinot Noir tasting I wrote about in early September, to bookend and to illuminate the preceding flight.

This was a real treat. The wine had wonderful weight and persistence, preceded by a gorgeous bouquet. I saw a sweet attack, paired with superb weight and extract.

The bottle age and fine cellaring set it apart from the other wines, and showed them all up. Thrilling!

95 points

Bordeaux 2015, in anticipation

Bordeaux 2015

The wine society I belong to buys wines and cellars them until the date that our Cellarmaster think the wines will be drinking at their peak, at which point they then get hauled out blinking in the lamplight for our tasting and appreciation and discourse.

I was looking through the latest newsletter, and idly noting the latest acquisitions to our cellar, when I noticed a few of the wines had got a write-up in my latest copy of Decanter….

The June issue (a bit late arriving down these parts, something about shipping delays etc) covered the 2015 vintage of Bordeaux. Steven Spurrier was quoted as declaring that “Bordeaux is back” in 2015, with “a sure-bet vintage that ticks all the boxes, producing great wines across the region”. He said, “Some great wines have been made, and I feel that 2015’s reputation will grow”.

He and his crack team of drinkers were sent forth to wrap their laughing gear around a whole bunch of classy wines, and report back their findings. And I must say some of the wines looked rather good. And I think we bought some. So I checked.

We bought:

2015 Ch. Rauzan Segla Margaux 2CC, $103.00ea – Decanter sez 95 points

2015 Ch. Belair Monange St Emilion 1GCCB at $152.00ea – Decanter sez 94 points

2015 Ch. La Fleur Petrus Pomerol at $205.00ea – Decanter sez 93 points

2015 Ch. Trotanoy Pomerol at $225.00ea – Decanter sez 96 points!

2015 Ch. Haut Bailly Graves at $133.00 – Decanter sez 97 points, and Graves Wine of the Vintage!!

2015 Ch. Vieux Chateau Certan Pomerol at $310.00ea – Decanter sez 97 points!

Good news! We bought enough to go around.

Bad News! We won’t be tasting these bad bois until 2028.

F**n hell. Best keep passing those open windows, then.

What’s in the glass tonight August 31st – Chardonnay

Saint Clair Chardonnay 2014

Saint Clair Family Estate Chardonnay Marlborough 2014 – $

I normally walk right past this supermarket value wine. But, this time the bottle bore a Silver Medal from the 2016 Royal Easter Show. Which means it’s got to be over 85 points. So into the basket it went…

Pale straw. 13% alc. From fruit out of the Wairau Valley.

Sweet ripe fruit, lemon, clean and clear, simple on the nose.

Sweet entry, good body and ripeness on the mid-palate. A refreshing acid finish. All in moderation, and over, moreish. Finely textured. Quite yummy.

86 points

Worth Cellaring Tasting – New Zealand Pinot Noirs over $37.50

worth cellaring PN 20161

Wow, this year has gone quickly. I found myself once again upstairs in the Regional Wines tasting room blind-evaluating current vintage NZ Pinots for their ‘cellarability’ at the annual Pinot Noir Worth Cellaring tasting hosted by Geoff Kelly and Richard Sherriff.

There was some talk about Pinots losing some of their appeal, as the previous nights tasting of sub-$37.50 Pinot Noirs had to be cancelled due to extreme lack of interest. I knew I wasn’t keen, and I wasn’t alone. The previous year’s events have been a reliable sell-out, but this tasting showed a few empty chairs.

We wondered why this was. Fashion has to be a factor – Rhones, Syrahs, and other red varieties are all gaining favour, and there are more import choices available to the wine-types who frequent these tastings. Also, there is a glut of very same-y, simple NZ Pinots, which closely resemble cordials that express red fruit characters rather than nuance and fine fragrance. The price point has a lot to do with this. I have to spend in the mid-$30s and above to get a good NZ Pinot Noir; the really good ones start in the mid-$60s; and up to $90+ for the rock stars. So I’m not going to be pulling the cork from those bottles all that often. So I buy the cheaper ones, and am left disappointed, or I buy by the glass, and am even more disappointed (with the exception of, say, Johner, or Roaring Meg, to be fair). So when it comes to a tasting like this, it is hard to summon the enthusiasm…

The line-up was as follows:

2014 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago $40

2014 Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir Martinborough $122

2013 Dog Point Pinot Noir Marlborough $44

2014 Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir Martinborough $67

2014 Fromm Clayvin Pinot Noir Marlborough $82

2014 Greystone Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir Waipara $97

2014 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago $43

2014 Maude Pinot Noir Reserve Wanaka Central Otago $49

2013 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere $63

2013 Peregrine Pinot Noir Bendigo Central Otago $39

2014 Shubert Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard Waiparapa $53

2014 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir Proprietor’s Reserve The Fusillier Bannockburn Central Otago $70

worth cellaring PN 2016 2jpg

So on to these wines, and to be frank, I thought half were very average. To my palate they lacked enough ripeness, extract and showed too much green stalk. You have to have some leaf to express the floral characters that makes a good Pinot Noir so appealing, but there has to be fruit weight and flavour behind it giving the wine the oomph it needs. For this money they have to taste great.

I am only going to write up the wines I liked here, cos it’s late and I don’t feel like wading through my notes to write up what disappointed me. Everyone has their bad days…

2014 Akarua Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago – Pinot ruby, 14.3% alc – Fragrant, light red cherries, slightly green on bouquet. Bright fruit to taste, fresh acid, good weight and ripeness.  Appealing. A good ‘sighter’ wine for the flight. 91 points

2013 Neudorf Pinot Noir Moutere – Deep Pinot ruby, 14% alc – Intense darker fruits than the Akarua, compact. It appeared Burgundian, and showed softness on standing in the glass. Intense flavours of dark cherries, long, with heat on the back palate. Light and spritely also, and piquant. 92 points

2014 Greystone Thomas Brothers Pinot Noir Waipara– Deep Pinot ruby, 13.5% alc – Big and fragrant. It seemed attractively raspy and spicy on the nose, with notes of deep pink English roses. Flavoursome red cherries, generous and gorgeous fruit weight. Chewy. 91 points.

2014 Shubert Pinot Noir Marion’s Vineyard Waiparapa  – Pinot ruby, 14.5% alc – Peppery and bold, impressive wonderfully floral character. I thought Burgundian, someone else said similar to Cotê de Beaune. Great weight of fruit in the mouth. Peppery and intense, complex lithe and spritely, with a tough, taut core. 93 points

2013 Dog Point Pinot Noir Marlborough – Deep Pinot ruby, 14% alc – Perfumed and floral, with slight leaf notes. Delicate, very fine bouquet. Good attack, quite sweet. Gracious, light and somewhat ethereal to taste, darker fruit flavours, balanced, and savoury. Quite long. 91 points.

2014 Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir Martinborough – Pinot ruby, 13% – Peppery and elegant nose with dark fruits. There was florality, depth and perfect ripeness. All of the that showed on the palate, with good acid and a fantastically  expressive mouthfeel. Intense, long and finishes firm. This needs time. 92 points.

I was disappointed with how the Aroha, Peregrine, Maude, Fromm and Mt Difficulty wines looked here. They should have been the rock stars. Maybe I am jaded, but they didn’t look good on the night. Was it the vintage? Hard to say – these wines were from three of NZ’s main growing areas, and I have the Aroha and Maude in my cellar already.

Bah. Who knows. Better times next year perhaps…


What’s in the glass tonight August 27th – Pinot Noir

Saddleback PN 2011

From the Cellar: Peregrine Saddleback Pinot Noir Central Otago 2011 – $

Bright pinot ruby. 13.5% alc. The second wine of Peregrine Wines.

Moderate intensity, a floral bouquet. Soft, with spice, pepper, and some savoury and herbal characteristics. This wine really needed decanting. Splashing helped, but it looked much better the next day.

To drink, the wine showed ripe red fruits, direct and simple. There was balance in the acids, and silky tannins. Good concentration. A long finish.

As I wrote earlier, this wine showed far more attractive on the second night. The age would have helped – it was softer, and the flavours and aromas emerged with more varietal intensity. The first night it had looked like the kind of red cordial that I hate so much about second-label Pinot Noirs. I know it isn’t something that noted producers want to achieve, but I see it all the time – a lack of finesse, grace and complexity straight out of the glass.

Second labels are bought for immediate drinking, not overnight decanting.

88 points