What’s in the glass tonight Sept 14th

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki 2008

Hammer Time: Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki Hawkes Bay 2008 – $$$

From the cellar by way of a Dunbar Sloane wine auction a while ago. Don’t remember how much I paid for it. Don’t recall it was a bargain. Blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sav. 13% alc. It’s a bit flash this wine, cos the bottle was individually numbered. Which I think is a bit pseud, considering a wee rodent nibbled away at the label when I wasn’t looking.

Raymond Chan writes of this wine in 2011: ” The flagship label for Kidnapper Cliffs, from a cooler vintage in Hawke’s Bay, producing wines of real aromatic interest. 75% Merlot from ‘Zone 6′, 20% Cabernet Franc from ‘Zone 11′ and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from ‘Zone 24′ in the Gimblett Gravels, fermented to 13.5% alc., aged in 33% new French oak for 18 months. Vinification and bottling at Dry River winery, Martinborough.”

In the light, inky black with a tinge of scarlet on the rim, not browning. Built for the long term I see.

A warm, rich nose. Aniseed, baking spice, vanilla.

Very balanced. A dense core of ripe fruit tasting of black plums and dried fruit; cocoa and cedar wood. Sensitive oak handling. Length. This was a top wine. It could easily have hung out in the cellar for another 5 years. A great buy at the auction. 5

What’s in the glass tonight August 30th


From the Cellar: Clos St Anne Gisborne Chardonnay 2009 – $$$

From Millton’s Naboth Vineyard in Gizzy. The 2007 edition of this wine came this close to being my wine of the year last year. I recall buying this particular bottle at the cellar door when LG and I went up to Gisborne for a week’s holiday the year after I broke up with her mother. We two stayed in a cabin at the camping ground on Waikanae Beach. It was such a great time. We swam in the sea and in rivers. Toured about the land. LG scaled the local playgrounds, the Olympic pools and waterslide. I recall I fixated on food. I was calorie-counting and trying desperately to lose weight. And trying all this great wine, but keeping it down to only two glasses a day. And NO beer. While on HOLIDAY.

My efforts worked and I lost 10kgs over the next four months. Yay. A bit has crept back on since tho…

So, I hauled little sister 2009 out of the cellar to share with R and J who came over for dinner with L and I. Then I found out R was not a Chardonnay fan. And J was driving. Oh well. More for me!

Pale gold. 14%. Lovely almonds/cashews/general nuttiness on the nose. In the mouth it was balanced, rich (tho no MLF) and round, with gorgeous citrus on the mid-palate. Medium weight. A lingering finish. There were secondary age-flavours of burnt caramel, nougat and hokey pokey. It had all the qualities I expected and more. Again, shame the bottle emptied so fast. 5

We then cracked a sticky to go with dessert…


Beach House Noble Sauvignon Blanc 2009

This was a great wine too. Packed full of sweetness and fruit flavour. Interesting, complex phenolics. A sav ‘edge’ in there as well. Complimented the fruit compote and meringues. 4+

Wellington on a Plate – August 29th


Every year for the past few, the Wellington hospo sector has organised a fortnight-long food festival that showcases the culinary creatives who reside in our wee Creative Capital. Wellington on a Plate. There are pop-up restaurants, special menus, themed menus (Hobbit fayre at Fran Walsh’s Roxy Cinema for example), best burger competitions – lots going on. They even managed to shoehorn a craft beer fest into the middle weekend – Beervana. Shame I was away skiing that weekend 😦

As part of her birthday gift from me I took L out to The Larder, a restaurant close to the Weta Workshop / 3 Foot 6 Wellywood empires. It gained local fame for espousing the intent of serving all parts of a animal to their guests, not just the filet. Having checked first that wasn’t any offal on their WOAP menu, I booked a table for dinner.

With each course there came a matching wine. So we ordered some bubbles to have with crispy ciabatta and butter:

Quartz Reef NV Brut Central Otago – bright fresh nose, French stick in the mouth, dry on the middle palate, and a sweet finish. Lively. 4

We were then served a entree of pork belly with witloof, pickled shallots and walnuts. With it we drank:

Craggy Range Te Muna Martinborough Riesling 2013 – lifted aroma, very Riesling with citrus and pear, early kero; off-dry, light ripe and luscious to drink, Great match. 4. Ls favourite dish.

Next up was duck leg confit with roast cauliflower, kale, pomegranate and clove, with:

Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2011 – classic Martinborough Pinot, savoury with red cherries. Smooth and balanced and great fruit weight, with some heat on the back palate. A pleasure to sniff and drink. 4+ The food was delicious.

Up next was Brie and Blue with honey and fennel crackers. With this a Chardonnay:

Craggy Range Kidnappers Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2011 – pronounced light pears on bouquet. Light malo and little oak to taste. First impressions was ripe and quite light, but this was deceptive as I saw some weight in the middle palate and a long finish. It also had the citrus acidity that I like. Went very well with blue cheese. 4

A marvellous dessert finished off the meal – Quince Tart Tatin with almond ice cream. My favourite dish. We enjoyed with it:

Craggy Range Te Muna Noble Riesling 2009 – the last bottles of this wine lie in The Larders cellar. Wow. What to say about this sticky? Just gorgeous. Complex golden syrup nose that blossoms from the glass. Honeyed and sweet and rich in the mouth. Honeycomb and solvent and Turkish delight. A delight. 5

A great meal, with some excellent wine matches.


Several Burgundies, a Puligny-Montrachet and an impressive Marlborough Pinot


I met HD, a fellow wine-enthusiast, and top-notch wine writer, at one of Geoff Kelly’s library tasting earlier this year. He was kind enough to invite me to various tastings he was involved with, but I always had to cry off due to family or home renovation commitments.

Embarrassed, I finally suggested we meet up for a drink. HD suggested we meet with several of his friends, and each of us bring a bottle to taste blind, and discuss and compare. So we did. I visited a local wine store beforehand, and with the help of the fine wine buyer, selected a bottle that would be interesting to the group, and popped it into a bag…

Now these guys turned out to be Burgundy obsessives, in the nicest possible way of course. They just love their burgs. They had just completed a tour together of Burgundy where they had arranged many appointments with producers, and thus tasted their way around the district. And made a souvenir booklet from the trip complete with maps and tasting notes. Wow. I was in for a treat.

We started with a white…

Domaine Vincent Giradin Puligny-Montrachet “Les Folatiers” 1er Cru 2010. 13.5% Now this was nice. Elegant and restrained. When asked, I guessed it as a Meursault. Wrong…

Then followed a brace of Burgundies. We attempted to guess the region, producer, vintage and climat. I was truly guessing now…

Domaine Faively Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Cazetiers” 1er Cru 2006. 13%. This was somewhat closed to us, but it still had that powerful pinot nose of rich fruit weight, cherries and wooded forest. The palate was largely primary, with firm tannins and bright fruit, and spicy notes.

Domaine Faively Gevrey-Chambertin “Les Cazetiers” 1er Cru 2007. 13%. This wine was very funky on the nose; open, involving and expressive. The wine of the night. Red fruits. Some secondary characters coming through with forest floor and leather. Just lovely and a treat to drink.

Then my wine. The crew all guessed Martinborough…

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012 – $$$ – 14%. By Kevin Judd, I loved this wine at the winemakers showcase a few weeks back. Not as developed as the burgs, but it shares their power. Very floral nose, and red fruit-rich in the mouth. This drank very well on the night, and superbly the following day. 5

What’s in the glass tonight July 3rd

Martinborough V Syrah Viognier 2009

From the cellar: Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Syrah Viognier 2009 – $$$

Hey wow. I bought this back in the day at a Martinborough Vineyard tasting at Regional Wines. It stood out from the pack. Well, that and its sister Pinot, but I’m saving that for another day…

This is dark inky red in the glass. 14% and leggy with it. Browning slightly around the rim. Syrah blended with 4% Viognier.

Soft floral aromatic nose, with violets, licorice and vanilla.

Absolutely delicious in the mouth. Black Doris plums. Tannins with grip. White pepper. Licorice again. Rich, deep, mouthcoating, savoury, almost meaty. Did I mention long too?

Outstanding. 5

What’s in the glass on ANZAC Day, Lest We Forget

Te Mata Bullnose 2008

From the Cellar: Te Mata Estate Bullnose Syrah Hawkes Bay 2008 – $$$+

J+R invited L and I to their house tonight for dinner, and to check out progress on the building of an extension on the back of their house. I raided the cellar to select their preference – a syrah.

The extension was nicely planned. I really liked the big sliding doors they have opening out on to a new deck area. They face the rising sun, and will admit lovely morning light into a new lounge area in front of the girl’s bedrooms.

The dinner was delicious too – med rare lamb rack, mash and beans. With gluten free bread pudding and vanilla bean icecream for afters!

This wine was superb with dinner. Dark inky carmine colour. Intense aromatics, all smoky and brambly fruit. Dense in the mouth, packed with mature dark berry flavours and spice. Balanced and even structure, not textural or tannic. Mouthcoating. Plenty of depth and length. A grunty syrah. 5

What’s in the glass tonight April 14th


From the Cellar: Ata Rangi Martinborough Pinot Noir 2008 – $$$

One of the best wines from the Pool Room. I’ve been saving it for a proper occasion and nothing gets more proper than marking the time when L and I completed our first DIY project together!

i tried this wine last year at an Ata Rangi tasting and was blown away by its purity and strong expression of premium Mbo Pinot.

Almost black carmine colour. 13.5%. Dense bouquet of spice, dark cherries and wet forest. Wonderful concentration of rich fruit flavours, black currants . Perfect balance of spice notes and ripe fruit and catchy tannins. Long finish. Top drop. 



The first wine in our new house


From the Cellar: Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2008 – $$$

After a long tough day of last-minute packing,  organising, lifting and carrying we are finally in our house. We are sitting in the conservatory, the sun is out, and this wine is in our glasses.

Both the house and the wine is fantastic. 5


What’s in the glass tonight Dec 8th

Villa Maria CS Dry Riesling 2012 2

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Marlborough Dry Riesling 2012 – $

This is my third-go-round with this beauty. I just can’t get enough. The wine just keeps getting better.

Acidic and fruity, and fresh and enlivening.

Bursting with limes and pears. Delicious.

Buy half a case and go book a beach holiday now. Outstanding. 5

Ata Rangi Tasting with Helen Masters

Ata Rangi tasting 2013

I attended an excellent wine tasting at Regional Wines on Thursday night. It was hosted by Alistair, and the tasting was led by Head Winemaker at Ata Rangi, Helen Masters.

I am a huge fan of this producer. Over the years I’ve loved drinking their pinots and Celebre and Summer Rose. I’ve got some good bottles in the cellar too, so was real excited about this tasting.

Ata Rangi’s vineyards lie close to, and north of, Martinborough village. The raised ancient seabed that formed the South Wairarapa plain is exposed to the south and sea, so it is surprisingly a cooler climate than Central Otago. The barrier mountain range on the western edge collects most of the rain from the prevailing winds so the climate is dry. Drying winds are a factor, and extensive shelter belts are needed to protect the vines. It is springtime in the vineyard at present, with bud burst approaching, so frost is a concern. It’s an expensive business flying those choppers around keeping the air circulating on still cold nights.

The vineyard was established in 1980, so some of the wines are coming off vines 32 years old. Helen uses fine French oak barrels with a medium toast.

Two flights were presented – whites and reds. I won’t claim to set any serious scores, save to say they all tasted pretty good to me…

Whites Flight:

Riesling Craighall 2009 – 27yr vines from the Craighall Vineyard (was part-owned for a time with Dry River), handpicked, 80 cases made. Light straw colour; leggy; volatile nose; bracing acidity; lovely texture; some citrus, some stonefruit, definitely green apple/apple skin; age-worthier. 4.5

Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Coolest year since 1993, a hand-picked sav! Helen told us she was after a neutral fruit expression, and used small tanks, lees contact and indigenous yeasts for the ferment. Same colour as the Riesling. Again leggy. Grassy, herby nose but not big with it. Dry and tart. Good Martinborough varietal examplar. I liked it. 4

Pinot Gris Lismore 2013 – A classic Martinborough summer. Fermented in old barrels for texture. Pale yellow. Lightly floral, lightly spiced, in an Alsace style. 8gms residual sugar. Luscious pears, lively sweet with lovely lemonade flavours. One taster thought it was a bit dumb in the bottle yet (2013) but will improve. 3.5

Chardonnay Craighall 2011 – from the eponymous vineyard, vines planted 1983 with the Mendoza clone. This clone is called the ‘hen and chicks’ for the large and small berries produced, with lots of flavour and concentration. Wine is light gold colour. 13.5%. Honey and butterscotch bouquet; ripe fruit taste, balanced with the acid, peaches, stonefruit. Restrained at the moment but will deepen in a few years. 4

Chardonnay Craighall 2008 – Wonderful. Mid gold. 13.5%. I loved the funky smell. Developed, smooth, integrated, the acidity was gone; lashings of unctious butteriness. Yum. Oh why wasn’t the KR Mates ‘08 like this…? 5.

Chardonnay Craighall 2005 – Purity of fruit presence was remarkable in this old kiwi wine. It was deep yellow, but not oxidised. It was funky and rich and luscious. Amazing to see fruit and oak and acid integrate in a bottle. Worth the price of the ticket alone. 5

Reds Flight:

Pinot Noir 2011 – the big ‘un. In 2010 this flagship wine of the company was honoured with the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or “Grand Cru of New Zealand“. It is made in a burgundian style with the typical Martinborough savoury olfactory and taste profile. Helen told us it doesn’t go down too well with American consumers who have been raised on Oregon pinots, so Ata Rangi’s main markets are the UK, Oz, Japan and China. The wine is pinot ruby in colour. 13.8%. Floral. Ripe and fruity, grippy, good palate weight. It lingers. Structured, should age well. 4

Pinot Noir 2008 – I loved this. Pinot ruby browning. 13.5%. Mushroom and forest floor bouquet. Ripe berries. Softened. Integrated. Magic. And I’ve got one in the Pool Room. 5

Pinot Noir McCrone 2008 – Younger (2001?) vines. Less shroomy. Pinot Ruby. 14%. Younger, tauter, a bit austere still? Later vintages should be a looker. 3.5

Pinot Noir 2006 – Pinot ruby browned off. 13.5%. Odd, tasted younger than it should have. Some grippy-ness, with bright fruit. Packed with wonderful flavour. 4

Syrah 2009 – 100% syrah. 40% new oak.  First one out of the blocks. Deep magenta. 13.5%. Bit of funk on the nose with white pepper. Savoury edge. Elegant. Fruitful mouthful, fine tannins. A delightful way to end the tasting. Some attendees contended that the wine deviated from type, but I wouldn’t kick it out of bed… 4

After an evening supping quality drops like these, I was replete. The length of the reds were astounding. I still had taste echoes from them in my mouth an hour afterwards.