It Begins

Ata Rangi NZV18

From Ata Rangi:

First Pinot Noir pick of #nzv2018 – old Abel on the Home Block in Martinborough Village, Wellington Wine Country


Straight to the Pool Room – December 2017

Pool Room Dec 2017

A brace of top Chardonnays kept for a sleep-in:

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay Martinborough 2016 – $$$ – drink now-2021. I thought this was luminous at a recent tasting

Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay Nelson 2016 – $$$+ – drink now-2021. I have ridden past the vineyard where the grapes are grown when I completed in the Abel Tasman Cycle Challenge, but I am yet to try this wine. It is reputedly one of NZs finest of the variety. Guess I will find out in a couple of years time, then.

Ata Rangi tasting with Helen Masters

Ata Rangi tasting 1

In the middle of October I attended a tasting at Regional Wines of the wines of Ata Rangi, the successful Martinborough producer, in the company of their head winemaker Helen Masters. Ata Rangi is a member of the Family of Twelve – a marketing-led ‘grand cru’ grouping of twelve of NZs most noted and celebrated wineries.

We would be looking at a couple of their Pinot Gris vintages, a couple of Chardonnays, their ‘value’ Pinot Noir and then a short vertical of their flagship Pinot Noir, then finishing off with a red blend that is a favourite of mine.

All wines are from Martinborough fruit.

Ata Rangi Tasting 2

2016 Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris – Light rose gold colour. In an Alsatian style. Whole bunch pressed. 5.5g RS.  Lightly aromatic with aromas of licorice, apple and white pepper. Fresh and fine in the mouth. Light citrus, peppery, with balance, long and hot. Not oily, which I prefer.

2012 Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris – Brilliant greenish straw colour. 6.5g RS.  From a cool year. Aromatic, forward and sweet and fruity, further scents of confectionery, apple, mandarins and orange peel. Crisp taste, some development, juicy and luscious, short, sweet and textured. Again, non-oily.

2016 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay – Crisp light white gold colour. Mendoza clone, 20% new oak.  Fine bouquet with white florals, layered with citrus, honey and melon. Dense, some reduction. Flavours of citrus fruit, lemons and limes, lean and linear, dry and clean. Balanced. Crunchily textural. Lovely acidity and concentration. Like all great Chardonnays, this was luminous. I liked it very much, and bought a bottle for the Pool Room.

2012 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay – Pale straw colour. Mendoza clone, 20% new oak.  Fine bouquet again, with citrus. Warmer-toned on the nose than the ’16, and showed light spice and butterscotch notes. Dense, flinty and very crisp to taste. There was a kick on the back palate as well. Less balanced, somewhat awkward. Showing the effect of the cool year I suspect. Helen talked this one up, I marked it down.

2016 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir – Bright ruby colour. A fruit-forward accessible early drinking style. Fruit selected from AR vines under 20 years old. Cheerful. Lean on the nose with red cherries. Red fruit on palate, light and washed, somewhat bitter and lean. Drying, some said supple tannins.

2015 Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir – Bright ruby colour. Fruit-forward, more flavour and density and depth than the ’16, still with the typical bitter/spice finish. Stalky, seed-y tannins. I found both Crimsons were hard to like.

2015 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Deep carmine colour. Floral and tight and dense aromas of rich red fruit, dark cherries, savoury, cardboard. Rich fruit flavours, full and ripe yet with lovely crispness and lusciousness. Packed with flavour. Such tension and power. No bitterness at all at the finish. Presistence. Sensational wine.

2010 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Deep carmine colour, tending brown. Floral and light. Slightly stalky and bitter. My notes are otherwise silent on this one – I must have been looking the other way because other tasters judged this sensational also.

2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir – Deep brown carmine colour. Quite primary still, but some age characters emerging of herbs and forest floor. Punchy to drink, with dark cherries, pepper and spice. Huge extract, packed with fruit flavour. Showed gorgeous poise and elegance over time, and started to sing.

2013 Ata Rangi McCrone Vineyard Pinot Noir – Somewhat dumb, with subdued florality. Big chunky and fat. Big fleshy tannins. Showed the ripeness of the 2013 vintage.

2014 Ata Rangi Celebre – A Merlot dominant/Syrah/Cabernets blend. A cool climate energetic red blend, with fine savoury tannins and ripe berries. Delicious unctuousness.

Straight to the Pool Room – November 2017

Pool Room Nov 2017

A trio of notable Sauvignon Blanc wines for the cellar:

Grove Mill Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2016 – $ – drink now-2021. Rated as Outstanding in the Decanter 2017 review of NZ Savs.

Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2016 – $ – drink now-2021. Bought at a recent tasting of Ata Rangi wines. Outstanding.

What’s in the glass tonight June 22nd – Merlot Syrah Cabernets


Ata Rangi Celebre Martinborough 2014 – $$$

This is a long-time favourite local red for me. A bright red blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc fruit grown on the Martinborough Terrace, and matured in 20% new oak.

Deep plum purple colour. 13% alc.

Soft, round and opulent on the nose. A savoury character up front, then opens to reveals oak, plums, and spice.

Sweetness on entry, fine-grained tannins in the mid-palate, and fresh acidity on the finish. Fruit flavours are restrained, not as ripe as the ’13, and slightly leafy.

A fine, expressive wine.

Recommended 89 points

Straight to the Pool Room – June 2016

Pool Room June 2016

If I can’t buy an old example of Célèbre at auction, I’d better start laying down new examples in my cellar and get the aging process going…

Ata Rangi Célèbre Merlot Syrah Cabernet Martinborough 2013 – $$$ – Drink 2020-2023.

Some notable reviews:

Bob Campbell MW | Bob’s Wine Reviews, June 2015 | 95 points.

Merlot (55%), Syrah (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon. Robust yet elegant red wine with dark berry fruits, violet, cedar and spice flavours. A firm backbone of fine tannins offers structure and longevity without being too much of a barrier at this early stage. The best Celebre I can recall tasting. Drink 2015-2023.

Michael Cooper  |

Pronounced ‘say-lebr’, this is a blend of grape varieties – Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Robust and vibrantly fruity, it typically has impressive weight and depth of plummy, spicy, slightly herbal flavours in a complex style that matures well. There is no 2010 or 2012. The 2011 vintage (4.5*), the first since 2009, is a blend of Merlot (63 per cent), Syrah (27 per cent) and Cabernet Sauvignon (10 per cent). Richly coloured, it’s a stylish, youthful wine with fresh acidity and rich, vibrant blackcurrant, plum, spice and herb flavours, seasoned with quality oak. Showing excellent concentration and complexity, it’s already approachable, but should flourish with cellaring.

What’s in the glass tonight June 18th – Merlot Syrah Cab Sav

Ata Rangi Célèbre 2013

Ata Rangi Célèbre Martinborough 2013

Dark claret garnet. 13%

In reference to my previous post, this was one Célèbre that was NOT going to get away from me!

I chose it from the Akl Airport Duty Free Store cos it was one of the few fine wines for sale with a screw cap, as I was not sure that where we were flying to they would have a corkscrew in the hotel room…

Blend of Merlot 55% Syrah 35% balance of Cabernet Sauvignon.  From the fantastic ’13 vintage.

The Merlot provided softness and richness of black fruit. Syrah offered florality and bouquet. Cab Sav the tension and structure and weight of finish.

There was Vibrancy and expression through the roof. Sizzling acid. Spicy and plummy. Violets and wallflowers. Boysenberries and dark chocolate. The Syrah notes sang. Primary and mouthwatering.

Still too young now. This wine will live forever. It needs another 5 years alone to knit together into a legendary NZ wine.

A cracker! 95 points

Tasted from our balcony at the Fiji Sofitel Denarau. Life is good…:-)

Straight to the Pool Room 2 – May 2016

Pool Room May 2016

Various lootings from Martinborough for Below Stairs…

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay Martinborough 2014 – $$$ – Drink 2019-2022.

Tirohana Estate Memories Pinot Gris Martinborough 2014 – $$$ – Drink 2019-2022

Poppies Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – $$ – Drink 2020

Stone Cutter Topaz Martinborough 2014 – $$ – Drink 2019-2021

What’s in the glass tonight May 8th, 9th – A Ramble Around Martinborough

Martinborough Rows

Two Saturdays ago L and I stayed in Martinborough for the weekend. On the recommendation of our friend LH I had booked dinner for us at Tirohana Estate on Puruatanga Road. The proprietors picked us up in their van which was mighty decent.

The restaurant was in a beautiful white-gabled colonial house on the Estate. We enjoyed an amuse bouche, homemade pate, fish and lamb shanks, petit fours for after – so rich and good! Toby our Maitre’D was friendly, attentive and knowledgeable about the estate’s wines.


I had a glass of Tirohana Estate Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2014 to start, which showed apple, pear and petrol /aftershave. Flavours of mandarin peel and Gran Marnier, light, ripe & fleshy. Not a hint of grass or capsicum to be seen. Interesting. With my lamb I had a glass of Tirohana Estate Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013.  The nose exhibited density, florality and spice. The palate was fine, with bright ripe red cherries, fine tannins, and a hottish finish. Good.

The next morning, we wanted to burn off a big cooked breakfast, so we went out for a walk. We headed for a far-away hill track, but it turned out to be a bit further that we reckoned. We had walked for over an hour from our accommodation, and we hadn’t even got to the start of it. And then the morning’s meal caught me short and in trouble. I was about to touch cloth, but luckily we saw a winery open nearby for tastings. Two birds, one stone etc!

Stone Cutter

We got a great welcome from the new owner at Stone Cutter Vineyard on Todds Road. We tried their Stone Cutter Pinot Gris 2013  and Stone Cutter Syren Pinot Gris 2013, their Stone Cutter Pinot Noir 2013 and Stone Cutter Syren Pinot Noir 2013. L tried also their Stone Cutter 2014 Topaz – a sweet blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurtztraminer – & liked & bought a bottle, along with their PG.

Poppies wine list

We had lunch at Poppies Martinborough also on Puruatanga Rd later that afternoon, after the Mothers Day rush had eased (a little). Super-enthusiast winemaker Poppy and her viticulturist husband Shayne made us so very welcome. She led us through a tasting of their wines (they had sold out of their rose & chardonnay alas) – their age-worthy Sauvignon Blanc, fruity Pinot Gris and dusky Pinot Noir wines tasted delightful in the faded-euro elegance of their tasting room.


I selected the Poppies Martinborough Dry Riesling 2015 to have with the fantastically delicious vineyard platter served on the sunny terrace. Nose of apples. Very astringent and lean and fresh, lots of green apple, needs time to ease out of a current austere & angular phase. This too was selling out as we tasted. They are keen to secure additional grapes, as their business in barnstorming along.

Ata Rangi tasting room

We finished our amble at one of Martinborough’s, and New Zealand’s, 1er cru vineyards – Ata Rangi, further along Puruatanga Road. A rustic looking tasting room, containing stunning wines. We tried their current fresh Sauvignon Blanc, ripe and simple Crimson Pinot Noir (second label), their wonderfully rich and age-worthy Celebre red blend, and the fragrant powerful Craighall Vineyard and elegant Petrie Vineyard Chardonnays. A fine way to end the afternoon!


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

Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay 2010 2

From the Cellar: Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay Martinborough 2010 – $$$

Pale gold 13.5%.

A single-vineyard wine by the great Martinborough producer. Made from fruit off Mendoza clone vines planted in 1983 – that is old for NZ – and barrel-fermented with wild yeasts.

Smelled big, mealy and refined; with rich and toasty cashew and dried apricot aromas. Gorgeous.

Seamless and elegant to drink. I saw generous golden fruit flavours. A subtle citrus note. Cashew that gives way to almond.

This is a richly textured cru Chardonnay with a lovely crunchy bitter finish. Splendid & worth the wait!

Outstanding 5