What’s in the glass tonight March 17th – Chardonnay

Palliser Chardonnay 2013

From The Cellar: Palliser Estate Chardonnay Martinborough 2013 – $$$

14% alc. Pale gold colour.

Very aromatic. Warm and rich mealy notes. Oak and bread, apricots and rock melon. Vanilla.

Sharp entry. Lean fruit to taste, fading. Steely brittleness on the mid palate, fruit flavours showing retreat of age or tunnelling. I don’t know enough about this wine to have an informed opinion. Hot finish, medium length. Attractive, still.

Tow nights later, the wine has softened and filled in, showing far more generosity of fruit than was first expressed. Shows the value of decanting!

Recommended 89 Points


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

Spy Valley Chardonnay 2012

From The Cellar: Spy Valley Chardonnay Waihopai Marlborough 2012 – $$

A consistently top Chardonnay from a great producer. I have been collecting and drinking these wines for a few years now. And riding out to the site on the Sunday morning following the Graperide. This example is from the stellar NZ 2013 vintage.

13.5% alc. Pale Gold colour.

Nutty almond on the nose. Mealy. Citrus notes. Complex secondary notes. Divine.

Pure fruit in the mouth. Freshness. Mealy nuttiness flavours, balanced acid, warmth, finishes long. Powerful and intense, and shows real grace. Roughness on the finish adds character.

Highly Recommended 94 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 4th – Chardonnay

KR Estate Chard 2016

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay Kumeu 2016 – $$$

Being the third KR Chardonnay I have tasted these past weeks, this is the flagship Estate-level blended wine, a step up from the Villages wine I enjoy and consider excellent value. Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay is drawn from six different vineyard sites in the Kumeu Region.

14% alc. Pale gold colour.

Restrained mealy and composed. Aromas of white peach and apple.

Rich and stylish on tasting. Crisp and fresh, acid prevails over fruit. Not as elegant or dense as the Coddington, nor as lively and personable as the Villages. Stuck in the middle. Will it age? Appears to have the boldness and structure to do so for another 3 years. Let’s see then…

Recommended 88 Points

What’s in the glass tonight Feb 28th – Chardonnay

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay Kumeu 2016 – $$$

This is Kumeu River’s  single vineyard wine I generally prefer the most, right from when I first began tasting their wines. I dare say this is because this shows better when young than the more powerful cousins, Hunting Hill and Matés Vineyard Chardonnays.

13.5% alc. Light brilliant gold colour.

Like KRs usually have, a slightly reductive aroma. Fine, lightly scented, with citrus, melon, lemon, butterscotch and spice.

Crisp and fine to taste. Bold acid and golden fruit. Suppler and elegant with a crunchy punch through the mid-palate. Heat on the finish. Very approachable on one hand; this is too young, too soon, on the other…

I feel this wine is not as accomplished as the 2016 Villages blend Chardonnay I tried previously, despite the $ gulf between them

Highly Recommended 90 points

Straight to the Pool Room – February 2018

Pool Room Feb 2018

A trio of top wines from Mercury Bay Estate for the cellar, bought from the winery:

Mercury Bay Estate Chardonnay Coromandel 2016 – $$ – drink now-2021.

Mercury Bay Estate Red Merc Coromandel 2014 – $$$ – drink now-2019. A Pinot Noir/Syrah blend.

Mercury Bay Estate Pinot Noir Coromandel 2014 – $$$ – drink now-2019.

Mercury Bay Estate

Mercury Bay Estate

When we were recently on holiday, camping at Hahei Beach, L and I enjoyed a lovely tasting at a beautiful local vineyard, Mercury Bay Estate, on a gorgeous blue sky day. Heaven.

Mercury Bay Estate is situated on the hillside above and behind the beach settlement of Cooks Beach on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. My own family owned a bach at Cooks for many years from the mid-70’s. I grew to love the area, so it was really nice to come back after a long time away and bring my family.


The estate is owned by Simon & Veronica Ward and was formed from the vineyard established by Alex Morcom in 1996 (named Shakespeare Cliff Vineyard after the famous nearby landmark, and then later Cooks Beach Vineyard). The vineyard originally contained plantings of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc, and has more recently expanded to include a block of Pinot Noir.

We opted for a shared tasting of wines originating from the Cooks Beach site alone to get a sense of place (some varieties are sourced from Hawkes Bay). We selected the current releases of Chardonnay, Sparkling Blush, Red Merc (Pinot/Syrah blend) and their Pinot Noir.

I have to say they were all very good. The Chardonnay had a lovely tautness and acidity to it which was attractive, the Blush was all strawberries and lusciousness; the Red Merc was showed for me the best with its intensity and complex flavours, and the Pinot Noir was surprisingly dense and savoury for what I imagine is a hot site, but maybe it is  moderated by the sea breezes.

This producer is new to me, and is one to watch.

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

KR Village Chardonnay 2016

Kumeu River Village Chardonnay Auckland 2016 – $

Light gold colour. 13.5% alc.

Lovely elegant and expressive nose. Slighlty reductive. Crisp open lifted citris aromas, light stone fruit – unripe apricot – green apple and mint.

Lively and fresh to drink. Crips acid, tingly mouthfeel, mouthewatering, mint again, and complexly layered. Slightly bitter and spicy finish.

This is a wine that really over delivers for its price. Excellent value, just delicious.

Highly Recommended 92 points



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.