What’s in the glass tonight March 23rd – Pinot Noir


The Edge PN 2016

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir Martinborough 2016 – $$

This is the value tier PN product for this producer.

Peter Richards MW in Decanter magazine included this wine in his February 2018 article “30 great New World buys under GDP30, and rated it 91 points.  He wrote, “brilliant, great value example. Elegantly bittersweet, poised, spicy and engaging.”

14.2% alc. Dark carmine colour.

Aromatic, soft and fruity. Black cherries, savouriness and spice and soap.

Soft in the mouth, with dark fruits and spice evident. A soapy finish and hot. Real generous fruit weight with no bitterness or thinness on the rear palate that I see in other NZ pinots at this price point.

My only fault with this wine is that it is too alcoholic. Loses grace.

Recommended 88 Points

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

Escarpment Kupe 2013

From the Cellar: Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 – $$$

The flagship Pinot from one of Martinborough’s most experienced winemakers. I have been to many Escarpment tastings, and bought wine following each one. This bottle was one of those, liberated from the cellar to see what development there was after 5 years.

Deep ruby colour. 13.5% alc.

On the nose the wine showed heady, savoury, luscious and dense aromas. There was a subline character to the nose with scents of boxwood, soft red fruit, lanolin, licorice and dark red roses.

The palate told a shorter story: a sweet entry with a bitter finish. It seemed astringent, thin, metallic and hollow. There were red fruit there, but not enough flavour to balance the drying tannins. Finished somewhat long, but it didn’t improve on standing. The nose stayed firm however.

Had this wine “tunnelled”? I have had a couple of disappointing cellar experiences with the Escarpment wines I have bought for the Pool Room, including a Pahi tasted last year. They show so well on release. Had I opened them too early? Or are they not built for the long term? Don’t know, but I have to say I was saddened. I was hoping for this wine to be tremendous. I’ll keep the second one another couple of years and see how it fares.

Recommended 86 points

What’s in the glass tonight May 23rd – Riesling

Escarpment Riesling

Escarpment Riesling Martinborough 2013

This was a generous gift from MM for me being chauffeur at the recent biking weekend. Much appreciated, mate.

Brilliant pale greenish straw colour. 12% alc.

The nose was delightfully aromatic and phenolic, showing lean and crisp acidity, with a layered note of honey.

Natch, the wine was dry/off-dry, lean, and angular to taste as well. Salty, and sharp through the mid palate, with a short crisp mineral finish. I loved the mouthwatering acidity. An arresting wine, cerebral even (if I err into weinwank for a moment…J )

Very enjoyable. I liked seeing the sweetness dialled back in this white.

Highly Recommended – 90 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 2nd – Chardonnay


Escarpment Chardonnay Martinborough 2011 – $$

L and I stayed the night at the Martinborough Hotel to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. We didn’t get there until mid-afternoon, but managed to fit in a cheeky 50km ride out towards Lake Ferry and back via Kahutara Rd before dinner at Pinnochio Restaurant just off the main square. Very nice it was as well. They ran out of the dessert that L was keen on, so we shared a dessert and sticky back at the hotel.

This wine I chose as an aperitif before dinner…

Pale straw. 13.5%

Refined bouquet. Elegant. Some mealy aromas. Citrus dominant.

Lean & austere, somewhat sharp with citrus & minerals. Crisp, fresh and short. No where near as warm and full as the 2012 we drank a month ago…

Not destined to be a favourite, and somewhat fragile, as the flavours did not survive the trip back into town the next day.

84 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 May 20th – Pinot Noir

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir 2015

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir Martinborough 2015 – $$

A red wine for the end of my working week, as rain and wind sweeps the streets outside and sends pedestrians scurrying…

Deep blushing pink carmine colour.  13.5% alc.

Ripe red berry aromas, tending jammy.

Sweet in the mouth, very ripe, not much nuance.  Plenty of fruit flavour and intensity – a luscious style of pinot. A bit too simple & direct for my taste.  accessible it may be, but not interesting at all. Little tannin on palate, and with new oak apparent, this is not the cool-climate damsel that I prefer… 84 points.

What’s in the glass tonight May 6th – Catch Pinot

Catch Pinot

Catch Pinot Martinborough Tasting with Joelle Thompson at RW

I rocked up at Regional Wines for a free instore tasting of Martinborough Pinot Noirs hosted by the very engaging and knowledgeable Joelle Thompson, wine writer and journalist.

Catch Pinot is a month-long harvest celebration of red Pinots from Martinborough, Gladstone and Masterton in the Wairarapa. 25 wineries are offering their wines through 47 of Wellington’s best eateries, with menus that match the wines. Several local bottlestores are also in on the deal, and the whole shebang culminates in a big Pinot Celebration dinner at Te Papa on May 28.

There was much anticipate at the tasting. I saw my mate GN standing around the barrel, and what with chatting to him, and talking to Joelle, and having a laugh, I didn’t make too many notes. It’s a hard road to a perfect wine review, but someone’s gotta do it!

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir Martinborough 2015 – bright, ripe, one-note

Julicher Estate 99 Rows Pinot Noir Martinborough 2012 – This has the ‘stuffing’ I am looking for, slightly vegetal, floral

Cambridge Road Hillside Project Pinot Noir Martinborough 2015 – luscious, floral & young; an innovative bottle and label!

Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 –  serene &  classy in this company

Johner Gladstone Pinot Noir 2014 – Lovely, savoury, peppery

Urlar Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 – poise, density and grace. Best wine of the flight!

What’s in the glass tonight March 27th – Various reds

Escarpment Pahi PN 2010

From the Cellar: Escarpment Pahi SV Pinot Noir Martinborough 2010 – $$$

G came around tonight for dinner with L and I. As promised, I cracked a bottle of Pinot Noir from the cellar to match the bottle he bought for our wedding last year. It was, alas, not up to the occasion…

…Vegetal, stalky, angular & thin. A true cool climate example, but showed light fruit, less than ripe, certainly not luscious, and showed green. A MAJOR disappointment. I do recall, at the 2012 tasting from which I bought this wine, that I was charmed by the floral femininity of the wine, but that I was the only one in the room thus charmed…therefore; lesson: note the ‘ wisdom of crowds’ in future…

82 points

Te Mata Various reds - Graeme N

Te Mata Woodthorpe Vineyard Syrah Viognier Hawkes Bay 2003

G supplied two bottles for dinner, ex an auction he had recently bought at. What a treat!

This wine was savoury and spicy, with white pepper notes, sweet ripe fruit, balanced tannins and fruit. Yum. A total delight!

94 points

Te Mata Woodthorpe Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Hawkes Bay 2006

An upfront nose of vanilla and baking spice. Balanced fruit, structured tannins, licorice and cocoa. Dense and flavoursome.

91 points

Straight to the Pool Room – October 2015

Pool Room Oct 2015

Bought following the Escarpment Martinborough tasting. A brace of the last few bottles remaining from the vintage…

Escarpment Vineyard Kupe Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 – $$$+ – drink 2015-2023. A superb wine. The highlight of the tasting. Such power and density!

Notes from the website: “This is the ninth release from The Escarpment Vineyard’s close planted vineyard on Te Muna Road, Martinborough.

The vines which have grown this wine have been our pride and joy since being planted in 1999. The spacing of 1.5m * 1m (6,600 vines/ ha) is approaching the planting densities used in Burgundy from where the inspiration for this wine comes. The season was warm and drier than average for this block. It has created fruit harvested in brilliant condition giving ripe flavours and soft tannins. At the time I said I’d waited 30 years for this vintage!

Fermented in wooden French cuvees, hand plunged and aged in 50% new French oak barriques for 18 months. It was bottled without fining or filtration, promoting soft mouth feel and texture. The wine was given every priority during its elevation and now shows all the hallmarks of a grand young wine on release in 2015.

It is at the vanguard of Pinot noir style in the New World and should age gracefully for up to 10 years”

An Insight to Escarpment Vineyard with Larry McKenna and Huw Kinch – October 2015

Escarpment Tasting 2015

Escarpment Martinborough Tasting, and the superlative 2013 Kupe Pinot Noir.

Another tasting at my favourite bottle store Regional Wines and Spirits, hosted by Richard Sheriff. I remember vividly the last time I tasted a horizontal of Larry McKenna’s wines. He produces some great ones. I recall being really taken with his Pahi Pinot Noir back then, and still have a bottle of it in the Pool Room.

Good news for the producer is that their investor has recommitted to the venture, and this security of investment is driving export expansion and new construction in the winery. 70% of what Escarpment produce is being exported now. Which is good for them, but not so good for us who want to drink the wines here…

The bad news is that they have lost access to fruit from the Pahi vineyard. The owner passed away, and the plot was sold to a higher bidder, and rival winemaker. Still, Larry sez he still has the ’14 and ’15’s in barrel…

And so to the wines:

2013 Escarpment Riesling – 12%. Very pale greenish straw colour. Fresh, fruity and gracious, with a phenolic tang. Sharp and light to taste, bracing acidity to the mid-palate, lemony green and sharp. Good now, will really hit its straps in another year or two. Excellent start to the flight! 4

2012 Escarpment Chardonnay – Wow. This boasted aromas similar to a European Chardonnay. Was it sulphur, was it reductive?  Anyway, it smelled complex and intriguing, and bold, with sensitive oak and soft golden fruit notes. In the mouth it was lean and linear, with lemon/lime flavours in a Chablis style. A mouthwatering finish. Wild fermented in 15% new lightly-toasted barrels. A compelling wine. 4+

2012 Escarpment Kupe Chardonnay – Single vineyard Chardonnay. 25% new oak with full malo treatment. Floral bouquet with vanilla and honey, slightly sweet. To drink it tasted tight and angular, locked-in, almost unfinished in a way. Ended on the bitter side. A much different wine to the estate wine just before it, and not as successful to my taste.

2013 Escarpment Pinot Noir – 50% whole bunch fermentation. Deep carmine colour. The ‘district’ blend. Notes of black cherries on the nose, a little closed. ‘Hay’-like typicity. To taste – dusty, smooth, with ripe fruit, fine tannins, and a light spicy finish. Nice.

2013 Escarpment Pahi Pinot Noir – The first of the SV Pinot’s. Deep carmine. Lovely floral character, light and sweet, with ripe red cherries. There was enough density in the glass to hold up very well, with perfect ripeness, generosity, and pure fruit. A joyful expression of Pinot Noir. 4+

2013 Escarpment Kiwa Pinot Noir – Picked earliest, whole bunch fermented for texture, with vine age. Deep carmine again. A nose that was dense and composed with a lovely floral quality. Savoury and gamey to taste, a step up in intensity from the Pahi. It was tannic and brusque, with medium grained tannins. Showed purity and ripeness. Explosive. 4+

2013 Escarpment Te Rehua Pinot Noir – 50% whole bunch fermentation, plunged twice daily. Deepest carmine colour. A lifted, increased intensity on bouquet, showing more weight and structure, and ticklish on the nose with bold spice. Deep and impressive in the mouth. Compressed. Lots of deep fruit flavours, with oak and vanilla. Soft, fine tannins. It shows the deepest fruit weight of those shown so far. Delicious. 4

2013 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir – The nominal ‘top’ wine of the stable. 70% whole bunch fermentation. Deep carmine. High level of dry extract. An amazing wine. – spectacular in structure and depth. A fine blend of balance and power. Dusty and dry, fruity and powerful. Lots of ‘stuffing’ in this wine. Gorgeous, I was blown away. 20/20 by one critic. I agree. Outstanding! 5

2012 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir – 35% whole bunch fermentation. Brownish deep carmine. The nose exhibits bright medicinal top notes, with some tertiary evidence of age beginning to show. Slightly stalky to taste (it was a cool wet vintage), less fruit on show, and savoury. SV elegance, with structure.

2011 Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir – 70% whole bunch fermentation. Brownish deep carmine. Somewhat closed nose. An attractive medicinal character peeks through. There is power and intensity on palate, supported by fruit ripeness. The tannins are grippy and crystalline. Shows the benefit, yet again, of a superb vineyard site.

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This tasting was held the night before my wedding. A very kind and thoughtful friend, GN, who was there also, made a gift of a bottle of 2013 Escarpment Pahi Pinot Noir to me and my wife L, and delivered it to the venue the following day. Thank you very much, G. You must come over sometime soon and help me drink the ’10.