Four Syrahs


Bilancia Syrah 2010

From the Cellar: Bilancia Syrah Hawkes Bay 2010 – $$$

This is from one of New Zealand’s reference Syrah producers. Their La Collina Syrah is lauded, but like Trinity Hills Homage and Missions Huchet, out of my price range. This is the first wine of theirs I have tried – I bought it for the Pool Room on reputation alone.

Deep deep scarlet colour, tending brick.

At first it was closed and somewhat dumb on the nose, a fail mark against my presentation. Then after a short time it showed soft and fragrant , and built on, with vanilla and dark berries. A beguiling savoury secondary bouquet emerged. A tickle of pepper. Lovely to inhale.

With some standing, it tasted soft & supple, with Rhone characters. Ripe fruit, and restrained. Fine tannins, a hint of green stalk, but that is not a negative here – it adds to grace. Strong white pepper on the finish. Long and involving, this is a terrific, terrific wine, and worth careful consideration. 97 points.


Forrest tasting 2016 2

Forrest Syrah John Forrest Collection Gimblett Gravels 2013 – $$$

Tasted instore. This wine is from Dr Forrest’s premium collection. Single vineyard site on the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay. Hand harvested. Aged before release.

Deep carmine colour,  13.5% alc. A gorgeous nose – a rich bouquet, floral with dark boysenberry and plum fruit, black pepper, some oak and vanilla. Simply superb.

To taste: fresh, vibrant ripe dark stonefruit flavours, juicy texture, supple tannins to finish. Young, needs time to soften and knit together the component parts. A great NZ Syrah. 95 points


VM CS Syrah 2014

Villa Maria CS Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$.

Inky black scarlet, 13.5% alc. Light bouquet, cool climate fruit aromas –  blackberries; the usual box wood top notes and light spice. Straightforward flavours, not overly ripe or lush, black pepper, blackberry nose carrying through on palate, drying tannins, licorice on the finish. 88 points


3 Roads Syrah Hawkes Bay 2015

From the vineyard of my mate GW, as seen at his ‘release tasting’ last weekend. The wine was made by Tim Turvey at Clearview.

Bright deep scarlet colour. Cut with 15% Merlot. Soft and with bright floral notes.  Less spice and depth and pepper than the ‘14. Needs another year or two to integrate and show the style better. As for the ’14, it is well on the way. Needs two years more to open out and become lusher.  Both too soon to rate appreciably.

Thanks for the invite!

What’s in the glass at the Graperide Weekend 2016 – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

Grape Crushing 2016

As I have written about in an earlier post, riders taking part in the Graperide are given a complimentary bottle of Forrest Estate “100 Virgins” Pinot Noir at registration if they took part in the previous year’s event.

The “100 Virgins” refer to a group of women who have volunteered to manually crush grapes in a huge vat set up beside the event stage at prizegiving. The resulting juice is added to a larger pressing that is bottled under the Graperide 100 Virgins label, and given away the next year. The women get a t-shirt for their troubles, and access to showers to wash off (they end up covered head to foot in sticky grape juice).

Forrest 100 Virgins Pinot Noir 2013

I have ridden this event six years in a row now, and have built up a collection of these complimentary Pinot Noir wines. They aren’t the producer’s finest work, to be fair, and don’t benefit much from cellaring.

I brought along a 10th anniversary 100 Virgins 2013 bottle from the  Pool Room to enjoy at the traditional Pot Luck Friday night pre-race dinner at Bings Motel – a “no-frills” establishment we delight in staying at.

The wine was nothing to write home about (and served in a tumbler – no wine glasses at Bings…). Red cordial is the best descriptor. It did taste a little better at home after 48 hours opened. Decanting obv. helped.

79 points.

Allan Scott Wallops Chardonnay 2014

At dinner on Saturday night at the Twelve Trees restaurant, L and I shared a bottle of Allan Scott Wallops Chardonnay 2014. This wine engaged all the senses – a complex wine with aromas of ripe stonefruit, oatmeal, warm toasty oak and herbs; a good line of acidity leading  to a pleasant long and bitter finish.

90 points.

Interestingly, the latest vintage of the GR100VPN2015 tasted not bad…a young wine…but as the vines age, so the wine improves…


What’s in the glass tonight

Forrest 100 Virgins Pinot Noir 2011

From the Cellar: Forrest Estate 100 Virgins Graperide Pinot Noir Marlborough 2011 – Free

Dr Forrest of Forrest Estate Wines is a fine host of the Graperide cycle event, and his team really knows how to pull off a well-run and safe bike race.

He is also generous: every year that riders re-enter the race, at Registration they are given a complimentary bottle of the previous vintage of Forrest Estate Pinot Noir for simply coming back to have another go.

I think I have completed the event for 6 years in a row. Thusly, I have built up a bit of a vertical of their pinots down in the Pool Room. I have also been known to knock the top off a bottle the evening before the ride, and have learnt a wee bit about their products.  I believe that Forrest Estate do not possess the requisite terroir to make a great Pinot Noir – they are good winemakers and make a fine Riesling – but it is appropriate to consider their pinot as more of a drink-now wine. But I am interested to see if a moderate bit of age improves the wine.

Ruby. 13%.

A typical Pinot nose – red cherries, underbrush. Ethereal, even.

Less nuance in the mouth, unweighted, and light-bodied. An assertive attack with not much extract and the wine thins out as it sits in the glass over time. Adds also a touch of dry stainless steel metallic note. Which sounds bad but is actually OK if I drink it fast enough!

Lesson: the little extra age actually helps.

G 3

What’s in the glass tonight June 28th

 Forrest The Doctors Reisling 2009

From the cellar: Forrest The Doctors Riesling 2009 – $$

I bought this bottle from the vineyard cellar door at the Graperide a few years back. It won Champion White at the Auckland Easter Show so I thought it might be a goody.

Blonde greenish straw. 8.5%. This is the lightest alcohol wine I have ever had I think. Lovely fragrant aromatics: mandarins, rockmelon, hint of TDN peeking through. Yummy.

In the the mouth the first thing I get is that typical Riesling spritzy freshness at the front of the palate. Then very ripe and luscious full fruit flavours of apricots and mandarins and honey kick in. Medium sweet. It lasts and lasts. So damn tasty.

A fantastic wine for an aperitif and went surprisingly well with L’s sticky prawn noodles. I don’t normally go for a sweet Riesling tho aficionados prefer them. I should soften my stance and drink more of these – the flavours are just too good. 4+


Straight to the Pool Room – Graperide Special


All Graperide entrants who competed the year before are given a free bottle of Forrest Marlborough Pinot Noir at Registration. This year it was the 10th anniversary of the fun ride, so the Good Doctors decided to Supersize the offer and give us all a Magnum of said vino.

I brought a bottle of 1993 Matua Cab Sav to drink at the Friday night pre-ride potluck dinner/carbo-load. It was absolute muck. To call it vinegar does disservice to real vinegars. So I was forced to open my magnum…

Fortunately L kept her magnum tightly sealed so into the Pool Room it goes…along with a standard 750ml bottle of same that L won for taking out top spot in her event!

Forrest Pinot Noir 2013 – drink 2016

Framingham Marlborough Old Vine Riesling 2013  – drink 2016-2018. Bought at the winery

What’s in the glass tonight June 14th

Forrest 100 Virgins Pinot Noit 2009

Forrest Estate 100 Virgins Pinot Noir 2009

Elwood Blues once said, “Whaddaya get for nuttin? A rubber biscuit? You throw it against the wall, it bounce back into your mouth. If it don’t bounce back, you go hungry.”

I’ll be the first to admit that this is not likely to be one of NZ’s great pinots.

It was a freebie, given out to all entrants of the annual 101km Forrest Estate Graperide cycle fun ride who had completed the previous year’s event. As legend sez, 100 grape-pressing virgins foot-press a vat of grapes after the ride; the juice is then bulked out, vinted,  and bottled as 100 Virgins, and then handed out the following year.

This is version 2010. I would have normally necked my bottle the moment I got back to the motel, but for some daft reason I held on to this one, and others since. Cycling mates have told me this wine is not great, but I thought a little age might bring out whatever goodness resides within…

Hmm, pinot noir ruby…some light florality, with raspberries and blossom. Very light in the mouth though, short on fruit concentration, thin and austere, some overcropping perhaps. Fills a gap, but not much gladness here. Disappointing. 2.

It’s not all bad tho. The first year I did the Graperide, 2010, I needed a wine for the potluck meal at the motel that first night. I bought a 2005 Cornerstone Cab Merlot from the vineyard. It was a revelation, and I have been following the Wine Star ever since…

Straight to the Pool Room – April 2013

Pool Room April 2013

Vintage is underway in Marlborough. All weekend the roads have been filled with mechanical harvesters driving from site to site. Grape boxes have been stacked up at the end of the rows. Trucks filled with fruit have been driving slowly to the wineries. This summer has been a pearler, and every indication is that this year’s vintage will be a great one, all over the country. Buy up in 2014/2015!

So, L and I visited a couple of Marlborough wineries on our way back to the Cook Strait ferry after the Graperide. I recommend visiting them.

We were given a very warm welcome at Fromm. We worked our way through a tasting of their sav, chardy, syrah, malbec, a couple of pinot noirs and a dessert gewurtz. The chardonnay was very stylish but I picked up a bottle of a wonderfully fragrant pinot. James Suckling awarded 95 points to this:

Fromm Brancott Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 – $$$ – drink now – 2014

Then we moseyed over to Cloudy Bay. The company’s success at introducing the world to fresh Marlborough sauvignon blancs has been invested into building a spacious and stylish cellar door complex, with many enthusiastic staff to take us through the tasting process. It was particularly endearing seeing a bunch of little kids, in matching Cloudy Bay black T-shirts, running around the barrel room. Apparently it was ‘take your children to vintage day’.

What did we have? Their eponymous sav, riesling, chardonnay, Te wahi pinot noir, pinot gris, late harvest riesling, and this true NZ classic oaked sauvignon blanc, another 95-pointer:

Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2009 – $$$ – drink 2014-2017

And for completing the Graperide last year, Dr John Forrest gave all riders a bottle of:

Forrest Estate 100 Virgins Pinot Noir 2012 – drink 2015-2016