What’s in the glass tonight June 20th – Chardonnay


Sacred Hill Riflemans 2015

Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2015 – $$$+

Bula!

L and I recently jetted off for a long weekend on Denarau island in Fiji. L was to attend a conference, and I was her ‘plus-1’.

The weather was sunny and warm. The pool was cool and inviting, the hotel staff were friendly and helpful, and we had a great time with her workmates and fellow professionals. Vinaka vaka levu, L!

I raided the airport duty-free store on the way and bought a bottle of Chardonnay to drink on our hotel room balcony. I chose one of NZ’s best single vineyard Chardy’s, which is only made in good years from grapes off old Mendoza clone vines. As I have written about before, it was a bottle of the ’07 that started me on my wine journey.

The nose of the Riflemans showed mealy and fine and aromatic. The wine smelled oaky and oily, quite similar to Viognier in that regard, and had that typical Riflemans intensity, buttery character, and layer of lemon curd.

To taste, the wine was finely-grained and smooth in texture, with rich and dense golden fruit flavours, and some butterscotch and spice. It finished long, with quite “tingle-y’ acid, and showed some bitterness.

This Chardonnay is an somewhat old-fashioned heavy style of wine, in its way, and was not really suited to the tropical Fijian climate at all. A winter white, this one, and best for a cold climate and roast chicken dinners. Still, couldn’t deny the quality.

Highly recommended 91 points

What’s in the glass tonight May 11th– Merlot Cabernets blend


IMG_9172

Craggy Range Te Kahu Hawkes Bay 2015 – $$

It’s late at night. L is away at a Chiro conference in Melbourne, LG is in bed asleep, the boys are with their father, and I am sifting at the the computer, on the internet, which turns into blogging. I’m blogging about wine, while drinking this wine. Very meta.

Dark plum red. 14% alc.

The wine is showing somewhat thin and oddly structured on the nose on opening. Perhaps it’s a keeper and needs time?

Sure enough, it softened on standing in the glass, filling out and opening up, but still showed thin. There is fruit there as a backbone, with spice and heat, grunty tannin and dark cocoa, but it isn’t as rich or dense as the ’13 or ’14. A disappointment, this bottle.

It does show distinctive terroir, so I have marked it up

Commended 85 points

What’s in the glass tonight April 28th – Merlot


IMG_9069

Abbey Cellars Rapture Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$

Dark plum red colour. 14% alc.

A layered and chunky nose, soft ripe sweet black fruit, big on vanilla, and a bit funky. The funkiness got stronger as the wine got air.

Full and soft to drink. Medium tannins. A structural feel in the mouth, a soapy and spicy finish. I could feel the alcohol heat.

The wine then alarmingly wilted in the glass after time, and unpleasantly. I have rarely seen this. It either lacks the extract or fruit weight to sustain itself in contact with air, or it had been poorly stored. A very odd wine to work out – it opened so promising, and then fell over almost completely. A real shame.

Not rated.

What’s in the glass tonight April 16th – Chardonnay


IMG_8984

From the Cellar: Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2011 – $$$

Pale gold colour. 13.5 % alc. Single vineyard wine. I have been fortunate to have drunk a few vintages of this great wine.

This version smells delightfully aromatic. Poised and elegant. Light meal. Lean and restrained. A lovely nose.

An off-dry attack in the mouth. Fresh crunchy acidity throughout. Attractive austere mineral character. Long and incredibly powerful. Lemon finish. Long and long. Sooo good.

A real show wine, this. A cellar-door show-stopper, and a wine that rewards cellaring. One of the best wines I have had this year so far.

Outstanding 97 Points

What’s in the glass tonight January 7th – Syrah


elephant-hill-syrah-2014

Elephant Hill Syrah Te Awanga Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$

Deep dark carmine. 13.5% alc.

A big, rich and expressive aroma. Plums, savoury with vanilla and white pepper, balsa wood and spice, and a hint of funk.

The flavours show sweet on entry, with rich dark fruit through themed-palate and supple tannins with just enough grip to balance the floral nose, and heat and length at the finish.

This is such a good wine I can really see the kinship this grape has with Pinot Noir. A heady nose paired with a feminine quality on the palate. Sophisticated, delicate fruit with a good core of weight.

Highly Recommended  – 93 points

What’s in the glass tonight January 4th – Syrah


bilancia-syrah-2014

Bilancia Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$

Deep dark carmine colour. 13% alc. This Syrah is a blend of three vineyards, 25% La Collina and the remainder from two vineyards located in the Bridge Pa Triangle, plus about 3% Viognier. I like it when Viognier is in the mix – it adds perfume.

There was an expectant savoury nose, with scents of ripe plums, pencils, black pepper, and red roses.

On drinking I noticed the usual rich red fruit flavours, plus there was a confectionery character through the mid palate, with vanilla over-laid, and a peppery finish, long and soft. Medium tannins. I also saw a salty element, and licorice.

Recommended  – 89 points

What’s in the glass tonight December 30th – Merlot Malbec


elephant-hill-merlot-malbec-2014

Elephant Hill Merlot Malbec Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$

From grapes off Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle vineyards, taasted and bought at the Te Awanga winery. Inky scarlet colour. 13.5% alc.

While 2013 was good for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 was a good year for Merlot.

This wine showed an expressive bold hit of perfume, soft fruit, plums and vanilla. A gorgeous nose; savoury and smoky.

Rich ripe fruit on the front of the palate, plenty of fruit weight through the middle, supple tannins and a pleasant brusqueness at the finish. Mouthcoating and long.

Highly Recommended – 94 points

What’s in the glass tonight December 11th – Syrah


abbey-syrah-2013

Abbey Cellars Eden Syrah Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$

L and I and kids headed out to a friends beach house to stay the night in the weekend. I bought this wine at an outlet on the way.

Deep carmine. 14%.

Reduction on the nose. Savoury. Oak. Black fruits. Cherries. Perfumed. Roses. A gorgeous nose, with very intriguing and complex notes.

Smoky to taste. Great fruit weight. Plums, figs, ginger & chocolate. Black and white pepper. Spicy. Complex tannins and long.

Outstanding – 95 points

single-malts

Things got a little confused after this, and few more reds. At one point we were comparing an single malt out of Auckland with a Dalwhinnie. I don’t recall much more after this photo was taken. A very generous host lead me willingly astray, and the next day was pretty much a write-off…

What’s in the glass tonight December 8th – Syrah


church-road-syrah-2014

Church Road Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014 – $

Inky carmine colour. 13.5% alc.

Michael Cooper rated this wine his best red buy for 2017. He wrote of it, “sturdy, richly flavoured, sharply priced red is not to be missed.  ‘Serious’ but highly approachable, it is mouthfilling, with an array of blackcurrant, plum, spice and nut flavours, hints of black pepper and licorice, and excellent concentration, ripeness and complexity”.

I have to agree. This wine has a beautiful nose, layered, fruity and savoury in equal parts. Softness, with plums and white pepper, vanilla and chocolate. Lots going on, and ‘serious’.

The wine tasted soft and robust, with dense rich fruit, mid-weighted with medium tannin and spice. Well-built, mouth-filling and long, with unctuous umami components and a white pepper finish. The best CR base-level Syrah yet. Superb.

Highly Recommended – 92 points

What’s in the glass tonight December 1st – Verdelho


esk-valley-verdelho-2016

Esk Valley Verdelho Hawkes Bay 2016 – $$

I haven’t tried a Verdelho since ages ago! When I saw this on sale I just had to buy.

Pale gold. 14% alc.

Aromatic with sweet tropical fruity scents. Open and lifted, with notes of spice and honey and butter candy, and Golden Delicious apples.

To taste – sweet and ripe on entry, a citrus edge throughout the mid-palate, spicy and with a long finish. Unctuous and mouth-filling, textural and bold, with bountiful flavours of apples, mangoes and mandarines.

Recommended – 88 points