What’s in the glass tonight September 7th

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009

From the Cellar: Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2009 – $$$

Kumeu River hails from Kumeu, just north of Auckland. It is one of NZs more humid winegrowing regions. From an earlier review of mine, “KR handpick, whole-bunch press and ferment with indigenous yeasts. The diacetyl that is produced is consumed by the malolactic bacteria during a long period of lees content, which reduces (deliberately) the ‘buttery’ character of the malo’d wines. They favour a cooper that produces quite heavy-toasted barrels, but leaves the heads as raw oak. During a low yield year, less new oak barrels are used, and more 1-yr barrels.”

Here we have a wine that is pale gold in colour, with alc 13%.The mid-level offering from this producer – one step below the Coddington or Mates single-vineyard wines – which you could say represents the  ‘house style’ of the brand. It had a rich oatmealy nose, with aromas of white blossom, vanilla, almonds, mandarin peel, lemonade, and oak. Good stuff.

It was full and ripe to taste. There was a fresh citrus tang that was very appealing. Full MLF, but was no butter-bomb. The oak was restrained. Mouth-watering and luscious. Secondary characters starting to protrude as well.

Opened at just the right time. I really liked it. Age-worthy. 4+

Straight to the Pool Room – January 2014

Pool Room Jan 2014

I’m keeping it cheap this month. Got a few other things to budget for (i.e. house refurbishment…!):

Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2010 – $ – drink 2015 – this wine has been fantastic value drinking these past few months. Great citrus backbone to this chard. Got another year in them I think.

Thornbury Waipara Riesling 2011 – $ – drink 2016 – Off-dry.  Gold Medal winner. Wines from the Waipara are getting great press. High hopes for this.

The first wine in our new house


From the Cellar: Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2008 – $$$

After a long tough day of last-minute packing,  organising, lifting and carrying we are finally in our house. We are sitting in the conservatory, the sun is out, and this wine is in our glasses.

Both the house and the wine is fantastic. 5


What’s in the glass tonight Sept 14th

Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chard 2008

From the cellar: Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2008 – $$$

While driving back from Turoa skifield today, L and I listened to the TED Radio Hour on RNZ National. TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design. It is the name given to an American non-profit organisation that arranges for very clever and passionate people to give an 18 minute ‘talk of their life’ to a conference audience, from one of those three subject headings above. Their talks are recorded, and made available for viewing for free on the Net. Extremely interesting and inspiring, check them out on TED.com.

The speaker today was Barry Swartz. He was talking about his research into the ‘secret of happiness’. He contended that the surfeit of choice available in modern western-style societies actually contributes to a reduction in peoples happiness levels.

His conclusion was that the secret of happiness lay in having Low Expectations. This struck a nerve with me.

You see, I plucked a special bottle from under the house to have with L up at the mountain in the weekend. Kumeu River Mates Vineyard Chardonnay it was…

The wine came with lavish praise from pundits, great provenance, from 18yr old vines, and had an impressive price tag. This is gonna be amazeballs, I thought. I even had a tasting of their 2010s, and loved them (tho the Mates was not my high point of the tasting).

I cracked the lid. The wine was light gold. Hmm. Should it have been darker? Light aged-wine bouquet of honey citrus and butterscotch on nose. Pear flavours in the mouth, restrained oak and malo. Very fine, but not particularly remarkable. And it was this lack of remarkableness that disappointed. L liked it, it was clearly a well-made quality wine, but where was the wow factor? The big flavours? I expected to be blown away, like I was by the first Sacred Hill Riflemans I tasted. Is this an example of marketing over substance? I’d have to taste it again to be sure, but at the current price per glass that is unlikely.

I will give it a 4, when it should have been a 5, and that makes me grumpily want 2 say 3.

One good thing is that I have a KR Coddington Chardonnay from the same vintage still to drink. That vineyard site scored highest with me in the earlier tasting, so I hope it delivers better.

This is the second high-price NZ cellar wine that has left me feeling flat in a month. I had a glass of 2011 Palliser Chardonnay earlier in the week which was sensational, and that was half the price of the latest KR Mates Vineyard offering.

I am going to drop my price ceiling, and seek wine happiness through modest expectations…

What’s in the glass tonight Aug 25th

Kumeu Villages Chardonnay 2010

Kumeu Village Chardonnay 2010 – $

Earlier in the year I went to a tasting of Kumeu River chardonnays. It was fantastic. I bought a bottle of their single vineyard 2010 Coddington Chardonnay on the strength of it. My general takeaway was that production was way down due to an early frost event, but the season ended well and it delivered quality product in short supply.

This wine didn’t appear at the tasting. It’s the entry-level offering. Still hand- harvested, but I think the wine saw less of the new French oak barrels.

Pale gold colour. Fresh and zesty citrus nose, and long legged. For $15 it’s showing pretty good balance and flintiness to drink. There is fruitiness and acid crunch and a touch of mealiness. The age of this is spot-on.

Funny tho, a bottle I split with L last week was a deal more austere. 3.5


Straight to the Pool Room – Aug 2013

Pool Room Aug 2013

Another recommendation from GK, and two recommended by my slim bank balance:

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010 – $$ – drink 2015-2017

Kumeu Village Chardonnay 2010 – $ – drink 2014

Dashwood Marlborough Chardonnay 2012 – $ – drink 2015

Straight to the Pool Room – May 2013

Poolroom May13

Following a recent couple of tastings, and recommendations, the following bottles of goodness will be ushered into the dark recesses of the cellar. Easy may they sleep…

Palliser Estate Martinborough Riesling 2012 – $$ – drink 2017

Escarpment Pahi Pinot Noir Martinborough 2010 – $$$$ – drink 2015

Kumeu River Coddington Chardonnay 2010 – $$$ – drink 2015

Trinity Hill The Gimblett Merlot Cab Hawkes Bay 2010 – $$$ – drink 2017-2020

Craggy Range Te Kahu Hawkes Bay 2010 – $$ – drink 2017-2018

Wine Tasting – Single Vineyard Specialists – April 30th

Just got back from a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir tasting that was totally amazeballs. My mouth and throat is coated with the most wonderful wine flavours…

The event was a tasting at Regional Wines where Michael Brajkovich of Kumeu River and Larry McKenna of Escarpment presented their single vineyard wines. The winemakers considered each single vineyard site as having special characters that could be seen in a single-site wine, but which would be lost in a blend.


Flight One – Kumeu River:

Produced in Kumeu, north of Auckland, KR is known particularly for their chardonnays. The chardonnay vintage we were to taste (2010) was their 26th. Vintage 2010 was outstanding for weather, with no botrytis. Having said that, 50% of the bud was lost to a severe frost during Sept ’09. This resulted in a very low yield at vintage, but produced fruit with great intensity of flavour.

Michael sez that KR handpick, whole-bunch press and ferment with wild yeasts. The diacetyl that is produced is consumed by the malolactic bacteria during a long period of lees content, which reduces (deliberately) the ‘buttery’ character of the malo’d wines. They favour a cooper that produecs quite heavy-toasted barrels, but leaves the heads as raw oak. During a low yield year, less new oak barrels are used, and more 1-yr barrels.

Estate Chardonnay 2010  – $$$ – their ‘district’ wine from six Kumeu vineyards. Pale straw. Aromatic. Refreshing acidity; peachy; lean, notes of green apples. 20% new oak barrels with balance of 1 yr old oak barrels. Nice start to the tasting.

Coddington Chardonnay 2010 – $$$ – Light gold; aromatic, perfumed, spicy; rich, with lemons and firm acid. Superb.

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2010 – $$$+ – Light gold; restrained perfume almost austere; expressive fruit, dense, peach and nectarines; some match head character.

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2009 – $$$+ – Light gold; lovely fruit expression

Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 – Gold; deep aromatics; warm, showing bottle age with mealy notes, the acids are still very fresh. Drinking well.

Mates Vineyard Chardonnay 2010 – $$$++ – Gold; from the Mendoza/McCray clone; deep, elegant, spicy, with pears and nuts; textural. Superb.


Flight Two – Escarpment:

Centered on Te Muna Rd in Martinborough, Escarpment are known for their pinot noir, though they also produce a chardonnay, pinot gris and reisling. They hand-pick their fruit, sort it on a shaker table, and whole-bunch press. If ripeness levels are good, will also include stems in the ferment.

Larry is also looking to take more control of fermentation by inoculating certain barrels against wild yeasts to slow the alcohol conversion process and keep the alcohol levels of the wine under 14%.

Correct tannins are important, and also producing the forest/ floor/ fungal characters so attractive about pinot noir. Larry maintains the ‘ markers’  each site maintains from vintage to vintage.

Kupe Chardonnay 2011 – $$$+ – pale straw; spicy aromatics; green apples; a lovely cool climate chardonnay with pleasing minerality. Very good.

Escarpment Pinot Noir 2010 – $$$ – the district blend – carmine colour; game-y, savoury, plum-y, fruit-driven; lovely.

Pahi Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$ – dark brownish carmine; herbal/savoury notes; others thought it was corked but it seemed fine to me, perhaps a little more restrained on the nose and simpler in the mouth than the others.

Pahi Pinot Noir 2010 – $$$+ – deep carmine; savoury, aromatic; velvety power, intensity of fruit, supple tannins; wine of the night for me.

Kiwa Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$+ – very dark brown/carmine; delightful perfume; tannic; oldest vines, perhaps strongest site expression of terroir; game-y and savoury

Te Rehua Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$+ – lovely rich carmine colour; powerful; warm ripeness and spicy cinnamon notes

Kupe Pinot Noir 2011 – $$$++ – rich carmine purple; sweet nose, truffles; old world, complex high intensity flavours (1×1.5 planting density which is not far off Bourgogne); lots of whole bunch and stalk character; good tannins. Needs time. GK sez the best Kupe yet. But very expensive…

Wow. I count myself really lucky to have tried these wines. Each was an experience in their own way, and prove that quality shows through and justifies a higher price. I see a Pahi 2010 and Coddington 2010 finding it’s way into the pool room …