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

What’s in the glass tonight February 11th – Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon


Villa Maria CS Merlot Cab Sav 2010

From the Cellar: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay 2010  – $

This is one of my favourite New Zealand wines. It is reliable, interesting, flavoursome and great value. Amongst our best wines dollar-for-dollar. And I bought a bunch back in ’12 and have started to open them up…

Dark plum magenta. 13.5% alc.

Savoury dark fruit aromas. Vanilla and spice, pine boxwood, faded dark red roses.

Warm red fruits to taste. Soft, lots of vanillin, chocolate and licorice. Still fiery medium-grained tannins. Hot on the back palate. A long and smoky finish.

Enveloping, rewarding. A good entry-level red cellarable wine.

BTG 3+

Straight to the Pool Room – November 2015


Pool Room Nov 2015

A couple of gold medal Marlborough Savvies to put to bed for a couple of years sleep-in, and a wine that Raymond Chan scored 20/20 from the “vintage of a generation”:

Hãhã Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2014 – $ – Drink 2015-2017. Gold Medal Royal Easter Show

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Merlot Cabernet Gimblett Gravels 2013 – $$$+ – Drink 2018-2023

Here is what Raymond writes of this wine: “Dark, deep, near inpenetrable black red colour with youthful purple hues. The nose is sensationally vibrant with powerful and packed aromas of very ripe black berry and black plum fruits along with a subtle cassis layer. The aromatics feature dark red, violet and black florals melded with iron-earth, minerals and tar. This has essence aromas, and the nose is extremely primary in expression, but the varietal detail is already apparent. Medium-full bodied the palate is extremely rich and lusciously succulent with bright, ripe black berried and plum fruits with currants and iron-earth, with lifted florals. Beautiful acidity lends vibrancy and vitality and the mouthfeel is alive with energy and tension. The acidity shows clarity and the palate has drive and linearity. The tannins are powdery and refined, building to provide structure in proportion, balance and harmony. This has underlying power with great elegance. This ‘Sophia’ has remarkable vitality and life, with vibrant primary fruit, great richness and structure. It will age 15+ years. A blend of 62% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot from the ‘Gimblett Gravels vineyard, fermented to 13.8% alc., the wine aged 19 months in 42% new French oak barriques. 20.0/20 May 2015.”

For more please see http://www.raymondchanwinereviews.co.nz

Elephant Hill Tasting – Aug 2015


Elephant Hill tasting

M shouted me to this tasting at Regional Wines and Spirits hosted by Richard Sherriff. I tried this producer’s Syrah after a Taupo Cycle Challenge a couple of years back and I was really impressed at what they were doing. So I was well pleased to be invited along!

Elephant Hill is owned by the Weiss family. It is a boutique producer of sustainably-produced hand-crafted wines, located on the Te Awanga coast of Hawkes Bay. It produces about 20,000 cases PA at present. I am told it also boasts a fine restaurant, which features dishes well-paired to the wines. The site is named for a life-size teak sculpture of an elephant the owners brought back from a trip to the sub-continent. As you do.

Elephant Hill has three vineyards – Te Awanga with coastal shingle and clay, Gimblett Gravels with inland stony gravels, and Bridge Pa Triangle with inland alluvial and red metal soils.

The wines were poured in advance, non-blind. They were presented by winemaker Steve Skinner and Marketing Manager Vince Labat.

E H Viognier Te Awanga 2014 – No malo, small barrel ferment, short time on lees. 13.5%. Steve admitted that they (EH) liked a cooler climate style of wine. The Viognier grapes were planted in 2007, the estate’s oldest vines. It is a fickle grape to grow, with ripening being problematic. Apparently M. Chapoutier has said, “Making Viognier is an act of Charity”.  EH fight to keep the alcohols from going over the top, and maintaining lovely aromatics. I saw good fruit aromas here – mandarin, passionfruit, nectarines. There was ginger spice and mandarin in the mouth, dry, with a citrus burst and some salinity. It’s an easy Viognier, not oily. I liked it. 3+

E H Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Te Awanga 2014 – They say Reserve designation refers to more time spent in the vineyard and winery. A simple wine picked at optimal ripeness. Fermented in old oak puncheons, wild yeasts, with lees complexity.  Herbaceous nose with some tomato stalk character. Food friendly. In a Sancerre style. To taste – a strong line of citrus, refreshing green apples, lean and elegant. Others remarked about liveliness and saltiness (the end rows are only 25m from the ocean…). I thought this was great. 4

E H Chardonnay 2014 – Burgundian whole bunch pressed. Fermented 11 months in 25% new oak barrels, wild yeasts, on lees, no malo treatment.  The vintage was slightly warmer than 2013. I saw a very fine nose. There was richness and delicacy, biscuity notes, vanilla and golden fruit. It was delicious to taste too – open and fine and with a light touch. Very good. 4+

E H Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – From vines planted in 2003. Exceptional vintage. Wild fermented in oak, more lees complexity, no malo treatment. I noted a hint of apparent reductive character, but this blew off as I swirled. My notes said: powerful, rich, beautiful Chardonnay. Luscious viscous richness. Elegance. A 12 yr wine. Fantastic. 5

E H Syrah 2014 – Syrah is Elephant Hill’s flagship variety. Here it is a blend of grapes from the Te Awanga, Gimblett and Bridge Pa sites. Very ripe fruit, soft and sweet on nose. Still young, tastes young. Remarkable 32.5g dry extract. Taste is reminiscent of the E Guigal CdR 2010s I have been drinking. A very exciting Syrah. Will look fantastic in a few years, very good now. 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2013 – Here the blend of grapes from the Te Awanga and Gimblett Gravels sites, with 1% Viognier co-fermented. This glass was poured three hours before the tasting.  A big black carmine colour, it shows vanilla, elegance, density of fruit on the nose. Still a baby, but made to last. To taste, tannic and rich, rich black plums, held together refined and closed. Very Good 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2009 – This was a treat. An older bottle. Made from EL Chave clone grapes. Almost meaty character, overlaid with gorgeous fruit flavours, almost feminine. Silky tannic structure, elegance in the glass. Just superb. 5

E H Merlot Malbec 2013 – A young wine from young vines (2011). Trophy Champion NZ Red Wine at the Int. Wine Challenge. Eminently drinkable. Soft, perfumed, dark fruits. Approachable tannins. Sweetness on palate, coming from low cropping 4

E H Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 – A blend of 64% Merlot, 35% Cabernet and 1% Malbec. Rich, tannic, mouthfilling and mouthcoating. Dense. Will be really worth watching as it ages. I didn’t pay too much attention to this wine as I was still reeling from the Syrahs and Chardonnays…still, 4+

What a great tasting. I was very impressed with the breadth and quality of the wines we were offered. I already have a ’13 Syrah in the Pool Room, and am keen to supplement it with a brace of these…

What’s in the glass tonight – a Tale of Two Esks


Esk Valley HB Chard 2014

Esk Valley Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2014 – $

Ever since R brought us over a bottle of this producer’s Chardonnay last year I have seen it as a good low-cost and dependable Queen of Wine for everyday drinking.

From the latest vintage: yellow straw, 13.5% alc, lightly fragrant with notes of pears lemons and apricots.

The wine is leaner than the 2014 Church Road. Flavours of citrus, Golden Delicious apples. Very moreish, again.

BTG 3+

Esk Valley Merlot CS Malbec 2013

Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$

Lovely inky colour. Rich and mouthcoating. Tannic, drying from the Malbec component in the blend, and showing deep black stonefruit. Great structure, and showed really well on the second night. Very flavoursome. A good cellar wine.

VG 4

Straight to the Pool Room – January 2015


Pool Room Jan 2015

According to Wine Enthusiast’s 2015 Vintage Chart, their experts scored the 2013 vintage of Hawkes Bay reds as a 96, the highest score in the world. Wow. In comparison, the Old World barely came close that year…

’13 HB reds are starting to hit the shelves now. Better get some into my cellar, starting with this value favourite:

Vidal Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay 2013 – $ – drink 2018-2021 – Always there or thereabouts as a good go to wine, and cellars well for the price. An award-winner in the past.

Peregrine Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012 – $$$ – drink 2017-2020 – An extra bottle to make up a brace for the cellar. I’d love to be able to buy by the half or full case, but the budget does not extend that far. And that’s ok. There are better things to do with my spare dollars than spend it all on fancy booze.

What’s in the glass tonight Jan 7th


Vidal HB Merlot Cab 2008

From the Cellar: Vidal Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 – $

Bad News first: I’d enjoy this wine a tad more if I hadn’t bitten the inside of my cheek the night before during J’s birthday dinner at L’s. The swelling gets in the way of the Swirl ‘n Swallow. I am such a numb nut at times…

The Good News: this is one of the beautiful reasons to maintain a wine cellar…

I saw this wine given a five star review by a leading NZ food and wine magazine back in 2010. I then saw it practically given away by a large supermarket chain at $11 a bottle. So I bought a brace and put them away in the Pool Room to ripen for a few years.

And it’s turned into a Stunnah. Inky blood-black colour. 13.5%. A blend of merlot,  cabernet, malbec and franc.

It has a warm and enveloping bouquet. Notes of vanilla and cassis and cedar wood. Balanced mature flavours of ripe plums and blackberry wine gums, molasses and fruitcake spice to taste. Long and unctuous, with good lip-smacking tannins at the finish. 4.5

Superb buying! I’d best look out for the upcoming 2013’s if I don’t perish first from Stupidity.

(AND it looks like vermin have been at my cellar bottle labels! One of my Pride ‘n Joi pinots has had its label almost completely devoured while I’ve been living upstairs. Are they using grape jam as a label adhesive? Just as well I am moving!  Grrr…)

What’s in the glass tonight Dec 4th


Babich Merlot Cabernet 2012

Babich Gimblett Gravels Merlot Cabernet 2012 – $

I think a cheap red should err on the side of chainsaw rather than big fat red pillow, if you get my analogy. It should be the kind of ‘mouth-drying’ wine that prevents you from being able to spit afterwards, or win a Eat Dry Weetbix And Try To Whistle race.

I don’t know when I last drank a Babich wine. This is partly why I bought this bottle, the price being another reason. It is a cheapie for a Gimblett red: the standard ‘Classics’ label. Deep ruby. 13%. Not a big nose, but some red plums and a touch of vanilla. The fruit is ripe and soft, but not complex or tannic enough to arouse much interest with me. Very merlot-dominant I guess.

It’s an approachable party quaffer, for a party where B-52s music is playing: Love shack, baby, love shack… Will suit some people; a disappointment for me (see above). 2

Babich have been producing wine since 1916, so they know how to do it. I expect their single vineyard and reserve wines would be much better that this. I will report back in due course.

They call the wind, Mariah. Or, I’ll have a Cardonnay, the ‘h’ is silent


Villa Maria CS Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon HB 2010(2)

Names can be funny things. Ask a Nigel.

Tonight I am enjoying a glass of 2010 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon. I love this wine. I reviewed it back on April 1st.  It wasn’t a joke then, and it isn’t one now: it is dark and smells great; a rich mouthful of plums and boysenberries and fruitcake. 4.

Me being an English speaker, and monolingual, there are a few fishhooks to be found in pronouncing the name of the grape blend of this wine. It is no accident that a lot of folks shorten it to Cab Sav.

Yesterday I was listening to an interesting discussion on the radio between Jim Mora and Yvonne Lorkin. Yvonne was talking about how some wine producers were claiming to suffer reduced sales of their Gewurtztraminer or Viognier wines because customers were unsure how to pronounce their names. Rather than be embarrassed, they reckoned a buyer would choose a wine type that they could pronounce, instead of trying a new variety. I don’t know how true this is, but then I don’t remember what I did before I learnt that the ‘w’ is a ’v’, and the ‘g’ is silent and the ‘er’ is ‘ay’.

Those suppliers were thinking about inventing new names for these varieties, perhaps a name with a local or kiwi flavour, or an informal name. The names ‘Trammy’ or “Vinny’ were bandied about. I’m not sure those are an improvement, but it’s an idea.

The radio people talked also about how some Hawkes Bay producers of fine reds were not happy at having their products described as ‘Bordeaux-blends’. They would prefer a name that was more expressive of the local terroir, rather than borrow the nomenclature of an insular wine-producing community on the other side of the world, no matter that it is a useful shorthand to describe the wine-style. I agree, but what? Any ‘premium’ name with a local or Maori connection is likely already be bound-up with an established brand i.e. a red wine blend being a Pohutukawa, or say, Kotuku for a white.

Another issue was the idea of labelling a Chardonnay as Unoaked or Unwooded. This implies to the uneducated consumer that something has been left out, and the resulting wine is inferior. It isn’t – a Chablis, anyone? But you are talking about ‘no oak’ and oak is expensive innit? It is a dilemma, and those producers are also in the market for a name that implies that something great has been created, rather than removed.

Here is my stab at it:

An Unwooded Chardonnay is a Long White Chardonnay (Aotearoa) and a Bordeaux-blend is a Rata. Done.

Ps. The Cardonnay gag in the title is from the great Aussie comedy Kath ‘n Kim. I have dined out on it ever since. Thanks Kim. And the Mariah thing is a song title from the great film, Paint Your Wagon

What’s in the glass tonight July 5th


Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2010

Trinity Hill The Gimblett Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernets 2010 – $$$

My GF is away for the weekend, and in her absence I want a winter warmer to accompany watching the TdF.

Geoff Kelly, a Wellington wine writer I really rate, and meet regularly at tastings, says good things about this Bordeaux-style red wine – Cabernet Sauvignon 33%, Merlot 27% Cabernet Franc 25%, Malbec 9%, Petit Verdot 6%.

I have a couple of bottles under the house for later, but thought I really had better try an example now…

The wine is deep, dense carmine. It’s concentrated and intense and much beyond a novice like me to properly describe. Save to say it is really good. The smell is all over the place with spicy blackcurrants and warm vanilla, and the swallow shows complexity and good tannic structure, strong character and balance. Oh, and black plums.

Geoff is right to say it is still two years too young to drink, but hell, I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Cin cin. 5 !