What’s in the glass tonight November 18th

Vidal HB Merlot Cab 2007

From the Cellar: Vidal Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay  2007 – $

This was recommended by The Listener wine column way back in the day. I bought a brace of bottles for $13 each at the time and tried one two years ago. My notes suggested that I open this one now.

14% alcohol. Inky black with bricking magenta at the rim. Wonder aroma lifts from the glass. Heady, warm and rich. I see plums, cassis, dark chocolate and cedar wood. Gorgeous.

In the mouth there are ripe plums, supple tannins. Chocolate. Fruit is receding. Striking acid front. Very tasty wine that improves as it sits with air. Superb value. 4+

I left a glass in the bottle overnight to see how it went the next day. It didn’t hold up well. The depth of fruit was not capable of handling the extra air. But as a value wine should have I expected it to?

Good with the roast I cooked for dinner, and the first of the summer’s rocket salad from the vege garden.

What’s in the glass tonight Sept 14th

Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki 2008

Hammer Time: Kidnapper Cliffs Ariki Hawkes Bay 2008 – $$$

From the cellar by way of a Dunbar Sloane wine auction a while ago. Don’t remember how much I paid for it. Don’t recall it was a bargain. Blend of Merlot, Cab Franc, Cab Sav. 13% alc. It’s a bit flash this wine, cos the bottle was individually numbered. Which I think is a bit pseud, considering a wee rodent nibbled away at the label when I wasn’t looking.

Raymond Chan writes of this wine in 2011: ” The flagship label for Kidnapper Cliffs, from a cooler vintage in Hawke’s Bay, producing wines of real aromatic interest. 75% Merlot from ‘Zone 6′, 20% Cabernet Franc from ‘Zone 11′ and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon from ‘Zone 24′ in the Gimblett Gravels, fermented to 13.5% alc., aged in 33% new French oak for 18 months. Vinification and bottling at Dry River winery, Martinborough.”

In the light, inky black with a tinge of scarlet on the rim, not browning. Built for the long term I see.

A warm, rich nose. Aniseed, baking spice, vanilla.

Very balanced. A dense core of ripe fruit tasting of black plums and dried fruit; cocoa and cedar wood. Sensitive oak handling. Length. This was a top wine. It could easily have hung out in the cellar for another 5 years. A great buy at the auction. 5

What’s in the glass tonight July 4th


Delegat Crownthorpe Terraces Hawkes Bay Merlot 2012 – gift

A wine from the inland Hawkes Bay. From a box of goodies a supplier brought into the office last Christmas that we hadn’t managed to get to until now.

Delegats premium merlot. 13%. Dark ruby red. Cultured ferment. Full Malo. 10 months in French oak.

A flattish nose to start off, some berries, grows in the glass.

In the mouth, grippy with plums, blackberries, cinnamon, brambly. Good depth of fruit and intensity. Opened far too early. This would be stunning 5 – 8 years out. 4

What’s in the glass tonight June 2nd

Soho Revolver 2011

Soho Revolver Waiheke Island Merlot Blend 2011

L is a chiropractor, and a very good one too. A fortnight ago I was invited to be her “plus one” at the formal dinner during the NZ Chiropractors’ Association conference up in The Tron.

L is also very generous and she bought up a pile of raffle tickets before the dinner. Her good luck won us this bottle, and a couple of Hawkes Bay stickies too.

The wine is a Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc blend. Deep cranberry colour. 12.6%. Very floral nose. Quite peculiar notes, and unfamiliar: cherries and plums yes, but also herbs like thyme and rosemary, and red roses too. In the mouth the wine is ripe with red fruits, including cranberries, with a strong oak backbone and vanilla. A very good win and wine. 4

What’s in the glass tonight Jan 5th

The Dunes Merlot 2011

The Dunes ‘The  Journey’ Mangawhai Merlot 2011

I have to relocate my cellar on Friday…along with everything else.

The reason is, I have bought a new house with my lovely L. Settlement day is this Thursday, and we move in together and combine our two households the day after. The arrival of house movers will mark the next stage of the wonderful journey I am on with her!

Wow. I will get to share some of my wonderful wines with her on a regular basis, and not only when we are in each others company.

Therefore, I have been busy packing, ‘de-cluttering’, and prepping my old house for letting out to tenants. I’ll be a landlord for the first time.

The most recent storm outside has abated (you gotta love Wellington’s ‘summer’) and I have this new wine to appreciate while I take a break in the sun.

It is fitting that this merlot is entitled “The Journey’.  A new producer – the Moss Trust. The only reference I can find on the Net is to an outfit called Te Whai Wines in Northland, but they seem to be only the agent.

The wine has a really beguiling nose. I can’t precisely place what I can smell other than ripe stone fruit. Star anise? Aniseed? Lanolin? Gunpowder? Soap? It is like nothing I have smelt before in an NZ wine. Is it because it is from the far north, with heat, rainfall and humidity you wouldn’t find elsewhere in NZ? Is it a fault in this wine, or an expression of terroir? I’d love to talk to the winemaker about that.

The aromas carry through into the mouth. 13%. Rich red plums. Soft tannins. Smooth mouthfeel. Rich ruby colour in the glass. There is a good deal going on. The couple of years bottle development helps out. 3

This vintage is dedicated to the winemakers mother, who passed away two weeks after harvest.

Straight to the Pool Room – December 2013

Pool Room Dec 2013

Two stellar bottles from the Villa Maria tasting of last month:

Villa Maria Gimblett Gravels Reserve Merlot 2009 – $$$ – drink 2014-2019, but not sure I can wait that long…

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard HB Chardonnay 2011 – $$$ – drink 2014-2016. Latest in the lineage of a chardonnay I consider one of the most distinctive expressions of terroir in this country.

I’m auditioning for the remaining places in the case…



What’s in the glass tonight Nov 28th

Te Mata Awatea 2005

Hammer Time: Te Mata Awatea Hawkes Bay Cab / Merlot 2005 – $$$

This is one of the ‘05 Awateas I bought at the recent Dunbar Sloan auction.

I’ve been looking forward to opening this. Awatea ‘05 is a blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc, 43% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. It is the lesser stablemate of Coleraine. It’s also a wine made for aging; up to 10 years according to the producer.  Let’s see what this 8yo is can do…

I’m taking my time with this one. Dark garnet in the glass, quite clear, no visible brick colouring to the edges. 13.5%. Black fruits aged bouquet, with medicinal hints, earth, wood,  and fruitcake; quite lovely when it opens up to the air. I love the nose.

Light tasting, at first I thought almost frail in the mouth, but over time I see there is more going on than that. Fruit weight has retreated from first release, licorice, some white pepper, and refined mature flavours. The tannins have softened but it is still ‘tacky’. I think it holds together well. Good length. A fine wine. 4

What’s in the glass tonight Nov 10th

Te Mata Coleraine 2007

From the Cellar: Te Mata Coleraine (Cab Sav/Merlot/Cab Franc) 2007 – $$$

This is another of my heavyweights, on reputation alone perhaps the heaviest. This is arguably New Zealand’s most famous wine. Its reputation is based on both the quality of the wine, the length of its pedigree, and the marketing abilities of the producer.

I was first introduced to the 2000 vintage at a 2010 tasting, and I was blown away. I had never tasted an old wine before (at best, most of the wine I bought aged only a couple of hours from time of purchase), and I thought the depth and richness and complexity in the mouth and on the nose was a revelation. I was sold on the concept right then and there.

This version is dark carmine in colour. 14% and leggy.  I opened it to share with L over a nice roast of venison. Deep nose of black fruits, aniseed, raisins, pencil shavings. Black plums to taste. Firm tannins, good concentration, lots of life here for cellaring on.

I thought it seemed a bit thin to start with, but as the wine opened out in the air I could see the finesse, and appreciate the length, so I suspect I opened this bottle a couple of years too soon. I have a second bottle which I’ll keep to ‘17. Lovely drop. Reminds me of the Craggy Range Te Kahu 2010. 4

Villa Maria tasting with Jeremy McKenzie – 30 October 2013

Villa Maria tasting 301013

Hurrah! Another tasting rolls around at Regional Wines.

This time it’s my turn to try some single vineyard and reserve wines from a favourite producer of mine – Villa Maria. The tasting was led by VM winemaker Jeremy McKenzie, who is based in Marlborough. I see that GK is here too. He talks up VM wines as great value for money, especially at auction (I agree – it is hard to walk past their Cellar Selection wines when they are on special at my local). $25 entry.

Fun Facts: 80% of Villa Marias output is Sauvignon Blanc. They produce over 100 different parcels of Pinot Noir. Sir George Fistonich and the people at Villa Maria think a lot about who is drinking their wines, and they try to produce wines that encourage diners in the restaurant to have that second glass. A noble pursuit. But dont drink and drive. Or drink and write…

We had two flights to look at: firstly some white wines including a mini-vertical of Keltern Chardonnays, then a flight of reds including a mini vertical of Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlots from the Gimblett Gravels.

Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – 13% – The 2012 vintage was one of the coldest. It led to smaller bunches and an extended ripening period. This perversely produced wines with very balanced acidity, and Jeremy reported that some winemakers claimed they had made their best wine ever.

This sav is interesting. Being from the Wairau valley in Marlborough this wine is not made in the typical ‘punchy’ style of tomato stalk and herb notes that you find in the classic Marlborough region of the Awatere valley. Rather it has a light aroma, refined, slightly grassy and elegant. The wine is very pale. I taste bright fruit in the mouth, balanced acid, and pronounced passionfruit flavours. Rich and soft and slightly flinty. Fermented in 5% oak which may explain that. V nice. 4

Villa Maria Omahu Gravels Viognier 2010 – 14.5% – Villa Maria is one of NZs largest producer of viognier. This is a hard grape to sell to general consumers as many of them can’t pronounce the name with confidence.

Single vineyard wine from the Gimblett Gravels. 10yr old wines. Light yellow. Warm honey on nose, very leggy. Typically luscious with spice notes. Also typically hot on the back of the throat but this has been deliberately dialled back, and is definitely dryer and more refined than other examples I have tasted. Better for it too. GK sez subtle use of oak. Well textured, very nice example. 4.5

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 – 13% – The Keltern Vineyard is a cool inland site, made up of red metal soils, and lies beside the Ngaroro River. The wine is produced from a mixture of predominately Clone 85 grapes, and 10-20% of Mendoza and Clone 15. Pale straw colour. It is refined on the nose with honey and peaches. Very appealing ripe fruit, acidity, pears and green apples. 4

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 – 13.5% – Pale straw colour. This one smells funkier. Fruit notes and big hint of gunpowder on the nose. The wine is clean and rich and unctuous. Ripe peaches. Top drop. I’ve ordered one for the Pool Room. 4.5

Villa Maria Keltern Vineyard Chardonnay 2007 – 14% – Yellow pale straw. Deep bouquet, Vanilla. Soft. Big taste. Buttery toast flavours at finish. Mature – drink now. I had a bottle last year and loved it. 4.5

Tasting this vertical has shown up some definite vineyard traits expressed by this Chardonnay. It is consistently refined, with good palate weight, and an intriguingly complex swirl of flavours I can’t all quite name, but can sense and enjoy all the same.

Then its the reds turn at bat…

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010 – 13% – 100% Marlborough fruit sourced from the Awatere Valley, Wairau southern valley, and selected single vineyard parcels. Jeremy said 2010 was a great vintage – clean, with physiological ripenes, and plenty of ‘hang time’ for the grapes. The wine is a dusky pink magenta. Its lightness and tasting position behind the Kelterns does it no favours. Lightly aromatic; ripe plums and reasonable depth. 3.5

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009 – 13% – Dark red plum colour. Nose of choc and ripe black plums. Delicious vanilla and more plums to taste, and tannic. Lovely. Quite elegant, and will age well. I have ordered one of these for the Pool Room as well. 4.5

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007 – 14% – A good year in the Bay. This is funkier than the ’09, and spicy. Colour is rich brown black. Its dry in the mouth and rich and grippy and intense. Fruitcake characters too. Best drinking now. Big Yum. 4.75

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2006 – 14.5% – Dark red plum colour. Grippy and rich and deep, and more fruitcake. I like the way the tannins are still big in this wine and holds the whole thing together, stopping it from getting flabby. This wine should age and develop longer. I would like to try this again in 2016. 4

Villa Maria Reserve Grenache 2007 – 14%In a word, YUM! I WANT THIS. But it’s too expensive for me at over $60 regular price. Deep magenta in the glass. Turkish delight and confectionery on the nose. In the mouth it is light and sweet, lots of rich ripe red fruit jam, bags of flavour. What a wine to finish the tasting! A rare treat. 5

Big thanks to hosts Alistair and Jeremy.

What’s in the glass tonight August 3rd

Corbans Select MerCabSav 1998

From back in the day: Corbans Select Marlborough/Hawkes Bay Merlot Cab Sauvignon 1998

I bought a half-case of this at auction this week for $30. If it wasn’t palatable, I’d be looking at cooking loads of beef bourguignon to use it up!

The signs were positive: the wine won a silver medal at a wine comp in 2000, a contemporary review gave it 88 points, the bottle closures looked in good shape, and the ullage were all at ok levels.

The cork from the first bottle pulled clean, and looked and smelled fine…

Colour is deep carmine, tending to brick.

It is tawny and funky on the nose, with suggestion of warm leather. To drink, the wine still has lashings of fruit. It is surprisingly fresh and vigorous – must be the merlot. I taste blackberries and cocoa. The tannins are firm and a little coarse.

I wouldn’t know that this wine was 15 years old without the label telling me. It must have been well kept. I am glad I have another 5 bottles left.

And costing $5 each doesn’t hurt much either. Quite nice. 3.5