What’s in the glass tonight April 8th – Merlot Malbec

Mills Reef Merlot Malbec Reserve 2014

Mills Reef Merlot Malbec Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$

Inky magenta, a gorgeous deep colour. 13.5% alc.

Lovely rich bouquet – boxwood, blackcurrants, leather, savoury. I could smell this all night.

Smooth richness of the Merlot gives a silky feel in the mouth, the grippy tannins from the Malbec provides balance. Black stonefruits predominate, a hint of raspberry, drying on the finish. Delicious.

A terrific, approachable wine for drinking now.

93 points

What’s in the glass tonight Nov 7th

Mills Reef Elspeth Syrah 2007

From the Cellar: Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2007 – $$$

It’s a first world problem.

When I first embarked on stocking my wine cellar I filled it with cheap accessible wines that I thought would develop some character and interest with age, and educate me on the evolution of New Zealand wines and wine styles. Very soon I also started buying a lesser quantity of more expensive marquee wines, the ‘tentpole movies’ of the Kiwi wine world. These latter purchases were intended to expand my knowledge of feted offerings from the finer end of the market. (It was also largely to stroke my own ego, at both the acquisition and consumption stages of the process…)

I have got to the point now where I have drunk all the easy cheap bottles from the selection ready to drink NOW, and what’s left is a solid quantity of the heavyweights. These aren’t the wines that you should knock the top off on a Monday night just cos you‘ve had a hard day. They require fine food, company, even candles. They deserve proper attention, and an engaging blog post, when perhaps I might rather drink something wet’n’forget while watching The Walking Dead…

This is one of those wines. I’m a bit tired. It all seems a bit of an effort. I really should share this one…

But, bugger it. A wine cellar is just the Second Act, sandwiched between the making of the wine, and throwing the empties in the rubbish. Best get over it.

This syrah is velvety inky blood-black. 14%. It has a rich, forward, aged bouquet, funky, a touch of pepper and spice and old shoe polish. I love wines that give such good nose.

In the mouth I see redacted black plums, licorice, toffee, forest floor. Fine schmacky tannins. Long finish. The wine is matured 14 months in French oak, but there is no obvious oak on the nose, but it is there to add shape in the mouth. The fruit quality opens up nicely as it sits in the glass. Ill drink half now, and let the rest sit in the bottle for later review. 4.5

Three days later Nov 10th: The wine handled these few days left alone very well, and emerged a little softer and delicious.

What’s in the glass May 11th

A cold wet morning in Martinborough. Perfect for a slow lazy start to the day, then breakfast, and a drive out to walk the beach on the coast at Lake Ferry. The surf was huge, the wind, cold and blasting. After a coffee at the characterful Lake Ferry Hotel we drove back to the village to buy a phone charger (no luck), and taste a few wines (lots of luck)…

Tasting at Martinborough is great. There are quite a few vineyards all close to each other and easy to get to. The staff are friendly and welcoming, and if there is a tasting fee it is only $5 and it’s waived if you buy wine.


Palliser Estate

I wanted to go there to read a tasting note for the ’05 pinot we drank the night before. They produce a primary label (Palliser) and a second label (Pencarrow). I’ve enjoyed both in the past.

Bruce our host was good value for information and history of the wines. He took us through a tasting of the Palliser Methode 2008, Riesling 2012, Pinot Gris 2012, Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Chardonnay 2012 and Pinot Noir 2010; and the Pencarrow Sav, Chardy and Pinot. I thought the following were outstanding:

Palliser Methode 2008 – yeasty, toasty, nutty, citrus-y, complex,

Palliser Riesling 2012 – fresh lime tropical and zesty

Palliser Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – elegant, restrained, with bright passionfruit

Palliser Pinot Noir 2010 – rich and textured, another couple years, dynamite

The Pencarrows were nice – more approachable, and cheaper. The 2012 Sauvignon Blanc was good value at the winery, but a summer purchase for me.

L really liked the floral Pinot Gris with varietal pear flavours.

They have an attractive cellar door complex. I like the entrance pictured above (from the Net).

Murdoch James

Murdoch James Vineyard

Next up was a trek back down the Lake Ferry Road to Murdoch James. I wanted to try their pinot noir again. We did, along with a sav, a rose, a gris, an apertif white blend, and a syrah.

Our tasting host Neil was very loquacious, and he gave us some really interesting background facts about the wine production. I would write some down if I could remember them…

The pinot noir wasn’t the same as the one I had at the bar. Don’t know what happened there. I didn’t see the same florality or savouriness as before. Was the glass too wet from the previous wines I had tried, spittooned, and rinsed out? Maybe I was suffering ‘tasting fatigue’ but nothing much grabbed me.

The best wine for me was the MJ Syrah 2011 – nice florality, balanced fruit, and white pepper at the back of the throat. Again L liked the pinot gris, but she bought a bottle of the Rose and a couple of the Blue Rock Trafalgar – a late harvest riesling and sauvignon blanc blend…an interesting wine which I’d like to figure out better if she lets me have a glass…

Nevertheless, the property is gorgeously landscaped, and very well sited. Well worth a visit for that alone. There is a restaurant there, and they do vine-to-winery tours. A group of overseas investors have bought the concern, and are selling container loads of wine into China. Good on them.


Back at Parehau we opened a bottle of Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2011 to have with the remains of the antipasto of the previous night: Yummy butter, mealy, nutty characters, smooth and rich and honeyed.

At dinner at the Martinborough Hotel (beetroot and walnut salad; parmesan and tomato tart; risotto; duck confit leg; affrogato; pecan pie) we split a bottle of Craggy Range Te Kahu 2010 – another top drop.

We wuz spoilt!