What’s in the glass tonight November 8th

Blackenbrook Nelson Pinot Gris 2014

Blackenbrook Pinot Gris Nelson 2013 – $$

In the weekend I checked out an instore tasting of Blackenbrook wines hosted by proprietor Ursula Schwarzenbach. They are building a nice rep for aromatic white wines – I tried their current releases of sav blanc, gewurtz, chard, rose and pinot noir, but selected this wine for the table tonight…

Pale yellow in the glass. 14.5% and very long legged.

Lovely lifted aromatics. Hints of spice, peach and stone fruit blossom.

This is a powerful Gris. Loads of flavour, fresh, and really packs a fruit punch. Peaches, pears in the mouth, along with golden delicious apples. Honey and spice tickle the back of the throat. Long. Really good. 4+

This was awarded Champion Wine in Class at the Bragato Wine Awards 2014.


What’s in the glass tonight August 5th


Main Divide Waipara Pinot Gris 2013 – $$

Sweet tropical bouquet; golden stonefruit and pears; and lots of it. 14%.

In the mouth it’s big and flavoursome. Mandarin oranges, apricots, spice & packed with sweetness. Evidence of botrytis and lees stirring. Nothing shy, retiring or anodyne about this Gris! Some great wine is emerging from of Waipara. 4

What’s in the glass tonight March 10th


Kahurangi Estate Heaphy Series Nelson Pinot Gris 2012

A left-over from the Housewarming. A big title for a lightly-flavoured style of wine.

But it fits.

Bright yellow gold. 13%. Attractive nose of pears, ginger and spice. Sweet white stonefruit to taste, with more ginger, light spice, and golden delicious apples.  Nice one. 3.75

What’s in the glass tonight Jan 29th

Saints Pinot Gris 2012

Saints Gisborne Pinot Gris 2012 – $

A budget glassful. Bought more for L’s taste than for mine. Easy on the pocket, easy on the palate. Easy to do if the wine is P-G…

From a corporate maker that I admit to having a sub-tenner soft spot for. Good value glugging. If they’d only sort their labels out. My opinion sez too old-fashioned-looking for the fresh n’ fruity style of wines they specialise in producing.

The wine is light, undemanding, but quite elegant. I am probably being harsh, but it doesn’t smell much of anything, nor taste much of anything, bar pears. But that is not a bad thing here.

I much prefer this wine to the Tohu Chardonnay from the same region. 3.25

What’s been in the glass lately

It’s been a while since I last wrote.

I have moved house, and cleaned the two houses left behind. I have unpacked boxes. Assembled beds. Folded clothes. Stowed mountains of stuff under the house. Mowed lawns. Wrangled cats and plumbers and TV repairmen. Prioritised task lists. And relocated my tropical fish and a wine cellar. It has been exhausting. And my lovely L has shared the load with me.

Finally we re-established our domestic IT infrastructure, and I can now blog about what I have been drinking at the end of these full, busy days…

Murdoch James Rose

From the Cellar: Murdoch James The Regions Martinborough Rose 2012 – $$$

L bought this after our vineyard visit to Murdoch James last winter. T’was nice to drink this in the sun the day after we moved. Orange blush colour. 14%. A mature nose of strawberries and cream. Lovely strawberry taste too. Quite a cultured blush.  4

Riparian Chardonnay 2012

Riparian Gisborne Chardonnay 2012

Produced by CoopersCreek. 13%. Yellow snow colour. Fruit n’ phenolic nose. Peaches and citrus in the mouth, a bit cooked.  Odd, it was not that old. This bottle not rated.

Lake Chalice The Nest PG 2013

Lake Chalice The Nest Marlborough Pinot Gris 2013

Greenish pale yellow. Aroma of light fresh pears. Off-dry. 12.5%. Citrus zest, honey in the mouth. I’m not one to like pinot gris that much, but this was a good one. 3.75


Ata Rangi Tasting with Helen Masters

Ata Rangi tasting 2013

I attended an excellent wine tasting at Regional Wines on Thursday night. It was hosted by Alistair, and the tasting was led by Head Winemaker at Ata Rangi, Helen Masters.

I am a huge fan of this producer. Over the years I’ve loved drinking their pinots and Celebre and Summer Rose. I’ve got some good bottles in the cellar too, so was real excited about this tasting.

Ata Rangi’s vineyards lie close to, and north of, Martinborough village. The raised ancient seabed that formed the South Wairarapa plain is exposed to the south and sea, so it is surprisingly a cooler climate than Central Otago. The barrier mountain range on the western edge collects most of the rain from the prevailing winds so the climate is dry. Drying winds are a factor, and extensive shelter belts are needed to protect the vines. It is springtime in the vineyard at present, with bud burst approaching, so frost is a concern. It’s an expensive business flying those choppers around keeping the air circulating on still cold nights.

The vineyard was established in 1980, so some of the wines are coming off vines 32 years old. Helen uses fine French oak barrels with a medium toast.

Two flights were presented – whites and reds. I won’t claim to set any serious scores, save to say they all tasted pretty good to me…

Whites Flight:

Riesling Craighall 2009 – 27yr vines from the Craighall Vineyard (was part-owned for a time with Dry River), handpicked, 80 cases made. Light straw colour; leggy; volatile nose; bracing acidity; lovely texture; some citrus, some stonefruit, definitely green apple/apple skin; age-worthier. 4.5

Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – Coolest year since 1993, a hand-picked sav! Helen told us she was after a neutral fruit expression, and used small tanks, lees contact and indigenous yeasts for the ferment. Same colour as the Riesling. Again leggy. Grassy, herby nose but not big with it. Dry and tart. Good Martinborough varietal examplar. I liked it. 4

Pinot Gris Lismore 2013 – A classic Martinborough summer. Fermented in old barrels for texture. Pale yellow. Lightly floral, lightly spiced, in an Alsace style. 8gms residual sugar. Luscious pears, lively sweet with lovely lemonade flavours. One taster thought it was a bit dumb in the bottle yet (2013) but will improve. 3.5

Chardonnay Craighall 2011 – from the eponymous vineyard, vines planted 1983 with the Mendoza clone. This clone is called the ‘hen and chicks’ for the large and small berries produced, with lots of flavour and concentration. Wine is light gold colour. 13.5%. Honey and butterscotch bouquet; ripe fruit taste, balanced with the acid, peaches, stonefruit. Restrained at the moment but will deepen in a few years. 4

Chardonnay Craighall 2008 – Wonderful. Mid gold. 13.5%. I loved the funky smell. Developed, smooth, integrated, the acidity was gone; lashings of unctious butteriness. Yum. Oh why wasn’t the KR Mates ‘08 like this…? 5.

Chardonnay Craighall 2005 – Purity of fruit presence was remarkable in this old kiwi wine. It was deep yellow, but not oxidised. It was funky and rich and luscious. Amazing to see fruit and oak and acid integrate in a bottle. Worth the price of the ticket alone. 5

Reds Flight:

Pinot Noir 2011 – the big ‘un. In 2010 this flagship wine of the company was honoured with the inaugural Tipuranga Teitei o Aotearoa or “Grand Cru of New Zealand“. It is made in a burgundian style with the typical Martinborough savoury olfactory and taste profile. Helen told us it doesn’t go down too well with American consumers who have been raised on Oregon pinots, so Ata Rangi’s main markets are the UK, Oz, Japan and China. The wine is pinot ruby in colour. 13.8%. Floral. Ripe and fruity, grippy, good palate weight. It lingers. Structured, should age well. 4

Pinot Noir 2008 – I loved this. Pinot ruby browning. 13.5%. Mushroom and forest floor bouquet. Ripe berries. Softened. Integrated. Magic. And I’ve got one in the Pool Room. 5

Pinot Noir McCrone 2008 – Younger (2001?) vines. Less shroomy. Pinot Ruby. 14%. Younger, tauter, a bit austere still? Later vintages should be a looker. 3.5

Pinot Noir 2006 – Pinot ruby browned off. 13.5%. Odd, tasted younger than it should have. Some grippy-ness, with bright fruit. Packed with wonderful flavour. 4

Syrah 2009 – 100% syrah. 40% new oak.  First one out of the blocks. Deep magenta. 13.5%. Bit of funk on the nose with white pepper. Savoury edge. Elegant. Fruitful mouthful, fine tannins. A delightful way to end the tasting. Some attendees contended that the wine deviated from type, but I wouldn’t kick it out of bed… 4

After an evening supping quality drops like these, I was replete. The length of the reds were astounding. I still had taste echoes from them in my mouth an hour afterwards.

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!