What’s in the glass tonight April 10th – Cabernet Merlot


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Bell Bird Bay Cabernet Merlot Hawkes Bay 2011 – $

Raymond Chan writes in his review of this wine, “70% Merlot, 13% Malbec, 11% Cabernet Franc and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bridge Pa Triangle district”

Deep ruby colour. 13% alc.

Depp fruit aromas, softness, oak, vanilla, somewhat secondary.

The merlot component imbues softness and luscious dark fruits on palate, with structure from the cabernet components. Slight herbiness. Harmonious.

This wine harbours no faults from age or storage which I have found is rare with aged wines at this price point. A great aged example in this case.

Recommended 86 Points

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What’s in the glass tonight March 29th – Syrah


Bell Bird Bay Syrah 2014

Bell Bird Bay Reserve Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014 – $

13.5% alc. Deep ruby.

Soft and savoury dark red fruit aromas. Prominent vanilla note to start then this largely blew off. Hint of oxidation. Hint of spice.

Soft and full entry, dry sweetness, sharp and spicy finish. Medium tannins, grippy. Vanilla on the palate with strong oak character. Showing reserve fruit depth and body. Long on the tongue.

I see this wine as quite out of balance re oak/tannin/acid, but it has good bones and delivers a characterful and rewarding drop for the (very little) money. A party wine, this

Recommended 87 Points

 

What’s in the glass tonight March 23rd – Pinot Noir


 

The Edge PN 2016

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir Martinborough 2016 – $$

This is the value tier PN product for this producer.

Peter Richards MW in Decanter magazine included this wine in his February 2018 article “30 great New World buys under GDP30, and rated it 91 points.  He wrote, “brilliant, great value example. Elegantly bittersweet, poised, spicy and engaging.”

14.2% alc. Dark carmine colour.

Aromatic, soft and fruity. Black cherries, savouriness and spice and soap.

Soft in the mouth, with dark fruits and spice evident. A soapy finish and hot. Real generous fruit weight with no bitterness or thinness on the rear palate that I see in other NZ pinots at this price point.

My only fault with this wine is that it is too alcoholic. Loses grace.

Recommended 88 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 22nd – Sauvignon Blanc


Sacred Hill SB 2017

Sacred Hill Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2017 – $

I have never been in love with this value tier of Sacred Hill wines (orange label). For several years I have found the Chardonnay wines all a bit underdone and bitter and it put me off.

However, this vintage of Savvy earned itself a Decanter Gold Medal at the 2017 Asia Wine Awards, and Winestate gave this 5 Stars, so something sincere must be going on in this bottle…

12.5% alc. Clearest pale straw colour.

Nice grassy and tomato-y and capsicum-y aromas lifting from the glass. Crispness and a sense of open space. Sharp apple.

Sharp and fresh fruit flavours to taste up front. A pleasant citrus tang. Short, bold. Agreeable fruit density.

Recommended 88 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 17th – Chardonnay


Palliser Chardonnay 2013

From The Cellar: Palliser Estate Chardonnay Martinborough 2013 – $$$

14% alc. Pale gold colour.

Very aromatic. Warm and rich mealy notes. Oak and bread, apricots and rock melon. Vanilla.

Sharp entry. Lean fruit to taste, fading. Steely brittleness on the mid palate, fruit flavours showing retreat of age or tunnelling. I don’t know enough about this wine to have an informed opinion. Hot finish, medium length. Attractive, still.

Tow nights later, the wine has softened and filled in, showing far more generosity of fruit than was first expressed. Shows the value of decanting!

Recommended 89 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 4th – Chardonnay


KR Estate Chard 2016

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay Kumeu 2016 – $$$

Being the third KR Chardonnay I have tasted these past weeks, this is the flagship Estate-level blended wine, a step up from the Villages wine I enjoy and consider excellent value. Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay is drawn from six different vineyard sites in the Kumeu Region.

14% alc. Pale gold colour.

Restrained mealy and composed. Aromas of white peach and apple.

Rich and stylish on tasting. Crisp and fresh, acid prevails over fruit. Not as elegant or dense as the Coddington, nor as lively and personable as the Villages. Stuck in the middle. Will it age? Appears to have the boldness and structure to do so for another 3 years. Let’s see then…

Recommended 88 Points

What’s in the glass tonight March 2nd – Riesling


RiverT Risesling

River-T Riesling Waitaki Valley 2016 – $$

It was Riesling Day one day recently down at Regional Wines, and I had a chance to taste-test a lovely dry-ish Riesling from the Waitaki Valley. The wine was River-T Riesling from the 2016 vintage. I liked it and brought a bottle home.

From RW: This wine is made with grapes grown by Murray and Karen Tweed, whose vineyard is 5 kms out of Kurow; the main town in the valley. The couple hand harvested the grapes in mid-May – very late by New Zealand standards since Waitaki Valley is the last region to harvest its grapes each year. This makes it a very cool climate wine region, which just so happens to suit the late ripening Riesling grape pretty darned well. This wine is medium dry (18.3 grams per litre of residual grape sugar – not that it tastes sweet at all). It has 13% alcohol and its natural high acidity lends beautiful balance to this refreshing, crisp, light bodied, full flavoured Riesling.

13% alc. Pale straw colour.

The Waitaki Valley is New Zealand’s smallest wine region. It is better known for generating a hefty amperage of hydroelectric power from a multitude of dams spaced down the Waitaki River, and for flying gliders out of Waimarama. A cool climate you could also say – you can ski up the top end in winter. FWIW Kurow is famous for being the home town of one our our finest All Blacks – Richie McCaw.

In addition to these many attractions I am told there are some splendid grape-growing sites that face the north sun and have great soils.

This wine is leggy. Lovely aromatics. Clear and crisp aromas – melon, grapes, green apple.

Off dry to drink. Delicious and crunchily crisp. Intense fresh fruit flavours, a crisp finish. A perfect summer aperitif wine.

Recommended 89 Points

What’s in the glass tonight Jan 17th– Pinot Noir


TK Pinot Noir 2016

Te Kairanga Pinot Noir Martinborough 2016 – $$

Te Kairanga Wines has recently been acquired by US billionaire and multi winery vineyards investor Bill Foley. I don’t drink hardly any of this producers wines, don’t know why.

I didn’t record any notes for this wine specifically either, but I liked it. I recall good extract and fruit intensity in the wine, a nice spicy-ness, and a good savoury quality which is not always so apparent in Pinot Noir wines of this mid price point. Nice.

Recommended 88 Points

What’s in the glass tonight January 1st – Sancerre


Sancerre 2015

Off Topic: Dom. du Vieux Prêche Sancerre Blanc ASC 2016 – $$

Greenish pale straw colour. 13.5% alc.

My first ever Sancerre Blanc. A wine from one of the two spiritual homes of New Zealand’s most famous wine export, the other being Pouilly-Fumé on the other side of the Loire.

Flat aromatically, open steely and minerally. Curry spice and celery. Lightly fruited – apples, apple pip, exotic pip fruit, balanced acidity expressed on the nose.

Lean and flat in the mouth. Minerals. Funk. None of the ‘dash and splash’ I am used to with an NZ Sauvignon Blanc. No energy or verve in this wine, seems old before it’s time, too cautious. I don’t know enough about this wine to know whether this taste impression is authentic. It can be only confirmed by other bottles. And while I am interested to learn, life is short, and I may stick with what I know and love.

Looking at this wine in isolation, it is pleasant and moreish and drinkable. Like typical old world wines it improves on standing in the glass and with food, and opens up somewhat to show more fruit flavour, but it’s still thin. Emperors clothes, I feel, for this one.

Recommended 84 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 27th – Pinot Noir


Escarpment Kupe 2013

From the Cellar: Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir Martinborough 2013 – $$$

The flagship Pinot from one of Martinborough’s most experienced winemakers. I have been to many Escarpment tastings, and bought wine following each one. This bottle was one of those, liberated from the cellar to see what development there was after 5 years.

Deep ruby colour. 13.5% alc.

On the nose the wine showed heady, savoury, luscious and dense aromas. There was a subline character to the nose with scents of boxwood, soft red fruit, lanolin, licorice and dark red roses.

The palate told a shorter story: a sweet entry with a bitter finish. It seemed astringent, thin, metallic and hollow. There were red fruit there, but not enough flavour to balance the drying tannins. Finished somewhat long, but it didn’t improve on standing. The nose stayed firm however.

Had this wine “tunnelled”? I have had a couple of disappointing cellar experiences with the Escarpment wines I have bought for the Pool Room, including a Pahi tasted last year. They show so well on release. Had I opened them too early? Or are they not built for the long term? Don’t know, but I have to say I was saddened. I was hoping for this wine to be tremendous. I’ll keep the second one another couple of years and see how it fares.

Recommended 86 points