Straight to the Pool Room – February 2018

Pool Room Feb 2018

A trio of top wines from Mercury Bay Estate for the cellar, bought from the winery:

Mercury Bay Estate Chardonnay Coromandel 2016 – $$ – drink now-2021.

Mercury Bay Estate Red Merc Coromandel 2014 – $$$ – drink now-2019. A Pinot Noir/Syrah blend.

Mercury Bay Estate Pinot Noir Coromandel 2014 – $$$ – drink now-2019.


Mercury Bay Estate

Mercury Bay Estate

When we were recently on holiday, camping at Hahei Beach, L and I enjoyed a lovely tasting at a beautiful local vineyard, Mercury Bay Estate, on a gorgeous blue sky day. Heaven.

Mercury Bay Estate is situated on the hillside above and behind the beach settlement of Cooks Beach on the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula. My own family owned a bach at Cooks for many years from the mid-70’s. I grew to love the area, so it was really nice to come back after a long time away and bring my family.


The estate is owned by Simon & Veronica Ward and was formed from the vineyard established by Alex Morcom in 1996 (named Shakespeare Cliff Vineyard after the famous nearby landmark, and then later Cooks Beach Vineyard). The vineyard originally contained plantings of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay & Sauvignon Blanc, and has more recently expanded to include a block of Pinot Noir.

We opted for a shared tasting of wines originating from the Cooks Beach site alone to get a sense of place (some varieties are sourced from Hawkes Bay). We selected the current releases of Chardonnay, Sparkling Blush, Red Merc (Pinot/Syrah blend) and their Pinot Noir.

I have to say they were all very good. The Chardonnay had a lovely tautness and acidity to it which was attractive, the Blush was all strawberries and lusciousness; the Red Merc was showed for me the best with its intensity and complex flavours, and the Pinot Noir was surprisingly dense and savoury for what I imagine is a hot site, but maybe it is  moderated by the sea breezes.

This producer is new to me, and is one to watch.

What’s in the glass tonight July 2nd – Syrah blend

Kloof Street 2014

Off Topic: Kloof Street Swartland Rouge Swartland SA 2014 – $$

This is a rouge blend from the Swartland region of South Africa, a province in the Western Cape some 50km north of Cape Town. Swartland is the anglicised name for “Het Zwarte Land” (the Black Land) named for the colour of the endemic Renosterbos flowering shrub (Elytropappus rhinocerotis).

The wine consists of 86% Syrah, 5% Grenache, 4% Carignan, 2% Mourvedre, 2% Tinta barocca and 1% Cinsault. A proper southern Rhone-style blend, this.

13.5 % alc. Deep ruby colour.

Lightly floral to the nose, with dusty dark fruits, spice, vanilla, and bush honey.

A rustic honest red to taste, somewhat lean and angula in the fruit department. There was acid freshness at the death. Quite long, and hot on the back of the throat. Persistent note of tobacco leaf. I expect this will soften over the next 24 hours and round out.

An attractive wine.

Recommended 87 points

What’s in the glass tonight June 22nd – Merlot Syrah Cabernets


Ata Rangi Celebre Martinborough 2014 – $$$

This is a long-time favourite local red for me. A bright red blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc fruit grown on the Martinborough Terrace, and matured in 20% new oak.

Deep plum purple colour. 13% alc.

Soft, round and opulent on the nose. A savoury character up front, then opens to reveals oak, plums, and spice.

Sweetness on entry, fine-grained tannins in the mid-palate, and fresh acidity on the finish. Fruit flavours are restrained, not as ripe as the ’13, and slightly leafy.

A fine, expressive wine.

Recommended 89 points

What’s in the glass tonight May 2nd – Syrah


From the Cellar: Millton Clos Ste Anne The Crucible Syrah Gisborne 2009 – $$$

As I have said many, many times – biodynamic Millton Vineyard is one of my favourite producers. James and Annie possess one of the most beautiful vineyard sites in one of the most special parts of New Zealand (disclosure:  a branch of my family immigrated into NZ through Gisborne two centuries ago, and I love the place, so I’m biased). And they treat their land so well and with so much respect through their viticultural stewardship. To open one of their wines is always a treat and an occasion to savour.

Now, having talked up the wine incredibly….

Inky red black colour, slightly browning at the rim. 14.5% alc. Whole berry in the maceration, with some Viognier in the blend.

Floral, spicy and perfumed nose. Lifted.  Soft rich black fruit, and white pepper.

In the mouth there was an absolute abundance of sweet rich black fruit, with perfect ripeness and weight. Apparent oak and vanilla, but it didn’t detract. Smooth and deep, with notes of port and raisin and dark chocolate. Balanced acid, fruit and tannin. A long peppery finish. Superb, just delicious.

Outstanding 97 points

What’s in the glass tonight February 11th – Nero d’Avola


Santagostino Nero d’Avola Syrah Firriata 2012

L and I went to dinner Saturday night at the fantastic Cicio Cacio Osteria in Newtown. I love the food there, and the atmosphere. They like their salt – you are warned!

I had this fantastic wine there. On special. A 50/50 Nero d’Avola/Syrah blend from Sicilia.

Opulent and perfumed and engaging. Totally delicious.

Highly Recommended  – 92  points

What’s in the glass tonight February 9th – Syrah


Sileni Cellar Selection Syrah Hawkes Bay 2016 – $

Deep magenta colour. 12.5% alc. A value quaffer. L quite likes their Cabernet Franc Rosé.

This wine shows simple, soft fruit on the nose, with an itch of white pepper.

Soft ripe red plum flavours, medium tannins. Uncomplicated, and finishes long. Well-made for the price.

Commended  – 84 points


What’s in the glass tonight January 7th – Syrah


Elephant Hill Syrah Te Awanga Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$

Deep dark carmine. 13.5% alc.

A big, rich and expressive aroma. Plums, savoury with vanilla and white pepper, balsa wood and spice, and a hint of funk.

The flavours show sweet on entry, with rich dark fruit through themed-palate and supple tannins with just enough grip to balance the floral nose, and heat and length at the finish.

This is such a good wine I can really see the kinship this grape has with Pinot Noir. A heady nose paired with a feminine quality on the palate. Sophisticated, delicate fruit with a good core of weight.

Highly Recommended  – 93 points

What’s in the glass tonight January 4th – Syrah


Bilancia Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$

Deep dark carmine colour. 13% alc. This Syrah is a blend of three vineyards, 25% La Collina and the remainder from two vineyards located in the Bridge Pa Triangle, plus about 3% Viognier. I like it when Viognier is in the mix – it adds perfume.

There was an expectant savoury nose, with scents of ripe plums, pencils, black pepper, and red roses.

On drinking I noticed the usual rich red fruit flavours, plus there was a confectionery character through the mid palate, with vanilla over-laid, and a peppery finish, long and soft. Medium tannins. I also saw a salty element, and licorice.

Recommended  – 89 points

Straight to the Pool Room – December 2016


Produttori del Babaresco Nebbiolo Montestefano 2007 – $$$+ – drink 2017-2022. Plucked from the MS wine ballot after the Produttori del Barbaresco horizontal tasting. Delicious. One of the world’s great wine styles.

Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah Te Awanga HB 2013 – $$$$ – drink 2018-2028. Not tasted, but if judged by both the 2013 Syrah and Reserve Syrahs out of Elephant Hill this will be a Stunnah.

Esk Valley Heipipi The Terraces Merlot Malbec Franc Bay View HB 2013 – $$$$ – drink 2018-2028. Tasted at the Winery. Fantastic. A longsleeper, this.