What’s in the glass tonight February 27th – Marsanne Viognier


Rod McDonald One-Off 2015

Rod McDonald Wines ‘One Off’ Marsanne Viognier Gisborne 2015 – $$

A Rhone blend, and a one-off wine conceived and produced by Rod McDonald from the grapes he had at hand. As he says, “once it’s gone, it’s gone”. Indeed, that’s what I usually say when a good bottle goes west…as this one most certainly was.

Pale gold colour. 13.5% alc.

A nose of melon and peach. Perfumed and smoky. A very attractive and immersive floral scent filled the glass, which softened over time to a mellow lifted and savoury expression. Strongly oaked. Quite unique and sophisticated.

In the mouth there was a lovely balance of fruit flavours and spice. There was honey and ginger, citrus and heat. A winning combination of angular minerality and luscious fruity bawdiness.

Highly Recommended  – 91 points

What’s in the glass tonight September 14th – Viognier


te-mata-estate-zara-2014

From the Cellar: Te Mata Zara Viognier Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$

Purchased a year ago at an industry tasting. Not kept for very long cos L wanted a Viognier, and I had maybe two bottles in the Pool Room…it is not a wine I collect. Call it fashion, call it my own taste…

Brilliant medium gold colour. 14% alc.

A smoky and spicy and dense bouquet, with ripe enveloping apple scents.

Rich flavours on attack. Ripe, sinewy also, with a silky texture on the mid-palate. Flavours of cooked apples and figs. Oily and mouthcoating. A long hot and spicy finish, with white pepper and cashews. This was good.

89 points

What’s in the glass tonight July 27th – Viognier


Yalumba Y-Series Viognier 2015

Off Topic: Yalumba Y-Series Viognier 2015 – $

L is drinking a bit of Viognier now. She liked this so I had to try.

Greenish straw colour. 14% alc.

Very floral. Apples. Spice. Turkish delight. Grape-y. Honey notes. Perfumed

Fine and sweet and ripe to taste. Gorgeous depth of fruit and flavour. Quite refined. Pleasant bitter biscuit notes in there too, with a ginger spice finish.

90 points

Tell the Executioner the password is…Homage


GOR 2016 2

Game of Rhones Wellington – July 9th

Last Saturday L and I wandered along the harbour waterfront to the site of the Wellington edition of the Game of Rhones celebration. It was held in the function centre at Chaffers Dock. A big crowd was well esconced by the time we got there (we were waylaid on the way by an wharfside snack of delicious piping-hot chips twice cooked in duck fat & served with homemade aioli) and a babble of happy voices greeted us as we walked in to receive our wristband and Plumm wine tasting glass (to keep).

The idea behind Game of Rhones was to try the various Rhone style whites and reds from the stands of the participating producers, and vote for your favourite. You then went into a draw to win a prize, but I didn’t win the big Lotto draw that night either…

We didn’t know where to start…so the nearest attendant suggested an aperitif tasting of the attractive d’Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2014 to get the palate working, and we went on from there…

I tried tastes of a whole bunch of wines…tipping out and spitting as required…including Langmeil Three Gardens SMG 2012 and Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz 2013 (v good)(love the black and gold label design). I dragged L to the stand of one of my favourite producers Elephant Hill where we tried the Elephant Hill Syrah 2014 and Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2013 (both great)…L then got into a Viognier kick after trying their Elephant Hill Viognier 2015, and she was away…

Then it was time for a taste of France, and a version of the real thing…first up was Delas with a run-through of their wines starting with the simple and straightforward Dela Ventoux 2014 and Delas Syrah Vin de Pays de l‘Arleche 2014. It got a bit more interesting with the regional Delas St-Esprit Cotes-du-Rhone 2013, then it got really nice and tasty with the Delas Les Launes Crozes-Hermitage 2014. L liked this.

I moved sideways to taste the decent M.Chapoutier Belleruche Cotes-du-Rhone 2015, then the rather good M.Chapoutier Les Meysonniers Crozes-Hermitage 2014 (prob. the closest I will ever get to a Hermitage…) and then a truly lovely M.Chapoutier La Bernadine Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2013…yuuumm…L tried the Vin de Pays Rose 2015 and then the Muscat de Beaumes de Venise 2013, which were both too sweet to interest me. The CdP was gunning for wine of the day by that stage…

Next door was the Craggy Range table. They had the Le Sol Syrah 2014, and therefore had me at hello. This was delicious, revelatory. Probably my wine of the day now.

Still, I had to move on. Other wines to try, gotta give everyone a go, etc. And that was a great idea…

L found an amazing Viognier – Seresin Estate Viognier 2012 – it was incredible. L described it as musty and fusty, with oranges and mushrooms. I thought it was great. L went on to find a delicious Villa Maria Cellar Selection Viognier 2015 and the Alpha Domus Wingwalker Viognier 2014, which now puts her in danger of being turned away from Rosés (which tells me it’s serious)…

I fell into conversation with a fellow Magnum member. He told me, “Tell the Executioner the password is …“homage”. I didn’t know what he was on about, but then it dawned on me.

In New Zealand there is currently a bit of an “arms race” between various producers for the title of NZ’ s finest Syrah. There is the Matheson from Matua, Airavata from Elephant Hill, there is Le Sol from Craggy Range (which I tried here), and hiding under the table of the stand across the room, a single bottle of Homage Syrah 2013 from Trinity Hill

I approached the winemaker who was dressed as an executioner. I spoke the password and asked for a taste, and he poured me the last drain of the bottle. And it was delicious. I wish I had time and space to consider it properly and tell you all about it, but it was very, very good. Wine of the Day?

After that I thought it would not get any better. And for a while I was proved right. The Vidal Legacy Syrah 2013 at almost $80 a bottle disappointed me; and the Pask Declaration Syrah of 2013 and 2014 were both unremarkable. The Te Whare Ra Single Vineyard 5182 Syrah 2015 didn’t stand out for me either. But along came the Man O’War Dreadnought Syrah 2012 to totally blow me away with its bouquet and persistence and heft, and I thought I had found my wine of the day (again)….

But then I visited the friendly people from over the hill. The Schubert Syrah 2013 from Martinborough was lovely, but the Schubert Syrah 2008 was some thing else again. Refined, powerful and cellared very well. This wine built a great rep in the room as the afternoon wore on.

Sharing the same table were the guys from Martinborough Vineyard. They shared with me their Martinborough Syrah Viognier 2013 and 2008, which were two splendid ways to end the afternoon. They know what they are doing in the vineyard.

Were there any great wines? You bet – the Le Sol and Homage were very memorable (and the chance to try them both side-by-side, priceless), as was the Seresin Viognier and the Shubert Syrah 2008. The M. Chapoutier CdP was fantastic. However, my wine of the day had to be the Dreadnought for its flavour punch, extract and complexity, which was a lovely surprise. But it shouldn’t have been, as the Man O’War Ironclad I drank two years back was my runner up for WOTY 2014.

GOR 2016

As for GOR itself, the hard floors and walls, loud music, and high ceilings made it all a little loud, but we got into the spirit of things nonetheless. Big thanks to all the producers who were there. I was told it was expensive to take part, and so I appreciate the commitment from all involved, especially the Martinborough crews. You guys rock!

I expect the danger of these events is that they turn into a posh kind of piss-up, but a piss-up all the same. The organisers tried to keep it classy, and I think they succeeded. I wouldn’t know what to suggest in the way of improvements if there is a next time, except look for a quieter venue so I can hear myself think and hear others talk. Oh, and more food. The wines on offer were a wide and deep selection, with enough stars to satisfy someone like me, and the service staff were friendly and attentive.

I liked all the dressing-up of the servers too.

Disclosure: L and I were guests of Bottle Shop Concepts.

What’s in the glass tonight March 12/13th – Chardonnay, Viognier


Secret de Lunes Chardonnay

Off Topic: Secret De Lunes Vignobles JeanJean Pays D’oc Chardonnay 2014 & Viognier 2015

Imported direct from the co-op by Regional Wines and Spirits, and being simple, value wines showcasing pure fruit and a minimum of winemaking artifice.

The Chardonnay was great sunny afternoon drinking. Un-oaked, the fruits flavours were light, clean and refreshing. The European provenance added a nice touch of difference from the usual fruity Chardy’s we drink from NZ.

BTG 3

Secret de Lunes Viognier

The Viognier the next day was great over dinner. A good food wine. Not complicated, with open sweet fruit flavours, & that viognier spiciness, but not in a bold style. Un-oaked. Lovely.

VG 4

 

Elephant Hill Tasting – Aug 2015


Elephant Hill tasting

M shouted me to this tasting at Regional Wines and Spirits hosted by Richard Sherriff. I tried this producer’s Syrah after a Taupo Cycle Challenge a couple of years back and I was really impressed at what they were doing. So I was well pleased to be invited along!

Elephant Hill is owned by the Weiss family. It is a boutique producer of sustainably-produced hand-crafted wines, located on the Te Awanga coast of Hawkes Bay. It produces about 20,000 cases PA at present. I am told it also boasts a fine restaurant, which features dishes well-paired to the wines. The site is named for a life-size teak sculpture of an elephant the owners brought back from a trip to the sub-continent. As you do.

Elephant Hill has three vineyards – Te Awanga with coastal shingle and clay, Gimblett Gravels with inland stony gravels, and Bridge Pa Triangle with inland alluvial and red metal soils.

The wines were poured in advance, non-blind. They were presented by winemaker Steve Skinner and Marketing Manager Vince Labat.

E H Viognier Te Awanga 2014 – No malo, small barrel ferment, short time on lees. 13.5%. Steve admitted that they (EH) liked a cooler climate style of wine. The Viognier grapes were planted in 2007, the estate’s oldest vines. It is a fickle grape to grow, with ripening being problematic. Apparently M. Chapoutier has said, “Making Viognier is an act of Charity”.  EH fight to keep the alcohols from going over the top, and maintaining lovely aromatics. I saw good fruit aromas here – mandarin, passionfruit, nectarines. There was ginger spice and mandarin in the mouth, dry, with a citrus burst and some salinity. It’s an easy Viognier, not oily. I liked it. 3+

E H Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Te Awanga 2014 – They say Reserve designation refers to more time spent in the vineyard and winery. A simple wine picked at optimal ripeness. Fermented in old oak puncheons, wild yeasts, with lees complexity.  Herbaceous nose with some tomato stalk character. Food friendly. In a Sancerre style. To taste – a strong line of citrus, refreshing green apples, lean and elegant. Others remarked about liveliness and saltiness (the end rows are only 25m from the ocean…). I thought this was great. 4

E H Chardonnay 2014 – Burgundian whole bunch pressed. Fermented 11 months in 25% new oak barrels, wild yeasts, on lees, no malo treatment.  The vintage was slightly warmer than 2013. I saw a very fine nose. There was richness and delicacy, biscuity notes, vanilla and golden fruit. It was delicious to taste too – open and fine and with a light touch. Very good. 4+

E H Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – From vines planted in 2003. Exceptional vintage. Wild fermented in oak, more lees complexity, no malo treatment. I noted a hint of apparent reductive character, but this blew off as I swirled. My notes said: powerful, rich, beautiful Chardonnay. Luscious viscous richness. Elegance. A 12 yr wine. Fantastic. 5

E H Syrah 2014 – Syrah is Elephant Hill’s flagship variety. Here it is a blend of grapes from the Te Awanga, Gimblett and Bridge Pa sites. Very ripe fruit, soft and sweet on nose. Still young, tastes young. Remarkable 32.5g dry extract. Taste is reminiscent of the E Guigal CdR 2010s I have been drinking. A very exciting Syrah. Will look fantastic in a few years, very good now. 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2013 – Here the blend of grapes from the Te Awanga and Gimblett Gravels sites, with 1% Viognier co-fermented. This glass was poured three hours before the tasting.  A big black carmine colour, it shows vanilla, elegance, density of fruit on the nose. Still a baby, but made to last. To taste, tannic and rich, rich black plums, held together refined and closed. Very Good 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2009 – This was a treat. An older bottle. Made from EL Chave clone grapes. Almost meaty character, overlaid with gorgeous fruit flavours, almost feminine. Silky tannic structure, elegance in the glass. Just superb. 5

E H Merlot Malbec 2013 – A young wine from young vines (2011). Trophy Champion NZ Red Wine at the Int. Wine Challenge. Eminently drinkable. Soft, perfumed, dark fruits. Approachable tannins. Sweetness on palate, coming from low cropping 4

E H Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 – A blend of 64% Merlot, 35% Cabernet and 1% Malbec. Rich, tannic, mouthfilling and mouthcoating. Dense. Will be really worth watching as it ages. I didn’t pay too much attention to this wine as I was still reeling from the Syrahs and Chardonnays…still, 4+

What a great tasting. I was very impressed with the breadth and quality of the wines we were offered. I already have a ’13 Syrah in the Pool Room, and am keen to supplement it with a brace of these…

What’s in the glass tonight July 3rd


Martinborough V Syrah Viognier 2009

From the cellar: Martinborough Vineyard Martinborough Syrah Viognier 2009 – $$$

Hey wow. I bought this back in the day at a Martinborough Vineyard tasting at Regional Wines. It stood out from the pack. Well, that and its sister Pinot, but I’m saving that for another day…

This is dark inky red in the glass. 14% and leggy with it. Browning slightly around the rim. Syrah blended with 4% Viognier.

Soft floral aromatic nose, with violets, licorice and vanilla.

Absolutely delicious in the mouth. Black Doris plums. Tannins with grip. White pepper. Licorice again. Rich, deep, mouthcoating, savoury, almost meaty. Did I mention long too?

Outstanding. 5

What was in the glass this Christmas


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This year I travelled up-country with LG to visit my folks for Christmas. My sister came down from south Auckland to join us. It was the first time all of us adults had been together at Christmastime for maybe 20 years. Wow.

As usual, I lined up a few bottles to enjoy over the period. Over the preceding year I deposited money each grocery shop into my supermarket’s Christmas Club to buy the feast food and some good wines and not break the bank doing it. I bought nothing at all ‘prestige’ this time, but grabbed a few new and interesting wines worth a look by both my reckoning and that of others.

We started the afternoon with a few glasses of bubbles. First up was my parents choice; Hihi Gizzy Fizzy NV from Gisborne. I knew nothing about this wine beforehand and even less after drinking it, cos it was cut with orange juice. A sparkling “blanc de blanc” made from chardonnay grapes. Nice to drink, but impossible to score.

Then I splashed out on Lindauer Special Brut NV – $. Heh. This wine is a cliché. Pound for pound, it should be claimed as NZ’s best wine if you allow for the volume in which it is produced, its uniformity of style, and price. The Reserve is better, but this always scores a solid 3. Dependable bargain bracing bubbliness, if a bit metallic.

Sister then brought out the Deutz NV – $$$. Methode Traditionale from Marlborough. Brioche and bubbles and elegant dryness. 3.75.

Then we got down to the serious business of the turkey and ham. For that I opened a Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2013 – $$. Pale gold. 14%. Gorgeous aroma of apricots and bush honey. Dry and spicy in the mouth, with more apricots. Full on palate with ripe fruit, but restrained. Not as oily as other examples I have tasted, and better for it I think. If a wine can express a sense of a place like Hawkes Bay this one does. I can see the heat and rolling golden summertime hills in its flavours and texture. 3.75

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The next day over leftover Christmas ham and salad we shared a bottle of Framingham Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013 – $$. My parents like savs. Fruit from the Wairau Valley. 13%. Pale straw colour.  Pungent aroma of pears. Mouthfuls of grapefruit and passionfruit. Fresh, herby, slightly sweet. Wet stone minerals. 4

Along the way I also had a few bottles of Mac’s Sassy Red beer with Dad. Hoppy and bitter; proper ale, and not sweet like the childs beer this country is awash with.

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.

Te Tasting – Te Mata Estate Showcase 2013.


te mata 2

Coleraine – The One. Wednesday 6th March St James Theatre

The Regional Wines blurb sez: Te Mata Estate’s Coleraine is this country’s most consistently reliable cellar-worthy wine with vintages from the 1980s still drinking superbly. This reliability is one of the reasons that the annual release of Coleraine and Awatea is so eagerly awaited by wine lovers.

There is a real treat at the Showcase this year. We will be tasting the new release 2011 Coleraine alongside the 2001 and 1991 vintages demonstrating, if any was needed, how well Coleraine ages. We will also be presenting the 2011 Awatea, Cape Crest, Zara Viognier as well as the newly released Estate wines.

This must be my 4th annual Te Mata tasting.  I am a creature of habit. But then again, I got to try a 10-yr  old Coleraine at the very first one, and it totally turned me on to old brown red wine…

And John Buck’s house, the Te Mata founder, is pictured above as my main blog photo.

At the door we were offered four wines:

Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – notes of melons, green capsicum, tomato stalk; long, crisp and fresh with limes

Estate Chardonnay 2011 – nuts, toast, peaches, creamy malo.

Estate Gamay Noir – 2012 – light, savoury, black fruits.

Estate Merlot Cabernets 2010 – dark ruby colour, fresh blackberry and ripe plums, lovely florals and vanilla, long and dark chocolatey – yum

For the formal sit-down tasting we were offered:

Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc 2012 – 86% sauv blanc, with balance semillon and sauvignon gris – one of Te Mata’s signature wines – 3mths in bottle; pale yellow green; bouquet of sun cut vines, vanilla from the French oak, beeswax?; tastes of limes and pear and sea salt; dry, long, with good acidity; 9 mths of lees contact adds texture. Age-worthy.

Zara Viognier 2011 – a good one this – smells of sponge cake; tastes of Turkish delight and honey and apricots; oily; long peppery finish; would be great drunk with jerk chicken.

Elston Chardonnay 2011 – strong strong manuka honey aroma; rich 100% malo; the honey masks peaches and mealiness; there is some minerality evident. Age-worthy.

Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2011 – probably the least performer here – tight, closed, light aromatics, needs time to open up; fine tannins; blackcurrant, blackberry. Some length.

Then the Bordeaux-blend big guns:

Coleraine 1991 – well brown this; nougat, toffee, butterscotch, old leather, old roses; in the Bordeaux style; dark choc, less fruit, dry tannins – yum yum

Coleraine 2001 – smells of doctors and dentists surgeries (in a nice way); deep browning crimson; dark chocolate and plums and coffee; still tannic, with fruit still evident.

Coleraine 2011 – deep crimson; lively and intense; smells of blackberries and almonds; long tannins and yes, dark choc. Needs time in bottle, or some decanting. Again age-worthy definitely.

A good night; pity no Bullnose Syrah at the tasting; too little production, we have to hope for next year.

Nick Buck was excited about the upcoming vintage. Picking starts tomorrow. Lets see what turns up at the tasting in 2015!