Wednesday, 26 March 2014


Greystone Waipara Valley Pinot Noir 2012 13.5%
A nicely complex bouquet of savory, broody light red fruits and oak spiced dark plum; on the palate - dry, medium-bodied; medium+ acidity and fine tannins; warm, complex and rich in character with a core of plum, raspberry, ripe cranberry and savory oak spices; balanced, longish finish and medium+ complexity. A charming if not slightly broody example.
5 Stars (90 Points)

Sommelier Introduction

Saturday, 22 March 2014


Forrest Wines Marlborough

Gewurztraminer 2013 13.5%
Exotic fragrances of flowers and fruits with lavender and roses; apple and peach; overall a medium++ intensity; On the palate - just dry with all the fruits and flowers of your favorite florist and candy store along with a twist of lemon and exotic synergy that only Gewurztraminer can have; a hint of tannin adds texture to the medium acidity, medium+ weight and medium+ length; overall a very nice wine - tasty and delicious - will please many who try. Serve moderately chilled and no food needed.
4 Stars


Greystone Wines Waipara Valley

Sauvignon Blanc 2013 13.5%
Lots of sweet and herbaceous, grassy aromas with tropical fruits, lemon and crisp red apple; on the palate - just dry with a nudge of residual sugar; sweet and ripe fruit flavors with pear, apple, lemon and hints passion fruit; fresh lively acidity adding a real bite and crispness; overall balanced with medium length and complexity; Well made.
4 Stars


Schubert Wines Martinborough tasting on site March 8th 2014

Rose 2013
A traditional onion skin hue - very light.
The bouquet is also very light with soft and delicate red fruits of melon and strawberry; on the palate a crisp and almost off-dry with medium+ acidity and flavors of light red fruits with a lush and juicy appeal. Balanced with medium length and light complexity.
3 Stars

Sauvignon Blanc 2012 - Sur-lie 10 months
An individual, but not unique bouquet of sweet herbs in particular angelica then green melon skin, gooseberry and a little citrus; on the palate a wine full of texture (lees ageing), weight and presence; medium+ acidity, dry balanced and well made.
3 Stars

Tribianco 2013 - Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Muller Thurgau
Dolce nose - juicy almost sweet bouquet that is full of fruit - in fact a fruit salad; on the palate there is weight and stone fruit from the Chardonnay, a touch of white spice and pear from the Gris and fruityness from the Muller Thurgau; just dry with light peach and a mix of fruit suggestions. 
Great wine for restaurant that use medium to medium+ spices and exotic flavors in their food.
3 Stars

Pinot Noir Marion's Vineyards  (Pommard and Abel Clones)
Delicate, fragrant, varietal, has pinosity as well as a judicious measure of oak; medium+ complexity; on the palate - dry and well balanced with light red fruit flavors of strawberry, plum and cherry - mostly red; fine tannins - but a wine that is also youthful and engaging; balanced with medium+ length and complexity. 
4.5 Stars

'Block B' Pinot Noir 2011
Varietal with great pinosity and Schubert features - cherry and red apple skin; fine oak and complexity; on the palate a wine that reflects the nose plus fine oak tannins and medium+ acidity; dry with an overall charming presence; balanced with moderate length and complexity.
3.5 Stars

Samples of the 2012 'Marion's' and 'Block B' - were quite exciting and I look forward to trying them again upon release - especially the Block B.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Murdoch James

Murdoch James Estate  Martinborough - visit March 8th 2014
Carl Fraser - Winemaker - the one on the left :)

Situated on the Dry River terraces on the outskirts of Martinborough are the vineyards and winery for Murdoch James Estate. A rather unique grape growing environment exists with soil conditions a mixture of calciferous lime, clay and river silts with a decent mineral content.

Vineyards and key staff at Murdoch James:

Many thousands of years ago the colliding together of the Australian tectonic plate against the Pacific plate gave rise to the hills and surrounds where Murdoch James Estate is now situated.

Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Vibrant and very expressive sweet gooseberry, golden Kiwi and light herb notes; on the palate equally fruity and very generous of flavor; medium+ acidity with an apple and light white floral side; a mineral note at front of palate adds texture, appeal and length.
3.5 Stars

Estate Pinot Gris 2013
Fruity and generous with plenty of fruit appeal - sweet red apple - a simple bouquet; on the palate much more to talk about - apple, lemon, lemon & mineral water flavors; medium acidity and just slightly creamy in texture; a charming example.. Balanced with medium length and light on complexity.
3 Stars 

Rose 2013 (Made in a Vin Gris Style with 100% 777 clone Pinot Noir)
With .75 grams RS there's no mistaking the style of this wine - the finish is pristine, dry and crunchy - medium+ acidity; lots of light red fruits mainly red melon and Martinborough strawberry. A great wine to serve as an aperitif. Chill well and serve in a very large Pinot Noir balloon.
3.5 Stars

Estate Pinot Noir 2012
Medium intensity with light red fruits of cherry and strawberry, moderate complexity if not a touch gentle in the overall bouquet. On the palate  - dry with medium+ red fruit flavors - more intense cherry and strawberry, I like the mineral aspect with a touch of light clay and limestone; light mealy textures, crisp and clean on the finish. Balanced with medium length and complexity. very nice!
4 Stars

The Blue Rock Range

Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012
There's that mineral undertone again - quite fine and gentle but also a very elegant bouquet; there's also plenty of oak woven into the bouquet as well as light red fruits of Strawberry and cherry; On the palate - dry with a strong fruit core; the 30% new oak influence is absorbed with ease by the fruit; moderate oak spices; fine yet forward tannins and medium+ acidity. Balanced with medium+ length and complexity.
A food wine for sure - simply because of the youth and forward nature of the various components.
4.5 Stars

Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2011
Gently fruity and gentle on the nose and showing some development I would normally associate with a slightly older wine - that said the palate reveals quite a complex heart with subtle fruit flavors and textures; the tannins are still youthfully firm driven by the fruit before oak. Balanced with medium length and complexity.
3 Stars

Syrah 2011 Single Vineyard 12.5%
Light and gentle fruits with a Pinot Noir cherry like note and soft white pepper lift; moderate oak. On the palate the flavors of black berry, plum and cherry emerge with a texture that reminds me of a Southern Rhone Cornas, but with Martinborough mineral signature; dry with medium+ tannins carrying the white pepper and slightly broodier flavors. Balanced with medium length and complexity. There is a point of differnce here with its fine fruit and tannin flavors and textures.
4 Stars

Syrah 2012 Single Vineyard 14%
Now we're talking..... great varietal push  with gravels, sand, rock and minerals encased in soft red fruits with a red apple skin highlight; the blackberry and darker red cherry aromas follow; on the palate - dry with an edgyness that adds complexity; the darker fruit flavors emerge followed by the gravels and masculinity of a robust style; medium+ tannins - ripe yet youthful; medium+ length and complexity. A very particular expression with plenty of appeal and presence.
5 Stars


Ara Wines - Trio tasting March 2014

Pathway Pinot Noir 2012 12.5%
Crisp, vibrant and fresh with light red fruits; a spicy fruit cake note; easy on the nose - oak signature; on the palate and dry, light-bodied, fresh and fruity example with cranberry and cherry flavors & with an apple peel note; easy oak, moderate length, light tannins, sound and well made.
Drink Now.
3 Stars

Single Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2012 13%
Lifted, bright light red fruits lead by sweet cherry and spiced cranberry; some apple skin and light red rose appeal; gentle and easy oak completes the bouquet; On the palate a dry wine with a dry stone earthy quality and careful use of oak appeal; Nice balance with flavors that reflect the nose especially the spiced cranberry and red cherry; the finish with flavors of brown oak spices; overall solid and reliable expression.
Drink Now and through 2014.
3.8 Stars

Select Blocks Single Estate 2012 Pinot Noir 13.5%
Bold dark red cherry fruit aromas alongside a noteworthy use of oak with brown spices and toasty layers; on the palate the flavors are the same as the nose suggests with added lushness to the fruits and fruit flavors; fine tannins add texture and length to the palate; the alcohol adds too with depth and a little charm as well as length.
Drink now and through 2015.
4 Stars

Thursday, 20 March 2014

John Forrest Collection

John Forrest Collection Wines - Tasted at MacVine International March 20th 2014
Doctors John and Brigid Forrest are Forrest, a small, very much 'hands-on" producer of premium quality white wine from their home vineyards in Marlborough. Whilst in partnership they produce the Cornerstone Bordeaux red from their vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels Region of Hawke's Bay and premium Pinot Noir from their vineyards in Bannockburn and the Waitaki Valley, Otago. 
All wines tasted were closed under crew top - Yay!

'Collection' Sauvignon Blanc Wairau 2012
Powerful and focused bouquet with an initial hit of bell pepper followed very quickly by a collection (no pun intended) pure fruit, gentle floral and spice suggestions; perhaps a nudge of oak.On the palate - dry with flavors that reflect the nose - sweet citrus and plenty of lush fruits; a feature is the texture which shows a light chalky feel and stony Marlborough- esque side. Balanced with medium+ length and complexity.
4.8 Stars (88 Points)

'Collection' Riesling Wairau Valley 2007 13%
Take note Riesling fans - this is a must try wine.......Toasty, rich in flavor and oozing suggestions of lime and honey along with baked red apple and a touch of ginger spice and marmalade - so - pretty complex and enticing. On the palate - dry with medium+ acidity and all the flavors suggested above; juicy and delicious - Balanced with quite a long finish and medium complexity.
4.5 Stars (89 Points)

'Collection' The White 
This is an aromatic and blended white wine that is traditionally vinified from multiple varieties from as many regions - Chardonnay, Riesling Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Gewurztraminer.
This example had an initial herbal quality that quickly changed into baked apple then citrus fruits; a medium+ (ish) weighted wine on the palate with a gentle creamy texture embellished by a variety of fruit flavors, textures and impressions; Dry with a gentle savory edge; high acidity and lovely medium+ finish.
Coming back to this wine several minutes later there was a dramatic increase in complexity, fruit and flavor suggestions as well as texture - all positive. Great balance and charm.
5 Stars (91 points)

'Collection' Waitaki Valley Chardonnay 2011 12.5%
Crisp, clean and pure with a focused stone fruit and citrus bouquet - there is a definitive sense of place here too - limestone and sweet clean air (I've been there - the Waitaki Valley that is - the bouquet has an uncanny connection to this memory), apple, pear, spice and an old oak suggestion. On the palate its all about texture: clean, fresh and crisp fruit flavors  - just let the wine speak to you - it dies this with such ease. I especially like the lees derived textures and perhaps a little sulphide suggestion. Young, balanced, medium+ length and complexity, fabulous potential.
5 Stars (91 Points)

'Collection' Chardonnay Wairau Valley 2010 13.5%
There's no mistaking the bouquet of a cool climate Chardonnay with sweet vanillin oak and suggestions of cream and stone fruits. 60% new French oak used - but you wouldn't know it given the intense and juicy fruit flavors; there 's even a light feminine side; medium+ acidity and body; stone fruit and white tree fruits flavors add richness. Lovely finish - a wine that will please the palate of many Chardonnay fans - did mine.
Must like oak. Very nine!
4.9 Stars (89 Points)

A special treat wine - 
the Doctor's Creek Vineyard Pinot Noir 2003 Waitaki Valley 14% 
A wine with a heart of burgundy red at the core, some browning hues throughout. While the bouquet had an initial porty note - the rest was very much a wine of Pinosity and presence. Fully integrated and I'm sure some further development ahead as well - there were aromas and flavors of violets and soft roses, tertiary fruits of cranberry and cherry and a generous charming finish. Fine powdery tannins and medium acidity.
Thank You John :)

'Collection' Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley 2011
Wow! This is my kind of Pinot Noir bouquet - an obvious tease of whole bunch leads into that sexy and seductive Chambolle Musigny like mix of earth, macerated cherry, sweet oak and harmony that very few Pinots Noir can have - a sense of place. Got me on this one.
Palate is even better than the nose suggests - a tease of flavors centred on light red fruits, an earthy dried herb layer, spicy oak, very fine and highly textured tannins; limestone directed acidity and a long playful finish.
5 Stars (96 Points) 
A highly recommended purchase

'Collection' 2010 Pinot Noir Bannockburn Central Otago 13.5%
Lots of schist and wild thyme, lots of darkly coloured light red fruits - cherry then plum; medium+ oak. On the palate - dry with flavors that directly reflect the nose; medium+ tannins and acidity, lots of texture and length. Overall a very taut, tense and not yet ready wine. It is going to be great though - belongs in a cellar for another 2 years.
A recommended acquisition.
4.5 Stars (89 Points)

'Collection' Syrah Gimblett Gravels 2009 13.5%
Lovely richness and intensity driven by black fruits of roasted raspberry and blackcurrant, a sense of black pepper before white and lots of violets and dark velvet roses - there's complexity and a masculine power at the heart of this bouquet; on the palate - dry with a dense core of fruit, medium++ tannins that are exceptionally ripe yet almost overpowering in their attack; medium+ acidity and a long finish. This is a keeper and will/should develop for several years before it is really ready. A delicious wine.
5 Stars (91 Points) 

'Collection' Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
There's no mistaking the signature of Cabernet here - powerful, ripe and significant blackberry fruits, herbaceous with suggestions of Cuban cigar and distinctive oak. It's all or nothing on the palate with many Cabernet and this example is - all! It is ripe, full-bodied, full of flavor from the blackberry fruits to the vegemite and marmite toasty oak flavors; the tannins are rich, big and vibrant yet raw and youthful too - this is a 20 year wine - raw, but very giving. Finish is long enough to make me want to try this gem again in 5 years - just to check its progress. Very nice indeed.
5 Stars (90 points)

Wednesday, 19 March 2014


Mahana Pinot Noir Nelson 2012 13.5%
Mahana is grown, produced and bottled by the Woollaston Brand (hence the link above)
Light red fruits bouquet with moderate to dark cherry and cranberry suggestions; a steely silty soil note adds a little complexity; overall varietal and sound with a hint of red florals. On the palate a dry wine with texture and fruit appeal; simple complexity and fruity with very easy and balanced tannins - slightly dusty with lots of flavor; med+ acidity and medium length. A smart, balanced and well made wine. I would suggest with food.
3.9 Stars

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Wild South

Wild South Wines Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013 13.5%
Sweet light red fruits and a distinctive dusty soil note; to be honest there's a light sour edge to the fruits that I find distracting; good use of oak - quite a low use of. On the palate a dry wine that is crisp and lively, promotes the cherry fruit flavors; mild tannins and crisp acidity.
Keen to taste again in 6 months.

Mud House Wines

Mud House 2010 Pinot Noir 'N Block' Central Otago 13.5%
A complex and thoughtful bouquet with a specific oak, soil, dried herb and fruit quality package and initial aroma attack. Specific barrel selection for oak spices apparent, silty loess and schist soil suggestions; wild dried thyme and thick skinned hardy cherry and red fruits. On the palate a dry wine, juicy too with a fruity and flavorful expression that has depth, complexity, balance and charm.
A smart buy whatever the price.
5 Stars - no question!

Saturday, 15 March 2014


Rockburn 'Tigermoth' Riesling Central Otago 2013 9%
Crisp and decisive Riesling bouquet of mandarin, lime, lemon, apple and old white roses. On the palate plenty of residual sugar sweetness and acidity. This is a wine pre-dinner - it teases the palate with sugar then stings it with acidity to make you hungry; flavors of citrus and apple shine the most. Balanced with medium length and complexity. very nice!
4 Stars

Brancott Estate

Brancott Estate Wines  Special Reserve Fume Blanc Marlborough  2013 13.5%
Very fruity and quite exotic with aromas of tropical fruits especially aged pineapple and passion fruit; a hint of oak spice, white smoke and complexity.
Very easy on the palate with a crisp, but not aggressive acidity, plenty of fruit flavors and a nudge of oak. Charming and fruity.
4.5 Stars

Charcoal Gully

Charcoal Gully Late Harvest Gewurztraminer  Central Otago 2013 13%
Sweet fruits and flowers, perfumed and fragrant - lots of brushed-by lavender tree and suggestions of talc; apples, pears and white fleshed fruits. On the palate there is obvious residual sugar pushing the sweet message, but there is also ripe and juicy sweet fruit flavors; very tasty with M to M+ acidity.
To enjoy this wine one must firstly like a sweet drop, but a great choice of wine to pair with spicy pork belly or confit pork chop with spicy apple sauce.
3.9 Stars

Charcoal Gully 'Sallys Pinch' Pinot Noir Central Otago 2012 14%
Bold, plump, ripe red berry fruits with raspberry laced black cherry; a little stony soil and undergrowth with moderate+/- oak and toasty oak features.
On the palate - dry and fruity with plenty of oak toast punching through; medium+ acidity and youthfully poised tannins ready for maturity. Balanced, dry, medium length and complexity.
Overall a smart and tasty example.
4.3 Stars

Friday, 14 March 2014

Two Degrees

2° Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago
Lots of sweet and ripe raspberry, cherry and red apple skin aromas; light dried herb qualities and obvious yet quite gently sweet oak; on the palate a dry yet simple, fruity expression - raspberry and strawberry flavors, lightly oaked with medium+ acidity and light fine tannins; Balanced with medium length and medium- complexity. Sound and well made.
3 Stars

Ceres Wines

Ceres Wines Composition Pinot Noir 2011 Central Otago
Classic Ceres style with lightly spiced cherry - fresh and dried - carefully selected oak with hints of brown spices and an 'old World' edge to the earthy layer; basically quite a complex bouquet and requires an 'eyes closed' technique when smelling the aromas. On the palate - dry, firm, taut and youthful with tight medium+ tannins and acid to match; lots of spice and warmth from the alcohol; balanced  - although I would recommend with food at this age - medium+ complexity and length. Overall a very clever wine - well made.
4.4 Stars

Burn Cottage Vineyard

Burn Cottage Vineyard 2012 Pinot Noir Central Otago
A romantic and decisive bouquet of deliciously ripe raspberry and cherry fruits wrapped in a blanket of schist like soil qualities and gentle oak and oak spices; my words aren't doing this bouquet justice - it really good! (that's better). On the palate - generous and complex, juicy and feminine; the tannins are ripe, tasty and an integral part of the texture which teases the palate with velvet then a youthful wake-up thwap! Acidity is a quiet medium+ and the finish is delightfully long. From a less than ideal vintage this is a fabulous wine and will love your cellar for a decade or more to come.
5 Stars (94 Points)

Black Barn Vineyards

Black Barn Vineyards - two wines tasted

Hawke's Bay Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc 2012
Plums, wild red berries, a touch of leather and chilli chocolate, overall a fruity bouquet with medium oak spice intervention and medium complexity. On the palate - dry, tart and poised with cranberry, plum and mild black fruit flavors, medium+ acidity and taut tannins push this wine into the 'must have with food' category. Overall very nice, but does require more cellar time (2 years) to really settle in a bit more.
3 Stars

Hawke's Bay Syrah 2012
Raspberry and wild red fruits with a core of black plum and clove, really a very interesting bouquet that changes quickly and for the better; medium spiced oak and a harmony that builds with each passing minute. On the palate - slightly sweet fruit with solid oak flavors, medium tannins and M+ acidity; dry finish with a little lick of plum and red apple.
Overall a real nice wine that, like its Merlot based brother above, needs food at this youthful age.
4 Stars

Mills Reef

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon Hawke's Bay 2010
Dark, rich and broody bouquet of Cabernet Sauvignon; black berry and cigar box; Black currant and bell-pepper; Olive and Oak - if you're into Cabernet then this wine will not disappoint. Remember though that New Zealand Cabernet is cool climate - so no jammy notes and sweet oak. On the palate - meaty, fruity, dry and broody - lots of Cabernet character and very masculine with pushy sweet tannins, medium+ acidity and a long finish. The oak is not shy and adds quite a toasty edge; big tannins with lots of texture.
Very much a food wine - cheese or something earthy/savory like a rich herbaceous lasagna with lots of cheese. Balanced, dry, medium+ length and complexity. 
Yet another fine example from Mills Reef.
4.9 Stars


Rock Ferry Wines tasting 

Blanc de Blancs 2009
Tasted at 12 degrees Celsius - A charming bouquet that displays baked ripe white fleshed tree fruits especially apple - alongside a medium+ and complexity giving autolysis white flowers and a hint of mushroom. The palate is equally charming, but is just a little simpler and less complex than the nose first suggests. That said it is dry and reflects the baked apple and now pear and lemon flesh flavors, crisp high acidity and a medium+ length and complexity. The dry finish is making me hungry - must be a good thing! Overall a lovely wine that I would recommmend for any occasion.
4.5 Stars
Trig Hill Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012 Central Otago
A lush and very giving bouquet of warm light red fruits - sweet dark cherry, brown spices and intoxicating oak; On the palate - dry with textures of an unfiltered wine, medium+ acidity, bold youthful tannins with course velvet edges and lots of plush and flavorful fruits - really very tasty and moreish; Balanced with medium length and medium complexity - lots of folk are going to like this wine.
4.7 Stars

Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
Lots of familiar CO aromas - undergrowth, thyme, rocky soils and dark cherry; plenty of oak as well - all in harmony yet quite youthful and raw; on the palate -  dry and quite youthful with medium+ acidity and firm tannins (needs time, food, decanting or all 3), plenty of fruit flavors with cranberry cherry combinations; good use of oak; balance will come after several more months in bottle, medium length and complexity. This is a good wine that just needs to be left alone - please.
4 Stars

Trinity Hill

A Trio from Trinity Hill

Viognier 2012 Gimblett Gravels
(Some Viogniers have intense apricot or very nutty roasted peach aromas in the bouquet that drive the wine on the nose and palate) This example is quite different with a very gentle and floral expression - very lightly spiced orange stone fruits with a hint of baked apple then yellow flowers; a stony and complex gravel, sand mineral earthy quality, medium+ complexity.
The palate has immediate appeal for me with spice laden citrus and stone fruit flavors wrapped up snugly in medium acidity and a gentle layer of oak and mild lees complexity. The does finish with an apricot layer after all, but not too intense. A thoughtful and thought provoking wine; balanced with medium+ length and complexity.
4.9 Stars

Syrah 2012 Gimblett Gravels
The soils of the Gimblett Gravels really do give something special to a wine variety when understood - Warren Gibson (wine maker) is a real expert when it comes to understanding the bouquet that Syrah should have - this wine has intense red fruits with raspberry leading, some black cherry and black berry highlights; next is a wild red floral that dovetails into the oak signature that is brown spices, bacon and mild toast; The peppery side of most Syrah is a mix of black then some white.
On the palate - ripe and almost sweet fruit flavors lead again by raspberry then black cherry. Medium+ flavorful tannins and pristine acidity; a real palate charmer, but also quite tense and youthful; balanced with a longish finish and high complexity. Love it!
5 Stars (90 Points)

'The Gimblett' - Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec Gimblett Gravels 2012
Ripe black and red fruits with sweet blackberry, black plum and black cherry laced with violets, sandy gravel earthy qualities and spicy oak; even before I taste this wine I know it is yet to begin to integrate, but has the hall marks of something special with the concentration encountered. Yes - as expected a dry, concentrated, but very youthful expression with medium++ acidity and tannins to match; the fruit core and careful measure of oak is what makes this a keeper; a long and complex finish - fantastic!
5 Stars (92 Points)

Ohau Gravels

Ohau Gravels Wine Tasting

Ohau Sauvignon Blanc 2012
I like the aromatics of this wine - with a hint of white smoke and flint then a old lemon skin, grapefruit and apple; the bottle maturity suits the wines bouquet and presentation; just a little hay terroir layer.
The wine presents more hay and actual grassy-ness on the palate with lots of citrus flavors especially grapefruit and even a little bell-pepper; medium+ acidity and warming alcohol makes for quite a nice tasting wine; the flavor of cape gooseberry is quite strong on the finish. For me this is a  wine and best enjoyed with food - salads with peanuts or mung beans - and will handle lots of salad dressing. Balanced with medium length and complexity.
3.5 Stars

Ohau Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011
The nose on this wine is just lovely with depth and complexity from well selected fruit and use of oak; underneath the initial wave of oak spice is in fact a wine that has a varietal signature of aged grapefruit, baked peach and apple; some lees or solids used in the barrel portion of the wine making add a layer of complexity and seduction; On the palate  - very nice thank you with a synergy between the fruit, wine making, medium acidity and oak accents.
Balanced, medium+ length and medium+ complexity. Well made.
4.5 Stars

Sacred Hill

Sacred Hill Orange Label Wines- Trio tasting

Pinot Gris Marlborough 2013
Lots of fresh fruit aromatics with a mix of sweet pear, apple - apple juice and white peach, relatively simple, aromatic, varietal and familiar.
Just dry with an immediate hit of spice then warming alcohol then fruit flavors and reflecting what the nose suggested; medium+ youthful acidity, generous flavors and textures. Balanced with medium length and moderate complexity. 
3 stars

Chardonnay Hawke's Bay 2013
Gentle yet familiar yellow flesh stone fruit aroma with a light creamy peach and other stone fruit suggestions, a touch of tropical, citrus; mild vanilla oak and light oak spice notes.
Palate reflects the nose well - with all the flavors and textures that get Chardonnay drinkers excited - sweet vanilla and oak, creamy texture, dry but not too so and peach nectarine and hints of raw brown sugar tease the palate. Balanced with medium length and medium complexity.
3.5 Stars

Pinot Noir Marlborough 2013
Lots of varietal fruit signatures with red and dark red cherry aromas, sweet, ripe cranberry and a little red apple skin overlaid with gentle oak spices; fruit forward yet enticing.
A youthful wine on the palate with lots of fresh acidity (M+) and firm texture giving tannins; the fruit flavors rise above any tensity the wine shows at this young age and adds length, but not complexity. This is a crowd pleasing style that ticks all the boxes of a fruity, dry, balanced and well made Marlborough Pinot Noir with gentle dusty tannins. Medium+ length and moderate complexity overall.
3.5 Stars

Monday, 10 March 2014


Poppy and Shayne Hammond are the proprietors of 'Poppies' wine brand and 'Poppies' a Wedding, Events and drop-in tasting venue in Martinborough (Puruatanga Road) - not far from Haythornthwaite, Ata Rangi and Schubert wineries if you know the area.

Both Hammond's have carved some of their wine careers out in the vineyards and winery at Dry River Wines so they are well known throughout New Zealand and the world for quality wine.

Unbeknown to some Shayne is an excellent chef so when the opportunity to start Poppies tasting room and wedding venue his culinary skills came in handy with food design and what would work well with the wines on offer.

Poppies is the only place to try and buy their wines - there is nothing available to the trade, but I am hoping that will change in the future especially for Poppy's Riesling - see below.

Poppies Rose 2013 - 100% Pinot Noir 
Classic, full on fruity with red melon, strawberry, raspberry and cherry fruits aromas that translate to the palate with ease; a dry wine which is great for food and plenty of crisp acidity to add charm and freshness; there's a light savory note at the heart of the wine; overall a smart example, balanced with medium length.

Poppies Sauvignon Blanc 2013
A very particular bouquet with a clever wine making hand in action here - sweet angelica then some classic gooseberry, white peach and a little apple; On the palate - dry, varietal and quite specific with some austere fruit flavors and then a little fresh, a mineral coolness, medium++ acidity and long finish make for a very worthwhile taste, if not different, wine experience. 

Poppies Chardonnay 2013 (Mendoza clone)
California peaches are at the core of the fruit with other fresh stone fruits, red apple and the crisp aromas of oak and its vanilla scents; clean fresh palate, fruity with mild+ oak flavors and a sweet vanilla note. Overall a simple yet tasty dry wine; I expect many event guests and wine tasters at the cellar door will adore or just enjoy this style of Chardonnay.

Poppies Pinot Noir 2012
This wine had the best bouquet of the lot with plum toned light red fruits, medium to dark cherry and plenty of enticing oak spices and hints of sweetness; palate confirms this with long fine tannin complexity and medium+ acidity adding a taut and youthful aspect to the wine; a lovely medium+ finish. A must try!

Poppies Pinot Gris 
Actually very nice (I am hard to please when it comes to Gris) with lifted white fruit aromatics, hints of spices and revealing just a little charm; the palate does show a sweet sour attack that some will like, sadly I do not; that said it has really good phenolics - balanced - with medium+ acid nicely off-setting the fruit core; well made and a smartly made crowd pleaser.

Poppies Late Harvest Riesling 2013 (40 gpl rs)
Well I thought the Pinot Noir had the best bouquet and then I nosed this Riesling - wow!
Concentrated with poached orange fruits, sweet mandarin and citrus flowers and minerality; the palate is equally impressive with a youthful, taut and almost poised very high acidity (pH2.89); long and delicious finish - more please!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

The Elder

The Elder Wines Martinborough
Winemaker: Paul Moon

Situated on an old river terrace of the Ruakokapatuna River overlooking the Te Muna valley and under the watchful gaze of the Three Canoes mountains - this is a unique site. 
The ground is as hard as diamonds (well almost) and planting anything at all was more than just a simple task when the site was first developed. Rocks, stones and gravels over limestone make up the soil profile - see pic below.
With less than 3 hectares of vines dominated by Pinot Noir (clones 5,115 and Abel) and a minuscule amount of Pinot Gris - this is a tiny yet very well tended site.

The wines are - well - pretty darn good: Yields are naturally low, concentration high and flavor rather gorgeous. 
One of the key features in the Pinots Noir is the lower than expected use of new oak (11% in the 2010 and 2011 and 18% in the 2012) this allows for maximum flavor, use of skin tannins and naturally higher acidity.

The Elder Pinot Noir 2010
Very soft almost feminine bouquet of light red fruits centering on mid to darker cherry, sweet cranberry and a little red apple skin; a soft oak overlay - not dramatic at all; On the palate lots of fruit concentration with bold fruit tannins adding their own mark of spice and a little oak spice; Taut and youthful with light brown spice notes, cherry fruits and roasted red apple skin. Balanced with medium+ length and complexity.

The Elder Pinot Noir 2011
A little more red fruits show compared with the 2010 - lifted and more masculine aromatics/tones. Also quite closed on the nose overall with a definitive tense message - (leave me alone for a while please - 2 years). On the palate its all Pinosity but very young, there is a freshness to the fruits - slightly cool too; youthful with lots of fruit spice, slightly courser tannins; there is a sweet spot on the palate though that gives me lots of confidence in this wines future; balanced with medium+ length and complexity.

The Elder Pinot Noir 2012
Noticeable red fruits but also with a steely complexity and softer plush edgy- ness; lots of sweet and ripe red fruits with red cherry, a touch of cranberry and red apple skin; on the palate soft and generous with fine tannins - this time from both the oak and fruit; I noticed too the influence of soil with a silty, gravelly note; medium+ acidity, dry with just a nudge of olive leaf. Overall a wine to invest in. 
Leave some for me though please.

Margaret Hanson with a bunch of Pinot Gris that has decided to be Pinot Blanc as well

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Chardonnay Renaissance February 2014

Family of Twelve and Antipodes Water

                          Great Chardonnay Renaissance

February 2014 held at Ostro Restaurant downtown Auckland
The opportunity to taste 18 Chardonnay including twelve from some of New Zealand's premier producers was brilliant occasion.
With Michael Brajkovich MW, Allister Mailing MW, Steve Smith MW and James Halliday leading the panel discussion - there was plenty of palate and experience to listen to.

The point of the event was to take a focused and critical look at the modern expressions of Chardonnay, taste and make comparisons between each wine presented and on this occasion to white Burgundy and New Zealand and ultimately appraise (or not) the efforts of New Zealand winemakers.
All the wine notes below are as I wrote them on the wines tasted (blind) - the title for each wine and link to each producer is added.

Flight 1: 

2011 Lawson’s Dry Hills “The Pioneer” Chardonnay 
Sophisticated, elegant and gentle floral bouquet with light spices and a distinctive citrus peel/flesh bouquet. Great palate textures with notable acidity that had a fresh appeal; low sulphide evidence/interaction/complexity; a balanced, elegant and compelling wine. Youthful.

2012 Nautilus Estate Marlborough Chardonnay
Very creamy peach bouquet, the MLF seems a little more forward, On the palate a crisp and fresh basket of fruits with white tree fruit before stone fruit flavors, toastier flavors and a more noticeable 'flint' character (sulphide) adding complexity, firm youthful acidity, but still an elegant example. Balanced with medium+ length and a medium to medium+ finish.

2011 Domaine Vincent Dauvissat Chablis Les ForĂȘts 1er Cru
A little more colour and development of the bouquet, complexity shows immediately and with a distinctiveness not unlike a white Burgundy with a mineral layer then citrus and stone fruit attributes. On the palate - dry with medium to medium+ acidity, taut and tense on the front palate then unfurls to reveal a wine with balance, medium+ length and complexity.

2011 Palliser Estate Chardonnay
More oak centred on nose; with aromas of lightly roasted stone fruits and a little citrus; palate is delicious and offers a lot more than the nose suggests; a lovely elegance, poise and balance with a nudge of MLF and sulphide on the finish; Balanced with a long finish and medium++ complexity.

2011 Domaine Roulot Meursault Les Luchets
A fruit centred bouquet with apple and pear leading the aromas alongside an elegant and softer complexity; there’s also a touch of funky wine making influence. This follows through on the palate; noticeable medium+ weight and lots of pushy acidity influencing the mineral flavours; nicely dry on the finish; Balanced with medium+ length and finish.

2012 Felton Road Chardonnay Block 2
The bouquet of this wine is familiar in that it displays layers of toastiness and gentle butterscotch; the palate shows a more gentle side with sweet citrus and floral highlights of chamomile; a little sulphide complexity emerges. The lees influences in the wine making push the toasty note, but also add complexity. After this wine was revealed to the group the use of 100% Mendoza clone made sense of the way in which the gentle stone fruit and exotic notes found harmony. 

Flight 2: 

2010 The Millton Vineyard Clos de Ste Anne Chardonnay
On the nose - a bold round and creamy attack with medium+ toast and bourbon-like oak suggestion. On the palate quite forward at first with the fruit then a toasty cheesy layer kicks in and flows into the creamy texture the nose first suggested; delightful balance, medium++ length and complexity. By the time the panel discussion began this example began to reveal its cellar potential and the finish became longer and more elegant.

2010 Domaine Blain Gagnard Chassagne Montrachet Caillerets 1er Cru 
A slightly advanced bouquet - aromas of cooked white fleshed fruits then a floral layer which adds a little complexity; The palate seems a little lean at first, but when the floral aromas turn into flavour as well - the delicate and charm of this wine begins to unfold; overall a solid wine that is balanced with a medium+ ish length and medium complexity. I was surprised that this was a 1er Cru Burgundy when revealed - the lack of texture and terroir attributes did not seem to be so entrenched in this particular example. In returning to the wine at that time it was revealed and re-reading my notes, my impressions were no different.

2010 Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay
Toasty, nutty, youthfully poised and tense bouquet; palate reflected the nose with the poise and tensity as well as a closed and youthful pause; that said the flavours send out enticing messages of floral, citrus and lots of elegance; a wine yet to show all it has; medium++ acidity, balanced with medium+ length and finish. Very nice!
2010 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay
Classic Burgundy like beginning with a swag of mineral, limestone and chalky aromas, chamomile tea and a little oak; the more the wine is swirled the more it begins to release the [sulphide] intensity that seems a little more than a Burgundy might have – still I like it – could be a Keltern. Palate equals the nose – generous, sophisticated, elegant and stylish. The finish is long and glorious. The overall expression of this wine is quite funky and different. Balanced with a long finish and medium++ complexity.  

2008 Domaine Etienne Sauzet Batard Montrachet Grand Cru 
Creamy, rich, rounded, nutty and cheesy bouquet – a very specific expression in an Old World style yet a little; duller still as the wine takes on more oxygen - some oxidative notes begin to draw my attention. Judicious use of oak. The palate seems a little flat and oxidised spoiling what the bouquet was trying to suggest. Overall though I liked the wine, I would not buy a bottle based on this particular taste experience.

2010 Pegasus Bay Virtuoso 
Quite a bold bouquet with the mix of fruity aromas and flavours of wine making – different pickings. On the palate a lovely wine; handles the oak well; flavours of citrus, citrus peel and stone fruits emerge; ageing well; balanced, medium+ length and complexity.

Flight 3:  
2012 Neudorf Vineyards Moutere Chardonnay
A very text book ‘Kiwi’ Chardonnay bouquet – oak, butter, cream BUT this example has elegance and charm as well, even a little mystery. Palate is way better than the nose suggests – the texture and medium++ acidity rise easily above the oak and bouquet to reveal a very sophisticated polished wine; Wonderful balance, poise, medium+ complexity long finish.

2010 Fromm La Strada Chardonnay
Gentle slightly roasted stone fruit and apple led bouquet; nutty & sulphide like layer – very complex. Palate confirms the nose with a lovely pure fruit expression, pristine acidity, moderate and well placed oak; balanced with a long finish and medium+ complexity - A quiet and slowly evolving example – delicious!

2010 Domaine Leflaive Puligny Montrachet Les Pucelles 1er Cru  
A very expressive bouquet - quite a nutty and mineral laden expression with layers of soil, steel and MLF cheesy-ness; Citrus centred fruit flavours with moderate oak and medium+ to high acidity; balanced with medium + length and medium complexity. Creamy oak. Nothing special.

2010 Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay
A very specific use of oak leads the bouquet followed by a soft stone fruit and gentle citrys attributes; lean yet plenty of purity of fruit flavours – a very special wine that is poised, gentle, charming and beautifully balanced with a youthful finish – needs time to even begin to integrate. An exciting example.
2011 Ata Rangi Craighall Chardonnay
Elegant, floral, white stone fruit and citrus; palate reflects the nose on flavour; a young, expressive and beautifully balanced; generous, but not invasive or intense oak; a little hint of sulphide adds complexity and length to the finish which is elegant and very long. 
My words don't do this wine justice -  this wine was perhaps my favorite of the tasting - its charm and elegance won my palate over and respect for delicious Chardonnay.

2011 Domaine Henri Boillot Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru
White smoke and nutty richness, slightly juicy yet clean stone fruit and tree fruits in the bouquet; The palate has an 'Old World' layer with mineral and light clay flavors; peach, red apple; light oak and medium+ acidity. Balanced with medium+ length and complexity. Very Very Nice!