I urgently needed a glass of red wine to add to my cheats 'coq au vin' and scrummaging through my tasting box I found a bottle of Saint Clair Vicar's Choice Pinot Noir 2007. It tasted good, very good, perhaps a reflection of the vintage year. Youthful purple garnet in colour with initially a meaty savoury aroma that does not hint at all of the sweet-fruited raspberry and plummy flavours that are abundant in the mouth - but later fruity floral scents develop on the nose too. It is soft, smooth and a touch velvety with a bright lift from the underlying acidity, a touch of spice and a pleasing savouriness to the lingering flavour and something just a little reminiscent of my balsamic mint sauce that makes think it would be very good with lamb. A juicy wine, perhaps a little simple in the realm of New Zealand pinot noir, but it is definitely pinot noir and easy and carefree to drink. However a cup was sacrificed for the cooking.
It seemed a shame not to compare the cheapest pinot noir in the Saint Clair range with some of the others that had arrived for review. We found five wines altogether, including two that had been sitting in the tasting box for quite a while. As usual Neil poured them for my blind appraisal. Saint Clair Vicars Choice Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 was included. The grapes for this wine come from a number of Wairau Valley sites and was matured in stainless steel tanks, and a mixture of new and used French oak. It has 13% alcohol and RRP is around $20.
There was another wine quite similar to the Saint Clair Vicars Choice but it turned out to be the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 5 Bull Block 2007. A little denser in its ruby garnet colour with flashes of purple adding to the youthful allure. Initially the aromas were sweet, fruity and spicy but later became quite savoury and pinotesque on the nose. Bright to the taste, lightly creamy and approachable with fruitcake spices, a touch of spritz, a savoury undercurrent and again something reminiscent of my balsamic mint sauce. It seems a little unresolved and quite oaky at this stage of its life but had lovely fine tannins and a long creamy finish with citrus nuances too. It garnered more depth and complexity as we consumed this wine over the next few days.
This single vineyard wine from Hawkesbury Road on the southern side of the Omaka Valley is 100% Clone 10/5 and matured in French oak - time in oak and percentage of new oak unknown. It has 13.5% alcohol and RRP is $32.95.
I was initially very very impressed with the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 'Sawcut' Pinot Noir 2005. It is a quite saturated deep Burgundy red colour and when opened it has a broody, savoury aromas with later a hint of mocha together with earth, floral and smoke. Ripe-fruited, chocolatey and full of luscious black berries with well-balanced spicy oak and a touch of grip to the thick velvety tannins - it was by far the most complex and seemed to have more age than the others with a funky mellow character coming through and a touch of anise on the aftertaste. Savoury, full-boded, grainy, funky and intriguing - just gorgeous but gee, we did injustice to the wine, as well as to ourselves, by not finishing it on the night. I couldn't believe how quickly it fell over - picking up those dreaded oxidative notes by day 2.
This wine is from the Ure Valley, almost 50 kilometres south of Blenheim. It spent 9 months in a mix of new and seasoned oak. It has 13.5% alcohol and RRP on release was $29.95.
Saint Clair Doctors Creek Reserve Pinot Noir 2006 also showed a hint of age compared to the bright hued 2007 wines. However the aroma was light, bright and fruity and initially belied the earthy savoury structure of the palate however a chocolate character emerged on the nose after a while. It has a firm tannin backbone to the slightly stewed fruit (and I mean stewed in a nice way) with a touch of anise and a dark, brooding, savoury finish. I like the way Neil described it as, "having a pretty sense with a gutsy structure". It is a powerful wine that that develops cherry and dark chocolate with a delicately floral spicy lift.
This wine is primarily Doctors Creek fruit. It spent 10 months in a mix of new and seasoned oak. It has 13.5% alcohol and RRP on release was $29.95.
And last but not least, the Wine of the Week - the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctors Creek Pinot Noir 2007. Ruby garnet in colour, deeply translucent but not quite opaque, the aroma is savoury and complex with game meat nuances. In the palate it is full-bodied, creamy, rich and spicy with chocolate and cherry and a nice underpinning of stalky herbs. Complex, interesting, savoury with a 'salty' freshness like ozone - or perhaps that is from the salty savourines of the thyme and rosemary-like herbs. Raspberry on the aftertaste adds brightness. As we drank this wine over the next few nights and matched it to an array of foods, it shows its evolution beautifully. What stood out for me was the fine tannin structure and the depth of savoury pinot flavours. It rated the best rating of 'Very Good' on day one and by day two it had a one word rating of 'Yum!'.
This single vineyard wine is a mix of Dijon clones and has spent 9 months in French oak, 34% new. It has 13% alcohol and RRP is $32.95.
All the wines combined well the my cheat's 'coq au vin' made with bacon, mushrooms and of course the Vicars Choice Pinot Noir. However, steer well away from a roasted chicken that has been marinated in lashings of Thai Sweet Chilli Sauce, Honey and Garlic.
A quick dinner of pan-fried crisp skinned salmon seasoned only with salt and pepper proved to be a worthy match but perhaps the best of all was a Portobello mushroom pan-fried in copious amounts of butter.
Cheese matching was also on the menu and of a selection of hard, soft and tangy cheese only one could be firmly recommended. It was Bouton d'Or Gruyere, a slightly sweet cheese with a mild nutty flavour.
A Bouton d'Or cows feta was the next best match but was not overly convincing to Neil. I personally like the way it enhanced the earthy notes in the pinot noirs.
The 2007 wines are the current releases. All the wines are from Marlbrough and all have screwcap closures. Find out more from www.saintclair.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
4 Aug 2008