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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  One day I'll update it to proper blogger software but right now I haven't the time to research which blogging software is best, nor do I have the time to teach myself how to use it.  I'll stick to archaic html to record my daily events.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

You'll find links to other wine blogs on my Vinous Links page.

If you want to make a comment, drop an email to and, if appropriate, I'll post it in the appropriate place.

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Archive: August 1st to August 16th 2007
Aug 16th: Felton Road with Blair Walter
Aug 15th: New Zealand Wine Exports to Canada grow
Aug 14th: New Releases from Esk Valley
Aug 13th: Saint Clair, Lincoln, Matua and Pegasus Bay
Aug 11th: Cuisine's Best NZ Red and Best Winery Restaurant 2007
Aug 10th: Learning French with Saint Clair
Aug 9th: Babich, Rongopai, Rosebank in the News and more on WBW
Aug 8th: Ra Nui Marlborough Chardonnay 2006 for Wine Blogging Wednesday
Aug 7th: Hatton Estate Tahi One
Aug 6th: Weekend Sojourn to Omaha Bay
Aug 5th: Wine Orbit - a new New Zealand wine publication
Aug 4th: Older Pinot Noir and Lamb Shanks
Aug 3rd: Even More on Mikasa and Wednesday's highlights
Aug 2nd: A couple of wines from Seresin and more on Mikasa
Aug 1st: Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 16th 2007

Felton Road with Blair Walter

When you meet a winemaker you often find out a little bit of trivial information about them that you can store away for future reference. Such was the case last night when I caught up with Blair Walter, winemaker for one of New Zealand's most iconic producers - Felton Road Wines in Central Otago.

Blair Walter, photo by Sue Courtney"How come I see so many photos of you sporting a beard," I asked as we sipped on a glass of Jacquart Champagne. Blair, as usual, was beardless in my presence.

"Those photos would have been taken during vintage, " he laughed. He told me that every year he stops shaving on the first day of the Felton Road harvest and his face doesn't feel the touch of a razor again until harvest is over - or until his wife gets sick of the fuzz and insists he shaves it off.

So if you see a photo of a bearded Blair Walter, you can gauge how far through harvest it was taken by the fullness of his face hair.

The other thing I learnt was that the elm tree that graces the Felton Road label grew out of the original owner's name. (Well actually I knew that but had forgotten). Stewart Elms developed Felton Road Wines in Felton Road, Bannockburn, planting grapes in 1992. The first vintage of Pinot Noir in 1997 won a gold medal and the Trophy for Champion Pinot Noir on its first showing. (They haven't entered a wine show since).

Felton Road Wines was sold to Nigel Greening in 2000 and as Nigel already owned a vineyard at Cornish Point, not far away, the original vineyard soon became known as 'Elms Vineyard'. Conversion to organic and biodynamic viticulture commenced in 2002 and since 2005, the vineyards have been totally biodynamic.

The Jacquart Champagne was the pretaster to a tasting of Felton Road wines last night at the Wine Spirit. All of my notes are summarised on my Wednesday Round-up page, but one of the highlights was the hard to procure Felton Road Block 3 Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006, which comes from a single block within the Elms Vineyard. This gorgeous wine is deep pinky purple with a black core and has a tantalising pinot perfume of smoky, savoury oak, musk and spiced black cherry. Spicy and savoury to the taste with a gorgeous swathe of sweet fruit, it's earthy and gamey with hints of spiced mushroom and the fragrance of dried thyme gracing the aftertaste. A wine of delicious depth, complexity and balance with the exotic spices adding additional allure and delicate hints of orange zest on the finish, the firm tannins and underlying acidity suggest the wine will be long lived. It has 14.5% alcohol and is sealed with a screwcap. Felton Road has sold out and although the Wine Spirit had a few bottles for sale last night (about $68), I think they sold them all too. Next release is May 2008.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 15th 2007

New Zealand Wine Exports to Canada grow

New Zealand wines exports to Canada have grown in value from NZ$6 million five years ago to NZ$34 million today and are expected to increase to NZ$100 million by 2012. But although the average Canadian consumes around $130 worth of wine every year, of that $130, only $1 worth comes from New Zealand. However that $1 worth of wine is focussed at the top end of the market.
Check out this TVNZ One News item with related video link.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 14th 2007

New releases from Esk Valley

This time of year in New Zealand is always exciting because the new season's wines are starting to emerge in abundance. Copious amounts of sauvignon blanc and other early release white varieties too, not forgetting fashionable rosé as we head into spring time. Wine New Zealand in the first week of September is a major showcase of new release wines, but some producers make a head start and today it was the turn of Esk Valley Wines who are based in Hawkes Bay. Photo Copyright to Sue Courtney - August 2007

"2007 was the most amazing season," said Gordon Russell, the winemaker, adding that the whites are equal if not better than in 2006. It was a long dry season with none of the rain that deluged Northland at the end of March, so the grapes could be left on the vine without pressure from the weather. "We picked on acidity as well as sugar to give the wines a crisp framework to build on," said Gordon. Thus all the wines are made with no additives. The acid comes from grapes. The residual sugar (rs) comes from stopping the ferment before the wine is totally dry.

If people think the only great sauvignon blanc in New Zealand comes from Marlborough, they are mistaken. And the latest release from Esk Valley is a brilliant example of fresh, vivacious Hawkes Bay savvy.

Esk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is light green gold with a fresh fruity tropical fruit aroma hinting of pineapple and gooseberry, and crisp, fresh, dry, citrussy flavours with a strong gooseberry undercurrent, hints of nettles, herbs and limes. It's warm and full-bodied with a slightly oily texture and a balanced softness to the long, tangy finish. 13.5% alc. 5g/l rs. NZ$20.50. My rating: Very Good.

Esk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2007 has very obvious varietal aromas of apple, pear and citrus followed by bright flavours in the palate that, as well as apple and pear, has hints of pineapple and orange zest. A smidgen of rose petal muskiness adds a lovely richness and Alsace-like nuance to the focussed fruit and a balanced sweetness to the long creamy finish. There's a slightly pear-like graininess to the texture which adds to its appeal and wild yeasts and old oak barrel aging add complexity without distracting. 14% alc. 15 g/l rs. My rating: Excellent.

I congratulated Gordon on the wine and he said "thank you", adding that the effort he put into this wine is "ridiculous". Fruit came from three vineyards, with one vineyard having three picks, with a touch of botrytis in the last pick. So that's where the lusciousness comes from.

Esk Rose 07  - photo by Sue CourtneyEsk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Rosé 2007 is such a pretty colour, a deep, clear, light ruby and not as deep as the previous two years when the wine looked more like a light red. There's an earthiness to the aroma and malbec florals add to the spicy, winey perfume. A full-bodied style of rosé with a slightly oily texture, a delicate hint of tannin, strawberry and blackberry fruit and the earthiness detected on the nose emerging again on the bright fruit finish. With complexity and depth, this well-made, well-balanced rosé follows the quality this label has instilled. 14% alc. NZ$18.99. My Rating: Another gold medal prospect.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay The Terraces 2004 is the other new release wine put forward on the day. This stunning 'flagship' wine is a blend of Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc from the same vineyard picked on the same day and co-fermented together in a true 'field blend' style, then matured for 21 months in 100% new oak.

Deep blueberry red with black in the core of the glass, the aroma is deep, complex and spicy with voluptuous smoky oak, creamy integrated red fruits and hints of vanilla and cherry. Oak is still quite dominant in the palate but it's creamy, spicy and integrated with a lovely velvety plushness to the texture, hints of anise and mocha, predominantly black fruits with a touch of spiced cherry and chocolate emerging on the lasting finish. A little graininess still to the texture, but wonderful potential for the future. 14.5% alc. NZ$125. My rating: Delicious.

Two years ago I write a comprehensive review of a vertical tasting of Esk Valley The Terraces, including the 2004 wine which was tasted from the barrel in the cellar. It's worth clicking on this link, to read that article.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 13th 2007

Saint Clair, Lincoln, Matua and Pegasus Bay

This week's Wine of the Week is the Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 'Sawcut' Chardonnay 2006 from Marlborough, New Zealand. This gorgeous chardonnay is going to be an absolute star but I learnt that like a young red, this powerful white also benefits from decanting. Click here to read the review.

Also tasted in the weekend…

weekend wines 10-12 Aug 2007

Lincoln Heritage Sauvignon Blanc 2006 'Lukrica' - Marlborough, New Zealand
Pale lemon in colour. Citrus and lime sherbet on the nose with a gooseberry richness taking over, it's bright and citrussy to the taste with a slightly oily texture and a pungent herbaceous backbone with a touch of sweetness on the tangy finish. A wine that has fruit from both the Awatere and Wairau Valleys, it's very tasty as an accompaniment to a smoked salmon, horseradish and cream cheese spread. 13% alc. $18.

Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Semillon 2006 - Waipara Valley, New Zealand
Such a completely different style of sauvignon when tasted alongside the Lincoln Marlborough wine, probably because it has oak-fermented Semillon in the blend. It's a richer lemon in colour with smoky pineapple and tropical fruit on the nose and a spicy savoury flavour with grapefruit acidity over stonefruit with sauvignon's pungency kicking in on the finish. There's a funkiness from the wild yeast fermentation and the finish is long and dry. The salmon spread is a yummy food and wine combo and accentuates the citrussy brightness of the wine. Also rather delicious with a baked feta too. 13% alc. NZ$25.50.

The Lincoln was unanimously voted the favourite of the two but the Pegasus Bay came into its own with the food.

Lincoln Heritage Chardonnay 2006 'Patricia' - Hawkes Bay , New Zealand
Pale gold in colour. It's very bright and tasty, full of juicy stonefruit, nectarine and tropical fruit without any influence of oak but a savouriness from the yeast lees adds a creamy richness and sweet apricot lingers on the lightly spicy finish with a touch of sherbet zest too. A real star with the troops and a very good match to roasted chicken breasts wrapped in bacon and stuffed with apricots and prunes. 13.5% alc. NZ$16.

Matua Valley Matheson Chardonnay 2005 - Hawkes Bay , New Zealand
A light to medium golden colour, there's smoky tropical fruit and spicy oak on the nose and bright spicy fruit in the palate. A big, ripe, rich, creamy wine with a well-structured citrussy undercurrent, if you like oak, you'll like this wine. But like the Saint Clair Block 4, I think it would benefit from a slosh in a decanter too. 12.5% alc. NZ$20.95.

Saint Clair Pinot Noir 2006 - Marlborough, New Zealand
Light ruby coloured, clear and bright. Aromatically scented with alluring smoky cherry and savoury spice, the aromatic traits carry through to the medium-bodied palate. Full of juicy, slightly tart red fruits and soft tannins, it's deliciously varietal, clean and well made. The back label says it is 'best matched with lamb' but with the chicken breasts stuffed with prunes and apricots and wrapped in bacon, it was totally delicious too. 13.5% alc. $20.95.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 11th 2007

Cuisine's Best NZ Red and Best Winery Restaurant 2007

Mills Reef Winery continues to assert the quality of its 2005 vintage reds with its stunning success in Cuisine Magazine's New Zealand Reds tasting (Issue 124, just released). Not only did Mills Reef achieve three 'Top Ten' placing's, it firmly snared the No. 1 spot. But it is not one of the top-of-the-tier $40 Mills Reef Elspeth wines that sits proudly in the top position. It's the Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005, a wine that often sells for under $20, that leads the pack. I tasted this wine back in June and even then I was extolling its quality, stating it would put some $40 reds to shame. Well, it's done better in the Cuisine tasting, beating some much more extravagantly priced wines.  Here's my notes from two tastings in June... Millfs Reef Res CM

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 is deep blue-red black with bright crimson edges. It's luxuriously coloured, appealingly scented and full of tasty full-bodied flavours. Red fruits, vanilla, chocolate and sweet cedary oak fill the nose and lush red and black berry flavours are joined by liquorice and fruit cake spice with rose hips and a touch of chocolate in the palate. Underpinned by firm acidity and hints of dried herbs, it builds to a savoury, complex mouthfilling finish. A wine of depth and concentration, it's absolutely delicious. 14% alc.  Screwcap.

This wine has been around for a while, so there's not much to be found, but both Regional Wines in Wellington and First Glass Wines and Spirits in Auckland are selling for $18.99 a bottle.  The Mills Reef website lists other outlets while stocks last.

The Complete Top Ten  - all with five star ratings - are:

1   Mills Reef Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005
2   Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Sophia 2005
3   Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2005
4   Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu Merlot 2005
5   Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
6   Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels The Quarry 2005
7   CJ Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2005
8   Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2005
9   Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2004
10  Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005

Interestingly the wines all have a common theme - apart from being NZ Reds of course.   They are all from the Gimblett Gravels designated subregion of Hawkes Bay.

Stores around the country run Cuisine tastings, but you'll have to check out the magazine to find out where they are.  I can tell you, however, that the First Glass tasting in Takapuna is on Wednesday August 22nd.

Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2007

Amisfield Winery and Bistro at Lake Hayes in Queenstown has been awarded New Zealand’s Best Winery Restaurant for the second year running, first in 2006 and again this year in the Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards.

Celebrated Queenstown chef Joff Bertram was recently appointed the executive chef at Amisfield Bistro, which opened in 2005.  He applies the principles of Amisfield’s winemaking philosophy, ‘Grown Not Made’, to provide a daily changing menu of organic and locally sourced produce in the country style bistro.

Also in the awards, Martin Bosley's Yacht Club (Wellington) was awarded Restaurant of the Year as well as Best Fine DiningPravda Cafe (Wellington) won the Best Casual Dining - Metropolitan while Best Casual Dining - Regional went to The Martinborough at Peppers Martinborough Hotel. Soto Japanese Garden Restaurant (Auckland)won Best Ethnic or Themed Restaurant and O'Connell Street Bistro (Auckland) won Best Wine Experience.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 10th 2007

Learning French with Saint Clair

I've recently received a bottle of Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and gee, I was surprised when I looked at the back label and saw it was in French. But despite learning only very minimal of this popular foreign language at school, I was surprised just how much I could understand. Here's what the label said. How do you fare with the translation?SCSB07 - Back Label

"Saint Clair Estate Wines est un vignoble familial fondé par Neal et Judy Ibbotson, pionniers dans le domaine vinicole dans la région de Marlborough depuis 1978. Le Sauvignon Blanc, lauréat de Saint Clair, est vendangé à maturité optimale, de vignobles de premier choix de la région de Marlborough. Ce vin élégant compte d'intenses arômes de fruit de la passion et de cassis ainsi que des notes de groseilles à maquereau. Accompagne à merveille l'antipasto, des légumes saisonnier grillés et les fruits de mer frais. À déguster maintenant ou peut se conserver jusqu'à deux ans.
Produit et embouteille par Saint Clair Estate Wines RD2 Blenheim.
Vinificateur: Matt Thomson
Produit de la Nouvelle-Zélande, Marlborough.

As for the wine - it delivered everything I thought it would, especially as Saint Clair has produced my 'Sauvignon Blanc of the Year' for the last two years.

SCSB07 - Front labelSaint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is pale lemon in the glass with a twinkling brightness to the clear hue. Crammed with vibrantly aromatic passionfruit, gooseberry and lime on the nose, the aroma reminds me of the wine I picked as last year's 'Wine of the Year', the stunning Saint Clair Block 6. While not as complex as the Block 6 in the palate, it's juicy and zesty with vibrant fruit, sweet pea, summer herbs and a powerful, pungent, tangy finish. A gorgeous wine and one that savvy lovers will adore.  

The wine was just one of the stunning Saint Clair savvies tasted last Wednesday with Matt Thomson, the winemaker from Saint Clair. Matt says that 2007 looks to be a carbon copy of 2006 in flavour and quality. Check out all my notes on my Wednesday Roundup page.

Tasted again today, two days after the bottle was opened, it has become overtly pungent in the best possibly sauvignon blanc way with loads of gooseberry and zesty spice. It's so rich it's almost creamy in texture and there's some of that famous Marlborough 'sweat' developing on the long, drawn out finish.   Find out more from

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 9th 2007

Babich, Rongopai, Rosebank in the News and more on WBW

My Babich mailer arrived today with the news that Rongopai Wines is now under the ownership of Babich Wines. This is a snippet from the article ….

"One of the most celebrated and cherished labels in the New Zealand wine industy is now under our ownership. The brand aligns perfectly with Babich as it is a story of passion, innovation and excellence. It is a story that reflects the vibrant colour of the New Zealand landscape, a story that is enhanced by a flavoursome past. Like Babich, Rongopai holds the unique position of being one of the oldest wine brands in New Zealand. The brand was introduced in 1932 and since then the name - a Maori word meaning 'good taste & good feeling' has also become synonymous with quality."

It sounds like the Rongopai brand name will be preserved and Babich will continue to use Rongopai's established strategic relationships with growers throughout New Zealand. And although most of the wine will now be made at the Babich Winery in Auckland at Henderson, the historic building that houses the Rongopai Winery in Te Kauwhata - the restored Viticultural Research Station constructed by the government in 1902 - will remain.  I visited Rongopai on a vinous detour halfway between Auckland and Hamilton last May.  I lamented the fact that it was closed in the weekend but hopefully under the Babich ownership, this historic place will open in weekends in the future.

Meanwhile, just north of Christchurch, the Rosebank Winery and Function Centre (website no longer operational) has closed its doors after the death of one of its directors. Rosebank was not known for its wine, but it has left a number of wedding plans for betrothed couples up in the air.

More on Wine Blogging Wednesday (see yesterday's post below); as I learn how WBW works it seems that people taking part post on their blogs and a compilation of postings from around the world are summarised in the weekend to appear on the website.  Silly me.  I thought it was real time. I'll have to wait to see other's naked entries.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 8th 2007

Ra Nui Marlborough Chardonnay 2006 for Wine Blogging Wednesday

Three years ago a concept called Wine Blogging Wednesday was started. I was invited to join in by Andy Barrow who runs the UK website, Spittoon, but for some reason I didn't. I imagine it was because it was some wine I couldn't easily get hold of in New Zealand. Three years later Wine Blogging Wednesday is still going and it's growing, so much so that it is now a firmly entrenched event in the wine blogoshpere and even has its own dedicated website - So it's time I joined in.

"Let's Get Naked" is the theme for the third anniversary of WBW. I like Naked as a starting theme because naked is how we all came into the world. So it's the perfect time to make my entrance into Wine Blogging Wednesday.

It's been suggested that the naked wine specifically be chardonnay, and as unoaked chardonnay seems to becoming more and more popular, it seems they should not be too hard to find. At a seminar at Wine New Zealand last year, Allan Scott (the man) spoke about the demand for New Zealand unoaked chardonnay from overseas. And so many of our major exporters have one in their international portfolio. But trying to find an unoaked Chardonnay on the local shelves is a little bit harder. It seems that where I come from, oak in chardonnay is expected. And so people go for something like pinot gris if they want something without oak that is a less brash than sauvignon blanc or riesling. But unoaked chardonnay can found and many of them taste better than pinot gris at the same price.   My pick for WBW is a good example of this.Ra Nui in the Sun

Ra Nui Marlborough Chardonnay 2006 is pale in colour with the lightest lemon hue. The aroma is inviting, like tropical fruit salad in a glass. Quite citrussy at first to the taste with grapefruit and hints of lime, the tropical fruit apparent on the nose fleshes out in the palate with peach, nectarine, passionfruit and pineapple and a zestiness to the bright finish. It may be unoaked but the extended contact with the yeast lees has added a savouriness to the backbone and a richness to the creamy texture. All in all, a deliciously fruity, unoaked chardonnay that shows off the naked attributes of Marlborough chardonnay well.

Made by the team at Ra Nui Wines, the wine has 13.5% alcohol, it's sealed with a screwcap and costs about $20 in New Zealand. It can also be found in several international markets including Australia, the UK, the USA, Canada, Denmark, Germany and Singapore.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 7th 2007

Hatton Estate Tahi One

In the inbox today was an email from Hatton Estate with the proud proclamation that they are 15 years old. It's scary how long some of these seemingly 'newer' wine companies have been around, although 1992 was when they first planted vines. Even scarier is how quickly times fly because 1992 doesn't really seem that long ago.
Hatton Estate is a Hawkes Bay wine producer based in the heart of the Gimblett Gravels wine growing district but after they started producing wine, they flew under the radar in New Zealand as they concentrated their efforts on export. Their name came to prominence when the flagship wine, Tahi One, from the 1998 vintage, made it on to a Gordon Ramsay wine list in a Michelin 3-star restaurant in London where it was selling for the equivalent of NZ$360.00 per bottle.
I didn't taste any Hatton Estate wines until 2005 and that was on a visit to the winery where the then current vintage of Tahi, the 2000, was opened for tasting. I was impressed, in fact all the Hatton Estate wines that day were impressive (see this review).
This week the Hatton Estate Tahi One from the 2005 vintage was released. I tasted it alongside the Trophy winning Tahi One 2004 and some other rather stellar New Zealand reds. Tahi One is darn good wine. It's this week's Wine of the Week.
Click here to read the review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 6th 2007

Weekend Sojourn to Omaha Bay

There's a new stop on the Matakana Wine trail north of Auckland bringing the number of cellar doors in the region up to nine. Omaha Bay Vineyard is the latest addition, joining Ransom Wines, Ascension, Matakana Estate, Hyperion, Heron's Flight, Brick Bay and Mahurangi Estate as a vineyard destination for the weekend wine taster. The ninth is 'Taste' in Warkworth, which is the cellar door outlet for Hinchco Wines.

There's also The Vintry in the cinema complex in Matakana Village and although not a 'cellar door', it is a retail outlet for just about all of the region's wines, including some of the very hard to find. The Vintry is also a wine bar. You can buy wine to drink there or to take into the cinema next door. Something unique that The Vintry offers is blind tasting sets of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Rosés' Cabernet Merlot blends or 'different varietals' which take in the not so common wines styles of the region, such as Montepulciano, Pinotage, Syrah and Carmenere. They come in flights of five and allow you to compare and contrast wines from the same region and make up your mind what you like without the winemaker standing beside you, as it often the case at the region's boutique cellar doors.

omahaglass.jpg (49217 bytes)Back at Omaha Bay Vineyard, where the views to the north over Omaha Bay toward Little Barrier Island, are drop dead gorgeous on the right kind of day, there are a number of wines on the menu. That's because they source from outside the region as well as from outside the winery. The ones reviewed here from Omaha Bay vineyard's Matakana grapes and are all from first crop fruit.

Omaha Bay Vineyard Pinot Gris 2006 ($30) is bone dry, fermented in older oak and matured on yeast lees. Full-bodied and creamy with hints of stonefruit, citrus zest and rich, ripe pear flavours on the lightly savoury finish, this Pinot Gris will even satisfy Chardonnay-only drinkers.

Omaha Bay Vineyard 'The Imposter' Flora 2006 ($27) is warm textured and lightly spicy with pear and stonefruit flavours and a touch of citrus to add crispness to the bright, clean finish. With its semi-sweet disposition, it is best served chilled.

Omaha Bay Vineyard Matakana Montepulciano 2006 ($35) is brooding and deep with a crushed velvet texture, an inky, crimson-edged purple black colour and youthful smelling cedar with a black fruit intensity. It's savoury to the taste with red and black fruits, tar, chocolate and mocha building in the rounded, full-bodied palate. Juicy blackberries burst with flavour in the mouth and underlying citrus peel acidity keeps everything in check. A rather fascinating and powerful wine.

Omaha Bay Vineyard is currently open from Wednesday to Sunday. They plan to sell food too.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 5th 2007

Wine Orbit - a new New Zealand wine publication

A new wine publication was launched last month. Called Wine Orbit, its byline is 'Independent, Extensive Monthly Wine Review' and I was given a complimentary copy by the author, Sam Kim. Sam currently works at First Glass Wines and Spirits in the retail sector but he's also worked for a wine distributor in the fine wine sector, he's travelled to many of the world's fine wine regions and is an experienced wine judge with several wine shows and Cuisine Magazine tastings on his CV. Wine Orbit
Wine Orbit is mainly Sam's reviews of wines he has tasted specifically for his magazine and it's organised into themes for the month, which for the inaugural publication is New Zealand Chardonnay, Australian Shiraz and Blends, Rhône and Southern France and 'Around the Orbit' which is new release wines and wines of interest that don't fit into his main theme categories.
But he also suggests food to match the wine styles he is reviewing, with recipes as well   - for example there's a French Toast and Maple Syrup recipe to match to Muscat de Beaumes de Venise. "These sweet wines make a much better breakfast wine than an acidic Champagne," says Sam.
And something that is rather unique is his music matching - the background music he tastes the wines by.
Sam's personality comes through in his writing. Gee, I like what he's done. The 28 pages make a good read.
Wine Orbit is hard copy only, although there's a basic website that may be expanded in the future. This gives the contact details and the subscription prices which are $120 a year for 12 issues within New Zealand and slightly more for overseas.
Check it out -

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 4th 2007

Older Pinot Noir and Lamb Shanks

The other day I pulled some of the older Pinot Noirs out of my tasting box, wines that for some reason or another had been overlooked. It was an opportunity to taste some wines that had probably not been made for long or even mid term cellaring and in some cases three years perhaps being the upper limit. But surprisingly all were drinking well and even the ultra cheapie was undeniably pinot noir. Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 ($29) that was mentioned a couple of days ago, was part of this tasting, but I just want to mention the others too.

6 older pinots

The ultra cheapie is Hardy's Pinot Noir from Australia (12% alc, $8.95) - there is no vintage on the bottle, there is no indication of where the grapes come from on the bottle (apart for Australia), it's so obscure that even the Hardy's website omits this wine from their range. Fortunately I had notes to tell me the grapes were from the Riverlands area. For a wine of this price, the big surprise was that it looked like pinot noir and it tasted like pinot noir with cherry and plum fruit, cinnamon and clove spices and a hint of savouriness. The only problem was that it was far too sweet and jubey for a pinot noir purist.

Saint Clair Vicars Choice Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 (13% alc, $15.95) is a juicy, straight forward, entry level pinot noir full of mulled wine spices, glace cherries, smoky charred oak and moderate acidity keeping the sweetness in check.

Crossroads Destination Series Hawkes Bay Pinot Noir 2004 (13%, $19.95) had the lightest, transparent garnet colour but the most complex aroma and taste. Smoky, savoury, earthy and spicy with black cherry, hints of blackberry, fine tannins and a dry finish, some secondary bottle character add an intriguing nuance of funk. Drinking very well now, I liked this a lot. This was the only one with a cork.

Palliser Pencarrow Martinborough Pinot Noir 2004 (13.5% alc, $20) is perfumed and spicy with juicy plum, brambles and tarter red fruit, dried herbs, an earthy undercurrent and a flair of acidity lifting the finish. I actually picked this as Martinborough.

Framingham Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 (13.5% alc. $29) has appealing varietal aromas of black cherry and spice and is silky textured, full-bodied, fruity and quite gutsy to the taste with a savoury, earthy richness and fruit cake spices. Drinking well, the slightly dominant vanillin oak the only distraction.

Hind Lamb ShankPeople ask me what I do with my left over wine. Well, often I cook with it - and what better at this time of year than lamb shanks marinated in pinot noir. My butcher is getting in these wonderful, plump hind lamb shanks at the moment (New Zealand lamb of course) and when slow cooked in wine they are just divine. First of all I push a slightly crushed clove of garlic in between the meat and the bone and push sprigs of freshly picked thyme into cavities too. Then I pour over a bottle of pinot noir - in this case the Hardy's with a top up from the Saint Clair - and let the shanks marinate for up to 24 hours. Then they go into the well-used enamel-coated lidded casserole with more thyme and sprigs of mint, to bake in the oven at about 160°C for about 3 hours. I tip all but a cup of the wine off after about an hour and add some quartered beetroot so when the liquid is reduced, after cooking, you have this most fabulously coloured, vibrant sauce to accompany the falll-off-the-bone tender meat. It's the most hearty, easy to prepare meal and of course it goes fabulously with the tasting leftovers.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 3rd 2007

Even More on Mikasa and Wednesday's highlights

After waxing on lyrically yesterday about my new Mikasa 'Soft' glasses for red wine, today I called into the Steven's homeware store in Shore City in Takapuna on Auckland's North Shore, to buy some more. But I was surprised to find them without the little yellow stickers on them denoting they were on 'special' .
"Excuse me," I said to the lady, "I was in the Browns Bay shop yesterday and the Mikasa Oenology glasses I bought there on sale yesterday don't seem to be on 'sale' in your store."
"The 'what' glasses," she replied. I pointed out the glass I was talking about, she took it off the shelf and looked up the product on the computer.
"You're right," she said.
So if you do chase after these glasses and they are not denoted as being on 'sale' (with a 50% discount) while the sale is on, just get them to scan the product.

They also had the tasting glass I was looking for, so that problem is solved too.

On Wednesday night it was a 'New Releases' tasting at the Wine Spirit. There were a couple of 2007 Sauvignon Blancs that gave a sneak preview as to just how good the 2007 Marlborough vintage is. There were two of the stunning Kumeu River 2006 chardonnays from Kumeu in north west Auckland and a gorgeous pair of wines from Shines Estate in north west Victoria called "Innocent" ( a Viognier) and "Guilty" (a Shiraz). To wrap up the tasting there was a juicy little Martinborough Pinot Noir, a couple more Aussie Shirazes and a couple of Italians. And once again it was an Italian that really stirred my senses.

Parusso Barbera d’Alba 'Ornati' 2004 from Piedmont in Italy is a beautifully fragrant, headily perfumed wine with rose petals, spice box and shoe polish emanating out of the glass. A deeply coloured wine, it seems initially sweet in the palate - sweet, juicy and jammy with flower musk and smoky blackberries but there's a rusticity to the backbone, a savouriness to the finish, a little bit of grip to the tannins and a flourish of spice. A very appealing, full-bodied, 'old world' style aged for 12 months in older oak. The price was NZ$37.

All of the tasting notes are posted to my Wednesday pages - click here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 2nd 2007

A couple of wines from Seresin and more on Mikasa

Seresin Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Light gold, clear and bright with fragrant, grilled peach aromas and a smooth creamy fruity palate full of juicy stone and tropical fruit with spiciness from the mealy yeast lees and an oaky finish with a touch of hokey pokey and caramel - this is a full-bodied, powerful wine with fruit evolving through peach to apricot with hints of pineapple and a reflux of passionfruit.  It seems to get richer and more complex with every mouthful amassing increasing deliciousness and the toasty oak that seemed a little dominant on the first taste settles down to a supporting role in the background.  When I found out this was from Seresin, I though it was the 'Reserve', but while it has some of the taste qualities of the 'Reserve', it's a little more affordable at its $28 recommended price. This tasty little chardonnay has 14% alcohol and really hits the spot with the cook. And its beaut with food too.

Leah Pinot Noir & Mikasa GlassSeresin Leah Pinot Noir 2006
Deep cherry guava red, opaque only in the very core of the glass. Fragrant, smoky and savoury on the nose with a lovely floral depth and crisp, savoury and spicy to the taste with crushed velvet tannins, slightly tart red fruits like cherry and cranberry, dried herbs, smoky bacon, an earthy undercurrent and the musky florals detected on the nose adding a lovely touch to the lingering finish, which seems to go on and on. Medium to full-bodied in style with beautifully integrated French oak (just 15% new) playing a supporting role throughout, it's made from a myriad of pinot noir clones and seems to get more and more complex as the contents of the glass disappear. I remember the 2004 Leah was all chocolate and cherries.  This is much more refined and complex but every bit as deliciously drinkable. The finished wine has 13% alcohol and costs $33 a bottle.

Both wines had natural ferment and screwcap closures. Find out more about Seresin wines from

The Seresin Leah was tasted in my new Mikasa Oenology 'Open Up'' glass for 'soft' wines like pinot noir.   I bought a couple at the Steven's sale today, reduced from $19.95 a glass to just $9.95. I only bought two, because I wanted to try them out, but if this wine is any indication, the glass works fantastically well.  So I'm going back for more.   The sale is on until the 12th August but unfortunately the other 'Oenology' glasses are not on sale.  They only had three anyway - the 'soft', the 'round' (for chardonnay) and the 'fizz'.  Unfortunately they didn't have the 'tasting' glasses so if anyone knows where I can buy the Mikasa Oenology 'tasting' glasses in New Zealand, please let me know.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 1st 2007

Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006

Clayridge Pinot Gris"I like the Clayridge wines," said Neil, as we sipped on the delicious Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Gris 2006. I know what he means.  It's something about the texture that winemaker Mike Just seems to achieve in his wines.  And he's done it well in this Pinot Gris. Possibly something to do with the wild yeasts and the seasoned oak barrels used for fermentation and maturation. Yes, this is ripe, luscious and gorgeously textural with a pleasing allure to the floral and baked pear fragrance that's' studded with a delicate yeastiness and hints of clay off the ridge. It's fruity to the taste with the sweetness of apricot balancing to the tautness of apples and a delicate zesty spice - it's kind of apple strudelish with syrupy pastry things going on as well and fleshes out nicely with ripe peach and stewed pears on the finish. It's ripe, round, off dry and very appealing. The wine has 13.5% alcohol, 10.2g/l of residual and low acidity of 5.3g/l.  It costs about $21.95 and has a screwcap.

If you haven't tasted stewed pears, then you should  I make them like stewed apples with a little butter, a few whole cloves and a dash of water.  It's delicious on roast pork.

We tasted the Pinot Gris three nights ago but last night the Clayridge Marlborough Pinot Noir 2004 performed well in a tasting of older pinot noirs, (if you can call 2004 old).  It's still a deep cherry red with spiced plum, black cherry and fruitcake spices on the nose and the taste is quite complex, rich and full with velvety tannins adding layers of texture to the palate. A fruity wine balanced by a smoky bacon and spiced mushroom savouriness with hints of anise, rose petals, cherries, tamarillo and an earthy undercurrent to the long, ripe finish. This one is listed at 13.8% alcohol and costs $29 - if it's still available. Check out

Yes, we like the Clayridge wines. That 2006 Pinot Gris is gold medal standard stunning and while the silver medal standard 2004 Pinot Noir is very fulfilling, the one labelled 'Excalibur' is even better.

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