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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.

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Archive: September 16th to September 30th 2007
Sep 30th: A night of glitz and glamour
Sep 29th: Gorgeous, gorgeous Foxes Island Chardonnay
Sep 27th: Another use for left over wine
Sep 26th: Creamy Ceps and Foxy Pinot Noir
Sep 24th: Bill Hardy presents Thomas Hardy
Sep 24th: Wine of the Week: Ohinemuri Estate Patutahi Riesling 2006
Sep 22nd: Wednesday's Tasting - New Arrivals
Sep 21st: An enviable tasting task
Sep 19th: Buds pushing pretty
Sep 18th: Pegasus Bay Late Picked Aria Riesling as a main course wine
Sep 17th: Puriri Hills Reserve Reds and Carmenere
Sep 16th: Kiwis scoop IWC Winemakers of the Year
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 30th 2007

A night of glitz and glamour

It was all glitz and glamour at the 2007 New Zealand International Wine Show Awards Dinner last night where all 163 gold medals and 20 Trophies were presented. One of the 'Trophies' was the George Fistonich Medal to a living legend of New Zealand wine. Terry Dunleavy was this year's recipient.

Julicher winBut the most excited people in the room were Wim Julicher and Sue Darling from Julicher Estate in Te Muna Road, Martinborough. Not only did they win the Trophy for Champion Noir, they also won the Champion Wine of the Show for their Julicher Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006.

"Now are you glad you made the trip to Auckland," said Kingsley Wood as Sue Darling danced elatedly to the stage.

It was a truly 'international' awards evening with Trophies going to wines from five different countries. Pernod Ricard won the 'Champion Wine Company of the Show'. They picked up 99 medals including 15 gold, 27 silver and 57 bronze. And to top that off, they were awarded with three Trophies on the night.

The winning wines were

Pol Roger Brut Chardonnay Vintage 1998
Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2005
Blackenbrook Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Orlando St Helga Eden Valley Riesling 2004
Johanneshof 'Medium' Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007
Kemblefield The Distinction Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2006
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Viognier 2006
Forrest Estate Botrytised Marlborough Riesling 2006
Esk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Rose 2007
Taltarni Pyrenees Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Clearview Estate Old Olive Block 2005 (Merlot dominant)
Grant Burge Filsell Barossa Shiraz 2005
Julicher Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006
Sessantanni Old Vines Primitivo de Manduria DOC 2004 (International Red)
Sandeman Vintage Port 2000

The best 'commercial' red and white Trophies were awarded to

Wolf Blass Gold Label Adelaide Hills Chardonnay 2005
Saltram Mamre Brook Barossa Shiraz 2005

In the wine category trophies, Hawkes Bay was the most successful New Zealand wine region with five top awards. Marlborough picked up two and Martinborough and Nelson just one each. Australia picked up five Trophies, with four going to South Australian wines. France, Portugal and Italy recevied one Trophy each.

It was the second successive Trophy win for the Blackenbrook Vineyard Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2007.  This wine also won the Sauvignon Blanc trophy at the Bragato Wine Awards last month. 

Kemblefield 'The Distinction' Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2007 won the Trophy for Champion Gewurztraminer. 

All the Trophy wines are listed with descriptions and sponsors on the New Zealand International Wine Show website.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 29th 2007

Gorgeous, gorgeous Foxes Island Chardonnay

Had the Foxes Island Marlborough Chardonnay 2005 last night - and oh my gosh, it has developed magnificently in the last few months. It was 5 stars in Cuisine Magazine earlier this year but then it seemed very wrapped up in its leesy, savoury flavours and didn't show all that well on that night. But last night, 18 months after bottling, it was all sweet oak and caramel cream with the leesy, savoury nuances adding complexity and underlying citrus adding acidity, but everything now totally in seamless harmony with all the other facets. About $33.95 - but worth it just for the delicious experience.

Craig at fell in love with this a few weeks ago, and while there are a few bottles at First Glass in Takapuna, he found the best deal on case buys was direct from the winery. Add some of the truly delicious Foxes Island Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005, reviewed a couple of days ago (Sept 26th), into the case as well.

Here's the link -

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 26th 2007

Another use for left over wine

Merlot SoapWhat do you do with your left over wine? Assuming you have leftovers, of course. In my house left overs are most often used in cooking. But now you can use the left overs in cleaning, too.  Cleaning your body, that is, with these wine soaps I came across the other day.   They come in different flavours too.   Chardonnay with Manuka Honey; Merlot with spice; Pinot Noir with and Pinot Gris. Saw them at Bees Online, which is north of Kumeu on the way to spectacular Muriwai Beach. The Chardonnay & Merlot were $10 each.  The individually packaged and larger Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris were $13 each. A great gift for the wine lover who has everything.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 26th 2007

Creamy Ceps and Foxy Pinot Noir

Every year I am asked the same question, "What would you like for your birthday?"
Every year I give the same answer, "I don't know".
However my lack of enthusiasm never phases my sisters who always manage to come up with the most delectable treats. And this year my prezzies were a result of a most enjoyable afternoon that they had shopping - and tasting - their way around Sabato, a gourmet food store in Auckland.

sabarot.jpg (22492 bytes)Among the goodies I received were Sabarot Selection Forestiere Bospaddestoelenmelange - a selection of various dried mushrooms; a bag of Trofiette de Carloforte - a thin, tight, twisted Sardinian pasta made from semolina and durum wheat; and a wedge of Pecorino cheese. These ingredients screamed out, "make me into a creamy mushroom pasta" and the perfect recipe was found on the Sabarot website. It needed tomatoes, and fortunately I had bought a small bag of Roma tomatoes when I passed a fresh produce store in Muriwai earlier in the day. And with a bottle of cream in the fridge and some Chardonnay and Pinot Noir to accompany the meal, everything was in order.

First of all the mushrooms had to be rehydrated and I followed the instructions - Plonger les champignons dans un recipient rempli d'eau bouillante pendant 15 mn - that is, soaked them in boiling water for 15 minutes, then strained them, rinsed them, dried them, patted them dry and chopped them. The 40g jar of dried mushrooms supposedly yielded 120 grams of rehydrated mushrooms, so that is the amount I used. I also doubled the amount of cream.

Macaroni with Ceps and Cream

2 tablespoons of oil
200g boletus (stems and pieces in jar) - I used 120g
150g cream - I used 300ml
150 g diced tomatoes - I used three small Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
300g cooked macaroni - I used 3 cups of the dried pasta to serve 3 people
20 g butter
1 teaspoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan - I used a combination of freshly shaved Pecorino and Parmesan and served each cheese separately in bowls on the side
salt and freshly ground pepper

Ceps PastaPreparation
Heat oil in a pan, add the prepared mushrooms. Add the cream and mix to combine the ingredients.
Salt and pepper the tomatoes, brown them quickly in a little oil (in another pan), then add them to the mushroom with the cream.
Mix the macaroni (that you have just cooked) with the butter.
Pile the macaroni into plates. Spoon over the sauce.
Pass the Parmesan separately.

A very good match to the rich, creamy and savoury Saint Clair Pioneer Block 11 Marlborough Chardonnay 2006, but even better with the delicious Foxes Island Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005. This big meaty wine has an earthy richness which just harmonised beautifully with the meaty, mushroom flavour of the dish and the underlying acidity of the pinot noir - which points to its magnificent aging potential - cut through the cheese and the cream like a dream.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 24th 2007

Bill Hardy presents Thomas Hardy

Sometimes it is best to be ignorant of a great wine, then you can discover the greatness for yourself without any preconceptions. Today, when Bill Hardy came to town, I discovered one of those wines. A wine made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A wine named after a great man. A wine named Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon. A truly great wine.   Bill Hardy

This wine is the pinnacle red of the Hardy Wine Company and is named in honour of the company's founder, Thomas Hardy, who arrived in Australia in 1850 when he was just 20 years old. He started a winery, which he named Bankside, on the bank of Adelaide's River Torrens in 1853 but soon established another winery in the McLaren Vale, a winery he named Tintara. Tintara was to become the centre of the Hardy operations. Today Hardy Wines is owned by American giant Constellation, but the Hardy family is still very much a part of the company that bears the their name. In fact Bill Hardy's daughter Alix has just signed on. She is the first of the sixth generation to work there.

Thomas Hardy Cabernet Sauvignon is a wine that is made from the best Cabernet Sauvignon that the company can produce and the 2001 that I tasted was a blend of 60% Margaret River fruit and 40% Coonawarra fruit. "Purity and depth" are the first words that come to mind of this extremely youthful, deep-coloured, fine grained red. The profound blackcurrant, violet and French oak scents are integrated, powerful and tempting. There's a purity of cassis on the palate with fine grained but very powerful tannins, a juicy undercurrent, integrated musky French oak and just a touch of mint. Fine, creamy and long with a concentrated liquorice-infused red berry depth, it has a touch of tobacco and dried herbs adding intrigue and as the wine evolves in the glass, spice, toast, earth, tar and leather all emanate from its depth. There's a juicy, mouth-smacking succulence and the savoury aftertaste is long, long, long.

Just a cool $105 in New Zealand, but wow! - what a wine. Also tasted, the Eileen Hardy Shiraz 2002 - a wine still developing, a wine with a long way to go.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 24th 2007

Wine of the Week: Ohinemuri Estate Patutahi Riesling 2006

A winery discovered well off the beaten track, on a hill above the narrow Karangahake Gorge that runs between Paeroa and Waihi in New Zealand's North Island, was well worth the stop. And here I discovered this week's Wine of the Week - the Ohinemuri Estate Patutahi Riesling 2006 from Gisborne.  It pressed all my buttons with its tropical fruit aromas and juicy, ripe, tropical fruit flavours with passionfruit to the fore and underlying orange and pineapple. Crisp, clean and lightly honeyed with just enough sweetness to round out the edges, it was the perfect lunch time wine.  Read my full review on my Wine of the Week page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 22nd 2007

Wednesday's Tasting - New Arrivals

The Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting at the Wine Spirit last Wednesday, the 19th, was 'New Arrivals'.  But many of the new arrival wines were gold medal winners from the NZ International Wine Show.   It was interesting to taste some of the wines again, blind, and see how they compared to the notes I made for the NZIWS website.  The tasting notes are now posted to my 'Wednesday Tasting's page.   Check it out at this link.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 21st 2007

An enviable tasting task

When I was asked to write the tasting notes for the wines awarded gold medals at the 2007 International Wine Show, judged last week, I was elated.  But I never realised what a huge task it was going to be.  I guess that is because I was basing the task on the results of the previous two years.  In 2005 there were 1910 entries and 107 gold medals were found.  Last year there was a record 2150 entries and 120 gold medals were found. But this year, with just five additional entries setting a new New Zealand show entry record, an incredible 163 wines were awarded gold.  Kingsley Wood, the Show Convenor, said he had expected a higher percentage of golds than in previous years because many of the wines now available are from the excellent 2006 & 2007 vintages. And that's so true.  But 43 more than last year is incredible.

So 163 gold medal wines, what an enviable tasting task.  And so enjoyable when all the wines are outstanding. But of course there are some absolute beauties that stand a little higher in the crowd. You can check out all my notes on the 'Gold Medal' page of and if you want, you can download the Champions List, a PDF file of the gold medal wines and their descriptions which you can print out.

Some of the results are exciting - like 21 medals to Pinot Noir and a fair share going to Central Otago and Martinborough as well.  Nice to see these talked about regions back on form.  Some new names cropped up too, like 'The Crater Rim', with two golds for Pinot Noir.

Pinot Gris was also exciting and nine gold medals were awarded in that category. I have to say the Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris 2007 is exceptional value at under $15 on a special price.

But my 'Wines of the Show' were the sweet wines - and the leftovers are still drinking well. They'll be used to celebrate a friend's 60th birthday tonight.

If you are going to the Pick the Trophies Challenge in Auckland on Tuesday night, I can't give you any clues because I've no idea what the Trophy wines are.  But I would suggest you start with the two RosÚs because you have a 50% chance of getting that category right, then move on to the three Viogniers because you have a 33.3% chance of getting that right. After that, it's all down to luck. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 19th 2007

Buds pushing pretty

Buds pushing at Matakana

Snapped this photo today at Ransom Wines in Matakana - the closest vineyard to my home on the main road north of Auckland.  My friend, visiting from Australia, and I stopped in there for one of their delicious vineyard platters as a tasty lunch treat.  The buds on the vines are pushing up pretty fast and right now the little spurts of growth are like delicate little bouquets. So pretty.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 18th 2007

Pegasus Bay Late Picked Aria Riesling as a main course wine

pegasus bay ariaSeveral days ago, when tasting some Rieslings, I was most impressed by the Pegasus Bay Aria Late Picked Riesling 2004 from the Waipara region just north of Christchurch, New Zealand. Light lemon gold in colour with tantalising honeysuckle and delicate citrus scents, it was lightly viscous with a slightly toffeeish, honeyed apricot and cream palate. Medium-bodied, yet unctuously rich in flavour and mouthfeel with a nectar-like infusion to the lightly spicy finish, the underlying lime-like acidity was perfectly poised to the sweetness of the fruit. I thought it just delicious and with just 9.5% alcohol by volume, moderation means a much bigger glass than some of the hefty reds I've been tasting. 

I found the partially consumed bottle today, 11 days after it was opened, and it hadn't suffered at all - that's screwcaps for you, they keep seem to preserve opened wines quite well.  What a delight this wine still was, not toffeeish at all yet even though quite sweet, a very enticing wine for a pre-dinner aperitif.   But it also went beautifully with a crumbed chicken 'schnitzel' with a honey, chili and garlic glaze and steamed broccoli with macadamia nut and honey butter with a sprinkling of sumac.

The release price for the 'Aria' was $34.95 a bottle - that's a 750ml bottle.   Exceptional value for a wine of this quality and immensely pleasing satisfaction.   The 2006 is the latest release.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Sep 17th 2007

Puriri Hills Reserve Reds and Carmenere

Is it the Carmenere in the blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec that makes the Puriri Hills reserve reds from Clevedon just south of Auckland, New Zealand, so stellar, so unique? It could quite possibly be.  Estate owner and winemaker, Judy Fowler, was advised at one time to pull her poorly performing rows of so called Cabernet Franc out.   Now she is glad she didn't.

Carmenere Vines at Puriri HillsShe heard that Robin Ransom of Ransom Wines in Matakana was having a similar problem with the same clone of Cabernet Franc, but he had donned a Sherlock Holmes hat and was well on the way to unravelling the mystery of 'Clone F4'.  Then the results of DNA testing came through.  It wasn't Cabernet Franc at all.  It was the lost grape of Bordeaux, Carmenere. Read the story here.

I've always thought that the last few vintages of the 'Dark Summit' red blend from the Ransom's Matakana vineyard had something unique about, an x-factor. So it was possibly the Carmenere, that had been in the blend, since the vines had eventually yielded enough of a crop, since 2002.

And I think it's the same with the Puriri Hills reserve reds. It took seven years for what we now know as Carmenere to crop at Puriri Hills and 2002 was also the year that Judy first picked Carmenere. It was her first year of 'reserve' reds too with cabernet sauvignon relegated to the 'estate' wines.  Malbec also features in the reserve blend, and like Carmenere, it's a legal Bordeaux grape, but one that really grows better in other places - such as South America - these days. 

I was out at the vineyard on Sunday when I tasted the entire library of wines. I've chosen the Puriri Hills Reserve 2004 Red as my Wine of the Week.   Read why on my Wine of the Week page.

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

Kiwis scoop IWC Winemakers of the Year

The International Wine Challenge held in London is hailed as one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the world, possibly because, with almost 9,400 wines entered from 33 different countries, it is perhaps the biggest wine competition in the world.

At the 2007 IWC Awards Dinner earlier in the week, New Zealand winemakers made headlines. First Alastair Maling MW, the Group Winemaker for Villa Maria Estate, was awarded the White Winemaker of the Year trophy then New Zealand born Samantha (Sam) Connew, who is Chief Winemaker at Wirra Wirra Estate in South Australia's McLaren Vale was awarded the Red Winemaker of the Year trophy.

Alastair Maling MW was not at the big event in London. He was judging wine himself on Thursday morning, at the New Zealand International Wine Show, when Villa Maria Estate founder, George Fistonich, rang through with the news of his success from London. But Alastair is not one to shout his own praises. He kept Mum as he was judging the Champagne class.

Later he said, "Winning this award is a tribute to the winemaking and viticulture teams at Villa Maria Estate. This confirms New Zealand’s ability to produce top quality white wines. I am sure it will ultimately lead to greater interest in all New Zealand wines."

This year the IWC introduced 'Planet Earth Awards' for responsible winemaking and the 'Champion Sustainable Trophy Winner' was awarded to Bald Hills Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005. This wine also won the Champion Red Wine, an amazing feat against such illustrious competition.

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2006 from Marlborough and Montana Letter Series Ormond Chardonnay 2004 from Gisborne were served to accompany the gala dinner.

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