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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 www.wineoftheweek.com which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.
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Archive: November 1st to November 15th 2007
Nov 15th: New Zealand's first Master Sommelier
Nov 14th: Tasting Gold
Nov 13th: New Zealand scoops Tri Nations Trophies.
Nov 12th: They come, they go.
Nov 11th: How to exhaust a visiting winewriter in just two days!
Nov 9th: THE wines from Marlborough
Nov 8th: More Wine Show Reports
Nov 7th: Stuffed Mushrooms and Ruby Bay Pinot Noir
Nov 6th: NZ's best unoaked Chardonnay , ever?
Nov 5th: The judges got the Gunn right
Nov 4th: Pinotage for Peter
Nov 2nd: News Snippets
Nov 1st: Sunrise over the Wairau
New Zealand's first Master Sommelier
Congratulations to Cameron Douglas, who has become the first New Zealander to pass the rigorous Master Sommelier (MS) qualification. It's taken Cameron (pictured left) six years of hard study and rigorous examinations to move through the levels and finally achieve this coveted qualification. "But it's been worth it," he said, when we spoke on the phone today.
He sat the examination in England on November 2nd and 3rd after being awarded the John Unger Memorial Scholarship which covered his airfare, accommodation and exam costs. His pass in the examination with the highest aggregate score means he was also receives the honour of having his name engraved on the Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle Cup, which will stay in London.
Part of the role of a Master Sommelier is help others work through the process and that is one of Cameron's primary objectives. Achieving the qualification means he now moves forward with his vision of seeing Sommeliers having more credibility to their roles and next year he will run elective courses in conjunction with the School of Hospitality and Tourism at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).
He will also be involved with the Court of Master Sommelier courses when they come back to New Zealand in August next year. A Level 1 course and Level 2 certified examination will be held in Wellington, and a Level 1 course only in Auckland.
Cameron Douglas MS will be heading off to San Francisco in February for his formal graduation.
The Air New Zealand Wine Awards results were announced today and in the late afternoon a tasting of all the gold medal wines was held for 'wine media' with all 83 gold medal winning wines on show. It was a scene of sniffing, sipping, spitting and scribbling.
This year, 1540 entries were received and as well as the 83 golds, 227 silver medals and 364 bronze medals were awarded.
Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir were the biggest classes and each came away with 16 golds. Chardonnay had just 11. Syrah excelled this year with 7 gold medals awarded. But perhaps most noteworthy was the Riesling class with 9 gold medals awarded. One that particularly took my fancy was Camshorn Classic Riesling 2007 from Waipara, made in perhaps what is becoming a 'classic' Waipara style - medium sweet, slighly viscous in texture, full of tropical fruit and sweet citrus with moderate alcohol and exciting balance of sugar to acidity. Just yum. It costs about $26.95.
I was also pleased to see the juicy Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2006 featuring in the awards because we opened this wine at Muriwai Beach on Saturday night for our pre-sunset BBQ and it was a ripper, especially with our lamb and mint sausages. It has great colour, fragrant winey aromas and sweet smoky oak flavours with concentrated red fruits, velvety tannins, hints of tobacco and underlying acidity adding brightness and lift to the creamy textured, savoury finish. $22.95 full price, and under $20 on special.
New Zealand scoops Tri Nations Trophies
I was meant to attend the Tri Nations Wine Awards dinner last night, held in New Zealand for the first time. But I was exhausted and had to bail out. Still it's exciting to see that New Zealand wines creamed the opposition this year - well done.
Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah 2005 from Hawkes Bay took out the Red Wine of the Show and the top honour of 'Wine of the Show'. That was after beating the Aussies in what they do best with the win in Syrah / Shiraz class - the second time a kiwi wine has stolen that prize.
Mt Difficulty Target Gully Central Otago Riesling 2006 won the White Wine of the Show.
The Tri Nations Wine competition is all about national pride with invited wines from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa competing for top honours in thirteen classes. This year New Zealand picked up six class wins with Australia taking the remainder.
Bob Campbell MW (NZ), James Halliday (Aust)and Michael Fridjhon (SA) were the judges with Robert Joseph from the UK to provide balance..
Check it all out on www.trinationswine.com where the results are listed and the complete list of invited wines as well.
They come, they go.
Had an email from Graeme Lindsay of Tresillian Estate in West Melton on the Canterbury Plains, the 'other', reasonably sized wine producing sub-region near Christchurch. I say the 'other' because the more familiar 'region' near Christchurch is Waipara, which is north of the country's 3rd largest city.
Graeme found some notes on Tresillian that I had written to my blog and my Riesling review page after tasting their wines for the first time at Wine New Zealand last September.
The vineyard they had sourced their juicy, fragrant and rather tasty Tresillian Canterbury Riesling 2006 was the Morworth Vineyard on the Canterbury Plains.
"One thought," added Graeme after telling me all about his newly bottled and released wines and recent developments, "you won't be aware that Morworth Estate has closed, the grapes have been pulled out, the restaurant closed and the land being broken up into 10 acre blocks and sold as lifestyle blocks. Bloody tragedy! You should probably remove them from your list of vineyard restaurants."
I probably should - and I will.
Thus 2007 was the last vintage from Morworth. RIP.
Tresillian has now leased the Sunnybrae Vineyard next to French Farm on the western side of Akaroa Harbour. They've also contracted a Riesling producer in Swannanoa (near Waipara) for the next vintage too. Grant Whelan makes the wines.
If you pass West Melton way on a weekend between October and April, then do call into the Tresillian, The setting looks rather amazing. Check out the details www.tresillian.co.nz
How to exhaust a visiting winewriter in just two days!
Four weeks ago, Peter May, founder of the Pinotage Club and author of 'Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape', emailed to say was coming to New Zealand with the UK Circle of Wine Writers and had a bit of free time before the 'official' tour started.
"It might be nice if we could meet to say 'hello'.. " he said.
I wrote back immediately and said, "Peter, of course we have to meet up".
You see, Peter and I go way back to the early days of the Internet wine websites (1996-1998) where we both had our websites hosted on the free hosting community called Geocities. His Pinotage website caught my interest because I like Pinotage, but he had no New Zealand wines mentioned. I emailed him and said, "Hey, we grow and make Pinotage here too, you know". It was the start of a long, long Internet and Pinotage friendship. And as our websites matured, Peter also contributed a number of articles to www.wineoftheweek.com on New Zealand wines in the UK. I had never been able to pay him. Perhaps now I could make amends.
Peter was arriving two days earlier than the rest of the group and my planning went into overdrive as I wondered how I could make the most of his very short time. So if you want to know how I can exhaust a visiting winewriter in just two days, read on.
- Pick up winewriter, who has just arrived on a direct London to Auckland flight late the night before, from his city-edge hotel.
- Take him up Mt Eden, an extinct volcano, to take in a vista of the expanse of Auckland city and point out distant vinous locations and other notable landmarks.
- Drive north to Matakana with an impromptu visit to Ransom Wines to taste the Ransom Carmenere (unfortunately sold out), then carry on to pinotage producer, Ascension Wines, for lunch at their fabulous new Oak Grill restaurant accompanied, of course, by Ascension 'The Parable' Pinotage 2006. Darryl Soljan (see photo) joins us with a taste of Ascension Pinotage 2000 - the first ever Ascension wine.
- Arrive back in Auckland late afternoon, visit a wine shop, then drag visiting winewriter out on car club evening picnic at Muriwai Beach. Watch the sun spectacularly sink into the Tasman Sea, then set out on a 'night' run.
- Arrange for writer to be transported back to accommodation.
- Pick up winewriter at 9am the next morning for a 'tiki tour' of the west, via the Arataki Visitor Centre in the Waitakere Ranges for spectacular views, native bush and culture, then past wineries in the once flourishing viticultural Henderson subregion, where grapevines are now almost all gone. Call in at Lincoln Wines and pick up some wine.
- Go to Soljans Wines for brunch, but now running late (thanks to Sue locking keys in boot of car). Brunch menu is off, so accompany 'early lunch' with Soljans Pinotage 2006.
- Go to Kerr Farm Vineyard to meet Jaison Kerr, who has cooked some delicious stuffed capsicums in his outdoor pizza oven. Taste through all his wines, including three vintages of Pinotage. Tour through vineyard to see 38-year old Pinotage vines.
- Detour to Coopers Creek to taste their Arneis.
- Take winewriter home to taste through 30 different samples of Pinotage that producers from around the country have sent for Peter to taste.
- Several hours later, after four flights of wines, including recalls, feed exhausted winewriter, then send him packing.
"It's training for your two weeks ahead," I told Peter after looking at his busy itinerary that will see him visiting Waiheke Island, Hawkes Bay, Martinborough, Nelson, Marlborough, Waipara and Central Otago. Perhaps he will get some sleep on the flight back home.
Peter will be reporting regularly on how the trip is proceeding from his blog. Be sure to check it out. www.pinotage.org.
THE wines from Marlborough
The tasting at First Glass on Wednesday night was one of the best of the year to date. Delicious bubbles, tasty Chardonnays, a ripper of a lowish alcohol Riesling and gorgeous Aussie Shiraz. Click on the underlined link above to read more. But there was also one of the gold medal winning Pinot Gris wines from the NZ International Wine Show - one of the nine golds that were awarded in this varietal's class. It was great to be able to taste this wine again and reaffirm why it received that gold. It was from Terrace Heights Estate, which abbreviates simply to 'THE'.
THE Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007 is pale straw coloured with sweet citrussy aromas and fresh, bright flavours with beautifully poised balance and flow. Juicy lemon and tangelo adds zestiness to the tropical fruit and stonefruit with an apple strudel spiciness to the creamy finish. It's delicately oily in texture with low acidity and just off dry. 13.5% alc.
Last night we opened two more THE wines to accompany dinner. Neil excelled in the kitchen once again with his medium rare cooked lamb back straps that were first marinated in soy sauce, olive oil, salt and pepper and fresh thyme. He accompanied the meat with a colourful salad of tomato, capsicum, avocado and green leaves with a nasturtium flower garnish. Potatoes balanced the presentation on the plate. (Sorry no photos).
THE Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 is crisp and brightly scented with a touch of the famous "sweat" and tantalising Marlborough greens - think freshly mown grass, a myriad of herbs, a hint of capsicum and juicy citrus, especially limes. It's tasty, juicy and vibrantly flavoursome with pineapple adding to its lip-smacking allure, together with zesty citrus and herbs and a touch of tomato and capsicum tagging along on the persistent finish which has a chilli heat and seems quite dry. It was fabulous with the salad. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 8Nov2007.
THE Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006 is deep purple-garnet red and is smoky and savoury with a cherry fruit sweetness on the nose and a lovely savoury sweetness in the palate. It's velvety smooth and succulent with a spicy earthiness and a plum and cherry fruit richness while the beautifully integrated creamy French oak lingers on the long, soft finish. Deceptively easy to drink and an inspired match to the lamb. 13.5% alc.
All the wines have screwcaps. Find out more from www.thewine.co.nz (currently under construction).
More Wine Show reports
The judging for the Air NZ Wine Awards has been completed but we have to wait until next week to find out any results. Meanwhile, guest judge, Peter McCombie MW, speaks on TV3 about the show and 'How to pick a goodie'. Click here.
Back at home, at the Royal New Zealand Show in Christchurch, Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 '43 Degrees' Sauvignon Blanc 2007 has come out on top. This is a show for for riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, gewürztraminer, viognier and any other wine made in an aromatic style from any internationally recognised region. Convenor Nicola Cull says the result has, "reinforced the position of New Zealand sauvignon blanc". 25 golds, 47 silvers and 145 bronze medals were awarded from the 365 entries. There was also a new 'best label" competition, which was won by Riverby Estate Riesling.
As well as the Saint Clair wine, which won Best Sauvignon Blanc as well as Best in Show, the other top varietal wines were: -
Forrest Estate Botrytised Riesling 2007 (Best Riesling)
Stoneleigh Rapaura Series Pinot Gris 2007 (Best Pinot Gris)
Lawson's Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2007 (Best Gewurztraminer)
Coopers Creek Limited Release Gisborne Viognier 2007 (Best Viognier)
Coopers Creek SV 'The Little Rascal' Gisborne Arneis 2007 (Best Other Aromatic)
All the wines will be on display at the Food and Wine pavilion at the Royal New Zealand Show, which runs from 14-16 November at the Canterbury Agricultural Park in Christchurch.
Over in London, the gala dinner for the International Wine and Spirit Competition has taken place and TVNZ's cameras were there to record Peter Scutts from Vavasour collecting the top sauvignon blanc trophy for the Vavasour Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006. Click here for the link to the video clip.
At the same show, Villa Maria Estate secured the title of New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year as well as winning the Bouchard Finlayson Trophy for the Villa Maria Estate Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2005.
Villa Maria is also riding high at Wines for Asia 2007. Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve 2006 was awarded Champion Pinot Noir while Kaimira Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007 was awarded Champion Sauvignon Blanc.
Stuffed Mushrooms and Ruby Bay Pinot Noir
Planning what to cook to accompany my Pinotage dinner next weekend had me experimenting with mushrooms last night. Big flat brown mushrooms. They could even be what some call portobellos. I wanted to emulate the flavours that Neil had achieved with a topping of a rack of lamb last July and I would do this by kind of stuffing the mushrooms. But instead of looking up the recipe, I tried to do it from memory. So what I ended up with was basically breadcrumbs and herbs. I like a chewy bread, like Baker's Delight Pane di Casa, and if the bread's a couple of days old, even better. So a couple of slices of bread are placed in the food processor with a selection of herbs from the garden or kitchen pots. I used three varieties of thyme, two parsleys, pineapple sage, lemon balm, mint and chervil from the garden, and basil and coriander from the kitchen. The more its seems, the merrier and the aromas from the blending, as the essential oils of the herbs were released, were sweet and appealingly fragrant.
Six big mushrooms, with stalks removed, were placed skin side down atop a piece of baking paper in an oven-proof dish. The crumb mixture was filled into the mushroom cavity and overflowed onto the baked paper as well. Each mushroom topping had a splash of extra virgin olive oil and a splash of left over Pinot Noir Rosé, then was baked in a low to moderate oven for about half an hour. The overflow turned into tasty baked herb crumbs.
I thought later, I should have bound the crumb mix together with a little egg, so I'll probably do that next time - and add a little onion and garlic too. Nevertheless the herb flavours and the mushroom went beautifully together and no additional seasoning was needed. But so incredibly powerful in flavour, three mushrooms each was probably too many. It's an idea to evolve.
We matched this to Ruby Bay Vineyard Pinot Noir 2006 from Nelson and as a wine and food match, it worked a treat. It's was opened for my Rosé tasting (!!!!), as the note that came from the Sam and Audrey Watt, who established the Ruby Bay Vineyard on the site of an old apple orchard at Ruby Bay, halfway between Nelson and Motueka, said, "We refer to this as our 'Beaujolais' red". So I was expecting something that was transparent in colour and light in flavour. But the wine is nothing like that at all. Dark cherry red in its translucent colour, it's savoury, earthy and just a little leathery with a touch of spice, an undercurrent of herbs, fruit cake cherry and raspberry jubes on a smooth creamy texture. Medium-bodied, smooth and easy drinking with plenty of flavor and warmth to the finish, perhaps the only thing that resembles Beaujolais to me is a residue of sweetness. It's first crop fruit from four clones, including the revered Abel and it's been partially fermented in oak. The wine has 13.5% alcohol, it's sealed with a screwcap and costs $25 a bottle. They recommend salmon, light game meats or venison roasted casserole. It's perfect with herb stuffed mushrooms too. Check out www.rubybayvineyard.co.nz or call there during the summer when opening hours are 11am to 4pm, Thursday through Monday. They have vineyard accommodation too.
PS. If you remember Ruby Bay wines from the past, that company no longer exists. This is a completely new venture. It just has the same name.
NZ's best unoaked Chardonnay , ever?
It's a big call to name a wine as NZ's best "Unoaked Chardonnay" ever, but the wine I'm drinking would definitely be a top contender for the title.
It's the Fromm La Strada Marlborough Chardonnay 2006. This gorgeous drink is so delicious and flavourful, most people (except hardened oak-lovers) wouldn't even know it is a Chardonnay oak-free zone. That is because it has garnered a richness and complexity from 10 to 12 months on yeast lees. Dry, spicy, nutty and savoury with a delightful sweet, almost floral fragrance, the texture is vinous, the impact is potent, sweet nectarine and tropical fruit expands on the palate, there's a fine citrussy undercurrent and it finishes like a Burgundian white. Winemaker Hatsch Kalberer likens this wine to a Chablis. He talks about a 'distinct minerality' on the back label. That vague term is something I can only liken to the aroma and earthiness of clay.
Hatsch Kalberer is one amazing man. A little reticent and quietly spoken when you meet him, but a venerable wizard in the winery. Is there any wine style he can't turn into a magic drink? What he does with Syrah and Malbec in Marlborough is unbelievable. And his Rieslings are to die for.
At the Marlborough Wine Weekend, Fromm Riesling Spatlese 2006 (7.5% alcohol) rescued me from alcohol overload at the Supper Club party, while the next day at the "Riesling Rendezvous", it was the Fromm Riesling Auslese 2006 (also 7.5% alcohol) that was the perfect pre-lunch aperitif.
Hatsch makes a Rosé too. An unbelievable pink. It's my Wine of the Week.
Fromm La Strada Marlborough Chardonnay 2006 has 13.5% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a Diam cork. It has an RRP of $29.50, which consequently makes it one of NZ's most expensive unoaked chardonnays ever made. I should mention that on opening, it should be decanted because it was very tight and restrained in the blind tasting - yet I still gave it four stars in its closed state. But now, a couple of days later, it has had time to blossom in the most expressive way. It's most definitely a 5 star wine.
I should also mention that in my all time "Unoaked Chardonnay" stakes, there is only one other contender, and that is from Felton Road in Central Otago. They have made unoaked chardonnay for a while, but from the 2006 vintage, it is being labelled as Felton Road 'Elms' Chardonnay. I think Blair from Felton Road and Hatsch from Fromm, might just have an "Unoaked Chardonnay" clique.
The judges got the Gunn right
Tasted Gunn Estate Skeetfield Chardonnay 2006 the other night. This is the controversial wine that won a gold medal in the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards (for Hawkes Bay wines only) and was presented with Trophies For Champion Chardonnay and Champion Wine of the Show at the awards dinner. Then the wine was withdrawn because of a 'perceived conflict of interest'. You see, Gunn Estate is owned by Sacred Hill Wines and Chief Judge at the awards from Sacred Hill's winemaker, Tony Bish. Then after all this happened, an error on the part of the competition director was admitted and it appeared that the Gunn Estate hadn't won the Champion Wine of the Show after all. Too bad they didn't find this out before all the hoo-ha-ha!
However Gunn Estate Skeetfield Chardonnay 2006 is undoubtably of gold medal quality as it proved at the International Chardonnay Challenge where no 'perceived conflict' could be challenged.
My tasting on Saturday night was only a 12 wine tasting, but the Gunn Estate Skeetfield Chardonnay 2006 was my top pointed wine. Light gold in colour, it's bright and citrussy on the nose and clean and bright in the palate with a lovely soft smooth creamy flow. Spicy oak and a mealy undercurrent provide a savoury balance to the sweet stone fruits that are totally in the nectarine and white peach spectrum, and the lingering finish radiates elegance and class. 18.5/20. Screwcap. www.gunnestate.co.nz
Blackenbrook Nelson Chardonnay 2006 was a close contender for top place, being the favourite wine of two of the four tasters. More yellowish in colour, there's concentrated stone fruit on the nose and spicy oak in the creamy, buttery palate with caramel titivating the finish. It's a big wine, rounded and juicy with excellent length and a pleasing tropical fruit aftertaste. But seeing the 15% alcohol (afterwards) on the bottle floored me. 17.5/20. Screwcap.The wine won gold in the Liquorland Top 100. www.blackenbrook.co.nz
The following two wines were place equal third
Rimu Grove Nelson Chardonnay 2005 has even more yellow to the colour. There's creamy oak and mealy yeast lees characters on the nose and powerful, buxom oak in the palate that gives the wine a forceful presence. There's lots of butter among the oatmeal flavours and underlying acidity adds brightness to the sweet, juicy finish. 17/20. Screwcap. www.rimugrove.co.nz
Te Mania Reserve Nelson Chardonnay 2006 is big, brash, bold and creamy. With sweet, spicy oak and sweet peachy fruit, the underlying acidity is welcomed. It's golden in colour, similar to the Blackenbrook, and is full-bodied and spicy with plenty of flavour. 17/20. Diam closure. www.temaniawines.co.nz
I'll try these and the others again later in the week and report back if there are any developments.
Pinotage for Peter
Mad-keen Pinotage enthusiast, Peter May of www.pinotage.org and author of "Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape", arrives in New Zealand next week for a whirlwind tour of New Zealand with the UK Circle of Wine Writers. But as he's arriving a couple of days before the 'official' tour starts, I'm putting on a Pinotage tasting for him next weekend, including a complete vertical from one producer. I'm really looking forward to that.
If there is any Pinotage producer in New Zealand that I haven't contacted for samples, and if you would like Peter to taste your wines, please send me an email.
We'll also be cruising into Pinotage producing wine country, to see a couple of producers in the Auckland region, perhaps more if jet lag recovery, time and lack of traffic mayhem permits.
Tours for visiting writers are organised by New Zealand Winegrowers and focus on visits to wineries that participate in marketing programs. Pinotage, with just a handful of producers, is not a 'hot' export wine. Visiting writers rarely get to see Pinotage at all.
Interestingly we had a Pinotage served at the Wednesday's Fine Wine tasting, which was a fun 'wine options' night featuring mostly end of line wines. The Te Awa Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2004 reminded me a little of an 'old fashioned' pinot noir. I'm a Pinotage fan and I like it. Check out my notes on my Wednesday tasting page.
The Best of Wine in Ireland, a buyer's guide for Irish wine drinkers, has chosen Muddy Water Sauvignon Blanc 2006 as its "New World White Wine of the Year". The grapes for the wine were sourced from Marlborough and Nelson as Muddy Water does not grow Sauvignon Blanc on its Waipara Valley vineyards. www.muddywater.co.nz
Over in USA, Villa Maria Estate has been selected as "New World Winery of the Year" in Wine Enthusiast Magazines Wine Star Awards. George Fistonich will travel to New York to accept the award in January next year. www.villamaria.co.nz
Sunrise over the Wairau
Took these pics last weekend as the sun rose over Marlborough's Wairau Valley. Taken from Vintners Retreat, near Renwick.
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