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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings. 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: July 2008
Jul 31st: Wet, wet, wet
Jul 30th: Neil's Stuffed Mushrooms - a "taste sensation"
Jul 29th: Cork versus Screwcap comparison with Taylors Shiraz
Jul 28th: Tempranillo and Tamarillo - a darn fine match
Jul 27th: Chardonnay, Cribbage and Crunchy Peanut Butter Sandwiches
Jul 26th: A range of Moet Hennessy portfolio wines
Jul 25th: Bubbles for the Rich Listers
Jul 23rd: A day in Kerikeri with Travels With Wine
Jul 22nd: A foreboding sign for newspaper wine columnists
Jul 21st: WOTW: Sacred Hill 'The Wine Thief Series' Syrah 2006
Jul 20th: A rosette for Shipwreck Bay
Jul 19th: A big "Moomma" from "Rrrrhhharse"
Jul 17th: Rod Malcolm's Leek and Parsnip Soup with matching Pinot wines
Jul 15th: Potato, Leek and Blue Cheese Casserole
Jul 14th: More Beaujolais, Ti Point and Sacred Hill
Jul 13th: A darn fine 11-year-old Beaujolais
Jul 12th: Pinot Noir highlights from the weekly Wednesday tasting
Jul 8th: Sauvignon Blanc anyone?
Jul 7th: Land without Sundays
Jul 5th: Homage and Church Road - two great New Zealand syrahs.
Jul 4th: Rosenblum Petit Sirah 2005 from San Francisco Bay
Jul 3rd: Marsden's Legacy to New Zealand wine
Jul 1st: NZ winners in San Francisco
Wet, wet, wet
As the one-in-a-hundred-year storm continues to ravage the country, owners of low-lying river boundary vineyards in Marlborough and Canterbury must have been biting their nails yesterday and today as waters rose above flood level and burst their banks. I remember former NZ Herald columnist, Ted Reynolds, in his 1995 book "My Side of a River: Tales of a Marlborough Vineyard" writing of a storm and subsequent flood which took part of his vineyard away. Or did he write that in one of his columns? Can't find the book right now. But it did happen.
Neil's Stuffed Mushrooms - a "taste sensation"
Imagine taking one bite of mouthful of food and the taste is so delicious that your breath draws in, your eyes roll back and your mouth quivers with the ecstasy. If you watch some of the programs on FoodTV you would think that for some of the cooks/chefs it is a common occurrence. Some of them swoon and roll their eyes in ecstasy every time they taste anything they cook. I can understand when it is a calorie-filled silken textured creamy chocolate cake but sometimes they take it too far. Or perhaps food is their only satisfaction. Then it happened to me the other day with the mushroom Neil served me. He had stuffed a moderately sized Portobello with breadcrumbs, herbs and garlic and baked it in the oven. It looked perfect on the plate, the breadcrumbs golden and glistening but this still did not prepare for the enjoyment of the taste - the crunch, the bite, the explosion of juices and the combination of flavours.
"What did you do?" I asked in amazement.
"It could be because the bread was frozen when I crumbed it," he said.
It was just one slice of white sandwich bread broken into pieces and placed in the food processor with a clove of garlic and leaves stripped off a sprig of large leafed 'pizza' thyme. Spy Valley's Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Marlborough was dribbled in until what he thought the 'right consistency' (perhaps a tablespoon max) and the crumbs piled into the mushroom cavity. He placed them in the oven amongst the other vegetables being roasted at 180 degrees C with the fan on. They remained in the oven for about half an hour.
The mushroom kept its shape, it firmness providing a little resistance to the bite. The mushroom juices accumulated in the cavity, soaking into the bottom part of the breadcrumb stuffing while the top part became crispy and golden. The mushrooms themselves may have also had something to do with it if price is anything to go by. I wish he hadn't told me they cost $13.99 a kilo.
I tried to replicate his dish, see the photographs (above) but my own version didn't have quite the same orgasmic effect. So this is his recipe and his to make whenever he wants to cajole me.
The mushrooms were so screaming for pinot noir and the wines we opened were a pair from Marlborough.
Best match was Winegrowers of Ara Composite Pinot Noir 2006 (left hand bottle in pic). This is a medium-bodied PN with a transparent Burgundian red hue, an earthy, meaty scent and earthy savoury flavours - more so than we see in many of the 'lighter' styles. There's a definite herbal stalkiness and strawberry, red guava and tamarillo fruit with a mouthcoating savoury finish. 13% alcohol. Screwcap closure. $28. It whisked me to Burgundy but it is best consumed the day it is opened (as most people would do) as it wasn't as good the second day.
The other wine was Winegrowers of Ara Resolute Pinot Noir 2005 (right hand bottle in pic). This deep ruby, almost opaque coloured wine is initially quite brooding when opened but on the nose alone you immediately sense it is a fuller, lusher style. It's crammed with ripe black cherry and plum fruit, chocolatey oak, fruit cake spice and cedar and with its dominant oak and big tannins it loses the subtlety of the delicate pinot noir grapes. It wasn't a particularly good mushroom match either and I have to say overall I was a disappointed. However, the next day this wine had morphed into something both fine and refined and intensely savoury with similar red guava fruit to the Composite but richer and rounder throughout. It had definitely become the star. 13.2% alcohol. DIAM cork closure. $49. Worth cellaring but decant to coax out the pinosity if you are considering opening one now.
Love the labels. Check out www.winegrowersofara.co.nz.
Cork versus Screwcap comparison with Taylors Shiraz
Yesterday I went to a Taylors Wines tasting and luncheon lured there by the fact it was going to be a comparison of wines in screwcap and cork. Taylors is in the Clare Valley in South Australia and is known as Wakefield in some parts of the world - probably because there is a port producer of the same name. Yesterday I learned that Wakefield is the name of the river bed that dissects the Clare Valley vineyard, although earlier this year the river did actually run for 3 hours after a bout of rain.
The wine tasting was very nice and there were some very nice wines - a Taylors Estate Gewurztraminer 2007, which was just delicious with Vietnamese paper wrapped vegetarian rolls with soy, ginger, coriander and lime to accompany the welcome drink and some of the Asian-spiced luncheon food later. But the tasting came first with four other whites including a 15% alcohol (as stated on the bottle) Jaraman Chardonnay 2005 and a ready to drink big, buttery, fat, broad, mouthcoating Taylors St Andrews Chardonnay 2002 - they are not making it like this any more and they have cellared it so you don't have to.
There were two Rieslings - the Jaraman Riesling 2005 which was crisp, dry, chalky and floral with fruit sweetness and verve but I particularly enjoyed the Taylors St Andrews Riesling 2002 - from one of the coolest years ever in South Australia. This wine is bottle aged before released and is developing gloriously. Crisp, bright and steely but also a little creamy with freshly squeezed orange juice and a sprinkling of zest then a myriad of different citrus and honeysuckle nuances on the finish. I loved the aromas, too - developing like Clare riesling does and whisking me to a South Pacific island with its lime/hint of coconut/tropical fruit scent. A weighty Riesling with 13% alcohol and rather expensive at NZ$40 a bottle - but perhaps worth it!
Several reds followed but I was disappointed that only one wine was presented for the cork /screwcap comparison. All of the others were screwcap only. The wine was the brand new release Taylors St Andrew Shiraz 2003.
The screwcapped wine is brighter in colour with more purple notes to the red black hue. There is rich berry fruit on the nose and in the palate it is savoury yet sweet, spicy and creamy with anise-like spices, sweet oak, smoke, cherry and a touch of chocolate. Tannins are dry but the finish is long and succulent with a spicy lift and fruit brightness.
The cork-closed wine is denser in colour but without the purples. It also seemed to me the more aromatic of the two but the aromas are dominated with pencil shavings rather than fruit. Savoury, spicy and liquoricey but overall more mellow and grainy with smoke and cigar box notes lingering on the finish.
Winemaker Helen McCarthy, who presented the tasting, says she never knows what she is going to get when she opens one of the Taylors cork-closed wines. "Every bottle is different," she says. Some are pristine; some, like the one we tasted, show more 'woody' notes whether that be from the oak or the cork. Then of course there are the varying levels of TCA. That aside, she said the cork can scalp 'fresh' aromas and it was the deadening of the fruit she noticed on the cork-closed wine when she opened and poured them for our tasting. The wines had been poured and set on the table before I arrived but she said the screwcapped wine was more than noticeably fruity and aromatic. Both wines state 14.5% alcohol by volume and the price- in NZ about $70.
It was clear to everyone there that the screwcapped wine was fresher. But both were nice wines to taste and in many ways similar - but dissimilar enough to reassure me I would not have picked them as the same wine had I tasted them blind.
Oh, I would have taken photos of the wines in the glass if my batteries hadn't failed only to find out my backup batteries were flat too. I hate it when that happens :-(
Tempranillo and Tamarillo - a darn fine match
This week's Wine of the Week is the Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2006 from Hawkes Bay. I opened it because I wanted to try something different and as Trinity Hill produces the only commercially available New Zealand version of the Spanish grape, Tempranillo, it is indeed different. The aroma and taste is also different to what we normally expect from the typical Hawkes Bay red and that is a good thing too. The winemaking has let the character of the grape shine through. It's a saturated dark plummy red with a touch of violet and crimson on the edges with smoky savoury aromas, red fruit, tobacco and hints of spice. Medium to full-bodied and quite savoury to the taste with a fruit cake cherry sweetness, a touch of tar, firm tannins and an interesting charcoal undercurrent while herbs, tobacco and red fruit acidity add lift and musky nuances add perfume to the finish. RRP is NZ$30, it has 13.5% alcohol and is sealed with a DIAM cork. www.trinityhill.co.nz.
Tasted alongside in a mini blind tasting was the rather succulent and Shiraz-like Brown Brothers Tempranillo 2005 from Heathcote and other vineyards in Victoria, Australia and the sweet American oak and ultra ripe fruit were shoe-in pointers to the Australian wine. It's a rich, opaque, red garnet colour with a touch of bricking creeping in to hint that it has a little more age. Smoky, charry and tarry with succulent berries and vanillin oak adding to the appealing scent the vanillin oak is sweet in the juicy, spicy palate that is filled with blueberry, cherry, chocolate and soft smooth tannins. While easy to think, on first impression, that it is simply Shiraz, the point of difference becomes clear on day 2 - that is a rich, almost 'salty' savouriness, a thick texture and underlying 'bright berry' acidity. RRP is NZ$18.95, it has 14% alcohol and is sealed with a screwcap. www.brownbrothers.com.au.
Brown Brothers has produced the 'drinking' wine of the two - you can quite happily quaff on its own whereas the Trinity Hill is best accompanied with food. A red meat dish with spicy flavouring such as sumac and a tamarillo or Damson plum reduction was recommended and oh, the piquancy of the tamarillos was indeed the perfect match. Full review of the Trinity Hill wine and the two food matches that were tried over the two nights of tasting are included in my Wine of the Week review.
Chardonnay, Cribbage and Crunchy Peanut Butter Sandwiches
You can't always plan how your Saturday nights are going to turn out even though you make the best of plans. It was because of the storm that was bearing down, you see - a storm that was going to be, according to all the media, the most vicious of the decade. Originally they said the storm would arrive at midnight the night before and for me, unable to sleep, it was pretty much a waiting game - lying there, curtain partially open, watching the trees. It's like you know something is coming but you don't know when it is coming and when it does come you don't know what it will be like. It was, in the words of that well-worn cliché, the calm before the storm. I wondered if this was what it was like in the bomb shelters during the war. Nothing would happen and there would be the 'all clear' or suddenly there would be the muted sound and earth shattering tremors of the ravaging outside.
A revised forecast said the storm would arrive at 6am in the morning and it was just before that when it started to rain. But it wasn't until much later that the violent wind gusts came. We had already made some preparations by charging the torch batteries, placing a row of candles and a box of matches on the window sill and filling thermoses with hot water.
By midday the wind whisked up and I watched the oleander tree, its branches straining like a flock of swans fighting for a torn up sandwich. We were relatively sheltered with the wind coming from the east and although the lights flickered a few times during the day, the power didn't go off 'til later. My sister rang about 1pm, from the foreshore at Rothesay Bay. "Hang on," she said as a wave crashed over their car, then told me the power had gone out while they were shopping in Browns Bay. They lost power a couple of hours later.
At my place the trees danced and swirled with no timing to their moves, like in a drug-induced daze complete with occasional moan. Then at twenty past four, when it really was quite miserable and I was thinking of what to cook for dinner, our power went off too. We declined the sister's invitation to dinner. "We're cookin' on gas," they had said, and sipped on our coffees that had just been made and ate the muffins made earlier. The UPS (one of the best investments we have ever made) saved the computers from crashing too.
So we ended up playing cribbage most of the night while listening to the transistor radio - and for dinner it was peanut butter sandwiches and chardonnay. Get the right chardonnay and the combo is quite a good match.
The wine was Waimea Nelson Chardonnay 2005 (NZ$21.90) and in the glass it seemed a reasonably bright gold colour with a gem-like appearance as the candlelight reflected and shone through. Quite mealy on the nose - a barrel fermented style with buckets of strong toasty oak. Very dry and tight to the taste, a touch grainy, high-toned and probably quite high alcoholic - nice when the power is off and you have no heater! There's tropical fruit, lime, ripe peaches and the merest hint of toffee with the warmth from the alcohol lingering on the lasting finish. The savoury mealiness and the toastiness of the wine balance the fruit beautifully.
A blend of Moutere and coastal Kina Peninsula grapes, predominantly Mendoza but with B95 and Clone 15 too, it has been fermented in a combination of new and seasoned French oak with a portion in stainless steel. The screwcapped bottle states 14.5% alcohol but looking at the tasting notes PDF on the Waimea Estate website, it is revealed that it is actually 15.42% (our labelling laws do legally allow a 1.5% variation). So it's no wonder this chardonnay quickly warmed us up. I'm also glad we were tucked up at home and not driving anywhere.
A range of Moet Hennessy portfolio wines
Along with the announcement of the Moet Hennesy evening as one of the First Glass $15 Wednesday tastings was a request to wear "glad rags" and to leave the old jeans at home. With most people taking up the Challenge, it turned out to be one of the most glamourous Wednesday tastings ever with some rather excellent efforts in order to win the Moet prize pack that included Dom Perginon Champagne. Click here to check out the photos on the First Glass website.
The wines were rather special too with the line-up including -
Chandon Brut Sparkling NV - Yarra Valley, Australia
Moet & Chandon Champagne Brut Imperial NV
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2006
Cloudy Bay Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006
Cape Mentelle Margaret River Shiraz 2005
Green Point Reserve Yarra Valley Shiraz 2004 - Victoria, Australia.
Terragas de los Andes Reserva Malbec 2006 - Argentina
Newton Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 - Napa Valley
Veuve Clicquot Champagne Yellow Label NV
Moet & Chandon Champagne Nectar Imperial NV
My tasting notes are, as usual, on my Wednesday Roundup page.
Bubbles for the Rich Listers
The National Business Review has released its annual rich list today. Is it by coincidence that today the House of Krug announces it has released 12 bottles of the rare Krug Clos dAmbonnay 1995 into New Zealand? It is rare because only 250 cases are made and with a recommended retail price of NZ$5,600 per bottle it is, perhaps, the most expensive 'new release' Champagne we have ever seen in this part of the world. It has a price tag that only those on the 'Rich List'; will be able to afford.
The PR blurb from Krug states, "Clos dAmbonnay is a Brut Blanc De Noirs crafted from 100% Pinot Noir grapes from a single vineyard and single vintage".
The single walled vineyard covers just 0.685 hectares on the edge of the renowned village of Ambonnay, on the eastern curve of the Montagne de Reims.
It is Champagne that I will never try.
A day in Kerikeri with Travels with Wine
Episode Four of Sue Courtney's Travels With Wine has been posted to the Travels with Wine website and this time it's a day touring around Kerikeri in Northland where there are four vineyards on the wine tasting trail*. This posting here supplements that article.
When we passed through Kerikeri in December 2006 we lunched at Cottle Hill Winery and visited Ake Ake Vineyard when John Clarke showed us through his new cellar and restaurant that was going to open the following week.
When we visited Kerikeri in April 2008, Cottle Hill no longer had a restaurant however Ake Ake was most definitely open and so we went there for lunch.
We arrived at Ake Ake Vineyard just before 11.30am in time for the vineyard tour, which I did by relaxing on the couch with a coffee and a book while the more energetic Neil did the walking, listened to the talking and reported back. The tour group went through the winery and strolled through the new part of the vineyard planted with tempranillo and pinot gris. I joined them at the counter for a wine tasting when they returned.
A 2007 Chardonnay made from Gisborne fruit was crisp with apple-like flavours, alcoholic warmth and a peachy nuance to the finish.
The light coloured 2005 Syrah had a pretty perfume of musky-scented flowers. It was dry to the taste with grainy tannins and a chilli and black pepper heat. There was a tarry leathery undercurrent with a robust finish and a lifted aftertaste.
The 2006 Chambourcin Syrah blend from the wet 2006 vintage did not press any buttons. I found it earthy and medicinal and did not like it at all.
However it was the Ake Ake Chambourcin 2005 that stole the show from its rich deep crimson cerise colour and spicy flavours with creamy oak and loads of juicy purples with moderate tannin structure and a peppery cedary finish. Chambourcin is good for the Northland weather. I has open set bunches, it can withstand humidity and is resistant to most diseases. And I reckon it makes a mighty tasty drop.
There was also a Port make from Chambourcin grapes harvested from the 2003 vintage. It has a savoury, peppery, raisined scent and a rich, sweet, spicy flavour flavour however the brandy fortifier is overpoweringly strong. The liquid is smooth and slips down easily - dangerously easy, I think.
The restaurant serves mainly vegetarian but are seafood dishes and one meat dish too. We decided to go vegetarian for the day.
I chose a "Tart of Caramelised onions, slow roasted tomatoes, fetta and salad greens" from the blackboard menu. Neil chose "Kababs of Mahoe Mozzarella, roast capsicum and tomato with Balsamic vinegar" (picured right). Both dishes cost $18 and were reasonably tasty, although the kababs (kebabs?) would have been better served at room temperature rather than straight from the fridge.
There was an interesting selection of Ake Ake's own wines as well as other local and further afield New Zealand wines and a selection of international wines too. I laughed when I saw the 'Wrongo Drongo', a 100% Mourvedre from Spain. You can say 'wrongo drongo' about the spelling on the wine list too.
Ake Ake Vineyard opens Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm with the vineyard tour at 11.30am. It's currently closed for the winter but reopens 1st August 2008. Check out www.akeakevineyard.co.nz.
*The other two vineyards open to the public not mentioned above are Marsden Estate and Soland Estate. See the above linked Travels With Wine article.
A foreboding sign for newspaper wine columnists
It's a sign that all is not well in the newspaper industry when jobs are slashed. Jancis Robinson reports that 150 editorial staff have been laid off at the Los Angeles Times, including that of its wine writer. She writes, "the paper has decided that it will no longer cover wine except for the occasional business section story". Fifty editorial job losses have also just been announced at the Wall Street Journal. Jancis says it was wise of the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Editor, Linda Murphy, to quit when she did.
We're going to see this happening more and more, I suspect and we have already seeing it happening in New Zealand. Both major Sunday papers no longer have wine columns. The 'Herald on Sunday' wine column lasted for about a year and has been absent from that paper since sometime in 2005. The 'Sunday Star Times' dropped its column in the Sunday Magazine earlier this year. The reason for that was that the advertising had to increase.
And Bob Campbell MW had an extensive wine section in "New Zealand Home and Entertaining" until the magazine was renamed "Home New Zealand' and all the wine content, and presumably the 'entertainment' content, disappeared from its pages.
The Internet is slowly ... but surely ... taking over.
WOTW: Sacred Hill 'The Wine Thief Series' Syrah 2006
It only took an escaped drop to know that the wine was going to be good, so maybe I shouldn't have been so sceptical of a study where the wine tasting 'guinea pigs' were only given 1 ml (a fifth of a teaspoon) of wine through a straw onto their tongue, while lying inside an MRI chamber. But that was not a study of wine quality It was a study of neuroeconomics. Tasters were asked to state which wine they liked best when fed two samples of a $5-a-bottle wine - but they had been told that one sample cost $5 and the other cost $45. Well, armed with that information, most decided they like the $45 sample best. They did it again with a $90 wine, with samples having a $10 and a $90 price tag. Click here to read about this study.
But you can't really assess a wine's quality from only a millilitre because while the snapshot impression from a drop may or may not be enticing, you really need the whole moving picture. Colour is good (unless you're a blind person), the aromas can tell you so much and it's the entry and flow through the palate with all the flavours and mouthfeel sensations as well as aftertaste that matters.
So I was glad it was only a drop that escaped the glass. The rest went into the glass and the wine was assessed in the normal way - sighting, swirling, sniffing, sipping and savouring - and this particular wine lived up to the promise of that very first drop.
it is this week's Wine of the Week, the Sacred Hill 'The Wine Thief Series' Syrah 2006 from the Gimblett Gravels subregion of Hawkes Bay. Click here to read the review.
A rosette for Shipwreck Bay
Yesterday I discovered Lamb Rosettes in the butcher's 'gourmet' cabinet. They had been made from a loin of lamb that had been boned out, layered with spinach and cream cheese then rolled, tied and cut into slices. They were prepared that morning into packs of six and looked very attractive. I decided to give them a whirl and the result was a 'gourmet' meal for very little effort.
Shipwreck Bay Merlot Cabernet 2004, produced by Northland's Okahu Estate, was the accompaniment. It states 'Wine of New Zealand' on the label and is not more specific to the origin of the grapes - they could be from anywhere including Northland, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay.
In the glass it is deep ruby in colour and has a savoury, earthy scent that has a hint of farmyard and perhaps a hint of chocolate. It is medium-bodied and spicy to the taste with earth, cherry, cassis, plum and vanillin cedar imparted by the sweet oak and fruit cake nuances. It's wonderfully smooth and creamy with amazing concentration and richness, which is perhaps why it was awarded a gold medal at the 2007 Royal Easter Show - a huge surprise for an under-$15 New Zealand red wine. This juicy little number is holding out extremely well for a 4 year-old wine.
With 14% alcohol and a screwcap closure, it costs $14.99 on mail order or at the Okahu Estate cellar door, close to the beach that is called Shipwreck Bay.
A big "Moomma" from "Rrrrhhharse"
A cute little French guy from Mumm Champagne, whose name I didn't catch, popped into the First Glass tasting on Wednesday night to talk about the two Mumm Champagnes that were being served. When he said he was from Reims, Kingsley asked him to repeat it (several times) because the cute little French guy said it the absolute correct way, which phonetically sounds like "Rrrrhhharse". It caused a bit of a giggle as most of the people in the room, unless they had been educated in its pronunciation, would most likely say "Reems". And one of the tasters confirmed that when they were in Paris and asking where to catch the train to "Reems", no one had ever heard of the place they wanted to go.
There were more giggles when the cute little French guy said the name of his Champagne, because he pronounced it as "Mooomma" with first syllable emphasis.
Mumm with its distinctive 'cordon rouge' (ie. red sash) is one of Champagne's most recognisable bottles and is the Champagne of Formula One. But when I asked him why the bottles were served as cleanskins on the podium of the French F1, he said he thought that wasn't the case. But he did admit he had never been to the Formula One at Magny-Cours, nor watched it on TV, like we do. So we know the bottles are definitely void of the label and foil. He was going to get back to me on that one but as he didn't ask me how he could do that, I can't see that happening. I'll Google to find out why.*
Anyway, I loved the Champagne Mumm Cordon Rouge NV that was poured and I'll happily recommend it if asked for a bubbles around the NZ$70-$80 price point. It is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier from 77 different vineyards and according to the Mumm website, they produce 60,000 to 70,00 hectolitres of the blend - now that is a lot of wine. This beautiful Champagne has a crisp citric undercurrent to the mouthfillingly rich mellow, yeasty, savoury flavour.
We also had the Champagne Mumm Rose Brut NV, a surprisingly dry Rosé Champagne with a washed out strawberry hue and a mouthfilling bubble attack.
The notes of these wines and other wines tasted - three German rieslings, Spanish and Italian reds and wines from Chile and Argentina, can be viewed on my Wednesday Round-up page.
*In France, broadcast advertising of alcohol is completely banned, as is sponsorship of companies and sporting events by alcohol brands. According to the book, Global Sports Sponsorship, by John Amis and T. Bettina Cornwall, France proclaimed a complete ban on advertising of alcohol beverages at sports events in 1998 as they do not want alcohol made glamorous by association with athletes, sports teams and sports events.
Rod Malcolm's Leek and Parsnip Soup with Pinot G & P wines
Rod Malcolm, the Secretary / Treasurer of the Nelson Wine Club got in touch with me the other day with a Leek and Parsnip Soup recipe he had conjured up. It is definitely warm soup weather and I was keen to try it. So here it is.
Rod Malcolm's Leek and Parsnip Soup matching Pinot wines
(Rod's methodology with my comments in Italics)
Finely chop 1 medium to large potato. Cover with water in small pot, bring to the boil then simmer. Rod has his own lime tree which survives some big frosts, so he also added a length of lime peel and 2-3 fresh bay leaves. I also added fresh bay leaves, which added a slightly peppery note, but used tangelo peel rather then lime, as I didn't have the former. Even before the potato was cooked through Rod turned the heat off but left a lid on.
Now melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large pot and add 1 medium/large chopped onion and while this is sauteeing finely slice 2 medium leeks or 1 large leek and add to the onion as you go. Then grate 1 large parsnip or the rough equivalents in smaller ones and add to mixture. Then add the contents of the potato pot and bring to simmer. You will need to add extra water, with or without chicken or vegetable stock. I used homemade chicken stock from left over bones from the night before.
When tender enough remove the citrus peel and bay leaves and puree in blender. Season to taste.
Rod says to go light on the liquid until you're ready to blend and then decide what consistency you would like.
Rod didn't accompany the soup with wine but thought that perhaps a gewurztraminer or a pinot gris with a little sweetness would be a good match. Well I tried the soup with several wines to see what would work and can tell you that the Framingham Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007 is a terrific match. I'd say no to gewurztraminer (too strong) as well as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay - both oaked and unoaked - but I did try a pinot noir and can recommend the Main Divide Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 as a very good match.
We found the soup had to be well seasoned, otherwise it was a little bland. I made the soup quite thick and there was plenty for two generous servings for Neil and me. So I adorned the second serving with crumbled blue vein cheese, which added a lovely piquant contrast to the mellow allium flavours
Framingham Marlborough Pinot Gris 2007
Rather neutral smelling with a tinge of herbaceous but bright and fruity to the taste with an upfront apple bite that morphs into stewed pear with fresh lychee on the finish (yes, we had fresh lychees to compare) and just a touch of sweetness. Screwcap closure. 14% alc. $26.95.
Main Divide Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
Rich and savoury with a hint of smoky bacon to the scent and a plush velvety tannin structure with a touch of spice and fruit cake cherry adding a lushness to the deliciously juicy flavours. Screwcap closure. 14% alc. $24.95.
Potato, Leek and Blue Cheese Casserole
After I married and found I had to occasionally entertain I built up a repertoire of favourite dishes - ones that were easy to make but hopefully impressive on the plate. Thank goodness for the Australian Women's Weekly Dinner Party Cookbooks for all sorts of simple creations. Like the easy Potato and Onion casserole, which probably has a fancy French name. Potatoes are layered with onions, seasoned and sloshed with cream then baked for an hour or so in the oven - it's perfect so you can busy yourself doing other things. No idea where the cookbook is now but it is so easy who needs the recipe anyway?
Last night I made a delicious variation on the theme. The potatoes were layered with leeks and blue cheese and sloshed with cream with no seasoning necessary because of the salty cheese.
Wow, this was so delish and simply remarkable with that 1996 Beaujolais (see yesterday's entry) that it took the 12% alcohol wine to another dimension. We thought we were going to have to tip the wine out, but we ended up finishing it with the meal.
Of course there's a speedy way to make it, thanks to the microwave.
For two people, two nicely sized potatoes (I prefer Agria) are peeled and partially cooked for 2-3 minutes in the microwave - I put them in a little water in a covered dish. Then they are removed and sliced (hopefully without burning the tips of your potato-holding fingers). The leek is sliced into rounds, placed in a buttered dish in the microwave and cooked for about 90 seconds to soften. Then the layering into a buttered, glass ovenproof dish, can begin. I have this neat little glass-lidded ceramic frying pan (CorningWare), which is 16cm diameter and is the perfect microwave oven / traditional oven to table cookware for two.
Place a player of potatoes, a layer of leeks, a good sprinkling of crumbled creamy blue vein cheese and finally another layer of potatoes to finish. Slosh in about 4 tablespoons of full cream and cover. Cook in the microwave on high for about 2 and a half minutes then pop the dish into a heated traditional oven to continue cooking - removing the lid if you want the top to brown up a little. It stays there for about 15 minutes - out of the way but not forgotten.
We accompanied the casserole with carrots, courgettes and a juicy scotch fillet steak. And because it was so good with gamay, I'm now going to have to try it again with pinot noir.
More Beaujolais, Ti Point and Sacred Hill
It's Bastille Day and I really should have left yesterday's delicious Beaujolais until today. Never mind, Neil found another one that definitely looked like it should have been drunken 12 years ago, on release. It is labelled Compagnie Beaujolaise Rouge 1996 and looks like a generic Beaujolais (AOC) wine in its clear embossed bottle with a group of people in front of a Compagnie Beaujolaise truck. Well, the wine is surprisingly drinkable on first tasting, thanks once again to a tight fitting but this time agglomerate cork. It has that earthy pinot noir quality, a hardness to the backbone and while there's plenty of acidity holding the wine together, it has no other discernible fruit. Yes it is drinkable; it is definitely wine, but is nowhere near as stunning as yesterday's Chateau de Grandmont Beaujolais 1997.
But back to more serious things and this week's Wine of the Week, which is the savoury, structured, creamy, chocolatey and luscious Ti Point One 2005, a 100% Merlot wine from Matakana north of Auckland. It has a lavish write-up in my Wine of the Week article, which you can read by clicking here.
I wrote in the article that I also opened two top tier Sacred Hill reds just to make sure I wasn't gushing over the Ti Point One in an overawed vinous haze. But with both the Sacred Hill wines only a small sample was taken out of the bottle for comparison then the screwcap on each bottle tightened for retasting the wines at a more convenient time. Now I've tasted them again and my full notes follow.
Sacred Hill Helmsman Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005
Very deep dark blackcurrant red with purple/violet hues. On a first quick tasting it has obvious vanillin oak scents and bright cabernet fruit attack in the palate - it's big rich, ripe and Australian-like with its luscious cherry fruit and finely structured thick grainy tannins.
On the second tasting I was struck by the intensity of the thick chocolatey scent that is infused with sweet cherry, cassis and cedary oak. Lifted to the taste - the lift of cabernet fruit, dried herbs, tobacco and cedar with the merlot making its statement in the lush chocolate backbone and the plush velvety tannins. A rather sumptuous full bodied red that is a beautifully harmonious example of this classic red blend.
14% alcohol. Screwcap. NZ$64.
Sacred Hill Broken Stone Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005
A deep dark boysenberry red in colour, dense and opaque but just a little finer in appearance than the Helmsman. On first opening there's a mocha note to the deep tarry scent with a layering of chocolate that carries through to the palate of this powerfully fruity yet earthy funky wine.
The second tasting revealed savoury cedary aromas with a milk chocolate and cherry overtone and bright spicy flavours that tingled the tongue. It's opened up beautifully with what would be akin to decanting, with chocolate, plums, currants and cedar over a savoury backbone and a touch of leather and a sweet smoky finish. There's also fruitcake and a slight suggestion of mint to this juicy blockbuster and although it is still moderately earthy, the funky nuance has gone.
14% alcohol. Screwcap. NZ$64.
I thought both these wines improved wonderfully in the bottle - but how many people other than a wine geek like me would take a small sample and put the bottle away for tasting a couple or more days later (best to do this with screwcapped wines). So I'd definitely recommend decanting for drinking right now. Otherwise you'll be watching the wines evolve as you drink and they will be perfect just as you pour the last glass - and that means you will have to go out and buy more.
As well I have to mention the Ti Point Two 2007, which like the Ti Point One is grown in Matakana but is a blend of merlot and cabernet franc. Compared to the Ti Point One 2005, the Ti Point Two 2007 is the deeper, more purple coloured of the two with gem-like ruby hues. The aroma is bright and fruity with concentrated blackberries and raspberries, a touch of leather, a hint of tobacco and smoky oak. Juicy and savoury to the taste with a lash of leather, concentrated red berry and plummy fruit, dried herbs, fruitcake spices, a touch of liquorice and silky tannins. It is medium-boded in style and with a fresh, lifted finish. Sealed with a screwcap, it has 13% alcohol and can be found for under $20 at your friendly Glengarry store.
A darn fine 11-year-old Beaujolais
We found a long forgotten wine rack of treasures - out of sight, out of mind - but the room needed tidying and the wine rack became visible. On the end was a bottle covered in dust. The label said Chateau de Grandmont Beaujolais 1997 so we thought it was time to drink it. After all, we had it drummed into us from wine class days that Beaujolais was a wine made for early drinking. So what did we find?
In the glass it showed a translucent tawny red colour with a touch of pinky orange. On the nose - faint vinous scents - no fruit / no oak / just the distant smell of savoury old wine. But in the palate it was surprisingly sweet - sweet yet savoury with macerated strawberry and a touch of cherry, a silky tannin structure, a slightly herbal woody note to the backbone and a long savoury and delicately floral finish. A touch of acidity adds a tingling nuance too. It is actually quite nice and reminiscent of old pinot noir from the old days.
Having no idea how we came across this wine because it is not recorded in our catalogue, the label gave a small clue because the proprietor's names are Georges Michel and Jean Brac de la Perriere. The first is the same Georges Michel who owns the Domaine Georges Michel winery in Marlborough and the second is Georges Michel consultant winemaker from his early days of making wine here. Georges eventually sold his share in Chateau de Grandmont to establish his winery here. So if it wasn't a present from somebody and if we didn't buy it (quite probably because I am not the world's biggest purchaser of Beaujolais), perhaps the wine came from them.
Anyway this wine, made from 100% Gamay grapes, is delectably delicious and it has cellared, what I would think, extremely well. It has just 12% alcohol by volume and is sealed with an incredibly short natural cork - but a very good cork at that.
A nice surprise to accompany the herb and garlic half roast of chicken that Neil cooked for dinner. And as we finished the bottle it threw out hints of chocolate and I thought it would have accompanied last week's chocolate pudding too.
I learnt several lessons with this wine, that being - don't believe everything you were taught in wine class, don't judge a wine before you have tasted it and, as always, be prepared to be more than pleasantly surprised.
Pinot Noir highlights from the weekly Wednesday tasting
An interesting line-up of wines at last Wednesday's fine wine tasting at First Glass had six New Zealand pinot noirs and six new to store Aussie reds. I like Aussie reds - the good ones at least - and it was the Grant Burge Miamba Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006 that stole the show in the second half of the tasting. The week before it had been big brother Filsell that stole the show and there was indeed some glorious similarity. But it was the New Zealand pinot noirs that I was most interested in.
First up the Delta Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007 - a young wine that shows considerable promise and why not, when you consider it is the personal label of Saint Clair Estate's chief winemaker, Matt Thomson.
Next two quite commercially appealing wines - the Saddleback Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 and the Domain Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007. Saddleback, the second label of Peregrine, was overly sweet in context while the Domain Road from Bannockburn was vanillin oaky and I wondered if it there was an American barrel or two thrown in there.
A profound step up in quality was Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir 2006 from Martinborough - a year older and what finesse - so silky and beautifully structured and it has become more and more gorgeous with time. Easy to see why it was awarded gold in the Air New Zealand Wine Awards last year.
The big juicy Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 is a blockbuster for the style - and is sure to win hearts all over.
Lastly the wine whose name says it all - Felton Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007. Full of the region's wild herb scents and at first a little unresolved in the palate, I wasn't to sure what to make of this wine. But it evolves so beautifully in the glass to reveal all sorts of intricate mouth pleasing nuances. It just really needs more time.
The full tasting notes are on my Wednesday Roundup page - click here.
Sauvignon Blanc anyone?
At the heady rate New Zealand's sauvignon blanc production is increasing, it is now possible to taste a different New Zealand sauvignon blanc every day of the year, yet still not taste all of the brands, and tiers within brands, that are now being produced. Even if you chose only one wine from each brand, forgetting about the tiers within the brands (Saint Clair, for example, had 11 savvies in 2007), you would be struggling to taste them all. And with the 2008 harvest now in barrel, tank and bottle there will be even more. It's really quite a challenge for a wine reviewer.
To get some idea of the phenomenal growth, take a look at the graph below.
Believe it not, despite what you may hear if you live outside of New Zealand, there is sauvignon blanc from other than Marlborough - but in 2007 just a mere 13 per cent of the total plantings. The name 'Marlborough' has such cachet yet sauvignon blanc is grown in almost all New Zealand's wine regions except the Far North, and some of it is really rather good. Like this Central Otago example.
Coal Pit Vineyard Cinquante Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Not overly racy on the nose - quite subdued in fact with peasy scents, a touch of citrus and a subtle suggestion of oak. The green pea notes carry though to the initially soft textured palate which becomes quite zesty and citrussy with a honeyed overlay and opens up with pineapple and passionfruit and finishes with a full, rich and lingering pungency. As more wine is consumed, the fruit profile keeps changing with feijoa, melon, grass and red capsicum making their presence known, from time to time, too. Maybe not as "in your face" as many of the Marlborough renditions, but once you've swallowed the wine, there is no doubt it is New Zealand sauvignon blanc. Named for the five people involved in the production of the wine, it has 12.5% alcohol by volume, a screwcap closure and costs about NZ$20 a bottle. It was also a gold medal winner at the recent San Francisco International Wine Competition 2008. Check out www.coalpitwine.com.
I've also reviewed two sauvignon blancs from Marlborough as this week's Wines of the Week. Click here.
Land without Sundays
Intoxicating . like wine . she keeps getting better . all the time
Land Without Sundays is the second in a trilogy of plays by Donna Banicevich Gera which trace the stories of Dalmatian immigrants in New Zealand.
It's 1937 - Lila, a young Dalmatian woman, leaves her homeland to travel to New Zealand to meet her husband, Miro - she's married him by 'proxy' and has only seen him in a photograph.
Lila joins her husband in West Auckland where he is trying to establish a vineyard and produce wine in keeping with the traditions he has left behind in the Adriatic. To Lila, the whole place breathes defeat and the play focuses on her story as she struggles to overcome the odds and adjust to a new life in a new land.
Land Without Sundays is directed by Cathy Downes and features Alana Barber as Lila and Stephen Papps as Miro, with Liz Tierney as Rosa, Jeremy Elwood as Nick and Darien Takle as Mara. The play opens at the Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre on Wednesday 23 July and runs until 2 August. Book by phoning 09 308 2383 or online at www.maidment.auckland.ac.nz.
Homage and Church Road - two great New Zealand syrahs.
When the results of Cuisine Magazine's Australian Shiraz tasting was announced in the latest issue (129) it was no surprise to see the Grant Burge Filsell Barossa Old Vines Shiraz 2005 as Number One. After all, it was the wine that took out the Champion Shiraz at the New Zealand International Wine Show last year. In second place was another delicious wine, the Wolf Blass Grey Label Barossa Shiraz 2005, also a gold medal winner at the 2007 New Zealand International Wine Show and a recent favourite among my tasting circle.
However the New Zealand Syrah tasting in the same issue, had a few of us raising our eyebrows at the result because the lauded Trinity Hill Homage 2006, the Champion Syrah and Overall Champion at the 2007 Air New Zealand Wine Awards and my own personal 'Syrah of the Year' last year, was only rated as Number 3. Church Road Reserve Syrah 2006 and the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah 2006, were Number 1 and 2, respectively. Now this was a turn up for the books. And where was the Villa Maria Reserve Syrah 2006 - though of course it may not have been entered.
So it was with some anticipation that I attended the Cuisine Wine tasting held at First Glass last Wednesday because, although I had tasted the wines before, I would at last be able to taste them together. I was particularly interested in No. 1 and No. 3, the Church Road Reserve and the Homage - and to my delight, that were served one after the other, but which was which? I had my notes from previous tasting with me and used those for guidance along with the Cuisine notes for guidance.
The first of the two had such a deeply complex and fragrant floral aroma and a spicy, peppery flavour although quite lifted and Rhone-like, I plumped for the Church Road, after all Cuisine Magazine panel was smitten with "its Hermitage-like qualities". The panel had described the Homage as "The Big Kahuna, every way you look at it ... a rich, silky textured treat", a description that really fitted the second wine, which was deeper and denser, big and juicy, rich and chocolatey, hot and spicy with gorgeous aromatics, delicate in it florals but more complexly peppery - as I remembered Homage.
But I was wrong! It was the bigger wine on the day that was Cuisine's Number One - the winner was clearly Church Road.
Tasting together out the back after the tasting I was really able to compare and contrast and to see that the wines were quite similar in many respects. Yet it was still the Homage that showed that beautiful Rhone character more clearly to me - more violet to the hue, spicy, lifted, fragrant and floral - a wine of great finesse.
Two great New Zealand syrahs, both absolutely beautiful, both still evolving, both with fantastic potential to age. But with Church Road at $31 (on special) and Homage at $120 a bottle, which one do I buy? Sorry, Mr Hancock, the Church Road is a no-brainer.
All of the notes from the tasting are on my Wednesday Round-up page.
Rosenblum Petit Sirah 2005 from San Francisco Bay
It's July 4th, American Independence Day, and as a toast to my American friends, I opened the gorgeous Rosenblum Appellation Series 'Heritage Clones' Petite Sirah 2005 from San Francisco Bay in California, USA. I have to thank John Fiola, a Boston wine lover, for the gift of this wine.
Unlike so many of the locally produced wines, the Rosenblum did not have a screwcap closure so I was filled with trepidation as Neil pulled the cork and poured the wine. One sniff, and I was assured that everything was OK. Later I found out that the closure was of synthetic materials - had I known that before, my fear of TCA spoilage (I had no replacement) would have been well allayed.
In the glass the wine is a deeply intense purple red - opaque except for the bright ruby/garnet edges. Savoury aromatics, meaty yet floral and, having no idea as to what Petite Sirah is meant to taste like, it was quite Cabernet-like, to me, on the first taste. However with its aromatic lift I was heading towards C. Franc rather than C. Sauvignon but with its saturated colour, the gorgeous violet florals and the meaty richness, it is also a little reminiscent of Malbec although it lacks the earthiness of that varietal .... or does it? Even so, it is savoury and complex with a blackberry and black cherry fruit sweetness and chocolatey notes that emerge on the nose and in the palate. The tannins are rich and firm yet velvety and plush and with our first food match of pork spare ribs, a spiciness was released in the wine. It becomes more meaty and more savoury with every mouthful and pepper and exotic spices linger on the lasting finish. All the time the aroma becomes more beautiful and mesmerising. My rating - de-lish-ious - or is that (in my accent) de-lush-us.
For the food matching I repelled the urge to make everything simple and instead of picking up a bucket of KFC or stopping at McDonalds Drive Thru on the way home, I was inspired by our first 'real American meal' in the USA. That was at a cowboy restaurant where we ate juicy spare ribs after donning a catch-all apron-like bib. So we had juicy pork spare ribs for the first course, a big juicy steak with a potato and corn salad for the main course and a chocolate pecan pudding for dessert.
Now I have to get back to the lounge to join my husband and finish the wine.
Marsden's Legacy to New Zealand wine
I just posted instalment three of my "Travels with New Zealand wine" to the Travels with Wine website. It's about Samuel Marsden, his planting of grapevines in Kerikeri in 1819 and the Marsden Estate winery. Click here to read it.
It really was an eye opener for me when I cruised the Bay of Islands earlier this year and encountered the Marsden Cross, which is the inspiration for the the logo on the Marsden Estate wines, and also seeing the magnificent volcanic rocky outcrops in the maritime park that are known as the Black Rocks and lend their name to Marsden's Estate absolutely stunning chardonnay - reviewed in April this year as Wine of the Week.
NZ winners in San Francisco
Three New Zealand wines took 'Best Of Show' accolades at the recent San Francisco International Wine Competition, judged in June.
They were the Starborough Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 for Best Sauvignon Blanc
Mazuran's 1949 Vintage Port for Best Port
Forrest Estate Botrytised Riesling 2006 - for Best Dessert Wine. This gorgeous Forest Estate 'sticky' has already won three trophies in open competition in New Zealand.
The above Best of Show winners were also recipients of 'Double Gold' medals, as were the following.
- Brancott Vineyard Hawkes Bay Pinot Grigio 2007
- James Love Wine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
- Mazuran's Vineyards 1959 Tawny Port Reserve
- Mazuran's Vineyards 1979 Vintage Port
- Mazuran's Vineyards 1989 Vintage Port
- Omaka Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Wairau River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Gold medal winners included
- Brancott Vineyards Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Coal Pit Vineyard Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- House of Nobilo Regional Collection Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Lawson Dry Hill Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Spy Valley Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Wild Rock The Infamous Goose Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Wither Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Zeal Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
- Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
- Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
All the results are on the San Francisco International Wine Competition website - www.sfwinecomp.com
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