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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 which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

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Archive: October 2008
Oct 30th: Tempranillo and a bit of Olé Olé
Oct 29th: Off the beaten winery track on Waiheke Island
Oct 27th: The real argy-bargy
Oct 25th: Michelle Richardson at Wednesday's Tasting
Oct 23rd: Gold Medals, Gold Medals and More Gold Medals
Oct 22nd: Cuisine's Top Pinot Noir almost trumped at Tasting
Oct 21st: My Four Top Sauvignon Blanc producers star in a blind tasting
Oct 19th: Toasting Martinborough
Oct 18th: Super VFM Chardonnay - again
Oct 16th: Rare granite wine growing land on Redoubt Hill
Oct 15th: Wine Gluttony
Oct 13th: Take heed of the producer's recommendations
Oct 12th: Riesling to drink now and Riesling to drink in 5 years time
Oct 10th: Catch a Thief
Oct 9th: Pork, Apple, Sage and Pinot Gris plus a Sauvignon Blanc
Oct 7th: Sense awakening savvies
Oct 6th: Liquorland announces its Trophy Winners
Oct 5th: 25 Steps and More
Oct 4th: A tasting of Trophy winning wines
Oct 3rd: Aniseed and Sauvignon Blanc - a surpisingly delicious combination
Oct 1st: It's Simply Beautiful
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 30th 2008

Tempranillo and a bit of Olé Olé

It was rather exciting to try out the new airport express service last week. It's been advertised heavily on the radio - just $30 return from Auckland's upper North Shore to the airport and back. Compare that to parking at the airport - $26 for the cheapest day option together with petrol and frustrating nose-to-tail rush hour traffic.  The Albany Express uses the super new bus lanes and connects to the Airport Express at Britomart. I read two chapters of my book and was at the airport within an hour from leaving Albany - three quarters of an hour early for check-in.  It was unbelievable. But I digress.

The reason for trying out this new service was because I was flying to Hawkes Bay and Trinity Hill Wines for a bit of Olé Olé. The winery whisked the guests to a virtual Spain for a day. There were wines made from Spanish grape varieties, tapas style food and passionate and provocative flamenco dancers putting on a display.

But really the wines, in particular the Trinity Hill Tempranillo, was the 'razón del día'.

John Hancock was the first producer in New Zealand to make wine from the Spanish red grape Tempranillo. In fact his fascination with the grape pre-dates Trinity Hill altogether. It was when he was working at Morton Estate that this visionary winemaker imported the Tempranillo cuttings into the country but a wine was never made. So when he left Morton Estate to start Trinity Hill, he took the unwanted Tempranillo grapevines with him to give them a new home in the Gimblett Gravels of Hawkes Bay.

The first Trinity Hill Tempranillo was produced in 2002 and today there were seven vintages on the table, including a barrel sample of the striking 2008. (The white in the photo below is Arneis). My notes follow.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2002
Dense black red but with obvious bricking to the colour in the company of the younger wines, it is smoky, savoury, earthy and leathery with stewed red fruit and a hint of bitter chocolate. A touch of Brett perhaps, mouthfilling tannins, chocolatey notes and a citrussy twist. On a plateau of evolution, my tasting notes from two years ago are still spot on. 100% Tempranillo. 14% alcohol.
Also see my Wine of the Week review written in 2004.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2003
Similar colour to the 2002 but finer textured appearance. Immediately sweeter on the nose from the American oak that's also quite vibrant in the palate. It's full of vanilla with a sweet cherry overlay, cedar, red fruit, tobacco and a tarry undercurrent. Quite big, lush tannins still showing a youthful graininess. 100% Tempranillo. 14% alcohol.

Trinity Hill wines - photo by Sue Courtney

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2004
Strikingly youthful looking for its age, the reticent nose opens up to to reveal smoky tobacco and chocolatey oak with a hint of dried herb. Savoury to the taste, spicy and creamy with sweet oak and peppery (syrah-like) spices. A youthful wine with bright underlying acidity and pinot-like savoury, earthy notes, grainy sensual tannins and a deep, sweet earth and dry savoury finish. 88% Tempranillo and 12% Touriga Nacional. 13.5% alc.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2005
Sweet-oaked and winey fragrant with liquorice, bright fruit and spice underpinned by creamy oak and velvety tannins with that hum of well-balanced acidity and while quite rich and luscious in the mouth, it has plenty of tannins that make the wine finish dry. Still evolving with lots of tobacco connotations on the lingering finish - and then the pretty rose-like florals evolve. A delicious yet youthful wine with a long way to go. 92% Tempranillo and 8% Touriga Nacional. 13.7% alcohol.
Also see my Wine of the Week review written in 2006.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2006
Black-hued with a bright, black cherry-coloured edge. Perfumed and floral with a barnyard edge, the aroma carries through to the fragrant palate that has an upfront spiciness with a touch of pepper, creamy oak and a nutty savouriness. A blend of new world and old world because behind the huge tannins there's a dark, earthy savoury undercurrent with some charcoal smoking away in the background, a farmyard rusticity and a hint of orange peel adding a bright touch to the end. Bright, creamy, long and luscious - it evolves beautifully in the glass. Delicious. 90% Tempranillo, 7% Malbec and 3% Syrah. 13.6% alcohol.
Also see my Wine of the Week review written in August 2008.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2007
This brand new release is shy on the nose with some delicate florals joining hints of pepper and tar. Cedary to the taste - sweet, creamy cedary oak - well crafted and appealing, the cedar is joined by tobacco, sweet cherry fruit and chocolate-orange with a lovely red floral lift and velvety, grainy-edged tannins. Sumptuous and mouthfilling, the sweet, spicy, tobacco note is strong on the creamy finish and the spiciness lingers beautifully. 91% Tempranillo and 9% Malbec. 13.6% alcohol.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2008 - barrel sample
Amazing bright, shiny purple black in the glass, this is smoky and creamy smelling with an abundance of the tobacco character detected in the last few wines. The tobacco carries through to the palate with liquorice, bright red and black berry fruit and a succulent, juicy, fine oak character. The tannins already have a remarkable finesse about them even though this is unfinished wine - perhaps that is the action of the co-fermented Viognier? The blend is 87% Tempranillo, 10% Touriga Nacional, 2% Malbec and 1% Viognier. 13% alcohol.

These are fascinating wines - utterly drinkable - and wow, you should try them with a slow roasted fennel-infused pork. Trinity Hill still has the market with this variety - and now they have vines with increasing age.  They are proving that this grape is suited to the climate, the wines age beautifully and there's is consistency across the vintages, with only the 2003 a little weak in the varietal expression. The recommended retail is $30 per bottle.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 29th 2008

Off the beaten winery track on Waiheke Island

If you've already checked out this week's Wine of the Week, which is the stunning Man O' War Vineyards Ironclad Cabernets 2007, you will know I went to Waiheke Island over Labour Weekend. (If you haven't checked it out, why not do that after reading this.)

I've been to Waiheke Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf many times but this was the first time I've taken my car to Waiheke. And now that I've done it, I'm rearing to do it again - preferably on a fine day from go to whoa because it was bucketing down for most of the morning.

It takes an hour on the slowest vehicular ferry from the mainland to the island, but when you get there you don't have to rely on buses, taxis or rental car administrators. You can go wherever you like and as there are not many kilometres of roads (the island is 26 km long and 19 km across at its widest point), you are not going to run out of gas, so long as you fill up before leaving and no accidents happen.

So with other members of the MG Car Club we drove the hills and dales of the island, including the remote eastern end which is dominated by the Man O' War Farms and their everyway oriented vineyards. We traversed several kilometres of gravel road and coated our cars with loads of red dust, made extra sticky by the rain. But there was no denying the beauty of the island, even in those conditions.

I mooted the car club trip to the island, so was responsible for the itinerary, which you can see on the image (below). From the ferry terminal at Kennedy Point (A), we drove to Stony Batter (B), Passage Rock (C), Wild on Waiheke for beer tasting (D) and Oneroa Village (E).

MG Waiheke Route Map     MG at Passage Rock

I arranged to have lunch at Passage Rock Winery, which is well off the beaten Waiheke winery track  (most of the wineries are on the west to middle part of the island), because last time I visited there, mid week for a private wine tasting, I vowed I would come back one day for lunch. This was that day.

But today was a day of pleasure and leisure with no formal Passage Rock wine tasting, although wine for this non-driving drinker, would be consumed.

And one wine was a highlight. It was Passage Rock Waiheke Island Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (***1/2 and $23 a bottle at the cellar door). It is so gooseberryish on the nose, you would never pick it as Waiheke Island in a blind tasting and of course if anyone gave you that option, you be convinced they were trying to trick you. But Passage Rock grows Sauvignon Blanc on Waiheke Island, as does Man O' War Vineyards.

Passage Rock Waiheke Island Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is richly textured with loads of gooseberry and herbaceous grassy flavours with a juicy tropical fruit finish tending towards those luscious, yellow-skinned tropical guavas. It's dry and crisp and richly refreshing, although a little heady at 14% alcohol but most of all 'oh my gosh' gorgeous when accompanied to the Seared vine tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil salad with a nicoise olive tapenade from the Passage Rock menu. The salad is $16 with a glass of the savvie costing $9.

Sometimes there are matches made in heaven. This is definitely one.

Passage Rock is a highly recommended stop for lunch on Waiheke Island and every food item on the menu has a suggested wine match. It's a great place to visit with a like-minded group of 23 people, especially when you have the marquee reserved for your group. It's even better if you've taken the time to visit Stony Batter then stop at beautiful Man O' War Bay, the beach that you drive past on the way (on the east coast after leaving Stony Batter). Check out

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 27th 2008

The real argy-bargy

"Who knows where argillite is famous?" asked John Hancock, of Trinity Hill Wines. facon.jpg (46524 bytes)There were a group of us there at the winery sipping on a Trinity Hill Façon Traditionelle Sauvignon Blanc 2006 and even John, surprisingly for those who know him, was enjoying a glass of this special 'limited edition' Trinity Hill wine. It's made in a Loire style with natural yeasts, no oak and minimal intervention. It's a wine that's all about texture and richness with Sauvignon's pungency tempered by stonefruit on the finish. It was quite delicious, actually.

I put up my hand and waved it around excitedly like a school kid.
"Yes Sue," said John with school teacherish diplomacy.
"Nelson and Southland," I said animatedly. "Important sources of argillite in New Zealand's pre-history for adzes and tools."
"Never heard of any adzes made out of argillite," said John. "Have you?" he asked Warren.
"Nope," said winemaker Warren.
"Argillite isn't rock, it's clay," said John.

Oh, I thought.

"Maybe your clay is weathered argillite then?" I proposed.
"What's weathered?" posed John.
Was he humouring me, I wondered.

"Well imagine if you had been lying in the sun for thousand of years, you would 'weather' too." In hindsight, 'weather beaten' may have been a better term. Perhaps I should have likened it to wine in a glass reacting with the elements. Oxygen and other elements change things - rocks as well as wine. Rocks break down with weathering especially argillite, which has at least 40% clay component in its make-up anyway.

I tried to present my case that argillite was a 'rock', not a 'clay', and was similar to greywacke in appearance but much finer grained.  But it seemed I was talking about argillite that was famous only in New Zealand and even then, the obscure notoriety of the importance of the rock, was only of interest to geologists, archaeologists and stone carvers.

As for the place that John was actually thinking of where argillite is famous, his answer was the Loire Valley. Well you learn something new every day.

Of course the Loire Valley is where some of the most revered French Sauvignon Blanc comes from and now John Hancock and Trinity Hill has teamed up with Pascal Jolivet from Sancerre in a joint venture to produce Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc for the British and American markets. It's a wine that blends European winemaking with the purity of the New Zealand fruit.

And the reason argillite came into the conversation is because now Trinity Hill has planted a vineyard on argillite in southeastern Hawkes Bay, near Porangahau, specifically for the production of this wine.

metis.jpg (56891 bytes)The Sauvignon Blanc wines we tasted, however, the Façon Traditionelle 2006 and the Metis 2007 (named for a meeting of two cultures) were not from this site. It is a wine of changing name because the third vintage will be named 'Complicité 2008' when it is released.

Anyway, when I got home I looked up argillite in New Zealand. My memory was not failing me because there are sites in Nelson, most significantly, and Southland near Tiwai and at Greenhills and Riverton that provided the rock for tools as far back as the 13th century. This argillite was sought after because of its ability to flake into pieces with sharp edges.

Tool grade argillite is rare but argillite itself is not. The dark fine-grained silty rock is commonly interspersed with the coarser grained, lighter coloured greywacke that makes up the basement rock of the mountainous ranges throughout most of New Zealand. Greywacke has more quartz components so it is harder and more resilient than argillite, which is why most of our river rocks are greywacke. Anyway, I looked up one of my old texts and found a specific reference to a creamy-grey argillite in the Waipawa / Porangahau area - probably the very same argillite in the new Trinity Hill Sauvignon Blanc vineyard.  So perhaps it's not all 'argy-bargy' after all.

There'll be more about Trinity Hill in the next couple of days where I report on a fascinating vertical of tasting of the 2002 to 2008 vintages of the Trinity Hill Tempranillo.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 25th 2008

Michelle Richardson at Wednesday's Tasting

A reasonably pregnant Michelle Richardson was part-time host at Wednesday's tasting at First Glass, showing four of her wines and telling us a bit about what she has been up to in the last few years. After leaving Villa Maria she took some time off before taking over as winemaker at Peregrine in Central Otago. She left Peregrine to concentrate on her own label and as well has consulted to several wineries, including Wild Earth. "I blended their 2006 Pinot Noir," she stated most proudly. She makes wines from the regions where she enjoys the fruit, thus a Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from Marlborough, a Riesling from Waipara and Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris from Central Otago. She really would like to make something from Hawkes Bay too, perhaps Chardonnay or Syrah. She is a walking encyclopedia on wine yeasts using 'natural' yeast in all of her wines. Her love of yeasts is what led her to winemaking after all.

We tasted all but the Chardonnay and all the wines were very good but the Richardson Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 exceptionally so.  There's a textural thing going on in the Richardson Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007 that many winemakers aspire to these days. Michelle has seemed to capture what a textural Sauvignon Blanc is all about.

Also tasted at the Wednesday tasting, a tasty buttery Waimea Nelson Chardonnay 2006 and some International reds, mostly from Europe but also the outstanding Montes Purple Angel Carmenere 2005 from Chile.  Click here to read all my notes.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 23rd 2008

Gold Medals, Gold Medals and More Gold Medals

Yesterday a press release arrived with the results of the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards where the Villa Maria Cellar Selection Syrah 2006 was awarded the Champion Wine of the Show. Other Trophy winners were -

Church Road Cuve Series Hawkes Bay Merlot 2005
Church Road Cuve Series Limited Release Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Cottage Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007
Crossroads Winery Hawkes Bay Talisman 2007
Esk Black Label Rose 2008
Squawking Magpie Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2004
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay The Gimblett 2006
Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2007

Today another press release arrived with results of the International Aromatic Competition 2008 in conjunction with the Royal New Zealand Show. The top wine in this competition was the Wither Hills Rarangi Sauvignon Blanc 2008.   Other Trophy winners were -

Coopers Creek SV Gisborne Arneis The Little Rascal 2008
Lamont Central Otago Pinot Gris 2008
Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 9 Big John Riesling 2007
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Viognier 2007

Add to those results the Cuisine Magazine Pinot Noir Tasting mentioned yesterday and there are 'top' wines galore. 

So I felt it time to update my Wine Show Gold Medal Summary with the new season's results, including the 5 star Cuisine Pinot Noirs because with 242 wines entered, it is bigger than most of the Pinot Noir classes at individual shows. 

With the above three competitions, plus the Bragato Wine Awards, the Liquorland Top 100, the New Zealand International Wine Show and the New World Wine Awards, there are already 237 gold medal, or equivalent, winners.   And there is still at least three shows - the Sydney International, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards and the Royal Easter Show - to come.

A bit of a mammoth task to compile but now that I've done it, check it out on my Show page.  It's a very useful resource.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 22nd 2008

Cuisine's Top Pinot Noir almost trumped at Tasting

Cuisine Magazine turned on a special event to celebrate their Top Ten Pinot Noirs and 'Berry Christmas' edition of their award-winning magazine yesterday. The wine and food-matching affair was like an early Christmas party with the Top Ten Pinot Noirs partnered with recipes from the magazine that were highlighted in the Pinot Noir feature. Only there was a mix-up in the vintage of one of the wines that were sent to the tasting by the wineries, which resulted in the top wine, the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Noir 2006, almost being trumped by its younger sibling. Fortunately, not many people go to taste the 2007 before it was whisked away - just me, and one other person, I think. The others guests were still sipping on Pol Roger Vintage 1999 with a fresh strawberry floater. This is a gorgeous Champagne, dry yet rich with a nutty creamy backbone and the strawberry flavours from the cut fruit starting to infuse through the wine. It was rated No. 1 in the Cuisine Champagne tasting.

Anyway, the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Noir 2007 was on the table for a while and I had a sneak taste. I'm telling you now, put a bookmark in your calendar to buy this wine when it gets released in 10 months time - it is simply delicious. Someone from the Villa Maria Winery had to make a rush trip into the city with the correct wine, the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Noir 2006, which was awarded the status of Top NZ Pinot Noir in the tasting. This is a big wine, a savoury, earthy wine, perfumed and beautifully structured, with red fruit and perfectly poised underlying acidity softened by a delicate hint of chocolate and aromatic spices. It's silky and sultry with layers of finesse and was certainly a stand out in the company of the wines rated 2 to 10.

The Cuisine Magazine Pinot Noir tasting this year was a biggie - in fact the biggest Cuisine varietal tasting ever, exceeding even Sauvignon Blanc. And the results were startling. From 242 entries, 29 wines were awarded 5 stars (outstanding) and 62 wines were awarded 4 stars (very good to excellent). That is 37 per cent of the wines equivalent of gold or silver medal standard and all 91 are reviewed in the magazine.

The Top 10 wines were

1 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Seddon Pinot Noir 2006
2 = Domain Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
2 = West Brook Blue Ridge Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
4 Craggy Range Zebra Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
5 Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
6 Montana Letter Series ‘T’ Terraces Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
7 Wooing Tree Beetle Juice Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
8 Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
9 Waipara Hills Southern Cross Selection Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
10 Voss Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2007

I'll taste the wines again at the First Glass Wines and Spirits Cuisine Top 10 tasting next Wednesday night, 29th Oct 2008 at 7pm ($15).

Other tastings around the country (sonme require reservations) include

Glengarry Victoria Park - Saturday 6th Dec from 12pm to 4pm (free)
La Barrique - Thurs 6th Nov at 7pm
Waiheke Wine Centre - Thurs 20 Nov at 6.30pm
Hamilton Wine Company - Tues 4th Nov at 7pm
Glengarry Thorndon Quay - Saturday 6th Dec from 12pm to 4pm (free)
Vino Fino Christchurch - Tues 4 Nov at 6pm
Wanaka Fine Wines - Tues 11 Nov at 6pm.

The magazine goes on sale on Monday 27th October.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 21st 2008

My Four Top Sauvignon Blanc producers star in a blind tasting

A few months ago I listed my Top Ten Sauvignon Blanc producers. A few days ago I tasted 17 Sauvignon Blancs with four of these producers represented. The wines were tasted blind but when the top six - or actually seven - were revealed - all of the wines were from my top four Sauvignon Blanc producers - Saint Clair, Dog Point, Cloudy Bay and Astrolabe. These wines all showed remarkable balance with textural complexities as well as memorable flavours. They were the complete package .

The top six wines were (as shown in the picture below)

sauvs1808.jpg (72360 bytes)

Astrolabe Discovery Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2008 
A rich, citrus-infused passionfruit scent with a herbaceous kind of twist and rich, juicy, mouthfilling, vivacious tropical fruit and vibrant lime/citrus/summer herb flavours with a hint of nectarine. Name what you like in Sauvignon Blanc, name anything except oak, and this wine has it. 19.5/20.
This wine is also this week's Wine of the Week - click the blue to read that commentary.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 'Snap Block' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Although a little restrained on the nose, especially for Saint Clair, this is juicy from the outset, rich and vivaciousness with understated fruit sweetness and a stony, gravelly rippling undercurrent. Focussed, intense and coyly expressive. Gooseberry, lime, banana passionfruit and sweet pea. 19/20.

Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Showing hints of capsicum and asparagus on the nose, this has a big juicy palate full of fleshy ripe fruit with passionfruit, pineapple, nectarine, apple and capsicum. Very dry, crystalline acidity, loads of flavour, building to an intense succulent finish but all the time a fascinating underlying austerity. Possibly one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I have tasted with food. 18.5/20.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Loads of upfront fresh racy fruit - a touch of grapefruit joins lime over a grassy backbone. I struggle to find fruit descriptors but what this wine has in its favour is its silky texture and with its gravelly, stony undercurrent it is heading in the direction of a Loire wine. Subtle and textural rather than fruity, the texture reminds me a little of Didier Dagueneau's Silex tasted last year (but without any oak). Opens up beautifully in the glass and leaves behind a bright, citrussy finish. 18.5/20.

Saint Clair Block 3 '43 Degrees' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Gooseberry and capsicum on nose carries through to the ripe juicy palate that has a paw-paw/ babaco-like fleshy texture with a yellow tropical fruit brightness all the way through. There a sweet fleshy toastiness, a touch of armpit adds a funky undercurrent and there's a long, juicy, passionfruit-filled finish. A pungent wine. A bolshy wine. A queue-jumper. 18.75/20.

Astrolabe Discovery Kekerengu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
A focussed, intense wine, today showing a touch of bubblegum character together with pear, pawpaw and exotic fruit on the nose. In the palate it's juicy and just a little spritzy with peachy tones and bright vivacious pungent fruits. Opens up beautifully with loads of passionfruit and a slightly oily texture cut by racy acidity. 18.5/20

And number seven in the tasting, but not pictured ...

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 7 'Berry Block' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
A boisterous aroma of gooseberry, tropical fruit, lime, herbs and just a touch of 'sweat'. Spritzy, bright, vibrant flavours. Juicy, fruity, flesh and sweet, it fills the palate with its expansive flavours together with a funky 'smoky' note (though not an oaky note) underpinned by gooseberry and apple with a grainy acidity and a touch of salinity on the finish. 18.5/20.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 19th 2008

Toasting Martinborough

As mentioned on Wednesday (Oct 15th below), Wines of Martinborough came to town to let us city dwellers Toast Martinborough. The event started with a hosted tasting and panel discussion with my more esteemed wine writing colleagues and some of the winemakers on the panel. It was a tasting to show the diversity of the Martinborough wine region, but as one writer panellist said, "If it is showing diversity, where is the Syrah and the red grape blends like Ata Rangi Celebre?"
Nevertheless, the eleven wines in the tasting all showed above average to excellent quality. They were ....

Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - Served chilled, which enhances the steely backbone, this has a rich grass and green melon scent and crisp lime and apple flavours that flesh out to a toasty stonefruit and pungent herbaceous finish. 18/20. 13% alc. 14Oct2008.

martinb2.jpg (92420 bytes)Vynfields Classic Dry Riesling 2007 - Served chilled, this has a lime purity to the scent with a talc-wash overlay. The talc/lime theme carries through to the dry, racy palate with increasing richness and complexity of flavour. Delicately scented but rich, intense flavours. 13.5% alc. Screwcap.

Nga Waka Riesling 2003- A gorgeously appealing bottle-aged Riesling character on the nose - rich, weighty, all that you expect aged dry Riesling to be. Very dry, almost ethereal - floats on the palate - juicy grape / honeysuckle / toasted citrus. Rich, full and long with a spicy zesty zing to the finish. A simply fabulous wine. I rated it 19.5/20. 13.5% alc. Screwcap.

Dry River Pinot Gris 2007 - Light yellow gold. Immediately sweet fruit scents of pears and honey suckle with an earthy note - like potter's clay. Overall a juicy, ripe and delicately spicy scent. Very sweet in the palate - a touch of botrytis perhaps - and a lovely full rich spicy finish with a lemon honey overlay. Leaves an impression of juicy fruit in the mouth that lingers for ages. Hard to fault at any level. 13.5% alc. Cork.

Margrain Pinot Gris 2008 - Full rich aromatics with pear, peach and sherbet adding to the beautifully enticing perfume, but the taste is so austere after the Dry River - I think this dry wine should have preceded Dry River to be next after the dry Rieslings in the tasting. This bone-dry wine has lovely lemony tones, white peach and gingerbread biscuit spice with the lemony fruit sweetness infusing the finish. 13.5% alc. Screwcap.

Palliser Estate Chardonnay 2007 - Delicately smoky with hints of bacon and citrus and apple fruit coming through. Warm, smooth palate with nectarines to the fore, a touch of butterscotch / caramel. A rich, full fruit-driven wine - textural, seamless, smoky and long. 13.5% alc. Screwcap.

Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay 2006 - Rich in colour and flavour, this has an intense, full-bodied, mealy aroma dominated by barrel ferment and nutty lees characters with a peachy fruit sweetness. In the mouth it is dry and intense with spicy oak flavours, toasty stonefruit, nuts, figs, underlying earthy tones and a lifted, lemony, spicy finish. Driven by winemaking complexities, this is expansive in the mouth and leaves a full rich aftertaste. 13.5% alc. Screwcap.

Alana Estate Pinot Noir 2006 - Smoky bacon dominates the scent. Spicy, earthy, leathery, almost chewy, it has that intrinsic Martinborough earthiness and tart red fruits with grainy tannins. The bacon re-appears on the finish. On the sheet as a 2008 - I thought it had amazing depth and complexity for such a young wine, but as it is correctly a 2006 it seems a little lighter in comparison to the other three that followed. 14% alc. Screwcap.

Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2006 - Intensely coloured in the line-up of four Pinot Noirs, it has a smoky brooding scent that is earthy and dense with a chocolate overlay, later opening up to reveal red fruits. Big oak in the palate - oaky, earthy, savoury and gamey with a lifted spicy kick, warm alcohol and a bright, long lasting finish. Tar, marmite and nugget underlie this complex, intriguing wine - decant now to enjoy already, but has long term potential. 14% alc. Diam.

Kusuda Pinot Noir 2006 - A bright purple garnet colour. Shy nose with brooding red fruits and creamy oak. Spicy, lifted palate with mouthfilling richness, quite gamey with a varnishy overlay and aromatic / mulled wine spices adding interest. I'd like to see the acidity integrate but the acidity does add that intriguing 'peacocks tail' flare. Silky textured and becoming more and more fascinating as it opened up in the glass. Tasting this was purely an academic exercise as evidently almost all of it is sent to Japan. 14% alc. Cork.

Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2006 - Quite savoury on the nose with a sweet cherry overlay. Noticeably hard tannins in the line-up, but nevertheless the texture is intriguing / sultry / pleasurable / sexy. On first tasting the oak seems quite dominant but slowly planes off to reveal the intrinsic depth and complexity . On this sample, fruit is not really a big factor. I like it for its subtlety and length. A wine of discovery, for the palate finds something new to mull over on every sip. 13.5% alc. Screwcap.

Larry McKenna, Escarpment Vineyard, spoke eloquently about Pinot Noir stating, "It's about complexity, structure and ageability and is more than just fruit." And that is exactly what we are seeing in these Martinborough Pinot Noirs, especially the Escarpment and the Ata Rangi.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 18th 2008

Super VFM Chardonnay - again

Back in April - April 19th to be exact, I wrote about what I though was a Super Value For Money (VFM) Chardonnay. It was Thornbury Gisborne Chardonnay 2007 and now, after tasting it again at the First Glass 'More Gold Medals' Tasting last Wednesday night, I'm telling you again just how good this wine is. It was included in the tasting because it took out a gold medal at the Liquorland Top 100 and at it's special $13.99 price (at First Glass), it's hard to beat for taste AND value.  Before the wine was revealed, tasting host Kingsley asked, in his normal fashion, "Who likes this wine?" and 96% of the tasters put up their hand. There other 4% were either too lazy to raise their hand, or were one-eyed Pinot Gris drinkers. Then the wine was revealed to be the value-packed Thornbury. Thornbury Chardonnay

Also in the tasting

Two Rivers Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Goldwater Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Coopers Creek Reserve Gisborne Chardonnay 2007
Black Barn Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2007
Spy Valley Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008
Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
Grant Burge Barossa Vines Cabernet Merlot 2006
Haselgrove HRS Coonawarra Reserve Cabernet 2005
Xabregas Show Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Trentham Heathcote Shiraz 2005

Heaps of choice in the gold medal wines once again - check out my tasting notes on my Wednesday Roundup Page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 16th 2008

Rare granite wine growing land on Redoubt Hill

When Daniel Jackson of Redoubt Hill Vineyard in the Motueka Valley told me he was the only vineyard in New Zealand on Separation Point Granite, I believed him. So do most people evidently. He tells them this fact and they nod with silent acceptance. But I was excited about this snippet of information and told Daniel I thought he may be the only vineyard in New Zealand on any kind of granite. That is because granite is relatively rare in New Zealand and definitely a rarity in New Zealand's wine growing areas.

Granite is a coarsely crystalline rock formed from a liquid magma that has cooled slowly within the earth. Its main constituents are quartz, feldspar and mica minerals. Its hardness makes it popular as bench tops in designer kitchens. It is found in New Zealand in north west Nelson, parts of the West Coast, Fiordland and on Stewart Island. There have also been reports of granite on the Coromandel Peninsula and on Great Barrier Island, but the 'Coromandel Granite' used by stonemasons is technically not a 'granite' but another rock called diorite.

Separation Point Granite is the name given to the granite that occurs at Separation Point in the Abel Tasman National Park in north west Nelson. It should be familiar to those who hike or kayak this region and take notice of the rocks that surround them. It is light-coloured granite with glassy quartz, creamy feldspar and black flecks of biotite (mica) and hornblende. It has also been noted for its molybdenum (metal) content. It is quite different from the massive fossil-abundant limestone outcrops at the western end of Abel Tasman National Park at Tarakohe. NW Nelson Geology map with reference to Redoubt Hill WineryOne of the unique things about this granite is the orb shapes that the black minerals sometimes form in. I remember a professor at the Geology Department at the University of Auckland being particularly excited about Separation Point Granite because of these rare orb patterns that occur in at least two of the coastal outcrops. It has been a dream of mine to get to these outcrops. But what I found out by talking to Daniel Johnson and then by studying geological map of New Zealand, is that a narrow belt of Separation Point Granite continues south towards Murchison, along the fault of the Motueka Valley. The map (right) is derived from the GNS Research website.

These granites are some of the oldest rocks in New Zealand, the oldest rocks being nearby in the Cobb Valley in Kahurangi National Park. The geology in this area of New Zealand is fascinating. You learn about it Geology 101 when you cover the basics of the geology of New Zealand. You learn that the rocks in this part of north west Nelson on the western side of the Alpine Fault are the same as the rocks in Fiordland, on the eastern side of the Alpine Fault. It shows the extensive lateral movement along the faultline over millions of years. Check out more from this Nelson geology page

"Do you have orbicular granite on your property," I asked Daniel. He looked perplexed. "Orb patterns, elongated circles made out of the black minerals," I explained.

Daniel thought he had seen that so I'm even more eager to get to his unique site. He says that some of the granite is quite weathered and breaks down easily. But he has some solid outcrops too.

He and his wife Lesley grow Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Pinot Gris on their hillside vineyard. I particularly liked the savvie and the Riesling but the PG was not my style and given my pathetic notes, not reviewed. But the others two are.  Justin Papesch makes the wines.

rdhillsb.jpg (13052 bytes)Redoubt Hill Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is a vibrant mouthful - crisp and steely with apple and riper citrus notes like mandarin joining abundant lime. The austere, flinty undercurrent makes it seem bone dry despite the 3 grams per litre of residual sugar. Passionfruit adds a nice touch to the finish. It's quiveringly refreshing. 12.5% alc. $19.50 a bottle. Screwcap closure.

Redoubt Hill Nelson Riesling 2008 has no indication of style on the label but tasting it will tell you it is off dry to medium in sweetness. Juicy lime, apple and tropical fruit with layers of lemon and honeysuckle and racy acidity that gives a dry impression to the finish. Not tasted chilled but chilling will further enhance the acidity. 12% alc. $29. Screwcap closure.

Redoubt Hill has a cellar door, so pop in if you are down that way. They are in Motueka Valley Road, heading south from Motueka township and open October to March, 7 days a week, from 10am to 4pm.  They also have accommodation.  Best to check out the website for more information.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 15th 2008

Wine Gluttony

It was a day of wine gluttony yesterday with a Toast to Martinborough in the late morning / early afternoon followed by an arty Nelson affair. So all in all I saw wines from 18 North Island producers and from a dozen Nelsonians.

Martinborough really turned on the goodies at the Fables Gallery in Parnell - an excellent wine tasting venue, by the way. A seated tasting set the scene. The wines were

  • Craggy Range Te Muna Sauvignon Blanc 2008
  • Vynfields Classic Dry Riesling 2007
  • Nga Waka Riesling 2003
  • Dry River Pinot Gris 2007
  • Margrain Pinot Gris 2008
  • Palliser Chardonnay 2007
  • Martinborough Vineyards Chardonnay 2006
  • Alana Pinot Noir 2006
  • Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2006
  • the rare Kusuda Pinot Noir 2006 
  • Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2006

martinb1.jpg (61643 bytes)

A fantastic line-up, all of expected excellent standard but two extraordinary wines in the Nga Waka Riesling 2003 and Escarpment Kupe Pinot Noir 2006. I'll have the full tasting notes written up this weekend.

After lunch there was plenty of time to wander around and talk to the producers at their stands. Kusuda and Dry River were not represented but joining the producers featured in the seated tasting were Burnt Spur, Cabbage Tree, Porters, Te Hera, Te Kairanga and Tiwaiwaka.

Best buy in the Pinot Noir stakes, apart from the recent trophy winning Te Tera Pinot Noir 2007 ($25) from Martinborough Vineyards, was the similar sounding Te Hera Martinborough Pinot Noir 2007 ($33). With fruit from their vineyard on Te Muna Road, this has good colour, a fragrant, almost maraschino nose and a ripe, juicy, easy going palate with cake spices and lovely earthy savoury notes coming through to harmonise with the distinctively regional tart red fruits. There's a touch of violet-like florals on the pretty, lingering finish and although the richness and ripeness is accompanied by 14.5% alcohol, it is a well-balanced wine with a light touch. It's sealed with a DIAM closure and costs $35 a bottle.

Te Hera owner/winemaker John Douglas and I discussed food matches and he told me about the Meandering Summer Lunch that they hold in January on Wellington Anniversary Weekend. Several vineyards, including Te Hera, are involved and you spend an hour at each, alfresco wining and dining and bus transport from one vineyard to the next. Sounds like a great way to spend a day, especially if you can't get tickets to Toast Martinborough. Tickets sold out in a record 5 minutes when bookings opened last week.

Check out for loads of information on the Martinborough wineries - they've got a new wine trail map you can download, too.|


The Nelson WineArt tasting was held in the central city, in the Bluestone Room in Durham Lane. A good venue but a shortage of spittoons had some tables with clear water jug substitutes. Not pretty. Around the room was Seifried, Moutere Hills, Redoubt Hill, Kahurangi, Woollaston, Kaimira Ventures, Te Mania, Richmond Plains, Rimu Grove, Waimea Estate and Anchorage Wines. Neudorf was meant to be there but sadly, cancelled out. Some mutterings were made about Martinborough being on the same day. Notes were very brief at this tasting after I spent about the first half hour chatting to Agnes Seifried and her Auckland-based rep Brent. Then spent another half hour talking to new producer Daniel Jackson whose Redoubt Hills vineyard setting is fascinating. More on RH and what fascinated me, tomorrow.

Briefly then, Moutere Hills, with new owner and new winemaker, had an intriguing dry Chablis-style Chardonnay 2007 and an even drier, steely Grigio style of Pinot Gris 2007.
Was intrigued by the new Brightside label from Kaimira - their Pinot Gris 2008 ($16-$17) will suit a lot of pockets and palates but new to the scene so not sure of its availability yet.
Rimu Grove had a couple of wines that are cellar door only. A yummy off dry Riesling 2008 - could imagine guzzling this with lime and mango scallops - and a fragrant Gewurztraminer 2008 - rich, sweet, luscious with a leaner finish and lasting aftertaste. Patrick Stowe has made these in the style he likes to drink them. The fact that he has them at all is because he lost a lot of fruit to rain in 2008 and bought this fruit in. Just 45 cases of each were made.

Finished up at the Anchorage Wines stand before I up-anchored to jaunt down Queen Street to catch the bus ($8.60 return from North Shore 'Upper', a bargain). Didn't spit out the Anchorage Riesling 2008. When slightly chilled it is crisp and lemony with a lemon biscuit undercurrent and a salty tang - it is quite thirst quenching with passionfruit notes evolving on the finish and a crisp, dry, lingering aftertaste. Just 8.5% alcohol with 18 grams per litre of sugar balanced by moderately high acidity - perfect.

For links to all the Nelson wineries, check out

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 13th 2008

Take heed of the producer's recommendations

Taking heed of the producer's recommendations was the best suggestion, we found out when matching food to this week's Wine of the Week, the Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2007 (5 stars, $55 a bottle). The producer recommends seared scallops dusted with thyme and roast chicken rubbed with olive oil and cooked over whole garlic cloves.

Scallops are in season - beautiful, plump fresh scallops.  So, so tempting.   But how do you dust scallops with thyme? It's such a strong herb, I'm sure I don't know. So I crisped up some thyme leaves (use your thumb and first finger to run down the stalk and the leaves will come off) in a little clarified butter and dried them on a handee towel. Then I crushed them with a mortar and pestle, which didn't take much effort as the leaves were now brittle. The pan was put aside to sear the scallops in, later. We had five each, served in a wee bowl, lightly seasoned with the pan juices (fresh NZ scallops are very watery) poured over the top then dusted with the crushed fried thyme. A warm slice of freshly baked baguette was the accompaniment. Mmmm. Yes. "Better than the mussels," said Neil, referring to the mussels he had with the the wine with the night before. And when the scallops were gone, another slice of buttered baguette dipped in the remaining juices, was a delicious Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay accompaniment too.

For the roast chicken I used leg and thigh chicken pieces rather than a whole chicken for just the two of us.  The chicken pieces were roasted atop not only eight large peeled cloves of garlic but also potatoes and carrots - and because the thyme worked well with the scallops, I placed sprigs of thyme atop the oiled chicken. Placed in a dish and covered for the first 30 minutes of cooking, the garlic infused the chicken flesh beautifully. The lid was removed for another 35 minutes of cooking. A remarkably simple dish - it seemed like wholesome country food - but an astoundingly successful match to Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay 2007.  Yum!

Click here to read the Wine of the Week review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 12th 2008

Riesling to drink now and Riesling to drink in 5 years time

Lots of excitement for namesake Kevin Courtney (no relation) when his Riverby RieslingRiverby Sali's Block Marlborough Riesling 2008 won a gold medal at the 2008 New Zealand International Wine Show. This bright, fresh wine is off dry to medium sweetness and full of juicy, citrus, pineapple and red apple fruit with a touch of tropical guava, an earthy rippling undercurrent and dazzling acidity that gives a perception of dryness to the lingering finish. There's a hint of botrytis and it's drinking beautifully now.

But Kevin lamented the poor wine show results of his rather gorgeous drier style that I'm quite a fan of. "We have generally considered the 2007 to be the best wine we have ever made and it has had great reviews. It has however been to two shows for a bronze and a total miss. It might be an interesting exercise sometime to assess why it doesn't stand out in a show," he wrote. And with that he sent another bottle for me to try.

Well, the brightly aromatic Riverby Estate Marlborough Riesling 2007 is dry, crisp and austere with nervy, spine tingling acidity on first tasting but almost immediately you notice the increasing weighty richness of the palate. There's a talcy layer, like you find in many Aussie dry Rieslings, and a fine lime infusion to the more dominant lemon and green apple flavours. The fruit is ripe and juicy with zesty spice and pollen and honeysuckle florals. Just 3-4 grams of residual sugar yet it's altogether a beautifully balanced drop.

We took the wine to dinner at BYO on Friday night and all four of us there loved it. It was perfect as an aperitif and simply divine with my entrée of Scallops in a lime, mango and coriander sauce served on Melba toast. The wine had not been in the refrigerator, just at a chillier than normal October room temperature. And honestly, I wouldn't want to chill it much more.

I'm tasting the wine again tonight as I write this note and it is even better. That extra time in the bottle has taken off the really tight austere edge. So maybe the austerity is why it doesn't do well in a wine show. But mark my words, the young forward wines that simply 'wow' right now may not be going strong in 5 years time - this wine will be. In 5 years time that gangly austerity of youth will have integrated and the edges will have rounded out. It will have picked up lovely bottle age intricacies. It will be a real treat. But if you're like me, you can drink it and enjoy it immediately too. 

Both wines cost just under $20. Find out where to buy from

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 10th 2008

Catch a Thief

Sacred Hill The Wine Thief Series Chardonnay 2007 was the absolute star wine for me at the First Glass Wednesday tasting of New Zealand International Wine Show gold medal winners last Wednesday. A few weeks ago, when I tasted through the 22 gold medal winning Chardonnays, this was my second favourite Chardonnay after the delicious Trophy-winning Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2006 and it also starred on my blog on August 12th.  Just stunning - very similar to the beautiful Sacred Hills Rifleman's Chardonnay but at half the price. It's a wine that's made for drinking and enjoying right now though it definitely has the legs for cellaring.

And although we didn't taste it on Wednesday night, another heads up for the Sacred Hill Wine Thief Series Syrah 2006  - a wine I picked as a Wine of the Week right here back in July. This was the only New Zealand Syrah to win a gold medal in open competition at the New Zealand International Wine Show - where the wines are not separated out by country.   A great achievement and so deserved too.

Yes, the Wednesday tasting was another goodie.  Special mention for the Askerne Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2007 - continuing the trend of previous vintages in their gold medal success, and the Lowburn Ferry Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007.   Having just tasted the 2006 vintage if the Lowburn, see the blog entry of Oct 5th below, I can see the similarities in the gamey savouriness of this vineyard's wine.

Wines tasted on Wednesday were -

Tinpot Hut Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Seifried Winemakers Collection Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Elephant Hill Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2007
Sacred Hill Wine The Thief Series Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2007
Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier 2007
Askerne Hawke's Bay Gewurztraminer 2007
Terrace Heights Estate Marlborough Pinot Noir 2007
Lowburn Ferry Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007
Trentham Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2006
Jim Barry The Lodge Hill Shiraz 2006
Wyndham Estate George Wyndham Founder’s Shiraz 2005
Heartland Director’s Cut Shiraz 2005

Click here to read the full reviews.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 9th 2008

Pork, Apple, Sage and Pinot Gris plus a Sauvignon Blanc

I had bought these beautiful pork loin medallions from the butcher - 100% New Zealand Pork. I had leeks in the vegetable bin and new season's Royal Gala apples in the fruit bowl. The sage is going mad in the garden and I had a Pinot Gris to try. Seems I had the ingredients for a flavoursome, chunky sauce for serving over pan-fried pork medallions - and once I worked out what I was going to do, it turned out a quick and easy meal to prepare.Homestead PG

The wine was Corbans Homestead Gisborne Pinot Gris 2008 (12.5% alc, screwcap closure, my rating 17/20). This has a light straw colour, a delicate rose petal / honeysuckle floral and pear drop aroma with a slight nutty influence and a strudel spiciness to the flavour that's full of juicy apple and pear with hints of pineapple and a touch of honeysuckle. It's off dry to medium in sweetness with lovely fullness to the texture and while chilling will enhance the acidity, it's well balanced and deliciously drinkable at October room temperature. What’s even better is that it only costs $12 when it is specialled at the supermarket - and that happens regularly with this label. At this price, it's not at all wasteful to sacrifice a glass of wine for the sauce.

Apple, Bacon, Leek and Pinot Gris Sauce for Pork Medallions
Heat some oil in a frying pan - a couple of sloshes, perhaps.
Add chopped onion and sliced leek and stir fry a couple of minutes. I am not a big onion fan, so I use onion sparingly. In this case I used about two to three tablespoons of finely chopped red onion and about half a cup of the green, narrower, top end of a large leek.
Add two, chopped up, rashers of streaky bacon and a small, crushed clove of garlic.
Then add a peeled and sliced, cored and cubed, reasonably large Royal Gala apple - of course it doesn't have to be Royal Gala, but these are my favourite eating apples and they worked well in this sauce.
Add to this a selection of chopped fresh sage leaves - I had green sage, variegated sage and pineapple sage.
Continue to cook gently until the apple softens a little.
Then splash in up to a glass of the Pinot Gris - but because the pan is hot you have to add small splashes - the first lot will sizzle and evaporate quite quickly and the next splash will probably also evaporate. Once all the wine has been added, check for seasoning. The sauce should be salty enough from the bacon and have savouriness from the herbs but you may want to add pepper.
Now pour the entire contents of the pan to a small saucepan for the sauce to simmer over a very gentle heat while you cook the pork lion medallions in the pan. Just before serving you might like to stir a tablespoon of cream into the sauce.

Pan Fried Pork Medallions
Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary. Add the pork loin medallions (there were four in my packet) and season the top side with salt, pepper and a little cinnamon. Cook over a medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes each side, depending on how you like them. Mine browned up quite nicely with the residual from the sauce still in the pan.

Pile some soft mashed potatoes that have been mashed with lots of milk and butter, on to the plate. Arrange the pork medallions over the potatoes then spoon and pour over the chunky sauce. Accompany with coleslaw and a glass of the delicious Corbans Homestead Gisborne Bay Pinot Gris 2008. This is a meal for two, so you use one glass for the pot and there's ample left for one or two glasses each to accompany the meal.

Plus a Sauvignon Blanc
While I'm on the Homestead wines, I'll also mention Corbans Homestead Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 (12.5% alc, screwcap closure, my rating 16.5/20). A touch of green pea joins tropical fruit on the nose, the flavour is full of gooseberry, juicy red apple, honeyed orange and a touch of herb and it has a classic pungent finish. It's a sweeter style but has plenty of flavour and drinkability for its $12 price point. 'My favourite,' says my 19-year old niece. Yes, very appealing to the younger set. There you go.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 7th 2008

Sense Awakening Savvies

My nose is blocked, my throat constricts as I try to breathe, my head thumps and my ear canals are burning. I have a cold of almighty proportions. I thought it was getting better with the aid of Vicks Vaporub, throat spray, soothing lozenges and linctus medicine. But it has worked to no avail and the headache pills only mute the symptoms for a while. So with the weather gone to the dogs as well, I cancelled out of one of my most looked forward to events of the year - the Negociants ''Our Friends from New Zealand' winemakers tour. This was a decadent affair last year, cruising on the Waitemata Harbour, tasting some of New Zealand's finest wines and a BBQ lunch of Babette's Feast proportions. But there's no point in going if I can't smell and can't taste, as well as spreading germs to the celebrities as well as to the other hoi polloi.

This week's Wine of the Week, the Mud House Swan Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is a sense-awakening savvie.  Also the newly crowned Liquorland Sauvignon Blanc trophy winner, the Huntaway Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008, which I tasted last week.  It has bright, sweet-fruited, tangy, lime and orange blossom aromas with a lovely, soft, almost earthy undercurrent to the juicy passionfruit pineapple, lime and gooseberry flavours. A summer herb infusion and tangy orange comes through on the finish. Lovely texture and flavour - a touch gravelly perhaps - and loads of exciting zing.  I was a bit reticent on my scoring, only giving it four and three-quarter stars.

Both these wines, as well as the exciting Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 Oh! Block Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - which I would have re-acquainted myself with today had I made the cruise - were among the Liquorland gold medal Sauvignon Blanc winners.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 6th 2008

Liquorland announces its Trophy Winners

The Liquorland Top 100 was judged at the end of August and the results came in a press release today.

Champion Chardonnay and Champion Wine of the Show: Cottage Block Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2006.
Champion Wine Producer: Villa Maria

Other trophy winning wines in their repsective categories were ...

Henriot Champagne Brut Souverain NV
Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Rose
Huntaway Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling 2004
Lawson's Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2007
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Omahu Gravels Hawke's Bay Viogner 2007
Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Pinot Gris
Sandalford Margaret River Classic Dry White 2008
Charles Wiffen Late Harvest Riesling 2007
Alexandra Wine Company Pinot Noir 2007
Shingleback McLaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
Vidal Reserve Hawke's Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz 2006
Rosemount Show Reserve McLaren Vale GSM 2005
De Bortoli Show Liqueur Muscat
Mitolo Jester Sangiovese Rose 2008

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 5th 2008

25 Steps and More

Down in Central Otago, driving towards Cromwell from the north on either side of Lake Dunstan, there is no more dramatic vineyard that the one that has called itself 25 Steps. It is 25 terraces carved into the hillside at the base of the Pisa Range, just 8 kilometres north of Cromwell township. The 25 Steps website has the story of how this almost inconceivable feat was achieved and the wine also tells a story. 25 Steps Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 is a rich, earthy, savoury mouthfilling wine with thick chunky tannins and a soft, cherry fruit finish.  The deep savouriness balances the opulent fruit. It's a big wine with 14% alcohol, a screwcap closure and a price tag of $34.95 a bottle.

25 Steps overlooks the Mitre Rocks Vineyard, a little further north. Previously known as Chantmarle Vineyard, the rebranding to Mitre Peaks has also added a sister brand to the original Mount Dottrel label. Mount Dottrel achieved a dream debut with a Sydney International Top 100 and Blue Gold accolade for the 2005 vintage Pinot Noir.  Mount Dottrel Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 is the current release.  This seems like a medium-bodied style with a silky tannin structure, tart red fruits, wild herbs and loads of earthy savouriness. An anise-like spicy character emerges to linger on the pretty finish.  14% alcohol. Screwcap closure. Price ranges from $29 to $35.

But perhaps the wine that is the 26th step is the Lowburn Ferry Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006, a little south of the 25 Steps Vineyard and closer to Cromwell. This a deeply savoury, funky style with plenty of 'dirt' and a touch of tar that melts to reveal mid-palate fruit sweetness, oak is nicely integrated and the finish is complex and deep. 13.58% alcohol. Screwcap closure.  Listed at $36.95 a bottle on the Lowburn Ferry website.

Three wines from quite three close by vineyards and although quite remarkably different in taste they share the same winemaker, that being Carol Bunn at the contract winemaking facility, Vinpro.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 4th 2008

A tasting of Trophy winning wines

I was told I had made a mistake in one of my gold medal wine descriptions from the NZ International Wine Show. It was the Mud House Waipara Riesling 2008, which I described as 'medium sweet'. Well, that's how it seemed when I tasted it in the secret room at the show to write the gold medal descriptions. The wine was not chilled and it was tasted alongside a group of very dry Australian Rieslings. In that context it did indeed seem 'medium sweet'.

It was at last Wednesday's First Glass tasting (back on after a few weeks break). The Trophy winning wines from the 2008 New Zealand International Wine Show was the theme. The Mud House Waipara Riesling 2008 was served and it had been chilled - which is really how is should be enjoyed. But chilling accentuates the acidity, which in this case totally muffled the sweetness and it gives the impression of being dry. But as the flavours lingered in the mouth, the sweetness from the residual sugar took over and it left that lovely, gently sweet impression. Phew, thank goodness, I was redeemed.

The Trophy tasting was a fabulous tasting - it would have to be - but the one non-Trophy winner that was served as the pretaster - the Richmond Grove Limited Release Watervale Riesling 2004 - was utterly superb also.

Everyone nodded in satisfaction when the Champion Wine of the Show, the Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006, was poured.

The wines tasted were

Richmond Grove Watervale Riesling 2004 - Multiple gold medal winner
Morton Estate Private Reserve Hawkes Bay Viognier 2007 - Champion Viognier
Mud House Swan Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - Champion Sauvignon Blanc
Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 - Champion Chardonnay & Champion Wine of the Show
Blackenbrook Nelson Reserve Pinot Gris 2008 - Champion Pinot Gris
Kemblefield Hawkes Bay Gewürztraminer 2007 - Champion Gewurztraminer
Mud House Waipara Riesling 2008 - Champion Riesling
Lone Goat Botrytis Selection 2007 - Champion Sweet Wine
Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2007 - Champion Pinot Noir
Thorn-Clarke Sandpiper Barossa Shiraz 2007 - Champion Commercial Red
Sessantani Primitivo di Manduria 2005 - Champion International Red
Thorn-Clarke William Randell Barossa Shiraz 2005 - Champion Shiraz

All the notes are, as usual, on my Wednesday Roundup page. Click here to read them.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 3rd 2008

Aniseed and Sauvignon Blanc - a surpisingly delicious combination

When I bought the packet of aniseed seeds, I didn't realise how sweet they were, not until I dry roasted some in a skillet last night. Then I tried them. Oh, that delicious aniseed flavour that rushed back memories of childhood - but totally inappropriate for the food I was cooking.  I put the toasted aniseeds on a saucer and roasted some cumin seeds instead - a far better spice for my Morrocan-spiced stew .

DolbelSo I poured a glass of Dolbel Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007, a wine from yet another new producer, and pondered.  The wine has some oak interest and it's a touch grassy with a warm texture.  I grabbed the bottle to look and found 14% alcohol on the label to account for that warmth.  A rich, full-bodied, gently barrel-fermented style with savvie's grassy disposition, a lightly grainy texture and a touch of stonefruit - becoming quite savoury, from the yeast lees aging, on the finish.    Then, without thinking, I licked my finger to pick up some of the aniseed to chew on and had another sip of wine.  Unbelievable, but a surprisingly delicious combination. Now I'm thinking perhaps a seafood dish with anise and accompanied with Sauvignon Blanc could be rather tasty.

Dolbel Estate is named for one of Hawkes Bay's pioneering families.  The vineyard is on the banks of the Tutaekuri River near Taradale, where they planted their first grapes in 1988 selling them to the likes of Church Road, Craggy Range and other notable producers. Unlike other Hawkes Bay winemakers, their focus is whites and with Tony Prichard as winemaker, they released the first Dolbel Estate wines for sale in 2006.   This Sauvignon Blanc is my introduction to them and I like what I'm tasting. It has a screwcap and costs about $22. Check out

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Oct 1st 2008

It's Simply Beautiful

I wrote on my blog at the beginning of September how I encountered Mt Beautiful wines at a stand at Wine New Zealand. Well, on Monday night I had the opportunity to taste them again at a little soiree, where wine and food was the focus. CathyThat's what got me along there actually, because we have to eat and we like to drink so we may as well find combinations that work well together. I also went to support brand manager, Cathy Hicks (pictured right), who is a personal friend, and to catch up with winemaker Sam Weaver, who I haven't seen for a while. Wish, now, I had stopped to chat to viticulturist Murray Paterson, who I've communicated with online. At least I think he was there but I don't know him by sight and just found his name as I peruse the 'people' part of the Mt Beautiful website. But typical of me, I found a chair to the side and sat there all there the time while others mixed and mingled.

Mt Beautiful is an interesting project in previously uncharted vineyard territory and named for a local landmark. The vineyard is just north of the township of Cheviot, which is about 100km north of Christchurch and 150km south of Blenheim in Marlborough, as the crow flies.

There were three wines to taste starting with the new release Mt Beautiful Cheviot Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2008, which I did not taste at Wine New Zealand. This is a Sam Weaver wine through and through - really dry, focussed and textural, quite rich and full-bodied with a crisp, steely apple-like undercurrent to the abundant tropical fruit with gooseberry lingering on the finish.

Matches were French Chevre stuffed into a cherry tomato atop some caper mayonnaise served in filo pastry shells; a pork kofta speared with a cheese pretzel and served with a lime and mango spicy dipping sauce; and Hapuka 'kokoda', which is actually marinated fish, served in a shot glass and garnished with lemon and parsley. The chevre and tomato was the highlight here - a classic.

The Mt Beautiful Cheviot Hills Riesling 2007 was served next and was much colder than when tasted at Wine New Zealand. While chilling enhances the acidity, it has a delicate aura to the whole and a lemony tang on the finish. It's medium in sweetness but seems quite dry.

scallops.jpg (9613 bytes)The matches were Seared Scallops with caramelised shallots and clarified butter served in Japanese spoons; steamed pork and chicken ravioli served with lime flavoured soy sauce; and French rillettes of porc served on toast, with cornichons. The scallops were the overall highlight by a long way - beautiful on their own, beautiful with the wine - and the rillettes of porc, where the acidity of the wine simply cut through the fat-laden rillettes, were pretty close behind. The meat in the ravioli had lime zest or shredded Kaffir lime leaf running through it, which was an excellent wine/food riesling combination, however the soy on the ravioli was a mistake.

Mt Beautiful Cheviot Hills Pinot Noir 2007 is a little funky on the nose with a hint of chocolate covered cherry leading into an earthy, savoury medium-bodied palate with some game meat nuances, youthful Burgundian-like 'hard' tannins, underlying acidity, tart cherry and guava fruit and a long, fine textured, fruit-sweet finish. Yeh, man, it has a bit of 'dirt' in there and that together with those tart red fruits had me likening it more to a Martinborough in the North Island than its South Island neighbours. A haunting, memorable wine. porc rillette

This was matched to a wild mushroom paté served on a French mini brioche - my favourite of the three matches - just make sure the brioche is not too thick. There was also a rare beef 'tapa' served on ciabatta topped with port onion jam - but the jam was quite sweet; and braised rabbit in a cream and mustard, served in a short pastry case.

A beautiful soiree and beautiful food and wine.  I found this recipe for porc rillettes too. Now I'm going to try and make my own.

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