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Sue Courtney's blog of Vinous Ramblings

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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: February 2010
Feb 24th: A Lavish Lunch with Locharburn Wines
Feb 22nd: It's not unusual
Feb 20th: Central Otago Pinot Noir vs Central Otago Pinot Noir and a magnificent Marlborough
Feb 18th: New Central Otago Wine map and new wineries
Feb 17th: Thai Lemongrass Pork and Gewurztraminer
Feb 16th: Peach Soup and Pinot Gris
Feb 15th: The new Lawson's Dry Hills 'Pioneer' range
Feb 14th: Valentine's Day wine for Petrol Heads
Feb 12th: Pinotage Party
Feb 11th: Pinot Noir 2010 redux
Feb 10th: Plagiarising Wine Notes
Feb 6th: Wednesday's tasting highlights
Feb 5th: Pinot Noir Week - $30 and under
Feb 4th: Pinot Noir Week - A Dry River mini vertical
Feb 3rd: Pinot Noir Week - A New Zealand history Part 1
Feb 2nd: Pinot Noir Week - Auckland beauties under $25
Feb 1st: Pinot Noir 2010
Feb 1st: WOTW: Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling 2008

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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 28th 2010

A Savvy Weekend

The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards judging took place this weekend and for the first time in 10 years Neil and I were not involved. The invitation for me to judge and for Neil to steward failed to arrive this year. It's like Heidi Klum says on Project Runway; "One day you're in, and the next day you're out", although no-one actually said it.

Nevertheless I welcomed the weekend to catch up on some reading, as well as tasting through some Sauvignon Blanc samples that have been piling up. I tasted about 30 over the last week, in three groups of ten, which meant I could have more than a snapshot of each wine - and a snapshot is really all you get in a wine show situation.  Plus I was able to try wines with food. I chose food that I thought would work really well with the variety, like snapper, tomato and salad greens, and tomato and basil pizza.   Some wines worked well and one or two were sublime matches but others were a screeching disaster. It really depended on the acid and sweetness levels in the wine and the use of oak.

Talking about oak, there seems to be more and more oak-aged styles and for some it really worked - like Te Mania Reserve Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - a year older and despite the creamy oak, still very fresh and bright. Rockburn Central Otago Sauvignon Blanc 2009, which has 65% oak I thought a solid silver medal standard. The most complex of the oak-aged styles was Te Awa Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 with an array of fermentation vessel and agents.

As for the best food match - it had to be the homemade Tomato and Fresh Garden Basil pizza with Clifford Bay Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2008, closely followed by the Brightwater Lord Rutherford Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Both wines rated as silver medal standard without food but with this match they went to platinum!

So for the more classic unoaked or very lightly oaked wines, these are some of the ones that tickled by fancy.

Gold medal quality
Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 - yes the cheapie that's widely available in supermarkets. A great benchmark for value-packed savvy!!!!
River Farm Ben Morven Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Cape Campbell Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Astrolabe Voyage Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Palliser Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009

Silver medal quality
Astrolabe Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Brightwater Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Brightwater Lord Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Jackson Estate 'Stich' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Sacred Hill Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Te Mania Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Hunters Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009

All these wines and more are now updated to my Sauvignon Blanc page

Oh well, I've made a big dent into the Sauvignon stash, but there are still about 25 more on the 'to taste' list. Now I just have to get into that Sauvignon tasting mood again.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 28th 2010

Reading between the Scores

It was interesting reading the First Glass newsletter this week with its analysis of the wine section of the latest Cuisine magazine (No. 139 / March 2010) and the percentage of awards bestowed to the wines that were entered in the New Zealand aromatics tasting. Kingsley Wood, who wrote the newsletter, reported that there were only 16 out of 180 pages devoted to wine editorial (as opposed to advertorial) in this latest edition.  He also counted up the wines tasted and their scores and came up with the following results.

Pinot Gris: 144 wines tasted.  (click for Cuisine reviews)
     2 rated 5 stars (gold medal quality)
     3 rated 4˝ stars  (silver medal quality)
     9 rated 4 stars  (silver medal quality)
     26 rated 3 stars  (bronze medal quality)
     100 wines were considered to be less than bronze medal quality, or 'no award'.

Riesling: 103 wines tasted (click for Cuisine reviews)
     6 rated 5 stars
     3 rated 4˝ stars
     8 rated 4 stars
     26 rated 3 stars
     60 wines were considered to be less than bronze medal quality, or 'no award'.
Gewurztraminer: 53 wines tasted (click for Cuisine reviews)
     4 rated 5 stars
     0 rated 4˝ stars
     4 rated 4 stars
     12 rated 3 stars
     33 wines were considered to be less than bronze medal quality, or 'no award'.

He says that a less than impressive number of 193 wines out of 300 did not meet the minimum 3 star or bronze medal quality level, which means that the judges were overly tough in the judging or nearly two thirds of the wines were just ordinary or poor quality.

I think it is certainly food for thought when so many wines are being discounted in the period of over supply.

We tasted several of the Pinot Gris and Riesling wines, including the No.1 in both categories at last week;s Wednesday tasting. Ti Point Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008 was the No. 1 Pinot Gris.  I tasted it a couple of weeks ago, at room temperature, and could see why the judges rated it No. 1.  I loved the mouthfeel and roundness of the wine but tasting it last Wednesday night, when it was chilled in a manner suitable for the hottest month of the year, the wine didn't perform to my expectations at all.

My wine of the night, however, was the Mt Difficulty Target Gully Riesling 2009 from Central Otago.  Rated just four stars in Cuisine, this is made in a Spatlese style and chilling brings out all the nuances that make this type of wine just so delicious when tasted almost ice cold.  It reminded me of my childhood and sucking on FruJu iceblocks on a hot summer's day and I thought wouldn't it be fabulous to actually make iceblocks out of this wine.  

Next week we are tasting the Gewurztraminers and we will taste the No. 1 wine Te Whare Ra Gewurztraminer 2009.  Interesting to note that one of the judges was the Te Whare Ra winemaker. 'Nuff said.

Meanwhile, check our MY reviews from last Wednesday, by clicking here.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 24th 2010

A Lavish Lunch with Locharburn Wines

As the number of new wine producers continue to grow at an unprecedented rate, my discovery of their wines seems to lag behind. It's not surprising because according to the 2009 New Zealand Winegrowers Annual Report there was an increase of 100 producers from the end of June 2007 to the end of June 2009 and nine months on from that report that are at least 22 more. It's hard for me to keep up with all the names. But it helps when they make themselves known to me.

I recently met Chris and Jenny Hill, now of Central Otago but formerly of Taranaki. Chris had joked about owning a winery for many years, but it wasn't until he and Jenny took a holiday south to Queenstown that they discovered Pinot Noir and 'caught the wine bug'. For a while it seemed like it would be an unobtainable goal but, in Chris & Jenny Hill and Carol Bunnwhat Chris describes as a 'mid life crisis', the dream became reality after visiting Queenstown again to look at properties and falling in love with Locharburn. Six weeks later they were the owners of this property, 18 kilometres north of Cromwell. As well as relocating south and building a house on the property, Chris undertook a correspondence diploma course from the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) so he could confidently work hands on in the vineyard. There was already three hectares of Pinot Noir planted and Chris and Jenny produced their first vintage from these grapes in 2005. Planting of Pinot Gris followed, with the first vintage in 2007. They have since planted Riesling Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Needing a winemaker, they went to Vinpro where Carol Bunn was in charge of making the wines. And now, even though Carol as resigned as head of the contract winemaking facility, she will continue to craft Locharburn's wines.

What better way to try the current releases than with a degustation lunch - it's a chance to not only taste the wines, but enjoy them in a social situation with food, which is how wine should be enjoyed. Although with the restaurant being Dine by Peter Gordon, it was food of a much higher standard than I would usually be having at home.

Locharburn Pinot Gris 2009 ($25) was a star with Chef Bernard Bernabe's Pan Seared Nelson Scallop with cauliflower puree, baby rocket, sauteed shiitake and vanilla dressing. He created a dish that complemented and highlighted the flavour profiles of the Pinot Gris, beautifully. The wine is quite high-toned without food, with varietal apple and pear fruit and a warm, nutty, textural backbone that builds in the mouth and softens the upfront acidity / steeliness. A wine that came into its own with the food match.

Locharburn Rosé 2009 ($22.95) has a gorgeous light pink spinel gemstone colour. Aromas of bright red cherry fruit mingling with a pinot earthiness lead into a slightly viscous, full-bodied (for Rosé) spicy palate with a touch of pink bubble gum coming through and spiced macerated strawberry. Made from rows designated for this style of wine and treated like a white wine in the winery, it is crisp and cry with natural fruit sweetness. An accompaniment of strong, rich, oily, melt-in-the-mouth Hot smoked Akaroa Salmon overpowered the wine both aromatically and flavourwise, in my opinion.

Locharburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 ($36) has a beguiling aroma of herbs, delicate spice and florals. Still tight in the palate with dry tannins it evolves beautifully and the flavours that linger hark back to the aromatics with sweet raspberry / cherry fruit. Szechwan cured and sear duck breast with beetroot puree, caramelised radicchio and cinnamon consommé was intriguing. The food had a heady anise, spice and plum jam aroma with the gamey scents of the duck coming through. The sweetness, spiciness and savouriness of the food complemented the wine beautifully.

Locharburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006 ($35) is deep, savoury and earthy with violet-like florals and spiced cherry scents becoming more and more fragrant in the glass, and a gamey character to the flavours. Velvety textured with bottle age introducing a seamlessness but as the wine evolves in the glass it seems denser in texture and form. The food match was Seared Cervena Denver Leg with olives, capsicum, grapefruit salsa and buttered parsnips. The meat was rare, bloody, warm and gamey. All sort of hunting images came to mind. The Pinot Noir added sweetness and brightness and took the food to another level.

Find out more from and if you are down Central Otago way, do call into the Lazy Dog Restaurant and Cellar Door where you'll Locharburn wines for tasting as well as others from a range of boutique Central Otago producers.

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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 22nd 2010

It's not unusual

I went to see Tom Jones last night. Now there's a guy who totally enjoys what he does and boy, can he sing. "It's easy when you are blessed with a voice like this," he said during the performance.

The concert was held at the beautiful Villa Maria Estate in Mangere, Auckland and I was one of the 'trade guests' of this generous wine producer whose vineyard had been transformed into a concert arena. Now I realise why they pulled out a section of vines where they did. The gentle slope was perfect for the 'general admission' concertgoers who did not have allocated seating and the net covered vines surrounding the hill really set the scene.

Trade guests of Villa Maria had the cellar door area and outside tables to socialise and later dine while concert seats were reserved in an allocated seating area right in front of the stage just a short walk from the cellar door across the grass. Our seats were about 30 rows from the front and immediately behind the 'gold' ($199 seat) section. This was still very close and the music reverberated right into the bones, thumping the chest with its beat.

At 'party central' for the trade guests there was an endless supply of a selection of Villa Maria's products. A bubbles to start with canapes, then a glass of Sauvignon Blanc to take to the concert area to watch the Lady Killers. This all girl (or woman) band is the best of its genre in New Zealand. Tina Cross, Suzanne Lynch, Taisha and the gorgeous Jackie Clarke belted out the songs, the highlight being Suzanne's rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. The tangy Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was a perfect accompaniment in the heat of the sun on this blue sky afternoon with the smell of the grass underfoot adding to the effect.

After the Lady Killers segment, a lavish buffet was served at 'party central'. I tasted the Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2008 - a full flavoured Chardonnay with lots of toasty French oak and peach and pineapple fruit but not sure if being as chilled as much as it was, was in its best interest.

tomjones.jpg (58125 bytes)I much preferred Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylor's Pass Pinot Noir 2007 - soft, silky, gentle - not aggressive, not overpowering - just spicy, savoury, earthy and even a nuance of mint.

I decided to go and watch Hello Sailor when they came on, but apart from Lying in the Sand with an electric ukulele, they could not hold me with their performance so I returned to party central for dessert.

Then at last it was time for the man that everyone had come to see, Tom Jones. He turns 70 this year but still has all the moves. It was sometime during the performance I snapped the pic to the right.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 20th 2010

Central Otago Pinot Noir vs Central Otago Pinot Noir and a magnificent Marlborough

Six Pinot noirs were tasted at the First Glass Wednesday tasting the other night and everyone raved about the Felton Road Pinot Noir 2008. Served last, it really was an appropriate finale and of course when people found out what it was, how could they not be in awe of one of the New Zealand's great Pinot Noir names? But I also liked the second of the six Pinot Noirs served - Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008. So what would these wines taste like if tasted side by side? My conclusion is that they are remarkably similar although on the night surprisingly it was the Peregrine that had the edge for me.

Felton Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 is a dense ruby/purple colour with a savoury, earthy, deep aroma, black cherry and plum fruit and a velvety texture. A big wine, I though it a little disintegrated in the side by side tasting - one of the 'biggest' Pinot Noirs from Central Otago's 2008 vintage so far - along with its stable mates, but this young wine really needs to evolve. Interestingly when tasted last year, in a large Burgundy glass rather than a small tasting glass, it was the most accessible of the five Felton Road Pinot noirs from 2008.

Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 is finer in it's ruby/purple appearance, similar savoury aromatics but finer textured than the Felton Road - silky and sensuous with fruits of the forest, it was my favourite of the two in the side by side tasting.

But the highlight of the evening was neither of these two wines. The wine that got the biggest tick was TerraVin Hillside Pinot Noir 2006 from Marlborough. I was tasting it blind but found something in there that reminded me of my Pinot Noir of the Year last year, the Dog Point Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006. The drop dead gorgeous texture, the savouriness, the funkiness - could this be Dog Point, I wondered in the blind tasting?. Deep fruit cake / maraschino cherry aromas intermingling with woody herbs and the gamey, savoury flavours with a spicy layer and a long, complex finish - I just wanted to revel in the aftertaste of this wine - but one had to move on.

An excellent tasting once again with Wooing Tree Pinot Noir 2007 from Central Otago also in the line-up - click here to read all my tasting notes.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 18th 2010

New Central Otago Wine map and new wineries

Central Otago Winegrowers Association have produced a new guide to the wineries and vineyards of Central Otago and as well as in brochure/pamphlet form the maps are available to download from the COWA website ( too. It's a pretty comprehensive map and there are a heap of new producer's names, some I've never heard of before. One of those is Locharburn Estate, tucked away in small writing at Stop 7 on the Cromwell Basin map. Locharburn is one of the producers that uses the Lazy Dog Restaurant and Cellar Door on the corner of State Highway 6 and Gladsmuir Road in Queensberry. They share the tasting room with Two Degrees, Valli Vineyards, Misha's Vineyard, Kawarau Estate and Clutha Ridge. I tasted Locharburn's wines today, but more on them later. A big thanks to Locharburn for giving me the map.

Back in the first popular area of Central Otago, the Gibbston Valley, there are now eight tasting rooms and or restaurants. These include Brennan, Chard Farm, Amisfield, Gibbston Valley, Waitiri Creek and Hawkshead, the latter at the Winehouse and Kitchen next to the Kawarau River bungy jump. I also tasted Hawkshead's wines for the first time recently.

Hawkshead Bendigo Riesling 2009 ($22.50) is a little earthy on the nose to start with apple skin the dominant fruit scent but with a little aeration, citrus comes through too. It' so fruity and juicy in the palate, loads of red and green apple, a tickle of ginger and well balanced fruit sweetness that tames the quivering acidity and gives harmony to the lasting finish.

Hawkshead Gibbston Valley Pinot Gris 2009 ($26), like its stablemate Riesling, is earthy on the nose and with aearation it smells like well-handled plasticine, or clay. But in the mouth the mandarin-like acidity is much softer and the overall impression is sweeter (than the Riesling). There's a creaminess to the texture with hints of vanilla and hints of musk coming through, a suggestion of white mushrooms on the finish and lingering flavours of lightly spiced, stewed pears.

Denis Marshall, former MP, and Ulrike Kurenbach are the people behind this new label and they have contracted Chris Keyes from Gibbston Valley Wines to make the wines. There is also a trio of Pinot Noirs. I look forward to tasting those soon. Check out

While this updated Central Otago wine map has a long pregnancy, it's here now and wine tourists can celebrate this new guide to the Central Otago wineries. The website is useful too, although the "Links to other wine wesbites" page is pretty sparse and, New Zealand's longest running wine review website, on the Internet since 1998, sadly doesn't rate a mention.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 17th 2010

Thai Lemongrass Pork and Gewurztraminer

A group of wines were selected to try with a new packet sauce that I found in the Asian food section in the supermarket. Labelled Thai Lemon Grass Sauce, it was spicier than I could have imagined and ginger was the dominant flavour. The back of the packet said to cut pork into strips, marinate in the sauce for at least an hour, then stir-fry. It was served with stir-fried vegetables (carrot, capsicum, bean and courgette) that were added to the pork at the end of its cooking. A one pan, one plate dish. I like those.

So to the wine that was best -

Forrest The Valleys Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2008 (14% alc., $25) was the star. A sweet style of gewurz with violet and spiced orange peel aromas and a juicy, slightly viscous palate with flavours of sweet citrus, Asian spices and perhaps a hint of rose water, it has warmth and richness to the texture and a suggestion of spun sugar on the finish. A one glass wine without food and a failure with two previous food match attempts - 1. peach soup,  and 2. coconut curry vegetables - but this bite and spice of the ginger and lemon grass flavours did not challenge it. Like all good wine and food matches, each took the other to a new level.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 16th 2010

Peach Soup and Pinot Gris

We're back into peach mode. We are trying to let them ripen on the tree but with the humidity and (now) the warm summer rain we are experiencing in Auckland, they have to be picked before the rot sets in. It's so disappointing to watch the peaches ripening, seeing them colour up on top with a pink glow, but not wanting to pick them because they are still green underneath, then a little bit of rain and the brown takes over.

I'm putting the perfect ones in the refrigerator for eating now and in the freezer for later, much later, but any with the dreaded brown spots have to be dealt with quickly. It's a cue for the delicious Chilled Peach Soup recipe* and some wines to match.

We chose a Gewurztraminer, a Chardonnay, a Riesling and a Pinot Gris to see what would work and it was the Pinot Gris that won hands down.

Tohu Nelson Pinot Gris 2009 has a concentrated fruit aroma - peach sherbet and citrus with a hint of some aromatic herb come to mind. In the mouth this is nutty, spicy and citrussy - in that order - with a tangelo-like zestiness power surging through the finish. Citrus, stonefruit, spice and all things nice, served chilled this seems quite dry, the dryness tempered by the fruitiness all the way with an expansive finish and an underlying nutty savouriness. Just delicious with and without the chilled peach soup.

There's a touch of barrel ferment in this wine that has its fruit sourced from the Upper Moutere in Nelson, and later when the wine has warmed up, there is a delicate and pretty rose petal and musky nuance coming through too. Alcohol is listed at 13.5% and price is around $18.95. With my five star rating, this is top buying.

*We made the soup with a dry Riesling this time but the Riesling we chose to accompany the soup was too sweet, ditto the Gewurztraminer. It could have been more Chardonnay-friendly if made with an unoaked Chardonnay wine.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 15th 2010

The new  Lawson's Dry Hills 'Pioneer' range

Barbara Lawson, owner of Lawson's Dry Hills in Marlborough, flew from Marlborough to Auckland last week with winemaker Marcus Wright to launch LDH's new range of wines. Named 'The Pioneer', in honour of the late Ross Lawson who was a true wine pioneer of Marlborough, there are three wines and all are delicious in their own special way.  The launch was held at Clooney, one of my favourite Auckland restaurants, and the food took the wines to another level - or perhaps it was the wines that took the food to another level.  

I simply loved Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($29.95) - a touch of wild yeast adds richness and complexity to this crisp, fresh, bright zingy wine. This is the wine I have chosen as the Wine of the Week because I absolutely loved it.  It is a terrific example of one of the diverse styles of the country's most popular grape - Marcus calls it a 'halfway' style - halfway between 'alternative' and classic. Food match was Agria Potato and Goats Cheese Cappelletti with summer vegetables and buerre noisette.  The brown butter absolutely made this dish and the Cappelletti (pasta) filled with goats cheese was swimming in it.  Unfortunately there were also olives and anchovies on the plate and these totally overpowered the wine, so I pushed those to one side and concentrated on the Cappelletti and brown butter. Click here to read the Wine of the Week review.

Every year I have high expectations every years for the 'standard' Lawson's Dry Hills gewurz and I am never disappointed, but Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Gewurztraminer 2009 ($32) has well and truly exceeded the benchmark. quail.jpg (32413 bytes)Aromatic and richly flavoured with a creamy texture and savoury nuances, like the Sauvignon Blanc this has a portion of barrel ferment with wild yeasts. It's a medium style with some influence from botrytis that adds a hokey pokey / creme brulee character to the finish. Quail with fois gras mousse, pickled nashi, maple syrup and mustard (pictured) was the perfect match. I'm not sure I would serve this wine as cold as it was on the day although of course colder is better warmer in an Auckland summer as the wine soon loses that icy edge.

Lawson's Dry Hills The Pioneer Pinot Gris 2009 ($32) sees no oak, unlike the standard LDH PG, and thus it seems quite fresh.  Spiced pear characterises this full-bodied wine that is textural, warm and savoury with hints of musk and a grapey richness. The match of Free range pork belly with butter poached lobster, truffle butter and lemon vincotto was absolutely divine.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 14th 2010

Valentine's Day wine for Petrol Heads

What do petrol heads give to their loved ones on Valentines Day?  Wine and roses of course.

pistonnoir.jpg (61225 bytes)You could start with a Issigonis (est. 1959) Vintage Rover Riesling, lots of petrol in this racy wine but if you prefer something softer, then what about a nice little oily Special Reserve Pinot Grease?  If you've an ulterior motive for serving up the wine, then a couple of glasses of the Cam Shaftonnay will be sure to get your Valentine's head into a spin.  Follow that with a pulsating Piston Noir - it will fill your mouth with sparks of taste. For lovers of oaky styles, you simply have to try the Leyland Estate Carburetor Sauvignon, aged in multi barrels.

These were just some of the wines on display at the New Zealand Classic Car Weekend Concours d'Elegance, held at Ellerslie Racecourse today. With red roses and wines by candlelight for the courting cars, the Mini Car Club of Auckland won best stand for their magnificent entry in the Valentine's Day Classic Car theme.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 12th 2010

Pinotage Party

I received an invitation to join in the Pinotage Party this Friday and as I'm in New Zealand with a time zone that is 13 hours ahead of GMT, I'll be partying on my own for a few hours until the other time zones catch up. I'm one of at least a dozen Pinotage partygoers aiming to prove hat 'misunderstood' Pinotage is indeed worth buying and trying, and in my case cellaring.

I decided to open the Kerr Farm Kumeu Pinotage 2004, a wine I actually picked up when Peter May of the Pinotage Club, and author of PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa's Own Wine was visiting New Zealand. I took him to Kerr Farm vineyard, just 25 minutes north of New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, on a very good traffic day, and here we found the oldest Pinotage grapevines that still exist in this country for the production of Pinotage wines.   These vines were planted in 1969 and some of the fruit from these old vines are part of the blend, the remainder being the 'newer' plantings in the Kerr Farm vineyard, c. 1999.

KerrP04.jpg (38239 bytes)The colour is dark ruby with splashes of garnet. It is fine in appearance with a deep translucency that is almost opaque in the centre of the glass. It smells earthy and savoury with boot nugget and a hint of game meat.  A deep sense of berry fruit also emanates from the glass, perhaps tomato stalk too. Surprisingly fresh to the taste, the underlying acidity that hums through the wine is holding it in a youthful phase.  The fruit is bright and juicy and ranges from wild strawberry to red and black cherry to redcurrant to plum. It has a spicy kick, a Syrah-like pepperiness, there's a creaminess to the oak and the tannins are firm.The earthy savouriness so upfront on the bouquet plays a supporting background role to start, held in check by the abundant fruit, but pushes its way forward with a crescendo-like flourish on the finish. There are mushrooms and woody herbs and I also detect the slightest suggestion of mint. A fascinating wine, it's changing in the glass as we sip it - and it reconfirms why I like this intriguing, funky and always interesting variety called Pinotage.

This wine was matured in a combination of French and American oak, the label says 13.6% alcohol and the bottle is closed with a screwcap.  No longer available, the current vintage is 2006 and it costs NZ$20 a bottle.  Click here for a review of this wine in February 2007 - I visited the vineyard when the Pinotage vines were undergoing veraison.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 11th 2010

Pinot Noir 2010 redux

Trying to find a complete list of the wines tasted in the formal tasting sessions at Pinot Noir 2010, someone's reviews, anyone's reviews, I stumbled across Jamie Drummond's blog. This Edinburgh-born Toronto-based chap looks like a bit of a fun loving joker, judging by some of the photos he posted, but his wine reviews had a modicum of seriousness about them. Actually it's quite good to read the reviews of someone well removed from the NZ wine industry, someone who doesn't know the winemakers personally and is not concerned with the hype of any wine. Just honest assessments from that person's impressions on that day at that place at that time.

So to find out what was tasted at Pinot Noir 2010, and what Jamie Drummond thought of the wines, follow the links after the day's list of wines. I've also included some tweets from some of the international media that attended. What did they think of it all?

Session One - Day One: "Regional Pinot Noir Tasting"
(note, there is nothing north of the Tararua Ranges in this line-up)
1 Alan McCorkindale Pinot Noir 2007 - Waipara Valley
2 Craggy Range Aroha Pinot Noir 2007- Martinborough
3 Neudorf Vineyards Moutere Pinot Noir 2007- Nelson
4 Peregrine Pinot Noir 2007- Central Otago
5 TWR Te Whare Ra Pinot Noir 2007 - Marlborough
6 Valli Vineyards Bannockburn Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007- Central Otago
7 Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Pinot Noir 2007- Marlborough
Click here for Jamie's reviews

Some twitter comments on this tasting
Tim Atkin: "Loved the Neudorf most. Though it could have been a top Martinborough." (Sue says, "Ah, so it is not only me that makes that kind of mistake").

Session two - Day One: "Seven Years On Tasting"
1 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2003 - Martinborough
2 Craggy Range "Te Muna Road Vineyard" Pinot Noir 2003 - Martinborough
3 Te Kairanga "Reserve" Pinot Noir 2003 - Martinborough
4 Staete Landt "Estate" Pinot Noir 2003 - Marlborough
5 Wither Hills Pinot Noir 2003 - Marlborough
6 Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2003 - Waipara
7 Pegasus Bay "Prima Donna" Pinot Noir 2003 - Waipara
8 Felton Road "Block 5? Pinot Noir 2003 - Central Otago
9 Mount Difficulty "Target Gully" Pinot Noir 2003 - Central Otago
10 Rippon Pinot Noir 2003 - Central Otago
Click here for Jamie's reviews

Some twitter comments on this tasting
Tim Atkin: "Ten wines in 20 minutes. Jesus! This is speed tasting. "
"Wine 9 under-rated by the panel. Wine 7 also great. Otherwise panel talking up the wines? Didn't like 1 at all"
"Some of them are knackered. Wines not the panel. Mind you 03 Burgundies won't look too flash right now. "
Jamie Goode: "Tasting seven year old pinots. The panel are not being honest enough about some of the wines polite and boring comments - panel being polite but Neal martin very brave and honest from floor "
Neal Martin: "Upset 400 delegates after slating PN 2003s. tough love! "
"400 thnx from delegates for voicing what they were thinking! "
Leslie Sbrocco: "Stars of tasting in NZ of 7 year aged pinots: elegant Ata Rangi, stunning Pegasus Bay Prima Donna & Felton Road. "
Anthony Gismondi: "2003 NZ pinots interesting but most past their prime. I suspect the latest crop will be better in 2016. "

Session Three - Day Two: "The Sustainable Tasting"   (All 2007's)
1 Dry River Pinot Noir Martinborough (Sustainable)
2 Palliser Estate Pinot Noir Martinborough (Sustainable)
3 Villa Maria Estate "Reserve" Pinot Noir Marlborough (Sustainable)
4 Montana "Letter Series – T Terraces" Pinot Noir Marlborough (Sustainable)
5 Pyramid Valley "Grower’s Collection – Eaton Family Vineyard" Pinot Noir (Organic Practices)
6 Seresin Estate "Raupo Creek" Pinot Noir Marlborough (Biodynamic and Organic Practices)
7 Seresin Estate "Home" Pinot Noir Marlborough (Biodynamic and Organic Practices)
8 Muddy Water Pinot Noir Waipara (Biodynamic and Organic Practices)
9 Rippon Pinot Noir Central Otago (Biodynamic and Organic Practices)
10 Mount Edward "Morrison Vineyard" Pinot Noir Central Otago (Biodynamic and Organic
11 Pyramid Valley "Calvert Vineyard" Pinot Noir Central Otago (Organic, moving to Biodynamic)
12 Felton Road "Calvert Vineyard" Pinot Noir Central Otago (Organic, moving to Biodynamic)
13 Craggy Range "Calvert Vineyard" Pinot Noir Central Otago (Organic, moving to Biodynamic)
Click here for Jamie's reviews

Some twitter comments on this tasting
Tim Atkin: "biodynamics went mainstream in UK when a retailer consulted lunar calendar before holding tastings"
"Exciting tasting - significantly better than '03's yesterday - would be great to taste these in a few years time"
Jamie Goode: "Much more serious set of NZ pinots at this mornings tasting - brilliant "

Session Four - Day Three: "The International tasting"
1-De Bortoli Reserve Release Pinot Noir 2007 -Yarra Valley, Australia
2 Au Bon Climat " Isabelle" Pinot Noir 2006 - California, USA
3 Muddy Water Hares Breath Pinot Noir 2007 - Waipara, NZ
4 Domaine Camille Giroud, Chambertin Grand Cru 2006 - Cotes de Nuits, Burgundy, France
5 Felton Road, Block 5 Pinot Noir 2007-Central Otago, NZ
6 Littorai "Mays Canyon" Pinot Noir 2006 - Russian River Valley, California, USA
7 Domaine Jacques Frederic Mugnier Nuits St. George 1er Cru "Clos de la Marechele" 2006
8 Elk Cove Vineyard "Reserve" Pinot Noir 2006 - Northern Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
9 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2007 - Martinborough, NZ
10 Comte Armand, Volnay 2006 - Burgundy, France
Click here for Jamie's reviews

Some twitter comments on this tasting
TimAtkin: "My 6 and 10 are corked. Yellow card? Wine 4 shocking Burgundy in my view."
"9 a Central wine? I love it. "
"Several awful wines. Burgundy outclassed by De Bortoli, Felton and Ata Rangi"
"not great Burgundy vintages"
Rebecca Gibb: "Oz Clarke was so unmoved by the 2006 Camille Giroud, Chambertin Grand Cru that he said he found it as exciting as a "bus timetable".
Regan McCaffrey (NZ): "The Burgundies were really not that good with the exception of the Camille Chambertin but it seems there was a lot of bottle variation."

Other general comments

Anthony Gismondi "The back label is the single most important piece of real estate in the wine business and few use it well. "
"New Zealand is premium focused yet presents its wines with little or no geographical information. "
"NZ pinot is as good or better than 90 percent of all pinots sold internationally"
"Canadian monopolies should get off their ass and start buying more New Zealand pinot noir. "

So there you have it for another three years.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 10th 2010

Plagiarising wine notes

It's quite sad when someone steals your reviews and doesn't acknowledge them. In the writing world that is plagiarism.

I found a website today that has copied several of my Wine of the Week wine reviews with no acknowledgment that I wrote the reviews nor any link back to They are not copied word for word or letter for letter, because they've managed to introduce typos - some silly typos at that.

They've even stolen the name - New Zealand Wine of the Week, as it appears on the front page of, while acknowledging the the original reviews to New Zealand Touring, with the cheek to add a copyright.

Most recently the review for Alpha Domus AD The Aviator 2007 has been stolen.

My review said:
" Right from the first sniff the aromas emanate the wine's class with French oak, cedar, cassis and a hint of dried herb and thyme. That classy oak carries through to the palate - lovely cedary French oak that adds savouriness and a subtle spiciness to the deep, concentrated blackberry, plum and cassis fruit with hints of red liquorice adding a flourish to the finish……

The stolen review:
"The very first sniff of the
aroma emanate the wines class with French Oak, cedar and a hint of dried herd and thyme. That classy oak carries through to the palate-lovely cedary French Oak that adds savouriness and a subtle spiciness to the deep, concentrated blackberry, plum and cassis fruit with hints of red liquorice adding a flourish to the finish."

So people 'borrow' reviews all the time, but they acknowledge the source. This person is passing them off as their own.

Who is behind this site?  Who is the person who says on their introduction page, "Also I have included a weekly review of New Zealand wines".

I added a comment to the Alpha Domus review but with comments being moderated I'm afraid the site owner will press the delete button instead of publishing the comment.   It hasn't been published yet.

Other reviews of mine that have been plagiarised are

Church Road Chardonnay 2006
Crater Rim Waipara Riesling 2008
Astrolabe Kekerengu Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Wooing Tree Tickled Pink Rose 2009
Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Blackenbrook Nelson Pinot Gris 2008
Urlar Pinot Gris 2008
Felton Road Pinot Noir 2008
Pasquale Alma Mater 2008
Te Mata Woodthorpe Syrah 2007
West Brook Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2007

Others don't make sense like a review labelled Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 (the notes for this unknown are off my site), and a second entry for West Brook Chardonnay 2007 that describes a red wine.

So you have to wonder what else on this site is plagiarised without any reference to the original author or original source.  There are no names on the site and the form on the 'Contact Us' page has 'comments are closed'.  I've done a Who IS lookup, so I have some clues.

Hey guys, this is NOT okay.   

Update 11th Feb: Since posting the above several of the wine reviews, including Alpha Domus AD The Aviator, have been removed. I'm a little surprised. They could have simply asked permission to post the notes and put all the appropriate credits in place.

My husband checked out the site and here's what he had to say: -

"You’ve gotta wonder at this guy. His command of the English language is terrible. Or maybe his brain works faster than his fingers on the keyboard and he doesn’t have a spell checker.
He says, “There are 8 major Wineries in New Zealand….” !!!!!!!
Then you have Kerikaua, Gisbone, Cantabury and Marlboro. Babich makes the best wine he has ever tried.
Marlborough and Central Otago don’t rate a mention as wine regions.
The winery snippets, like Coopers Creek, are cut directly off their web sites as well, with no links back to them.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 6th 2010

Wednesday's tasting highlights

Just posted my notes from Wednesday's tasting and even though I'm posting them on Waitangi Day - a day unique to New Zealand, it's the Aussie wines that I'm going to rave about and a couple from Western Australia in particular.

Three weeks ago Western Australian wines featured so it was a surprise to have a couple more although the palate didn't complain.   Howard Park WA Chardonnay 2006 ($56) is one classy wine - smooth, creamy, fruity, savoury, salivating and moreish. I reckon this could give the Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay 2005, that we tasted three weeks ago, a challenge - yes, absolutely.  Of course the LEAS is regarded as the 1st growth Australian Chardonnay by many and its price reflects that.   It's twice the price of the Howard Park but is it twice as good? I don't think so!

Sandalford Margaret River Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 ($22) was the red wine buy of the night. After a couple of Italians it was instantly Australia on the nose with a bouquet of blackcurrant, eucalyptus, mint and dried red earth following through to the velvety smooth yet powerful and grunty palate with skilful use of American oak. The style I could quite happily drink.

But just because it is Waitangi Day, and because there is an Aromatics Symposium on in Nelson today, I'm also tipping the tasty Waimea Nelson Pinot Gris 2008 ($16). Served chilled, as all the whites were on the night, this golden coloured, medium sweetish wine hinted of botrytis with honey and spice and a touch of mandarin juice-like acidity to balance the juicy pear sweetness. Texturally rich, it seemed remarkably Alsace in style. I liked it.

Check out all my notes on my Wednesday Roundup page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 5th 2010

Pinot Noir Week - $30 and under

Carrying on from a few days ago when I tasted Pinot Noirs under $26 with a trio of Auckland wines coming out on top I continued on the price point theme, this time with seven wines in the price range $26 to $30.  How would they perform, especially given the comments by British critic Oz Clarke at the conclusion of Pinot Noir 2010 yesterday warning Pinot Noir winemakers not to flood the market with cut price wine?  Not that the $26 to $30 is 'cut price' anyway but winemakers are producing second and even third labels considerably cheaper than their flagship Pinots.  The top wine in my tasting (top by a long long way and the only gold medal / five star rating) was exactly one of those.Tom's Block

Neudorf Tom's Block Pinot Noir 2008 is the third Pinot Noir in the pecking order from this revered Nelson producer and it's only $29 a bottle compared to the $49 'Moutere' and $69 'Home Block' renditions. But it's of the same high standard nevertheless. Right from the outset with it funky, pinotesque aroma, you know you have something special in the glass and the taste confirms that notion.  It's bright yet earthy and savoury with a touch of chocolate coated strawberry and bitter sweet cherry.   Dry yet juicy with fine textured velvety tannins, it makes me think of the classic James Halliday proclamation, "sex on the forest floor".  It's going to take a while for this wine to ascend to its plateau. There are 8 different Pinot Noir clones that contribute to the wine and I'm sure the spontaneous fermentation has something to do with the funkiness and texture. The result - tasty, sensual wine that delivers excellent value for money.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 4th 2010

Pinot Noir Week - A Dry River mini vertical

With the focus of my last article firmly on the Martinborough wine region to set the historical perspective of New Zealand's number one red wine grape, what could be better than to feature a mini vertical of Pinot Noir from one of Martinborough's most revered producers, Dry River Wines.  These wines were tasted last October along with mini verticals of Dry River's other varietals - those mini verticals to be featured sometime soon.  But this week is Pinot Noir Week, so Pinot Noir it must be.

Dry River Pinot Noirs 2004 to 2007The mini vertical highlights climatic variations from four excessively diverse growing seasons and demonstrates that "Mother Nature is more powerful than we are".

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2004 (13% alcohol, cork)
Of the four wines, this is the lightest and most 'mature' in colour but when tasted it is the most thought provoking wine of all. A 'mead' character and soft floral aromas emanate from the glass and the flavours are savoury, spicy and earthy with underlying citrus acidity and fruit most reminiscent of cherry. The texture is not what I would have initially called silky as it still has some grip - but in comparison to the younger wines it is indeed silky. There's a voluptuous to the wine and it's ready to drink and enjoy now.
A mild dry spring and a warm settled summer set more bunches with increased berry weights.  The crop was reduced by half at veraison yet it was still a reasonably big vintage with yields of 2.2 tonnes an acre.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2005 (13.5% alcohol, cork)
Deep in hue, this is extremely evocative on the nose - it smells earthy with a varnishy veneer yet has a fragrance of anise and violets too. This deep rich wine is even more evocative in the mouth with its lifted spicy fruit sweetness and incredible spectrum of spice, florals, acidity and earthiness while the tannins are grainy and textural and more defined. Only a year younger than the 2004, but far more concentrated and bright. A long term prospect.
Cool wet spring and early resulted in reduced bunces and berries. The tiny vintage yielded just 550kg an acre.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2006 (13.5% alcohol, cork)
A concentrated dark red in colour, this has a deep sense to the gamey aromas with some paint box nuances coming through. After the 'elegant' 2004 and the 'bright' 2005, this seems a little 'clunky'. In the mouth it's a big wine, a deep wine, an earthy, savoury, gamey wine with dark cherry and ripe plummy fruit, a grainy texture and hints of chocolate and mocha. On the day it was my least preferred of the four and I remember back to when I tasted this wine not long after release. It was a big brooding dark savoury wine back then but the second day, with some air introduced into the bottle, it had evolved into a exquisite butterfly. I said it would easily cellar for 10 year and I haven't changed my mind. It's still evolving and needs decanting for best enjoyment right now.
A cold wet spring was followed by a severe drought in the summer with warm rains during early stages of harvest.  Below average crop was due to cooler than normal flowering conditions. Yield was 1.1 tonnes an acre.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2007 (13% alcohol, cork)
Dense yet bright in its ruby-hued colour, this fragrantly aromatic wine emanates dark cherry, spiced tamarillo and mocha from the glass. As I sit swirling the glass and inhaling the scent I become more and more besotted with the aroma as anise, bitter chocolate and violets add to the alluring bouquet. A huge contrast from the brooding 2006 - it has more red than black fruit, more fragrance, delicious stewed tamarillo (I love stewed tamarillo), spice notes and a classic earthy savouriness and while the tannins have some grip, they have a silky sense. 2007 has been extolled as "textbook season" and the result we see here is "textbook Martinborough pinot noir". Magnificent.
Frost damage in spring reduced berry numbers and weight with excessive canopy as a result. The early season harvest yielded 800kg an acre.

Dry River Martinborough Pinot Noir 2007 was featured in the 'Sustainable Wines' tasting held yesterday at Pinot Noir 2010 and rated by the Who's who (who?) of the vinous twitterati. 

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 3rd 2010

Pinot Noir Week - A New Zealand history Part 1

So what's the buzz about New Zealand Pinot Noir and why is a four-day conference dedicated to praising the virtues of New Zealand Pinot Noir being held in Wellington right now?

It's because Pinot Noir loves to grow in New Zealand's diverse wine regions and is so popular with winegrowers it is now New Zealand's number one red wine grape and is the second most planted wine grape after Sauvignon Blanc.

Why have so many international critics been invited to this conference that's called Pinot Noir 2010? The answer is the word needs to be spread.

Map by Sue CourtneyPinot Noir has been around in New Zealand for quite a long time and plantings can be traced back to a Wairarapa vineyard established in 1892 by Frenchwoman Marie Zelie, wife of William Beetham Jr. The story goes that she missed her native France so much that within a year of moving to the lower North Island she planted a small vineyard to remind her of home.

But it wasn't until 1980 that Pinot Noir became a serious proposition for growers thanks to the Milne family of Martinborough Vineyards fame. Derek Milne had produced a report for the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR). Milne recognised that Martinborough in the southern Wairarapa had a close climatic analog to Burgundy. Martinborough Vineyard was established and Pinot Noir vines, amongst others were planted. The modern history of New Zealand's Pinot Noir revival had begun.

Initially few clones were available but Gisborne winegrower Bill Irwin imported new 'table wine' clones in the 1970's. Yet still the most commonly planted clone was more suited to sparkling wines than full-bodied reds.

A chance encounter between a winemaker customs officer at the airport and a traveller who had smuggled in a vine cutting, purportedly from Romanee de la Conti, was the catalyst for change. The customs officer was Malcolm Abel. He was also a winegrower in Kumeu and was producing Pinot Noir. So rather than confiscating the cutting he had it quarantined and when the first cuttings off the quarantined material became available he planted them in his vineyard. The clone became known as the 'Abel Clone' and although the Abel & Co. wine was the first to be released, it was his good friend Clive Paton, who got cuttings from Malcolm when establishing his new Ata Rangi vineyard, that gave this clone its fame.

After Malcolm Abel's untimely death in 1981 (aged only 38), the vineyard was taken over and eventually sold. It is now called Gracehill Vineyard Estate and only a few token grapevines remain.

But the Abel clone lives on and is sought after by producers of serious, savoury Pinot Noirs. It provided most of the material for the early Martinborough plantings and it was this region's wine that proved that serious Pinot Noir could be produced in New Zealand.

By the mid 1980's. four producers were flying the flag for Martinborough Vineyards, Ata Rangi, Chifney Estate and Dry River. Martinborough Vineyards and Ata Rangi are the only two to get a mention in Peter Saunders' 1986 edition of A Guide to New Zealand Wines. Dry River makes his 1987 guide. Chifney and newcomer Te Kairanga make his 1989 supplement.

In 1989 Muller Thurgau was still leading New Zealand's production by a huge margin. It accounted for 1305 hectares (ha) of vine land followed by Chardonnay (487 ha), Sauvignon Blanc (343 ha), Cabernet Sauvignon (396 ha) Riesling (266 ha), Muscat varieties (244 ha), Chenin Blanc, (204 ha), Gewurztraminer (164 ha), then Pinot Noir (138 ha).

Over the next few years the landscape of New Zealand vineyards would rapidly change.

To be continued ……

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 2nd 2010

Pinot Noir Week - Auckland beauties under $25

Believe it or not, Pinot Noir does perform in Auckland although attendees at Pinot Noir 2010  may not realise it.

The hype at Pinot Noir 2010 will be for Martinborough, Central Otago, Nelson, Waipara, Marlborough, probably in that order - although Marlborough needs to be further up the list IMHO.

Best known of the Auckland producers is Kumeu River Wines who are known for their tight Burgundy-lookalike styles.

Hyperion grows Pinot Noir in Matakana, sometimes quite light but in a vintage like 2007, just right.

But it is at West Brook, in Waimauku, not far from Kumeu River, where Pinot Noir is performing beyond expectations. I hope delegates at Pinot Noir 2010 go to their stand to try the wines.

With a mini vertical - 06, 07,08 - of the Waimauku Pinot Noir - the wine in the mouth speaks.

West Brook Waimauku Pinot Noir 2006 - A lighter wine in appearance - translucent dark garnet with savoury aromas, a creamy backbone, a silky texture and well defined cherry fruit. Funky with loads of pinosity and a spicy flourish to the earthy finish. Very very good.

West Brook Waimauku Pinot Noir 2007 - intense colour, almost opaque. Rich and savoury, deep and intense, silky, savoury, fruity gamey - and approachable as well - this performs on every level. Excellent.

West Brook Waimauku Pinot Noir 2008 - colour in between the 06 and 07 in hue. A youthful brightness, a stalky freshness, a herbal savouriness and just a little grip. Laden with funky pinosity. Good.

The 06 and 07 were eyebrow raisers at Wine New Zealand in September 2008 and the 07 went on to win gold at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards that November.

People who dare to try them at Pinot Noir 2010 will raise their eyebrows too, I'm sure.

"Auckland Pinot Noir," they will exclaim. Most definitely yes.

These wines were the highlight of a group of Pinot Noirs selected to taste by price point. It was an 'Under $26' tasting. These clock in at $24.95 at the cellar door. Incredible value for money and worth trying.  The 06 and 07 seem to be sold out but the 08 is still available.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 1st 2010

Pinot Noir 2010

The New Zealand twitterati is afluttter with tweets from Pinot Noir 2010, the fourth conference dedicated to New Zealand Pinot Noir being held in Wellington, New Zealand this week. It's a huge event and according to TV3 news, "The four-day event will see 300 of the world's most influential critics jetting in to Wellington". Maybe the figures are somewhat inflated by TV3 but perhaps 30 international critics have been invited and are attending courtesy of New Zealand winegrowers and the organisers of the event. It's clear that the international critics are the royal delegates.

I'd like to be jetting in too but unlike the twitterati glitterati eg Jamie Goode and Neal Martin who tweeted about flying business class from London to Pinot Noir 2010 (Jamie's blog and Neal's blog), I had to pay my own airfares from Auckland and find my own accommodation. So I declined the full media pass to Pinot Noir 2010. I really wanted to be there for the last day which includes the Great Pinot Noirs of the World tasting and the gala dinner, but with an overlap for the start of the Wellington Sevens (rugby league), accommodation for that night was very much at a premium.

When the first national Pinot Noir event happened in 2001 my report was virtually the only report of the conference available on the Internet - like this report here and I wrote about the event for Wine Enthusiast magazine too. This time Wine Enthusiast editor Joe Czerwinski is here and with so many other people blogging and tweeting, my reports won't be missed. Still I'll make a point of tasting Pinot Noir this week and write about those wines here.

So I'll miss hearing the Business Class celebs like Jamie Goode and Neal Martin speak, but I'm know that I'm going to be able to read about what they say, thanks to the Internet.

Jamie is a speaker in the Sustainability, Organics and Biodynamics seminar. Nick Mills from Rippon is on that panel and he is one of NZ's leading biodynamic experts (along with James Millton), in my opinion.

Neal Martin is one of the panellists in the Great Pinot Noirs of the World tasting. Incidentally, Neal is going to be joined (and the question has been asked will he be eventually replaced) by Lisa Perotti Brown MW in reviewing New Zealand wines for the Robert Parker brand. Ms Perotti Brown is based in Singapore, a little closer to the New Zealand than the UK.

Some links to find out what is going on - updated every day with a report on his NZ wine tour - tweets from the conference - tweets from the conference

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Feb 1st 2010

WOTW: Pegasus Bay Bel Canto Dry Riesling 2008

Like the champions of the just completed Australian Open, this Week's Wine of the Week
is from a producer who has many challengers but despite the onslaught, still remains at the top. The discipline in this case is Riesling and the producer is Pegasus Bay in the Waipara wine region in the South Island. When it comes to New Zealand wineries, the Pegasus Bay Rieslings simply dazzle across all the styles they make them in.  Read more ....

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