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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: March 2010
Mar 26th: Time Travel
Mar 22nd: Monday Update Te Mata and Trophies
Mar 18th: A Series of Sauvs from Sileni
Mar 17th: A Prime perspective of Prophet's Rock
Mar 15th: Monday Update sharing the love
Mar 11th: Pinot Noir 2010 videos online
Mar 10th: Meeting Nina from Catalina
Mar 9th: Nautilus Estate's 25th Anniversary
Mar 8th: Harvest Festival at West Brook
Mar 6th: Gold Medal Summary Updated
Mar 5th: Highlights from Wednesday's Tasting
Mar 4th: Treasures from a Cellar - Part 3
Mar 3rd: Treasures from a Cellar - Part 2
Mar 2nd: Treasures from a Cellar - Part 1
Mar 1st: A Zone Becoming a Boundary
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 26th 2010

Time Travel

I'm on the road for the next few weeks so updates to and this blog will be sporadic because it is time for travel amongst the vineyards and other parts of this beautiful country we call Aotearoa, New Zealand. 

Vineyard visits will be frequent and unplanned.  I'm travelling incognito, a wine tourist, to see how enthusiastic the people at the winery cellar doors are with visitors and I'll share the highs and lows with readers of my blog.

Got rather excited last night at a BBQ in Blenheim with fellow travellers who were drinking a rather upmarket wine - Craggy Range Te Kahu 2007, a Merlot from the Gimblett Gravels region in Hawkes Bay.  "It was only $6.99," they said, so my husband took off to buy some. $22.99, he said on his return with two bottles in his hand.  Seems the wine on the shelf underneath was the $6.99 one and they hadn't checked their receipt, so it was not the 'bargain of the century' at all.  Caro's in Auckland have it cheaper.  Good wine, nevertheless, how could it not be with 2007 the year?  And perfect with the barbecued rump.

This week's Wine of the Week was posted belatedly, and in the possible absences of updates, it is next week's Wine of the Week as well.  Not one wine, but several, the Escarpment Insight Series, including the magnificent Kupe by Escarpment, from Larry McPinot, um McKenna.  Click here to read those reviews.

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

Monday Update Te Mata and Trophies

Te Mata Tasting

Have posted the notes from last Wednesday's tasting of the Te Mata new releases hosted by Nicholas Buck. I had the opportunity to taste these wines two weeks previously and I have to say the whites served at the first tasting were icy cold - so cold that the temperature did not do justice to the wines. At the Wednesday tasting the serving temperature was ideal - lightly chilled, perhaps an hour or so in the fridge - and what a difference this made. The intricacies and layers of the Zara Viognier, the integration of the oak in the Elston Chardonnay - beautiful wines at the right temperature but awkward wines in a tasting situation when you have to take a snapshot and don't have time to let the wines warm up. Perhaps the only wine that could really take the excessive chilling was the current vintage release (2009) of the Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc.

Of course, chilling is not a problem with the reds at this time of year; hopefully they get nowhere near a refrigerator. From the previous tasting I wrote up only the 1998 reds, as I knew I would taste the other wines again. This time, however, a treat was in store with the 2005 reds opened to compare to the new vintage 2008's.

I really have to say the 2005 Coleraine was one of the best examples of a young(ish) New Zealand Bordeaux-inspired wine that I have tried for a long time. On a previous tasting of the 2005, 3 years ago, the oak was dominant and the fruit hidden behind the wooden door. But the bottle I tasted from on Wednesday night was magnificent, sensational - superlatives just flow.

All the notes are on my Wednesday tasting page. I also have a Coleraine summary page of tastings from various times, going back to the 1982.

Trophies announced

The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards gongs were handed out on Saturday night. Champion Wine of the Show was awarded to Pinot Noir, this time Mondillo Pinot Noir 2008 from Central Otago. Grown in Bendigo by Domenic Mondillo and made by Rudi Bauer, this is a gorgeous wine. After the NZ International Wine Show, where it won a gold medal - a rare 2008 vintage gold medal amongst a raft of 2007's, I wrote ...

"Deep marone with a youthful brightness. Fragrant, smoky, herb-infused, fruit-driven aromatics and intense, powerful flavours with deep, dark, plum and black cherry fruit, a spicy tingle, a touch of chocolate, dried herbs and a long savoury, silky, seamless finish and the much sought after 'peacocks tail' flair."

Congratulations Domenic and Rudi.

Other trophy winning wines were

Champion Chardonnay: Sacred Hill Rifleman’s Chardonnay 2007
Champion Gewurztraminer: Omihi Road Waipara Gewurztraminer 2008
Champion Sauvignon Blanc: Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 Oh! Block Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Champion Riesling: Lawson's Dry Hills Riesling 2007
Champion Pinot Gris: Lake Chalice Marlborough Eyrie Vineyard Pinot Gris 2009
Champion Viognier: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Viognier 2009
Champion Wine of Other Varieties: Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2008
Champion Sweet Wine: Coopers Creek Marlborough Late Harvest Riesling 2009
Champion Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot: Villa Maria Res. Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2008
Champion Merlot: Church Road Cuvée Merlot 2007
Champion Syrah: Trinity Hill Homage Syrah 2007
Champion Pinot Noir: Mondillo Pinot Noir 2008
Champion Rosé: Wooing Tree Blondie 2009
Champion Methode Champenoise: Deutz Marlborough Cuvée Blanc de Blancs 2006
Champion Export Wine: Clifford Bay Awatere Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009

All the results can be found on

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

A Series of Sauvs from Sileni

It seems to be in vogue now for producers not to create just one Sauvignon Blanc but several. Saint Clair, Villa Maria and Montana are the leaders in showcasing Sauvignon Blanc from single sites, especially from within the greater Marlborough region. Now Sileni Estate has expanded their range by adding a Benchmark Block series to their 'Estate Selection' wines. Joining 'The Straits' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and 'The Cape' Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc are Omaka Slopes, Thirteen Rows, Trinity Vines and Woolshed with the Benchmark Block designation. if you also count the Cellar Selection and Satyr ranges, that's now eight different Sauvignon Blancs from Sileni.

sileni-sb.jpg (71587 bytes)Recently I tried four of the Estate Selection wines.

Sileni The Cape Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is a little funky on the nose, perhaps some oak / wild yeast stuff going on, then classic gooseberry / capsicum underpinning the scent. Abundant tropical fruit, heading towards pineapple, with a slightly oily character, perhaps a hint of oak and a spicy, zesty finish. Different to other three in so many ways, as it should be seeing it was from Hawkes Bay.

Sileni Benchmark Block Woolshed Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 has fruity aromatics though, for Sauv, it is quite restrained in its scent. In the palate this is more classic gooseberry supported by rich, powerful tropical fruit with pineapple Fruju flavours on the lingering finish. Rounded, a little creamy, with soft acidity.

Sileni Benchmark Block Trinity Vines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is pungent with a smoky aura. A little grainy in texture - quite restrained compared to the others - perhaps some oak and lees action going on here - then the pineapple character present in all the wines comes through on the herbaceous-scored fruity finish and the aftertaste is long, rich and even a little creamy. This wine really grew on me in the tasting and tasting the wines again the next day it was even better.

Sileni 'The Straits' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 has fruity aromatics with a hint of snowpea. A gooseberry, fresh cut grass, herbaceous style with mango and hints of stonefruit. Bright, fresh and vivacious with lots of appeal. My favourite for simply drinking of the Sileni four.

After the tasting the wines were accompanied to a fresh fillet of Terakihi rolled in seasoned flour and pan-fried in a little oil and butter. It was accompanied with a Greek-inspired vegetable stew. Key ingredients were marrow, garlic, shallots, vine tomatoes, sweet red capsicum and pungent basil. 'The Straits' was the best food match with the fish and the vegetable stew together, however the Benchmark Block 'Woolshed' rose above the others when matched to the fish on its own and with the fish alone, it was 'The Straits' that was the only one that didn't really go.

Interesting, as always, to see wines from different regions and subregions from the same winemaking team.

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

A Prime perspective of Prophet's Rock

Prophet's Rock is a landmark in Central Otago, somewhere, lending its name to a vineyard, which coincidentally has a flat-topped, house-sized rock - you could use your imagination and visualise the prophet leading the people to Central Otago - firstly for its gold and now for its Pinot Noir. In 2002 it beckoned the Mulvey family to this piece of land in the old goldmining area of Bendigo, in front of Chinaman's Terrace, where they planted Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. A year before they had developed their Rocky Point Vineyard, with Pinot Noir and Riesling grapevines, on the other side of Lake Dunstan. The first Rocky Point Pinot Noir was produced in 2004 and the premium Prophet's Rock Pinot Noir followed in 2005

Paul Pujol is the winemaker. The Hamilton-born kiwi has a French father who gave him his name and his ability to speak fluent French. After graduating from Lincoln Uni, he set himself a mission to do five vintages in 12 months. In 2001 he worked at Seresin for the Marlborough harvest in March / April, then flew to France where he did vintages in the Languedoc region in August, the Loire Valley in September and in Maison Kuentz-Bas in Alsace from October for the remainder of the northern hemisphere season. He returned to New Zealand via the Hunter Valley for harvest in February the following year. His winemaking has also taken him to Oregon.

Paul arrived at Prophet's Rock for the 2006 vintage. He is a conscientious winemaker greatly inspired by his time in Alsace and lets all his wines undergo slow natural ferment in barrel.

Owner Mike Mulvey invited some of writers to lunch to meet Paul and to taste the wines.   The venue was Prime Bistro in Auckland.

As well as the Prophet Rock wines, Paul had bought some wines from his cellar that he had carried home with him from Kuentz-Bas, including two from the 2001 vintage when he was the first winemaker from outside of France to work at the winery. They were not to compare with his own wines, but to show the inspiration for his winemaking style.

The wines have cork closures, with corks imported from Alsace, a strong point of difference amongst the screwcapped and Diam closures so common today.

Prophet's Rock Central Otago Dry Riesling 2008 ($29-$32)
Straw yellow gold in colour emanating earthy pithy aromatics with ripe apple nuances and kero. Dry, steely, warm and rich with lemony tones of all degrees. Concentrated with pleasing palate weight, this serious wine has a lovely light touch to the lasting finish. Approx 9g/l rs with a pH of 2.0 and acidity around 7.5.

Kuentz-Bas Alsace Grand Cru Pfersigberg Riesling 1997
Rich yellow gold with a dry, smoky, earthy aroma with a concentrated peach and orange marmalade richness and a silky texture with honey and a butter lolly creaminess to the finish. The concentration and power of this high-toned wine is phenomenal.

Both wines had the same residual sugar and it showed what age can do to these dry, rich styles. The food match was Ceviche of Hapuka with orange & salted rhubarb salad. For my palate, the older wine was the best match by a long shot.

Prophet's Rock Central Otago Pinot Gris 2009 ($29-$32)
Richer in colour than the PR Riesling, which is a year older, this has distinct pear drop aromatics with a ripe, heady aura. Oily in texture with a savoury spiciness, it seems dry to start but a seam of lusciousness underpins the focussed palate. Flavours are layered with pip fruit, sage-like herbs, savoury oak and spices. I like this very much.

Kuentz-Bas Alsace Grand Cru Brand Tokay Pinot Gris 2001
Smoky, savoury scents with a hint of matchstick giving way to apricot - this is a sweeter wine, yet dry as it traverses the palate. Stony, slightly silty texture - like satin, perhaps. Dry, spicy, and flinty yet with luscious apricot and pear concentration and a very pleasing, appealing, fruity aftertaste.

Prime's chef excelled by producing a Tarte pissaladiere, a pastry tart fill with slow cooked onion and topped with anchovies, olives and tomato. I was told the onions were cooked for about six hours. A brilliant match for both wines.

Prophet's Rock Rocky Point Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008   ($29-$32)
Bright ruby purple, translucent in appearance. Smoky, savoury, earthy, herb-infused aromatics - meaty yet with fruit sweetness coming through and later, cake spices. Dry and crisp with cracked berry fruit, mulled wine spices and a savoury depth. A tight wine despite the seductive aroma, it needs time to open up.

Prophet's Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005
Great nose - deep, earthy and savoury and deep, ripe, sweet and savoury favours. A fabulous wine and till looking very youthful with a bright spicy aura.

Prophet's Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006
Macerated fruit on the nose and seemingly jammy and ripe fruited in the palate. Not my fave.

Prophet's Rock Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 ($48-$50)
Served in an appropriate Burgundy glass to help the wine open up, yet it still had quite restrained scents of refined, concentrated red and black cherry. Quite oaky to start, but fruit brims from within - ripe fruit with cassis joining black cherry, then lovely anise-like spice and a sweet earthy savouriness.

Food match for the Pinot Noirs was Sliced roast sirloin with pommes puree, snails bourguignon and young vegetables. If I hadn't read the menu I never would have realised the tasty black morsels were snails - so richly flavoured, almost caramelised and oh so tender - the 2007 was the highlight with this food match. Prime's new chef, Robert Richardson, soaked his snails overnight, made a reduction from sweated vegetables with red wine and port, added the snails and some beef stock and braised them for two hours. Incredibly delicious. 

To finish the luncheon Kuentz-Bas Riesling Ice Wine 2001 - the top echelon of stickies and unusual from Alsace - 2001 was a year that produced no shrivel in the Kuentz-Bas vineyards north of Colmar, they could not even make a Vendage Tardive, but the strange season, with a two week hoar frost, froze the grapes for only the second time in 200 years. The bunches broke off easily without secateurs and they sounded like rocks when they landed in the bucket. Deep gold in the glass with  honeyed, waxy aromas underpinning the earthy aromatics and the rich, raisined, honeyed textured flavours have earthy nuances too. A once in a lifetime treat.

A very basic website exists at and wines are distributed through Merchant Wines (no website at all).

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

Monday Update sharing the love

New this week on is this week's Wine of the Week, the gorgeous Martinborough Vineyards Martinborough Terraces Chardonnay 2008 - click here to read the review.

Last Wednesday's tasting was Gold Medals from the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards. Click here to read those reviews. Only twelve of the 102 gold medal wines were tasted but a couple of trophies at least, I'm sure.  Will Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2008 make it three Trophy winners from the Easter Show, or will Villa Maria grab the Trophy from them this year?  Church Road won Champion Chardonnay with the Reserve 2004 and the Reserve 2006 and the gold medal winning Reserve 2008 is right on the mark. All will be revealed on Sunday March 20th, the night after the awards.

Bubbly Lisa Byrnes Whiting (and believe it, she is bubbly - she even has "Bubbles" as her online handle) is co-owner and marketing guru behind the new Lovewine website. Recently she asked me if I would share some of my articles on the Lovewine Professional Blog. Lovewine Professional is a platform for women who work in and with wine to share information, network and support each other all while loving wine with life!   "I can't pay you," she said (the story of my life and why I have turned so many of these fabulous offers down) but she promises to lift my profile.   With my being so despondent after meeting so many new winemakers around the country who have never heard of me and my website, which has been online for twelve years, I thought perhaps this is exactly what I need.   So I've made some minor changes to Catalina Sounds article (see March 10th entry below) and introduced Catalina's brand manager, Tracey Shain in the Lovewine article - you can read this here. Also check out the videos and the forums and the other blogs and articles while you are there.

Last of all my notebooks are filling up with notes and reviews - most recently a series of Sauvs from Sileni, a prime lunch with Prophet's Rock, an insight to Escarpment's new Pinot Noirs from Martinborough and a tasting with the Central Otago winemakers, who ventured north to the big smoke this afternoon.    When I start earning money I'll employ a secretary. Yeah, right!

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

Pinot Noir 2010 videos online

If you are like me and didn't make it to the Pinot Noir 2010, the glamour Pinot Noir event held in Wellington, New Zealand, at the beginning of February, you can see what it was all about because the video and audio files are now all available on line.  Just be warned, some are long - many over an hour and a half with the sustainable session just over two hours.  If you've got the time now and didn't have the money then, this is your chance to take in all the action.

You'll find the links here on the Pinot Noir 2010 Video and Audio page.  A chance for some celebrity wine critic spotting as well.

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

Meeting Nina from Catalina

An invitation to lunch at Soul on Auckland's Viaduct Basin was delightfully received. This is one of Auckland's top restaurants in one of the best locations. Sitting on the terrace is the place to be seen.

The occasion was to meet Nina Stocker, the young, pert, pretty winemaker from Catalina Sounds and to try the wines with Soul's delicious food. And yes, the food was delicious, beyond expectations. If you ever get the chance to try the Butter poached Crayfish ravioli with lemon and apple butter sauce topped with shreds of crispy leeks, you might think you had died and gone to heaven. Better when accompanied with wine - three of the Catalina Sounds wines would fit - the Chardonnay in particular, because that was the catalyst for the dish, but also the Riesling and the Pinot Gris on this occasion.

nina.jpg (37660 bytes)Winemaker Nina (pictured) is an Aussie import, her first vintage in New Zealand the 2009 - a year that culminated in winning Champion Sauvignon Blanc at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, so it's easy to understand why she is pretty excited about her job.  With no previous experience with Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, besides drinking it when she lived in Australia, perhaps it was Nina's palate in the blending room, crafting the wine from all the components, that gave this Trophy winning wine the edge?

It's not surprising Nina has a good palate. Her Australian parents lived in Switzerland, near Basel, where Nina was born, and participated in establishing a vineyard at Fluh, on the border near Alsace. On return to Australia, when Nina was 7, they established the Brave Goose Vineyard in Central Victoria. So you could say Nina's palate was attuned from her childhood. 

She initially didn't plan to go into winemaking, but after completing her Bachelor's degree at Monash University in Melbourne she decided to undertake a post graduate winemaking degree at the University of Adelaide. She worked in the Yarra Valley for three years and was in Portugal for the northern hemisphere vintage when she heard about the job in New Zealand at Endeavour Vineyards who own the Catalina Sounds, Nanny Goat, Crowded House and Clayfork brands. She applied for it and, obviously, she got it.

The pretaster - Catalina Sounds Marlborough Riesling 2007 is made in one of those rare Marlborough dry styles and with three years of age it is rich and piercing, dry and steely with great line and length and hints of kero coming through.

Catalina Sounds Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 is soft and heady with pear and musk scents. Quite a fat wine, leesy, bready, youthful, perhaps some oak (yes 4%), with good acid drive pulsating through the finish. I thought on its own it needed a little more time. Matched to Marinated tuna with ponzu and shitake mushroom, the delicious ponzu kind of overpowered the wine. Better on the day with the butter poached crayfish ravioli.

Catalina Sounds Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 seems like a big, fat, buttery style on first tasting with spicy oak, honey and savoury lees nuances - but there's a pleasing restraint to the wine with citrus characterising the dry, flinty finish. Matched decadently to butter poached crayfish ravioli, as mentioned above.

Catalina Sounds Marlborough Pinot Noir 2008 seems a bit stalky upfront. It is quite savoury with an earthy depth, a vinous rich mid palate and a hint of chocolate on the finish. It seemed very dry without food. Much better when accompanied with  Spiced duck with maple and sweet potato, grilled haloumi and toasted almonds.

Catalina Sounds Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is the Air New Zealand Wine Awards Champion. There's a softness to the wine that I really like.  The flavours are beautifully balanced with classic herbaceousness, bright citrus acidity, great length and persistence. Matched to Pan fried snapper, skin on, with whipped avocado, confit tomatoes and fried basil.  Hmm, sounds like just what I would do to showcase Sauvignon Blanc, without the avocado and the olive tapenade that was mysteriously on the plate.

Then to clean the palate before heading home, three sorbets - pineapple, raspberry and an intriguing apple and coriander.  The last was not sweet and the flavours combined nicely with Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc 2009.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 9th 2010

Nautilus Estate's 25th Anniversary

2010 minus 25 = 1985.  If you were born in 1985 you will be turn 25 in 2010 and so you share a birth year with Nautilus Estate.  They produced their first Sauvignon Blanc in 1985, although it wasn't from Marlborough. It was from Hawkes Bay fruit, but does that matter?  Their foray into Marlborough came in 1989 with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.   Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc came later. But the release of the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is still the 25th for Nautilus. 

At a soiree at The Big Picture Wine at the Auckland Fish Markets this evening, some older vintages of Nautilus Estate Sauvignon Blanc were tasted.  The 2002 looked good with a seam of limey acidity providing underlying verve to this very dry wine with a toasty complexity and mellowness from bottle age. A leap to the 2007 vintage with mellow, buttery scents and a creamy texture with mango and other tropical fruit, a zesty herbaceous backbone and well defined acidity to ensure this will age nicely. Then the zesty, pungent 2008 with more classic gooseberry and capsicum with melon and restrained tropical fruit and just a hint of a mellowing character creeping in on the long dry finish. Finally the anniversary vintage, the 2009, which was fresh, zesty, bright and powerful. Matched to a moist barbecued fillet of snapper topped with pesto and placed on a corn tortilla wrap - the food and 2009 combo was quite exciting.

If you check out this week's Wine of the Week, you will see I have reviewed the Mahi Twin Valley Vineyards Chardonnay 2008.   It was No. 1 in my Chardonnay tasting but for a while it was touch and go and I too-ed and fro-ed between this wine and another.  When the decision was made and the wines revealed, the runner-up wine was Nautilus Marlborough Chardonnay 2007. I really liked this lean restraint of this wine to start then the expansion of flavours on the palate - nutty, bready flavours with melon and pear and just a nuance of pineapple and the richness of the toasty oak that infiltrated the finish.  I thought it refined, sophisticated, real class. It was good to be able to chat to winemaker Clive Jones about this wine today  He said it was the first of the 'new generation' Chardonnay from Nautilus Estate, inspired by Clive after spending a vintage at Domaine Dujac in Burgundy in 2004.

When I told Clive his wine was pipped at the post by the Mahi in my tasting, mainly because of the texture, he nodded in a knowing way.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 8th 2010

Harvest Festival at West Brook

The week before last someone said, "Next week it is autumn". Unbelievable at the time with the February heat and humidity. March 1st arrived and it still seemed like summer. But the tropical-like downpour that evening signalled a change. Now, eight days into March, it's so true. That nip in the air in the morning, the dew, the wisp of fog in the valley, the last Golden Queen (peach) off the tree and an extra blanket ready at night signals autumn is knocking. And the grape harvest is underway.maoribay.jpg (57341 bytes)

But Auckland is still experiencing balmy hot days, just perfect for an afternoon of food and music among the vines after a morning at the beach, not just any beach but my favourite Muriwai and Maori Bay.

We called in at West Brook winery on the way home from Muriwai to see what the harvest festival was all about and tried a glass of the Easter Show gold medal endowed West Brook Waimauku Chardonnay 2008, made from grapes harvested off the vineyard right in front of us. Far too cold, the chilling accentuates the oak, but not a problem if you are buying a bottle to sit in the beautiful vineyard setting to have lunch and listen (or dance) to the music. The wine soon warms up.

westbrook.jpg (59371 bytes)We found winemaker James Rowan and were whisked away to the barrel room to taste some of the 2009 chardonnay barrel components. Then, from bottles, the components of the 2008 Waimauku chardonnay. One component was about 95% Mendoza with the remainder Clone 95, the other about 95% Clone 95 with the remainder Mendoza. James at one stage thought about making two separate wines but tasting the gold medal wine alongside it, served at cellar temperature, which was cool, not icy cold, it was just perfect.

I didn't have my notebook out so these are my notes from the end of December. I described the wine as having "Rounded creamy flavours with caramel nuances, silky savoury oak and nectarine-like fruit. Medium to full-bodied, expressive and a little reminiscent of the trophy winning 2007 although this vintage is 100% Auckland fruit. Far too easy to drink." We loved it.

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

Gold Medal Summary Updated

On February 20th, the results of the Sydney International Wine Competition 2010 were announced. By my calculation, going through the Total Entry for the 2010 Competition on the Top 100 wines website, there was a total entry of 1980 wines with 125 wines receiving Blue-Gold and another 122 granted Top 100 status over and above Blue-Gold. Thus 247 wines were equivalent of gold medal standard. Hundreds of New Zealand wines were entered and it seems to be (although I could be mistaken) that 83 New Zealand wines were awarded Blue-gold or Top 100 status.

Last weekend the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards were judged and the gold medal results were published a few days ago on the WineShow website. From a total entry of 1517 wines, 102 gold medals were awarded as well as 222 silver medals and 551 bronze medals. The Easter Show blurb also informs that 276 wineries entered this New Zealand only competition.  Currently the total number of NZ wineries is around 665, so that's about 41.5% of wineries that entered.

Comparing the results of these two shows, there were only six wines that received gold in both shows.  Three of these 'double golds' had not received a gold medal before, which means three are now triple gold medal winners at least.

Fifteen more of the Sydney wines had won a medal in another New Zealand wine show, while 25 more of the gold medal winners from the Easter Show had received a gold in another New Zealand show.

This means there are now 139 new gold medal winners added to the my Gold Medal compilation from the 2009-2010 show year.  In total, there are 434 wines on my gold medal list (hopefully all duplicates are accounted for).

So what wines are the most consistent gold medal winners appearing in the latest compilation?

With five gold medals are

  • Domain Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007  - two golds this year and three golds last year
  • Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Tempranillo 2007 - two golds and a Trophy this year and three golds last year
  • Villa Maria Reserve Barrique Fermented Gisborne Chardonnay 2007 - three golds and two Trophies this year and two golds last year

The following all have four gold medals

  • Deutz Marlborough Cuvee Blancs de Blancs 2006 (plus a Trophy)
  • Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009  (plus Trophies)
  • Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (plus a Trophy)
  • Saint Clair Pioneer Block 2 Swamp Block Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Waipara Hills Soul of the South Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009
  • Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2007
  • Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006 - one gold this year and three golds previously
  • Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 - three golds this year and 1 gold last year

Of course some of these wines, Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007 immediately springs to mind, have done exceptionally well in other overseas competitions too.  But as explained on my Gold Medal Compilation page, I'm only keeping track of the New Zealand shows and the Sydney International. Click here to check out my Gold Medal Compilation Page.

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

Highlights from Wednesday's Tasting

With some of the Gewurztraminers from Cuisine magazine's aromatic tasting on the agenda for the Wednesday tasting, winelovers came out of the woodwork.  It's a variety many of us love, yet the best examples seem few and far between.  Wines from the magazine's tasting included the No. 1 - Te Whare Ra Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009, No. 2 - Spy Valley Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009 and No. 4 - Morton Estate Hawkes Bay Gewurztraminer 2009. The Morton Estate was interesting.  The Cuisine tasting notes said it was dry but it seemed off dry to me so I looked up the website for more clues.  It was a shock to see 15.2% alcohol on the notes, whereas the bottle stated 14.5%, so it could have been 'dry', the heady alcohol adding that sweeter impression. 

But it was the new Lawson's Dry Hills 'The Pioneer' Gewurztraminer 2009 that stole the show. Surely this Lawson's wine is a new benchmark for Marlborough?   It was tasted immediately before Te Whare Ra, the Cuisine No. 1, and the TWR did not disappoint, but the wines are quite different.

Also tasted the new Penfolds Bin 128 Coonawarra Shiraz 2008, and Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz 2007. I preferred the 389 of course.  I always do.

One of the red wine highlights, which put the Bin 128 on a hiding to nothing, was the Chakana Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 from Mendoza, Argentina, on the foothills of the Andes.  A sumptuous wine with juicy ripe, meaty tannins, creamy oak and a dark, earthy, floral streak.  I wondered at one stage if it had some Malbec in there. It's seems a super wine for a BBQ - and with daylight saving on for another month, there's still plenty of time for those.

Click here to check out all my notes from the 3rd March tasting.

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

Treasures from a Cellar - Part 3

Te Mata Estate's premium wines from Hawkes Bay have just been released - the 2009 vintage whites and the 2008 vintages reds. You didn't know? Well, retailers are excited about it to the extent that everyone is trying to undercut everyone else, especially with the icon Coleraine and 'buy from me' emails are flying around left, right and centre. Oh, the Penfolds 'Bin' wines have been released too and they are also attracting the retailers' marketing campaigns. There was no wine writer event for the Penfolds release this year but who needs wine writers when you have such enthusiastic retailers? Anyway we tasted a couple of the Penfolds 'Bins' at the Wednesday tasting last night and my notes will be posted sometime tomorrow evening. I really couldn't get that enthused given the price and the competition in store.

But back to Te Mata. When it comes to retailers, you would think that the Te Mata release is the highlight of the year. And it could quite well be. However I'm not going to dwell on the new releases right now as I'll be tasting them again in a couple of week's time. But there were some exciting older wines to taste at a function today. This is why this post is titled Treasures from the Cellar - Part 3.

These three wines are from the 1998 vintage - a hot year, a drought in many places, and while it wasn't really the best for Sauvignon Blanc in Marlborough, it was fab for the reds in Hawkes Bay. They were tasted alongside their 2008 counterparts and the older wines were the ones that had lost all trace of crimson ruby - more browning garnet in hue. All the wines had corks ad the alcohol was noted as 13.5% on the bottle for each of the wines.

Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 1998
The aromas are mellow and a bit stinky at first then sweeter like raspberry jam. Shows considerable age in palate, in fact you could say it was 'fully mature'. Plums, a touch of spice, earth, and mellow oak with a jammy sweetness to the finish - it's a kind of 'snuggle in front of the fire' wine and has lost distinct varietal definition - it could be Merlot or even Pinot Noir.

Te Mata Awatea 1998
58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 12% Cabernet Franc
Again this is mellow with scents of macerated berry and liquorice scents. Thick, rich and textural in palate, like suede, with mocha, sweet leather, creamy oak, red and black currants and a meaty richness. A lovely expression of 12-year-old wine with excellent fruit weight and a long, warm, ripe, sweet and savoury finish. Totally yum - and such a delight after the disappointing Awatea 1998 tasted last October. This was my Wine of the Flight.

Te Mata Coleraine 1998
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc
Lovely creamy mellow oak, leather and cassis scents. Plenty of dry extract - dry, herbal and savoury with firm mouth coating, chalky tannins and a chocolatey richness to the savoury finish. A wine of concentration characterised by the tannins and the lush berry fruit sweetness. This wine was good but after tasting the most perfect 1998 vintage Coleraine ever, just last October, this wine was also disappointing in that it wasn't as good.

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

Treasures from a Cellar - Part 2

"I'm going to pour this blind," said my sister and pulled from below the table a bottle of wine in a brown paper bag. In the dim restaurant lighting the colour of the wine in the glass seemed more brown than crimson red (although it looked a much richer, deeper red in the flashlight of the camera). It looked old and the scent was mellow as were the flavours that brimmed with lovely, sweet, well-integrated creamy oak and fruit that ranged from strawberry to redcurrant to black cherry. There was still underlying acidity that has helped to preserve the wine and a dried herb stalkiness inherent to Cabernet Sauvignon of its era. vmcsm89.jpg (32918 bytes)

She asked, "Is the wine 10 years old, 15 years old or 21 years old?" I plumped for the oldest  and that was correct. The other questions I didn't do so well on - even though I thought Hawkes Bay on first tasting, throw some other suggestions in there and it has you going off on a tangent.  Thus the sweetness in the oak made me think it could be Australian and I picked the wrong producer too. But it was actually Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 1989 from Hawkes Bay.

The winemaker's notes on the back label stated, "Separately matured Cabernet Sauvignon (68%) and Merlot (23%) blended to producer the full flavoured complex style". I didn't realise in the dim restaurant light that the proportions did not add up to 100%. It will be a mystery as to what else is in the wine - or perhaps I wrote it down incorrectly.  A great year for Hawkes Bay reds and a fitting wine to open to celebrate a 21st birthday - or even an older birthday when one would really like to be 21 again.

Earlier one of the birthday boys had opened Clearview Estate Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2002. This was golden in colour with toasted butterscotch-coated stonefruit scents and a well-integrated, seamless mellow, spicy, toasty palate with lovely creamy oak and a caramelised stonefruit richness.  The harmony of the wine was just superb.  A super eight year old Kiwi expression of the great white grape.

The other birthday boy opened a red wine of much contrast to the 21 year old Cab. Felton Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 1999 had brightness to the fading ruby hue. Earthy, savoury and funky on the nose with bittersweet fruits carrying through to the very smooth, svelte, silky and savoury palate - texturally complex and seductive with a delicate spiciness. Very youthful, I thought, for an 11-year-old Pinot Noir - and to me it seemed that it had not yet reached the plateau of its particular aging hill. Worth noting if you have this in your cellar.

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

Treasures from a Cellar - Part 1

It is Neil's birthday today, a birthday he shares with my brother and another friend (plus a girlfriend I lost touch with years ago after she moved to the UK), so the birthday boys and their groupies are heading to a local BYO for dinner. There'll be treasures galore from our respective cellars - with backups, because most of the 'treasures' have corks. Older wines can be a real joy as I found out last week at a lunch with Martinborough's Palliser Estate.

Palliser Estate Martinborough Riesling 1997 is a golden yellow colour - leggy in the glass. It has intense aromatics with a buttery richness to the soft citrus scents. In the palate the texture is oily and the acidity is buttery and soft - softer than the aromas would suggest. And as well there are hints of melon jam and kero.

Palliser Estate Martinborough Riesling 2001 has a more distinct aroma of lime marmalade while the acidity in this wine is amazingly youthful - it is fresh and clean with lots of verve. Nine years old but seems much younger.

Palliser Estate Martinborough Chardonnay 1995 is just the most amazing 15-year old I've tasted. Spicy with underlying acidity driving through the wine. Quite 'hot' but creamy and buttery with distinctive apricot fruit. Clean, youthful, golden - destroys the myth that New Zealand Chardonnay does not age.

Palliser Estate Martinborough Chardonnay 2005 is savoury and nutty with a hint of peach-like fruit and melon - then the fruit starts to brim above the savoury nutty backbone. Long and sweet-fruited with a creamy well-integrated toasty oak finish - it is persistent, spicy and long.

palliser-pn94.jpg (56375 bytes)Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 1994 is quite a muddy brown-garnet colour. Red fruits and savoury older Pinot characters well up on the nose, later scents of old roses too. The scent is mellow and the flavours have that sweet vinosity of old wine - liquorice and macerated port-like red fruits without the port-like alcohol. Smooth, silky and savoury with an earthy leathery undercurrent - the aftertaste lingers in the most magnificent way. This is a wine I'd like to spend a long time musing over - smelling those glorious scents and savouring the mellow flavours.

Palliser Estate Martinborough Pinot Noir 2005 Ruby red. Youthful, savoury and earthy with a deep richness, svelte tannins, bittersweet red fruits and a hint of lavender. A big wine with spicy, long, mouthcoating, pinot spice and a smoky oak finish. An excellent match to slow cooked fillet of venison served with a chestnut cream sauce.

These older wines that were a joy to drink show the benefits of cellaring. Of course the Palliser wines had been cellared in pristine conditions at the winery. Thanks to Palliser Estate for letting me share in the beauty of these treasures.

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

A Zone Becoming a Boundary

Last week, when people started asking me what I knew about Te Awa Boundary 2003 from Hawkes Bay that an online wine store was discounting it at a ridiculous price, I thought I had better find out more. It was a bit of a mystery because some of the wine writers who are very familiar with the Te Awa's icon red wine, Boundary, thought that there was no Boundary 2003 ever made. But with some sleuthing the mystery unravelled.  Could it be the same wine as Te Awa Zone 6 Merlot Cabernet 2003?  The Zone 6 was a one-off wine only ever made in 2003.

I haven't tasted a wine labelled Boundary 2003, but I have tasted the wine labelled Zone 6, and the subsequent vintage of Boundary, the delicious and sumptuous 2004.  I like the Boundary 2004 so much, it is this week's Wine of the WeekClick here to read the review and the results of my sleuthing that unravelled the mystery of Boundary 2003 and Zone 6.

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