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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.

You'll find links to other wine blogs on my Vinous Links page.

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Archive: July 2010
Jul 31st: Blast from the Past
Jul 30th: Six Juicy Merlots
Jul 28th: Drinking is good for you - but what kind of drink
Jul 27th: Distributor News
Jul 26th: Wine from the Heart
Jul 25th: Sauvignon Blanc Weekend
Jul 23th: Blockbusters at the Wednesday Tasting
Jul 22nd: More about Echolands
Jul 20th: New Stop on the Kumeu Wine Trail
Jul 19th: The Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand?
Jul 18th: Taumarunui on the Main Trunk Line
Jul 16th: Token Bastille Day Wines
Jul 15th: Tempting Malbec
Jul 14th: Potato & Cheese Soup and Chardonnay
Jul 13th: Kaffir Lime Aromatic Delight
Jul 11th: Blind Tasting Confusion
Jul 8th: Black Barn's Mediterranean Trio
Jul 4th: Born in the USA
Jul 2nd: Paying Homage to Syrah
Jul 1st: Bracken's Law and Order
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 31st 2010

Blast from the Past

With papers piling up and the filing cabinet overflowing, it's been clean out time this weekend.  Then I found these notes from an Esk Valley tasting in June 1999. Interesting to go back and read them now, especially as three of the wines were from the great 1998 vintage - the drought year in Hawkes Bay. While the hot weather didn't bode well further south in Marlborough where Sauvignon Blanc rules, and caught growers by surprise, 1998 is still spoken about in revered tones as one of the Hawkes Bay's best vintages ever.

But first the tasting started with a new release 1999 Sauvignon Blanc.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 1999 - gorgeous tropical fruit and passionfruit aromas - quite zingy. The acidity is softened in the palate with a little barrel aging and there are hints of ripe guava and other exotic tropical fruit. A lovely wine - good sign of things to come for SB in 1999.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 1998 - Black as black. Gorg-e-ous aromas and delicious flavours of sweet fruit, liquorice, plums and black cherries and some earthiness. Good grippy tannins. Long and powerful. Some vanilla on the finish with berry fruits and chocolate. This wine is a keeper.

Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 - Deep crimson black red. Nose not so rich as the Merlot but has a creamy chocolate character to it. Creamy and soft in the palate, more integrated tannins with chocolate, spice, cassis and incredible length. I prefer this wine to the straight Merlot. The follow-through si just amazing and complex.

Esk Valley Reserve Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 1998 (barrel sample) - Impenetrable purple black in colour, this has yeasty aromas but gorgeous fruit flavours and although quite drying tannins at this stage, the fruit is very forward. All berries and plum yet oaks stands its ground and there's a hint of pepper too. Very juicy and ripe yet soft and not too rich and overpowering. Creamy with chocolate on the persistent finish, this shows great potential.

As as we all know, this wine indeed achieved greatness including many gold medals and Trophies. Most of the wine scribes adored it and I reviewed it as a Wine of the Week in October 2000, after its release, and again, 10 years after vintage in September 2008.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 30th 2010

Six Juicy Merlots

Matawhero Gisborne Merlot 2009
Dark ruby in colour, very deeply translucent, with sumptuous chocolatey oak and concentrated berry aromas and warm cosy velvety tannins supporting the full-bodied flavours of bright red fruit, chocolaty oak, mulled wine spices, tobacco and eucalypt. A voluptuous red that warms the blood and pumps through the veins with a warming richness, leaving behind a dry finish and savoury aftertaste. So eucalypt, it's easy to mistake for Australian. A love it or hate it wine. I loved it, Neil hated it. 4 stars. 13% alc. $20.

Wyndham Estate Bin 999 Merlot 2009
The real Australian, not the wannabe. Dark red with a crimson glow, sweet oak and juicy red berries infused with eucalypt and vanilla on the nose and a creamy palate that's medium to full-bodied with firm, velvet-edged tannins, cake spices and a red berry brightness to the dry savoury finish that's tinged with chocolate, mint and even a suggestion of mocha. Easy drinking. 3 stars. 14% alc. $17 - cheaper on special.

Goldridge Hawkes Bay Merlot 2009
Dense bright dark crimson red. Fragrantly scented with a rich, plum and leather overtone and wood smoke in the background. The taste is fruity - boysenberry, concentrated plum and black fruits with smoky oak, fine tannins, a hint of mint and an almost chocolaty richness to the finish where leathery savoury tones come through to linger. Medium bodied style with a juicy brightness throughout. 3.5 stars. 13.5% alc. $15.95.

Sileni Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008
Fine in appearance with a ruby/crimson hue. Savoury, meaty aromas with hints of spiced plums and a suggestion of dried herbs. Medium in palate weight, this has fine tannins, sweet red fruit, violets, plums, smoke and herbs and while the finish is savoury, the lingering aftertaste has juicy purple fruit connotations. Fine in texture, understated in stature. 3.5 stars. 13%. $18.95.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008
Dense rich dark crimson red. Smoky, savoury, meaty aromas infused with concentrated brambly fruit and leather. Moderately tannic with sweet spicy oak, confectionery/juicy red fruit, leather, cigar box, earth and dried herbs. From a full-bodied start it has moderate mid-palate weight and a more ‘elegant’ attack to the lingering meaty finish, perhaps a touch of barnyard too. Tannins are fine, which gives it some finesse. 3.5 stars. 14 alc. $24.95.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Merlot 2009
Dense dark red. Earthy, savoury and with concentrated plum and berry fruit. Almost sumptuous, bright and clean - perhaps a hint of mint - and very appealing. But the palate confuses me. Earthy, savoury and even a little gamey and slightly stalky with plums, red berries, herbs, leather, tobacco and soft velvety tannins in a medium-bodied package. I like the nose, I like the finish, I just find it a little disjointed and bitter on entry to the palate. 3 stars. 14.5% alc. $23.

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

Drinking is good for you - but what kind of drink?

It would be great to believe all the claims about the health benefits of wine. But what might work for one person doesn't necessarily work for another. Take this headline today. "Regular alcohol consumption provided protection against rheumatoid arthritis and its painful effects, U.K. researchers found in the first study to show the link in humans."

Problem with this study is that it doesn't say what kind of alcohol and as a wine lover and imbiber, and a sufferer of Rheumatoid arthritis, I have to say that drinking wine hasn't stopped me getting the disease.

The article goes on to say, "Non-drinkers were four times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than people who drank alcohol on more than 10 days a month, according to the research published online today by the U.K. journal Rheumatology. Arthritis patients who drank regularly had less severe symptoms than non-drinkers, the study found."

Now there's another anomaly because once you do get the disease you most likely will be prescribed drugs that affect your liver and then you are told to cut your drinking right back to the minimum.  Click here for the full article.

And now for something a little more humorous.  Today I got one of those e-mails asking to exchange links. The text went something like this. "While browsing I came across your great website!! I am building back links for one of our website and would be glad to get our site placed in your websites at :- "Links/Resource" Section. Could you please consider posting our link in your website if you like its content."

The link exchange seeker was representing an exclusive drug rehab centre in Los Angeles that provides alcohol rehab and drug rehab in a private luxurious setting. "Start your addiction treatment today. Our drug rehabilitation centre professionals are waiting to help."  Exactly what I want to promote on my website.  Yeah right!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 27th 2010

Distributor News

Eurowine Fine Wines and Vintage Wines and Spirits are merging. Eurowine's clients include glamour wineries Neudorf, Te Mata and Ata Rangi. The new company will be called Eurovintage and begins trading under this name on August 30th 2010. Two and a half years ago Vintage Wines and Spirits took over Burleigh Trading.

Negociants New Zealand has picked up the Two Paddocks label owned by distinguished actor Sam Neill. While Two Paddocks has been distributed with sister company Negociants in Australia for the past eight years, it is only this month that the relationship has been formed in New Zealand.

Fosters Group has announced that its global wine business has renamed to Treasury Estates. Fosters owns Matua Valley in New Zealand and the iconic Penfolds label in Australia. Altogether it has 12,000 hectares of vineyards, 20 wineries and 50 wine brands in Australia, New Zealand, California, France and Italy. See

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

Wine from the Heart

Corazon is Spanish for heart, but for winemaker Shayne Cox it means a lot more. I caught up with Shayne in his West Auckland winery and later I tasted a few of his wines.   He has a interesting story and if you would like to read it you can do so by clicking on the week's Wine of the Week.  The wine that I've chosen to accompany the story is the deeply coloured and richly flavoured Corazon North Island Merlot Malbec 2008.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 25th 2010

Sauvignon Blanc Weekend

Thought it was time to clear out all the older Sauvs that had accumulated and so a tasting of 2008’s (and one 2007) was tabled. An interesting tasting, some wines obviously started to pick up some canned pea / asparagus notes, not that I personally mind this, but others still very fresh.

I love Sauvignon Blanc that tells me from the aromas that "I am Sauv" and this is what I expected from the ‘unoaked’ styles. Wines that seduced with aroma as well as on flavour received higher points. With the oaked wines, however, in which there were several ‘alternative’ styles, the aromatic ‘signature’ of Sauv was not so important.

In the unoaked styles the freshest, perhaps, was Main Divide Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Made by the team at Pegasus Bay, this has concentrated, full, tropical fruit, sweet pea and herbs on the nose and a crisp almost ‘crunchy’ flavour, like biting into firm but juicy fruit. I taste tangelo, anise-like herbs, melon and stonefruit and the finish is bright and long. Perhaps a little toastiness that has accrued with bottle age and passionfruit lingering on the finish for ages.

Also loved the Jackson Estate ‘Stich’ Sauvignon Blanc 2008 - a classical Sauv aroma - no doubt as to what the variety is here - perhaps hinting of a little age but doing so elegantly. Drinking well now, this is concentrated and rich with bright citrus and tropical fruit underpinned with a zingy summer herb freshness and a touch of grapefruit on the finish.

And the third to ultra-impress was Churton Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008. On the nose there is grapefruit and gooseberry and the flavours are still very fresh. This is a bright, zingy wine with loads of fruity flavours complemented by loads of summer herbs. There’s tangelo, passionfruit and grapefruit in a very pure form. Interestingly I get a slight nutty nuance and the finish is dry, very dry. I love its persistence.

All but one of the oaked wines impressed but it was this group that produced the Wine of the Tasting. This was Neudorf Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 and while the aromas seemed a little neutral and mealy and didn't pop out of the glass like some of the others, it was the mouthfeel and subtlety that accrued drinkability points. It has lovely rounded flavours with a citrussy zing and while the wine is subtle to start it builds in richness and power with passionfruit, honey and tropical fruit. "Subtle, yet delicious," is how I summed this wine up.

In contrast, Waimea Barrel Fermented Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008 has nothing subtle about it. A powerful wine that packs a punch, it has rich, oaky, stonefruit-infused aromas and a fine citrus and pineapple backbone to the full-bodied mealy, almost butter caramel flavours with stonefruit and a lovely infusion of herbs and a smoky finish that is rich and long. Not for the faint hearted, this is a Sauv for Chardonnay lovers, perhaps.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 23rd 2010

Blockbusters at the Wednesday Tasting

The tasting was originally advertised as Winter Wines, but it ended up being called No Wimpy Wines and some of the wines were definitely blockbusters.

It started with the delicious Kim Crawford Doc's Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 and this warm, cuddly wine has really hits its straps. 2007 was a super year for the golden Chardonnay grape throughout most of New Zealand and this wine, served first up at the tasting, set a benchmark for the wines to follow. Another couple of Chardonnays and a little sweetie, then an octet of reds. From the juicy Quota 29 Primitivo 2008 from southern Italy, to the gorgeous Penfolds Kalimna Bin 28 2005, poured from a Magnum into jugs for serving, to value packed Aussie reds to blockbusters both in price and taste, just about every wine showed up well. But I struggled with St Hallett Old Block Shiraz 2005 - the earthy barnyard flavours not at all what I was expecting.  Others struggled with the Yellowtail Premium Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 - not your ordinary $10 Yellowtail, but the top echelon wine that won that Jimmy Watson Trophy in 2004.  I thought my tasting sample was absolutely magnificent.  Four bottles were opened and the stain on the corks showed why there was bottle variation - some had wet, purple-stains on the wine contact side of the cork, while two others were dried and faded pinky crimson.

Lastly the glorious E & E Black Pepper Shiraz 2003 from the Barossa Valley. What a profound wine. It deserves all the accolades it gets. There was some discussion about what E & E stands for, and neither of the Es stands for Ebenezer, as some people thought.  One E is for Elmore Raehr, the other for Elmore Schultz. Both vineyard owners, both Shiraz growers, it was their fruit that brought about this magnificent label.

Check out all my notes on the Wednesday Roundup page.

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

More about Echolands

I received an email from Megan Dickens of Echolands Estate - the producer of Echolands Taumarunui Gewurztraminer 2009. She says that in the Echoland's valley they have a unique micro climate that makes a huge difference in being able to ripen grapes there.

Currently they only grow Gewurztraminer, as it is one of Megan's passions.

And yes, they can see Mount Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe from their vineyard.  "It's a beautiful sight on a sunny day and enjoy watching the lights of the snow groomers on the mountain at night," says Megan.

Echolands Taumarunui Gewurztraminer 2009 is available from Liquorland Taumarunui and Mount Liquor in Ohakune - c'mon skiers, give it a try this winter.  But be quick because stock is limited. Due to a heavy March frost they missed out on we missed out on a harvest this year.

I'll look forward to seeing their website, currently under development.

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

New stop on the Kumeu Wine Trail

Kumeu, just north of Auckland City on the western route, has vignerons that reflect some of New Zealand's biggest and smallest producers. On the 'big' side there's Nobilo Wines in Station Road, the face of Constellation Wines in New Zealand.  There are also cellar doors at Coopers Creek, Matua Valley, Soljans Wines, West Brook, Twin Totara, Kumeu River and Kerr Farm.

Now there's a brand new addition to the Kumeu Wine Trail.   Wine & Art, at 505 State Highway 16, between Soljans Wines and Kumeu River (but on the opposite side of the road) is its name. It is a marriage of wine and art but there is not just one wine producer, as with most cellar doors, but four. Artisan producers Waimarie Wines, Mahana Ridge, Waimauku Sands and Kaipara Estate have joined forces with Gallery Q formerly based in Waimauku.

Brandon Orr-Walker and Judy McIntosh established their Kaipara Estate vineyard on South Head in 1995. They grow an exciting range of grapes on their vineyard and are currently selling a 2003 red with new releases scheduled next month. They also have a 2006 Marlborough sauvignon blanc, which is drinking beautifully right now. If you haven't tried older savvy, this is your chance - you may be pleasantly surprised.

Stephen and Angeline Nobilo of Waimarie Wines produce pinot gris, chardonnay, Bordeaux blends and syrah.

Jack and Megan MacFadyen of Mahana Ridge specialise in pinot gris, planted because of its commercial potential. A merlot is due for release quite soon.

Phil Bish of Waimauku Sands planted his vineyard with syrah and viognier and produces viognier, syrah rose, syrah and a syrah viognier blend.

Wine & Art is an exciting concept with wines from the four producers complementing each other. There are a range of styles and varieties with well cellared wines as well as young one.  Prices range from $10 to $40 a bottle with discounts on cases.

Kaipara Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2006 is smooth and mellow and has entered a toasty phase with tropical fruit and a savoury backbone. Not Sauvignon Blanc as you know it, more like Semillon as it ages.

Mahana Ridge Pinot Gris 2009 is crisp, bright, smooth and creamy with a delicate citrussy zing and hints of creamy soda.

Waimarie Huapai Pinot Gris 2009 has pear drop aroma and rich textural flavours. Slightly honeyed yet the wine still presents as dry with tropical fruit and a long, rich finish with excellent length.

Waimauku Sands Rose 2009 is made from Syrah. There's a bittersweet perfume of rosehips and Briar Rose and fruit flavours of strawberry and watermelon. Dry, crisp, fresh and texturally interesting with vinous complexity, it's has a sprinkle of pepper on the fruity finish.

The deeply coloured Waimarie Muriwai Valley Syrah 2008 has a beautiful fragrance of stylish oak and rose petals. A silky wine with blackberry, raspberry, spice, leather and smoky oak, there's a European feel to this medium-to-full bodied style with a long lasting finish.

Wine and Art is open from 11 am to 5.30 pm Tuesday to Sunday. Wine tastings are free.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 19th 2010

The Chardonnay Capital of New Zealand?

Is Auckland the real Chardonnay capital of New Zealand? Wine producers from Gisborne and Hawkes Bay may not think so but on a production to quality basis, Auckland produces some magnificent Chardonnay wines. There's Kumeu River , of course - regarded by most of New Zealand critics as one of the top Chardonnay producers in New Zealand (and by myself as the No.1 Chardonnay producer). There's Villa Maria Estate with their Ihumatao Single Vineyard Chardonnay. More recently West Brook Waimauku Chardonnay, first produced as Ivicevich Chardonnay in 2004, is now turning heads everywhere. It's a magnet to gold coloured medals and when Waimauku fruit is blended with Marlborough fruit for their 'Barrique Fermented' wine, there is a real "x" factor buzz.

Now there's another real top quality Auckland Chardonnay that's just made its debut.... Waimarie Muriwai Valley Chardonnay 2008. Read more in this week's Wine of the Week.

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

Taumarunui on the Main Trunk Line

When I heard of a wine coming from grapes grown in Taumarunui in the centre of the North Island, my eyebrows raised, perhaps one higher than the other. Taumarunui, 286 km south of Auckland and 370 km north of Wellington, seems to me to be a cold little place. Once a major stop on the main trunk railway line, now it's usually a relief road stop on the way to the ski fields at Mt Ruapehu.

The wine in question, a Gewurztraminer. I tried to find the vineyard via Google, but it wasn't the vineyard I was looking for that appeared in the search results. It was another one altogether. Google told me about a vineyard with 165 Merlot vines and no Gewurztraminer at all. Just how many vineyards are there in this most unlikely central North Island place?

The Merlot vines are on a 4.2 hectare lifestyle block. They also grow pine nuts, pears, apples, apricots, plums, almonds, olives, quince, peach and nectarines, raspberries, blackcurrants, boysenberries, blueberries, mulberries, strawberries, assorted lemon, orange, tangelo and mandarin trees and feijoas. It sounds like a real sun trap. With 5 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, cattle, sheep and a pony, it's on the market for $465,000.00 (link here).

I resolved to looking at the back label of the Gewurztraminer bottle to find out where this one was located, and it was about 11 kilometres away, on the other side of the main north-south highway, on the south east side of town.

Echolands Estate Taumarunui Gewurztraminer 2009 is a light, clear, citrine gold colour. Fragrant and floral, no doubt as to the variety with Turkish Delight and lychee scents. An off dry / gently sweet wine with an oily texture and a slightly steely, citrus peel backbone, it is classic in its expression with musky grapey flavours, hints of violets and Asian spices on the finish that lasts and lasts. An excellent debut from the most unexpected place. The alcohol, as stated on the bottle is 12.91% by volume. I've never seen an alcohol statement to two decimal places before.  Grown on a vineyard in Brightwell Road in the Echolands area of Taumarunui, I wonder if they have mountain views. How much does it cost and where can you buy it? Actually, I've no idea. I'll check the Taumarunui Wine Shop next time I drive through.  They may have the local Merlot for sale there too.

Shayne Cox, who owns the label Corazon Wines, is the winemaker. He is the one who gave me the wine to try. Thanks Shayne. Nice wine.

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

Token Bastille Day Wines

With the Wednesday tasting taking place on Bastille Day (July 14th) this year, you could bet that there would be some token French Wines included and there were. First Bouvet Brut NV, a Loire Valley bubbles made from Chenin Blanc - if you have to go French for bubbles this is a pretty smart substitute for Champagne. Then later in the tasting a gorgeously perfumed, decadent tasting, smooth, seamless, oily-textured Gewzurtraminer from Alsace - Rolly Gassmann Stegreben de Rorschwihr 2004 - whoever said Gewurztraminer doesn't age should try this six year old beauty. 

Felton Road Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 was a drawcard - tasted blind with two from the lower North Island, this stood out from the more earthy savoury wines with its deep purple colour and bright, tangy flavour infused with cherries and spice and firm tannins of youth - a wine, as always, that will evolve in the cellar.

As usual this was a blind tasting and the big surprise came when the Legdao Munoz Garnacha 2008 was served.  When asked whether it was from the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, everyone in the room (~70 people) went Southern.  Made by Spanish producer Artero, I guess they achieved what they wanted as they say it is a made for the export market in a 'New World' style.

These were just four of the 12 wines served - as usual you can check out all my notes on the Wednesday Roundup page.

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

Tempting Malbec

A belated heads up for this week's Wine of the Week - a new generation wine from Hawkes Bay winery Abbey Cellars. This is a winery whose wines you really must source if you are having a religious theme wine evening. The wines have names like 'Graduate', 'Cardinal', and 'Mary' for the Noble Riesling.

Abbey Cellars is new to the scene, in relative terms, their first vintage in 2005 with Riesling and a red wine. I tasted that Riesling and the successive one and thought good things, but Riesling is not what you expect from Red Wine Country Hawkes Bay. But maybe people will take note of Abbey Cellars Riesling now that the 2009 vintage has picked up a gold medal.

The reds, however, have that 'olde worlde' nuance with earthy, savoury, mushroomy characters running through both 2005 and 2006 wines and the older one, while fragrantly perfumed from the Cabernet Franc component, is drying out a little at this stage. But along comes Temptation - a gorgeous, bright, juicy, clean and downright delicious red made from 100% Malbec grapes and matured in older oak. Abbey Cellars Temptation Malbec 2009 is this week's Wine of the Week. It's a wine that's made to be enjoyed in its youth and its perfect right now. Click here to check out the review.

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

Potato & Cheese Soup and Chardonnay

When Jaison Kerr of Kerr Farm Vineyard sent out a recipe for Pruner's Potato and Cheese Soup, I thought I'd give it a try. Not the pruning, but the soup. It's delicious, tasty soup if you are not worried about calories and the recipe is simple.

  • Sweat 1 medium sized, roughly chopped, peeled onion together with three cloves of chopped garlic and a pinch of cayenne pepper in 25 grams of butter for about 5 minutes.
  • Then add 500 grams of peeled and roughly chopped potatoes - mashing type potatoes are best.
  • Add 500ml of chicken stock and 500 ml of water and let simmer for about 25 minutes.
  • Cool then blend the liquid (in a processor or with a stick mixer), then return to the heat, adding 1 cup of grated tasty cheese.
  • Stir until melted, then add 100ml of cream. Do not let boil after this stage.
  • Check for seasoning and add salt if required.
  • Serve immediately garnished with fresh parsley and accompanied with crusty bread.

The challenge now was what to match the soup to. I settled on Chardonnay.  The consensus was that a lightly oaked Chardonnay seems to work best.

Try these .....

Kumeu River Village Chardonnay 2008 4 stars
Quite Chablis in style with little influence of oak, the lightly creamy texture is underpinned by a dry flinty backbone. The mouthfeel is what makes this wine stand out and it grows in perfume, stature, richness and power. 13% alc. $13.99 on promotion.

Bouldevines Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 3 stars
Youthful with pear drop and floral scents, this fruit driven wine has subtle oak, a savoury backbone, a touch of citrus - it becomes richer and more complex with time with hints of apricot and caramel on the lingering finish. 14% alc. $27.

Vidal Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009 3 stars
With melon and tropical fruit aromas and fruity flavours, this shows little influence of oak but has a spicy savoury richness to the finish. 14% alc. $20.

Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009 2.5 stars
There's a sweetness to the scent of this lightly oaked wine with tropical fruit and stonefruit flavours, a hint of a savoury spicy backbone and a fruity finish. Good with the soup. 13.5% alc. $17.95 - cheaper on promotion.

We had soup left over and when cooled it became quite thick. Because I didn't have tasty cheese on hand and used low fat Edam instead, a little blue cheese was added for more of a piquant tang. We served this on top of the potatoes and cauliflower with dinner that night. Cheese soup became cheese sauce.  Yum!

As it's Bastille Day today you could Frenchify the meal with Chablis for the wine and baguette for the bread.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jul 13th 2010

Kaffir Lime Aromatic Delight

"Nah, you can't eat the limes," said the assistant at the garden centre when I saw knobbly little green balls growing on a Kaffir lime tree. "People treasure the Kaffir lime for the aromatic leaves".

I chose a tree that looked nice. A fruitless tree. He got it for Christmas.

Soon the blossoms came out and bullet-hard green balls started to form.

They didn't get very big and the two that fell off were smaller than a golf ball.

kaffir.jpg (26677 bytes)I scratched the rind with my finger nail. The air filled with the fragrant tangy and exotically earthy aroma of Kaffir lime. I was sure they could be used and took them inside.

The other night the opportunity arose. A simple pasta - the recipe called for cultured sour cream and lemon zest. I only had fresh cream and I had the tiny limes.

'I'll zest one,' I thought and did it the old-fashioned way, on the zesting side of the three sided grater.

'What about the juice?' The lime was cut. Such a vivid green, the equi-dimensional triangular segments outlined in white and accented with the gloss of the juice from the lacerated pulp vesicles. The hard little ball was protecting an unbelievable amount of juice. That went into the pasta too together with a little fennel-infused salt and freshly ground multi-coloured peppercorns. It was done.gladpg.jpg (11220 bytes)

The pasta was topped with wood smoked salmon garnished with mixed pepper, spice and herbs (as it came in the packet). The combination was delicious and the Kaffir lime definitely provided the 'x' factor.

As for the wine, best with a Viognier, or a soft, oily Pinot Gris. We opened several but the best match was Gladstone Wairarapa Pinot Gris 2009 ($23).   This is a rich, textural, mouthcoating style with a touch of sweetness. Orchard fruit to the fore with just a hint of spice, mid palate vinosity, a touch of vanilla and a crispiness to the finish. Well balanced throughout with subtle oak adding complexity. A very good wine.

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

Blind Tasting Confusion

One of the interesting things about tasting wines blind is that you can't always pick the wines as you instantly would when you see the label. Like for the Masters of Wine at the recent MW Symposium in Bordeaux when several First Growths were presented blind - did anyone pick them all correctly - house and vintage? I've heard a rumour that even for the MW's it was a challenging task.

So three Chardonnays were presented blind at last Wednesday's First Glass tasting.   The first, so distinctly an Australian wine and interesting smelling - like a Semillon, with oak adding toastiness, a touch of honey, a spicy tingle and so very, very dry. The wine was Leasingham Magnus Chardonnay 2005 from the Clare Valley. Obviously age was a factor but maybe there's some Semillon in the allowable 15% of undisclosed varieties in the blend.

The third was a stumper for most of the people at the tasting. It was served as a 'stand up options wine' - you stand up for the questions and sit down when you opt for a wrong answer. When there is only one person left, that person is declared the winner.   The first question asked the variety and only about six people picked this wine as Chardonnay with most choosing the 'something else' option. I picked Chardonnay but crashed on vintage, as did the the other two people were left standing at that stage and nobody was a winner. It was Santa Ema Grand Riserva Chardonnay 2008 from Chile. A buttery wine with tropical fruit, toasty French oak and a bubble gum-like nuance, it seemed a little oxidised and older than the vintage would suggest.

Thank goodness for the second wine, for which there was no confusion because it was obvious what it was meant to be, in the best possible way. A rose between two prickly thorns it had gorgeous savoury aromas and delicious flavours of toasty oak, stonefruit, citrus and spice with moderate acidity and a creamy finish.  It was Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2007 - Champion Chardonnay and Champion Wine of the Show at the recent Liquorland International Wine Competition, and five stars and No. 1 in the recent Cuisine chardonnay tasting. The wine of the tasting last Wednesday - check out all my notes on the Wednesday Roundup page.

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

Black Barn's Mediterranean Trio

One of the interesting things about Hot Red Hawkes Bay, the annual travelling roadshow of Hawkes Bay winemakers and their wines, was the total dominance of traditional French origin wines. About 54% of the wines were from traditional Bordeaux varieties, 33% were Syrah and 7.5% were Pinot Noir. Of the remainder, five were the Italian varieties Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Marzemino while two were from the Spanish grape Tempranillo.   

Black Barn, one of the wineries embracing alternative varieties and now, with Sangiovese, Montepulciano and Tempranillo on offer, have what could be termed a Mediterranean Trio.

Black Barn Sangiovese 2007 is a current release and is drinking well right now.  Savoury smelling but with plenty of fruit in support, the palate is savoury too with some mellow traits that have accrued with age. Bright fruit is in harmony with the oak with hints of leather, cigar and perhaps even a suggestion of mint.  In contrast, the yet to be released Black Barn Sangiovese 2009 is a youthful fruity wine with American oak dominant on the nose, firm tannins and a ton of acidity in the palate but does show much promise. It seems a  bigger wine than the 2007, as well.

Black Barn Montepulciano 2009 is full of rich, ripe sweet fruit - raspberry and blackberry come to mind.  The palate is thick set and the tannins are a little chunky right now. There's spicy berry fruit, underlying acidity, hints of violets and prunes with a smoky veneer and a savoury undercurrent.  Show lots of promise, just needs time for the tannins to integrate.

Black Barn Tempranillo 2009 is a serious challenger to the benchmark that long-time Tempranillo producer, Trinity Hill, has set. Bright acidity characterises this wine that's full of juicy berries, creamy oak, a lovely hint of citrus and tobacco on the finish. It's this week's Wine of the Week.

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

Born in the USA

I don't often have the chance to taste wines from the USA. Maybe once or twice a year, these days. But thanks to a friend I'm able to write about a well-cellared USA wine for Yankee Doodle Day.

Kistler Camp Meeting Ridge Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 1997 is dark bricking red in colour - youthful, really, for its age. On the nose there's sweet ripe fruit with a mellow, cedary undercurrent and a little bit of gamey funk going on. A ripe generous wine in the mouth with concentrated sweet fruit, chocolate and spice with a lovely, herbal, savoury backbone and though mellow, it still has a youthful fruity freshness. Gosh, this wine must have been massively oaky when young because the oak still plays a dominant role now. And there's a slight salty tang to the finish. The label states 14.1% alcohol by volume.

Really nice to taste. A real treat.

Also on the table was another wine with American connections.

Rimu Grove Nelson Pinot Noir 2007 is ruby violet in hue. On the nose there's violet, spiced tamarillo and smoky oak - a gorgeous fragrant aroma with intrinsic Pinot Noir mystique. In the mouth it's still quite tight with firm tannins, a meaty savoury undercurrent, primary bittersweet red fruits and pleasing oak interaction with those lovely violet tones coming through on the finish. A pre release sample, this shows excellent potential. 14.1% alcohol by volume. Definitely worth bookmarking for its pending release. Winemaker Patrick Stowe was born in the Napa Valley.

Thanks for sharing these wines, Russell and Barbara - hope you had a really great day!

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

Paying Homage to Syrah

At the Hot Red Hawkes Bay Roadshow that came to Auckland the other day, I spent some time concentrating on Syrah.  Several wines stood out but none more so than Trinity Homage Syrah 2007. "A super concentrated wine," I wrote. "Red and purple fruit, florals, spice, smoky cedary oak and velvety tannins with hints of Cameo Creme biscuits.  Not overtly peppery but bold, dense and rich."  Modelled on the great wines of Cote-Rotie, this is Syrah co-fermented with 9% Viognier and aged in French oak barriques for 18 months.  It was the last wine I tasted so I could savour the delicious lingering flavour for a while.

I got to taste it again at the weekly Wednesday tasting at First Glass Wines and Spirits earlier this week. The theme was Shiraz and Syrah from Cuisine magazine's tasting. The Top Five NZ Syrahs were tasted and the Top 6 Shiraz from Australia.

Trinity Hill Homage 2007 out-performed the opposition, coming in at No. 1 in its category - and I am not at all surprised, now having tasted the Top Five. The Homage had the x-factor. All Top Five wines are from Hawkes Bay and I was impressed with their generosity and juiciness. 2008 as well as 2007 looks to be a good year. Even Trinity Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2008, that came in at number five - when I tasted this at the Hot Red Hawkes Bay Roadshow I write, "Medium-bodied, creamy, easy going, instantly likeable with spice and berry fruit and Viogner adding fragrance and lift - a great proposition for the everyday drinker."

I wonder, though, whether Cuisine should think hard about who they invite to judge.   Not that I quibble with the judging or the placings, but having  the winemaker of the top placed wine (and also the 5th placed wine in this instance) beaming at you from the photo of the judges in the write-up in Cuisine, is not a good look.  It happened with the Gewurztraminer tasting too, when the No. 1 ranked wine was that of the invited winemaker judge. Should they really have a winemaker judge whose wine(s) are in the tasting when they are such focussed tastings as these?  I don't think so.

The NZ wines were followed by the Australian wines but the first Aussie up was on a hiding to none following the supercharged Homage.   My favourite Aussie in the tasting was the Number 2 ranked wine, Grant Burge Filsell Shiraz 2008, but the judges ranked Thorn Clarke Sandpiper Shiraz 2008 higher.   One thing about the Sandpiper is that it's absolutely ready to drink now -   and if that was one of the criteria in choosing the Number 1 wine, then a good choice was made.  But the sublime Grant Burge Filsell will be the one to cellar.

Click here to 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
Jul 1st 2010

Bracken's Law and Order

I had told him to pick anything he liked out of the box. I hope it wasn't one of the ones I was keeping. It was a new label that he found.
He poured the wine and I tasted it.
"Mmmm, could be Central Otago?" I mused, after tasting the juicy lushness of Pinot Noir.
"Correct," he said. "Did you know that there used to be mounted police in Otago?"
"Not something I had ever thought about," I replied. Of course, now that he mentioned it and thinking back to the gold rush days, there weren't any cars around then.
Evidently one of the police was Sergeant Major Hugh William Bracken and that is who the wine is named after. A man of law and order who lived in Arrowtown.

Brackens Order Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 is an intense wine with a ripe fruit sweetness juicy black cherries and a layer of strawberry welling up over a savoury backbone and an intriguing gamey character infused with dried Italian herbs (the ones you buy with 'Italian herbs' on the label). With a smooth impression on the palate and a long full finish, this wine is recommended. 14% alc. Screwcap closure. RRP $34.95. My rating. 4 stars.

The grapes from the Hotlzman Vineyard in the Gibbston Valley and the winemaker is Matt Evans. Find out more from

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