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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: August 2010
Aug 31st: New Vintage Thrillers
Aug 30th: Lots of Newsy Bits
Aug 29th: Chris Keys' Passion for Pinot
Aug 25th: New vintage Pinot Noirs surprise
Aug 23rd: 60 new wine reviews
Aug 19th: Drinking the Savvy Dregs
Aug 17th: Another Classy Auckland Chardonnay
Aug 13th: Delicious Dolcetto and Tempting Sangiovese
Aug 10th: Sacred Hill on the TV
Aug 6th: Hyping up my favourite wine regions
Aug 2nd: Drinking with a Star
Aug 1st: The Day after the Night before
Older Entries

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

New Vintage Thrillers

During the weekend I had my first serious look at the 2010 vintage - wines made from Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris and Viognier - and what can I say other than, wow, it looks like we are going to get some delicious wines from 2010.

The Viognier was outstanding.  Made in a seemingly sweeter style than many on the market, the wine hails from Martinborough. Dry River Martinborough Viognier 2010 is this week's Wine of the Week. Click here to read the review.

There were four Sauvignon Blancs so I tasted them blind and threw in a 2009 to see how the 2010s stacked up. Well, the 2010s came in at 1,2,3 and 4 - fruit was vibrant, acidity was fresh and all were quite thrilling. Sauvignon Blanc drinkers - you are in for a treat when the new vintage Savvies come on stream.

Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010, sporting a black label this year instead of deep royal blue, was my No. 1 pick. It has concentration, power and richness with flavours of passionfruit, sweet pea, summer herbs and tangelo, but is the seductive mouthfeel that gives this wine the x-factor.

Saint Clair Vicars Choice Sauvignon Blanc 2010 has a flinty undercurrent to the bright focussed flavours of gooseberry, apple and lemonade citrus with exotic tropical guava creeping in too.

Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is flinty with plenty of sweet pea, grass and summer herb flavours and an increasing oily richness that adds to the mouthfeel. Floral nuances too and perhaps even a hint of musk.

The People's Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 is a sweeter style but acidity sets a pulsating back beat. The flavours explode with tropical fruit, freshly cut grass and passionfruit on the well-rounded finish that has no sharp edges.

West Brook Marlborough Riesling 2010 seems more like a wine to age. Very tight at this stage of its life but flashing its potential, it has gorgeous delicate floral aromatics and fills the mouth with its weighty richness and compounds in flavour with orange zest, lime sherbet and lemon honey. One of the best they've made - and that's a big call as they've made some super Rieslings over the years. That's why they are one of my Top Ten NZ Riesling producers.

West Brook also suppled two Pinot gris - one from Auckland and one from Marlborough

West Brook Waimauku Pinot Gris 2010 seems just off dry. It's a pretty wine with tangelo honey (as in lemon honey made with tangelos) and ginger-like aromatic spices and just enough sweetness to soften any hard edges. The texture adds to this wine's appeal. A wine for serious PG drinkers.

West Brook Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010 is perhaps a little sweeter. With its oily mouthfeel and richness and luscious, juicy tropical fruit flavours, it really goes down quite easily.

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

Lots of Newsy Bits

Steve Bird's 2008 Bird Sauvignon Blanc and 2008 Bird Big Barrel Pinot Noir have just been selected by WALT DISNEY WORLDŽ for their 2011 core wine list, and will be stocked in their restaurants and bars from September.

Stuart Dudley of Marlborough has been named the 2010 Markhams Young Viticulturist of the Year as part of the 16th annual Romeo Bragato conference. Rory McEnroe of Nelson won the Fruitfed Supplies Silver Secateurs National Competition 2010 Individual Pruning title as well as the Individual Tying Trophy. The Fruitfed Supplies Team Trophy was won by Saints of Gisborne.

Cobblestone Te Muna Pinot Noir 2009, grown by Saul Levine of Cobblestone Vineyard in Martinborough was awarded the Bragato Trophy for Champion Wine of Show, along with the Mike Wolter Memorial Trophy and Champion Pinot Noir at this year's Romeo Bragato Wine Awards. Vidal Reserve Syrah 2007 was the winner of the Alan Limmer trophy for Champion Syrah as well as the winner of the Sustainability Trophy and the Richard Smart Trophy for Champion Reserve Wine.

Other Trophy Winners were -
Champion Dessert Wine -Glazebrook Noble Harvest Riesling 2009
Champion Riesling - Summerhouse Dry Marlborough Riesling 2010
Champion Gewurztraminer - Seifried Nelson Winemakers Collection Gewurztraminer 2010
Champion Pinot Gris - Artisan Far Paddock Pinot Gris 2009
Champion Sauvignon Blanc - Tohu Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Champion Chardonnay - Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2008
Champion Other White Wine - Waimea Nelson Viognier 2009
Champion Classical Red Wine -Kim Crawford Small Parcels Corner 50 Vineyard Hawkes Bay Merlot 2008
Champion Cabernet Sauvignon - Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Champion Other Red Wine - Jurassic Ridge Waiheke Montepulciano 2008

Full results available from

New Zealand winemakers have voted strongly in favour of continuing the wine levy that funds the Wine Institute of New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers. Currently rated at 2.5 cents per litre of wine sales, the levy generates almost $5 million in income for these sector organisations to undertake promotional activity on the wine industry's behalf. The majority of wineries who participated in the referendum (82%) voted in favour of the wine levy, representing 97% of wine sales by volume amongst voting wineries.

The 2010 New Zealand Winegrowers Annual Report says winegrowers and grape growers must continue to make market-led decisions for the industry to prosper as profitability falls.

Key points in the report were

Grape vintage reduces 7% to 266,000 tonnes
Wine Exports grow 5% to $1.04 billion
Exports of Pinot Noir exceed $100 million for the first time
Average value of bottled wine exports declines 11% to $8.70 per litre
Membership of Sustainable Winegrowing NZ covers 93% of the producing area and 85% of wine production

China is New Zealand's fastest growing wine export market with shipments increasing 180% in the year ended June 2010. The United Kingdom is our number one market in volume (33.8%), marginally eclipsing Australia (32.3%) but Australia accounts for more revenue. USA (18.6%), Canada (5%), Netherlands, Ireland and China are next on the list. New Zealand exports wine to approximately 90 countries.
In contrast New Zealand imports wine from approximately 30 countries. Australia (75% of imports), South Africa, Italy, France and Spain account for the largest volumes.

Complexity is the name of a project for exporting high end fine wine to the USA with government backing. 21 notable wineries were selected to be part of the programme from those that applied. They are recognised as being a champion of their region or style. They are Amisfield, Ata Rangi, Cloudy Bay, Craggy Range, Escarpment, Felton Rd, Kumeu River, Mr Difficulty, Muddy Water, Nautilus, Neudorf, Palliser, Pegasus Bay, Quartz Reef, Saint Clair, Seresin, Spy Valley, Trinity Hill, Vavasor, Villa Maria and Vinoptima.

Stephanie Lambert is the new winemaker at Amisfield, replacing Claire Mulholland.

Riverstone Kitchen has been acclaimed supreme Winner in the Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards 2010, as also Best Casual Dining. Pegasus Bay Winery is awarded Best Winery Restaurant again, while Black Barn Bistro was runner-up.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games Games Committee has included Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc in their selection for Athletes Village Fine Dining events.

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 has won the Award for Best Pinot Noir and the Trophy for Wine of Show at the Association of Australian Boutique Winemakers Awards.  Blind River Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (gold) and Kerner Estate Marlborough Pinot Blanc 2009 (silver) were each top of their class in the Show.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Aug 29th 2010

Chris Keys' Passion for Pinot

On Saturday morning last weekend I woke up the impassioned tones of Gibbston Valley winemaker, Christopher Keys. It was on National Radio's Country Life program and they had just entered the Gibbston Valley wine cave. Chris was emotionally sharing his love affair with Pinot Noir.

"You and that soulful glass of Pinot Noir … sonorous … lifted and light …. weighty and rich … grandiose and strident … all this from a glass of wine … it's almost unhealthy how you get drawn into it," he says. Listening to Chris I was drawn in too.

In the cave that tunnels into schist rock almost 100 metres underground, the beauty of a glass of Pinot Noir often entrances him. He loves tasting wine in the serene quietness of the cool, dark, cave environment.

One unique thing about the wine cave, apart from the fact it is a wine cave, is the Central Otago history that lies within in the form of early bottles of Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir. Every now and then Chris gets a chance to taste some of the old vintages (back to the 1980's) and is surprised how well some of the wines have aged.

"They have thrilling acidity with a cool climate edge. Perhaps this was a little alarming when the wines first made but it has allowed them to survive. They almost get a second youth, a new verve and energy. It's fascinating," he says.

He explains that as the wine ages they change becoming deeper and perhaps a little more murky with peaty marshy characters or forest floor, truffle (whatever you want to call it) with echoes and shadows of Central's Otago wild thyme. The word soulful is used again.

A fascinating insight into the pleasures of wine tasting - you too can listen to the interview up until the 30th September at this link and scroll down to Gibbston Valley Wines.

I got to open an older Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir recently, although only 10 years old … Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2000 is a bricking red colour, disintegrating on the rims. A deep concentrated savoury wine with plum, prune, redcurrant and spice on the nose and moderately developed flavours. Silky in structure yet still quite oaky, with stewed plum and tamarillo fruit, hints of chocolate and plenty of savoury earthy funk. As I muse over the wine I'm reminded of old fruitcake, dried roses, leather and smoking jackets. A pleasure to taste now if you can get hold of a bottle this one had been well cellared and the cork was sound.

The radio program finished with the news that a Gibbston Valley wine had won a major accolade in Japan. Gibbston Valley Pinot Gris 2009 was awarded the trophy for Best New Zealand Wine and also the Trophy for Best New World White Wine at the 2010 Japan Wine Challenge, announced in July. A wine that the vigneron recommends cellaring for five years, however the screwcap has to be twisted for purposes of critique. A little phenolic to start but intensifying in richness, weight and mouthfeel, it's a dry style with flavours of Nashi pear, hints of ginger and vanilla and a lovely thread of tangelo zest. A fine accompaniment to salmon. RRP $27.50. Check out

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

New vintage Pinot Noirs surprise

2009 looks like it is going to be a great year for Pinot Noir, judging by the wines I've tasted so far. Here's a selection of the most recent.

Sileni Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Pinot Noir 2009 ($21.95)devilspn.jpg (20695 bytes)
Pinot Noir from Hawkes Bay is not very common so the few that are made have the region's reputation riding on them. This lighter-bodied wine carries the flag proudly. Ruby hued with a smoke-infused cherry aroma, it's spicy with underlying acidity, bittersweet fruit reminiscent of Throaties lollies, sweet smoky oak, grainy edged tannins and concentration to the lingering tamarillo and smoky bacon finish.

Devils Staircase Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 ($24)
Bright ruby with a sweet cherry aroma, this wine took a little time to evolve but when it did, it expressed earthy gamey flavours and red and purple fruits beautifully. The 'second label' from high-flier Rockburn, this is complex and intriguing. We loved the label design (see right) too.

Cable Bay Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 ($35)
Dense ruby with a concentrated earthy aroma, this is a dense, thick, meaty wine with velvety tannins and juicy tamarillo and cherry fruit. A generous wine with lovely anise and tarragon notes coming through on the smoky, almost creamy finish, it deliver lots of pleasure.

Montana Living Land Series Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 ($19.95)
Deep ruby maroon with a rich, savoury aroma that opens up to reveal black cherry fruit and cake spices and powerful, concentrated flavours with violet, black cherry, spice and a long, succulent yet savoury smoky finish. This is serious Pinot Noir and I've selected it for this week's Wine of the Week. Click here to read more.

Wines were matched to Rack of Lamb with a garlic herb crust. Delicious food for Pinot Noir. Delicious wines for the food.

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

60 new wine reviews

It's been a while since my recap of the weekly Wednesday tastings and with a Monday tasting thrown in as well, there are 60 new wine reviews on my Wednesday Roundup pages.  

On the July 28th, none of the wines came from New Zealand. White wine highlights were Marc Bredif Vouvray 2007 from the Loire Valley and Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay 2007 from Western Australia. In the reds the surprise of the night for many was The Winery of Good Hope Pinotage 2009 from Stellenbosch in South Africa and my particular favourite was Chanarmuyo Reserva Malbec 2008 from La Rioja, Argentina.

August started with a South Island showdown on the night of the 4th. Muddy Water Lough Vineyard Riesling 2008 eclipsed the whites while my red wines of the night were Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2007 from Waipara and Akarua Cadence Pinot Noir 2007 from Central Otago.  The tasting notes are dated August 4th.

A super star was poured on August 11th when the theme was North Island Wines. Dry River Pinot Gris 2009 was the wine, a benchmark for the style. The wine that got my vote for value for money, however, at almost a quarter of the cost of the Dry River wine, was Vidal East Coast Viognier 2009. The outstanding red amongst several high calibre wines was Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2007, a stunning stunning wine.

On Monday August 16th, Yalumba's travelling ambassador, Jane Ferrari came to town. It was a night of high expectations for entertainment as well as high expectations for the wines. Both delivered, as expected. Apart from the obvious high end treats like Octavius Old Vine Shiraz 2005 and Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, my Wine of the Night was Yalumba 'The Scribbler' Cabernet Shiraz 2008.  A blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 33% Shiraz, this delicious wine is emphatically the best Scribbler to date.

The theme was Mostly Aromatics on August 18th, and the star of the aromatics was without doubt Jeffrey Grosset Polish Hill Riesling 2009. One of the world's great Rieslings, this baby can be broached right now if you have to, but how it will reward with a few years hibernation in the cellar for those that have the patience to wait. Of the three reds that were poured it was Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Red Label Zinfandel 2008 that got tongues wagging. An intriguing and somewhat controversial wine but exciting to try.

So click on the underlined links above and there you have it - 60 new wine reviews.

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

Drinking the Savvy Dregs

I'm always amazed how much better some wines that on the day after they have been opened. Having the luxury to taste wine in an environment that is for critique than imbibing, often bottles have only two tasting samples removed from them before the cap is screwed back on or the cork is reinserted. The bottles sit there in tasting order for me to look at again the next day and often stay on the floor until bottle recycling day. It's scary how many times I find wines that did not score highly in the primary evaluation because they were closed, one-dimensional and awkward, that turn into lithe and graceful beauties.

Today I threw out a bunch of Sauv Blancs that had been sitting on the floor for far too long. It was time they went.

The 'alternative' styles, in particular, although scoring highly in the 'blind tasting' had evolved into complex, tasty, mouthfuls of deliciousness. In particular these three …

Dog Point Section 94 2008
Wild ferment with eighteen months in old barrels, this has grapefruit aromas and rich sweet flavours that make this seem such a luscious style of Sauvignon Blanc - there's tropical fruit, peaches and caramel with a delicate hint of spicy oak and the grapefruit on the bouquet comes forth again on the finish. A stunning wine that gets better and better with every sip. My top 'alternative' style in the initial tasting and days later still utterly hard to resist.

Pegasus Bay Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Concentration is the key to this powerful punchy wine. Aromatic and grassy with bright leesy lemony flavours with grapefruit pushing through, yet quite earthy and savoury underneath the bright tropical and citrus fruit. Wild yeast and natural ferment through and through but only the Semillon component sees oak. As this wine evolves after opening, concentrated stonefruit emerges and the wine seems to become rather creamy. It also seems more 'delicate' and harmonious too. Chardonnay drinkers would love this.

Mahi The Alias Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Aromas of wild yeast with funky vanilla and stonefruit, then soft and creamy in the palate with lovely use of oak so it doesn't dominate. Flavours of passionfruit, white peach and vanilla with a lovely infusion of summer herbs. Beautifully balanced. Strong and persistent.
Tasting again on bottle recycling day the wine is lingering in my mouth as I write this. Heading towards hokey pokey but with that distinctive sweet pea character that the best Savvies get and something that's reminiscent of rolling in a meadow full of long dried grass in the summer with your partner, the sun beating down, the funky afterglow - need I say more …
This wine is named Alias because the winemaker feels it is such a different take on Sauvignon Blanc, it's like a wine living under an assumed name.

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

Another Classy Auckland Chardonnay

People may think I have rocks in my head with all these Auckland wines I keep championing, but the fact is, I like them.  Like this new Chardonnay I tasted the other day.

Mahurangi River Field of Grace Reserve Chardonnay 2009, $54, has tantalising aromas and mind bogglingly delicious flavours of nutty vanillin new French oak, peach and butter caramel flavours with a fine seam of citrus and a lovely savoury undercurrent. That's the note I wrote as I drank the dregs of the bottle. It was one wine on the tasting table that did get wholly consumed, albeit over three or four days. But I have to say I enjoyed every mouthful.
New French oak, wild yeast fermentation and good fruit to start with, are the key to this first release from Shelley Trotter and Gary Heaven, the new owners of Mahurangi River Winery in the Matakana wine sub region of Auckland.  I reckon this Chardonnay would sit well beside any of the superstars from further south.

On the first night the wine was opened we matched it to a oven baked chicken breast stuffed with blue cheese and studded with a whole seed cumin crust.  Sounds an odd combination but it was a nice combination and, most importantly, the wine and food match worked.

Mahurangi River Field of Grace Reserve Chardonnay 2009 is this week's Wine of the Week.  Read more about it here.

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

Delicious Dolcetto and Tempting Sangiovese

When it comes to matching food to our favourite wine varieties, we often have our favourite foods to go with the wines. But what about when you try something new and have no benchmarks to fall back on? Like New Zealand grown and made Dolcetto?

Heron's Flight in Matakana has been producing Dolcetto since 2004 and the wine they make is full of sumptuous ripe fruit supported by meaty tannins and seems very modern in style. Evidently it's not like the 'Cinderella' wine of the Piedmont that is usually, but not always, made in a lighter style.

Heron's Flight Matakana Dolcetto 2008 is deep crimson red in colour with a spicy oak and ripe, juicy berry bouquet. With cherry and leather flavours it is initially a little like Merlot in some respects but with much brighter acidity and a firm velvety tannin structure. While voluptuous, concentrated cherry and redcurrant fruit is the hero; there's plenty of savouriness too with liquorice and spice on the lingering finish.

We tasted this wine together with the Heron's Flight Il Rosso, a Sangiovese wine that seems very true to type. Heron's Flight Il Rosso Sangiovese 2008 is a dry, savoury, medium-bodied wine with fine yet firm tea-like tannins, a cigar box smokiness, blueberry and cherry fruit, dried herbs and underlying acidity adding brightness to the finish. It's a wine that I think has will have wide appeal both with and without food.

The Sangiovese was fabulous with lamb shanks and also with a variety of cheeses but the Dolcetto really protested at these simple matches.

What to do? Ask the winemaker.

"Mary suggests pasta because the pasta is creamy and will cut through the tannins," says winemaker David Hoskins.

Well it just so happened I have some leftover sauce made with from thick passata style tomatoes cooked with onions and garlic and reduced with a little red wine. I reheated the sauce and added a splash of cream and served it over al dente pasta. This simple dish was perfect for the bold Dolcetto. The acidity of the tomatoes balanced the juicy sweet fruit in the wine, and the creaminess of the sauce and the pasta cut right through the tannins. A simple Italian style dish for an Italian grape variety - perfect.

Meanwhile I had bought some scotch fillet on the way home as I remembered I had made a sauce from a berry jam before and it worked quite well. The steaks were sizzled in a hot pan with coarsely chopped garlic that started to caramelise. The meat rested while the sauce was made. A splash of wine went in to deglaze then pan and then a couple of tablespoons of cranberry jelly, as that's what was in the cupboard, then a dash of cream for finishing. The sauce was poured over the steaks for serving.

Once again a very good match for the Dolcetto with the tart berries in the sauce complementing the sweet berries in the wine and the rare juicy steak cutting right through the tannins. But it was the garlic and wine together that was most impressive.

Tasted over a couple of days, the tannins in the Dolcetto mellowed. For that reason I recommend decanting for drinking right now. Two wines definitely worth trying from New Zealand's sole specialist producer of Italian varietal wines. Check out

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

Sacred Hill on the TV

Did you see Country Calendar on TV the other night?  It was a program on the Sacred Hill winery in Hawkes Bay, filmed around the time of the 2010 harvest and featured owner David Mason, his wife and Ti Point winemaker Tracy Haslam, their four children and winemaker Tony Bish. You can check it out on TVNZ on Demand. Here's the link to the preamble and here's the link to the video.

Particularly interesting was the blending session of the Sacred Hill Rifleman's Chardonnay 2009 and eventually the hundreds of blended samples were whittled down to just two. David and Tony were shown tasting them. 

"Who makes the final decision? " I asked Tony when he was in Auckland the other day.
"I'm the winemaker, so I do," he replied.

He explained that in the blending session that are looking for elegance, power, finesse and citrus. As the wine in the blending session was one of the wines at the tasting, how did he do? Pretty good, I'd say.

Sacred Hill Rifleman's Chardonnay 2009, $55, is bright citrine gold with a vitreous lustre to the hue. Smoky, nutty aromas are infused with caramelised nectarine and the fruit flavours are citrus and pineapple underpinned by a creamy wild yeast funk. The texture is smooth, almost oily but not quite, and totally seamless and the oak is fine and harmonious. And while the wine is youthful now and the malolactic character needs to integrate, with its long powerful finish it has all the hallmarks of greatness. It is Sacred Hill Rifleman's after all.

So where does the name come from?  Tony explained there were so many birds in the vineyard they jokingly wrote Shotgun Chardonnay on the barrels when it was first made. But it was released as Rifleman's in honour of the shooter.  Rifleman is also the name of a New Zealand native bird.

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

Hyping up my favourite wine regions

It's been a busy but exciting week for me. Much of my time was taken up preparing to speak on behalf of the Rodney Times and the Rodney Economic Development Trust to Supercity Mayoral candidate Len Brown on the Rodney region wine trails - Kumeu and Matakana. When the Supercity comes into being on the 1st November 2010, Rodney, the region I live in, will cease to exist as it is now. But the stakeholders in this largely rural area don't want all they've worked for to be ignored by any incoming council that will no doubt be concerned largely with urban issues. As a leading candidate, and from the south side of the city, it is imperative that Mr Brown hears how important tourism is for Rodney's local economy.

The forum was yesterday and the section I was talking in was 'Making It Happen' but I changed changed tack slightly and talked about 'What made it happen'. 

Kumeu is the heritage wine trail of Auckland, together with Henderson - what is left in Henderson that is, although Henderson is coming alive again with Corazon Wines opening their cellar door this month to join Artisan Wines as new stop on the trail. We used to call it the West Auckland Wine trail and maybe it will become that again - or even better, perhaps  Auckland's Nor'West Wine Experience. Wineries like Nobilo, Kumeu River (previously San Marino) and Soljans (although they moved from Henderson to Kumeu in 2002), have been on the trail for over sixty years. Today there are ten stops on the Kumeu Wine Trail.  As well as the three mentioned, there is Matua Valley, Coopers Creek, Kerr Farm, West Brook (another former Henderson winery), Awa Valley, Twin Totara, and the brand new Wine & Art where you can taste wines from Waimarie, Kaipara Estate, Mahana Ridge and Waimauku Sands.

While Kumeu is the heritage trail, Matakana's wine is relatively new.   In 1996 Heron's Flight was the only stop. Ransom Wines and Hyperion joined Heron's Flight in 1999, then Ascension and Matakana Estate (now closed). Current stops are Hawk's Nest, Providence (summer weekends only), Contour Estate, Omaha Bay Vineyard, Brick Bay Wines (complete with sculpture trail), Mahurangi River and Hinchco Wines (at the Taste shop in Warkworth).  As well there's The Vintry in Matakana Village. The Vintry is a fabulous concept where you can taste the wines of most of the Matakana producers, including those without cellar doors - and there's at least ten of those.

One thing about the Rodney wine producers is that they are diverse in what they produce.  At some places, particularly Nobilos, Matua Valley, Soljans and Coopers Creek, you can taste the wines they make from all over New Zealand but for others the wines are made from grapes grown locally such as the classical French varieties like Chardonnay (the best in New Zealand by the way), Pinot Gris, Viognier, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. There's Italian varieties like Sangiovese and Dolcetto and the white grape Arneis. There are more unusual varieties like Tannat and the Spanish white grape Albarino. Oh, and did I mention Pinot Noir?  There are two producers - Kumeu River and Hyperion.

Hyperion Matakana Pinot Noir 2008 has just been released. Moderate garnet in colour, this is a medium-bodied wine that's savoury to the core with nutty oak and cherry fruit, fine tannins and a lingering finish with a vinous complexity reminiscent of a Villages style from Burgundy.

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

Drinking with a Star

It's rare for me to mix with Thespians, especially the more illustrious ones, but it happened last week when A-list celeb Sam Neill came to town. Sam is known internationally for his acting but here in New Zealand he is also known for his wines. He owns the Two Paddocks label and is a partner in the Central Otago Wine Company where winemaker Dean Shaw crafts Two Paddocks and other Central Otago wines.

Sam was in town to toast his new liaison with distributor Negociants. Being a luncheon affair it was the first serious tasting I've had of Two Paddocks, apart from enjoying the odd bottle of Picnic Riesling from time to time. And I was impressed.  The current release and this week's Wine of the Week, Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 is silky and sublime.   The yet to be released Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 is deep, dark and concentrated and needs a bit more time. But it was the Two Paddocks Central Otago Pinot Noir 2006, poured from a limited release magnum, that almost stole the show. Funky to the core with a sweet earth, potting clay aroma infused with thyme-like herbs and bittersweet red fruit, sexy is one word to describe this wine.  It's concentrated yet spicy with hints of violets and a velvety, cushion-like, mossy forest floor and the long dry finish is bright.

A great end to an exciting introduction.

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

The Day after the Night Before

There comes a time when it seems appropriate to talk about hangover cures and that time is usually the day after the night before.  For some people I know the best cure is to 'sleep it off' but sometimes that is not always possible, especially when there are things to do, like going to work, and what a waste of a day in your life when you end up spending a self-inflicted day in bed. 

So last night, at a party, I asked a few people what their best hangover cure was. While some said they never got hangovers (yeah right!), here's what others had to say ...

Cup after cup of very strong coffee
A glass of milk with a raw egg in it
Headache pills and lots of water
Vitamin B as in Berocca
Vitamin C as in tomato juice, orange juice or pineapple juice
A greasy breakfast with a double portion of fried eggs
Lots of fresh fruit - mandarins and bananas in particular

And of course there's the hair of the dog ....

Fortunately I didn't have to put any of the methods into practice. After a glass of Pol Roger bubbly on arrival, a glass of Louis Roederer bubbly to follow and a taste of chardonnay that I didn't really want to drink, I asked the hostess, who had ice cubes in her wine glass, what she was drinking. 
"Lime, bitters and lemonade," she said.
"Could I have some of what you're having?" I replied.
What a refreshing drink and apart from the ice cubes, it looks like white wine - kind of.

I didn't need to check the breathalyser when we left after the witching hour and I didn't have to worry about trying out any of the above hangover cures.

As for my better half, who I wouldn't let near the steering wheel, he had a good sleep in this morning. Then I served him a greasy big breakfast of bacon, eggs, tomatoes and bananas and he was right as rain by lunchtime. He had to be. We were going out for lunch.

Other remedies that have since come to hand

  • Rod writes, "OK, we all know we should drink water while we're consuming alcohol. If you've had plenty of booze, then in addition to the water, take 2 anti-inflammatories BEFORE  you go to bed. Although it's not proven, think in terms of the anti-i's countering swelling blood vessels in the brain."
  • Darryl says, "Three hot dogs on a stick first thing in the morning will do the trick!"

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