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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: November 2010
Nov 30th: Pinot Gris Class of 2009
Nov 29th: Pinot Gris Class of 2010
Nov 23rd: You don't have to be 'Elite' to be the best
Nov 21st: Peregrine soars to giddy heights
Nov 20th: Tiki's Winemaker revealed, a few tasty Sauvs and Squealing Pigs
Nov 14th: More Wine Show Gold Medals
Nov 7th: Kidnapped at a Cliff
Nov 1st: Pinot Noir Vertical
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Nov 30th 2010

Pinot Gris Class of 2009

Is 2010 better for Pinot Gris than 2009? At this stage I really don't know. But what I can say about the 2009 wines I tried i my most recent tasting, they seemed to be richer - perhaps a reflection of an extra year of age – and many were sweeter. Nevertheless, there was a huge range of styles.

Class of 2009 tasting highlights

Mahi Ward Farm Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 ($29) This is what I'd call an 'alternative style' gris with dominant winemaking derived flavours of wild yeast and barrel ferment. Texturally complex and seamless with white honey, wild yeast and crushed wine biscuit scents and the funky winemaking-derived flavours parting to let the juicy ripe fruit come through. While not what you'd expect in pinot gris, it's distinctly a 'Mahi' style and quite delicious if you like something different. I do. 5 stars.

Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 ($20) Soft and rich, lightly viscous, almost oily, and despite an initial suggestion of grapefruit the acidity seems low. Classic flavours of pear with hints of stonefruit on the finish and a nice touch of musk and spice. Delicious. 5 stars.

Waimea Bolitho SV Nelson Pinot Gris 2009 ($25) A rich, luscious sweet wine with light viscosity to the texture, bright clean juicy mandarin to cut through the honey and additional flavours of dried tropical fruits with sweet apple and pear. 4.5 stars

Akarua Central Otago Pinot Gris 2009 ($25.50) Youthful scents of citrus and pears, toffee apple, feijoa and a hint of truffle. Spicy, high-toned and lifted, with flavours of lemon honey drink that makes it seem a little Riesling-like at times. 3.5 stars.

Chard Farm Central Otago Pinot Gris 2009 ($29) Nutty aromas and a rich, weighty palate that's spicy and just off dry with a smooth, slippery texture. Subtle juicy pear and stonefruit flavours expand on the long, full finish that has a citrussy tang. 4 stars.

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2009 ($29) A Kevin Judd creation that set itself on a tier in a blind tasting line-up. I rated it 5 stars and have written it up as this week's Wine of the Weekclick here to read the review.

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

Pinot Gris Class of 2010

Believe it or not, New Zealand pinot gris is getting exciting. Perhaps it is because of the last couple of growing seasons – 2009 was very good and 2010 looks like it will be even better. Perhaps it is the age of the vines. Perhaps it is experience in the vineyard - picking the grapes at the optimum time and the winemaker's expertise in making the wine. Whatever it is, there seems to be more good wines out there than bad. At least that is my general feel after emptying my tasting boxes of pinot gris wines. These are some of the highlights – and they come from up and down the country in a huge range of styles.

These wines were matched to two dishes – my Chicken cooked in pinot gris, orange juice, honey and coriander is a rich sweet dish and needs a dry / dryish wine. In contrast Pork medallions with an orange and ginger sauce, where the ginger dominated the dish, will not match to very dry phenolic styles (none of which are reviewed here).

Class of 2010

Soljans Kumeu Pinot Gris 2010 ($19) An off-dry to medium-sweet wine that's texturally pleasing with a touch of viscosity and apple and pear fruit infused with orange zest, it leaves behind a fresh, clean fruity flavours with hints of citrus and tropical fruit and a suggestion of rose petal too. Can be enjoyed as a beverage wine and delicious with a range of food too. 4 stars.

Neudorf Moutere Pinot Gris 2010 ($29)  It is the clean, fresh, fruit purity that shines through to make this wine a star. There's red apple, pear, stonefruit and some bready mealy characters then a lovely nuance of tarragon that imparts delight to the aftertaste, that is just off-dry. 5 stars.

Lawsons Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010 ($26) With a smoky aura to the nutty scents and a smooth, rich, creamy palate full of peach nectar, pear, citrus, vanilla and spice, this is a classy, sophisticated dry wine with lovely textural complexity, heading to the cusp of oily, and finishing clean. A seamless match to the pork and ginger. 4.5 stars

Opawa Marlborough Pinot Gris 2010 ($23) More classical Pinot Gris dominated entirely by pear with a hint of vanilla on the finish. Creamy in texture with reasonable weight and a spicy, mushroomy note to the long, clean finish. 4 stars.

Rockburn Central Otago Pinot Gris 2010 ($21) Citrus aromas follow through to the palate where there's more than a hint of grapefruit. Ripe and juicy, clean, fresh and bright with the flavours heading towards apricot and a touch of rose musk too. Flavoursome and tangy, not your typical pinot gris but so delicious to drink and a vibrant match to pork with orange and ginger too. 4.5 stars.

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

You don't have to be 'Elite' to be the best

The Air NZ Wine Awards has a class system within their gold medals. A 'standard' gold medal wine scores between 18.5 and 18.99 points out of 20, but an 'elite' gold medal is for a wine that scores 19 points or higher out of 20.

The Elite Gold medal was introduced in 2007, 'to reflect the truly great wines among the gold medal winners, deserving of special recognition'.

So if a class has three wines in it, and only one of those wines won an elite gold medal, wouldn't you think that the highest scoring 'elite gold' wine would win the Trophy? Not so, it seems, with the Gewurztraminer class this year.

Forest The Valleys Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2010 was an elite gold medal winner, scoring 19 points or higher.

Waimea Estate Nelson Gewurztraminer 2010 and West Brook Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009 were simply 'gold' medal winners.

But it was Waimea Estate Nelson Gewurztraminer 2010 that was awarded the Trophy. Despite the judges' scores, it was this wine that was voted the Best of the Best.

Waimea is no stranger to Trophy wins for its Gewurztraminer – the 2008 vintage taking out the  Champion Gewurztraminer Trophy at the NZ International Wine Show last year. I hope to taste the new vintage soon.

Meanwhile, I have tasted the other 'gold' medal winner, West Brook Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2009. Also a gold medal winner at the recent International Aromatic Wine Competition, it is this week's Wine of the Week. Click here to check out my review.

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

Peregrine soars to giddy heights

Peregrine Central Otago Pinot Noir 2009 has taken out the top accolade of Champion Wine of the Show at the 2010 Air New Zealand Wine Awards, from 1579 entries. Also honoured as the Champion Pinot Noir from 32 gold medal winners in this category, it symbolises the quality of the 2009 vintage in Central Otago, which is where 14 of the gold medal Pinot Noirs came from. Peregrine also received a third trophy for Champion Open Red Wine. Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2010 was the Champion Open White Wine Trophy winner.

Nineteen Trophies were awarded and the winners were . . .

from Hawke’s Bay:

Villa Maria Reserve Chardonnay 2009
Squawking Magpie "The Stoned Crow" Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2008
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2008
Church Road Cuve Merlot 2007
Left Field Merlot Malbec 2009
Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2007 (Champion Exhibition White Wine)

from Marlborough:

Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Villa Maria Private Bin Dry Riesling 2010 (received two trophies)
The Sounds Méthode Traditionnelle 2007
Allan Scott Family Winemakers Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2008

from Central Otago:

Peregrine Pinot Noir 2009 (received three trophies)
Gibbston Valley China Terrace Pinot Noir 2009 (Champion Sustainable Wine)
Olssens Slapjack Creek Pinot Noir 2009 (Champion Exhibition Red Wine)

A summary of the results can be found on and more extensive detail on

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

Tiki's Winemaker revealed, a few tasty Sauvs and Squealing Pigs

In my review of Tiki Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010, my Wine of the Week last week, I wanted to know who the winemaker was - and now I know. He is Evan Ward, previously winemaker at Morton Estate, so no stranger to producing gold medal winning Sauv.   Tiki has no winery but in 2010 used the eco-friendly Yealands Estate Winery on the southern coastal side of the Awatere.

A heads-up for some other Sauvs tasted recently

Opawa Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($19.99) wooed the judges at the Air New Zealand wine Awards, who awarded it gold. I found scents of grass, herb, capsicum and lemon becoming more tropical as the lost its chilly edge. A dry, crisp, style that is steely and flinty at first with a touch of sweet apple and pineapple and softness to the finish where some lovely tarragon notes come through on the finish.

Cable Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($24.99) has a touch of oak, which perhaps subdues the punchy character that is often typical of young Sauv. Picking up some dried hay and apple notes with lingering juicy tangelo and a backbone of summer herbs, it's not too brash at all and drinking nicely now.

Jackson Estate Stich Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($22.50) was put into the tasting by my wine coordinator as a Marlborough benchmark amongst some newer names.   It has capsicum and tropical fruit aromas and grassy flavours with a steely backbone to the tangy apple and juicy tropical fruit and a touch of oiliness to the texture that adds roundness to the mouthfeel and richness to the finish.

Moncellier Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($24.99) is full of Marlborough greens with gooseberry, capsicum, lime and green apple followed by hints of grapefruit and finishing with tropical fruit and a long, long finish where the afterglow kicks in. Certainly quite acceptable.

sq-pig.jpg (32962 bytes)Squealing Pig Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($24.99) is sure to please punters with its cute presentation and name. But compared to the others it starts off a little restrained - which is typical of the Awatere, so no complaint. Flavours of apple, gooseberry, flint & lime with a lightly oily texture adding richness and tropical fruit and herbs more pronounced as it lingers.

Squealing Pig is a product from Treasury Wine Estates (the new name for Fosters), and made at Matua Valley (also owned by TWE), but the wine is not part of the Matua Valley family of wines. The front and back labels are certainly talking points but the RRP, which really is in the premium range, is a little puzzling. I'm sure the cutesy label will attract people who want to pay $20 or less. But who knows because I'm told it is unlikely to be in supermarkets for some time.

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

More Wine Show Gold Medals

The medal winners at the 2010 Air New Zealand Wine Awards have been announced with a record 107 gold medals, 197 silver medals and 384 bronze medals awarded out of a total of 1579 wines entered into the competition. What is quite startling is the 32 medals awarded to Pinot Noir (from 310 entries) and the meagre 14 golds awarded to Sauvignon Blanc (from 276 entries).

Sauvignon Blanc numbers were evidently down, perhaps due to the fact that all wines entered into the Air New Zealand Wine Awards from the 2010 vintage onwards – and most Sauvignon Blanc entered is current vintage wine – have to fulfil the 'Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand' criteria. This means the grapes have to be grown on 'accredited' vineyards and the wines made in 'accredited' wineries. Check out the website link for what this all means.

All of the medal results can be found on The Trophies are announced on Saturday 20th November.

I've updated my own tally of gold medal awards for this 'season' from the various wine competitions held around the country – the Bragato Wine Awards, the NZ International Wine Show, the New World Wine Awards, the Hawkes Bay Wine Awards, the International Aromatic Wine Competition, and now the Air NZ Wine Awards. In total there are over 300 wine that have been adorned with gold medals since the end of August.

In the Air NZ Wine Awards, 71 of the wines were first time medal winners. Check out my 2010-2011 Wine Show gold medal summary here.

I never got around tipping blog readers off about the Wine of the Week for the weekending today. It was the Tiki Single Vineyard Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2010 from way up the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. Even more poignant once I realised I had passed the Tiki vineyards as I traveled up and down the 'Alpine Valley' earlier this year. Click here to read mny review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Nov 7th 2010

Kidnapped at a Cliff

Some wines arrived from Kidnapper Cliffs, a new label from Hawkes Bay but one with influence and revere behind it. The Robertson Family, who own Te Awa in Hawkes Bay and the iconic Dry River in Martinborough, have created Kidnapper Cliffs as a super premium label to 'effectively marry what is prime Te Awa 'terroir' to Dry River's methodical, terroir-focused approach to fine wine production'. The sole intention is to create low yield, niche wines structured for long term cellaring.

With this in mind I opened the whites for tasting and, because of the portfolio connections, I decided to taste the newly released and same vintage Dry River Chardonnay alongside the new Kidnapper Cliffs. But first the white Bordeaux-styled blend in, of course, a Bordeaux style bottle.

Kidnapper Cliffs 'Solan' Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon 2009 ($34)
There are parcels of both tank and barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc plus a small portion of barrel fermented Semillon.
My note: This is a rich, powerful, barrel-aged, smoky style with a peasy/asparagus nuance to the scent. Acidity hums through the palate with grassy, grainy, herbal inflections. Grapefruit and lime take over, hints of stonefruit and melon push through and the funky character of the wild yeast, detected on the nose lingers on the long, powerful finish. This will really appeal to lovers of this style. 13% alcohol. Cork closure.

dry-ch.jpg (11740 bytes)Dry River Martinborough Chardonnay 2009 ($52)
My note: A very appealing bouquet of sweet oak and sweet fruit with a nutty mealy influence coming through. In the palate it's spicy and savoury, nutty and creamy and while quite oak dominant with a powerful mealy undercurrent, delectable juicy peach and nectarine fruit balances the winemaking components beautifully. Already delicious. 13% alcohol. Cork closure.

Kidnapper Cliffs Chardonnay 2009 ($45)
My note: Similar to the Dry River but richer and more powerful, with creamy oak and a funky wild yeast infusion to the scent. Nutty and savoury in palate, this big rich wine seems quite 'tannic' at this stage of its life and is pleading to be cellared for a while.   13% alcohol. Cork closure.

The Chardonnays were tasted again, from the firmly recorked bottles, a few days later.

Dry River: A subtle hint of lemon verbena now permeates the aroma of this lovely creamy wine with nutty influences to the fore and a delicate citrus infusion. With time in the bottle the oak has integrated beautifully. A really gorgeous wine, seamless, moreish, classy and balanced.

kid-ch.jpg (10512 bytes)Kidnapper Cliffs: Rich and mealy with more powerful nutty flavours than the Dry River. Has developed nicely and the tannins that dominated on first opening have simply dissolved. Smooth, rich, powerful and almost buttery with lovely nut and stonefruit flavours on the lingering finish with the funky wild yeast characters asserting their presence. A 'big wine' in every sense.

Summary: The Kidnapper Cliffs whites will be sure to appeal to those that want a super premium label and have the patience to cellar them. But at this stage, when it comes to the Chardonnays, the Dry River has the edge.

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

Pinot Noir Vertical

Yesterday I told you about the Festival of Wines at the Villa Maria Trade Day. Well, as well as the 80-plus wines in the big barrel hall where the stands were manned by the winemakers, there were master classes going all day in some of the other rooms. I decided to attend the Pinot Noir Vertical, which turned out to be five wines with the Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir label. Gosh it was a good tasting, the highlight of the trade day in fact. I would have been happy if these wines were all I tasted all day. The aftertaste of florals, (rose petal), savoury (mushroom), herbs (thyme), red fruits (cranberry, cherry, tamarillo), chocolate and mulled wine spices lingered beautifully in my mouth for ages.

villapn-vert.jpg (56242 bytes)All of these wines are made from grapes grown in a number of vineyards in the Wairau and Awatere Valleys of Marlborough. The three older wines utilised predominantly Awatere fruit while the younger two were predominantly from the Southern Valleys of the Wairau. Alastair Maling MW, who took the master class, said they were looking for fragrance, texture and layers and that's something they definitely have achieved. Here are my notes.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2005
Slightest of bricking to hue. Quite savoury with deep fruit and lovely sexy aged notes coming through. In the mouth bright tamarillo notes over a deep savoury herbal backbone with still bright acidity and a velvety textured creamy finish. In astonishingly good condition with 5 years or more ahead of it.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2006
Savoury, gamey aromas with a fruit cake richness and hints of tea rose. In the palate chocolate and cherry, plum and mulled wine spices. Deep savoury and smoky with mushrooms and woody herbs lingering on the finish. A crushed velvet grip to the tannins and a hint of tarragon. Lovely food wine. Made me salivate for Neil's herb-crusted lamb racks.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2007
Similar aromas to the 2006 but brighter fruit, hints of tamarillo and a lovely fragrance as well. Smooth with chocolate and mocha notes over a sexy sensual savoury gamey backbone. Lovely texture, macerated red fruits, some tamarillo and mulled wine spices. Almost texturally perfect. There's enough acidity to give the wine brightness while a sexy funky character gives this wine the x-factor.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2008
A bright red fruit and floral fragrance with a smoky savouriness coming through. It seems a lighter wine in the lineup and a little more grainy and disintegrated. Oak forward, then savoury gamey notes and brooding red fruits as in the 2007 with mulled wine spices come through and the finish is pleasing. A lovely wine in its own right but in this lineup, it showed as the weakest.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 (just bottled but not yet released)
Creamy oak characterises the savoury scent and the wine is herbal and savoury on entry to palate. Bright red fruits, hints of rose petal and a savoury undercurrent with hints of chocolate on the finish. Needs to develop but shows great potential with some of the elements of the 2007 coming through on the aftertaste.

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