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Wednesday Round-up - the 2007 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

August 2007
[ Click here for index to other months ]


Sue Courtney's Fine Wine Wednesday tasting notes were recorded for First Glass Wines and Spirits in Takapuna for publication on their website. These notes are archival and may have been deleted from their site by now.
Some of the prices may be 'specials'. Check out www.first-glass.co.nz for current availability and pricing. New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 22nd Aug 2007
Cuisine Magazine's Top Ten NZ Reds
Wines were tasted blind.

Vintage Lane Marlborough Chardonnay 2004
Big, gold and bold, this creamy buttery Chardonnay is rich, ripe and savoury with well integrated toasty oak, juicy tropical fruit and a nicely balanced touch of citrus acidity to keep it focussed. Ready now. Do not over chill.
14.5% alc. $15.99. Diam.

S.A. Prum Essence Riesling 2005 - Mosel, Germany
Light gold with citrus on the nose and zesty citrus in the palate with honeysuckle, apricots, orange blossom and a warm, lightly viscous texture, it's bright and aromatic with medium sweetness and lovely purity of fruit.
11.5% alc. $21.99. Screwcap.

CJ Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Blackberry jam coloured. Smoky and fragrant with ripe plum, cherry and chocolate oak on the nose, it's ripe, rich and smooth to the taste with fine tannins, creamy vanillin oak, juicy plum and blackberry fruit, hints of dried mint and salty, savoury leather on the warm, full-bodied finish . 5 stars. Cuisine #7.
14% alc. $25.99. Screwcap.

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2004 - Hawke's Bay
Deep red black, quite dark in the core of the glass. Opulent berry and vanillin oak aromas and ripe berry flavours that explode with juiciness in the mouth. Firmly structured and concentrated with fine silky tannins, smoky savoury oak, bitter chocolate, earth, liquorice and leather; a glimpse of underlying acidity lifts the blackberry fruit and cherry emerges on the lingering, creamy finish. Developing nicely, still a long way to go. 5 stars. Cuisine #9.
14% alc. $50.99. Screwcap.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Deep black red with purple flushed crimson edges, it's fine and vibrant in its appearance. Fragrant with a floral overtone to the sweet berry and smoky oak scents, it's a blockbuster of a wine in the mouth with firm succulent tannins, cherry and plum fruit, chocolate and lots of creamy red fruit. There's a deliciously intriguing exotic spiciness and amazing concentration. A simply incredible wine and a star at the special price. 5 stars. Cuisine #3. 14% alc. $25.99. Cork.

Mills Reef Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Dark black cherry red. Ripe and round on the nose with fragrant berry and chocolate oak. Savoury, spicy and even a little peppery in the palate with hints of rose petal amongst the juicy cherry and plum fruit with toasty cedary oak and succulent, well-structured tannins. Soft and rounded and delicious drinking right now. A First Glass super special two months ago, unfortunately since the Cuisine result, it's all sold out. 5 stars. Cuisine #1.
14% alc. Screwcap..

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Te Kahu Merlot 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Deep red black with vivid crimson and violet hues. Smoky, savoury, earthy, leathery and spicy on the opulently scented nose but the palate is not as big as the nose suggests. It's full of pretty purple and red fruits with cassis, liquorice, anise, violets and velvety-edged silky tannins while a touch of marmite adds savouriness to the earthy, savoury finish. Lovely balance and flow with the earthiness of the Merlot grapes quite emphatic as it lingers. 5 stars. Cuisine #4.
14% alc. $28.99. Cork.

Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Inky black red. Sweet oak, black fruits, mocha and musk on the nose. Spicy, almost spritzy on the first taste, with big grainy tannins, earth, leather, blackberry, black cherry and smoky cassis. It's ripe and concentrated with floral notes emerging on the finish which is long, creamy and chocolatey. The outstanding trait of this wine is its juicy fruit sweetness that is so well balanced by the savoury components. 5 stars. Cuisine #10.
14% alc. $50.99. Screwcap.

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Dense black red with blood red rims, this wine is so smooth and rounded and the tannins are beautifully integrated already. It's full of savoury oak, cigar box, plums and cassis but not excessively fruity, just, rounded, smooth and vinously complex with a potpourri of dried herbs, a touch of liquorice and hints of bitter chocolate on the savoury finish with a suggestion of mint and cedar. 5 stars. Cuisine #8.
14% alc. $39.99. Cork.

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 - Hawke's Bay
A little deeper black red than the previous wine, the aromas are subtle and vinous. It's smooth in the palate with silky tannins, a lovely integration of red and blackcurrant fruit, earth, spice and raisins. It's very ripe with a dried herb minty nuance and a long, savoury creamy finish with hints of chocolate and liquorice. A succulent wine that is good from the outset but seems to get better and better with every mouthful. 5 stars. Cuisine #5.
14% alc. $39.99. Cork.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels The Quarry 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Like the other Craggy Range wines, this is a deep purple black with crimson hues and it's very attractive wine on the nose with hints of violets amongst the spicy oak. Big, rich and powerful to the taste, utterly concentrated with finely structured but fairly massive tannins, mocha, anise, violet, cedar, dried herbs, rosemary and leather that provides a deep savoury finish. Still brooding, this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot will show its best with decanting. 5 stars. Cuisine #6.
13.5% alc. $61.50. Cork.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Sophia 2005 - Hawke's Bay
Deep black and luminescent with vivid purple crimson hues, this has everything that the Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot has, but more. Fragrant aromatic spices, cherry and musk on the nose; spiced plums, liquorice, anise, violets, musk, a hint of pepper and exotic spices in the palate. With beautifully integrated French oak, fine tannins and great persistence, this blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc is delicious and intriguing and without doubt the star of the tasting tonight. 5 stars. Cuisine #2.
14% alc. $49.99. Cork.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 15th Aug 2007
Felton Road Wines with Blair Walter
Wines were not tasted blind.

Champagne Jacquart Brut Mosaique NV
Pale yellow gold with fine bubbles. Big, rich, dry and toasty with strong nut and yeast aromas and a savoury, bready palate with grilled figs and milled toasted hazelnuts. Long and focused with incredible length carried by the toasty lemon acidity with hints of tropical fruit on the aftertaste. Gold & Trophy – NZ International Wine Show.
12.5% alc. $39.99 special.

Felton Road Vin Gris 2006 - Central Otago
A light onion skin colour with the most delicate hue of pink, it's quite neutral on the nose with yeasty nuances, hints of earth and a subtle suggestion of boiled cherry lollies. The dry, fresh and crisp palate is all about texture and vinosity. It's slightly oily with the faintest hint of strawberry and a sherbetty, almost salty zest to the full-bodied finish with a long nutty aftertaste, a pleasing rounded mouthfeel and excellent length. Made from 100% free run pinot noir juice, fermented in old barrels then aged on lees in tank, it's been likened to a Blanc de Noir champagne without the bubbles. I can see why.
14% alc. $26.99.

Felton Road Elms Chardonnay 2006 - Central Otago
Light lemon gold, bright and clear. Hints of quince and nuances of lime zest on the delicately nutty nose and crisp, oily, nutty flavours with a richness from the earthy, savoury, lemony, toasty yeast lees. There's a strong marmite/yeast influence and underlying acidity adds a lovely tangelo/lime brightness to the finish with baked apple and spice emerging on the dry, nutty aftertaste. One of the most complex 'unoaked' chardonnays you will find made within New Zealand, the fruit comes from the original Elms Vineyard.
14% alc. $26.99.

Felton Road Chardonnay 2006 - Central Otago
Mid yellow gold in colour, there's smoky bacon-like oak on the nose with hints of citrus and stonefruit and even though there is only 10% new oak, it is quite emphatically stated. Rich, powerful and smoky to the taste with grilled peaches, fresh apricot, a hint of pineapple, a touch of grapefruit and a long, mellow, earthy nutty finish with a flourish of oak spice, it's dry, toasty and spicy with savoury yeast lees flavours and butterscotch on the tasty finish. Barrel fermented and matured in 100% French oak for 12 months - the 'barrel fermeneted' of previous vintages has been dropped from the name.
14% alc. $34.99.

Felton Road Riesling 2006 - Central Otago
Light straw with a glimmer of lime, this delicious tasting Riesling has tantalising aromas of citrus zest and wet potter's clay and juicy, sherbetty, mouthwatering flavours of limes and tangelo with a touch of orange water, a suggestion of ginger and a piercingly pure and seemingly dry finish. But this beautifully balanced wine is actually off dry and imparts a honeyed, nectar-like nuance on the lingering, moreish aftertaste.
10.5% alc. 50 g/l residual sugar. 8.3g/l total acidity. $NA.

Cornish Point Pinot Noir 2006 - Central Otago
Ruby garnet with a deep translucency, the concentrated inviting aromas smell of wood-smoked bacon and complex red fruits. It's dry, spicy and savoury to the taste with crisp red fruits, smoky oak, silky tannins and a long juicy aftertaste with a delicate briar rose muskiness that has a prickly kick to the plummy finish. All the fruit from this wine comes from the Cornish Point Vineyard at the confluence of the Kawerau and Clutha Rivers.
14.5% alc. $42.99

Felton Road Pinot Noir 2006 - Central Otago
Deep purple ruby, opaque in the core of the glass, the alluring aromas smell smoky and savoury with aromatic clove and anise-like spices and even a hint of chocolate. Deep and complex to the taste with spicy oak, black cherry fruit and an earthy savoury depth, the subtle tannins have a slightly grainy texture and a suggestion of bitter chocolate adds richness to the lingering finish that has excellent length.
14.5% alc. $51.99.

Felton Road Block 3 Pinot Noir 2006 - Central Otago
Deep pinky purple with a black core, the Block 3 has a tantalising pinot perfume of smoky, savoury oak, musk and spiced black cherry. Spicy and savoury with a gorgeous swathe of sweet fruit in the palate, it's earthy and gamey with hints of spiced mushroom and the fragrance of dried thyme gracing the aftertaste. A wine of delicious depth, complexity and balance with the exotic spices adding additional allure and delicate hints of orange zest on the finish, the firm tannins and underlying acidity suggest the wine will be long lived. From a single block within the original Elms Vineyard.
14.5% alc. $76.00.

St. Johns Road Blood & Courage Shiraz 2006 - Greenock, Barossa Valley
Concentrated purple black in colour this vividly coloured wine has a concentrated aroma of blueberry and blackberry with a hint of liquorice, a smattering of black pepper and smoky oak. Red and black fruits fill the juicy palate together with creamy French oak, fruit cake spices, grainy tannins and smoke with an underlying savouriness and red fruit acidity pointing to its cellaring potential. But why wait? It's seems a little softer and sweeter than last year's Champion wine and with chocolate, cherry, liquorice and mocha lingering on the rounded aftertaste, this powerful wine very seductive already.
14.5% alc. $32.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 8th Aug 2007
Saint Clair Wines with Matt Thomson
Wines were not tasted blind.

A fascinating tasting with a highly entertaining and educational presentation from winemaker Matt Thomson who, as well as crafting Saint Clair's stunning wines, has his own successful Delta label and flies to Europe four times a year to look after four Italian and two French labels. Some of the wines were tasted in pairs to compare and contrast the same grape varieties from different single vineyard sites in Marlborough.

The pretaster:
Saint Clair Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Crammed with vibrantly aromatic passionfruit and gooseberry and lime on the nose, the aroma is reminiscent of last year's stunning Block 6. It's light lemon gold in colour and juicy and zesty in the palate with vibrant fruit, sweet pea, summer herbs and a powerful, pungent, tangy finish.
13% alc. $16.99 special. Screwcap.

First Pairing:
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 1 ‘Foundation’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
A little more restrained on the nose with gooseberry and a hint of pineapple but more obviously oily in texture with upfront gooseberry and lime, a salty citrussy tang, a dash of white pepper, a hint of capsicum and passionfruit taking over the long, juicy finish. A soft, fleshy wine, the fruit richness covers the acidity and underlying spiced apple emerges to linger. I imagine this would be excellent with salt and pepper squid, and with that apple nuance it would also be an excellent accompaniment to a roast pork cracking snack.
13% alc. $24.99 (available September). Screwcap.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 ’43 Degrees’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Tantalising gooseberry and lime on the nose with a hint of that unique Marlborough 'sweat', it's bright, zesty and tangy to the taste with upfront citrus, tangelo peel and summer herbs then gooseberry and passionfruit on the long, focussed finish. Showing lovely purity and intensity of fruit, this exciting wine comes from the last block that Saint Clair harvested which is named 43 degrees because that is the orientation of the vine rows.
13.5% alc. $24.99 (available September). Screwcap.

Second Pairing:
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 ‘Sawcut’ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Soft, peachy aromas and spicy, citrussy, tangy flavours with gooseberry, apple, white peach and summer herbs over a dry chalky backbone with a mealiness from the yeast lees aging coming through to add softness and richness to the rounded finish. It's a little like a Sancerre wine in that it has a fumé smoky character even though it has not seen oak and also reminiscent of unoaked chardonnay in a way but the sauvignon signature of the fruit adds a punchy brightness to the finish.
13.5% alc. $24.99 (available September). Screwcap.

Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
The pre-bottling sample is quite restrained on the nose with a delicate floral perfume and a hint of talc, then that distinctive sweaty character starts to emerge. Mouthfilling, rich and spicy with a silky texture, vibrant tropical fruit, gooseberry, passionfruit, hints of pineapple and sweet underlying Marlborough greens, the finish is dry and powerfully long with banana passionfruit, summer herbs and grapefruit lingering for ages.
13% alc. $31.99 (available September). Screwcap.

Saint Clair Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Pale lemon. Ripe juicy stonefruit and savoury creamy oak on the nose and a bready richness to the palate with savoury yeast lees flavours, a touch of spice, peach, melons, malt, creamy oak and a bright, juicy, tropical fruit finish. Clean, well-made, medium-bodied, very approachable and drinkable style.
13.5% alc. $16.99 special. Screwcap.

Third Pairing:
Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 ‘Sawcut’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Opulent aromas of malt and caramel and powerful rich flavours of spicy oak and peachy fruit with a salty savoury smoky undercurrent, a touch of leesy citrus and a long, creamy, fine-grained, caramel coated finish which is long, lean and focussed. Matt says this is possibly the best chardonnay he has ever made - but at this stage of its life he says it is better on the second day.
13.5% alc. $24.99 special. Screwcap.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 11 ‘Cell Block’ Marlborough Chardonnay 2006
Spicy, perfumed, floral, bready aromas with youthful French oak esters, this is more lifted, fruity and citrussy to the taste at first becoming rounded and creamy with toasty oak, juicy stonefruit and a glimmer of caramel. With about 50% wild yeast fermentation there's a funky mealy savouriness, and the finish has a salty, earthy tang - possibly a very exciting wine with oysters.
14% alc. $24.99 special. Screwcap.

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2005
A little more golden in colour than the younger wines, there's perfumed creamy oak and stonefruit on the nose and smoky, savoury, spicy oak in the rich, powerful, creamy textured palate with grilled stonefruit, hints of citrus, caramel and a very long rounded finish. A year older and more complex than the previous two, it's beautiful now with the potential to hang in there a few more years yet.
14.5% alc. $27.99 special. Screwcap.

Saint Clair Godfrey’s Creek Reserve Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2006
Pale in colour with a delicate perfume of rose petals and 'pink smoker lollies', it tastes quite dry and tight at first but there's an underlying juiciness to the flavours of orange zest, clove and Turkish Delight and the finish is soft and creamy with a touch of ginger and white pepper adding complexity. A more 'delicate' style of Gewurztraminer.
13% alc. $25.99. Screwcap.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 9 Marlborough Riesling 2006
With tangy lime and grapefruit aromas and a clean, refreshing, juicy taste with piercingly crisp acidity, this is like a sorbet to the palate after the softness and fullness of the Chardonnays and Gewurtz. There's limes, citrus zest, green grapes and a hint of honey with an earthy minerally undercurrent and although the wine is sweet (50 grams per litre residual sugar), it finishes dry because of its high (9.5 grams per litre) acidity. Made in the Germanic Spatlese style, it shows lovely fruit purity and can only be described, in Riesling-lovers speak, as 'orgasmic'.
10% alc. $24.99. Screwcap.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 4 ‘Sawcut’ Marlborough Pinot Noir 2006 Pinkish purple red with a brightness to the lustre, it's intriguingly perfumed with delicate hints of violets, smoky cedar and red fruits. The intrigue carries through to the spicy, savoury, juicy palate with fine tannins, an earthy complexity, a slightly charry backbone, bitter cherry and a dry savoury finish. Medium to full-bodied in style, it's well made and very tasty, but it would be hard to pick where in New Zealand this comes from.
14% alc. $30.99. Screwcap.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting - 1st Aug 2007
New Releases
Wines were tasted blind.

Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Water pale but vibrantly fruity with bubblegum, passionfruit, gooseberry and lime aromas joined by a sherbetty, “fizzy fruit” brightness to the taste. It's young, fresh, juicy, zesty and pungent with youthful fruit esters, a slippery texture and crisp, racy acidity keeping the fruit sweetness in check. Sunshine in a glass.
13.5% alc. $13.99. Screwcap.

Waipara Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007
Water pale with just the slightest hint of lemon to the hue, this is bright and pungently aromatic with tropical fruit, tangelo and gooseberry on the nose carrying through to the clean, ripe, fruit-filled palate. It's quite dry with a tongue tickling spritziness and an illusion of toastiness to the tangy finish and is as easily as good as last years multiple gold medal winner. A classy savvy that's going to be another star.
13.4% alc. $15.99. Screwcap.

Shinas Estate The Innocent Viognier 2006 - Victoria, Australia
Pale yellow gold in colour, this radiates heady aromas of apricot and melon and seduces the palate with its ripe, full-bodied, soft acid and lightly spicy flavours that are full of apricot, custard and honey. It has an initial Australian 'sunburnt earth' character and is quite exciting and distinctive with a fabulous expression of Viognier’s varietal character. From the Mildura area, it's unoaked and one of the best we've tried at First Glass.
14% alc. $19.99. Screwcap.

Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2006 - Kumeu, Auckland
Lemon gold with creamy French oak and brioche characters on the nose, it's rich and full in the creamy palate with oatmeal, malt, a touch of spice, grilled stonefruits, hints of grapefruit and honeyed oak culminating in a tasty, powerful and long finish with youthful, lip smacking acidity. With great focus and length, it's drinking well now but has all the pointers there for mid term cellaring. Sourced from several vineyards around Kumeu.
13.5% alc. $37.99. Screwcap.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2006 - Kumeu, Auckland
Lemon gold with a little more oak apparent on the nose, it smells smoky and savoury with hints of fig and grapefruit, and tastes ripe and rich with a smoky, savoury, spicy flavour that has Burgundian-like finesse and complexity. It needs a big glass to open up but with the juicy, ripe stonefruit, melon and pear flavours, the silky texture, the powerful, long finish and the perfectly balanced underlying acidity, you can see the brilliance of this wine. Beautiful already with excellent mid to long term potential, this is a single vineyard wine from the vineyard on the hill across the road from the Kumeu River Winery.
14% alc. $45.99. Screwcap.

Rose Tree Cottage Chardonnay 2005 - Gisborne
Deep yellow gold with rich, oaky, oily, stonefruit and caramel aromas and a ripe, soft, smooth creamy, buttery flavour with tropical fruit, citrus and spice, this is a totally delicious 'Kingsley style of chardonnay'. No need to think about it, it flows like melted butter on toast and is ready to drink and enjoy now and over the next few months.
14% alc. $19.99. Screwcap.

Escarpment The Edge Pinot Noir 2006 - Martinborough
Dark cherry red, almost opaque but not quite, it has a cherry jam and violet aroma and tastes soft, ripe and juicy with a savoury, herbal backbone balanced by cherries, fruit cake, smoky oak and vanilla with a spicy kick to the finish. Made in an approachable, 'drink now' style.
14.5% alc. $22.99. Screwcap.

Parusso Barbera d’Alba 'Ornati' 2004 - Piedmont, Italy
Deep red with black hues, this is a beautifully fragrant, headily perfumed wine with rose petals, spice box and shoe polish emanating out of the glass. It seems initially sweet in the palate, sweet, juicy and jammy with flower musk and smoky blackberries but there's a rusticity to the backbone, a savouriness to the finish, a little bit of grip to the tannins and a flourish of spice. A very appealing, full-bodied, 'old world' style aged for 12 months in older oak. 13% alc. $36.99. Cork.

Cantine Due Palme Salento Primitivo 2003 - Salento IGT, Italy
Deep dark red with a little bit of bricking to the edge, it's a little stinky on the nose with a farmyard rusticity that carries through to the juicy palate. Rich, ripe and robust to the taste with smooth tannins, smoky oak, spice, cherry jam, pepper, a touch of rose petal musk on the finish and apparent sweetness as it lingers, this Italian variation of Californian Zinfandel is very drinkable.
13.5% alc. $15.99. Cork.

Shinas Estate The Guilty Shiraz 2005 - Victoria, Australia
Ripe shiny blackberry red. Voluptuous cherry, vanilla and peppery spice aromas and full-bodied flavours packed with smoky vanillin oak, cherry and strawberry fruits, chocolate and mocha all wrapped up in a big, rich, velvety smooth package. A juicy wine with fine tannins, the pepper detected on the nose kicks in again to make a welcome re-appearance on the powerful finish. Made from low yielding old vines dating back to 1898 and aged in older French oak, the fruit is sourced from Mildura on the north west Victorian border.
15.2% alc. $19.99. Screwcap.

Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz 2006 - Limestone Coast, South Australia
Bright black red with vivid crimson edges, there's mint, tar and smoky oak on the nose and massive blackberry and mulberry fruit balancing the rich, ripe, powerful tannins in the palate with French oak, a hint of chocolate, a lick of liquorice, a touch of cassis, mint, leather and tar. A big, meaty, grunter of a wine with a juicy succulence and amazing concentration for the value-packed price.
15% alc. $15.99. Screwcap.

Mr. Riggs The Gaffer Shiraz 2006 - McLaren Vale, South Australia
Bright black red with a purple depth, it looks very fine grained in appearance. There's blackberry jam on the fragrant nose and it tastes full-bodied, rich and robust with super fine tannins, juicy plum and blackberry fruits, anise and peppery spices, subtle mint, vanilla, savoury oak, rose petals and dried herbs. Powerful and heady with a long, dry finish, this exciting wine has layers of complexity and lots going on - perhaps because it was co-fermented with a tiny bit of Viognier and the oak regime is all French, with just 20% new.
15% alc. $23.99. Screwcap.

Note: The New Zealand wines listed on this page have been cross-catalogued to my wine reviews by grape variety - check out my Wine Review Index.

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