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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2015 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

February 2015
[ 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', but were correct at the date noted for the tasting. Check out for current availability and pricing. New Zealand readers can purchase the wines online from there.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 25 Feb 2015
Gold Medal Wines
Wines were tasted blind.

Saint Clair Pioneer Series Block 3 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
This straw gold coloured wine is bright, fresh and pungent with vivacious passionfruit and feijoa aromas and juicy citrus binding together the exuberant passionfruit and pineapple flavours. It’s vibrantly fruity and deliciously quenching with a long, tangy finish that lingers for ages. Gold Easter Show. Gold Marlborough Show. Gold AirNZ.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
A stonefruit sweetness infuses the smoky oak bouquet of this light gold wine and the oak seems even smokier in the fresh, youthful palate where the flavours of butterscotch, grilled stonefruit, bubblegum, grapefruit and roasted hazelnuts come in waves. Fantastic value from the Bay. Gold Easter Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
A mealy, lemon biscuit nuance to the lifted bouquet carries through to the palate that has a tantalising just-out-of the-oven baguette allure together with hints of lemon verbena, citrus, figs, nougat and fleshy stonefruit rounding out the spicy finish. A classy barrel fermented wine that’s smooth in its flow with a pleasing savoury depth and a wonderful acid spine. Gold Easter Show.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Saint Clair Omaka Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2013
Aromas of manuka woodsmoke, bacon and grilled nectarine fill the bouquet of this gorgeous, mouthfilling, toasty, savoury wine that has touches of stonefruit, hints of grapefruit and a long salted caramel finish. Very polished with fabulous length and a seamless flow. Gold Easter Show. Gold NZIWS.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $30.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
This is still a tight flinty wine in many respects but the long term potential is clearly there. The bouquet is mealy with hints of toasty oak, grilled peach and lime and the taste is dominantly savoury with spicy oak, nuts, nougat, flittering glimpses of dried pineapple and tropical fruit. A complex, mouthfilling wine with a very long finish, it’s best to put away for a while. Gold Easter Show. Gold Bragato. Gold & Champion Wine Hawkes Bay Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Vidal Legacy Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010
There’s more gold to the hue than the previous wines and the smoky, toasted oak bouquet is much prouder too. The taste immediately hints of an older wine because it is so smooth, creamy and mellow. It’s full-bodied and savoury with very attractive toasty notes, accents of grapefruit, biscuity flavours, nutmeg, tropical fruit, stonefruit and melon and honeyed oak in the background. Gold Easter Show. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $49.99.

Aronui Single Vineyard Nelson Pinot Gris 2014
Straw gold, very pale compared to the Chardonnays. Apples fill the bouquet and spiced apples, poached pear and melon flavours fill the off dry palate. It has a lovely spicy vibrancy with a subtle piquant tang of pepper and a very appealing lightly viscous texture with vinous concentration to the fruity finish and the most subtle hint of vanilla. Lots to like about this soft, rounded wine. Roast pork belly and crackling as an accompaniment come to mind. Gold Easter Show. Gold Bragato. Gold NZIWS.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Spy Valley Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2013
The colour is star bright white gold and the evocative fragrance is reminiscent of old English roses, carnations and violets. It’s a soft, smooth, low acid wine with juicy tropical fruit, lychees and Asian spice flavours and a touch of sweetness without being too sweet. Tingles of ginger and white pepper emerge as the almost honeyed flavours linger. You won’t be disappointed if you take this along to your favourite BYO Thai restaurant. Gold Easter Show. Gold NZIWS. Gold & Trophy AirNZ.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Satellite Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013
There's a translucency to the medium red hue of this lighter styled wine. It's a more herbal style of Pinot Noir with an edgy bite and while the smoky French oak seems a little dominant at first, as do the firm tannins, they both meld in nicely. Fruit is in the red guava, cranberry, tamarillo spectrum and the finish is juicy and bright. Made by Spy Valley. Gold Easter Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Mud House Claim 431 Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
From the Bendigo sub-region, this has a wonderfully rich, dense, lustrous purple red hue. It’s a brooding smoky, savoury pinot in the glass tonight, the aroma is a little closed and the flavours initially a little varnishy with sumptuous tannins still firm and tight though they mellow as wine traverses the palate. Fruit is in the boysenberry and plum spectrum with hints of anise and the finish is bright. A wine to decant if drinking right now, otherwise put away for a while. Gold Easter Show, Gold NZIWS, 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
The inky purple black, crimson-edged hue announces a wine of considerable structure and depth. The concentrated bouquet emanates opulent aromas of bramble berries and creamy cedar and it is lavishly full-bodied in the savoury palate with massive tannins at this stage of its life. It’s a mouth-coating wine with plum and boysenberry fruit, spicy cedar, hints of leather in the background and a long, creamy finish with an alluring touch of chocolate. Gold & Trophy NZIWS, Gold AirNZ.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 18 Feb 2015
Great Value Wines
Wines were tasted blind.

Sebastiani Sonoma County Chardonnay 2012 - California
This yellow gold coloured wine has aromas of tropical fruit and a spicy, zesty note to the flavours with fruit that's in the fig and peach spectrum, a smoky savoury backbone and a creamy vanillin feel to the finish. Not your typical First Glass style, more nutty and varnishy than buttery, but a solid food wine. It’s also one to slot into a blind tasting game sometime.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Waimea Nelson Chardonnay 2013
Toasty oak and butterscotch on the nose follow through to the palate to impart a feeling of harmony. There’s a flinty undercurrent and zesty citrus fruit with accents of grapefruit and a touch of spiced apple in the background. It's looking like it has everything we like in there but this bottle tonight seems like it needs more time.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Martinborough Vineyards Martinborough Chardonnay 2012
This stylish light golden hued Chardonnay has aromas of smoky savoury oak, creamed nuts and nougat then in the creamy textured palate there’s nectarine, nutmeg, preserved lemon, grapefruit and lots of spicy French all building to a long, full, warm finish. Still very youthful, it should be only very lightly chilled (if you have to) then decanted to show its best at this stage of its life. No.1 in Decanters ‘Best Chardonnays outside of Burgundy 2015’. 13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $36.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Verdelho 2012 - Auckland
This straw gold wine has a delicate floral bouquet with hints of apple sherbert and a subtle green guava-like nuance - perhaps kiwiberry. The taste is clean, unoaked and fresh with vinosity to the texture and while the fruit is hard to describe it definitely has a refreshing juiciness to it. I think of lemonades and some kind of heritage apple and there’s also an intriguing, almost slightly reductive note from the partial wild ferment and a salty tang to the dry, crisp finish.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Hugel Gentil 'Hugel' 2013 – Alsace, France
A delicate bouquet of blossoms and limes and a little earthy and flinty in the palate – almost pithy – it seems moderately dry with a crisp acid spine but there’s a sense of lusciousness also. Made from a blend of Alsatian varieties including gewurztraminer, riesling, muscat and pinot gris – it is hard to pick any one defining character as it changes every time I taste it. There’s spiced apples, green grapes, limes, a touch of spice and a long, lingering finish that lasts for ages. A great all round tasty aromatic palate pleaser to have in the fridge this summer.
12.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Wooing Tree Central Otago Pinot Noir 2010
A rich medium dark red in hue with flashes of crimson, the bouquet is concentrated cherry with spicy oak in the background. A muscular, savoury, earthy tasting wine with very firm tannins but the succulent rich red berry fruit imparts sweetness to the finish and balances the tingly acid spine. It reminds me of a hard youthful Burgundy with tannins that are there for the long haul. You could safely cellar this for many more years yet so decanting and aerating is recommended for the best drinking experience now.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $38.99.

Huerta de Albala Barbazul 2011 - Terra de Cadiz, Spain
This dark red wine of medium density has aromas that hint of paint box, chocolate box, black cherries and smoky mellow oak. It tastes quite savoury but has succulent undertones of plum, blackboy peach and raspberry fruit with velvety tannins, a touch of pepper, hints of leather and a pleasing brightness to the long, lifted finish. This rather tasty blend from southern Spain is made from 60% Syrah, 20% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Tintilla de Rota. 15% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Yalumba The Scribbler Barossa Cabernet Shiraz 2012 - South Australia
This inky purple red coloured classic Australian blend has waves of aromas and flavours. The initial redcurrant, cassis and smoky cedar aromas are classic Cabernet but it is the pepper of Shiraz that is upfront in the palate. It’s full bodied, firm and savoury and as the peppery notes subside the succulent fruit is like lightly stewed fresh-off-the-tree plums with touches of fruit cake spices, with leather and polished oak flavours lingering. It’s very dry and grippy at this stage of its life with the herbal notes of Cabernet asserting superiority on the finish.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Sandalford Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2012 - Western Australia
Dark red in hue, this seductive smelling is such a contrast to the Scribbler. It smells soft and full with mint and cigar box notes to the fore and the taste is all ripe, juicy, succulent red berry fruits beautifully balanced by the smoky savoury back notes and while the tannins are proud and firm, that will be tamed with food. With the mint connotations this wine exudes, mint-marinaded lamb steaks cooked on the BBQ would be a super accompaniment. Gold NZIWS.
15% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Grant Burge Filsell Barossa Shiraz 2012 - South Australia
Inky purple red with a massively attractive bouquet that hints of mint, chocolate, spicy vanillin oak and violets. Juicy and seductive in the creamy palate, the tannins are like liquid velvet and there's an exciting touch of nut chocolate and pepper with a wonderful fruit profile of black cherries, boysenberries and spiced blackberries, and finally touches of liquorice. It ticks all the Filsell boxes and followers of this label will not be disappointed. An utter steal at the price, it is ready to enjoy now or cellar.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Peter Lehmann VSV Ruediger Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 - South Australia
Purple black in hue with an intensely concentrated smoky bouquet. The taste is all leather and cedar with succulent plums and blackcurrant fruit initially to the fore, but this is a very earthy deep wine with firm tannins and brooding oak taking over. Can see the potential but it needs to evolve in the bottle for a little while more yet. A wine of 20+ years potential, decant and aerate for drinking right now.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 11 Feb 2015
A Little Bit of This and A Little Bit of That
Wines were tasted blind.

Brancott 'Flight' Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
The colour is the palest lemon you could imagine, the bouquet is like a bowl of freshly cut passionfruit and the taste is vibrant and tangy with a slightly oily texture. A ‘lighter alcohol’ wine, it is mouthwateringly juicy with flavours of yellow passionfruit, green passionfruit, mango, orange zest, red capsicum and pineapple and a refreshing sweet / sour finish. Gold NZIWS.
9% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Felton Road Dry Central Otago Riesling 2014
This straw gold wine is crisp and dry. The aromas hint of lime pith and the taste is full of the racy acidity of green apples and limes with concentration to the texture and a tickle of almost spritzy-like zest. This wine has puckery ugly duckling awkwardness right now but it will blossom into the most graceful swan and live for an exceptional number of years.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $31.99.

Moana Park Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
The bouquet of this light yellow gold chardonnay is all caramel cream toffees and grilled peaches, and the taste is rich, creamy, spicy and warm with an ultra smooth, rounded flow. The flavours of toasty oak, ripe stonefruit and crème brulee hit the spot immediately and the finish lingers deliciously. It's a 'drink now' wine rather than one to cellar by the way.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Matua Lands and Legends Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2013
Straw gold in hue with a smoky, slightly flinty, lemon-infused leesy aroma, this seems to be embellished with a funky character from the selection of wild yeast strains used in the fermentation. Fruit is in the citrus, pineapple and spiced pear spectrum and smoky cedar frames the savoury spicy background. Initially this seems like a tight lean wine but it opens up in the glass and has a rich expansive finish that is toasty and creamy. Gold NZIWS.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Tohu Awatere Valley Pinot Gris 2014
Light straw gold with concentrated white fruit pip-fruit aromas, this is a soft, juicy wine made in an off dry style. It's a flavourful fruit salad of grapes, apples and pears infused with a nougat–like nutty sweetness and a long warm spicy finish that's layered with honey. Fantastic entertaining wine for the masses and versatile with food too. Gold Medal NZIWS.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Akarua RUA Central Otago Pinot Noir 2013
Bright ruby-purple-red. Invitingly spicy and aromatic with aromas of plums, black cherries and blueberries that are quite divine. Firm on first tasting with creamy oak, mulled wine spices, a touch of mint, and anise-infused plum and cherry fruit, this is a gorgeous wine that, despite the initial tannins, finishes concentrated, plush and seductively velvety. Gold AirNZ.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Albertina Reserva Malbec 2012 – Mendoza, Argentina
Rich dark red in hue with a touch of crimson, this South American wine has an aroma of dusty hot earth and horse saddle that whisks you to the high altitude vineyards in the Andes. It tastes full-bodied, smoky and savoury with a soft, chewy texture, jammy plum and redcurrant fruit, mint, spice and a charry, meaty, tarry undercurrent. Made to go with red meat, this would be a fulsome BBQ wine for this time of year and gets top marks for his striking ‘A’ presentation too.
13.9% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Cape Barron Native Goose McLaren Vale Shiraz 2012
Black red with purple highlights. Chocolate-coated cherries and creamy vanillin oak fill the bouquet, and it's bright and spicy in the in the supple, velvety smooth, palate with a sprinkle of pepper, a touch of liquorice, juicy blackberry and Black Doris plum fruit, a creamy feel to the savoury oak backbone and a long succulent finish. Drinking well now and will continue to develop in the best possible way for quite a while yet.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Peter Lehmann The Futures Barossa Shiraz 2012
Black red with purple flashes. The bouquet is concentrated and ripe with aromas of dry toasted spices and creamy oak. It’s a big, rich wine in the mouth with firm tannins, crushed dark chocolate biscuits, bramble berry fruit, cracked pepper, dried rose petals and a long lingering finish. With its considerable extract and concentration, it's a wine best enjoyed now with food or to put away in the cellar for a while.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Morambro Creek Padthaway Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Concentrated black red, just a hint of bricking to the edges. Ripe cassis fruit and savoury oak fill the bouquet and the palate is full-bodied and concentrated with a lush, plush mouthfeel that has accrued with bottle age. It’s firm, rich, chewy and fleshy with a lovely smoky cigar box character, a meaty undercurrent, a touch of leather, and a subtle suggestion of chocolate and dried mint on the juicy blackcurrant fruit finish.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Charles Melton Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Concentrated black red with fading pink edges, the bouquet is wonderfully concentrated with cassis, bitter chocolate, dried herbs and leather and it’s firm in the mouth with grainy tannins. It tastes savoury and spicy with fruit cake spices, anise, leather, dried herbs, cassis, creamy vanillin oak and a touch of chocolate liqueur on the finish. Rich, ripe and heady with a mellow veneer – this is an opulent wine to savour.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $62.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 4 Feb 2015
Lawson's Dry Hills with Marcus Wright
Wines were not tasted blind.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Bright and fresh with gooseberry, passionfruit and citrus aromas and flavours, it’s full of punch and verve with a softness to the backbone, a lingering nuance of pineapple and a tangy summer herb edginess while a touch of oak from partial barrel ferment adds to the mouthfeel of this deliciously juicy, vibrant drop. Gold Medal.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Rosé 2014
Like a rubellite gemstone, this is just the most gorgeous violet tinged watermelon pink. The aromas and flavours are fresh and bright with attractive and slightly piquant red berry flavours - think strawberry/raspberry/red cherry - balanced by fresh acidity with a creamy feel to the crisp, dry, savoury finish. Made to be served chilled.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Riesling 2012
A concentrated, more full-bodied style of Riesling than the norm, inspired by those from Alsace, it smells crisp, tart, chalky and dry and while there is an immediate impression of dryness to the taste, there is also a welcome thread of sweetness running through. I get flavours of crisp heritage apples, like the first off the tree in the season, together with juicy lime and zingy spices like white pepper and ginger, and pretty accents of French tarragon on the lingering finish.
12% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pinot Gris 2014
Light gold with a lustrous sheen to the hue, this has a honeyed sweetness to the bouquet and mouthfilling concentration to the flavours that evoke thoughts of clove-studded honeyed-poached pears with a touch of ginger and pineapple sage. It's textural and savoury with a pleasing zing to the finish and the lingering aftertaste leaves a warm mouthfeel.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pioneer Series Pinot Gris 2012
Lustrous light yellow gold in hue and an intriguing, slightly smoky aroma that evokes an impression of concentration and lusciousness with a touch of crystallised ginger and peach. It's made in a sweeter style with 22 grams of residual sugar, but 2/3rd of the blend was barrel fermented resulting in layers, texture and additional richness. The flavours remind me of a fruit salad of pears, melons, apples and pineapple with warm aromatic spices. If you don’t think you like Pinot Gris, you should try this - it could well change your mind.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $33.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2013
Pale gold. Wonderfully aromatic, redolent of old fashioned roses, lychees and Asian spices, unmistakable really, all following through to the concentrated palate where there are tickly spices like ginger and white pepper, violet pastilles, smoker lollies and a long soft finish. It's just off dry. 4 golds and 2 Trophies.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2007
Light gold, looking incredibly youthful for its age although there is a mellow character both to the bouquet and taste. A little smoky and slightly reductive at first on the nose becoming honeyed and floral as the wine wakes up. The texture is creamy, the fruit is reminiscent of peppered cherimoya and there is a harmonious aromatic spice character to the finish that is satisfyingly rounded and warm.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: N/A.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pioneer Gewurztraminer 2013
Surprising, or perhaps not, the nose on this upper echelon wine, although distinctive of its variety, is quite restrained. It’s light lemon gold in hue and there is a complexity to both the bouquet and the warm, luscious taste that has a hot, spicy tickle and flavours of lychees and something like brown-sugar and cinnamon grilled pineapple. Fabulous concentration and length – almost creamy in a way, it is rich and textural with hints of violets on the peppery finish. Delicious.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $33.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pioneer Gewurztraminer 2009
Light yellow gold with a lustrous sheen. Again quite restrained on the nose, but inhaling deeply the Turkish Delight that is so synonymous with this variety is revealed in the most delightful way. Super concentrated on first tasting, but as the taste progresses it is like hokey-pokey ice cream. Harmonious and integrated with the varietal character of the gewurztraminer grape the hero in this wine, and as the flavours linger a soft savoury spiced lemon honey / lemon verbena character springs to mind. First Pioneer ever made, still drinking beautifully – if you have in your cellar you are lucky as sadly no longer for sale.
14.5% alc. Screwcap.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Reserve Chardonnay 2013
Pale green-tinged gold. Smoky toasty oak on the nose is embellished with grilled peach and nectarine. Seems quite Burgundian in style in the palate as it is the stunning crisp acidity that is the driver of this wine and will ensure that it will age. It’s mealy and biscuity with spicy barrel ferment flavours, a lovely leesy character from the mixture of wild and inoculated yeasts, and the gorgeous stonefruit on the nose comes forth again on the long dry, savoury finish. So dry after the Gewurztraminers, but this is what Chardonnay should be. 14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Pioneer Series Chardonnay 2011
A big Chardonnay in every sense, it’s golden in colour with a flamboyant bouquet that is leesy, smoky and toasty with citrus and peach pie. It tastes like a big fat juicy Chardonnay with lots of oak, lots of savoury mealy wild yeast characters, lots of fleshy stonefruit and peach leaf characters, refreshing grapefruit-like acidity and a long biscuity finish – the serious Chardonnay drinkers in the room absolutely loved it. 14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $32.99.

Lawson's Dry Hills Marlborough Reserve Pinot Noir 2013
Black cherry red. Savoury yet juicy on the nose – the characters I smell are fruit cake spices and cherries with smoky savoury oak in the background. It's a vibrant, spicy, fruit driven Pinot Noir, tannins have a rubbed velvet feel, nice touch of toasty oak in the savoury background and the finish is soft and juicy and fairly dry. 2 golds & Trophy.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

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

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