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

November / December 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 – 9 December 2015
Our Favourite Wines and New Arrivals
Most of the wines were tasted blind.

Lanvin Champagne Brut NV
Straw gold in the glass with tiny bubbles and a white lacy rim, this crisp, dry Champagne has an enticing baking bread aroma and delectable creamy toasty flavours with lemon bread nuances and a long refreshing and slightly salty full-bodied finish. Another glass please!
12.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $39.99 / 750-ml. $75/magnum.

Rapaura Springs Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Vivaciously aromatic and full of fresh, juicy passionfruit, gooseberry and grapefruit flavours with a touch of tomato stalk and Marlborough's famous pungency and herbaceousness that is so vibrant and punchy. Trophy Open White Air NZ Wine Awards 2015.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Mission Jewelstone Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
This glossy light golden-hued wine has the most besottingly attractive toasty aroma with hints of butterscotch and grilled peach and the savoury barrel ferment oak and creamy yeast lees flavours braided with grilled peach and nectarine are simply enticing. It's a serious mouthfilling chardonnay with a lovely spicy lift to the seamless finish and fabulous length. My kind of wine!! Trophy Exhibition White Wine Air NZ Wine Awards 2015.
13.5% alc. Diam cork. First Glass Price: $35.99.

The Landing Bay of Islands Chardonnay 2014
This little beauty has a medium gold hue. It's quite savoury and mealy both on the nose and in the mouth with the melon-like fruit quite subtle in the glass tonight. Seamless and smooth in its flow with a touch of zest loitering in the background making it quite brooding in a way and hinting it will progress in the cellar for a while if you can resist the temptation to drink it right now.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Riverby Estate Eliza Marlborough Riesling 2013
The concentrated citrus and honeysuckle bouquet on this golden coloured wine is just gorgeous. With 40 grams/litre of residual sugar it's a medium sweet style with candied mandarin and almost hokey-pokey-like sweetness balanced by crisp grapefruit-like acidity and rounded edges ensuring a beautifully smooth flow. A mouth-filling curvaceous Riesling with a deft touch of kero emerging on the fabulously long finish.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Fifth Bridge Central Otago Pinot Noir 2014
From the Bannockburn region and made by Ceres Wines, this has a lovely bright crimson purple hue and the bouquet is enticingly savoury with hints of plum jam. Quite spicy and savoury in the mouth with brambly fruit, just a little grip and a bit of an edgy bite, this is a juicy style of pinot that's not too heavy and could be lightly chilled for refreshing summer drinking, then once the sun hits the glass it will be a great accompaniment to antipasto. Gold Air NZ.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Alexander Dusty Road Martinborough Pinot Noir 2014
This has a deep rich Burgundy red hue, a concentrated savoury bouquet embossed with creamy oak and powerful, rich, savoury, meaty flavours with hints of cake spice and fruit in the tamarillo, red guava and red cherry spectrum that impart a delicious juiciness – and the flavours just keep accruing with a delectable touch of candied fennel seeds on the finish. Terrific value. Gold NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Marques de Riscal Proximo Tempranillo 2013 – Rioja, Spain
Very dark garnet red – more translucent than opaque. The bouquet effuses smoothness and indeed it is when you taste it. It's medium bodied and more savoury than fruity with smooth tannins, herbaceous notes, blood, barnyard and perhaps a touch of game with jam-like sweet vinosity welling up on the finish.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Kirrihill Regional Series Clare Valley Shiraz 2014 – South Australia
Very concentrated black red in hue with berry pie aromas that immediately whisk you to the warm climate of Australia. It's creamy with spiced berry fruit, soft nuances of oak, lashings of pepper, hints of mint and chocolate and a long, smooth finish. Gold medal and Champion Red at the 2015 New World Wine Award.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Taylors St Andrews Clare Valley Shiraz 2012 – South Australia
Deep black red with a bright, lifted, spicy, vinous aroma and full-bodied and rounded in the palate. A big, rich, dense, meaty wine with sumptuous oak, concentrated red and black fruits, firm but beautifully integrated tannins and a smooth creamy oak finish haloed with a succulent aura. With 21 gold medals this is the most awarded wine Taylors have ever made. What a beautiful gift it would make.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $59.99.

Loveblock Noble Marlborough Chenin Blanc 2014
24 carat gold in hue, the candied citrus aroma with apricot and passionfruit is heavenly and the flavours are simply quite luscious – all candied tropical fruits with passionfruit to the fore and viscous nectar balanced by lemon tea. Decadent and delicious with perfect balance of sweetness and acidity.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $24.99 / 500-ml.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 2 December 2015
Wines for Entertaining
Wines were tasted blind.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 3 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
The softly herbaceous aroma with gooseberry and sherbet to the fore doesn't hint of the complexity within this vibrant, mouthfilling, concentrated sauv. The tropical / peachy fruit is almost luscious in its ripeness with interlayers of juicy yellow plums, and finishing with a terrific citrus and kiwifruit zing. Gold AirNZ Wine Awards.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Spencer Hill Tres Elegant Nelson Chardonnay 2014
Golden hued with a bold nutty aroma and a big, fat, oily palate with fleshy stonefruit and caramel-coated buttery oak that imparts such a smooth creamy mouthfeel and flow, then a burst of grapefruit that lifts the wine and extends the finish. Right now it needs a big glass to open up in, as it got better and better as the tasting progressed.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Seifried Barrique Fermented Nelson Chardonnay 2013
Golden yellow with a mellow aura to the spiced stonefruit aroma and an elegant savoury oak undercurrent to the creamy palate with juicy citrus and melon fruit and sandalwood nuances on the full-bodied finish. A little tight to start but opens up nicely in the glass.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Starborough Marlborough Pinot Gris 2015
Lovely juicy, straw gold wine with apple blossom and pear aromas and a spicy touch to the fruit nectar flavours with the textural complexity an added delight. Enticingly on the dry side of off dry with concentration and length to the finish, it will be great on its own or with food. Gold NZIWS. Gold International Aromatic Competition.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

The Ned Marlborough Rosé 2015
Pretty salmon pink in hue with raspberry, melon and the savoury traits of Pinot Noir on the nose and red cherries and 'strawberries and cream' filling the bright juicy palate. Just off dry in style, it's well rounded and fleshy with a bright zesty flourish, a tinge of salty savouriness, and a long mouthfilling that is watermelon quenching. Gold NZIWS.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Spy Valley Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013
This seductive looking, deep maroon-hued pinot has hints of chocolate and spiced tamarillo conserve on the nose and smooth, silky and creamy is the first taste impression. It’s a full, fleshy red with a spicy brightness, berry fruit sweetness and a chocolatey oak undercurrent that complements the earthy notes, pepper and hints of thyme quite beautifully. Definitely a crowd pleaser. Open Red Trophy Air NZ Wine Awards 2015.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $28.99.

The Charge Tempranillo Garnacha 2011 – Rioja, Spain
This dark red coloured wine initially has quite a closed bouquet with a hint of iodine but swirling brings forth a chocolate-coated berry allure and with a little more swirling chocolate and vanillin oak come to the fore. The chocolate theme continues into the palate together with a lovely meaty savoury disposition, mulberry fruit and a slightly herbaceous edge that adds to the pleasing character as well as pointing to its European heritage. This blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha with a smidgen of Graciano looks good and tastes great. Top buy.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $16.99.

Castelforte Valpolicella Superiore 2013 – Italy
A deeply translucent dark pinky-red coloured wine with a savoury, leathery, slightly herbaceous bouquet that immediately makes you think European. Firm upfront tannins dissolve as this fine textured wine becomes quite smooth and silky with soft cherry fruit, well-integrated savoury oak and hints of jaffa. A blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella grapes, it's perfect for summer sipping with Italian antipasto dishes and a refreshing medium-bodied alternative to some of the blockbusters that come our way.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Syrah 2013
This inky purple red charmer has a bouquet that is all blueberries and plums with concentrated smoky oak and a smattering of pepper and the taste is dry, complex, full-bodied and savoury with plentiful fruit echoing the bouquet. Firm yet beautifully refined and svelte all the way through, it's more savoury than fruity on the powerfully long finish with a hint of chocolate and a mouthfilling creaminess as the beautiful flavours linger. A lovely wine to sip and savour. Champion Syrah and 2015 Air NZ Wine Awards Champion.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $25.99.

Chocolate Box Barossa Shiraz 2014 – South Australia
Deep black red. Chocolate biscuits, red berries and subtle smoky oak nuances fill the bouquet. A little raspberry edginess at first in the palate but becoming rounded and mouthfilling with a long generous finish where oak is noticeable as the flavours linger. With its velvety smoothness and chocolate impressions it seems like it would be pretty easy to pour another glass but ethanol is perceptible on the aftertaste and it really does need a little more time for the acidity and oak to integrate.
15% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $20.99.

Saint Hallett Blackwell Barossa Shiraz 2013 – South Australia
Wow – this complex, full bodied, inky purple red wine is has a tantalising chocolatey oak bouquet and mouthfilling chocolate richness to the flavours that are beautifully balanced by a lovely vinous savouriness and loads and loads vanilla, mocha, cakes spices and pepper. A voluptuous wine with generous red and black fruits, silky smooth tannins and beautiful flow, this is the style of wine so many of us find hard to resist. It is perfect from start to finish.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $34.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 18 November 2015
Gold Medal Wines
Wines were tasted blind.

Starborough Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Bright, zingy, full and fleshy with sauv’s distinctively fruity aroma and brilliantly exuberant flavours. It’s full of passionfruit with a deliciously juicy citrus and pineapple vibrancy and a soft roundness to the finish. Gold AirNZ Wine Awards. Gold Marlborough Wine Show. Gold International Aromatic Wine Competition. Michael Cooper's White Wine Buy of the Year.
% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
The toasty oatmeal and vanilla-poached peach on the nose is inviting in this bright fresh wine that initially seems like it has a forest of spicy oak and fruit in the apricot spectrum. It rounds out quite nicely as the flavours linger, the oak integrating nicely and the flavours lingering with a soft, easy feel. Fabulously priced for gold medal summer sipping and it can take plenty of chilling. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99

Whitehaven Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
There’s a touch of gunflint to the nutty, malo-influenced bouquet that also offers up hints of tropical fruit and crème brulee and it’s spicy and zesty in the palate that seems quite steely to start with a nutty savoury oak backbone but the tropical fruit comes to the fore and the wine intensifies beautifully with a really lovely lifted lemon cream finish that is long and fulfilling. Gold AirNZ. Gold NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99

Kim Crawford Small Parcels 'Wild Grace' Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
The creamy, mealy bouquet of this wine is simply gorgeous and it has a lovely, rich, full-bodied palate full of beautifully honed toasty oak, melon and fleshy tropical fruit cream with the smoky/woodsmoke nuances in the wine quite mesmerising. Utterly seamless as it traverses the palate and the lingering deliciousness has suggestions of grilled peach and hokey pokey. Top pick and hard to resist. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99

Brightwater Vineyards Nelson Pinot Gris 2015
Beautifully perfumed and refreshing, this is tangy and juicy with oodles of juicy pear and peach fruit salad and perhaps heritage apples. A flinty undercurrent and a touch of salinity add crispness but the juiciness is just a delight. There’s also a touch of spice and a subtle nuance of lychee in this off dry to medium style – the vinous sweetness fleshing out the finish beautifully while adding concentration and intensity. Michael Cooper 5 stars. Gold AirNZ.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99

Whitehaven Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2014
With the opulent aroma of exotic spices, rose water, candied violets, lychees and Moroccan boudoirs how could this stunner be anything other than Gewurztraminer? It is rich and concentrated with moderate sweetness yet has a delicacy that stops it from being overpowering. Silky with a rounded mouthfeel, wonderful aromatic lift and a soft finish, with its spice and musk characters it is a classic expression of the variety. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99

Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2014
A little restrained on the nose tonight – more like an Alsace expression, similarly so in the soft unctuous palate with all the hallmarks that point to Gewurztraminer. Beautifully balanced, not too overpowering, a harmony of musk and exotics spices as it traverses the palate with a heavenly silky mouthfeel and flow, and accents of ginger as the expressive flavours linger. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ. Gold & Trophy Marlborough Wine Show.
12.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $27.99

Altacena Tempranillo 2014 – Manchuela, Spain
This vibrant purple maroon-hued wine has quite a spicy, savoury aroma with a hint of chorizo and cherry and it’s peppery and spicy upfront in the palate with firm tannins, a meaty depth, hints of tar and graphite and a juicy plum and berry sweetness. Made from 90% Tempranillo with 5% Syrah and 5% Garnacha, this great little summer BBQ quaffer is medium-bodied, easy going and juicy, and has an NZIWS gold medal accolade as well.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99

Soho Havana Marlborough Pinot Noir 2014
While the translucent ruby violet hue is lighter than many, when you taste it you find a charming, silky textured pinot with a lot more savouriness and complexity than you may expect. There’s a touch of cigar box on the nose and while it initially seems quite dry in the palate with perhaps noticeable acidity, it unfolds and balances out nicely as it traverses the palate with lovely smoky nuances, plum and bottled cherry fruit and a touch of dark chocolate emerging on the finish that becomes quite intense as the flavours linger. Pour into a big glass to swirl, sip, savour and enjoy. Gold NZIWS. Gold Australia Small Winemakers. Gold China Wine & Spirits Comp.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99

Elephant Hill Hawkes Bay Syrah 2014
Luminous deep dark blue red with crimson edges, this is full-bodied, creamy and savoury with brooding smoky oak on the nose and firm meaty tannins in the palate with smoky char-grilled nuances, nicely balanced pepper notes, roasted spices and juicy fruits that are blue-black – like the colour. Deep, complex and tarry in a way – a contrast of dry tannins and succulence with suggestions of vanilla berry cream on the long juicy finish. A super expression of the variety to drink now with food or cellar. Gold AirNZ.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99

Serafino McLaren Vale Shiraz 2013 – South Australia
A full-bodied, succulent, deeply coloured Shiraz with bright juicy red and black fruits, masses of spice and pepper and lashings of chocolate. Just so ultra smooth and creamy with a brooding savoury undercurrent, a touch of tar, and just the right amount on grip, it’s developing beautifully and hard to resist. Gold NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $22.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 11 November 2015
Villa Maria with Nick Picone
Wines were not tasted blind.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2014
This glossy light gold wine has inviting aromatics that hint of freshly-baked baguette, apricot and orange blossom. It’s mouthfilling and spicy with an upfront zesty zing becoming quite soft and creamy with a nutty richness, classic apricot fruit flavours and a warm finish. Use of wild yeast and barrel fermentation adds structure and texture. Drinking beautifully now, Nick suggests matching to lightly spicy foods.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Gisborne Albarino 2015
This lemon straw wine has a delightfully fruity bouquet – a fruit salad in a glass. In the mouth it’s all apples, pear and peach with a salty, flinty undercurrent and a touch of zingy spice that has accents of ginger and white pepper. It initially seems light but increases in richness with every mouthful to become quite mouthfilling and intense. Bright, fresh, juicy acidity makes this wine sing. Nick suggests matching to seafood.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Marlborough Chardonnay 2014
Light gold in hue with a bouquet brimming with toasty, mealy, barrel ferment aromatics that are overlain with a beautiful savoury allure. Lifted in the mouth with bright acidity infusing the wine’s malty mealy characters and the fruit hinting of nectarine and toasted lime, it’s deliciously rich, complex and mouthfilling yet has an elegant disposition with its beautiful fine lines. This will evolve beautifully in the cellar over the next few years – if you can wait that long. 3 golds and 3 trophies including overall Champion Wine at the 2015 NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
This lustrous light gold wine is heady from the outset with the bouquet offering up a tantalising toasty savoury complexity immediately. In the mouth the taste is spicy and savoury with juicy white peach, nectarine and tree-ripened apricot and toasty barrel ferment and wild yeast flavours in harmony. The fruit sweetness wells up as the flavours linger with tinges of citrus and melon. A complex multi-layered chardonnay with fruit, flint and savoury notes interweaving beautifully. Gold Bragato.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Glossy lemon gold with a beautifully inviting bouquet of toasted brioche together with whispers of butterscotch and a smoky, funky, struck match fascination. In the mouth it’s luxurious, silky and textural with creamy mealy leesy characters, sweet smoky oak, melon and tropical fruit, and funky sulphides that add an exciting intrigue and complexity. The finish is mouthfilling and long with toasty oak coming to the fore as the flavours linger. Simply superlicious. Gold NZIWS and overall Champion Wine at the 2015 Hawkes Bay Wine Awards.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $27.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Auckland Chardonnay 2013
Light gold hued with lemony leesy aromatics, it’s spicy and zesty on first tasting with a crisp, dry flinty undercurrent then white peach and honeyed oak softens the wine and nutty, creamy, nougat-like nuances come through. Toasted oak loiters in the background and the expansive savoury and citrussy finish has a touch of wild yeast funk. Developing beautifully, it’s ready to accompany seafood right now. Two golds and overall Champion Wine of the Bragato Wine Awards 2015.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Southern Clays Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013
Deep maroon with a ruby-edged brightness. Gorgeous toasty oak and cherry conserve aromatics are embossed with an enticing savoury demure. Full-bodied, spicy, deeply savoury and textural with moderately firm tannins for the variety – this is a great indicator of the ageing potential and having tasted verticals of Southern Clays it definitely has the heritage to develop beautifully in the bottle. Full of purple plums with black cherries and red-currants, this is a stunning pinot with concentration, power and intricacy. Gold NZIWS. Gold AirNZ.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $46.99.

Vidal Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2013
Deep purple red with a satin sheen. Inviting creamy oak aroma with perfectly ripe Black Doris plums then in the palate attractive cedary oak enhances the Bordeaux character of the wine with spice, leather and a beautiful black- and red-currant intensity. The tannins, while still showing their youth, are velvety and smooth and the finish is bright and long. Fantastic buying, a wine to enjoy now with food or cellar for several years – and why not at this bargain price. Two gold medals in 2015.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Braided Gravels Hawkes Bay Merlot 2013
Rich blue red. The bouquet is overflowing with sweet smoky oak, fruit cake spices and bright, juicy, ripe red berry fruits. Firm and powerful in the mouth with the assertive tannins tamed by ultra juicy fruit that is simply oozing super ripe mulberries and golden sultanas – it evokes memories of Griffins ‘Golden Fruit’ biscuits – and the smoky finish is beautifully balanced with the flavours never losing their intensity. It seems already complete but with a multitude of years ahead of it it will evolve quite magnificently. Made from organically grown grapes. 4 gold medals and Trophy at Bragato 2015.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $50.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Grenache 2014
Rich blue red with a ruby purple depth. The spicy aromatics hint of tobacco and it’s bright and spicy in the palate with firm tannins that are quite assertive – yet they are offset beautifully by the super succulent, creamy nature of the wine with juicy plum and raspberry fruit and a subtle peppery brightness to the savoury finish where some harmonious herbal/woody notes come through. Gold Medal NZIWS.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Syrah 2014
Inky dark red with a concentrated creamy oak bouquet and a beguiling floral allure that reminds me of the heavenly red dianthus named ‘Passion’. The taste is bright and juicy with chocolate biscuits (Cameo Cremes come to mind), hints of violets, an enticing savoury depth and a smoky oak finish. There’s something rather beautiful and elegant about this youthful wine and while the biscuity tannins are fresh the overall impression is succulence and drinkability. This new release punches well above its price point. Silver AirNZ 2014.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Syrah 2013
Inky purple red with amazing saturation to the hue. The bouquet is dark fruited with hints of vanilla infusing sweet smoky oak and Syrah’s lovely signature floral notes adding its attractive allure. A mouthfilling, opulent, full-bodied, spicy, concentrated Syrah with a perfectly honed dash of pepper that adds zing and bite together with a game meat richness and lovely dark fruit concentration. A touch of chocolate springs to mind and the tannins are firm yet succulent at the same time. Gold Hawkes Bay and No. 1 in Cuisine’s 2015 NZ Syrah tasting.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $52.99.

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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