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edited by Sue Courtney

Wednesday Round-up - the 2017 edition
Sue Courtney's tasting notes from the First Glass Fine Wine Wednesday $15 tastings

March 2017
[ 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 – 22 Mar 2017
A few Italians and New Wednesday Wines
Wines were tasted blind.

Crafters Union Hawkes Bay Pinot Gris 2016
The subtle yet fruity bouquet is evocative of stonefruit and vanilla poached pear and the taste is fresh and crisp with upfront crunchy apple and quince becoming softer and textural mid palate with a nutty savouriness, a zing of aromatic spices and tropical fruit brightening up the lingering finish. It seems to me just off dry and with its attractive packaging it is an all round crowd pleaser.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Beach House Selection Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2015
The initial sense of orange blossom / orange sherbet on the nose is joined by a whisper of sweet nutty oak and it’s youthful and bright in the palate with a creamy butterscotch flow, touches of stonefruit and a roundness to the finish with there’s a lovely zing of citrus and more and more butter caramel emerging as the flavours linger. . But very attractive and appealing at this stage.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Brancott Letter Series 'O' Marlborough Chardonnay 2016
This oozes class from the outset. The bouquet is nutty and mealy with shortcake crust, brioche and fascinating gunsmoke and wild yeast scents and there is plenty of oomph and flavour in the palate that’s harmonious throughout. I get juicy ripe stonefruit, a touch of grapefruit zest, all those lovely nutty, mealy connotations, beautifully integrated creamy oak and a long, concentrated finish. Outrageously good and an excellent follow on from the Trophy winning 2015 edition.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Soho White Collection Marlborough Rose 2016
Crisp and fresh, with just a touch of blush to the hue, it has a pinot gris-like poached pear scent followed by light pinot noir-like strawberry fruit in the palate. A light playful, zingy, medium dry style very suitable for lunch or an aperitif. Gold NZIWS.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

San Marzano Talo Primitivo Di Manduria 2014 – Southern Italy
Saturated black red. Quite tarry and smoky on the nose with a touch of cedar and a sweet spicy allure. Concentrated and ripe in the palate with vanillin oak, sun-baked cherries and currants, sumptuous pillowy tannins, touches of tar and game that balance the fruit beautifully, and a little bit of grip revealing there is indeed structure to this generous, velvety wine.
14% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Ruffino Modus IGT 2012 – Tuscany, Italy
Start to show a little bricking to the black red hue. Cedary / leathery on the nose. Earthy, savoury and firm in the palate that has an ‘old school’ rusticity with a slight oxidative note, a touch of brett, sappy oak, a suggestion of herb, and the fruit is heading towards prunes. A blend of 50%, Sangiovese, 25% Merlot and 25%, it’s made to go with food. Ruffino suggests bold dishes such as duck with olives and pancetta, beef-stuffed manicotti with Bolognese sauce, and aged cheeses including taleggio, pecorino and gouda.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $32.99.

Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Chianti Classico 2011 – Tuscany, Italy
There's translucency to the brick red hue. Dried redcurrants, cherries and drying out cow pats on the nose.. Fine textured in the palate that's very dry and showing bottle age characters like tobacco, cigar box and leather with underlying game and herbs, lifted red fruits and orange acidity. There's a halo of velvety warmth and sweetness to the very persistent finish but with its age-worthy high acid and high tannins this blend of 80% Sangiovese with 20% Merlot and Cabernet definitely needs food. Ruffino suggests traditional Italian dishes such as pasta Bolognese, wild boar ragù, and eggplant Parmesan.
14.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $38.99.

Montessu Isola dei Nuraghi 2014 – Sardinia
Vibrant blackberry hue. The lavish bouquet oozes sweet vanillin oak, red berries and a subtle nuance of mint but there’s a suggestion of game meat too. Quite savoury in the palate with cigar box-like oak and plump ripe plum and cherry fruit pushing through. An immediately impressive wine with supple tannins, juicy fruit and a mouth enveloping finish with touches of liquorice, it’s made from a blend of 60% Carignano and 10% each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. Absolutely worth trying this unique Sardinian offering from the producer of the legendary Super Tuscan Sassicaia.
14.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $28.99.

Calabria Three Bridges Durif 2015 – NSW, Australia
Inky purple red with vibrancy and concentration. A big, dark, rich, sumptuous monster with pillowy tannins and mouthfilling sweet ripe fruit reminiscent of plums, blackberries and black cherries together with chocolate, vanillin oak, tar, spice, pepper and refreshing acidity lifting the finish. From the grapes known as Petit Sirah in California, this juicy wine is ready.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Vasse Felix Filius Margaret River Cabernet Merlot 2014 – Western Australia
It’s deep in colour with a savoury aura to the bouquet together blackcurrant, spicy cedar and a hint of mint. And it's definitely savoury on the more medium-bodied palate with vanillin oak, a gamey undercurrent and a hum of acidity in the background. The tannins initially make the wine seem quite dry then a juicy blackcurrant and plummy fruit sweetness surges through with fruitcake nuances to the smooth succulent finish.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $21.99.

Pepperjack Barossa Shiraz 2015 – South Australia
The colour is blackberry red. There’s chocolate dust on the nose and the taste is opulent and lush. It’s a big wine but the tannins are fine, the red and black fruits are juicy and ripe and there’s lots of mocha and pepper. There’s everything you expect in Barossa shiraz with a well balanced savoury undercurrent and glowing alcohol warmth to the lingering finish of chocolate coated berries. A little more forward than the previous vintage.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $21.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 15 Mar 2017
Foley Wine Portfolio with Alastair Maling MW
Wines were tasted blind.

Te Kairanga Martinborough Riesling 2014
This is straw gold in hue with an intense lime, talc and apple skin bouquet and refreshing in the palate with racy acidity and flavours that morph from crisp apple to citrus to apple butter with a welcome sliver of sweetness on the long, persistent, invigorating finish.
12% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Vavasour Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Wow, this is vivaciously aromatic. The ravishing tropical fruit scent has passionfruit highlights and gooseberry pungency and the flavours are crisp and tangy with juicy stonefruit joining tropical fruit, a squeeze of citrus, tomato stalk in the background, salivating salinity and a rounded finish. Made from 100% Awatere fruit, it’s ‘da bomb with oysters’ says Alastair.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $17.99.

Te Kairanga Martinborough Chardonnay 2016
This newly bottled lemon-hued wine is youthfully restrained on the nose with a hint of peach skin and subtle malo / butter / caramel notes while the flavours offer up stonefruit with a zesty undercurrent and a nutty richness to the warm, long, expansive finish that hints it will unfold nicely in the months to come. Alastair says it has drinkability with natural acidity and elegance and finesse.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Sebastiani Sonoma Chardonnay 2015 – California, USA
This is a moderate gold hue. The full bouquet suggests buttered toasty oak and it’s toasty in the palate with underlying zesty vibes, loads of juicy stonefruit (canned apricot comes to mind), and a creamy / buttery feel to the seamless flowing, long lasting finish that's flushed with butterscotch and caramel. It's rich, powerful and bold with instant mouthfilling satisfaction.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Te Kairanga John Martin Martinborough Chardonnay 2014
The bouquet is tantalisingly mealy and nutty with smoky French oak that oozes finesse and the flavours are elegantly stylish, toasty and nutty with modern winemaking flare. There’s peach and nectarine with hints of vanilla and lime-infused chantilly cream and lovely mealy barrel ferment complexities with the oak integrated beautifully and terrific length. “With only 15% new oak it’s all about capturing the fruit,” says Alastair.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $30.99.

Vavasour Anna's Marlborough Chardonnay 2015
This is a rich, savoury, mouthfilling style of Chardonnay with malo and wild yeast adding intrigue. There’s a buttery nuance to the bouquet and it’s toasty in the palate with concentration to the semi-dried peach and nectarine fruit that mingles with ripe citrus with a touch of hokey pokey and biscuity oak in the background. Alastair explains the grapes hang on the vines a little longer to get the flavours.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $35.99.

Roth Estate Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2014 – California, USA
The bouquet is initially all about restraint. There’s an intriguing oily character – hair oil maybe – and then peaches and cream. Initially quite citrussy in the palate then fattening up nicely with a touch of butterscotch together with peach, nectarine, vanilla and nutty oak and the finish is warm, rich and rounded with a touch of spice. From a cooler coastal-influenced site and aged in French and Hungarian oak, this fascinating chardonnay is not what we expect from Cali and definitely oozes class.
14.1% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $29.99.

Te Kairanga Martinborough Pinot Noir 2015
Brilliant translucent ruby hue. Savoury and inviting on the pretty perfumed bouquet that’s flushed with vanilla tinged oak and red berries like the tiny Chilean guava. Juicy red plums, red guavas and bittersweet cherry in the medium-bodied palate that has a silky flow and just a little underlying earthy grip like you get in some Villages Burgundies, with delightful harmonious gamey notes infusing the finish.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $23.99.

Martinborough Vineyards Te Tera Pinot Noir 2014
This is a saturated dark ruby hue with considerable density. The distinct pinot bouquet is alluring and savoury while the taste is rounded and full with deep, soft, smooth tannins and a momentary peppery zing. There’s a meaty richness to the wine with dark, ripe berries – logan berries come to mind, and a touch of salinity to the salivating savoury finish. Concentrated with weight, structure and intensity, it’s exceptional value.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $24.99.

Martinborough Vineyards Martinborough Pinot Noir 2013
This is a monumental Pinot Noir with wonderful mouthfeel and flow. Its dark in colour. The bouquet has waves of floral notes, forest floor, shrewsbury biscuit jam, tar, earth and game. The taste is concentrated and mouthfilling with a momentary peppery zing quickly enveloped by plump fruit and pillowy tannins. Typical Martinborough fruit of cherries, bittersweet red berries and touches of guava jelly with integrated smoky oak and gamey savoury notes. An outstanding and ethereal pinot that reveals more and more with every sip.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $59.99.

Vavasour Felix's Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015
This is youthful ruby with violet tints. The bouquet is fresh, aromatic and fragrant with subtle smoky oak and there’s lifted red cherry and concentrated purple grapes in the palate with underlying savouriness and spiciness, tobacco-like oak, brushed velvet tannins and a succulent finish that is fine and long. Unfolding nicely but still not in full bloom. Gold NZIWS 2016.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $35.99.

Sebastiani Sonoma Zinfandel 2013 – California, USA
Deep fine blue-red with clarity to the edges. Opulent bouquet of gentle vanillin oak and ripe red berries that follow through the palate – the red fruits juicy and sweet heading towards but not quite jammy with cigar box-like oak and tingles of pepper. Upfront firm mouth-coating tannins seem to melt into a velvety smooth finish and there’s a touch of raspberry chocolate and liquorice. “Gutsy with richness and weight,” says Alastair.
14.6% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 8 Mar 2017
Gold Medal Wines from the 2017 Royal Easter Wine Show
Wines were tasted blind.

Te Mata Estate Hawkes Bay Gamay Noir 2016
A vibrant, luminous blue red in the glass. ‘Rose madder’ said Jim. The bouquet is fresh, floral, grapey and winey while fruit-driven purple plum and fruits of the forest flavours fill the palate with pleasing underlying savoury notes and hints of anise on the juicy finish. A light styled fruity red that can be served chilled. (Pre-taster and not in the Easter Show).
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Te Awa Single Estate Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2015
A modern ‘reductive’ style with a glossy light citrine hue; a mealy, grapefruit, wild yeast nuanced, nutty oak scent and a touch of 'struck match' infusing the juicy nectarine and white peach fruit flavours with delectable smoky oak and a long creamy finish with a trill of citrus. Andrew says it’s best with only the slightest of chilling. Gold Easter Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2015
Light golden yellow with a bouquet that offers up suggestions of gunsmoke with nutty, mealy notes and hints of ripe peach all carrying through to the full, rounded palate that tonight has a noticeably dry, flinty undercurrent, lots of leesy notes and tropical fruit salad. Incredible value. Gold Easter Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Glossy lemon gold with immensely attractive leesy, mealy, smoky aromas infused with ripe stonefruit, and seamless flowing, rich, full, rounded flavours of stonefruit and melon with a touch of nutmeg and other subtle woody spices and a fabulously long, harmonious and creamy, malo / wild yeast influenced finish. 2016 AND 2017 Champion Chardonnay and Champion Wine of the Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $26.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Viognier 2016
There's a slight oily appearance to the light gold coloured hue. The bouquet offers up honey-spiced red apple and stonefruit. Orchard fruit comes through in spades in the moderately dry but lightly oily textured palate. It becomes richer and more concentrated as the wine flows and the juicy stonefruit finish is accented with fresh fennel seeds and tangelo. Gold Easter Show.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $26.99.

Waipara Hills Waipara Valley Pinot Gris 2016
Full of juicy apple and poached pear both on the bouquet and in the palate, this light hued wine has terrific concentration and texture with subtle savoury notes and spicy vibes to the mouthfilling off dry finish. Gutsy and flavoursome. Champion Pinot Gris at both NZIWS and the Easter Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $13.99.

Giesen The Brothers Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2014
The bouquet of this light lemon gold wine is powerful but not overpowering - it’s like fresh lychee and rambutan, these Chinese fruits also a feature in the smooth flowing palate which is mouthfilling and spicy with touches of ginger and white pepper and a lingering sense of Turkish Delight and spun sugar. Champion Gewurztraminer. Gold NZIWS. 5 stars Cuisine.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $18.99.

Esk Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot Rose 2016
A striking deep coral hue with a fresh vibrant aura, this is initially quite plummy and savoury with a dry flinty backbone skilfully offset by juicy strawberry sweetness and enchanting touches of tarragon. Such a popular style of wine these days, this is one of the best and food friendly too.. Trophy NZIWS. Gold Easter Show.
12.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Akarua Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015
A full-on, spicy, gutsy style of pinot with a tantalising intensely deep ruby hue; a lovely fragrance of cherries and spice infused with subtle smoky oak; then ripe, concentrated, juicy black cherry and fruits of the forest fruit with harmonious underlying savoury, spicy, meaty tones and a touch of mocha and anise on the finish. Complete and seductive with a velvety flow and a silky finesse. Trophy NZIWS. Gold Easter Show.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $34.99.

The Landings Bay of Islands Syrah 2013
Inky blackberry red with crimson edges. Dark creamy oak, dusty wild berries and peppery spices on the nose. It tastes concentrated, meaty and savoury with firm teeth-coating tannins and fruit that is just starting to mellow - think blackberry, black cherry and prunes together with chocolate and hints of anise and fruit-sweet high notes to the finish. With four years of age it is developing beautifully and would definitely tame a rare steak. Gold Easter Show.
13.7% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $37.99.

Goldie Estate Reserve Waiheke Island Syrah 2014
Inky vibrant blackberry hue. Earthy, gamey, savoury, peppery, sappy oak aroma. Juicy and succulent to the taste with plush velvety tannins, loads and loads of green and black pepper, lovely underlying chocolate, cream and vanilla notes, hints of cake spices and a long mouthfilling finish. Champion Syrah Easter Show.
14.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $51.99.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2013
Deep, vibrant and youthful with a concentrated bouquet of savoury oak and bright plummy fruit with hints of cocoa. Firm yet silky in the succulent palate that’s full of bright blackcurrant and plum with hints of cigar box, cake spices and creamy oak, whispers of chocolate and anise, underlying herb notes with rosemary and mint coming to mind and a long juicy, mouth-coating finish. Quite amazing actually. Champion Cabernet Easter Show.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $42.99.

Fine Wine Wednesday Tasting – 1 Mar 2017
New Zealand versus the World
Wines were tasted blind.

Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 – Clarksburg, California
This is light yellow gold with a youthful vibrant oak-nuanced tropical fruit and custard apple scent and it’s very full on and concentrated in the palate with spicy, creamy, buttery, savoury oak flavours, canned apricot and touches of cornmeal. Simply summed up this fat, mouth-coating Californian style delivers oodles of satisfaction.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Grant Burge Summers Chardonnay 2013 – South Australia
Light gold with aromas of grilled peach and gunsmoke and steely in the fresh, citrus-driven palate with tropical fruit, touches of pineapple and a very subtle suggestion of honeycomb. Tingly to start but the lingering finish shows lots of promise, a wine I would like to see with a little bit of cellar time – or perhaps it was just too cold.
12% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Mission Jewelstone Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014
Medium gold with an attractive and intense malty, mealy bouquet infused with polished oak and hints of citrus and stonefruit then very full and rounded in the rich, ripe, mealy palate with spicy vibes and well balanced underlying savoury French oak that's nicely integrated already. The fruit is concentrated yet subtle and touches of vanilla biscuits emerge on the lingering finish. Elite gold and Exhibition Trophy AirNZ Wine Awards 2015.
13.5% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $35.99.

Kerpen Handpicked Riesling 2014 - Mosel, Germany
Golden yellow with a scent reminiscent of rich dark honey and luscious almost toasty flavours with viscosity to the texture and honeysuckle, botrytis, orange honey and bright acidity humming all the way through.
9.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Mission Estate Hawkes Bay Riesling 2014
Light yellow gold with a delicate honeysuckle / citrus blossom scent and slatey textured with racy grapey acidity balanced by a delicate sweetness and lingering hints of lemonade peel. A light, youthful, just off-dry style. 5 stars and Cuisine ‘Best Buy’.
11% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $14.99.

Albert Mann Gewurztraminer 2015 – Alsace, France
The bouquet is gorgeously redolent of rose musk and violets and it’s concentrated and powerful in the palate that is lightly viscous and beautifully seamless in its flow with violets to the fore, a musky smoker lolly sweetness and a finish that is more savoury than fruity and tapers off gently.
14% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $36.99.

Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2015
The bouquet enchants with scents of lemon Turkish delight and lemon verbena and it is off dry in the palate with lovely viscosity to the flow, subtle tropical fruit and tingles of ginger and white pepper. Lovely concentration and persistence and very very impressive.
13% alc. Cork. First Glass Price: $27.99.

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Cotes du Rhone 2014 - Rhone Valley, France
Lovely bright youthful pinot noir-like hue. Generous bouquet with a hint of mocha and soft and spicy tasting with hints of chocolate coated berries, raspberry jam, lightly savoury oak, hints of tar and a peppery finish. A light, juicy, silky-textured easy going red with a little point of difference to the flavour.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Syrah 2014
The colour is a saturated inky purple magenta. Chocolate and meaty spicy oak fill the bouquet and it has an initial medium-bodied feel with increasing concentration and suggestions of chocolate biscuits with a subtle nuance of mint, an earthy nuggety undercurrent, slightly furry tannins and a meaty finish with accents of pepper and lingering nuances of bbq'd pomegranate molasses.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $19.99.

Trivento Reserve Malbec 2015– Mendoza, Argentina
A rich, dense, youthful ruby garnet hue - not as saturated and deep as some malbecs can be. Ripe and jammy on the nose – plum jam and fruits of the forest maybe - carrying through to the fruit forward medium-bodied palate with smooth velvet-coated tannins, nutty oak, subtle nuances of chocolate, aniseed and tar and a well balanced savoury finish with a spicy flourish.
13.5% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $15.99.

Rod McDonald Wines 'One Off' Hawkes Bay Malbec 2014
Rich, bright red black with full saturation and density. There’s a dusty, slightly wild game scent and it’s full-bodied, perhaps heading towards blockbuster in the smooth, velvety, concentrated palate with smoky, nuggety, spicy oak, hints of vanilla and dark dried fruits - prunes come to mind - and vinosity and winey sweetness enveloping the finish. More seductive with every sip.
13% alc. Screwcap. First Glass Price: $21.99.

Thorn Clarke William Randell Barossa Valley Shiraz 2012 – South Australia
Lovely smooth looking red black. Inviting spice-infused bouquet with hints of mocha, chocolate and vanilla and full of the same in the grunty yet generous palate that’s characterised by supple tannins together with ripe berry fruit (macerated strawberries come to mind), hints of mint, loads of savoury oak, graphite and tar, crushed cameo cremes and a long mouthfilling finish. Succulent and ripe with the oak and savouriness giving it structure and presence.
14.5% 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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