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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  One day I'll update it to proper blogger software but right now I haven't the time to research which blogging software is best, nor do I have the time to teach myself how to use it.  I'll stick to archaic html to record my daily events.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

You'll find links to other wine blogs on my Vinous Links page.

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Archive: June 1st to June 15th 2007
Jun 15th: Wine Grower Magazine online
Jun 14th: There is such a thing as a free lunch
Jun 13th: A stunning Sauternes at Wine Options
Jun 12th: A Txakolina by any other name
Jun 11th: More on Options and "Lost in Translation"
Jun 10th: We won at Wine Options!
Jun 9th: The back label code at NZBC
Jun 8th: A Belated Italian day celebration with Frescobaldi Chianti
Jun 7th: Ole to the Kiwis in Spain
Jun 6th: Craggy Range Sophia
Jun 5th: Rare 1903 wine up for auction.
Jun 4th: A well preserved white and red from Vidal Estate.
Jun 3rd: Hunter Valley Chardonnay and a new restaurant tipoff.
Jun 2nd: Kumeu and Huapai's vineyards under threat from Waitakere mayor's grandiose scheme
June 1st: A Beattieful Book Blog with an interest in wine
Other Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 15th 2007

Wine Grower Magazine online

Winegrower MagazineWant to read an 'official' New Zealand Wine Industry Publication? Then dial up the New Zealand Wine Grower Magazine website -  The magazine is subtitled the "Official Journal of the New Zealand Wine and Viticultural Industry" and is published every two months in glossy magazine format but you can read the entire edition online for free. Some articles can be viewed as web articles, but the entire issue can be downloaded as a PDF file. It's around 12 megabytes in size and may take several minutes to download via dialup connections but most of us have broadband these days, don't we?

In this month's magazine I find out that 'The Big Picture at Cromwell' is about to go world-wide, having just franchised three deals for their product including one to a United States company. This is fantastic news and well done to Phil and Cath Parker for developing and believing in their 'essential wine adventure'.

Researchers Wendy Parr and James Green have released some of the results of their research in an article entitled, "What is a typical Marlborough savvy?" They divulge just what exactly makes a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc so distinctive and conclude that it all comes down to varietal expression.

There's an extensive report on the NZ pavilion at the London International Wine and Spirits Fair where 49 New Zealand wineries exhibited over 200 wines. As well as showing our own wines, it's an opportunity for the Kiwis to keep up with the latest trends in various markets. One producer said he noticed the extent to which the international demand for Pinot Gris has grown. "People come up to me, not looking at the wines, putting their glasses out and asking straight for Pinot Gris. It's unbelievable that people would come to a New Zealand stand and do that," said Brent Marris, who was showing his brand, 'The Ned'. New Zealand also participated in an International Riesling Review, teaming up with Wines of Germany, Alsace, Australia and Washington State. Three New Zealand wines were shown. Another seminar was an insight into what makes New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc so distinctive.

I also found out that New Zealand won four trophies in the Decanter World Wine Awards. I've previously told you about Seifried Riesling Sweet Agnes Nelson 2006 (known as Seifried Riesling Ice Wine in New Zealand) and Bald Hills Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005. The other two trophy winners were Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Le Sol Syrah 2004 and Te Awa Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Boundary 2002.

Last but not least there's an interesting article on makes a consumer decide to buy a particular wine. That article you can read without downloading the whole edition. It's online at this link.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 14th 2007

There is such a thing as a free lunch

Yantra for Mahana at Woollaston EstatesIt's not often you get something for nothing but if you are in Nelson this Saturday, then pop out to Woollaston Estates in School Road, Mahana, to have lunch with the inaugural Woollaston Writer in Residence, Owen Marshall. This former winner of the Montana Book Awards Deutz Medal is a highly acclaimed novelist, poet and short fiction writer. Having spent almost all his life in South Island towns, his strong affinity with provincial New Zealand life has inspired his writing, resulting in funny, affectionate, astute and touching portraits of small town communities, their loves and losses, their dreams and everyday lives.
At "Proudly Provincial….Lunch with Owen Marshall", Owen will read from his poetry and fiction, and give his views on what makes a true reader.
Starting at 1pm, entry is free. Take a picnic lunch to enjoy on the lawn - and of course you will be able to pick up your vinous tipples from the Woollaston cellar door. You'll also be able to see that magnificent sculpture, 'Yantra for Mahana'.
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 13th 2007

A stunning Sauternes at Wine Options

When I play in the First Glass Wine Options I have a rule that I adhere to and the rule is, 'never rule anything out.' And that rule is almost always true. In the Wine Options competitions of days gone past, wines like Penfolds Grange and Chateau Mouton Rothschild have been served but these days these sorts of wine are realistically priced out of contention. So there are some exceptions to the rule. But that doesn't mean we are not going to get served top flight Aussie Shiraz or a classic wine from Bordeaux. And that was the case this year. The top flight Aussie Shiraz was Yalumba Octavius 2002 while the classic wine from Bordeaux was, this time, a Sauternes. And when the Sauternes was poured, it was my turn to answer the individual question. rieussec

Is this wine from New Zealand, Australia or Europe?

I knew this light yellow-gold coloured sweetie could not be Kiwi or Oz (the usual fare) as it smelt so different - sweet, yes, but overlaid with dried hay, rancid nuts and acetate from the oak. It didn't take long to get over the detracting part of the aroma for it was such a superb wine in the mouth - honey sweet with a hint of pencil shaving oak and plumped-up dried apricots with a slightly salty nuance and a toffee-ish finish. After a couple of sips more there was a definite reminder of the flavour of orange liqueur (but not the alcohol of orange liqueur). Very fine in its viscous texture with a lasting finish.

I plumped for Europe and I was right. After four more questions, the wine was identified as Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2003. What a treat!

Neil worked out in the back room at Wine Options as quality controller. This was to ensure there were no corked or off wines. He tasted all 17 of the 750ml bottles of the Sauternes that were opened on the day and he said that each one was the same sublime quality. He said that some of the sets of wines that he tasted were slightly variable in quality bottle to bottle, but not the Rieussec. It was simply "Great stuff!"

Neil ended up tasting 160 bottles of wine. For the eight main competition wines, 17 bottles of each wine are opened to cater for the 55 four-person teams and the spectators. There were also 4 'bonus' wines that only one member of each team got to taste and there were 6 bottles opened of each of these. So that made 160 bottles in total. They are poured into jugs for serving so no-one except the back room people get to see the bottles.

Neil had decided a couple of years back that he would taste every bottle regardless of it being under screwcap or not. Of the 160 bottles, 103 wines had corks and 57 had screwcaps. While a few of the cork-closed wines showed some bottle variation, only one bottle (Morton Estate Coniglio Chardonnay 2002 from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand) was actually corked. All of the 57 screwcap-closed wines were pristine.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 12th 2007

A Txakolina by any other name

Ever heard of Txakolina? I hadn't before today but came across it when I was browsing the Wine Lovers Page discussion forums, as I do most days. This is what I like about the forum - new discoveries - new opportunities to learn - predicting new wine trends before they come mainstream. It seems that Txakolina is heading into the status of 'trendy'. 

A little googling helped me discover more about Txakolina (pronounced Chakolina with the 'Ch' as in choo-choo train and the 'ina' pronounced 'een-yah'). I discovered that Txakolina is a lightly fizzy red white or pink wine from Spain's Basque Country and is made from Hondarribi Zuri (mostly) and Hondarribi Beltza grapes while other varieties grown include Mune Mahatsa and Txori Mahatsa. Hadn't heard of them before either.   Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes (pocket version, 1996) has only three-and-a-bit lines on the Hondarribi grapes - Zuri is light-berried and Beltza is dark-berried - and she doesn't mention the other two.

There are three Denominations of Origin (D.O's) - de Gueteria, Vizcaya and Alava. It seems the wines are fermented in stainless steel (mostly these days) or large oak foudres (traditionally) and they have a light spritziness from reabsorbed CO2. Evidently the whites can be bracingly tart and are usually lowish in alcohol yet are a perfect accompaniment with the local seafood and shellfish.

So those-in-the-know know about Txakolina. Seems it is reasonably available and has had some pretty exciting reviews in the USA.

With so many Kiwis in Spain right now for the Americas Cup, perhaps one of them will 'discover' Txakolina and decide it's worth get some imported into New Zealand for the down under summer. A problem, however, will be getting the hang of the wine's pronunciation. Can you imagine saying, "I'll have a Txomin Etxaniz Txakolina Getariako 2005 please".

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 11th 2007

More on Wine Options and "Lost in Translation"

Still recovering from yesterday's Wine Options but details of the winners, with pictures and all of the teams scores have been posted to the First Glass Website. Can you spot me? Clue: short and cuddly (think real estate speak).

Time to do a bit of googling about New Zealand Wine and see what the rest of the world is saying - and how they say it....

Found an article at that has obviously been translated from the source to some other language, then back to English. Talk about "Lost in Translation" or trying to make sense of a conversation after a few too many drinks. What a load of gobble-de gook. You have to read some of the other articles on this site and have a bit of a chuckle. Then feel quite sad. Or are they just taking the mickey?

Take at look at these:
Boycott new Zealand Wine - Not
New Zealand’s Oldest Courage Of Wine Up For Auction

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 10th 2007

We won at Wine Options

We won! We won! Yes, we won at Wine Options. I'm so excited. Yes, our team, "The Exclusive Bremertons - once were Brash, now on Key", won Best Team Name at the 25th occasion of the National Wine Options Championships held in Auckland this afternoon. So, it wasn't quite the prize we had spent many enjoyable hours practising for, but it earned each of us a bottle of Champagne Jacquart for our efforts. Our name was a bit of a play on the New Zealand political scene, with a vinous twist - Bremerton being a brand of a particularly tasty Australian Shiraz. Congrat to my team mates - Bill Hird, Tricia Dunlop and Jo Hooker.

We didn't do too badly in the main competition either -would have done better if we hadn't missed three questions on the last wine - but that's another (and never to be told) story!!! Anyway, we ended up a very respectable 5th place overall, out of 55 teams.

The "Number 4 Wine Tasting Team in whole of Kazakhstan" were the overall winners with a whopping 175 points - perhaps the highest score ever in Wine Options. Richard Lockhart, Cheryl Lockhart, Michelle Lockhart and Rob Wallace regained the trophy they won two years ago, in very convincing fashion.

In second place and leading until the last wine, was "Vaguer and Sillier", with Douglas Brett, Dorothy and Roger Faithfull and Gavin Pearson. The team had popped up from Wellington for the weekend and almost took the big Trophy home.

In third place, and winners of the Louis Roederer Trophy for best Trade Team, was "No More Smacking of Alsace". Team members were James Rowan, Brent Park, Sean Beer and Scott Osborne. James works for West Brook Wines but not sure who the team was representing.

Best team costume went to "Gris Anatomy" - the doctors and nurses were David Gould, Joelle Thomson, Cathy Hicks and Michelle Morpeth.

And the wines were - Saint Clair Pioneer Block 6 Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Morton Estate Coniglio Chardonnay 2002, Deutchensherrenhof Riesling Spatlese 2005, Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2003, Te Mata Coleraine 2005, Delta Marlborough Pinot Noir 2005, Yalumba Octavious 2002 and Wolf Blass Grey Label 2004. A fabulous line-up I am sure you will agree.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 9th 2007

The back label code at NZBC

nzbc.jpg (8762 bytes)Came across the NZBC blog today. Now some of you 'older' readers may remember NZBC as the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation, the television provider from 1962 to 1975, but that's not what's this blogsite is about. They've reviewed the brand, digitised the logo and substituted Blogging for Broadcasting. NZBC is now, more appropriately for this medium, the New Zealand Blogging Corporation. While still in black and white, it's a little more sophisticated than the old NZBC because it has four channels instead of just the one that existed in the broadcaster's hey day. There is NZBC Home (Avalon), Kaleidoscope (The Culture Channel ), Compass (The World) and Town and Around (The Nation).

"What do they have on wine?" I wondered as I navigated my way to Kaleidoscope. There I found 'The back label code', written by local wine writer and wine tour captain, Phil Parker. He lists ten translations for the hype that you read on the back label of your bottle of wine. Click here to read it.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 8th 2007

A Belated Italian day celebration with Frescobaldi Chianti

"I want Italian tonight," I texted to Neil when I was deliberating about what to cook for dinner. Besides, I was so disappointed I had missed Italian Foundation Day on June 2nd. I blame it partly on Transit New Zealand who made a decision that from June 1st 2007, the only flag that would be flown from the flagpoles on the top of the Auckland Harbour Bridge would be the New Zealand flag. Previously TNZ considered requests to fly national flags from the Bridge. So on June 2nd, 2006, the Italian flag was flown for the last time. Frescobaldi Chianti

We had our belated celebration with Spaghetti Bolognaise and Chianti, but not just any Chianti because we had the simply delicious Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti 2004. This is Italian wine, but not as I remember it because the colour is so dark and the taste is so ripe and luscious. It's a blackberry red colour, almost black in the core of the glass and flushed with purple crimson on the edges. The aromas remind me of ripe blackberries growing wild on the side of a hot, melting tar road and the taste is full of those blackberries, freshly crushed. The juicy fruit mingles with smoky savoury oak, the tannins are supple and silky and the acids are soft. There's a touch of cassis and cherry while a meaty savouriness comes forth on the finish and there's a floral lift to the aftertaste with dried herbs and fruit cake spices. It's easy to see, smell and taste the quality and totally understand why this wine won the Trophy for Champion International Red Wine at the New Zealand International Wine Show last year. I think it is even better now. With 13% alcohol and a real cork, this $20 wine is, I'll repeat, simply delicious.
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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 7th 2007

Ole to the Kiwis in Spain

The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain but in Valencia its raining Kiwi pride. Congratulations to Emirates Team New Zealand for winning the Louis Vuitton Cup and the right to challenge for the coveted Americas Cup - one of yachting's most glamorous prizes. While the winning yachties are spraying the sponsor's Champagne and spent the night drinking plenty as well, I thought, "What if I were one of the massive contingent of Kiwi supporters in Valencia, what would I be drinking?" I reckoned that at some time or other I would be drinking one of Spain's most famous wines - I would be having a tipple or two of Sherry.  

Sherry is a largely misunderstood wine style in New Zealand, no thanks to the Dally fortified wines - sweet fortified alcoholic drinks that were popular in New Zealand until the discovery of Sauvignon Blanc. But the world of Spanish Sherry takes one through wine styles that range from extra extra dry to decadently and lusciously sweet.

don nunoI had only one bottle of unopened sherry in the cupboard, a Lustau Don Nuno Dry Oloroso, which the label describes as "Robust, dark brown and dry, intense and rich". Made from the Palomino Fino grape, it cost about NZ$27 for a 375ml bottle. It has a bottling code of L4320, which means it was bottled on the 320th day (November 15th) of 2004. If this had been a Manzanilla or Fino, dry sherry styles that are meant to be consumed as young as possible, the wine would have been past it, but as this is Oloroso - fortified from the outset, I wasn't concerned.

In the glass it's a deep amber orange colour, translucent in appearance with yellow green tinges to the edges. Intense aromas, rich, almost toffeeish, quite spiritous with smoke, salted nuts, hints of preserved peel and an ever present yeastiness. Richly flavoured, very dry with alcoholic sweetness, preserved dried citrus and tropical fruits and salted almonds, the brandy character seems quite strong with dry, yeasty, 'rancio' notes and the merest hint of caramel chocolate. Just a cool 20% alcohol by volume, a couple of mouthfuls are all you need to leave a radiating glow. In fact you wouldn't want to drink much more than this if you were driving.

So how does the Lustau Don Nuno Oloroso go with food? To find out I did some experimentation. With olives marinated in olive oil with garlic and chilli, it's good. With blue cheese - interesting and yes, I’d say really good - the piquancy and saltiness of the cheese seems to work quite well - both the cheese and the Oloroso have strong flavours but neither overpowers the other. I could imagine a blue cheese tart for a more substantial food match course. And with a whole piece of cold belly pork that had been cooked in my spiced wine and citrus reduction recipe with star anise the day before, the wine cut through the pork fat but didn't overpower the pork. I thought it worked quite well for a main course wine match.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 6th 2007

Craggy Range Sophia

One of the stars at the Hot Red Hawkes Bay roadshow held in Auckland last month (initial blog entry here) was the Craggy Range Sophia 2005, a red wine made from a blend of 62% Merlot, 34% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels vineyard in Hawkes Bay. I had the opportunity to taste this wine again at the Wine Spirit's tasting tonight and boy, oh boy, it was the star performer without a doubt.Sophia

A wine of such extracted colour, so inky purple black, it looks like a Gimblett Gravels syrah, but the aroma and the taste quickly allayed that thought. It's deep, dense and earthy with hints of violets and rose petal over perfumed, spicy cedary oak - an alluring aroma which leads into a deep, dark, savoury full-bodied palate with a beautifully fine tannin structure, smoky vanillin cedar, red and black fruits, tar, liquorice and oak spice. Intense, rich, ripe and perfectly balanced with a juicy creaminess and a violetty fragrance to the long, vanillin, cedar, cigarbox finish - and even a hint of chocolate.
Matured in French oak, 80% new, for 19 months and bottled in December 2006, the wine carries 14% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a natural cork. Underpinned by fine acidity, it's a wine that should evolve in the cellar for many years to come - but it's also delicious already.

It's so good to be able to taste a wine like this blind  - without any premonition that it is coming up in the tasting - and come to a conclusion on the quality without seeing the label, without knowing the hype that surrounds it. Then, after tasting the wine blind and coming to your own conclusion that it is rather stunning, you realise why the hype is there.

Sophia is one of Craggy Range's 'prestige collection' but at its $45 dollar price tag, it is not in the realm of prestige prices that some of the region's other top wines are now demanding.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 5th 2007

Rare 1903 wine up for auction.

Charity wine auctions seem to be a glamour way of raising money for worthy causes and bottles of rare and specially bottled auction wines make their way to the highest bidder under the auctioneer's hammer. For people like me, these wines are going to be a long way out of my wallet's reach so it's always interesting to read a review of a tasting of the rarest, which will possibly turn out to be the most dearest. And when you talk about rare, nothing could be much more rare in New Zealand than a bottle of the 1903 Lansdowne Claret, made by William Beetham who had one of the country's first commercial vineyards in the Wairarapa (just north of Martinborough).

The first vintage of Mr Beetham's Lansdowne Vineyard wine was 1901 but a bottle of the 1903 has been donated to the Te Omanga Hospice's Charity auction to be held at the Brackenbridge Winery in Martinborough on July 7. The wine has been donated by Ed Beetham, the great-great nephew of the winemaker.

Few people have ever experienced tasting a 104 year old wine, however wine writer Geoff Kelly was in the privileged position of attending a tasting of the vintage back in 1985, when the wine was a mere 82 years old. He wrote about it in a column in the National Business Review.

He said, "The colour is a rosy flush in a copper-garnet hue, and the bouquet has good vinosity and fruit/oak complexity, in a faded floral/peach/sultana way. The flavour is clearly old burgundy in style, with the oak standing firm, yet amazing fruit, body, and freshness for the age. The finish is superb, long and lingering. The wine is still satisfying, though very, very dry. It must have had excellent extract and balance and flavour when young, to have lasted so long. There seemed little doubt it was made from the Pinot Noir and Hermitage recorded for the vineyard; it was burgundian."

Geoff's full article of this extraordinary wine and its background has just been posted to his website - here. It makes very interesting reading.

As for the bottle to be auctioned on July 7th, Ed Beetham says, "I would like to see its new owner open it for tasting." Further details from the auction press release.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 4th 2007

A well preserved white and red from Vidal Estate

Tasted these in a blind tasting today, this Queens Birthday holiday Monday, and on both wines got the vintage wrong. Thought in both cases they were younger than they were. Picked the white as a 2004 and the red as a 2005!

Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2002vildalmc02.jpg (15882 bytes)
Medium gold in colour, clear and bright, this is so obviously New Zealand Chardonnay on the nose and in the palate. It's a big luscious number with a creamy texture, ripe stone fruit, spicy French oak and a seam of underlying acidity with hints of grilled pineapple, which to me is the clue that this is North Island wine. There's a hint of development but it's not showing the development in either colour or taste that I would have expected for a 2002. A multiple gold medal winner, it cost about $35 on release, it's sealed with a screwcap and according to my notes has a moderate 12.5% alcohol - but I wonder if I wrote that down correctly because it seems to buck the higher alcohol trend.

Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Vivid colour, bright and saturated right to the crimson edges, it's fragrantly scented and tastes like a full-bodied Merlot with big rich tarry tannins that settle down to reveal the juicy red and black fruits, smoky oak, cigarbox, tobacco, earth and loads of chocolate. Made from Gimblett Gravels fruit, primarily Merlot with 20 months oak aging (type not mentioned but definitely a hint of sweet American in there) and 14.5% alcohol, it is recommended to cellar 5 years. Five years is up and it is nowhere near its peak - nowhere at all. It's sealed with a screwcap and has won four gold medals, the latest in November last year. About $40 on release, a wine like this would probably cost $20 more on release now. A class act.

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Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 3rd 2007

Hunter Valley Chardonnay and a new restaurant tipoff

Sometimes we forget how good some wines can be when they are out of sight, out of mind and no longer gracing the retail shelves in the abundance they once were. I'm talking about Hunter Valley Chardonnay, which seems to be a rarity in NZ these days.
Yesterday I asked retailer Kingsley Wood, "Why?"
"There's a good reason for it," he said. "No-one buys them!"
The good ones are expensive too - like the stars of late last century - the Rosemount Roxburgh and the Tyrells Vat 47.

hunter 9281This one, that my sister unearthed, was a veritable treasure. It was the Lindemans Hunter Valley 'Bin 9281' Chardonnay 1998, and for a 10 year old wine, it was utterly superb. But I have to admit it didn't smell all that appealing because it was totally dumb on the nose with an initial bottle mustiness (not cork taint) that eventually blew away. Refined in the palate, long, rich, dry, and nutty with melons on the focused finish, chardonnay doesn't get much better. It must have been a really acidic style in its youth for it to age so superbly, especially when the back label says, 'with careful cellaring this wine will develop for a further 3-4 years' and it's still going strong 10 years later.

Kingsley Wood hadn't heard of this wine and my sister who has regular trips to Australia thinks she must have bought it at the cellar door some years ago. I can't find it on the Lindemans website so I'm thinking they don't make this wine any more - or if they do, they have called it something else.

It was just one of some seriously good wines the gang had at dinner on Friday night. Also gracing the table was Te Mata Awatea 1995 - and although showing a hint of horse saddle, it was the gorgeous silky structure, the vinosity and the hints of liquorice complexity that made the wine taste so good.  Waipara Springs Reserve Pinot Noir 2002 was drinking superbly - silky textured, soft and luxuriant with good pinot expression and no green edges at this stage of its life. And the Pegasus Bay Riesling 2000, with piercing lime acidity underpinning the honeyed nectar that the wine has turned into, was the perfect starter wine to get the taste buds honed for the night ahead.

But here's a tip - don't go to a restaurant that you know is changing hands in a week's time. If it's anything like our experience, it won't be as good as you expect. No point in going on about it but if our experience was typical of the restaurant in its heyday, we wouldn't be going back. The place has excellent ambience, however, a private room for small groups and gorgeous views across Murrays Bay on Auckland's North Shore.
We are so pleased to hear who that the new owners taking over the venue at 470 Beach Road, Murray Bays are the owners of our favourite North Shore BYO Restaurant, Art Ducko, a few bays further north.
So on June 13th, what is known as Murrays at the Bay becomes Art Ducko 2.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 2nd 2007

Kumeu and Huapai's vineyards under threat by Waitakere mayor's grandiose scheme

'Can Waitakere take the west' was the front page headline in Thursday's Rodney Times, the regional newspaper for the Rodney District, north of Auckland. It seems that Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey is keen for Waitakere City to take over most of Rodney District's western Ward, including Kumeu and Huapai where internationally renowned wineries like Kumeu River, Coopers Creek and Matua Valley, as well as a number of boutique producers, have vineyards.

Mayor Harvey raised the issue at a Waitakere Business Club breakfast forum earlier this week saying that if Waitakere City can extend it boundaries to Helensville in the north and Coatesville on the eastern side, the metropolitan urban limit will be able to be extended.

rodneymap.jpg (68725 bytes)"Waitakere is running out of land and getting a little bit desperate," said Rodney's Mayor John Law in response. He said that a takeover of Waitakere by Rodney would be a much better route. "We have much more land, better vineyards and one of New Zealand's largest recreation parks coming up".

Mayor Harvey wants the topic on the agenda for the forthcoming local body elections.

Much of Waitakere City's former vineyard land in Henderson has now succumbed to housing forcing former Henderson producers Soljans and West Brook to move to rural Rodney.

It's not the first time Kumeu vineyards have been under threat.  A few years back plans for future northwestern motorway extensions showed the path cutting through some of the country's best chardonnay vines.

My map shows the approximate location of the Western Ward of the Rodney area outlined in blue. To see better maps of the regions, go the Auckland Regional Council's map page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Jun 1st 2007

A Beattieful Book Blog with an interest in wine

Graham BeattieCame across Graham Beattie's Book Blog the other day when I was looking for a review of 'How to Drink a Glass of Wine', the wine writers session at the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival last week. It was a panel discussion on wine and wine writing with Michael Cooper, John Saker and Keith Stewart and took its name from John Saker's super little book.  What did Graham think?  Click here to check it out -  (it's at the end of the blog entry). 

Then funnily enough Graham came across when he was researching screwcaps. He was interested to find out more after yet another bleat about screwcaps in the wine column of his favourite magazine, the Listener.  Click here to read what he said.

Beattie's Book Blog is the most incredible book resource and I recommend it for both readers and writers. Turns out that Graham's also a wine lover and owns hundreds of books on the subject of wine. 

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