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Welcome to Sue Courtney's web log (blog) of vinous ramblings.  It's my on line journal and an adjunct to my website which is for more formal tasting notes and articles.

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Archive: March 2009
Mar 31st: Gorgeous Auckland Chardonnays
Mar 29th: Getting into some oldies
Mar 28th: The Gravitas Gambit
Mar 25th: Coconut Riesling and Lime
Mar 23rd: Corbans Cottage Block Chardonnay takes Easter Show top gong
Mar 19th: 2005 or 2006 - is the wine's good, does the vintage matter?
Mar 18th: It's Semillon, not Sauvignon
Mar 17th: Tasting Update on St Pat's Day
Mar 15th: Montana's 30th vintage Sauvignon Blanc
Mar 4th: Out of Town and a Vinous Detour in Taupo
Mar 3rd: More Gold Medal Wines and my Wine of the Week
Mar 1st: Why wine judges like beer
Older Entries

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 31st 2009

Gorgeous Auckland Chardonnays

Look out Kumeu River. There is some competition coming from your neighbours!

Kumeu River is the undisputed Chardonnay champion of Auckland region and in my opinion they make the best Chardonnay in New Zealand, year in, year out. It's hard to fault any of their Chardonnay range, which since the 2006 vintage now numbers five different chardonnay wines.

Closest contender, until now, has been the Villa Maria Ihumatao Chardonnay made from grapes grown in Mangere, on the south side of the city. But three Auckland region Chardonnays tasted recently, are oozing the quality of their peers.

Ivicevich 06From nearby in Kumeu and made by West Brook, is the Ivicevich Waimauku Chardonnay 2006. 2006 was a splendid year for Chardonnay in Auckland and the Kumeu River's were perhaps the best ever. I also like this Ivicevich interpretation which represents the best they can make. Light gold with citrine glints, it has nutty, savoury, smoky oak and mealy scents that lead into a palate that evokes a statement of 'Yum!'. A fine-grained, fine-textured Chardonnay with lots of Burgundian connotations, it is mealy with hints of nutmeg, a touch of fig, a fleshy stonefruit richness and a fine citrussy finish. Lovely ripe Chardonnay, refined and smooth at $38 a bottle ex vineyard, it has a Kumeu River-like price tag too. The wine has 13.5% alcohol and a screwcap closure.

Ascent 07From further north in Matakana we are seeing the benefit of older vines at Ascension Wine Estate. Ascension 'The Ascent' Matakana Chardonnay 2007 is a light gold colour with citrussy aromas and a creamy texture with a rather voluptuous butterscotch richness and refreshing balancing acidity. This is a fresh, clean wine with a lemon, leesy, barrel ferment backbone - the oak is harmonious and nicely integrated. It has 13% alcohol, a screwcap closure and costs $30 a bottle ex vineyard.


Matakana Estate 07Matakana Estate Matakana Chardonnay 2007 has some bright yellow highlights to the light gold hue. It smells of sweet creamy oak on the nose and is rich, ripe and creamy in the palate. Quite mealy and concentrated with peach, nectarine, fig and warm spicy oak, it is a well worked wine - malolactic probably most definitely and plenty of toasty French oak kicking around in the background. It had 11 months in French oak, 40% new. It has 13.5% alcohol, a screwcap closure and costs $27 a bottle ex vineyard.

I had tasted the Ivicevich last September and was impressed with it back then but the top-notch quality of the two Matakana wines was a tasty surprise. However, to my palate the Matakana Estate edged out the Ascension, even though it is the best 'The Ascent' made to date - it is overall a lighter style and thus more versatile with a wide range of food style, which is exactly what Ascension really wants for their on-site Oak Grill restaurant. The fuller Matakana Estate had nuances that would have made be plump for a top notch Hawkes Bay wine in a blind tasting. Glimmers of a Rifleman's, dare I say.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 29th 2009

Getting into some Oldies

A few old wines have been opened over the past few weeks, including a whole raft at a party on Saturday night.

The Gibbston Valley Pinot Noir 1998 and the Wither Hills Pinot Noir 1995 were totally past it, the latter especially an excellent example of what wine turning to vinegar tastes like. I don't know how these wines had been stored.

A highlight was St Nesbit 1991 from Papakura in South Auckland. Made from a blend of Cabernet, Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, it was a cult wine in its heyday, but 18 years on from vintage this wine was quite thin - more like a Rosé than a full-bodied red, but wine nevertheless. Old wine with no faults, a wine to sip and savour and enjoy with some cheese while watching the sun set on these last few nights of daylight saving.

Another highlight was a Chifney Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 from Martinborough. For a 15 year old NZ cab, this was rich and complex with a minty infusion running through it - a wine to turn heads when you state the variety and the age. And turn heads, it did.

A Villa Maria Marlborough Pinot Noir 2001 was quite beautiful, complex and savoury despite being mistakenly put in the ice bin. It was still cold an hour after being 'rescued' from the icy water but that chilling did pronounce the acidity in the wine. It is holding up very well. I never would have picked the vintage, the wine seemed younger.

But perhaps the most amazing was an Orlando Centenary Hill Shiraz 1996. The nose had mellowed and was more like a youthful Central Otago Pinot Noir but the taste - just gorgeous, bottle-aged Barossa Shiraz with years of life still ahead of it if we had not consumed it.

Earlier in the month, for Neil's birthday, we dined at the beautiful Long Bay restaurant at Long Bay Beach on Auckland's east coast. We took advantage on the restaurant's BYOW policy that they have for early midweek dining. Friends with a mutual birthday boy turned up with Clearview Reserve Chardonnay 2002 - it was quite yellow in colour and seemed quite developed but once the bottle stink blew off, a lovely, full, curvaceous Chardonnay with toasty oak, creamy mealy notes and a long savoury finish was revealed.

We also took a Dry River Gewurztraminer 1998 - one of my all time favourite Dry River GW's. Classically varietal and rich but the wine seemed tired and because it didn't suit any of the restaurant food offerings, we finished it off with Thai food a few nights later.  The spicy food brought the wine back to life. Just what it needed.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 28th 2009

The Gravitas Gambit

I was surprised to see a 'help me' story on TV1's Close Up last night about Gravitas Winery. The headline paragraphs say, "When the owners of a small Marlborough Winery had an horrific motorcycle accident two months ago, it look like nothing could save their business from going under. While the management of Gravitas vineyard fought for their lives, their award-winning winery floundered, and staff left in droves".
See the video at this link.

According to the TV1 story it was because of the accident that the owners of Gravitas couldn't chase up bills from overseas. They got down to $48 in the bank; they couldn't pay their staff and most of their staff left.

But I have to ask, how do such severe financial woes happen in just two months (as implied by the story) to a winery that prides itself in having "spectacular success" with distribution of their wines in "over 20 countries"?
How does an ex Merchant banker and holder of an MBA in Wine Business get into a situation like this?
And if you have an accident that just about kills you and then your staff leaves in droves, what relationship did the owners have with their staff in the first place?

So were we actually being told the 'real story'?

Anyway, the Fine Wine Delivery Company helped them with a fire sale and they sold more wine in a week  - 50,000 bottles, more than they would sell in 2-3 years - to pull Gravitas back from the brink. Mind you the 'fire sale' prices were exceedingly attractive - absolute bargains, in fact. And we love bargains!

So now Gravitas has the funds to hire new staff and harvest the 2009 vintage grapes.

"What would have happened if you had not had the help?" asked the reporter.
"We have lost the house, we would not have had a vineyard any more and the company would have died," said Gravitas owner Martyn Nicholls.
"Of course there's a simple way to help .... by ordering some of their wines," said the Close Up presenter to sign off the story.

But another 'news' item a week before on the same TV channel and same website says the USA-based Saint James Company has entered an agreement with three New Zealand wineries to purchase capital stocks or assets. Not that this report is entirely correct because according to other reports it's all evidently in the negotiating stages at the moment, but one of the three wineries is Gravitas Wines. The others are Lawson's Dry Hills and Waimea Estates.

Trevor Bolitho from Waimea Estates said in this article that the announcement by Saint James was a surprise and while they may be negotiating, any agreement is still a few months off. In another article, Barbara Lawson says that talks are being held but no agreement has yet been reached. Lawson's Dry Hills founder, Ross Lawson, died earlier this year.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 25th 2009

Coconut Riesling and Lime

Have you ever noticed an older Riesling can pick up tropical coconut nuances? There's something about the aging that concentrates the citrus and adds that gorgeous tropical island intonation. I first noticed this 10 years ago at a Riesling Masterclass with the highly respected Geoffrey Grosset. The wine was Petaluma Riesling 1991, at that time 8 years old. The wine had become toasty with concentrated lime and hints of coconut.

Lime and coconut have an affinity with each other - look how many recipes marry the two together. Cosmetics, too.

Villa Maria PB Riesling 2002I love it when I find it in Riesling - like in the Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Riesling 2002 that Neil opened the other night. The wine had a deep gold colour and had become a little oily in texture with almost seven years in the bottle but tropical fruit sang with intense lime flavours underpinning the wine and those nuances of coconut taking it to an extra level. It called for something exotic and was the perfect opportunity to use the Kaffir lime* leaves I had been given in the weekend.

I made a simple pork stir-fry. Strips of pork were sauteed with garlic, ginger, spring onions, a shredded Kaffir lime leaf, chilli and red capsicum. Then a dash of fish sauce was splashed over and a small can (165ml) of Thai coconut milk. Quick, simple, tangy and tasty and perfect with that Riesling.

Riesling is my choice for white wine to age. The Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Riesling 2002 had a screwcap closure and 12.5% alcohol was stated on the label. Can't remember how much I paid for it, but it wasn't much. According to older notes, it was quite tropically when last tasted in December 2003 - but it didn't have coconut nuances then.

*Ann, who gave me the Kaffir lime leaves off her tree, says she freezes them on a tray then, when it's needed for a recipe, she takes one from the freezer and pops it in whole, as one would a bay leaf. It can be removed before serving.  Of course, if you want a more intense lime flavour, you can chop it up.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 23rd 2009

Corbans Cottage Block Chardonnay takes Easter Show top gong

CB ChardonnayAt the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards Dinner last Saturday night, it was Corbans Cottage Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 that won the overall accolade of Champion Wine of the Show. I was really pleased to hear this because this was my favourite of the Trophy winning wines. I got to taste them all at the end of the competition judging, 3 weeks ago. The Senior Judges are poured a taste of each varietal winning wine and asked to rank them in order of preference, from 1 to 14 for the 14 wines. I gave the Chardonnay my No. 1 ranking and scribbled in my notebook, "A gorgeous Chardonnay. Sweet fruit, nutty oak, creamy texture, all the bells and whistles in an approachable style".

So now I know it was the Corbans Cottage Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 that seduced my palate the most.

Coincidentally, we had this wine last Wednesday night at the First Glass weekly Wednesday tasting, when gold medal wines from the Pernod Ricard portfolio were tasted. Again, it was a stylish favourite. "Rich straw gold in colour, there's a mealy, malty, grapefruit-infused aroma and those sensory aromatics carry through to the creamy palate that has a nougat-like complexity with stonefruit pulsating through on the gorgeous finish."

Also tasted on the Wednesday night, the Church Road Reserve Syrah 2007. Check out all the notes on my Wednesday Roundup page.

So to those varietal trophy winners from the Royal Easter Wine Show - there were

Champion Chardonnay: Corbans Cottage Block Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007
Champion Sparkling Wine: Montana Reserve Chardonnay Pinot Noir Rosé NV
Champion Sauvignon Blanc: Wither Hills "Rarangi" Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Champion Gewürztraminer: Greystone Waipara Gewurztraminer 2008
Champion Viognier: Vidal East Coast Viognier 2008
Champion Riesling: Forrest the Doctors' Marlborough Riesling 2008
Champion Pinot Gris: Selaks The Favourite Pinot Gris 2008
Champion Pinot Noir: Olssens Jackson Central Otago Barry Pinot Noir 2007
Champion Syrah: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Syrah 2007
Champion Merlot or Merlot Predominant Blend: Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2006
Champion Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Predominant Blend: CJ Pask Declaration Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2006
Champion Wine of Other Varieties: Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Tempranillo 2007
Champion Sweet Wine: Spy Valley Noble Marlborough Riesling 2008

Plus Highfield Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was awarded Champion Export Wine. Check out for all the details.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 19th 2009

2005 or 2006 - is the wine's good, does the vintage matter?

It's a good idea to make mistakes from time to time because someone is sure to correct you. If it weren't for the mistakes and the corrections from the marketeers, I wouldn't have any idea if anyone read my ramblings.

So I made a mistake about the Gimblett Gravels tasting held recently in the UK. I thought it was a repeat of the 'Judgment of Taupo' mentioned in this week's Wine of the Week. After all the press release from the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association that I picked up off the Scoop website states…

"Q: What do you do when a low-key tasting of your wines in Taupo confirms that your wine is up to scratch with the very best from Bordeaux from that celebrated region's very best vintage from the past decade?

A: Take the whole thing to London, invite some of the world's best palates and wine critics and do it all again, just to make sure."

To me it implies implies that the same wines that were pitted against each other in the UK tasting. Only they weren't.

In Taupo, both the Gimblett Gravels wines and the Bordeaux wines were from the 2005 vintage but in the UK it was 2006 vintage Gimblett Gravels and 2005 Bordeaux. So I should have spotted the vintage variation in small print on the second page of the press release. It was easy to miss, given the hype.

It doesn't take anything away from the success of Sacred Hill Helmsman, however. It makes it look even better with Top Six placings against the 2005 Bordeaux with both the 2005 and 2006 vintages. Well done!

So I've been tasting another Sacred Hill wine tonight- the Sacred Hill Basket Press Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2008 - yes that's right - 2008. Despite all that autumn rain, the guys in Hawkes Bay were saying it was a good red wine vintage and it seems they might be right.

This is a pretty sumptuous drop for such a young red but I guess it's made in a 'drink young' style. Bright vivid purple red in colour, it brims with ripe brambles on the nose - a little reminiscent of fresh blackberries that you can pick from the side of the road at this time of year. Add a bit of dusty oak, tar and leather for interest. Those berries dominate the juicy palate with charred oak providing balancing savouriness. Merlot asserts its presence with a rounded mid palate and a plum / chocolate richness while the Cabernet Sauvignon provides structure and a touch of herbaceousness - herbs that emit anise / liquorice type flavours. Dry tannins hit the front of the mouth on the finish but overall the impression is of a very smooth, robust drinkable red. My rating 4 stars.

Matched to steak, nice, but the surprise was a layered slices of potatoes baked in a little cream with onion, Thai basil and a topping of shaved Parmesan cheese. The creaminess cut through the tannins while the licorice /anise flavour of the Thai basil was an unexpected complement.

RRP is $20.90 but it is a supermarket line and will go on discount. It has a screwcap closure and alcohol clocks in at 13.5%.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 18th 2009

It's Semillon, not Sauvignon

I received a bottle of Kaimira Estate Brightwater Semillon 2007 from Nelson a few weeks ago and because I wanted to taste it blind, I suggested it go in a line-up of Sauvignon Blancs. However, by the time I tasted those wines, I had forgotten this suggestion. Needless to say, the Semillon was the worst "Sauvignon Blanc" in the line-up. "Seems rather simple. Has viscosity but lacks typicity," I wrote.

Now that's actually a good thing as Semillon should not taste like Sauvignon Blanc, they are different grape varieties after all, although I remember some Marlborough examples in the late 1980's that tasted rather more like the region's more famous grape.

I decided to give the wine another chance and tasted it the next day on its own. Knowing what I was tasting made all the difference.

From the Kaimira websiteKaimira Estate Brightwater Semillon 2007 has a lustrous lemon gold colour. On the nose there are hints of tropical fruit, perhaps some banana and initially bright acidity drives through the light, grainy textured palate. Now I'm thinking it's more like Pinot Gris, than anything else, with pear and apple fruit joining the tropical fruit together with a honeyish viscosity and some zesty spice. The finish is warm and generous with additional complexity from a touch of oak. The oak is subtle and the fruit is ripe and sweet but of course the wine is dry. The wine has 12% alcohol, a screwcap closure and has an RRP of $20 (although it is listed at $16 on the website with minimum order 12 bottles, plus freight).
My rating: 3 stars.

This is the first Semillon from Kaimira Estate Wines and I think it will have a future if they can get a little more concentration in the wine without losing that acid drive.

Funnily enough, the sister wine to the Semillon, the Kaimira Nelson Sauvignon Blanc 2008, was the top wine of that original Sauvignon Blanc tasting, reviewed on February 7th.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 17th 2009

Tasting Update on St Pat's Day

Catching up on tastings from the last couple of weeks ....

This week's Wine of the Week
Sacred Hill Broken Stone Merlot 2006 - a gorgeous Hawke's Bay red laden with fruit impeccably balanced to the savoury aspects of the wine. Hints of chocolate too.
Click here to read the WOTW review

Last week's Wine of the Week
Spy Valley Envoy Pinot Gris 2007 - NZ Pinot Gris doesn't get much better than this. Both the 2007 and 2008 vintages of the regular Spy Valley Pinot Gris are gold medal winners, which mean this is platinum in quality. Definitely one of the upper echelon of this often bland variety.
Click here to read the WOTW review

Notes from the First Glass tastings
Last week it was the Cuisine Magazine Aromatics and eleven of the twelve five star wines were tasted. The one that was omitted was the No. 1 Riesling - Sanctuary Marlborough Riesling 2008. Hard to believe this was placed above some gorgeous wines like Pegasus Bay Aria 2007 (No. 2) and Forrest Estate Doctor's 2008 (No. 4), however the top placed wines showed a diverse range of styles. In all we tasted six Rieslings, two Pinot Gris and three Gewurztraminers finishing up with a Western Australian red.
Click here to read my reviews

The week before it was all new releases and one of the highlights was the sumptuous Te Mata Coleraine 2007, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Hawkes Bay. Plenty of reviews of this wine from Internet land, not all as positive and gushing as mine. I can only think that Jules (one of the more negative reviewers) had must have a less than pristine bottle, which is to be expected from a cork closed wine.
Also in the tasting Felton Road Chardonnay 2007, the new Church Road Reserve Chardonnay 2007, Terra Vin Hillside Pinot Noir 2006 (a Bob Campbell 95 pointer) and two outstandingly priced Wolf Blass President's Selection reds.
Click here to read my reviews

And to finish off, an Irish joke for St Pat's Day

An Irish priest is stopped for speeding. The traffic officer smells alcohol on the priest's breath and then sees an empty wine bottle on the floor of the car.

He says, 'Sir, have you been drinking?'

'Just water,' says the priest.

The trooper says, 'Then why do I smell wine?'

The priest looks at the bottle and says, 'Good Lord! He's done it again! Turned water into wine!'

Have a great day.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 15th 2009

Montana's 30th vintage Sauvignon Blanc

I've just spent several days in the Wairau Valley. Unfortunately for me, it was not Marlborough's Wairau Valley. If I had been in Marlborough, I may have been able to gatecrash Montana Marlborough's celebrations of its 30th vintage of Sauvignon Blanc.

Montana planted grapes in Marlborough in 1973 but soon realised that the exciting Sauvignon Blanc that Matua Valley was producing in Auckland could have potential in the South Island. So Sauvignon Blanc was planted on the Brancott Valley vineyard and the first harvest was in 1979. However I'm pretty sure that this was not a commercial release because, years ago, when I was collecting vintages of Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, I was absolutely assured that although a 1979 wine was produced, the 1980 was the first commercial release.

I've been trying to find accounts of proceedings about the day, held at the Brancott Valley Vineyard, but other than the Press release that Pernod Ricard sent me and regurgitations of that press release, there is very little out there about the day in Internet land. So will I ever know if invited guests drank anything other than Sauvignon Blanc, who the band was that they danced to, and what they ate?

On Wednesday night I spoke to one of the company employees. Where are the reports on the event? Do we have to wait for print media?

He said there was a piece on TV3 (found that excellent report at this link) and in the Marlborough Express (can't find that on line).

I was pleased to hear that Frank Yukich was a guest at the event. Frank's father founded Montana on the south eastern slopes of Auckland's Waitakere Ranges in 1934. The old winery is still there in Scenic Drive, by the way. Although the press release says Frank set up Montana Wines in 1961, I am assuming this is when he took over the management of the company that his father named. Frank left Montana Wines in 1977 to set up Penfolds New Zealand in Marlborough, planting Sauvignon Blanc of course.

Frank is now welcomed back into the Montana fold and the words that he said sometime in the 1970's, "Wine from here will become world famous" are now celebrated on a sign at the vineyard entrance.

Tonight I opened a bottle of a 30th vintage Montana Marlborough Sauvingon Blanc.   There are several these days - the Montana Marlborough, the Montana Reserve, The Montana 'B' and the Montana Terroir Series Festival Block.

Montana Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 is made from grapes predominantly from the Brancott Valley with the addition of some Awatere Valley fruit. Light lemon gold in the glass, this smells so distinctively New Zealand with its pungent grassy, herbaceous aromas and it tastes like it too with its bright, punchy, lime and tangelo flavours infused with green apple, cucumber and fresh summer herbs. It has a lightly spritzig / fizzy 'sherbet lolly' texture and is full of zingy acidity with just a touch of peachy sweetness on the finish to bring it all into balance. Absolutely does it for me and I give it an easy 4 stars. A supermarket darling, this wine is regularly on special somewhere. Expect to pay about $14,which is a super price for savvy of this quality.

If anyone out there is interested in tasting some really old Montana Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, I know where there are a few bottles are stashed away. Send an email to me using the contact details at the top of the page.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 4th 2009

Out of Town and a Vinous Detour in Taupo

Vineyards are popping up all over New Zealand but one of the most unlikely places is at Taupo, close to Huka Falls. Here in the centre of the North Island with an elevation of 400 metres above sea level, it's a climate that could be considered 'extreme'. So seeing we were going past, we called into the Huka Falls Winery for a spot of wine tasting, some lunch and a good nosy around the vines.

veraison.jpg (20024 bytes)It seemed a long way off from the vintage already underway in Auckland, Gisborne and Hawkes Bay with the pinot noir grapes at this vineyard still undergoing veraison. 

We also found the winery is closed mid week but you can still taste wine at the restaurant. It costs .50c a taste, or you can taste the full range, including the locally grown pinot noir, for $5. All the others were from 'imported' fruit, such as Hawkes Bay (mostly) and Gisborne.

Seated on the deck at the restaurant, overlooking the vines, the wines were bought to our table, one by one. Where Huka Fall wines were unavailable, there were substitutes off the wine list.

huka-winery.jpg (59366 bytes)Huka Block Taupo Pinot Noir 2006 is light garnet in colour. The gentle aroma of this bottle that had been opened three days before our visit is of stewed cherry with a hint of spice and tobacco. Spicy in the palate with underlying acidity, it seems a little hard on entry and show some 'bottle-opened-too-long' character, however, the wine is gentle and builds to a mellow finish with a hint of stewed tamarillo pushing through. While it has lost the freshness, the expanding flavours fill the palate with smoky oak, herbs, stewed tart fruit and even a hint of chocolate and has very good length. Winery price is $50 a bottle.

The other wines listed ranged from $38 for unoaked Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, to $44 for Syrah. The wait person ensured us the restaurant prices were also the takeaway prices. I thought the wines excessively expensive so despite loving the succulent, savoury "Patatahi Block Pinotage 2006", presumably from Patutahi, the wines stayed in the rack.

We enjoyed the wine tasting and lunch. It was a detour worth taking. Check out for a list of all the wines.

This is my last post for a few days. I'm spending some time in the Wairau Valley - without my computer!

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 3rd 2009

More Gold Medal Wines and my Wine of the Week

Royal Easter Show Wine Awards
Results of the 56th Royal Easter Show Wine Awards, judged on the weekend, were announced today. From 1562 entries, 935 wines won medals with 93 golds (5.9%), 211 silvers and 648 bronzes. Marlborough, contributed the most medals (37 gold, 73 silver, 248 bronze) ahead of Hawkes Bay (29 gold, 64 silver, 164 bronze). Trophies are announced on March 21st.
Check out all the gold, silver and bronze medal winners at The gold medal winners are now included in my Wine Show Gold Medal Summary List and identified with a show code of 'E'.

Sydney International Wine Competition
In Sydney this past weekend,the Sydney International Wine Competition winners were announced. As far as I can ascertain, 93 New Zealand Wines made it into the top 20% cut of the 2000 entries. Thirty-two of those wines received Highly Commended awards and the remaining 61 received Blue Gold awards.

New Zealand made a clean sweep of the Pinot Noir Class where 24 wines were included with 16 receiving Blue Gold awards. Drumsara Ventifacts Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007was the Trophy winner in the category.
Thirty Sauvignon Blanc wines were included in the top 20% but New Zealand only accounted for 23 of those wines. Others came from Western Australia, Tasmania, the Strathbogie Ranges in Victoria and the Adelaide Hills and Mount Benson in South Australia. Huntaway Reserve Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2008 took out the Trophy in this Category.
In the Medium Bodied White Wine Category, Ti Point Marlborough Pinot Gris 2008 took out the Trophy for Best in Class.
Corbans Private Bin Hawkes Bay Syrah 2005 was judged Best in Class in the Lighter Bodied Red category.

There is a comprehensive website at The New Zealand wines that won blue-gold medals are now included in my Wine Show Gold Medal Summary List and identified with a show code of 'S'.

Lots of Gold Medals
With the inclusion of the Royal Easter Show and Sydney International golds in my Wine Show Gold Medal Summary List, there are now 408 wines listed.  Some of those may be duplicates (e.g Hawkesbridge Chardonnay), but even so a tally of over 400 wines is mind boggling. Imagine if I had included wines from other overseas shows, or the five star awards from other critics, the page would take forever to load. One thing that is common about the show and magazine golds, is that the wines have been judged by a panel, rather than an individual. The list doesn't even include my own five star/ gold medal-rated wines. 

This week's Wine of the Week
This is one of my five star wines - and it's a wine to behold, both visually and sensually. One of the wines in the trio from artist Dick Frizzell and Hawkes Bay red wine maestro Rod McDonald, it is the Frizzell Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec 2007. Click here to read the review.

Sue Courtney's blog of vinous ramblings
wine, food & other vinous topics from New Zealand
Mar 1st 2009

Why wine judges like beer

I found out today why wine judges, after a day of wine judging, prefer to drink beer instead of wine. It's probably the same reason that winemakers prefer beer after assessing tank samples of Sauvignon Blanc or barrel samples of reds - or perhaps why winemakers like beer at any time. It is because the beer is refreshing.

A cold beer is always ready for the judges at the shows I judge at and there was plenty of choice for the judges at the Royal Easter Show Wine Awards this weekend. I usually stick to sparkling mineral water but today I had a sip or two of a beer and my mouth, which had been coated with red wine tannins and stripped of tissue by white wine acids, was immediately soothed. What wonderful medicine!

Judging Wines at Easter Show 2009The Royal Easter Show Wine Awards is New Zealand's longest running wine show and the 2009 competition was the 56th occasion. This year I joined John Belsham and Geoff Kelly to make up one of five panels of senior judges. We tasted our way through flights of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the first day, and Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet and Merlot blends, and Syrah on the second day. Then it was the all the important Trophy wine taste off for each variety, followed by the taste off of the best of each variety for Champion Wine of the Show. The judging photo (above) has Geoff Kelly in the foreground.  I am behind him.

Discussing wines at Easter Show 2009There is a lot of criticism of wine shows and I hear comments like, "It's a lottery" but you only have to participate in a show like this to know this is not true. There is ample time to look at the wines and no one is hurried along. Each judge awards each wine in the flight a score and after the flight has been judged the judges discuss the scores. Every wine that has been awarded a gold medal score by anyone is retasted, as are some wines that receive wildly divergent scores. At the end of the day, some of the wines have been looked at several times and the final award is a result of teamwork and consensus. The discussion photo (above) shows Geoff Kelly (foreground left), associate judges Turlough Smyth and James Hillard, panel leader John Belsham, and moi.

The medal results come out in a few days time and the Trophies are announced on Saturday 21st March. I'm hankering to know what some of the Trophy winners are - especially a gorgeous, gorgeous Mosel-like Riesling, a rather delicious Chardonnay and an exquisite sweetie. They are just such beautiful wines.

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copyright Sue Courtney 2009