Friday, October 31, 2008

Bits and Bobs from the Notebook.

Another eclectic collection of tastes that have been lurking in my notebook including a standout Gris. It's frightening but I might be coming around to Nu Zillund's new favourite summer tipple.

Te Whare Ra Toru Marlborough 2008
An off-the-wall blend of Gew├╝rztraminer, Riesling and Pinot Gris (the Toru in the name means 'three' in Maori) in an off-dry style. It's tempting to think that blends such as this are the result of left over juice being given a marketing spin but there's definite care taken with the style and it works. Fruit salad in a glass. Lime pith and sherbet. Tempting and engaging. a 2 glass wine.

Wither Hills Wairau Valley Pinot Gris 2008

Honeysuckle and a little toasty oak. There's minerality, weight and mealiness in the mid palate. A little beauty that hopefully won't get undermined by the grocery chains heavy discount rotation. Charming. a 3 glass wine.

Martinborough Rose Martinborough 2008 (500ml bottle)
Rosehip florals, lots of fruit and flavour with a lovely creamy palate backed up by some come-hither spices. The wee 500ml bottle is a lovely touch. a 3 glass wine.

Weeping Sands Syrah Waiheke 2006
Pink peppercorn and blue fruits abound in the nose with the palate playing fine, refreshing acidity against really dark berry berries. There's an element of warming coffee bean amongst the cool limpidity. Serene rather than ballsy. a 3 glass wine.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Potty for Pinot

I'm rather missing the zeitgeist here with this statement. It's no secret that Pinot Noir is being drunk in abundance and "Sideways" came out in 2004 so I'm about 4 years off the pace but a couple of things conspired over the past week to have me thinking that Pinot-love has ratcheted up another notch, here in Nu Zillund at least.

Whilst at lunch last Tuesday (being treated to the Vidal wines) a restaurant industry peer commented that, last summer, Pinot Noir outsold every other varietal. The summer usually has Kiwis reaching for the ubiquitous Savvy or a fashionable Pinot Gris and whilst there's no mistaking Pinot Noir's a contender in the fashion stakes it came as a surprise that it would oust the whites whilst the sun shone.

Then my lovely Dad (who gets Cuisine magazine delivered and hence receives it before the shops) got in touch to share the results of the magazine's Pinot tasting. As he so eloquently put it "Cuisine goes a bit gaga over the standard of 2007 Pinot Noirs". And he questioned "have they gone ott and developed nu zillund one-eyed-ness on our nouveau #1 grape?".

Talking over some of the results I'm still unsure, and Cuisine have certainly been lavish with their praise. 29 wines awarded 5 stars. That's 29 "2 bottle wines".

That's a lot! the sup-position jury is still out on this one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

an absolute steal

It's easy to get carried away by the thrill of the new. And it's easy to be impressed by lavish wineries that cost millions. Forward thinking, techno-savvy winemakers and glamorous packaging. Or at least it's easy here in Nu Zillund where the gravitas of time and tradition has less sway than it might. Often a winery's best vintage is the most recent vintage as technique and understanding grow and in light of all this it can be easy to disregard a phrase like

"New Zealand wine since 1905"

This is the tag line for Vidal. A Hawke's Bay winery that's part of the Villa Maria group but proud of their independence and heritage. And a winery that really over-delivers with elegant wines full of strucure and harmony.

A tasting of their Reserve range earlier in the week highlighted just how thoughtful and well made these wines are. I realise I'm waxing lyrical but the Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 caused even more tactiturn types than myself to certain flights of fancy.

With 6 years in the bottle this is just starting to come into its own exhibiting bewitching complexity. The aroma is intoxicating, showing a dusty pencil quality which overlays rich black cherry fruit and game. The flavour is defined, structured and balanced with satisfying black plum, cassis and earth. Classic, classy, elegant. a 1 bottle wine.

and at $40 recommended retail..... an absolute steal.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notes burning a hole in the notebook

Apparently it takes a little longer than I declare to get around to writing up notes.

This was a little off the wall collection of samples from Procure.

Ostler 'Blue House Vines' Riesling Waitaki Valley 2008
The Waitaki Valley in North Otago is only just starting to have a collection of vineyards to call its own and has a climate and growing season that is quite distinct from Central. At 11.5% this is all super fresh lime and minerality. Sharply defined the palate shows a unique combination of stonefruit reigned in by taut, tight lemony acids. A lively riesling with heaps of personality. a 2 glass wine.

Alana Estate Sauvignon Blanc Martinborough 2008
Very shy for a sauvignon fresh off the blocks, wafting a little peach skin but not much else. The palate is fruit sweet, perhaps some nettle characteristics but lacking varietal typicity. a 1 glass wine.

Two Rivers of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2008
A commercial, correct, varietal style. A safe sauvignon with broad appeal. Peaches backed up by a gunflint and a plump palate. a 1 glass wine.

Elephant Hill Viognier Hawke's Bay 2008
Chargrilled apricots in the aroma make this a less delicate expression than it's 2007 predecessor. It is refreshing and spicy showing good acidity but without an ethereal floral component at this stage of development. Nonetheless a pretty and pure expression of Viognier. a 3 glass wine.

Ostler 'Caroline' Pinot Noir Waitaki Valley 2006
Dark, brooding and a little bit feral this Pinot evolves in the glass. The fruit is wieghty blackberry, mingled with licorice and the savoury, gamey elements appear before resolving into limestone minerality, earth and lemons. Complex but lacking balance with the barnyard notes drowning out the fruit. Perhaps even the slight horsehair whiff of Brett? a 1 glass wine.

Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah Hawke's Bay 2007
Smoky, bloody and opulent. A flowing palate of fine tannins and dark fruit. Still developing but enticing now this is Hawke's Bay Syrah at its layered, generous best. a 1 bottle wine.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

More tastings and some super cheap plonk

The samples and the lovely people that tout them keep flowing through the door and I have some lovely notes on wines from small producers such as Ostler in the Waitaki Valley and Alana Estate of Martinborough which I will write up tomorrow. There are more and more producers out there making wines that are full of personality and that are far from the commercial cookie-cutter. Even the new big-kid-on-the-block, Elephant Hill, is using its state of the art winery to produce really interesting wine.

In an aside however. Rich chanced upon two outrageous bargains at our local New World. The Patutahi Gewurztraminer has often tickled my fancy but it's usually priced in the high 20s. To find it for (the almost criminal) $14.99 is a steal. Ditto the Cottage Block Ruahine 2004. Also at $14.99 and smelling classic, well made and far too elegant for the reduced price tag. Bargains to be had! If this is the fall out of recession then I'm happy for now....

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nelson Wineart

This afternoon the winegrowers of Nelson rolled in to town under the nelson wineart banner, showing off the 2008 releases to the trade. It's a fine notion to brand these very boutique wineries together and there were some impressive wines to taste.

In no particular order (other than the order I tasted them in).... here are the stand-outs.

Anchorage Sauvignon Blanc 2008 was approachable and fresh with an interesting 'supressed golden syrup' character on the nose and the Anchorage Pinot Gris 2008 was varietal in a firm style with a creamy, pineapple palate. The Anchorage Chardonnay 2007 was showing in intriguing combination of ham, cloves and pineapple and their Pinot Noir 2007 has a soft, round aroma of Christmas pudding with dusty, smokey tannins giving a dry, elegant finish.
Overall I liked the style and approach of the Anchorage wines almost to a man.

Kahurangi Estate have impressed me in the past with their Riesling and the current Kahurangi Reserve Riesling 2007 is no exception showing remarkable poise and balance. It manages to be both luscious and refreshing, which is a neat trick if you can manage it, and as one colleague put it "is everything you look for in a Riesling". The Kahurangi Nelson Gewurztraminer 2008 is a lively style with beautiful lychee character overlaying exotic green peppercorn. It's fresh and floral and refreshing rather than oily and supple but none the worse for that.

Rimu Grove stood out with a line up of very concentrated, ripe wines. Their Rimu Grove Pinot Gris 2008 has a super ripe beurre bosc pear and feijoa nose leading into a palate that hold its 12 grams residual sugar well through weight and concentration. The Rimu Grove Chardonnay 2005 was a confusing mix of charcoal and coffee mixed with stonefruit and lemon and in the mouth was at once taut and buttery. Intriguing but not moorish. The Rimu Grove Pinot Noir 2005 showed intense weight and ripe fruit whilst still retaining typicity. A flamboyant boysenberry nose belying a dry mushroom and earth palate.

And finally Moutere Hills threw a curve ball with a bone dry Pinot Gris. Hard to take at first, this is an intellectual style of Gris. The Moutere Hills Pinot Gris 2007 has had special Alsace yeasts imported to give it a distinctive style, something others found medicinal but the more charitable would term savoury manuka honey and tea-tree in the aroma led to a tightly drawn palate chracterised by lemons and minerals with nutty undertones. Sparing, concise and perhaps a little attenuated but intriguing all the same, this should show better in time.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tasting Time

It's mad tasting time out there in the restaurant trenches. Summer is approaching and summer is traditionally the time when liquor seems to flow a little more freely. Summer is also host to the Nu Zillund Christmas, a time when plonk of all descriptions flows like a river through the bars and restaurants and out to sea (eventually, I guess).

Here in the relative quiet of Spring we prepare. The Savvys are (mostly) in and new releases of other flavours are showing up also. So many wineries in Aotearoa and all involved in a friendly tussle for a piece of the pie. How to choose? In tastings of course. Some are elaborate affairs with many bells and whistles to coax you into stocking this wine or that. Others are simple. A wine, a winemaker, a twinkle in the eye.

As was yesterday when Glenn Thomas, winemaker of Tupari Sauvignon Blanc, showed up with a pair of vintages. A splash in the glass, a little story. I was quite impressed.

Tupari Sauvignon Blanc Awatere, Marlborough 2007
A little deeper colour in the glass due to the extra year of bottle age and from 10% barrel ferment for 6 months. A suave, steely, mineral nose that mixes orange blossom, white fruits and peaches. Lees work gives a creamy mouthfeel to underpin the slate and stonefruit of the palate. Grown-up and food friendly.
a 3 glass wine

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Matariki Wines and Chinese Food

An impromptu dinner organised by the effusive and charming 'King of Spain' saw Rich and I eating at Canton Cafe last night in the kitchen upstairs. Not only was I unaware that Canton Cafe had an upstairs but I certainly wouldn't have picked it as a place conducive to extensive wine tasting. However in our bolt hole away from the frantic pace of the main dining room and with winemaker Rod McDonald pouring from Matariki Wines extensive portfolio we had an informal and, at times, hilarious tasting.

My notes were hastily scrawled as the 'lazy suzy' whizzed plates (and sometimes glasses) around and as such are truncated at best. Rod also brought a few old world wines for the sake of compare and contrast.

Matariki Sauvignon Blanc Hawke's Bay 2007
Shy, creamy nose of banana and guava and an enveloping palate displaying lemons, minerals and a herbal tinge. a 3 glass wine

Domaine Vacheron 'Les Romains' Sancerre 2006
Creamy lemon, delicate with soft acids and a leafy aspect. a 3 glass wine

Matariki Chardonnay Hawke's Bay 2005
Showing great bottle development this leads with grilled nuts and grapefruit and the palate rounds out to ripe nectarine with only a background of 'old fridge' starting to come in to play. The citrus and stonefruit characters are quite forward still with a biscuity, buttery weight in the mid palate. a 4 glass wine

From this point my notes are nothing more than a few words and may take a little help from Rich to piece together. More later

Monday, October 6, 2008

Women in Wine

It seems a refrain played at least once a year in one or other of our local print media and is touched on countless times across the globe.

That wine is 'a male domain'.

The findings of these articles are never as colourful as they should be and I've never personally encountered any prejudice as I stumble my way as Sommelier.

Nonetheless I was charmed by this collection of Women Wine Writers on the Web (as I review the wine writing I follow and discover it is a male domain).