Thursday, January 29, 2009

One To Love

One bottle. A label we love. Brought around by the Luscious Caterer, one we all love. One from her cellar. Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 1991. I probably had a hand in her purchasing it. Spur of the moment stuff.
Fading colour, a little hazy. Not filtered obviously. Secondary and tertiary nose. Forest floor, mushrooms etc. A little coolish and light, and not quite the fruit. Acidity accentuated. Fruit became attenuated as it sat in the glass.
It was a bottle we wanted to love. Not quite this bottle, this night. You forgive the ones you love.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It can be tough waiting sometimes. You have in your mind when a wine is going to be at its prime to drink. Against this is when an occasion arises and you can't wait to open a bottle. The advantage of not waiting is that it can be better to have a wine too young, than too old. But then you may miss out on the full 'glory' of what a wine could be. It's a tough one.

Such was the case last night. Good friends, one from the deep south, the other from town. Both worthy of something special. The 2008 Seresin Gewurztraminer was in reality too young. Dry, concentrated and fine textured. We could have waited, but it was very pleasurable. The 2001 Von Kesselstatt Graacher Himmelreich Kabinett was perfection. Wonderful honey, custard and toast, all in a subtle, stylish framework. SWMBO loved it. Our town friend had waited to catch up with us to share it. We're glad he waited. And also for the fact that waited to let it develop well. A good example of how a great year has matured so well.

Then we pulled out two reds to go with the simple, but flavoursome dinner that SWMBO prepared. It seemed right to have the 2003 Trapiche Malbec 'Tributo - Filipe Villefane'. I was going to wait another few years for this one. But it was sublime. Rich and ripe, with classy silkiness. But wait....we're talking about Malbec, the weed vine that can only make coarse, broad wines! Those critics are wrong. It was a sumptuous, almost decadent number. Good job we didn't wait to open this one. Following was the acclaimed 2002 Henschke 'Mt Edelstone' Shiraz. Powerful, tight, dense, concentrated. Some VA lift and shiny oak in spades. All that stuff that suggests long-term cellaring possible. While drinkable, we should have waited - another decade. Damn.

Monday, January 19, 2009


The last couple of weeks have allowed us to set up some contacts and gatherings with people we value. To make contact with them after some time is indeed special.

Firstly, we made a journey down the river to meet up with JJ. To mark the contact, we started off with a gorgeous Bollinger Rose Champagne NV. Few have really got into this newbie label, but it's a delight. Bolly in style for sure - depth, power, subtle aldehyde, but fresh and red fruit sweetness showing to the fore. We followed this with the 2007 Spy Valley 'Envoy' Riesling. 9% alc, but with a depth of fruit weight on a medium palate and toasty notes. Strangely sweet and sour, but it worked. And then the piece de resistance, 2002 Craggy Range 'Dijon Clones' Chard. Full, developed, integrated. SWMBO said too oaky, but it touched and made contact with me.

God, how Tim & Judy Finn make stunning wine in the Upper Moutere. With different ski friends, we had the 2007 Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay and the 2007 Neudorf 'Toms Block' Pinot Noir. We've always liked these 'affordable' wines over the years, and the new 2007s have looked as smart as ever. But in good company, they come out to meet you. Maybe it's a few extra months bottle age. But these touched the 'fine wine' parts of our palates. Contact!

And then a big dinner with ex-neighbours we are still in regular contact with. A tank sample 2008 Stonecroft Sauvignon Blanc was flat. Possiby not stabilised sufficiently? But a 2007 Seresin Reserve Sauvignon Blanc made up for it. Yes, it was lively and very fine in feel. As the meal was Moroccan in theme, a perfumed and lush 2007 Stonecroft 'Old Vine' Gewurz hit the spot. It more than compensated for the Sauvvie that disappointed. Served alongside a plesasant and commercial 2007 Yalumba 'Y Series' Shiraz/Viognier. Jammy and not as good as the super 2006. The centrepiece was the comparison of 1987 Te Mata 'Awatea' with 'Coleraine'. Both single-vineyard wines at the time and both purportedly equal in status, though we all knew the latter was the 'special' one. 'Awatea' started a little herby and acidic, but elegant and classic cassis still. Fresh, and certainly no secondary decay. It picked up cedar/cigar notes as the night went on. 'Coleraine' was all it should have been. Riper, sweeter, even more elegant. And it stayed that way, and in front of the 'Awatea'. SWMBO was surprised at how well the 'Awatea' grew. In the final analysis, it was a close call. The two wines came back into contact with each other.

A sweet finish was called for. Andrew Hedley has excelled at Framingham in 2008. He's managed that botrytis well, but the wines are botrytis dominant over fruit expresssion. The 2008 Framingham Auslese #1 was beautifully fresh and acidic, giving cut to the botrytis. Andrew says Beerenauslese standard. We agreed. The Auslese #2 was more botrytis than fruit. Less fresh, more solid. Gold Kap Auslese standard to Andrew. OK on that too, but not quite as good as #1. So why is this #2? The #3 was richer and more acidic and lifted, with a volatile touch. A TBA standard for sure, and a well-deserved #3 - if increasing numbers mean 'better' wine. The last was the 2008 Framingham Noble Riesling. A blend of #1, #2 and #3. Gestalt Psychology applies. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Varietal expression came through. Incredibly. It does not come through to any similar extent in the other three. That Andrew. He's got it sussed. I'll make sure I make contact with him about them.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Little Aussie Battler & The Drama Queen

A kindness from The Little Aussie Battler & The Drama Queen brought us together for a couple of bottles. An introductory, elegant and 'nice' Laurent-Perrier 'Brut L-P is a good start. It never steals the scene, but is a decent drop. This lead seamlessly to a 2005 Haut-Kerpen Wehlener Sonnenuhr Kabinett. A little shy, as Whehleners can be, but I would have wanted a little more from this great year. Possible some TCA hint? But still, this slid down a treat.

Two 1982 wines were a feature. Great years for N.Z. and Bordeaux, if you made claret styles. Elegant in N.Z., but ripe and rich if you're a Bordelais. The 1982 Te Mata 'Awatea' was the first under this label. Still dark, definably Cab Sauv, a touch of stalk. But hey, who can complain for a 26 y.o. Kiwi wine. Fruit in good form. As good as 'Coleraine', bigger, even, but possibly without the nuances. Followed by a silky, sumptuous, wonderfully balanced 1982 Ch. Haut-Batailly Pauillac. On its plateau. It grew a little bretty in the glass, but it all worked. Even SWMBO loved it. And she's a brett-Nazi!

Then a modern treat to send the two gal guests on their way home - a 2008 Framingham Gewurztraminer SGN. Rich and lush, and lots of botrytis. Not much Gewurz character, except the lower acidity, adding to the rounded textures. Andrew Hedley can made super aromatic wines and this latest 2008 sweet wine range he has made seem pretty good and uniform in botrytis handling. The year was a toughie, and he has captured the best of it.


Aftermath. Counting the costs of the blow-out - or is it blow-up? Usually it's a bit quieter. And so it was, the next day. A couple of well-aged Champagnes came out first. A green stamped capsule French duty paid bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier from the Grunter. Lovely bottle development, and rich, as Roederer can be. The English love this style. Then a 1998 Veuve Clicquot Rose Reserve, gutsy, textured, a little aldehydic. Not that classy really, but a full and flavoursome one.

A series of odd-ball whites with pluses and minuses followed. The 2007 Salomon Unhof Gruner Veltliner Hochterrassen was not really 'Groo-Vee', but green and hard - 'solidsy', said Pedro. Then a refreshing, up-front and really drinkable 2008 Redmetal Chardonnay. Simple and good for it. A 1983 Drouhin Meursault Charmes was just drinkable and had an intriguing oak toastiness dominating the nuttiness. On the verge of falling over. As Pedro asked: "Did you intend to age it this long?" It was found in the depths of the long-lost treasure trove in the clean-up. $65.95 at the time. And not domaine fruit. Then an excellent, but hard-to-drink 2000 McWilliams Mt Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon. Steely, austere, herbs and lantana. Maybe another decade and a half will transform it to a sipping curio of great wonder?

Two 2003 Chateauneufs were controversial. The Chapoutier 'Bernadine' had sulphide, but was elegant, sweet, perfumed in Grenache fruit still, and quite supple. Grunter couldn't get past the stinkiness. He liked the Marchand 'Clos de Pontifes', which tasted like an unsulphured barrel sample. Admittedly blacker, riper and more fruity. SWMBO and I didn't like it, even though it was gifted by the proprietor after a chance meeting in an eaterie in Orange.

Then two sweeties, like the ladies present! The ANZWA Trophy winning 2008 Forrest 'Doctors' Noble Chenin Blanc was pure refined botrytis talc and wild honey. Super stuff. Also very enjoyable, but more a liqueur style was the 2008 Framingham Botrytised Viognier. Not much varietal character, but viscous stuff.

A nice and easy aftermath, afterall.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Challenging New Year

News on the health and job fronts will mean a challenging new year for us. But we had an immediate challenge on New Year's Day. Another of the Hawke's Bay Have-a-Lifers, Pedro, arrived, plus we had Niggle from Huapai, and their respective spouses, partners and families. We had to put up some vinos to challenge these newbies, as well as the arrivals from the day before.

To set the ball rolling, we opened a Methuselah (6.0 Litre) of Veuve Clicquot Champagne Brut NV that SWMBO won as a work performance prize way back in 2003. With around 15 drinkers on hand, it meant just over half a bottle per person equivalent. Sitting in the afternoon sun, on holiday, it took less than an hour to polish off! Nice gentle complex development, a little less effervescence, it was a good bottle indeed. The big cork came out nicely. The Dragon ended up taking cork and bottle home to Hawke's Bay. Ah, this will make memories.

Then a storm was cooked up, and with dinner, we had several flights of wines to look at. Rieslings first. The 2007 Schaefer Graacher Domprobst Kabinett showed it's high vintage rating with ripe, full fruitiness. Screw cap too. 2008 Pegasus Bay 'Bel Canto' Dry Riesling even fuller and richer with tropical notes. This will be a good drinker all its life. But the star for many of us was the 2004 Richmond Grove Watervale with its super refinement and fine toasty complexities. When the Aussies do it well, they do it well. Grunter brought another doozy. A 2007 Domain Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet Languedoc. Dry, crisp and surprisingly fruity for a little-recognised Rhone white varietal. A Nick Nobilo made 2007 Ashwood Estate Pinot Gris was super rich and full with all the winemaker additions melding in now. Looks good. And a 2005 Bilancia Pinot Grigio, subtle, some complexity, but a little less out there.

The Pinot Noirs were a strong group. From Canada, Niggle's 2006 Mission Hill Reserve Okanagan Valley was medium weight and all the things you expect a New World Pinot Noir to be. 2007 Craggy Range Zebra Vineyard, from Bendigo in Central Otago was full, sweet, dense and dark fruited. Grunter's 2005 Sileni 'EV' was also a full and dense wine, showing plenty of structure for aging. Two Church Road Reserve Syrahs should have been a fascinating comparison. The Champion Trophy winner, the 2007 was elegant, perfumed and spicy. The 2006 was fuller, meatier and more solid. But our bottle corked. So really hard to make a proper comparison. Medium weight, 'austere' reds would be easily overlooked, but here, people found favourites. The 2007 Redmetal 'Erinview' Merlot/Franc was elegant and everything it should be. It will never be a show winner, but a great drink. SWMBO found the 2006 Villa Caffagio Chianti Classico to her taste, tight and dry and fine featured. Whereas I loved the 2005 Torres 'Celeste' Ribera del Duero with its rich deep, dark and sweet Tempranillo fruit.

The Rhone bracket was the brettanomyces bracket. A 1998 Belle 'Louis Belle' Crozes-Hermitage was rich, robust and aggressive, the brett gone wild on a coarser structure. Then two 1989 wines from Chateauneuf-du-Pape. The Beaucastel regular was fragrant and complex, lighter and sweeter. A touch of brett in the background, acceptable for quite some time in glass. The bigger, more broody Beaucastel 'Hommage' blacker, more dense and richer, with the brett more in your face. It worked, though and both the Beaucastels were good drinks. Gordy took the latter wine away with him and reported no brett! Strange how we see this affliction. Then a pair of old kiwi Cabernets, from the good 1985 vintage. Cooks 'Premium' was stalky, thin, dried-out and dilute. The gold medal winning 'Cooks 'Private Bin' from Fernhill only a notion better. Better left alone was the general consensus.

Sticky ends. The 1991 Egon Muller Wiltingener braune Kuppe Auslese was 'glory be!' with its freshness, fruit, kero complexity and general all-round balance. It was consumed quickly. Thanks to a swap with Bottle Bob! More gutsy and compenentry was the 1995 Ch. Lafaurie Peyraguey Sauternes. Waxy, brulee, oak, VA. Some saw oxidation. It was a little disjointed. I could handle it. Pedro, who brought it couldn't. For the strong-of-stomach, there was a Lustau Single Cask Dry Oloroso. Dark, dry, complex nutty/aldehyde and raisined fruit. The best wine there, but no-one in a state to enjoy it. Easier, but more commercial was the Grahams 'The Tawny', all there, but not enough to make a big impact. Still a nice one though.

Many took up the challenge. Some fell by the wayside. But it was a fun day.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

End of an Era

Work kept on getting in the way of adding to the blog, especially at Christmas time! So this is a catch up on the drinkies we had on New Year's Eve, with the Have-a-Life Hawke's Bay lot. We had The Dragon, Grunter and Gordy, plus their gorgeous spouses in attendance, and that in itself was an occasion. SWMBO and I had a great time sharing many bottles. To mark the end of an era:

Bubbles is the way to go. Five o'clock is wine o'clock and we started with a quartet of sparklings. Absolutely delicious and unpretentious was the Miotto Valdebbiadene Prosecco Extra Dry. Fizzy, fine and fun. Then onto something more serious, the Villa Maria Methode Traditionelle NV. Made under Corey, now in Oz. PN and Chard, 3 years on lees. Broad, but with classic flavours. The real thing was led by a 1997 Bollinger R.D. Fabulous autolysis on the nose, but tight and acidic on the palate. The big one was the Laurent-Perrier 'Grand Siecle'. Totally complex, but still restrained and yet to open up. Stunner.

Then starter whites with the new 2008 Pegasus Bay Sauv/Semillon, upfront and full of good herb flavours. Plus a sweetness. Paired with the 2007 Pyramid Valley 'Hille' Semillon. A real wine too. And real winemaker input. Got cloudy in the sun, the next day..... But showing style and class was 2004 William Fevre's Chablis GC Les Clos. Modern, clean, subtle minerals, unostentatious indeed, and easy to under-estimate if you were a babe in the woods. We were not that. Starter reds were more contentious. Who's ever heard of a 2006 Vino Z Koyli Svatovarinecke, supposedly a Muller-Thurgau and Traminer cross? Yeah right. Steer clear..... Highly recommended was the 2000 Zapata 'Angelica' Malbec, a bit reduced, but powerful and rich. Not very pleasant was the 1998 Te Awa Farm 'Boundary'. Reduction, brett, sour and really out of sorts. Even worse was a very corked 1995 Domaine Roquette Chateauneuf. It was a gift, so we can't complain!

The serious stuff began with a pair of 1982 Pomerols. The Lafleur-Gazin was dilute, stringy and faded, but the Gazin was in better balance and with some fruit sweetness alongside secondary notes. OK, but not worth shouting about. The two 1996 Aussie Shiraz should have been and were worth shouting about. At least I did. Those Hawke's Bay Half-Lifers just can't see past their own expressions. They kept on talking about 'oak soup'. I can eat it! The 1996 Henschke 'Hill of Grace' was elegant, sweet, fine and had an attractive lift, some of it from VA. Fine tannins and acidity. Ethereal even. A polar opposite was the 1996 Penfolds Grange. Huge, tannic, dense and tough. This will live decades. Great as Grange can be. The Hawke's Bay Have-a-Lifers' have got it all wrong on these traditional Ockers. But they did like the 1998 Torbeck 'Run Rig' Shiraz. It was sweeter and more primary. I thought it simpler. Funny lot, those Hawke's Bay people.

We tested this group all, again on New Years Day. The start of a new era. The next instalment isn't too far away.

Lull Before the Storm

A note on a few bottles that came before the end of last year. You always have a few drinks with good catch-up friends, and sometimes, the wines are so good, they shouldn't be forgotten:

Led in by a non-intrusive, pleasant 2007 Sileni 'Cellar Seln.' Pinot Gris, we had a wonderfully luscious 2007 Framingham Select Riesling which had that perfect German balance and just a hint of toast. Yummy stuff. Followed by a 2006 Sacred Hill 'Wine Thief' Syrah, a really drinkable archetype expression of the grape. A nice evening with the ski fiends (oops, friends).

The next night with the ski fiends again saw a rich 2008 Montana 'B' Brancott Sauvignon, sensational 2007 Craggy Range '7 Poplars' Chardonnay, elegant and tobacco-y developing 2004 Redmetal 'Mt Erin' Merlot/Franc followed by something different: a 1978 Ch La Lagune Haut-Medoc. Still fresh, a little acidic and coolish, showing how the vintage was saved by the miracle Indian Summer. Now three decades later, its true, less than great character shows. But, no brett, and nice secondary and tertiary flavours. It will hold another decade easily, at this modest expression level.

The next day and night, in order of style, there was also a well-weighted, varietal, sufficiently ripe 2008 Framingham Viognier, decent-bodied 2008 Redmetal Rose, a modern, juicy and fine 2006 Cazes Cotes du Rousillon Villages 'Hospices Catalans', made from Grenache and Syrah, a superb 2007 Redmetal 'Resolution' Merlot that just grew in the glass, and a 2003 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir that also grew in the glass. Tight and a bit funky at first, this filled up the glasses with its complexities - a sign of how good 2003 was in Martinborough. Our guests, the Doctor Duo, were impressed.

This was the lull before the storm.