Monday, June 28, 2010

Homage to the Masters

It is indeed a treat to have The Master visit. His easy, breezy attitude is a joy to see and he knows so much that his experiences are great stories. We pull out the stops to have a good time and it all adds to the occasion. The last two nights have meant going out to dine at our favourite eateries. Firstly to the best in town, a Temple of Gastronomy. On first impression, it looks expensive, but at the end, the quality delivered makes it worth more. Great finesse and feel in the food is the result of the best produce and skilled hands in the kitchen. Then to our local Ethnic Magic. Tasty, decent food, just delivered with friendliness. These two places are Masters at what they do.

Of course the wines had over the two nights have been fun too. In an order of style and place, I list them here: An NV Mumm 'Cordon Rouge' Champagne, soft, full and gentle, maybe bottle-aged, but drinking well on a plateau. Delicate autolysis and subtle complexities came through well. Great on its own. It was given to the cause by The Chairman, so we called him up and toasted him! The Master provided a 2004 Bell Hill Chardonnay from Canterbury. Also approaching a plateau with savoury and secondary nutty, mealy complexities, but still fresh and citrussy. No hurry, and a great match with warm, moist, smoked eel.

Reds at the ends of the spectrum all delighted us. Very restrained and burgundian was a 2008 Villa Maria 'SV -Southern Clays' Marlborough Pinot Noir. Soft red fruits, understated, but building in intensity, showing how seriously structured it was, with breathing. And what a treat to compare the 1982 and 1983 Chx Margaux pair. The 1982 full, rounded, rich and with massive structure. Quite accessible, but this got funkier with brett, bottle age interest and possibly TCA? Not quite pristine, but impressive nevertheless. A typical 1982. The 1983 was darker, more narrowed, tighter, fresher, with lifted dark fruits and scented berry characters. This seemed a little over-firm, but developed finesse and style. Not as rich as the 1982, but sleeker and livelier. Most of the votes went towards the 1982 first, but changed with time! The Dog Men were in town and they passed a glass of 2005 Chateau Rayas Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Wow, perfumes, very fine, subtle raspberries, warmth, and a tannin mouthfeel to die-for.

And a too-young 2006 Donnhoff Oberhauser Brucke Riesling Spatlese. Softer than the acid-based Mosels we've been used to seeing lately. But just as pristine, and softly rich. A decadence waiting to happen. It must have been immaculately conceived as it was so clean. These 06s aren't the greatest, but in the hand of a Master, they can be pretty damn smart.

It was indeed a couple of days of paying dues to the best. Homage to the Masters.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sweetness Rules

We had The Master come to stay with us and there's no better excuse to try some sweet and delicious wines, especially over a good meal.

At the florid eatery, we struck out good with a 2005 Neudorf Moutere Riesling which was beautifully balanced at 11.0% alc and 30 g/L rs. Just starting to show a touch of toastiness along with the lime and minerally elements. Wonderfully restrained with its sweetness too. The Master was impressed. Mind you, it was his call to get it to the table.

We've been drinking some Riojas recently, and it pays to mention all three tried, though it was the latter we had for dinner. The 2006 Beronia Crianza seemed a bit pinched and the 2005 Beronia Reserva not as rich as I thought it should be. But wow, air help transformed them to another level. Richness, weight and sweet fruit and sweet vanilla of American oak. A 2001 Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva had immense concentration, grip and depth. This was still a baby. All of these traditional Riojas are imbued with plenty of acidity - just what you need with food.

Off home and The Master insisted on a 2006 Egon Muller Scharzhofberger Riesling Auslese in a half bottle. It was all that was needed. A hint of toast and reduction on the nose gave way to the most impeccably balanced palate. Lime marmalade, honey, flowers and minerals, with super zingy acid. But it was sweet and gorgeous.

Sweetness does rule!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Sibling get togethers are not common nowadays, even though we are in the same city. Busy lives seem to prevent the frequency, but when they occur, it's a lot of fun catching up on the gossip and to talk of old times. We did manage a session last night, at the Amble-Inn eatery, one of our favourites, where food and service was spot-on. It was 'Mags', 'Jude' and myself with our other halves. We all like eating, drinking and talking, telling tales, and it was a busy night. Of course, a few bottles were emptied...

Bubbles is a great way to begin, and the NV Billecart-Salmon Champagne Blanc de Blancs was very dry, steely, minerally and almost austere. Perfect to whet the appetite. I do like the vintage version with a little more depth, richness and character, but this did the job. Some good oysters would have set it off. Then onto something richer, a stunning 2007 Spade Oak Gisborne Viognier, rich, weighty, lush, and loads of fruit fat, apricot, zest, and oak too. This went down a treat, so a back-up white was called in, a 2007 Bret Brothers Macon-Uchizy 'Martine', made by two organically focused siblings, stylish, almost refined and understated, but with a subtle build up. It should have come before the Viognier, but then we didn't count on my siblings' sipping power!

The main courses chosen had plenty of fillet beef. So reds were ideal. Two 'sibling' Margaux wines were the chosen ones, both from 1983, a good vintage for the commune, better than the rated 1982 vintage for most commentators. The 1983 Ch. d'Angludet started off sleek and vibrant with perfumes lifting black fruits and bright acidity. As air time took effect, the funky animal brett came out and dominated the proceedings and the tannin grip started to show dryness through the palate. It was a great match to see how the 1983 Ch. du Tertre changed too. Seemingly grubby on opening, this calmed down and began to show varietal Cabernet vitality, within a rather classical framework of tannin structure that allowed fruit sweetness come through. These lesser claret growths can really do the job, and this was one occasion.

We ended up saying our farewells to the wines, the eatery's good people and the siblings. A good night it was.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Iberian Bliss

After a long gap, it was a pleasure to get together again with the Brit Biker, Tiggs, Teacher Ma'am and Niggle over a mainly Iberian themed evening. The feature was a paella and pair of ports, with a few other wines to bolster up the evening.

On arrival, we were greeted with a 2007 Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer from the Pfalz, an Erni Loosen creation. It spoke of Germany first, with variety second and was a very pleasant and surprising start to the proceedings.

Into the excellent meal prepared by Tiggs, we had a 2008 Baluarte Rueda Verdejo, an excellent refreshingly acidic white that had a bit of a mineral and herb twist. The racy mouthfeel made it a wine to work with any food, 'cos there was good weight and presence. But it was the reds that were eye-opening here. Firstly a 2001 E & E Barossa Sparkling Shiraz, rich with ripe berry and eucalypt-infused fruit with lovely cedary oak, all harmoniously held together in a froth-filled palate. A touch of sweetness (sugar?) just made it delish. Then matching this bubbly in fruit profile was a 2005 Telmo Rodriguez 'M2 de Matallana' Ribera del Duero, with its spicy oak and ripe dark peppery berry flavours and very fine textured tannins. Modern fruit style, and oaky for sure, but with the food, it worked well matching chorizo heat.

The vinous highlight had to be the two Vintage Ports from the legendary 1963 harvest. The same year as Niggle's arrival on this earth! The 1963 Croft was full, broad, still big, almost robust, and softening out with acidity freshness dropping away. But big fruitcake secondary and foresty tertiary notes, good extract, but rounding out and away. Cedar, spice, savoury and earthy, and a great drink now and over the next 5-10 years no problem, but peaking now. The 1963 Dows was one of those unforgettable, magnificent wines that will remain a memory marker and benchmark. Fading colour, ethereal dried roses, and a remarkably fresh, lively palate with racy acidity and tension. Wonderfully fresh florals, and distinctly sweet, and the spirit standing out still. The quality of the spirit was sheer class, and all up, this had another decade or two ahead of it. SWMBO was over the moon.

It was an evening of Iberian bliss for sure, and one that we should try to repeat.....

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Spice and Nice

It was a pleasant night out with the Cho-sen Ones and friends, talking on all subjects. It got a bit spicy and risque, as it can do sometimes, adding a bit of life to the conversation. Along with it were a few wines to tie it all together.

Starter was a lovely fresh 2008 Mt Edward Central Otago 'Drumlin' Riesling, attractive medium style at 12% alc, but you wouldn't think it was so high. Florals, minerals, honey and oh-so-delicate spices. Very gentle, and I'd have said 9.5% alc max.

Then with a gorgeous roast beef we tucked into the reds. A brace of multi-gold and multi-trophy winning siblings from the Villa Maria Estates group. The 2007 Villa Maria Reserve HB Syrah was succulent, seamless, Asian spices and smooth, while the 2007 Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Syrah was full, plump and structured, less spicy, and more black berry fruited. It's a good job they are quite different.....otherwise you'd wonder if they could be the same wine with different labels - if you were a cynic of the Kiwi wine industry.

Then a treat from Timbo Medic Man, a 1993 Grant Burge 'Meshach' Shiraz, one from 100+ y.o. vines from the Barossa Valley floor. Still fresh with tension, but beautifully integrated, super ripe plums and prunes, some spice and liquorice. Wonderfully elegant too. It was no super blockbuster that was tough to drink, but rather a wine that crept up on you. Nice indeed!

We finished with a 2008 Michele Chiarlo Nivole Moscato d'Asti, 5% alc, raisins and grapes, and spicy green tea leaves. Gorgeously soft and delicately frothy. No trouble putting it alongside the Cho-sen's apple crumble, lifted somewhat by the inclusion of feijoas.