Sunday, October 31, 2010

Overwhelmed by Over Oldies

The weekend was one of oldies. Overwhelmingly so, some good, some not so good. The Saturday featured a dinner with The Two Docs at B&B's lovely old home. The two B&B's had amassed a lot of old wines that needed sorting out, but they couldn't see the Forrest for the trees. We helped them out, and a number of these Forrest wines came out for the dinner.

We started with bubbles - 2005 Forrest 'Bubbles for Brigid' Methode. Quite big and bold, with plenty of body and flavour. Not fine and elegant as great bubbles should be, but a most pleasing introduction to the night with good fruit and autolysis, sort of in a 'Bolshi' way. The ex-Doc 'B' created the meal and it was better than the wines, bar the next, the 2005 Forrest Riesling. This was everything aged Riesling should be, off-dry, with limes and toast. Very interesting to follow and drink in the glass. The more you sipped, the drier it seemed. Then you needed another sip to counter the dryness. Very clever. Just what the Doc prescribed! A 1999 Forrest Gewurztraminer was not as successful. Golden coloured, it showed oxidation, but the varietal hair-oil and esters spice came through in an unctuous, oily way. 'Unctuous' has good connotations with wine and not so good with other foods. This time it fitted in with the latter, being sickly-so. The 2000 Forrest Pinot Noir was similarly oxidised, and the decrepit notes merging well with forest-floor and decay, all in a lighter, cooler, old, savoury red fruited way. Still tannic in mouth and drying out. The finale was the 1997 Forrest Botrytised Riesling, again somewhat oxidised. Poor on nose, but better on palate. Caramel and figs on an acidic palate, laced with old apples. These oldies were truly over it. However the food was great and the company too.

Sunday night brought out very old friend Doc Lindy and her man Fly High Si. SWMBO and Doc Lindy had been mates for decades and the conversation was very much on old times. The blokies couldn't get many words in, and we were a little overwhelmed by the nostalgic talk - for a while. Some wines showed very well. A 2008 Mt Edward Riesling was floral, citrus and honey tinged, making a great aperitif. This could develop more quickly than the 2007 we are familiar with - say 4-6 years. Then a 2009 Clearview Reserve Chardonnay. Rich, ripe, vibrant and well-tensioned, this label has been modernised somewhat, without losing its essential ballsy nature. Lovely stuff indeed. Reds started with a 2007 Two Paddocks Pinot Noir. Seemingly light at first, this just grew into itself, to become a fine, firmly structured wine with elegant, but seriously flavoured and constructed wine in a burgundian way. It was popular and went down a treat by going down quickly. This was followed by a 2001 Kingsley Syrah, a Tri-Nations winner. We were told to decant it as it might be reductive. We did, and it worked. Great dark and youthful colour. Intense and concentrated black fruits, savoury nuances, pepper, and perfect. The palate the same, just so sleek and slippery. Great wine. Then finishing with a 2009 Spade Oak Reserve Noble Viognier. This gets better and better each time we try it, richer, more together, nutty notes now, less VA lift, more good unctuousness. Creamy and oily with complex nutty-savoury elements. Quite a star. But it could be overwhelming for some people. However, us oldies had no trouble with it.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Family Connection

We finally did it. Got the two sisters to come visit us at the batch. Mags and Jube and partners all enjoy a good talk, laugh and glass of wine. After our first day filled with activity, we settled down to the inevitable vino. Of course, there was lots of talk and laughs, and glasses of wine!
Two wines with bubbles as their connection were opened. Firstly a NV Cloudy Bay 'Pelorus' Methode, this bottle solid and ungainly, not the usual class and finesse that this label delivers. Is the corporate ownership and direction taking its toll on the quality, would be whay SWMBO and I would ask? But it was a warm and sunny evening, with nice nibbles around, and the bottle was drained quickly. This was followed by a very tight 2004 Soljans 'Legacy' Methode. Clean, cutting, delicate autolysis, this could have handled more bottle age. We all made the connection from the name 'Legacy' that the three families all drove Subaru 'Legacy' cars among others!
Then came a progerssion of whites, including a spicy, exotic, but still young 2010 Starborough Marlborough Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay dominant 2009 Heart of Gold Gisborne Chardonnay/Viognier that satisfied the big wine drinkers. We then had a visit from The Brazilette who opened her 2008 Salomon Undhoff Riesling Pfaffenberg, a classical, steely, intense wine with considerable minerality. We wished we had some shellfish at that point!
With The Brazilette in attendance, it was time to open some reds, all from the Cabernet Sauvignon family, but spanning some two decades, from different countries. The 1989 Te Mata 'Awatea' Cabernet/Merlot showing real cool-climate stalkiness and acidity, in a small-framed way. Still alive and kicking, and not the best red wine to go with lamb rack. The 1979 Ch. Giscours Margaux was a surprise. Fullish and rounded, but somewhat understated. A solidly presented wine that filled the mouth, but left you searching. Acidity was the underlying factor holding it together. Good savoury flavours, tending a little gamey, but hardly objectionable. Then a 1998 Jacobs Creek Limited Release Barossa Cabernet Sauvignonm, which marked JC's 25th Anniversary of 1976-2001. This was an extraordinary wine in its day with real herbaceousness that the Aussies craved after as varietal character. It still had it, but the euc'y notes now appearing. It was a true-blue Ocker in the end, but that thread of acidity through the line of the palate.
It was the end of the night. All the family members were tired, and that was that!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


We've been meaning to catch up with The Real Mr Parker for some time. Business took him to Oxford University for a presentation. We'd been busy with plans for a new endeavour. But we managed to plan a get together finally. It was going to be a quick gossip session with some nibbles.

We thought we'd open the proceedings with a 1999 Tyrrells 'Vat 1' Semillon. We brought it back from the Hunter Valley, and planned to have it with The Chairman, but, he'd be very familiar with it, so we'll find some other treasure for him. It was a shame to open it, as it was deemed to be in an ugly phase. Unforthcoming on the nose, but with more on palate. Tight, brooding oily lanolin and green grass at this stage. If it was younger, it would have been delicate, fresh and nuance. It it was a decade older, then it would have been gloriously toasty. You can't plan for these things sometimes.

A 2004 Duckhorn Napa Valley Merlot brought back from the States by Mr Parker came next. Pristine cork, and a dark coloured wine that combined lovely ripe liquorice and plums with a thread of elegant herbaceousness on nose. Palate very fine-grained, yet rich and intense. More European than Australasian. It had to be Californian. A wonderful bottle with the three cheeses served.

We brought out a 1998 Grant Burge Barossa 'Meshach' Shiraz that SWMBO acquired years ago. Remarkably elegant and fresh with lively acidity, yet great concentration, sweetness and depth. Multi-layered with savoury, spicy notes emergent with breathing. A bit obvious, but typical Aussie in doing so.

We finished with Mr Parker's treat he bought in the Rheinpfalz, a 1985 Burklin-Wolf Deidesheimer Kalkofen Riesling Spatlese. Golden, gloriously honied and toasty on nose, yet definably Riesling with floral notes. A drier wine than expected on palate - but after all, it's only a Spatlese! Rich, dense, full, concentrated, but even and light enough to float in the mouth. Not quite ethereal. Soft through lower acidity compared to the Mosel. Mr Parker felt it drying out. SWMBO and I thought it still on the plateau.

We made plans to make a bigger affair of it in a few months time. After all, that's what good wines are for - to share with friends and make occasions memorable. Like this one, planned in a way, but taken to a direction mot imagined.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Growing Gurus

Over the last three seasons, it has been a pleasure to have Steveski and Donnaski as our friends. They are gurus in their own right, masters of the white fluffy stuff, and SWMBO has been the beneficiary of their technical expertise, while both of us have enjoyed their company immensely. When these gurus came to town, it was amazing to see their understanding and enjoyment of wine take a leap forward as they were engaged in different vinous activities. Being passionate people in their own right enabled the igniting of the latent wine interest.

Coming into home, we opened a 2009 Framingham Sauvignon Blanc. Stock standard fare, and drinking well now. In no way should this sound derogatory. This won accolades in Decanter magazine, and quite rightly too. Then a 2008 Church Road Merlot/Cabernet. Vibrant, purpley, supple and absolutely delish. The output from this Hawke's Bay winery has been superb of late, and this punches way above its station. Then a more savoury 2005 Pegasus Bay Merlot/Cabernet. While ticking all boxes, there's an underlying thread of sap which comes out in an ungainly way with air time.

The next day, we headed off over the hill, to visit our local vignoble. We took with us as swapsies a decadent 2009 Terrace Edge Pinot Gris, paired with a 2009 Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris, more sinewy, tighter and longer. But both on the full, rounded and riper style, rather than the boney Pinot Grigio way. Also brought along to show the locals were a 2005 Carrick 'Excelsior' Pinot Noir - rich, ripe, structured, almost surly, but good with it. This was paired with a 2005 Fromm 'Fromm Vineyard' Pinot Noir, which was unfortunately corked. However, looking past the TCA, one could see the silky-smooth, fine-grained texture and superb poise.

26 bottles, one tank and three barrels later, everybody's expertise had gone up a notch. Dinner with Diamondski and Bobski meant sipping on a complex, full-bodied 2008 Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay and perfectly poised 2008 Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir. Tasted on the tasting circuit during the day, these were stand-outs. On the dinner table, they melded and merged with the food. It's amazing how wine does that, and reflects how wine should be a natural and unforced accompaniement while eating. Bobski pulled out a number of cellared wines, but SWMBO chose a gloriously honied-toasty 2000 Pegasus Bay Riesling. Perfection to drink and its slight sweetness just magic.

A hard day's work saw a number of bottles opened as a reward. Three aromatic/new whites set the scene. The 2010 Forrest 'Doctors' Arneis was clean and correct. I just can't see the point of elevating this variety on a pedastal. It can only go so far. However the 2010 Forrest 'Doctors' Gruner Veltliner was a different proposition. Great aromatics, and good elegant follow-through on palate. As vines get older and winemaking settles, this could be very interesting. The 2010 Forrest 'Doctors' Riesling is another success. All the earlier vintages have been stars. The lightness of feet from low alcohol and seduction from sugar with botrytis hints makes this a winner. Then a remarkable preview of Larry McKenna's single vineyard Escarpment Pinot Noirs from the yet-to-be-released 2009 vintage. 'Pahi' was elegant, bright and light. Clean and pure for sure. 'Kiwa' took it up a step in weight, dimension and richness. I loved it, as did everyone else. The undisputed winner in the line-up had to be the complex, textured 'Te Rehua'. As Larry would say, this is what it's all about. The flagship 'Kupe' was a big, ripe, softie, very complex and out there. It will prove to be a talking point, as it should be, for many years. To finish off the night with a household of honoured guests, including the Pet Pal family, Gizzie Gold Gal and the Island Man, we broached a 1982 Ch. d'Yquem Sauternes. Not quite as fresh and lush as the one tasted in August, but still mpressive with honey, caramel, toffee and barley-sugar, on a weighty, dense palate. A touch less lively than expected after the August bottle, but a source of astonishing wonder, nevertheless.

You'd suppose this was to be the finale in the growth of the gurus' enjoyment, but lunch the next day with Toniski was enhanced by a particularly beautiful 2009 Vynfields Classic Riesling. Honey and flowers. Just delightful. We did need an interlude, but eventually dinner beckoned, and at the posh place, on the hill, we started proceedings with an elegant, tight and eminently drinkable NV Quartz Reef Methode. We had met Rudi coming off a plane at the airport the day before, so it was appropriate to toast him. A 2007 Escarpment Chardonnay was chosen to toast Larry. This opened up in glass, revealing lots. Probably a little too much in the malo department, but that's being picky. Steveski and Donnaski supped on glasses of 2005 Yalumba 'Signature' Cabernet/Shiraz. We toasted Robert Hill Smith, inspiration of the modern face of Yalumba and an Aussie guru in our eyes.

It has been gurus all round, and to see Steveski and Donnaski grow in appreciation of all things vinous has been a joy. We know they won't stop growing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


It's a time of relaxation. A surprise visit by Pedro led to a meal out with him and Lady Gala, and it was indeed a bit of a carry-on. That's what happens when you're relaxed.

We started the proceedings with an NV Louis Roederer 'Brut Premier'. Great nose with loads of autolysis and depth, but surprisingly lighter on palate. Surprising as the one we had last week was pretty well perfect. Maybe this bottle was very fresh. Nevertheless, very delish.

We moved onto a 2006 Martinborough Vineyard Chardonnay. Big, full, broad from development, complex, and at peak maturity. And in no way over the top or flabby. What a wonderful drink good Chardonnay is. By comparison, a 2008 Auntsfield Chardonnay was very tight and unyielding. For 2008, it was backward, so it really had potential. With our main courses, a 2006 Poderi Colla Nebbiolo d'Alba was very varietal. Fragrant, complex and savoury, with great extraction and acid. Pedro, Lady Gala and SWMBO were in raptures. The tannin build-up got to me at the end of the bottle.

We were all pretty mellow by the latter part of the evening and our host Jameski shouted a Muscat Beaumes de Venise, producer and vintage forgotten. But it was absolutely clear-cut, clean and everything it should have been. Relaxation does have its problems, and memory can be put on hold. An interlude with Dows 10 y.o. was a let down. Too fruity. Not enough rancio. One to pass by. However the Delamaine XO was unforgettable in every detail. Glorious bouquet of intensity and finesse. Wonderful oak, but with fruit sweetness. Cognac is so stylish. And Delamaine is class.

Now that made us relax....