New Zealand regions – Hawke’s Bay

Craggy Range Te Kahu

This is a region well worth exploring, of particular interest is the Gimblett Gravels sub region* a part of Hawke’s Bay that was thought good only as a Quarry until grapes were planted. The main grapes grown in Hawke’s Bay are Chardonnay and Merlot and in smaller quantities the other Bordeaux varieties and many a reviewer will refer to the high quality of their Bordeaux Style** wines. It is also one of the few regions that Pinot Noir is not a noted variety as the climate is just a little too hot (I wish some Australian producers understood this). There is also an increase presence of Syrah planting, the Syrah was the main reason I wanted to visit Hawke’s Bay and see what was being achieved with this grape in the inhospitable Gimblett Gravels. On this trip we visited Craggy Range Winery one of Hawke’s Bay premium producers. Apart from the absolutely stunning winery (worth a visit in itself) set below what one would guess is the Craggy Range in a truly spectacular setting. Craggy Range specializes in single vineyard wines from a number of New Zealand’s wine growing regions, but it was the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gimblett Gravels that we had come to sample. They unfortunately don’t offer the premium wines on tasting but their second level wines were a good insight into what to expect from their premium range, that was my thinking anyway.

We tasted the following wines

2009 Chardonnay, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Hawke’s Bay
First Chardonnay that I have really enjoyed from my last two trips to New Zealand, their Chardonnays tend to be a little too sweet on the palate for me, this was not and with hints of flint like minerality, blended with the fruit that was tending towards the white melon flavours made for a nice drop.

2009 Te Kahu, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay
2009 Syrah, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay
Both of these wines are worthwhile purchases at their respective price points, the Te Kahu at under $30.00 from Dan Murphy is a bargain and the Syrah at around $35.00 is well worth putting in the cellar if you are looking for a softer but still complex wine.

We were offered a bonus tasting of their Premium Bordeaux Blend the;

2009 Sophia, Gimblett Gravels Vineyard, Hawkes Bay
A subtle expression of the grapes, with plenty of hidden fruit that should blossom with time, because there is a backbone of fine tannins and acidity to give this wine many years more in the bottle. Still worth a drink now for those who can’t, wait just let the wine breathe for an hour or so.

* All you need to know about Gimblett Gravels Producers

** Bordeaux Blend

Craggy Range Single Vineyard Wines

Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Reviews, Shiraz | 2 Comments

What I’ve been drinking – 003

A Central Otago Night, amongst the mud pools of Rotorua,  in a little piece of France.

The unsmuggled Armagnac

We set up camp in Rotorua a place famous for its Hot Springs and Mud Pools, not so famous for the all pervasive stench of sulphur that invades the senses, maybe not really the best place to be drink wine. But we persevered and ended up having a few good ones including a 2008 Thornbury Central Otago Pinot Noir over dinner at Max’s a mid range Steak House, this was a good example of Central Otago Pinot Noir with the fresh fruit and tight structure that makes it a good food wine, with a good amount of red cherry fruit and a tight tannin structure with a hint of mirerality it went well with the Rack of Lamb.
Diner was followed by drinks at the camping ground with four French rugby fans in their campervan, where a 2008 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir and a 2006 Carrick Pinot Noir (both from Central Otago) were consumed with some bloody French aperitifs of some description while the French hosts chewed on some very unappetizing chicken pieces. Both wines are stunners and the extra couple of years on the Carrick gives it greater depth of darker fruit that integrates with the smooth tannins to producing a great full mouth feel and a long finish, the pick of the night. The night finished late and messy but very happy and friendly, with our French hosts offering us one of their non smuggled bottles of Armagnac*. Some of the Armagnac was transferred into French wine bottles before they left for New Zealand as they are allowed 4.5 liters of wine and 3 bottles of Spirits. Smart move if you drink spirits.


What I’ve been drinking – 002

Posted in Pinot Noir, Reviews, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

New Zealand regions – Gisborne

Hopefully this wine does not reflect the Region

We had a bottle 2010 Shotberry Chardonnay by Crazy by Nature at the River Hotel in Gisborne over diner, we chose this wine from what was a very short list, shorter than their range of beers. As this wine originated from the Gisborne region we thought you kind of have too try wines from the region you are in. Maybe not! Because this wine was not saved by its Biodynamic and organic origins or its use of the Shotberry (Mendoza clone) Chardonnay grapes. An overly sweet style of Chardonnay that tasted of high alcohol even though it is a average 13%. Don’t believe the blab on the bottle or the high opinion these guys have of themselves, not worth drinking, we left glasses full and the bottle not emptied. Lunch the next day we went with a region we know and love (Central Otago) a much better option.
One would guess there are good wines from this region, but how to find them I don’t know and unfortunately with limited time one walks away without the feel of the place.

Gisborne Region

Posted in Chardonnay, Reviews, Thoughts on Wine | 4 Comments

From The Rugby World Cup in New Zealand

What I’ve been drinking 003

The lest said about the RWC after our loss to Ireland, the better, now there is always a positive to take from any game, this one, at least the seats and view where good so we got to watch up close our poor effort against an opposition that should not have even gotten close.

One more positive, we are in New Zealand ready to explore the wine and Terrior, but first a quick what I’ve been drinking from last week.

Drank the ever reliable 2009 Henchke Henry’s Seven with Pizza at Oliver’s, the Henry’s Seven is a blend of 61% Shiraz, 24% Grenache, 8% Viognier and 7% Mourvèdre grapes grown in the Barossa Valley. How’s that from someone who is no great fan of Barossa Shiraz, my only excuse is it’s a beautifully made wine that balances the dark berry fruits with hints of Indian spices and Pepper (is Pepper an Indian spice?)* without becoming jammy . If it’s on the wine list, it’s a reliable pick as it won’t overpower most food and compliments many, including Pizza at Oliver’s.

While sitting around Cookies Kitchen bench, we drank one of my all time favourite wines, the 2001 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay, 2001 is one of their better vintages, not that there are any bad vintages, not that I know of anyway. This is a wine that brings back only good memories of people and places that it was a party too, something only truly memorable wines can do. So when another bottle is opened and drunk, those good memories come back.
Lighter in colour than I was expecting (expecting honeyed golden colours), very much a golden straw colour still with a touch of green, there was opulent peach, and white melon fruit on the nose with a dense oily texture to a palate of lemon and honey and the finish was long and luscious.

2009 Henchke Henry’s Seven
Oliver’s Restaurant $54.00 I think

2001 Leeuwin Estate Art Series Chardonnay
My Collection $82.00
Leeuwin Estate

* Yes it is
Black Pepper

Posted in Grenache, Mourvèdre, Shiraz, Viognier | 2 Comments

What I’ve been drinking – 002

Top Notch!

Recently we had lunch in Melbourne at Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons and had a bottle of 2009 Castellare di Castellina, it was impressive, a very approachable Chianti Classico, from what is believed to be an exceptionally good vintage. Even though it was drinking well at lunch (we ordered 2) this wine still has the potential to develop further in the next few years, prompting me to purchase 6 bottles from LaVigna at what I would consider a bargain price for this quality of Chianti Classico.

Also this last week while dinning at Purl in Subiaco we had a bottle of 2010 Coldstream Hills Chardonnay it was a plump and luscious Chardonnay with white melon on the palate that was balanced by a touch of lemon citrus and minerality that makes for a great food wine that was not bad at filling in the space while waiting for entrees to arrive. I have to add that JA who is no great fan of Chardonnay, having once referred to this noble grape as nothing more than mouth wash, washed down more than his share. We followed the Chardonnay with a Cape Mentell Trinders, disappointed, would not bother drinking again, a very average bulk style wine with no expression of its origins.

Sunday BBQ lunch (first for the season) at Acepfv’s house a 2010 Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir was supplied by the host, now I’m not a fan of Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir, so tasted this with a bit of trepidation and was rewarded with Chocolate and Cherry liqueur on the nose which was followed through onto the palate, though it did not have that full mouth feel that a top notch Pinot can have (maybe it lacked some oak to flesh it out). This is a wine well suited to drinking over lunch on a spring day. This was followed by a 2009 Oyster Bay Pinot Noir supplied by Cookie, not much needs to be said about this wine, apart from the fact that the New Zealanders have bulk wine down to a fine art. A simple and well structured expression of its origins, this is easy drinking full bright cherry flavoured Pinot.

Just had to add this rather enthusiastic review from Oyster Bay’s website.
“This is brimming with flavour, balanced on a pin and simply scrumptious. Look for a perfumed array of involved aromas with dark berry fruit, earthy tones, floral notes and spice box predominant. It bathes the palate with well-structured balanced flavour—briary berry, racy red currant and blood plum. It’s medium weight and gorgeously textured with a charming fruit-filled aftertaste. Lovely sipped on its own, it’s also delicious paired with duck—smoked breasts or terrine. ”
Vic Harradine, Canada, 9 July 2011

Finally my contribution to the BBQ a 1997 Alkoomi Blackbutt, (43% Merlot – 38% Cabernet – 19% Malbec) Great cork that came out with a pop so we were full of great expectations, but alas this wine had gone and died long before we could drink it. This does happen with older wines, but it is still always a disappointment, anyway on the bright side it did have a great cork! We ended up with a cleansing ale and smoked some Cuban Cigars.

2009 Castellare di Castellina Chianti Classico
Restaurant: Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons $78.00
LaVigna $40.00
Castellare di Castellina 

2010 Coldstream Hills Chardonnay
Restaurant: Purl Bar & Grill, I think it was $75.00
Coldstream Hills 

2010 Penfolds Bin 23 Adelaide Hills Pinot Noir
Supplied Acepfv approx. $37.00

2009 Oyster Bay Pinot Noir
Supplied by Cookie who never told me
Oyster Bay 

1997 Alkoomi Blackbutt
From my collection, some ridiculous price $65.00
If purchased from Langton’s now $30.00 (my shares are thankfully preforming better as an investment)

What I’ve been drinking – 001



Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese | 2 Comments

What I’ve been drinking – 001

A winning wine, maybe, I was watching the Wallabies Tri Nations win on Saturday night with Acepfv and The Pensioner and the wine we drank was a 1997 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape and it was way better than the last time I tasted it, a bit like the previous time we watched the Wallabies play the All Blacks, a night to forget. Much more youthful with some secondary flavours coming through which unlike the previous bottle where they dominated, these added to the subtle red and dark fruits flavours, giving the wine a nice balance.

This was followed at the dinner table by a bottle of 2008 Picardy Pinot Noir, No notes, was more interested in enjoying the Rugby win and the food, must have been good as it did not last long.

2007 Ten minutes by tractor Judd Vineyard Pinot Noir This was consumed with the nieces at their new abode and their “rents”. Rave reviews all round a very approachable wine that is also more complex than one first thinks, the dark cherry nose and palate really do jump out at first, but this only because they are so well balanced with light and supple tannins and a touch of acidity that lifts the fruit up without becoming jammy in style, light and subtle as is the colour.

1997 Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Langton’s wine auction $77.00
Château de Beaucastel

2008 Picardy Pinot Noir
Retail via Acepfv $35.00
Picardy Wines

2007 Ten Minutes by Tractor Judd Vineyard Pinot Noir
Winery Direct via website order $75.00
Ten Minutes by Tractor

Posted in Grenache, Pinot Noir, Reviews | 2 Comments

Go with the flow

It’s back to Melbourne and dinner at MoVida, this time it was MoVida Aqui their newest creation, I will say little about the food as it does not need another review, except to say the truly great, innovative food they serve makes the good, taste average, if their Prawns; Gambas A La or Beef Cheek Carillera de buey were on any other restaurant menus they would be stand out dishes, but next to the Bocadillo de calamares; Calamari sandwich with Basque guindilla and mayonnaise they are transformed into the mediocre.

The Spanish make a good drop of White Wine

The wine was quite the revelation as to what can be found on the other side of the Pyrenees, the Spanish side. (If you look into my wine room you will only find wines from the French side of the Pyrenees and a growing collection from the other side of the Alp’s, Italy.) Now this is when one has to trust the wait staff as hopefully they have more knowledge than I do, (not hard when it comes to Spanish wine) and a good palate. We started with a white (Vino blanco) and were mulling over maybe another chardonnay as we had a very tasty drop at the Prince Alfred Hotel for lunch, but before any decisions were made our waitress suggested one of her favorites the 09 Maranones ‘Picarana’ Albillo Vinos de Madrid, Spain the grape is Albillo*, she even said if we don’t like it she will pay for it and take it home with her after work. Now that’s confidence in her own opinion or the best sales line I have heard for some time! The ever so slightly skeptical DB asked her “do you like Sauvignon Blanc” with the reply of “that’s Yucky” we ordered a bottle. It was no Sauvignon Blanc (there is a place for Sauvignon Blanc, but not at a restaurant) more in the style of a Southern Rhone with the addition of big alcohol 14% that helps the fruit come forward but not in that sweet overly apricot way. This has a long finish with hints of caramel and is great with the food more suited to a winters evening than a summer lunch, not cheap but well worth the $71.00. Jancis Robinson has a very good review**.

Spanish Reds are not bad either

We were mulling over a red maybe something based around Grenache either from Spain, Southern Rhone, or the Barossa, when low and behold another waitress not shy with her opinion suggested something not on our radar an 08 el Wanderer Caranyena Emporda, Spain, never heard of this grape either, though Caranyena did turn out to be the Spanish name for Carignan which I have heard of and have only drunk a Chilean version which did not impress. This, like the white was a wine that again reminded us of the Southern Rhone, Châteauneuf du Pape region, with a similar style to a Grenache Syrah blend, good strong dark fruit with a dryness running over the top of it (stops that cherry bomb experience) nice tannins, good with food and a wine that needs a little time to see if it can pull out some surprises.

Some notes from the wine makers who are based in Oz!

El Wanderer is a single vineyard wine made from hundred year old bush vine Carinyena vines. Carinyena is the local Catalan word for Carignan, a red grape variety found along the Mediterranean rim that produces medium bodied fragrant wines of rustic charm.

The wine has been made according to The Wanderer’s minimalistic handling principles. The grapes were hand picked early in the morning. They were destemmed not crushed and left to soak cold for a week. Maceration of the fermentation was as soft as possible to preserve the fruit and build texture without the extraction of excessive tannin. At the completion of fermentation the wine was run into one year old French barriques and left on lees for one year until bottling.

So it seems that a longer look over the Pyrenees is a worthwhile endeavor. More on the similarities in the wines in a later post.

MoVida Aqui and Terraza on Urbanspoon




Posted in Albillo, Carignan, Food and Wine | Leave a comment

The Perfect Occasion to Drink a Vintage La Grande Dame

View from the Villa

I was lucky enough to get away for an extended weekend in Bali and meet up with friends, one of whom was celebrating a birthday. A good excuse to purchase a bottle of 1998 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne Brut La Grande Dame duty free at the airport, I was also informed by those already relaxing in Bali that supplies of Scotch were running low so a duty free bottle of Laphroaig Quarter Cask was also in order, to complement the dwindling supply of Laphroaig 10 year old. The alcohol limit for Indonesia is 1 liter and there was 1.75 liters in my bag as customs was negotiated, much to the smiling customs officials delight as he informed me of this detail. Tax is US$20.00 he informed me as I lent forward pretending deafness only to be informed again that the tax is US$20.00, so it was into the wallet for a fresh new US$20.00 bill I had prepared earlier, which disappeared into the customs officers right hand trouser pocket, I presumed he therefore kept the tax receipts in his left hand trouser pocket, but as none appeared, one suspects he must be short of them, so I carried on my merry way.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask (Saviour of the day)

That night it was revealed just how drastic the supply of scotch had become, acepfv had reduced the Laphroaig by a good two thirds, the quarter cask was called upon to fill the gap. And an interesting scotch it is, first the official blab.

“Laphroaig Quarter Cask takes its inspiration from the small casks often used for Scotch Whisky in the 19th century and frequently transported across the Glens by packhorse.
As the industry grew, they fell into disuse – bigger and more cost effective barrels became the norm, for maturation and transportation.
However as single malt lovers may know, the relationship between the barrels and the maturing spirit is critical. We noted that the small cask size gives up to 30% greater contact with the wood compared to some of the larger sizes used today, thus greatly intensifying the maturation process.
It was decided to recreate some of the Quarter Casks and the flavours they produce. We transferred some still maturing Laphroaig from our larger style barrels into the Quarter Casks. There then followed a further periods of maturation in our original Dunnage Warehouse No1.
For greater authenticity we simply barrier filtered the whisky – the method used in those far off days – and bottled at a higher alcoholic strength.
The result surprised and delighted us. The additional oak influence creates a soft sweetness and velvety feel when first tasted, then the intense peatiness so unique to Laphroaig, comes bursting through. The finish is very long and alternates between the sweetness and the peat.”

Not much more to say as that’s pretty well spot on, one could add that it is a bit of a Claytons* Laphroaig as in, the Laphroaig you have when not having a Laphroaig. One of the reasons people drink Laphroaig is because of its extreme smokey peat smell and flavour, it’s a very distinctive example of the Islay style of scotch. While this is a much more supple example of the Islay style with the oak bringing the peat under some limited control, a glorious scotch and a nice balance of Islay style and oak intrusion (not too much).

La Grand Dame 1998

The Grande Dame was saved until our last full day in Bali, even though it was not Birthday Girl’s Birthday (Celebrated on the Thursday at Un’s) and was drunk after a delightful lunch at PJ’s restaurant, wood fired Pizzas and Fish & Chips (Oh so light and delicate) down by the beach at Jimbaran Bay, then it was back to the villa around the pool, this is truly when a setting helps inspire the experience of the wine and the wine helps inspire the experience of the setting. The Grande Dame is a beautiful example of Vintage Champagne. Vintage Champagne (wine from one vintage) is only bottled from the best vintages in Champagne, 1998 is one of those years, having drunk a few bottles of Pol Roger 1998 I can attest to that. While NV or Non Vintage Champagne is the house style Champagne which is a blend of several vintages to create a blend which has a distinct house style and is usually a consistent taste compared to the more varied and complex Vintage Champagnes, I guess this is why they can and do charge more for the vintage stuff.

The finished bottle along side something or whatever

This one came with a nutty and caramel nose, golden colour and super fine bubbles, there is something else here that I can’t quite put my finger on, a very distinctive flavour only seen in Champagne. It did not last long and we needed a second bottle, which unfortunately was never going to happen. Not to worry as the afternoon was spent lazing around the pool chatting and taking in the Bali holiday mood. Another interesting point about this Champagne was how close in style and flavour it was to a small house champagne I wrote about a while back, the N.V. Veuve Fourny & Fils Champagne Brut 1er Cru Blanc de Blanc.

*Claytons is the brand name of a non-alcoholic, non-carbonated beverage coloured and packaged to resemble bottled whisky. It was the subject of a major marketing campaign in Australia and New Zealand in the 1970s and 1980s, promoting it as “the drink you have when you’re not having a drink” at a time when alcohol was being targeted as a major factor in the road toll.
Although the product is no longer being actively marketed, the name has entered into Australian and New Zealand vernacular where it represents a “poor substitute” or “an ineffective solution to a problem”. It can also be used to describe something that is effectively in existence but does not take the appropriate name, eg. a common-law couple might be described as having a “Clayton’s marriage”.

Posted in Champagne, Food and Wine | 3 Comments

Pink Zulus and Goatfathers

DB and myself have been keen to go to Pink Zulu for some time and finally had the chance a couple of weeks ago. Pink Zulu as the name implies is an African themed Restaurant with a strong emphasis on South African food and wine, we decided to go with the flow and ordered the;

The not so subtle LABEL

The Goatfather by Goats do Roam (HaHa I get it, *explanation below if you don’t get it, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t) a South African blend of Sangiovese 50%
- Barbera 33%
- Cabernet Sauvignon 17%. The name should have set off the warning bells and they should have reached a crescendo when the bottle arrived, just look at the photo! But we gave the restaurant and wine maker the benefit as the blend is an interesting one and maybe, just maybe these guys are genuine cutting edge quirky new school South African wine makers but alas NO! Just more spin over substance, there was distinct Sangiovese highlights on the nose and surprisingly the initial palate had a pronounced Cabernet Sauvignon feel to it with a touch of acid, the Barbera, then this all to our great surprise quickly solidified into an industrial style wine with an uninspiring palate that was short and tasted little better than a fruit cordial. DB’s comment went even further I quote “A goats head soup label that tasted like cough medicine” to prove the point his glass was never finished, a first!

This was followed by a bottle of Diemersfontein Pinotage 2010
Now this one did live up to the description on the back label, as the first Chocolate Coffee Pinotage or words to that effect (didn’t take a photo of the back label with the blab) so I can’t be critical of the wine, though it was not to my taste. Amazing is how best to describe this wine, didn’t know that these flavours of chocolate and coffee could be extracted in such great concentrations and intensity as produced here, simply amazing! Just about verging on a coffee/chocolate liqueur more so than a wine, pushes the envelope but it is still a well structured wine with fruit and tannins to help contain and control all that flavour, interesting and well done. But don’t order it with a curry!

Food wise we ordered
Kefta lamb with harissa and minted yoghurt and Zambezi crispy prawn and crocodile croquettes pink prickly ash and caper dressing.
Both beautifully presented but lacked flavour, the pink prickly ash and caper dressing was the highlight of these shared plates that could have and should have been better, we were expecting more from the Kefta Lamb as this dish can be a bit of a spice bomb, it just bombed and the prawn and crocodile croquettes you could say tasted like chicken, but that would be an insult to acepfv’s Mum’s home made croquettes.
Followed by the
Mauritian seafood curry, medley of seafood baked in a lightly spiced coconut and tomato ragu, chutney pomme damour (fresh tomato salsa), yellow rice pilaf with toasted pine nuts & currants.
The food highlight, a gentle hand on the spices allowed the fresh seafood to speak for itself while adding depth to the whole.
DB ordered the
Beef Bobotie Potjie, with apple, apricot & delicate egg topping, with buttery cous cous
Unfortunately this was bland and dry and the buttery cous cous only made the dish even more dry, maybe an attempt to induce one to drink more.

*The goatfather is a play on the Mario Puzo bestseller The Godfather, kind of obvious and the Goats do Roam is a reference to the great French wine region of Côtes du Rhône, at least their other wines are a blend of the major grapes grown in this region.ôtes_du_Rhône_AOC

Pink Zulu on Urbanspoon

Posted in Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Food and Wine, Pinotage, Sangiovese | 1 Comment

One of the Best

Did I really spill the wine down the side of the bottle!

Well one of the best wines I have ever had the pleasure of drinking and shareing was a bottle of 1998 Domaine Armand Rousseau Père et Fils Chambertin – Clos de Bèze on a lazy Sunday evening with Cookie and family. The wine passed the most important test, Cookies wifes approval, if she approves of the wine you know it is not going to be some over extracted young gun fruit bomb or an aged cigar box of a wine that the wine maker is trying to hide substandard fruit behind a wall of oak, but a wine with finesse!

In an earlier post I mentioned that the better the wine the less notes get written. With this one there are no notes for reference, but they are not needed as it was very memorable and was discussed as we drank it.

Anyway, the wine opened with a good amount of red fruit with just a touch of spice opening out to include more of those secondary aromas of mushroom truffle and animale notes. All this was reflected on the palate wrapped in very soft tannins, with that added zing of a ballerina dancing across the tongue, which as one would suspect was followed with a long lingering finish. Definitely a wine to be sipped over a longish period of time to savor the evolution of the wine as it meets the world and oxidises. We started drinking it with our meal and finished it watching part of La Tour de France on the comfy lounge.

Posted in Pinot Noir, Reviews | Leave a comment