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18/05/2015: Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2013.  This wine has attractive brambly, blackberry and tamarillo like flavours with licorice, chocolate and sweet raspberry as well. It is rich, complex, balanced and has great mouth feel. I really enjoyed this wine and thought that it will go very well in the cellar for at least 5 years if not 10. Interestingly, this wine is blended with Touriga Nacional (9%) which helps to give the wine more fresh fruit, colour and depth. This wine is on the market for around $30 so it is up there - but well worth the invetment for something a bit different.

25/04/2015: Canaletto Primitivo 2011 is produced by Casa Girelli and the grapes were selected from low-yielding vineyards in the southern parts of Puglia. The vinification process included the grapes remaining intact and the maceration process occurring gently for 10 days. Maceration is the process of leaching all the phenolic, tannin and colouring agents from the grape skins and seeds into the wine. This has resulted in a wine with ripe dark berry characters, nicely integrated with oak to give cedar and chocolate nuisances. I enjoyed this wine and it would go perfectly with Italian cuisine in particular pasta. It is available from Vetro, Rotorua for $20.

11/04/2015: I tried some very good reds this week - all of them where potential wines to include in the cellar. The list included Aramis Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 (McLaren Vale - South Australia), Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels 2013, Unison Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2010, Te Mata Merlot/Cabernet Woodthorpe Estate 2006, Puriri Hills Merlot. Carmenare Cabernet Franc 2006 (Clevedon Auckland New Zealand) and Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2010. My favorite wine of the tasting was the Puriri Hills - complex, elegant, and well balanced. I could not help think that it would have been good to have included a Waiheke premium red and a quality bordeaux in the mix. The wines in the tasting would have stacked up well.

29/03/2015: Over the last few days I have been enjoying a Chruch Road Cabernet Merlot 2004. Intense and still with lots of fruit character - ripe plum, blackberry, cedar, spice and burned alderwood. The maturation characters were of stewed black fruits and chocolate. With 11 years of cellaring it is interesting to see how this wine has developed. It just goes to show that cellaring is not just for expensive wines.  This was a museum release and consisted of a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot and aged for 18 months in new oak. This wine can oftern be purchased for around $15.00/bottle. It is great buy at any time and a wine that is so reliable.

1/02/2015: Mission Estate Jewelstone Chardonnay, 2013. I sampled this wine on a recent visit to the Mission for lunch and I really enjoyed it. Losts of subtle aromas on the nose and a delightful light straw colour. On the palate, nicely complex with flavours of ripe stonefruit, citrus and melon.  It had all the hallmarks of being carefully vintered with just the right touch of oak, malolatic fermentation, and lees aging. At $40 a bottle, the price is up there with a range of other 'top flight' chardonnays - but I think it was worth it. A good cellaring proposition for 5-8 years.

24/01/2015: Vidal Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2013.  20013 was an excellent vintage as the grape growing conditions were regarded as being near perfect. The summer in the Hawke's Bay area was warm and dry and the early autumn was also dry but not too blazingly hot.  Good day/night temperature variation also occurred, which tends to lift the acidity in the grapes and ensure the wine is fresh. Given these very good growing conditions an estate chardonnay from one of Hawke's Bay better known vineyards is a good bet. The juice from crushed and gently pressed grapes was allowed to naturally settle before being racked with light lees (yeast) to seasoned French barriques (20%). The balance of the juice was tank fermented. This wine is made in a ready to drink style and is dry and crisp. The aromas are of citrus and stonefruit and has hints of nuttiness and yeasty character to add complexity. Complexity adds depth to the flavours present in a wine. This is not a reserve or "top-of-the-line" chardonnay but at around $12.00 a bottle (on special)  it is a very good buy and ideal for summer drinking. It would also do well in the cellar over the next 3 years. Cellaring would allow the fruit to open a bit more to better balance the crisp acid.

25/12/2014: Christmas day is always a great occasion to try something from the cellar. This year we had a bottle of Ornellaia, Bolgheri, Italy from the 1999 vintage. What a stunning wine - complex and smooth with almost a velvet texture. The flavours were cassis, blackberry, ripe plum with seams of spice and earthiness. Accompanied with Christmas plum pudding, it just further enriched the fruit characters and lifted the wine to another dimension. If this is what is on offer from the super tuscan wines - then I think it is worth getting more of them.

1/11/2014: Syrah is one of my favourite grape varieties, so I am always keeping an eye out for good quality Syrah at reasonable prices. Yesterday, I discovered Ngatarawa Stables Reserve Syrah 2013 from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. At $14.95, I thought that this was a very good buy. This wine has all the Syrah characteristic aromas, raspberry, blackberry, licorice, and pepper - all mixed in with spicyness and oak. Obviously, this wine is very young, but I think that it has the fruit weight, intensity and acid sugar balance to last a minimum of 5-7 years. If you are looking for a good priced Syrah to enjoy over the coming rapidly approaching summer season at a good price - then this is one wine worth having on the list. It is also worth considering putting a few bottles into the cellar. It can be sourced from any New World Supermarket currently as it is one of their top 100 picks.

23/10/2014: Today I was treated to a great tasting of wines from Forrest Estate which is based in Marlborough, New Zealand. The wines on offer included Forrest Sauvignon Blanc 2013, The Doctor's Gruner Veltliner 2012, John Forrest Collection The White 2009, The Doctor's Riesling 2013, TattyBogler Pinot Noir 2012 and Newton Forrest Estate Gimblett Gravels Stony Corner 2010. What a superb line up - all of the wines were great, true to varietal character and excellent wines to drink with or without food. My favourite of the tasting was the Newton Forrest Estate Gimblett Gravels Stony Corner which was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. This wine had lovely fruit character with lots of cassis, blackberry and leather saddle mixed with spicy oak. It was mouthfilling and an absolute fantastic buy for around $30 (currently on special for $25 from the winery). I also really enjoyed the Gruner Veltliner, it was light, dry, lowish in alcohol, but full of flavour of greengage plum with floral and violet characters. We are seeing more Gruner Veltliner coming onto the market which is a good thing as it provides an interesting alternative to some of the more traditional aromatic whites and generally goes well with Asian spicy foods.

30/08/2014:I recently attended a tasting of wines from Lime Rock Vineyard near Waipawa (Hawke's Bay, New Zealand). Their wines are produced from vineyards on north-facing limestone hillsides near Waipawa. The range of wines tasted included a Pinot Noir based Rose, Gruner Veltliner, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Merlot. My pick of the tasting was the Sauvignon Blanc, a much more tropical fruit driven SB and without the typical herbaceous and grassy characters often found in Marlborough sourced wines. The acid was also less which for me overall gave a nicely balanced wine with good complexity which was further added to by lees aging and some residual sugar. Rosie Butler, the winemaker, also brought along a 3 million year old shellfish fossil to further demonstrate the connection between their wines and lime!

24/08/2014: A week ago was our wine club night where we were treated to a selection of wines from Argentina supplied by South2South wines ( The wines tasted included the following: Altra Vista Premium Torrontes 2012, Montechez Reserva Chardonnay 2011 & 2013; Atamisque 'Serbal' Malbec-Rose 2013, Montechez Reserva Malbec 2011; Montechez Limited Edition Malbec 2009 and Montechez Limited Edition Cabernet Franc 2011. For me, the wine of the night was the Cabernet Franc with excellent and intense blackberry fruit and which was nicely balanced by ripe tannins. This is definitely a cellaring proposition as it has a long way to go to develop the complexity and maturity expected to be found in such a wine. At $45/bottle, the price is up there, but I expect it will be worth the price and wait after 10 - 15 years in the cellar.

2/08/2014: Sherwood Integro 2012 is from the Waipara Valley, Canterbury, New Zealand. Made from a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris (approx. 25%  of each), it provides quite a different taste experience. It has the tropical fruit chracters of Sauvignon Blanc but then combines this with the spicy and pear flavours of Pinot Gris and then overlaying all of this is the slightly honeyed and citrus notes of Riesling. Integro grapes are sourced from 5 different vineyards in the Waipara Valley and each parcel of fruit was cool fermented separately to retain the purity of each grape variety. The wine was matured on its lees prior to bottling - which just adds another level of complexity.

I have noticed that increasingly, more blended wines are finding their way onto the market. For the purists this may not be a good thing, but for me this is adding a new and interesting style of wines to try. I have not had the opportunity to cellar this wine yet, but I think it will be an interesting proposition as a combination of the Riesling and Chardonnay may give the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris more longevity. Put half a dozen into the cellar and sample them over the next 5 years - I think you will be delighted with the results.

1/08/2014: Yesterday I tried the remains of a bottle of Morton Estate Chardonnay White Label 2006, it was left over from our first meeting of the Rotorua Bioenergy Cluster meeting. Boy what a surprise! I have always regarded Morton Estate as a quality maker of Chardonnay, but what really interested me about this wine was how well it had aged and turned into a flavoursome, slightly honeyed delight. The fruit characters were ripe citrus (orange and madarine) and there were flavours of peach and nectarine in there as well. The oak had integrated well giving lots of nutty, spicy and vanilla tones. The complexity of flavours was very good. On the palate, this wine was full bodied, viscous and mouthfilling and it had great length. I think the 8 years in the cellar had really done justice to this wine and it was more evidence that cellaring does make a difference to the flavour characteristics even with a stelvin cap. This is a well priced label from Morton Estate, typically less than $20 - so obviously an excellent cellaring proposition.

11/7/2014: Have you tried any wild venison recently? Well today's lunch was a real treat, back fillets from wild fallow deer, southern fried potatoes, sauteed mushrooms and garlic with a side of garden fresh broccoli. To complement this, I decided on a Vidal Reserve Syrah 2009. Huge spicy, peppery notes mixed with rich blackberry and dark plum.  This wine had great intensity and complexity, but is still very young.  Sitting in the glass, this Syrah continued to evolve with the fruit flavours opening up further and licorice characters becoming more prominant. These characters were a perfect match with the gamey flavours of the venison. There are still another 5 bottles of this Vidal Syrah in the cellar so it is good to know that it will easily last another 5-10 years. The vension was provided by Tony Hadlow from Fineline Creative.

11/7/2014: It was wine club on Wednesday night. And being the middle of winter, what could be better than a hearty line up of robust reds. The line up consisted of the following: Te Kairanga Runholder Syrah 2008, Papa Luna Grenache/Syrah/Mouvedre 2011, Te Mata Bullnose Syrah 2006, Penfolds Bin 407  2005, Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah 2006, and Chateau Beaucastel 2010. My pick of the night was between the Te Mata, Craggy Range and the Beaucastel. I liked these wines for three different reasons. The Te Mata was rich and supple and highly complex after 8 years cellaring. The Craggy Range was delectable, lots of fruit concentration giving the wine excellent spice, pepper and blackberry fruit character and really complex. The Beaucastel stood out for its uniqueness. Rich, ripe and complex and although well fortified with 14.5% alcohol it had the fruit to easily balance this power. Syrah is a great wine to cellar. Buying the 2013 vintage from Hawkes Bay New Zealand is going to be a 'no-brainer' so get in and put it in the cellar  for the next 5-10 years - it will reward you well.

27/06/2014: Paul Donaldson from Pegasus Bay presented a great selection of wines from their stable at the Capers Wine Club Tasting. The line up consisted of Sauvignon/Semillon 2012, Riesling 2010, Chardonnay 2011, Merlot/Cabernet 2011, Aria 2012 and Encore 2010.  What a line up - all very classy and great to try.  After this tasting I fell in love with Pegasus Bay Rieslings and I got it in terms of the emphasis that they place on this grape variety and the different styles. If you are into Rieslings then Pegasus Bay is one you must have on your procurement list. Pegasus Bay website

26 June 2014: Last night we hosted a wine tasting for a coporate group. The wines included in the tasting were: 

  • Champagne Gardet Brut Selected Reserve NV ($69.99)
  • Prophet's Rock Pinot Gris 2012 ($35.95)
  • Te Mata Elston Chardonnay 2007 ($33.20 current vintage)
  • Ceres Composition Pinot Noir 2012 ($45 current vintage)
  • Man O' War Ironclad 2010 ($41.90)

This was a most enjoyable selection of wines to present to the group. An interesting range of wine styles and varieties from both France and New Zealand.  My pick of the night was the Man O' War Ironclad. A robust wine with lots of fruit intensity and evolving complexity.  Give this wine another 5 years in the cellar and it will reward patience well.

23/05/2014: Last night was the Capers Wine Tasters Club nite where the theme was "Wine Options".  6 wines wrapped up in brown paper bags. The wines included a Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from a range of countries and different vineyards. Overall it was quite a challenging evening - to me the wines were not stronly varietal or at least I did not pick up on what I consider the key varietal characteristics. All quite humbling! - But lots of fun never- the- less.  It just goes to show the more you know perhps the less you know. Our team finished up coming 4th = out of around 15 teams - so probably not a bad finish - after what was a dubious start with a "zero" for the first wine. Tasting blind is hard. The label on a wine has a huge influence. 

18/05/2014: At Wine club this week, I tried a completely new grape variety - Torrontes, the white grape of Argentina.Typically, these wines have a fresh, aromatic character with moderate acidity, a smooth texture and mouthfeel as well as distinctive peach and apricot aromas on the nose.. The wine I tasted was La Consulta Reserva Torrontes 2012, supplied by South2South Wines. This wine had lots of aromatic character to it and when first approached there were hints of Gewurztraminar, Pinot Gris, a bit of Riesling and a touch of Chardonnay. There was a muscat, spiciness, a mix of raisin, a bit of peach and pear with the lycee tropical type characters as well.  The wine was well balanced and with excellent length and mouthfeel.  I really enjoyed this style and flavour. It was different enough from Gewurztraminar yet with a great mix of the spicy, floral, musky characters. Try it - you may become a convert and move beyond the typical varietals we see so regularly on the wine store shelves.

25/04/2014: While visiting a local wine resellers yesterday, I found a real surprize on the shelf - a few bottles of Church Road Syrah, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand 2009. There was no question about it, it was all the better for the 5 years in the making and being in the bottle.  It was drinking wonderfully. And what made it all the better was the price tag - only 24.53, it was a snip. Deep dark red and bright - it looked superb in the glass. Huge aroma of licorice, black fruits interspersed with pepper and spice. A real explosion on the palate. Complex, great length and lots of ripe tannins. A glass of this wine would go with game meat and hearty winter veg.  If you see this wine siting on the shelves anywhere grab it. It is well worth having in the cellar for the next 5 years. If you send me an email - I can tell you where I found it - so you can have some as well.

24/04/2014: I went to a tasting of wines from Sherwood Estate, Waipara last night. It was a very good line up. Wines tasted included a methode traditionelle Laverique 2010, the Sherwood Estate Signature Riesling 2012, 8 Guage Sauvignon Blanc 2010, Sherwood Integra 2010 (an interesting blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc), Nor'wester Pinot Noir 2010 and Golden Drought Late Harvest Chardonnay, 2011. These guys also import and distribute Aramis wines from the Mclaren Vale, Australia - so we also had the opportunity to try the Aramis Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010. All of the wines were of very good quality with all of them being good cellaring propositions. My pick of the night was the Sherwood Estate Signature Riesling 2012 - slightly off dry (7.8 g/l residual sugar) but with excellent aroma of citrus, raisin, with a little bees wax and interesting floral characters. Plenty of acid to give the wine excellent aging prospects. If you see these wines, I would highly recommend that you  pick some up - you will be highly impressed.