Simple palates, Seriously

New Zealand, USA, Argentina, Hungary, Canada, Lebanon

Arboleda 2007 Carmenere, Chile Clear, intense black ruby colour, this medium-bodied wine weighs in at 14.5% alc and exudes notes of plump ripe blackcurrants, fresh herbs, rosemary stalks and white pepper. High acidity with young, even tannins then the fruit kicks in with blackberry liquorice, young mint shoots, mojito-type flavours. Long, even finish. 91-92/100. Drink 5-7 years.
Ata Rangi Celebre 2005, Martinborough NZ $45. A blend of 30% merlot, 35% syrah, 35% cabernet franc/sauvignon. Dark red colour, drying red berries with sweet herbs and clove. Hint of liquorice even. Well integrated tannins, a bouncy well-rounded fruit core with good length in the finish. 91/100. Tasted Feb 09.

Ata Rangi ( is one of five 5-star wineries in Robert Parker's book and is synonymous with New Zealand Pinot Noir. Based on the North Island in Martinborough just a short drive from Wellington, this operation sited in a low rain-fall area has earned a well-deserved reputation for consistently producing Pinot Noir of high-quality but it would be a mistake to overlook their white wines.
Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir, Martinborough NZ 2006
$25. The second tier pinot, the main one retails for ~$68, obvious notes of red fruit but a bit too light on the palate for my liking, I thought this could have more pizzaz. 89/100 . Tasted 12th May 2007.

$32. 100% whole berry crush underwent 2 -7 days pre-ferment maceration. Constantly hand-plunged during 2 weeks of tank ferment. 9 months in 25% new French oak for complete malolactic fermentation. 14% alc. Cherry with wild berry fruit in the background. Red plum and cherry flavours dominate and are held in check by the even sappy tannins. There are the obvious rough edges to this but is an easy drink overall. Drink now till 2010. 86/100. Tasted Feb 09.

The 2008 vintage was again a victim of the weather, with frost affected vines and low rains resulting in a 50% reduction in yield. Good vineyard and harvest management will result in wines with expressive aromatics and robust fruit flavours.
Ata Rangi Criaghall Chardonnay 2008, Martinborough NZ $60. Fruit from 20+ year old, low-yielding Mendoza clones. Indigenous yeast fermented in 22% new oak with lees stirring. 60% malolactic ferment, aged on lees for 9 months. A complex nose of white peach, hint of melon and a lift of lime. This is a very fruity drink, sweet and voluptuous. Drink now till 2012. 89/100.  Tasted Feb 09.
Ata Rangi Kahu Botrytis Riesling 2008, Martinborough NZ $45. 130g/L RS. Very nice nose of ripe nectarine, sweet talc powder and spice. This has nice flavours but lacks texture and has turned out to be quite the syrup drink. 87/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Ata Rangi Lismore Pinot Gris 2008, Martinborough NZ $40. Made in the richer style resembling Alsace but slightly higher in alcohol at 13%. Fruit is hand-picked and pressed with a membrane press. 20% fermented in 3-year old barrels. Pleasing mango and lychee flavours with aroma of orange buds. Very nice for a casual drink. Drink now. 88/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Ata Rangi Petrie Chardonnay 2008, Martinborough NZ $30. Fermented in 25% new Burgundy barriques, 30% underwent full malolactic fermentation and aged on lees for 7 months. Light aroma of browning butter seasoned with a sprinkle of sweet Chinese spice. A dry mineral introduction followed by an explosion of lemon and lime flavours. Drink now till 2012. 91/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Ata Rangi Pinot Noir 2007, Martinborough NZ $90. From the extremely low-yielding 2007 vintage due to bad weather in the flowering season, fruit bunches and berries were small, so skins to juice ratio was high resulting in high levels of tannins. ~28-year old vines of various PN clones, 10% whole berry crush spent 5-8 days pre-ferment maceration. Malolactic fermentation was completed in the 12 months spent in 25% new French oak. 14% alc. Black cherry and dark berry fruit aromas with a dense but very stingy fruit core supported by supple tannins. Not bad given the conditions of vintage. Might open in 3-4 years but won't make the most cellar-worthy list. Drink 2012 - 2016. 91/100. Tasted Feb 09.

Ata Rangi ( is one of five 5-star wineries in Robert Parker's book and is synonymous with New Zealand Pinot Noir. Based on the North Island in Martinborough just a short drive from Wellington, this operation sited in a low rain-fall area has earned a well-deserved reputation for consistently producing Pinot Noir of high-quality but it would be a mistake to overlook their white wines. The 2007 vintage produced very lean wines with high tannin levels that are only just starting to reveal themselves. I think the verdict is still very much out on this one.
Ata Rangi Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Martinborough NZ $25. A 'curvy' drink that is rich and fleshy. Hand-picked fruit from 5 blocks, half of which was cold soaked for a few hours before drain and press. 10% was fermented in 3-year old oak, the rest in stainless steel. The wine sits with 13.5% alc and is high in acidity. Passionfruit and citrus flavours standout in this simple drink, not to say that it's linear. Good with food. Drink now till 2010. 87/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Marlborough NZ Fairly intense notes of sweet gooseberry, stewed citrus/orange, minerality. medium bodied, clean acidity and flavour, good length for aftertaste. not too dry nor tannic. 89/100. Tasted 22nd March 2007.
Clos Mimi Petite Rousse 2003 Clos Mimi Syrah Petite Rousse 2003, Paso Robles, USA
Had this at Auric Pacific whilst sitting at the site of my grandfather’s former sundry shop (1, Phillip St). 100% syrah, destemmed and 2800 produced according to eRP. Blackberries, crème de cassis are very prominent, touch of licorice and pepper too. A full-bodied red, imagine slouched into a velvet sofa. Very interesting to enjoy over the next 5 years. 91-92/100. Tasted Dec 2009.
Craggy Range Les Beaux Cailloux Chardonnay 2005, Hawkes Bay NZ  $63.75: Good balance of acidity and buttery notes. 89/100.  Tasted 12th May 2007.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2005 NZ $38-45, 86% merlot, 14% cabernet franc. Very pure and fragrant nose of violets, some soft oak. Harsh sharp attack of acid, velvet palate, dark berry flavours but the weight on the mouth feels a tad too light. Aftertaste fades off rather quickly. 88/100. Tasted 7th July 2007.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Sophia 2005, Hawkes Bay NZ $59.50: Mainly merlot, generous velvet tannins with notes of sweet red fruit. 89-91/100.  Tasted 12th May 2007.

Retasted 7th July 2007: $60-70, 62% merlot, 34% cabernet franc, 4% cabernet sauvignon. Dense nose, notes of dark chocolate, but a sense that it's abit too fat. Velvet palate, oaky and dry, aftertaste is weaker than initial nose would suggest this drink to be and the overall feel of alcohol is on the high side. The 2004 was much better. 89?/100.

Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol 2005, Hawkes Bay NZ  $72: Firm tannins and good fruit, finishing with a subtle aftertaste. 91-92/100.  Tasted 12th May 2007.
Dolium Malbec Reserva 2003, Mendoza, Argentina $42-50, bright ruby colour, sweet aromas of mulberry, red fruits and savoury oak spice. Flavours of spice and dark chocolate, soft tannins, good balance and an aftertaste of great length. 90/100. Tasted August 2007.

Dolium is one of the newer and modern setups in Argentina, and is one of the largest exporters of wine out of the country. It's located in the Agrelo section of Lujan de Cuyo, this multi-level winery is built almost entirely underground! Founder Mario Giadorou who passed away in 2005 founded this business in 1997 and it's now in the hands of his son Ricardo Giadorou who doubles as the resident winemaker.

Dutton Ranch Russian River Chardonnay 2005, Russian River, USA $55-65, this is made by blending from over sixty separate vineyards located primarily in the Green Valley appellation of the Russian River Valley. The Green Valley is unique in that fog from the Pacific rolls in during the evening and recedes by the morning, and that allows for moderate growing conditions which promote the dark intense flavours in the fruit. Light gold colour, intense nose of rich butter. Well-structured wine with lemony flavours balanced with good levels of acidity. But I thought it was a tiny bit bland on the back. 91-92/100. Tasted August 2007.

Dutton Goldfield is a 1998 joint venture of two pioneers of the American wine industry - Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield.
Dutton Range Russian River Zinfandel 2005, Russian River, USA $42-50, nice darkish colour, exotic nose of figs and sweet dates. 14.3%, well-rounded and full of fruity flavours, tannins have integrated very well. Good length for a finish. 92-93/100. Tasted August 2007.

Dutton Goldfield is a 1998 joint venture of two pioneers of the American wine industry - Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield.
Escarpment Pinot Noir 2005, Central Otago, NZ Dense garnet colour, earthy undertones with light beef stock nose. young tannic structure which lingers but falls off quite quickly into an agreeable level (can this wine really last for 10 years as suggested?? doubt it). length of aftertaste a little too short for my liking. 88/100. Tasted 22nd March 2007.
Forman Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley, USA $110-135. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. A wallop of dark fruit, sweet spice and cedar wood. Rich flavours, the tannins hit your palate like a block, but the fruit is strong enough to push through. Load up on this and forget about it for 10 years before enjoying over the following 10. 91/100. Tasted May 2009.
Honig Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley, USA $50-66. Dark currant, cherry candy with rich swirly fruit flavours of blackcurrant. There is the feeling of a higher touch of alcohol, but this has a nice, even finish. Not a keeper, drink over 5 years. 88/100. Tasted May 2009.
Kongsgaard Chardonnay 2005 Kongsgaard Chardonnay 2005, Napa, USA
My Christmas dinner starter, I wasn’t overly impressed with this given its reputation. A full-bodied, robust chardonnay with fresh, crisp acidity and minerality, notes of viscous honeysuckle and floral wafts of orange spritz. This is not looking to hide or sink away anytime soon. 93/100. Tasted Dec 2009.

Laurel Glen Terra Rosa Malbec 2004, Mendoza, Argentina
$21-25, a blend from the Perdriel, San Carlos, La Consulta and Tupungato vineyards. 10% old vine Tempranillo also from San Carlos for the spicy component. Average age of vineyards is 80 years old, cropped at under 2 tonnes/acre. Beautiful earthy light red in colour. Nice gentle nose, spicy flavours with firm tannins that aren't overwhelming, and an aftertaste that lingers on the back palate. 91/100. Tasted August 2007.

The winemaker is Patrick Campbell, owner and winemaker of Laurel Glen located in the Sonoma region. Grapes are sourced off 50 - 80 year old vines from 5 separate vineyards sited at 800 - 1200 metres above sea level with the Andes ranges as a backdrop.

Laurel Glen Vale La Pena Malbec 2004, Mendoza, Argentina $42-50, a single vineyard wine, site located at an elevation of 1050m at the foot of the Andes. The southernmost vineyard of all Mendoza is on rocky, sparse plains with winds sweeping in from the dry, cool Patagonian scrub bush, carrying minerals picked up by the breeze from the Patagonian desert. Deep organic dark colour, clean flavours of black fruit and molasses. Very well-rounded wine, with soft tannins. It left me wanting more for a finish, but I haven't had enough malbec to offer the best opinion on this style of wine. 90-91/100. Tasted August 2007.

The winemaker is Patrick Campbell, owner and winemaker of Laurel Glen located in the Sonoma region. Grapes are sourced off 50 - 80 year old vines from 5 separate vineyards sited at 800 - 1200 metres above sea level with the Andes ranges as a backdrop.

Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon 2003, Sonoma, CA, USA Laurel Glen is headed by Patrick Campbell, and already got a mention here as I tasted their Argentinean offerings earlier this month. This is their main production, doing what Sonoma is good for - Cabernet Sauvignon, offered in their only two labels, the Laurel Glen Cab Sauv and the Counterpoint Cab Sauv. The Laurel Glen Cab Sauv (retail $80-95) is the top wine produced from only the best grapes, and production numbers vary yearly. $42-50, darkish red colour, with notes of fleshy black currants and tobacco. 13.5%, very satisfying palate of frank fruit that very balanced and not over whelming. Tannin levels are clear and present, but again, not offensive. This delicious one can easily last beyond 5 years and could be a long-term keeper. 92-93/100. Tasted August 2007.
Lawson's Dry Hills Gewurztraminer 2006, Malborough, NZ $19.55: Rich nose of rose petals, sweet white peach, lychee?, with a hint of spice to top. 92/100. Tasted 22nd March 2007.
Lawson's Dry Hills Pinot Gris 2006, Malborough, NZ $19.55: made as a firm dry style, notes of poached pear, baked apple crumble, clove?. 92/100.  Tasted 22nd March 2007.
Lazy Creek Gewurztraminer 2005, Mendocino, CA, USA Lazy Creek Vineyards is located just outside the town of Philo in the Anderson Valley of Mendocino County. The main crop is pinot noir, but also offer a Gewurztraminer. $34-40, rich nose of lychee, good dryish feel on the palate, but flat on the back. 87/100. Tasted August 2007.
Marietta Cellars Old Vine Red Lot 43, Sonoma, CA, USA $17-20, a non-vintage blend of Zinfandel, Petit syrah, Carignan, Grenache, Gamay and others that is released as a Lot series, described by RP as 'unquestionably one of the finest bargains in the red wine marketplace'.  Light red colour, floral nose of redcurrants and light oak. 13.5%, light and refreshing, lots of forward fruit backed by soft tannins. Very good drink! 89-90/100. Tasted August 2007.

Marietta Cellars is located in Geyserville in Sonoma County. Known for producing arguably the most value for money low budget red, one can do little wrong with USD$10 per bottle that receives nod after nod from Mr Parker himself. Run by Chris Bilbro, this 1979 established family business also involves Chris' four sons. With fruit sourced from old vineyards in Sonoma, Napa and Anderson valleys, the wines are in a rustic style, so nothing classy refined but more representative of homely style warmth.

2004 Muddy Water Chardonnay, Waipara, NZ
$28 from Cloudwine. Screwcap, 14.0%, matured in barrel on yeast lees for a year before bottling. Rich ripe-lemon canola colour, didn't throw up the robust nuances of confectionary butter that I'd associate with great chardonny. Primarily citrus notes with subtle butter undertones, quite like a citrus tart. Light-styled, not overly flabby, good balanced levels of acidity and aftertaste. 89/100
Neal Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, CA, USA $70-80, this blend of nine vineyards weighs in at a hefty 15.8%. All nine lots of fruit were fermented separately before blending, then matured for 22 months in French oak (80% new) before bottling. Medium red colour, rich notes of black currants and cedar wood. Medium bodied wine, just on the border of becoming full throttle, good flavours of dark, spicy fruit with fine tannins. But the finish was somehow not as satisfying as the drink was for me. 90-91/100. Tasted August 2007.

Neal Family Vineyards was established in 1998 by Mark Neal based on a wealth of experience accumulated over 40 years and 600 vineyard blocks between Mark and his father. Gove Celio is the winemaker with fruit sourced from various sub-appellations including Rutherford, St Helena, Howell Mountain and Mt Veeder. This organic setup (certification still in process) has fermentation caves carved into the side of a hill along Howell Mountain. They produced a lot of single vineyard Cab Sauvs, but of limited numbers 200-500 cases. The only non-Cab wine is a Zinfandel (retail $40-45).

Ojai 1996 Syrah Bien Nacido, Santa Barbara, CA, USA
The Ojai vineyard is located in Santa Barbara, CA and run by Adam Tolmach. They also release whites and pinot noir. Blackish-purple in colour, a compact nose of cassis and bacon fat. Satisfyingly rich and opulent in the mouth, smooth flowing with no jarring edges to it. Considering it already has 11 years of age to it, it's no wonder that this is elegantly balanced and drinking very well right now. Can this go any further? I don't know.. I sense it's already peaking and now's the time to drink up! 92-93/100.

Tasted July 2007, courtesy of Joe Czerwinski who is tasting director and senior editor with Wine Enthusiast Magazine


Pegasus Bay 'Aria' Late Picked Riesling 2006, Waipara, South Island, NZ ~$40. The late harvest to bring about the heightened concentrated flavours is done over several trips down the rows and picking bunches with some (30%) botrytis. Made in an Auslese style, only 7.5% alcohol. Vibrant nose of honey-suckle and melon. Light and pleasant in the mouth. Sweet, but not overly so. Good. 88-89/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay 'Encore' Late Harvest Riesling 2004, Waipara, South Island, NZ ~$40. Grapes 'suffering' from the full extent of botrytis are picked in a single trip down through the vines, berry by berry. Comes in at 9% with the colour of clarified light butter. Rich nose of petroleum. Very full on the mouth, it maintains a high level of sweetness yet stays balanced with some lean acidity. It's supposed to be made in a TBA style, but although this is good, the German TBAs still own the world. 92-93/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay 'Finale' Noble Chardonnay 2004, Waipara, South Island, NZ ~$40. Another bottling that is vintage dependent, noble rot affected chardonnay concentrate is barrel fermented and spends two years in aged to add that extra element to this sweet wine. 13.0%, deep gold yellow colour, an incredible nose of Chinese double-boiled chicken broth with hints of walnut. The savoury and sweet flavours meld very well without being too rich. A soft aftertaste, leaves me wondering whether I should be expecting more. 91/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay 'Maestro' Merlot Malbec 2003, Waipara, South Island, NZ Produced solely in the warmer years and only if not compromising the estate merlot cabernet. The 2003 was only the 4th time this bottling was offered and is a classic Bordeaux blend with 20% malbec, although previous vintages have had some cab sauv and cab franc. Spends 3 years in barrels. Carpeted nose of purple flowers, this is a ripe and savoury wine, medium bodied, and rich in tannins. Broad and generous aftertaste. 91/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir 2005, Waipara, South Island, NZ ~$55. Fermented in small vats before 18 months maturation in French oak barriques. Light earthy red colour. Forward and direct nose of velvety red fruit with a touch of spice and oak. Dry style with velvety tannins which are very much up front at the moment but should settle in 3-4 years. A spicy sumptuous finish. 88/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay 'Prima Donna' Pinot Noir 2004, Waipara, South Island, NZ AUD$85-90, the top wine that is only produced in the right years, and by selecting the best barrels without compromising the quality of the estate pinot. Bold nose of perfumed sugar, white pepper and salted plum. A sharp finish, should be better but I expected more. 91/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2006, Waipara, South Island, NZ Light hay-yellow colour. Citrus nose of blooming orange blossom with a subtle hint of petroleum. Sweet, simple style with a slight touch of spritz. Well structured, bone dry style with an orangey finish, but overall abit dull. 88/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2006, Waipara, South Island, NZ ~$32. The sauv blanc was fermented in stainless steel tanks and the semillon in oak barriques for 9 - 10 months on lees. Light in colour with a tinge of pink, notes of lychee, passion fruit and gooseberry. Crispy fruity flavours on the mid palate with a touch of minerality and a satisfying aftertaste. 90/100. Tasted 28 Aug 07.
Philip Togni Tanbark Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, CA, USA $90-110. The 2002 vintage wasn't too impressive according to Togni standards, and certains lots were declassified and added to the Tanbark blend. This only served to enhance the value and showiness of this wine. Dark ruby, purple colour, it only contains 13.7% alcohol which is lower than the big Californian cabs. Sweet nose of cedar wood, herbs and black currants. Good fruitiness accompanied by velvety tannins. 94+/100. Tasted August 2007.

Philip Togni receives a mention in Robert Parker's 'The World's Greatest Wine Estates' and not surprisingly, the mailing list is almost impossible to get onto. Applying his from Chateau Lascombes into blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, Togni wines are very similar to the Margaux products. Juice off the initial press goes towards a younger second bottling - Tanbark Hill.

Puriri Hills Estate 2003

$40. You can sense the wine trying to tell the story of a difficult vintage, and indeed there was a major dry spell in 2003. This is a blend of merlot, carmenere and cabernet franc. It's more restrained and the weight of the blackcurrant fruit is much lighter, but it remains focussed and not all over the shop. Drink up now. 88/100. Tasted Sept 2009.


Puriri Hills Estate 2004 $55. The first real blend of all five varietals - merlot 67%, carmenere 3%, cab franc 11%, cab sauv 15% and malbec 4%. The first time the newly planted Cabernet Sauvignon vines were used in blending. A young wine that welcomes with open arms, offering warm berries, spiced plum that is well balanced by a well-architected tannin structure. 89/100. Tasted Sept 2009.
Puriri Hills Estate 2005 $60. This appears to be closed at the moment, a blend of merlot 63%, cab franc 11%, cab sauv 17% and malbec 9%. Warm plum and ripe berry flavours gives the impression is this a Hulk-ed up Burgundy. A touch of savouriness too. An excellent entry level wine for the impressive 2005 vintage. 89/100. Drink next 7-10 years. Tasted Sept 2009.

I had the pleasure of tasting through a line-up of Puriri Hills with winemaker Judy Fowler and Australian distributer Mark Ovens as they passed through Melbourne. The Puriri Hills winery is located just south of Auckland and their 15 acre vineyard is planted with the Bordeaux varietals Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere. Initially, the Carmenere vines were thought to be Cabernet Franc. In 2004, the new winery came into being and a new approach to wine making ensued. Also, note that the 2005s have sold out but 2004s are still available. This winery has quietly crept towards 'cult' status with 3 primary labels Estate, Reserve and Pope and their latest 2005 releases are already sold out, picking up Bob Campbell's approval along the way.
Puriri Hills Estate 2006 $50. Merlot 49%, cab franc 12%, cab sauv 29% and malbec 10%. Too young to be enjoyed to its fullest potential at the moment. After a good swirl in the decanter, it did start to open up. Cherry, splash of fresh, young berries and a touch of white pepper in this one, with light tannins offering a good balance to the overall feel of this wine. A slight knock is that the finish was a little hollow, but this deserves more time. 88/100. Tasted Sept 2009.
Puriri Hills Pope 2005 $225. Pieced together only in the best of years. This is still in its infancy with the oak currently dominating and overpowering the supple fruit load. Notes of dark fruit, pudding and fine dark chocolate powder. This should come together over the next  5-7 years and by that time, the dense core of black plum and blackberry fruit should impress with robust, grippy tannins in support. A well-balanced wine with good structure and an elegant finish. If you are desperate for Right Bank wines but can't afford the price tag, then this would be suitable alternative. Drink 2012 - 2022. 92-93/100. Tasted Sept 09.
Puriri Hills Reserve 2002

$72. This well-rounded wine is a blend that contains approx. 50% Merlot with an almost equal proportion of Carmenere (42%). It has robust aromatics of dark red berries, forest floor and warm earth. Drink this over the next 5 years. 89/100. Tasted Sept 2009.

Puriri Hills Reserve 2004 $100. A vibrant wine blended from merlot 36%, carmenere 46%, cab franc 11% and malbec 7%. Anise and spicy dark blackberry on the nose with a sensation of warm summer red earth. A very fine structure reflecting an elegant nature, this has depth and intensity but in a feminine way. There is a tingle of robust tannins which dissipate very nicely to finish. Keep 10-12 years. 91/100. Tasted Sept 09.
Puriri Hills Reserve 2006 $90. 53% merlot, 33% carmenere and 14$ cab franc. A step up in terms of aromatics compared to the Estate. There's the sensation of warm earth, that weighty wafts you get in the spring forest and fresh cherry. Rich flavours of fleshy fruit with a vibrant finish. Young, drink 2014 - 2021. 91/100. Tasted Sept 2009.
Pyramid Valley Angel Flower Pinot Noir 2006, North Canterbury NZ $125-150. 60 cases produced. A 1.7 acre clay-limestone, east facing site with 6-year old vines cropped at 1 tonne/acre. 100% destemmed, 20 months on lees in 33% new French barriques. An odd colour, earthy swill with a shade of ruby. Nose of red currants, musky spice, smoke and wild fur. Deep flavours of wild red fruit and toasted spice stirred into an earthy brew. Held together delicately despite the robust characteristics. Would present a decent challenge to the top 1er crus of Burgundy. 93-94/100. Tasted Feb 09.

European summer sun-baked Americans slashing through acres of Marlborough vineyards and producing articulate wines showcasing the concept of terroir
. Mike Weersing has even thrown up a challenge to the fuller-styled Hunters by offering a lovely single-block Semillon dripping in style and personality. An establishment that has earned praise from Jancis Robinson MW and Matt Kramer (WS), this is certainly one to keep on eye on, although at their current price tags, more value can be sought elsewhere.
Pyramid Valley Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007, Central Otago NZ $85-100. 140 cases produced. A biodynamic site in Bannockburn sitting on schist and quartz sand that produced only 0.7 tonnes/acre due to poor weather at flowering. 85% destemmed, 5-6 days of soak and 27 cuvaison. 15 months on lees in 33% new French barriques and bottled unfined and unfiltered on the winter equinox June 2008. Darker than the Eaton PN, ruby with a shade of black with blackberry, blackcurrant and iris. Rounded fruit core in the mouth, quite layered, primarily black fruit, ripe blackcurrant and a touch of black pepper. 91-92/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Earth Smoke Pinot Noir 2006, North Canterbury NZ $125-150. 30 cases produced. 1.5 acres of 6-year old vines, north facing on denser, shallower clay-limestone soils less in clay and active lime than the Angel Flower. Made in the same way as the Angel Flower to bring out the differences of the two wines. Dark ruby colour, light touch of cherry, perfumed wood and raspberry. A red fruit core with sweet spice that persists with a touch of tannins to prop it up during the soft, lingering finish. 92/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Eaton Family Pinot Noir 2007, Marlborough NZ $80-95. 850 cases produced. From the dense clay soils of the Omaka Valley, close planted on a steep North facing slope and cropped at 2.4 tonnes/acre. Hand-picked, 85% destemmed, initial 5-7 days of soak followed by 27 day cuvaison. 15 months on lees in 33% new French barriques. Light ruby colour, notes of cherry and nutmeg spice but low on fruit and light-weight tannins. 14.2% alc. The last of this label as the site has been sold off. 87/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Hille Semillon 2007, Marlborough NZ $45-55. 450 cases produced. From the stony soils of the Brancott Valley, this was cropped to 3.2 tonnes/acre and hand-picked over 4 passes. Whole bunch pressed, 13 months of fermentation by indigenous yeasts in 50% new French oak 500 litre puncheons. 95% Semillon with 5% sauvignon blanc. Straw yellow, nose of fresh herbs, chervil, fennel, preserved lemon. Persistent flavours of lemon curd. 89+/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Kerner Pinot Blanc 2007, Marlborough NZ $45-55. Cropped at 3.8 tonnes/acre, this 550 case production is from a small site in the Waihopai Valley. Hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, this underwent fermentation by indigenous yeasts for 13months in old French barriques and puncheons. Pale gold in colour, nose of candied orange, clove and baked apricot with a touch of burn. Rich fruit, fleshy and rounded on the tongue to finish, an off-dry wine. Nice. 89/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Lebecca Riesling 2007, Marlborough NZ $40-50. 350 cases produced. Vines planted in deep, silted gravel ground in Rapaura, cropped at 3.7 tonnes/acre. Ripe clean golden fruit not affected by botrytis. Hand-picked and whole bunch pressed, with light settling. Fermentation ended at 5 months and allowed to sit on lees for a further 8 months. 11% alc with 34g/L residual sugar. Pale white gold in colour, floral notes mingled with pear, apple and waxy talc. Sweet, yet balanced with light fresh fruit flavours and a pleasing finish. 90/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Orton Gewurztraminer 2007, Hawkes Bay NZ $50-60. 230 cases produced. 30-year old vines on a 1 acre heavy clay site yielding 3 tonnes of fruit that were sadly uprooted after this final vintage. Whole bunch pressed, 7 months of indigenous yeast fermentation in 20% new French oak. Broad, expansive notes of rose musk and cardamom, a moderate 14% alc and a touch lower in acidity renders this lean on flavours. 88/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Pyramid Valley Riverbrook Riesling 2007, Marlborough NZ $40-50. 280 cases produced. Cropped at 3.5 tonnes/acre, vines planted on silt-bound gravel site were hand-picked in 2 passes to obtain fruit of different ripeness. 85% was clean, small berry, loose bunches which were fermented nearly dry. The remaining 15% was late-picked to allow the growth of noble rot. 9 months of dry fermentation and 13 months ferment for the botrytis-affected fruit. Relatively low in alcohol, 12.5% with 20g/L of residual sugar. Very faint, white gold-like colour, notes of pink guava, pineapple and a hint of oil. Light and not luscious, slightly dry and a good accompaniment to fresh figs. 88/100. Tasted Feb 09.
Ramey Napa Valley Claret 2004, Napa Valley, CA, USA $60-70. At 14.5%, has a nose of black fruits, white chocolate and light green herb. Soft and round on the palate with young tannins lingering on the finish. The optimal drinking window for this should easily be in 5 years time, and could keep for 10 years. 91-92/100. Tasted August 2007.

David Ramey boasts credentials that include having worked with Christian Moueix, Dominus, and Rudd and Chalk Hill in Sonoma. This is his own operation based in Healdsburg, and focuses on producing Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as a great series of single vineyard wines. His wines are currently exclusive to PWS and retail for $70-250. Not cheap stuff indeed.

Ramey Jericho Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, Napa Valley, CA $150-195. The last vintage of Jericho Canyon to be released. This has an intriguing nose of charcoal, dark chocolate and black currants. A Lovely, full-bodied wine with flavours ebbing layer after layer. Great stuff! Drink over 10+ years. 93/100. Tasted May 2009.
Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Auslese 2006, Mosel

Light nose with sweet flowing spice. But this simple drink lacks character. Good finish though. 90/100. Tasted Feb 2008.

Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Spatlese 2006, Mosel Sparkling with hint of pale, straw yellow. Subtle nose of necterine and blackcurrants. Rich tropical fruit flavours, primarily pineapple and some canned peach syrup, but this doesn't explode in your mouth, it's kept well in-check. Low acidity. Good persistent finish. 91-92/100. Tasted Feb 2008.
Richter Wehlener-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spatlese 2006, Mosel Clear with yellow tinge. Light nose of sweet fruit. Sweet on the palate, but simple fruit sugars, one-dimensional. Nice finish though. 88-89/100. Tasted Feb 2008.
Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Auslese cask 83 2006, Mosel Pale golden yellow. Uplifting nose of flowery, sweet stone fruit and tangerine. Clean flavours, woody mellow, almost papaya-ish. Not overtly sweet. Finish is a little lacking though. 90-100. Tasted Feb 2008.
Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Reserve, NZ

32 from Cloudwine (South Melbourne). Great clear nose and fresh straight forward passionfruit and gooseberry flavours. Almost perfect balance between fruit and acidity. Saint Clair is the NZ wine producer of the year according to the London International wine and Spirit Competition. I'm not a white person, but this was nice. 92-93/100

Note: supplies of this have been snapped up rather quickly so start hunting now or live in regret!2007: $33. Clean, light golden colour. Vibrant notes of gooseberry, passionfruit and hint of blackcurrants. Rich sweet fruity flavours and ends with a good lingering feel. Good with seared salmon and grilled scallops with a side of sweet pea, yellow capsicum and baby carrot salad tossed in a generous portion of olive oil. This isn't a wine to knock your socks off, but the depth in flavours that you are getting for this price, absolutely worth it! I've bought a case of this already. 93/100. Tasted Feb 2008.

Saint Clair Block 2 Sauvignon Blanc 2007, NZ Sweet yellow capsicum, white peach an damp cut morning lawn. Developed, zingy flavours that are rich while the acids are kept in check. Well-balanced with a lingering finish. Drink by 2010. 91-92/100.

Siduri Gary's Vineyard Pinot Noir 2000 , Monterey, CA, USA
Siduri is one from Diana Krall's winelist, located in the Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey, CA. They apparently have a broad range but with limited production. Dark coloured, with notes of earthy cherry. Stocked with fruit flavours that linger in the mid-back palate. However, a blunted finish with a touch of unfavourable tannins that disrupts the smoothness one should expect in pinot noir. 88/100

Tasted July 2007, courtesy of Joe Czerwinski who is tasting director and senior editor with Wine Enthusiast Magazine.


Sine Qua Non Poker Face 2004, California, USA I really did this wine a crime. Decanted for half a day prior to dinner, it was still closed and no amount of decanter swishing did the job. A hot, sexy Syrah with a splash of Mourvedre and Viognier crafted by the genius Manfred Krankl. Loads of blackberry, crème de cassis, toasted oak, floral lift of white summer flowers. The tannins are still very prominent and need further time to resolve. Still, this powerful wine was rich and pure with a long, salivating finish. Didn’t even get to the halfway point on this wine over dinner and it was still drinking well over the next 5 days. 96/100. Tasted Dec 2009.
Te Mata, Elston Chardonnay 2005, Hawkes Bay, NZ Notes of oak, bit too warm hence rich overly buttery nose, fruit based, balanced acidity, grapefruit flavour. good moderate length aftertaste. 89/100. Tasted 22nd March 2007.


Te Whare Ta Gewürztraminer 2005, Marlborough, NZ
Multi-gold medal winner in some of this season's early Aus/NZ wineshows, great drink for $25 (could be $20 i reckon) if you like aromatic whites with a substantially flavoursome body. 90/100
Tokaji Aszu 6 Puttonyos 1993 , Hungary
A brilliant concentration of tokay that isn't overwhelming in sweetness, is well-balanced and doesn't leave a sick feeling in your mouth. The thick, dark, syrupy appearance masks the elegance bottled up. Have this well-chilled to fully appreciate greatness in traditional wine-making. Lasts well over a week if stored properly and promptly.

Peller Estates Founder's Series Icewine 1998, Niagara Peninsula, Canada

Peller Estates Founder's Series Late Harvest 1997, Ontario, Canada

Stratus Riesling 2000, Niagara, Ontario

Nose of sweet, light but yet intense wafts of a potpourri store. Light flowing juice reminiscent of peach juice/syrup. But the flavours are quite different from what you'd expect from the nose, finish lingers but is soft. 89/100. Tasted Dec 2007 in Toronto.
Lakeview Cellars Gewurtztraminer 2002, Ontario
Sweet, juicy with a touch of walnut. However, this is a simple drink, concentrated sweet mandarin flavours but the light, soft lingering aftertaste is let down by the tame finish. 89-90/100. Tasted Dec 2007 in Toronto.
Quails Gate Botrytis Affected Optimal 2004, British Columbia
Almost like a light, young, fresh Sauternes. Soft nose of candied, ginger pear. Rich, sweet flavours that linger. Good aftertaste. 91-92/100. Tasted Dec 2007 in Toronto.

Chateau Musar 2000 Hochar, Lebanon ($25) Negotiants Australia

Chateau Musar 1998, Lebanon ($46) Negotiants Australia

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