Simple palates, Seriously

March 2009 Archive

2nd March 2009: Ata Rangi (New Zealand)
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. 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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ata Rangi Crimson Pinot Noir 2008, Martinborough NZ
$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 fermentaion. 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.

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.

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.

5th March 2009: Paradise IV, Geelong, Victoria
This is one winery I'm not familiar with. Winemaker Doug Neal has drawn praises from Campbell Mattinson of The Wine Front who expressed his keen anticipation of these 2007 releases. But surely the Geelong climate is all wrong for shiraz and cabernet sauvignon? Well, only one way to find out... here comes the tasting...

Paradise IV Batesford Shiraz Cabernet 2006, Geelong
$30. There's an earthy funk to this one, with cherry as the major fruit aroma, mingled with faint herby notes. A moderate fruit load, the tannins are on the higher side for a soft shiraz blend. I think this is still a disjointed drink some what, but who knows how this will develop. 88/100.

Paradise IV Chardonnay 2007, Geelong
$40. 14-year old chardonnay vines, affected by the frost that set in during Sept Oct 2006 followed by the lack of rain in summer. 80% of the total crush underwent malolactic fermentation. Matured in 20% new oak barrels where it underwent further malolactic fermentation, and the wine sat on lees sans stirring until it was ready to be bottled. Stored in underground cellar for 1 year before release. Firm but sharpish acidity in this one for me, and I can taste the greenish fruit on the lean palate. This is clearly not my style of chardonnay as I prefer my chardonnays to be open and expressive whilst maintaining a decent fruit load. It's all about balancing the fruit with acidity without having to compromise one for the other. 86-87/100. 

Paradise IV Dardel Shiraz 2006, Geelong
Ok, there's fruit, and there's tannin.. that's about it for me.. 87/100.

Paradise IV Dardel Shiraz 2007, Geelong
$40. The 14-year old vines were heavily cut back at the end of the 2006 vintage, and I think there is a slight improvement, coupled with more selection for this 2007 offering. From vines sited on clay soil on mid-slope, drought has affected the fruit resulting in a small quantity. Whole berry ferment in one tonne open fermenters with 1% viognier to give it some lift. Pressed after 8 days and matured in 40% new oak where it finished malolactic fermentation. Racked twice, stored underground for 10 months prior to release. A darker wine than the 2006, more concentrated in flavours. Doug thinks the 2008 will be even better than the 2007. 88/100.

Paradise IV Chaumont 2007, Geelong
$40. Made from 14-20 year old Cabernet and Cab Franc vines with 6-14 year old shiraz. Cold soaked for 4 days, then fermentation occurred over the following 9 days before pressed off into barrel where malo was completed. Matured in 40% new oak, 30% 1-year oak, rest 2-3 years. The greenish cabernet characteristic is prominent, mellowed out by the Cab Franc. I'm not convinced the shiraz is contributing much significant overall. 88/100.

14th March 2009: Veneto at The Montague
The Montague is one of the most unassuming pub/restaurant establishments in Melbourne where you can indulge in high quality beers, wines and food without the distractions of noisy patrons. Here, you can relax inside reading the Saturday paper over wonderful salty cod balls with aioli or soak up the Sunday sunshine with a nice, crisp beer with friends. This time, I was there for a friend's birthday luncheon, and was taking advantage of the wine-paired lunches that the restaurant side was putting on together with Prince Wine Store. The region of focus was Veneto, the third largest wine producing region in Italy encompassing 30 DOC zones.

The Risotto di Scampi was cooked to near perfection, probably only requiring just a touch longer as most grains had the underdone white core visible. The combination of flavour and texture is vital for risotto, and this was prepared with sufficient stock such that it wasn't dry but not too soggy or sticky either. Yet you could taste the rich flavours from the stock. The sizable prawn was fresh, touch of lime and parsley provided a lift to the typically strong and heavier seafood flavours. Bits of mussel and scampi meat was a balanced addition.
The Pieropan Soave Classico Superiore DOC 2007 is from the DOC of Soave, south east of Verona. 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soava (an ancient native variety). Nice straw colour with a greenish hue, delicate nose with floral notes and a hint of almond. Very nice rich flavours with firm acidity allowed it to hold its own with the seafood risotto, then fade off cleanly. ~$30. 88/100.  

Fegato di vitelli, cipolla scremata e spinaci appassiti (calves liver, creamed onion and wilted spinach) was a very appetising dish with a pan-fried liver that retained a slightly chewy texture, wasn't over-cooked and still had the lovely pink colour in the centre with some red juices. The weighty liver flavours were balanced nicely by the sweet caramelised onion. The bacon with the base of mash and spinach were good accompaniments.

Speri Valpolicella Classico Superiore 'La Roverina' DOC 2006 is a blend of 70% Corvina Veronese, 20% Rondinella, 5% Molinara and 5% other native grapes from a single vineyard. This wine was aged for more than a year post-fermentation. Ruby red, a rich aroma profile with dense berry flavours that carry over to the medium-bodied palate. It doesn't overwhelm which is why it's perfect for calf liver with a rich base sauce. ~$25. 87/100.

The Valpolicella DOC is trying to shake off its infamy for producing overly commercialised lifeless wines. The region has since turned a corner and is on the slow ascension to regaining it's previous lustre. This region is also known for semi-drying racks of grapes before fermentation. The resulting wines are classified as the Recioto di Soave (sweet white made from Garganega), Recioto della Valpolicella (sweet red made from the three local varietals) or most famously, Amarone (with the sugars fermented out of the wine).

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