WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020 – Part 1 Auckland Region, Mangere

Villa Maria Estate was founded by George Fistonich, now Sir George, in the 1960’s and is still family run. They have extensive holdings in Auckland, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. The 40 hectare site sits on an extinct volcano, the crater creating a natural amphitheatre. They hold summer concerts, past performers include Simply Red, Radiohead, Rona Keating, Simple Minds, Tom Jones. In March Aha and Rik Astley are booked, a great excuse to prolong my stay!

We were guided through their wines by winemaker David Roper in their aged cellar. Categories of wine start with Private Bin, then Cellar selection, Platinum (recently introduced) and their best wines are the Reserve selection.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Nice texture not in your face Sauvignon, David explained this was a warm year thus the added roundness to the fruit.
More subtle gooseberry, passion fruit, classic Marlborough, flagship seller (1 million cases)
Villa Maria Reserve Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2019
Sl smokiness really smooth texture
More texture, passion fruit stone fruit herbaceous about 6 months lees ageing real  smoothness excellent wine ++
Quantity only 6000 to 10000 cases
Villa Maria Private Pinot Gris 2019
 Pear drop, blend of fruit north and south Island, ripe pears guava
Nice texture too 5 g residual. A nice example of NZ Pinot Gris
Villa Maria Private Bin Chardonnay 2018
Blend of both islands more fruit from North Hawkes Bay and Gisbourne
toast, smoke, some Malo oak from addition can be staves/chips/dust
17,000 cases
Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2018
Simple red cherryfruit Pinot not much length or finish neutral barrels
Villa Maria Cellar sélection Pinot Noir 2018
More smoke earthiness savouriness oak
Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2018
Lots of fruit black and red and plums and smokiness soft mellow tannins food friendly Merlot dominated
85% rule re labelling
Villa Maria Reserve Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Perfumed violets floral ripe black fruit concentrated black fruit
Really ripe and lovely texture

 

I was really impressed by Villa Maria’s quality and consistency and price range. The 2019’s have only recently been bottled but were drinking beautifully.

We had a lovely lunch in their restaurant outside, overlooking the vines and tried a few more wines, including their excellent Albarino which had a distinctive saltiness. Then a walk in the Albarino vines with David Roper who had managed to put up with our company for 3 hours.


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New Zealand Wine Tour January 2020 – Part 1 Auckland Region – Kumeu

 

A Seat at the Table?

This is the title of the excellent, recently released film poses the question –  Has New Zealand earned a seat at the table  as a maker of the worlds best wines?

I think so, but I am biased. I’ve loved everything about New Zealand since I worked as a Junior Doctor here, at the Wairau Hospital in Marlborough a quarter of a century ago. It was then a fledgling region with most of the land in the Wairau and Awatere valley bare and full of sheep. How I wish I’d bought a few acres! A lot has changed since then with New Zealand showing itself as a world class producer of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay not just a mass producer of its most widely planted grape Sauvignon Blanc.

I had decided to take a sabbatical from work and what better place to be than in  New Zealand for Summer. My tour will span major regions in North Island, starting in Auckland, then to Northland, Hawkes Bay and ending up in Waiheke Island. I plan to review my favourite wines and give an up to date picture of the latest trends in the New Zealand wine industry.

Kumeu River Wines

 

The quality of Kumeu River Chardonnay is well know and I’ve been buying it for years from the wine society. The blind tasting in 2015  arranged by Stephen Browett of Farr Vintners in London confirmed their excellence when they scored higher than famed Burgundies.
This was one of the visits I was most looking forward to in New Zealand. The estate is close to Auckland city which is causing problems.
Paul Brajkovich our host for the afternoon explained that many local vineyards which used to supply fruit have been sold for property development from the encroaching city.
He talked us through the family history and how his grandfather escaping conscription into the army (Croatia was part of the Austro Hungarian empire) arrived in New Zealand in the early 1900s and starting planting grapes on this site.
We were lucky enough to be joined at the tasting by Paul’s brother Michael Brajkovich MW,New Zealand’s first Master of Wine and briefly met Melba the late Matés wife.
We tried the whole range of 2018 wines and a few treats to follow.
I was too busy speaking to Paul and Michael to make  tasting notes on all the wines. They were all of excellent quality, as Suzi demonstrated, they were too good to spit!
Kumeu River Estate Pinot Gris 2018
I really liked the texture here lovely textured mouthfeel with aromatics, florality and stone fruit.
Kumeu River Estate Chardonnay 2018
Well balanced citrus, stone fruit silky texture, consistently good and very good value
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2018
More complexity with hint of florality citrus and stone fruit lovely texture and length too
 
Kumeu Village Pinot Noir 2019
This is the first vintage from Rays Road Hawkes Bay fruit
Lovely bright red cherry aromas red fruit on the palate nicely balanced
A very good value Pinot
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Pinot noir 2017
Classic Pinot nose with earth and gaminess but still some red fruits good length and mouthfeel
 
Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2103
This showed ageing potential of these wines after 7 years still plenty of citrus and freshness with added complexity and hazelnuts
The attention to detail and low intervention with techniques such as  hand harvesting, whole bunch pressing, barrel fermentation use of wild yeast, gentle racking and oak ageing really shines through and there is no doubt these wines are every bit as good as top Burgundy.


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Wines of Vidal, New Zealand with Hugh Crichton. Friday October 7th 7.30pm

Vidal wines, bottle and design details

Vidal Wines of Hawkes Bay was founded over 100 years ago .

They produce pure varietal wines which New Zealand is famed for.We tasted

Vidal Estate Chardonnay 2014

Reserve Chardonnay 2015

Legacy Chardonnay 2014

Estate Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Reserve Syrah 2013

Legacy Syrah 2011

Menu
Wild mushroom risotto
Sirloin steak, Padron peppers, hand cut chips, peppercorn sauce
Selection of cheese from The Cheese Plate (with quince jelly)

Hugh Crichton , (Vidal’s head winemaker since 2006 who has previously worked at Chateau Soutard Grand Cru Classe in St Emillion and Donnafugata in Italy) had us all totally captivated , his passion clear for all to see . The quality of the wines shone through.

Wine of the night

Legacy Chardonnay 2014 -This is right up there with top Premier Cru Burgundy and has the awards to show for it.

Complex , toasty, smoky, beautiful crisp acidity with a long finish and lush mouthfeel .

 


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Nigel Greening of Felton Road in conversation

Ahead of our Felton Road tasting at Season Kitchen earlier this week owner and producer Nigel Greening shared his story and thoughts on past and current vintages.

Nigel recounts how he went from wine enthusiast to owner and producer of some of the worlds finest wines.

The million dollar question: the secret of Felton Road’s success:

Nigel’s thoughts on the 2014 vintage:

Built for the long haul some of Nigel’s favourite older vintages:


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Felton Road, Block 2 Chardonnay 2013, Cental Otago, New Zealand

RIMG0146 We were lucky enough to be served this last night by Nigel Greening himself at our

Wine dinner at Season Kitchen.

Matched brilliantly by Ben the chef from Hebden Bridge with a duo

of fresh Cornish Sardine and salted cod Brandade with sourdough.

A simply stunning wine , beautifully balanced long , crisp mineral with citrus and tangerine

Wish there was more of it !

If you’re lucky try Berry Bros


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Saint Clair Pioneer Block Pinot Noir 2012 Marlborough , New Zealand

 

St Clair PinotThis delightful Pinot is a no brainer for our wine of the month and a fitting celebration for May day.

Made from small parcels of outstanding fruit from the fittingly named Doctor’s Creek Vineyard , Block 14.

Medium Ruby, pronounced aromas of red summer fruits with much more complex notes of game, wet fur,earth,  toast and a wonderfully perfumed floral note with warm spices including nutmeg textured by a buttery nose and texture.

Develops more complexity after an hour or so with a savoury meatiness which would complement new season lamb but this is such a fine wine it would go with almost anything .

I’ll be popping down today to get a case .

 

Available £22 or £17 for 2 at http://www.majestic.co.uk


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New Zealand Wine Annual Tasting 2015

A tricky tasting with many wines appearing closed, a root day or are New Zealand’s maturing vines beginning to produce wines that behave just as capriciously in their youth as the best of the old world?

New Zealand undoubtedly produces some of the worlds premium wines and what makes this all the more extraordinary is that it does so from relatively young vines and in the context of a fair bit of climatic variation from year to year. At a tasting 18 months ago to celebrate 10 years of Craggy Range Te Muna pinot noir Steve Smith MW was confident that after a decade the vines were beginning to show their full character. So in theory the wines should just get better and better, no pressure then!

With 474 wines from 103 producers on show and only an hour and a half window I therefore thought the best thing to do was focus on a few old favourites to see how they were developing and what the current vintages are like.

Felton Road Central Otago

Felton Road Elms Chardonnay 2013.
Crisp citrus, ripe pear, lovely texture, this wine has substance but also great freshness & good length. Delicious & great value. (No oak but aged in old barrels to soften and round it out).

Felton Road Chardonnay Bannockburn 2013.
A captivating succession of citrus, lemon & lime, stoney mineral notes, a whiff of white flowers and just a hint of bakery and toast. Great complexity and length, at whole lot of wine for the price. (Again more Chablis than Cote d’Or with only 8% new wood).

Felton Road Block 2 Chardonnay 2013.
My notes read: ‘OMG this is fantastic!’ so it was pretty good. Again citrus, ripe green apples, a good lick of minerals, very intense at this stage with great balance and long lingering finish. Thrilling and with plenty of ageing potential. Grand Cru in terms of quality, Nigel Greening founder of Felton Road believes that whilst NZ pinots are already internationally recognised the Chardonnays are now ready to sit at the top table too.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Bannockburn 2013.
This wine strikes a great balance between forward tasty ripe fruit and a nice vegital backbone, finishing with lashings of spice and wood. Reliably delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Cornish Point 2013.
True to this vineyard’s character this wine is spicy, seductive and forward. Ripe red fruits, cake spices and a lush mouth feel, nice long finish. I always wonder how this will age, having started out so delicious.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Calvert 2013.
Again the consistent character of this vineyard comes through, quite distinct from the Cornish Point, although the clones and vinification are exactly the same. More compact with great balance, clean fruit, perfume with a nice savoury core and great length. Fantastic. One to tuck away for a few years and great value when compared with premier cru Burgundy.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3 2013.
A lovely delicate balance of confected strawberry, cinnamon spice, real depth and complexity & great freshness and length.

Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5 2013.
This has an earthy, meaty nose with ripe black cherry, intense and primary, fuller bodied with a caressing mouth feel and just enough freshness to lift the very long finish. Amazing.

Craggy Range

Craggy Range Avery Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough. 2014
A great fresh gooseberry driven SB with a touch of elderflower and cracking acidity.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Martinborough.
2014.

This has more substance, stone fruit and a nice creaminess, but still all the crisp freshness that you would hope for, very satisfying.

Craggy Range Chardonnay Kidnappers Vineyard. Hawke’s Bay 2012.
Vibrant ripe citrus, touch of honey and a lovely saline whiff of the sea shore. Great balance and freshness, the tiny touch of oak very subtle.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2012.
This seemed a little closed down and I have noticed that although they start open and inviting MZ some PNs seem to close down and become more reticent after a couple of years. Red fruit and a vegital base, good balance and nice finish. This is normally a real crowd pleaser with pure fruit and a heady floral perfume as evidenced by our 10 year tasting finishing with the 2011 two years ago.

Craggy Range Pinot Noir Aroha Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough. 2011.
A selection from the finest parcels with some whole bunch fermentation. Quite primal with earthy, vegital with black cherries wood and smoke, you can almost taste the stalk tannin which may need a bit of time to fully integrate. Again quite closed but with plenty of substance.

Craggy Range Syrah Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Black and white pepper, tight black fruit, quite austere at the moment , medium body with good balance, will hopefully fill out with time.

Craggy Range ‘ Le Sol’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Again quite closed overall but clearly an intense wine with a deep core of black fruit, black pepper and toast. Great balance and long length.

Craggy Range ‘Sophia’ Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay. 2011.
Gorgeous polished nose, perfumed wood polish, ripe blackberries, medium body, fine tannins, silky mouth feel and good length. Delicious.

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