Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Sep 28, 2016
Vino Fino

From the Tastings: Church Road

Church Road with Chris Scott

First established in 1897 Church Road is one of New Zealand's oldest wineries. The original owner returned to Luxembourg in 1920, leaving the winery in the hands of a 19 year old Tom MacDonald, who later purchased the winery and famously produced the country's first commercial Cabernet Sauvignon in 1949. Through the 1960s and early seventies these wines became bench marks. The 1980s saw the winery shut down, but Montana re-established the winery and 1993 saw the first release of Church Road label wines. Now owned by Pernod Ricard, Church Road is an entirely stand alone operation that is left to focus on producing quality Hawkes Bay wine. With the emergence of the McDonald, Grand Reserve and TOM labels the winery has achieved much notable success.
 
Tonight, wine maker Chris Scott presented us with what can only be described as a very impressive set of wines. Throughout the three ranges and styles there was a common thread of plush full textural wines built to last. Chris is a very thoughtful wine-maker, who has been able to craft what can be considered some of New Zealand's best. Any thoughts of Church Road just being part of a multi-national corporate beast not being able to craft distinctive, exceptional quality wines was very quickly dispelled. As Chris says .. "they are always trying to lift the bar.."
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Church Road with Chris Scott

First established in 1897 Church Road is one of New Zealand's oldest wineries. The original owner returned to Luxembourg in 1920, leaving the winery in the hands of a 19 year old Tom MacDonald, who later purchased the winery and famously produced the country's first commercial Cabernet Sauvignon in 1949. Through the 1960s and early seventies these wines became bench marks. The 1980s saw the winery shut down, but Montana re-established the winery and 1993 saw the first release of Church Road label wines. Now owned by Pernod Ricard, Church Road is an entirely stand alone operation that is left to focus on producing quality Hawkes Bay wine. With the emergence of the McDonald, Grand Reserve and TOM labels the winery has achieved much notable success.
 
Tonight, wine maker Chris Scott presented us with what can only be described as a very impressive set of wines. Throughout the three ranges and styles there was a common thread of plush full textural wines built to last. Chris is a very thoughtful wine-maker, who has been able to craft what can be considered some of New Zealand's best. Any thoughts of Church Road just being part of a multi-national corporate beast not being able to craft distinctive, exceptional quality wines was very quickly dispelled. As Chris says .. "they are always trying to lift the bar.."

Vino Fino

The wines...

Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2013       
The Grand Reserve Range wines are only produced in the very best vintages. This Sauvignon Blanc is inspired by Bordeaux rather than Marlborough. It is made from hand-picked, whole bunch pressed fruit, wild fermented French oak - 22% new and the balance 4 years old. Although quite rich and full this doesn’t try to emulate the smoky ripe tropical fruit styles such as Te Koko, but rather more fine line with a citrus, mineral edge to it.
rrp $39.99   Our Price $31.99

Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2014
Fruit sourced off two vineyards in the Tuki Tuki Valley. One near the coast by the river mouth and the other further up by Te Mata peak. The cool sea breeze moderates the temperatures here. The main vineyard is on dense clay with a hard clay-pan that the roots cannot penetrate and this devigourates the vines. This starts off all funky and smoky then in the glass the fruit emerges - ripe grapefruit, spicy oak, savoury nuttiness with a good acid drive. A big, mouthfilling wine.          
rrp $39.99   Our Price $31.99

TOM Chardonnay 2013
Also from the Tuki Tuki off a parcel of intensively managed very low yielding vines. This is just the 4th release of the TOM Chardonnay. The concentration and density of the wine is impressive. Preserved lemon, a hint of marmalade and toast flavours, but it is the intensity and power of the palate that sets this apart. Only a few bottles still available.
rrp $172.99        Our Price $149.99

McDonald Pinot Gris 2015
Alsace is the model here. A sweeter style (35gms), this is an essence of spiced pear, fruit salad with palate richness and oiliness but enough fine acidity to take it through the palate. This proved to be very popular with the tasters.          
$27.99   $22.99

McDonald Tempranillo 2013
This is the first release of Tempranillo. The fruit is grown in the Redstone Bridge Pa Triangle’ red soils. Tempranillo needs a warm summer which 2013 provided in abundance. This is inky dark in colour and intensity giving an indication of the mouth filling quality and generosity of the wine. Yet without heaviness. It could tend to being slightly syrupy but this is reigned in by nice fine grainy tannins. It tastes and feels like molten black forest chocolate. This is another NZ Tempranillo to benchmark from.        
rrp $34.99  Our Price $26.99

Grand Reserve Syrah 2014  
Just released this 2014 is another example of how good 2014 was for Syrah in the Hawkes Bay.  A very dark colour. The aromas leap out of the glass on this one  along with the plummy fruits there are floral, sweet spice notes. On the palate there is again weight and density with the sweet fruit flavours coming through along with vanilla, then a meaty, savouriness. Very approachable now but I’m sure it will cellar very well.     rrp $48.99   Our Price $36.99

McDonald Merlot 2013
This is everything you expect a Merlot to be, but seldom get. This is a dense solid wine with a beautiful, ‘fluffy’ texture. Dark fruits, plush, savoury, plummy, featherbed tannins. Brilliant.. Says it all..
rrp $34
.99    Our Price $26.99

Grand Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2013  
And so the super yummy reds kept coming. This is a ripe Hawkes Bay style - not even a hint of herbaceous blackcurrant leaf! Chris’ wife aptly describes the aromas and flavours as “Hippy-shock” - sandalwood, cedar, incense, spice, lavender. This is presented on a silky, satiny palate that is then filled by big chalky, grippy tannins. I had the pleasure of enjoying this wine with a beautiful (and expensive) steak at the new Bessies Steak restaurant in St Asaph St - a perfect match.    
rrp $48.99  Our Price $36.99

TOM Cabernet Merlot 2013  
Most of us would have been happy to finish the tasting on the high note of the previous wine, but we were then taken to another level with this TOM. OK, so this is not cheap. There is no doubt that this is a collectors wine, but it is an aspirational wine that firmly places itself amongst the great wines of the world. It is reassuring though that the wine is very,very good and for those lucky enough to be able to put this away, this will be something very special to bring out in years to come. Put it on your Christmas list now .. it comes in a beautiful gift box! Tastes?.. Big, dark, gritty, chewy… this baby needs time. Leave it for 5 years and drink over the next 10+         
rrp $228.99   Our Price $199.99

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
Sep 21, 2016
Vino Fino

From the tastings: Hunters Wines

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Hunters Wines with Jane Hunter and James MacDonald

Planting the first vines in 1979 Hunter's were one of the pioneers of Marlborough wine. They helped establish Sauvignon Blanc in the UK market, changing the face of the New Zealand wine industry forever. Today they are still a family business and whilst the export focus is definitely based around Sauvignon Blanc, other varieties and styles also make their mark.
  
Tonight we started with the two excellent Miru Miru bubbles before moving through the other wines. Hunters had also included from their cellars two 2008 vintage wines for comparison. It was great to see the passion and enthusiasm of the 'next generation' with wine-maker James MacDonald describing the innovation and development occurring at Hunters. These are not run-of-the-mill commercial bulk wines, but all are crafted with attention to detail. The main comment from tasters was how much these wines punch above their modest pricing. 


 

Vino Fino

Hunters Wines with Jane Hunter and James MacDonald

Planting the first vines in 1979 Hunter's were one of the pioneers of Marlborough wine. They helped establish Sauvignon Blanc in the UK market, changing the face of the New Zealand wine industry forever. Today they are still a family business and whilst the export focus is definitely based around Sauvignon Blanc, other varieties and styles also make their mark.
  
Tonight we started with the two excellent Miru Miru bubbles before moving through the other wines. Hunters had also included from their cellars two 2008 vintage wines for comparison. It was great to see the passion and enthusiasm of the 'next generation' with wine-maker James MacDonald describing the innovation and development occurring at Hunters. These are not run-of-the-mill commercial bulk wines, but all are crafted with attention to detail. The main comment from tasters was how much these wines punch above their modest pricing. 


 

Vino Fino

Miru Miru Reserve Brut 2011 
Under the guidance of Tony Jordan (Australasia's bubbly 'guru') Hunters have been producing Methode sparklings since 1995. The name MiruMiru translates to “bubbles” in Maori. Such is the demand that it always exceeds supply and Hunters have had to hold back the release of the Non vintage Miru Miru while they build up enough reserve stock. This is the vintage reserve and it isn't a bad drop to enjoy while you wait! A blend of 65% Pinot Noir and the balance Chardonnay and a 'splash' of Pinot Menieur, aged on lees for 4 years. A very sophisticated sparkling with yeasty, lemon slightly nutty flavours. Fine and pure with excellent bubble persistance  
Gold medal at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships July 2016: Gold NZIWS September 2016: No 1 and 5 Stars WineNZ tasting. 
Special price $34.99

Miru Miru Rosé NV   
Blended from Pinot Noir 55%, Chardonnay 42%, and Pinot Meunier 3%, this traditionally bottle fermented wine is stored on lees for 36 months. A perfect Salmon blush colour this has a real flavour burst - classic strawberries and brioche with freshness and depth. Gold medal NZIWS and 5 Stars Bob Campbell                     
Special price $36.99

Hunters Sauvignon Blanc 2015 
The wine that started it all for Hunters internationally. 1982 was the first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc for Hunters and in 1986 they turned heads in the UK with the 1985 vintage and 30 years on is still winning fans both here and internationally. This is made for the international market with texture over powerful aromatics. It is bone dry, sourced from several plains vineyards for a flavour mix and complexity and made to age well (5 years+). Quite a fine style that starts off gentle and then expands through the palate.                   
Special price $13.99

Hunters Riesling 2016   
Like the Sauvignon Blanc this is also produced as a dry style. Flavours of grapefruit and mandarin pith then a hint of firm but ripe apricot.   
Special price $13.99

Hunters Riesling 2008 (Cellar Stock) 
At 8 years old this is remarkably fresh. A lemon, pale gold colour with no hint of aged turpentine. Someone described the flavour as being like "quench' cordial                       

Hunters Pinot Gris 2016
James aptly describes Pinot Gris as being an introverted variety and so much has to considered from a wine making perspective to build flavour and texture. To give freshness there is an early pick then later picked fruit adds richness. Using only free run juice to avoid any bitter phenolic and fermented to dryness of 3.3 gms rs with quite a portion wild yeast fermented in older oak. Although quite youthful this already shows an extra depth to others. Flavours of tropical fruits and red apples and a juicy texture.            
Special price $13.99

Hunters Chardonnay 2015 
From low cropping Mendoza clone vines off Jane's own vineyard. This is given the winemaking treatment you expect from premium labels - 100% barrel fermentation, some wild yeast fermented; Aged in 15% new; 85% 2-4 year old French oak barrels; 15% malolactic fermentation for 10 months. The ripe citrus flavours are complemented with subtle nutty, spiced flavours. Not too in your face, this is a very drinkable enjoyable and importantly very affordable Chardonnay that is perfect for those "I feel like a Chardonnay" moments.    
Special price $14.99

Hunters Pinot Noir 2013 
Whilst it has to be said that most people wouldn't have high expectations of a Hunters Pinot Noir, the two Pinot Noirs pleasantly surprised! A good medium Burgundy colour, with plum, tea leaf, spice flavours on a medium bodied palate.               
Special price $24.99

Hunters Pinot Noir 2008 (Cellar Stock)                  
Now this really suprised us all on how well it has aged. Nicely developed with mellow secondary flavours, yet still quite fresh. Medium bodied this was quite delicious. Not overly complex but quite complete.

Hunters Hukapapa Dessert Riesling 2014 375ml 
Hukapapa is Maori for ice/frost. This wine is made from freeze concentrated late harvest fruit with only a small portion botrytis affected. The result is a wine with concentrated flavours, sweetness (around 100gms) but freshness. 
Special price $20.99

Wednesday, September 14, 2016
Sep 14, 2016
Vino Fino

From the Tastings: Giesen with Roscoe Johanson

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The three Giesen brothers - Theo, Alex and Marcel have taken Giesen wines from the small Burnham (Canterbury) based winery of the 1980s to being one of New Zealand's largest family owned companies. In the 1990s Marlborough became home for the vineyards and their Estate Sauvignon Blanc has achieved huge international success (it continues to be one of the Top sellers in Australia). More recently there has been a move into the quality end of the market with the establishment of the Brothers label and the Single Vineyard range. Produced under the guidance of Marcel Giesen along with new chief wine-maker Nikolai St George, much investment has been made in both vineyards and winemaking to create icon wines. The results have been remarkable and as this tasting showed, Giesens can be regarded as not only one of the major producers of Marlborough, but also one of top quality.  
 
Hosted by Global marketing manager Roscoe Johanson, tonight's tasting compared some the different styles of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir including the value plus Brothers Range.  


 

Vino Fino

The three Giesen brothers - Theo, Alex and Marcel have taken Giesen wines from the small Burnham (Canterbury) based winery of the 1980s to being one of New Zealand's largest family owned companies. In the 1990s Marlborough became home for the vineyards and their Estate Sauvignon Blanc has achieved huge international success (it continues to be one of the Top sellers in Australia). More recently there has been a move into the quality end of the market with the establishment of the Brothers label and the Single Vineyard range. Produced under the guidance of Marcel Giesen along with new chief wine-maker Nikolai St George, much investment has been made in both vineyards and winemaking to create icon wines. The results have been remarkable and as this tasting showed, Giesens can be regarded as not only one of the major producers of Marlborough, but also one of top quality.  
 
Hosted by Global marketing manager Roscoe Johanson, tonight's tasting compared some the different styles of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir including the value plus Brothers Range.  


 

Vino Fino

Giesen Vineyard Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Sauvignon Blanc is of course the mainstay of Giesen wines and the initial reason why they shifted their vineyards sites to Marlborough. With 8 labels available in the NZ market there is plenty of diversity. This is a Vineyard selection from around 15 different vineyards, all fermented separately then blended. A well balanced, easy going style with fresh herb, and some tropical notes. Not complicated and a perfect starter. Silver medal IWC 2016.
Retail $20.99 Special $13.99
 
Giesen The Brothers Sauvignon Blanc 2014
The Brothers Sauvignon Blanc is about vintage expression. All free run juice and left on lees after fermentation. There is also an addition of a barrel ferment component that also makes up the August. In addition to the big burst of aroma and flavour, this also has quite a textural element with lovely mouthfeel and finish. 
Retail $29.99 Special $19.99
 
Giesen August 1888 Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Named in honour of the brother's grandfather, August who was a restaurateur and sommelier in Germany. The style was developed so that Giesens could show that "​Sauvignon Blanc could make complex, ‘serious’ multi-dimensional wines'. In a departure from the usual natural fermentation using winery yeasts, Marcel 
Giesen was one of the first in NZ to use the indigenous yeasts in the vineyard to start a fermentation.​Hand-picked fruit from two selected, very low yielding plots on the Mathews Lane and Dillon Point vineyards and whole bunch pressed into a mix of new and older barriques as well as larger fuder barrels for natural fermantation and lees aging for around 11 months. This is quite a special, unique wine that changes expectations of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and adds to the growing diversity of "alternative Sauvignon Blanc". Tropical, pineapple, peach fruits with a hint of creme caramel. The texture is silky and seamless. Voted as the second favourite wine of the night.
Retail $41.99 Special $36.99
 
Giesen Fuder Dillons Point Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Dillons Point located East of Blenheim, is a sub region of Marlborough that is known for giving big aromatic Sauvignons. Naturally fermented, this wine is aged in a mix of older and new big 1000l oak Fuders.  This shows a bit more smokey funk than the August with a drier, fine mineral streak. The aromatics have been toned down a bit, but this is still a very powerful wine.
Retail $42.99 Special $37.99
 
Giesen The Brothers Chardonnay 2014
 There is no doubt that this wine hits the sweet spot for Chardonnay lovers. The fruit is selected from 9 different vineyards around the Southern Valleys. Mainly Mendoza clone fruit with the mainly naturally fermented wine aged in 500l French oak puncheons (78% new) with the balance (34%) in German oak Fuders. There is a bit of smokiness but more about golden fruits and ripe grapefruit and hints of meal and spice. 
Retail $33.99 Special $19.99
 
Giesen The Fuder Clayvin Chardonnay 2013
Now owned by Giesens, the Organic Clayvin Vineyard holds a special place in Marlborough winegrowing. The Chardonnay grapes are now 19 years old and intensively managed for low yields. At picking time it is almost berry selection with around 40 passes of hand-picking and the fruit hand sorted on the vineyard before going to the winery with 11 months in the Fuder, going through full malo-lactic. This is a wine of extraordinary quality and character and it is no wonder it has received world press accolades. We were able to get more of this wine in for the tasting and have only a few bottles left.
Retail $56.99 Special $52.99
 
Giesen The Fuder Clayvin Chardonnay 2014
An interesting contrast. More restrained than the 2013 and more 'fleshy' and seems to be more of a sleeper than the 2013 but just as good. The Clayvin Chardonnays rank as some of New Zealand's best.
Retail $56.99 Special $52.99
 
Giesen The Brothers Pinot Noir 2013
This is from 8 vineyards in the Southern Valleys and one special block on the plains. Interestingly Giesen Pinot Noirs are barrel selected and declassified from the top down, and so portions of this wine were originally destined for the Fuder wines. A medium plum hue this shows smoky cocoa, dark fruits and nicely layered with earthy underbrush and spice. It's fleshy with great length and creamy tannins​. Excellent buying.
Retail $36.99 Special $19.99
 
Giesen Clayvin Pinot Noir 2013
Along with Chardonnay, the Clayvin vineyard is also the source of outstanding Pinot Noir. This shows quite a floral aspect with plum, spice, chalky tannins and good palate presence. Easily a 5 star wine
Retail $58.99 Special $52.99
 
Giesen Ridge Point Pinot Noir 2013
 This vineyard sits just below the Marlborough Ridge sub-division on the clay slopes. Like Clayvin this too is a high density planted, organic vineyard.A bit more savoury than the Clayvin. This has 26% whole bunch and 42% new French oak - there is plenty of structure here but retains quite a silken texture. This too is easily a 5 star wine.
Retail $58.99 Special $52.99

Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Sep 07, 2016
Vino Fino

From the tastings: Nautilus Estate with Clive Jones

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Nautilus Estate was established in Marlborough in 1985 and is still owned by the Hill-Smith family (Yalumba etc.) From the original focus on Sauvignon Blanc, they now produce a diversity of styles and varieties as this tasting highlighted. Presented by Clive Jones, head winemaker, who joined Nautilus in 1998. Clive has overseen the continual refinement of Sauvignon Blanc and Methode bubblies as well as developing the Pinot Noir programme, Chardonnay and newer varieties.
 
Tonight we tasted through the current range including the brand new Paper Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc and two single estate Pinot Noirs.


 

Vino Fino

Nautilus Estate was established in Marlborough in 1985 and is still owned by the Hill-Smith family (Yalumba etc.) From the original focus on Sauvignon Blanc, they now produce a diversity of styles and varieties as this tasting highlighted. Presented by Clive Jones, head winemaker, who joined Nautilus in 1998. Clive has overseen the continual refinement of Sauvignon Blanc and Methode bubblies as well as developing the Pinot Noir programme, Chardonnay and newer varieties.
 
Tonight we tasted through the current range including the brand new Paper Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc and two single estate Pinot Noirs.


 

Vino Fino

Nautilus Cuvee NV
Regarded by many as New Zealand's best bubbly. Pinot Noir dominant, from two vineyards. Methode traditionelle aged for  3 years on lees before disgorging. Nautilus follow the practice adopted by Bollinger where the date of disgorgement is put on the label. A lovely fine bead with Champagne-like breadiness. Very good persistence on the palate. Excellent.               
Retail $43.99       Special $32.99
 
Nautilus Vintage Rose 2013

Only the second vintage of this Pinot Noir Rose. Salmon pink colour with strawberry and brioche flavours. Again the finesse of the Nautilus style coes through. Only a tiny amount of this wine was produced.                 
Retail $49.99       Special $37.99
 
Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2015   
The 30th vintage! Nautilus have developed a style that prefers elegance over immediate impact. This is a wine that has a finessed balance between the green herbaceous flavours and the more riper end of the spectrum. A fine seasoning of flavours - herbs, citrus, mineral, elderflower. An elegant wine that has proven ability to age very well. 
Retail $25.99       Special $16.99
 
The Paper Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc 2015             
The inaugural release of an 'alternative' style of Sauvignon Blanc. From a single vineyard, hand harvested fruit is given a warmer ferment, aged in large, older oak with no malo-lactic. The result is a wine with subtlety (there are no funky characters) and great textural mineral/saline quality.  
Retail $35.99       Special $31.99
 
Nautilus Pinot Gris 2015
Nautilus have developed quite a reputation for their Pinot Gris taking it away from the light, innocuous styles to something quite a bit more intense. This is a dry (2.5gms rs), rich style - very Alsatian, with spice, golden fruit flavours and quite an unctuous core.
Retail $31.99       Special $22.99
 
Nautilus Chardonnay 2015           
A very impressive wine. Nautilus have been focusing plenty of attention on Chardonnay in recent years with excellent results. Indigenous fermentation in barrels (20% new) on full solids. A portion of the barrels are stopped from going through malo-lactic to preserve freshness. The wine is again in the Nautilus style fine and nuanced. There is only a hint of smokey sulphidic compounds. There are stonefruit, hazelnut, citrus notes and a mouthful of deliciousness. It was voted as the wine of the night .  
Retail $36.99       Special $25.99
 
Opawa Rose 2016            
An inaugural release from the Opawa label, an off-shoot of Nautilus. 100% Pinot Noir this has a pale  pink colour with a real strawberries and cream flavour. Served as a bridge between the whites and Pinot Noirs, this got a bit lost in the powerful wines surrounding it. We should have served it as a refreshing, flavoursome starter. 
Retail $20.99       Special $16.99
 
Nautilus Southern Valleys Pinot Noir 2014               
Replacing the formerly named Estate this is, as the name suggests, now from the clay based vineyards of Marlborough's Southern Valleys. Nautilus have put a lot of resource into producing quality Pinot Noir, to the extent of purpose building a Pinot Noir winery. This is a translucent plum/ruby coloured wine with red fruit, cherry/truffle, slightly savoury dried herb flavours finishing with very fine tannins. 
Retail $43.99       Special $32.99

Nautilus Awatere River Pinot Noir 2014  
A Single Vineyard wine from Nautilus' Awatere vineyard located in the higher reaches of the valley. The Pinot Noir vines were planted here in 1999 and here the vines tend to struggle more resulting in smaller berries with thicker skins - more flavour concentration and higher tannins. This shows bright, spicy, floral red fruit flavours and very good length. As Clive explained, this is his "Gibbston Valley". A fine, expressive, mineral style. I must note that this wine evolved beautifully over three days when I tried it at home.    
Retail $69.99       Special $61.99
 
Nautilus Clay Hills Pinot Noir 2014            
A great illustration of the difference between the flavours obtained from the glacial gravels of the Awatere vineyard and the clay based solis of the Clay Hills vineyard. This shows powerful, darker ripe fruit flavours and a silky, fleshy texture. More immediately appealing than the wine above, but not as finessed. Two very expressive and excellent Pinot Noirs that add to the list of very high quality Pinot Noirs in Marlborough.     
Retail $69.99       Special $61.99