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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Visit To The USA West Coast

As a wine tour operator and occasional wine writer, over the last 16 years I have visited wineries in NZ, Australia, France, Italy, and just recently the USA. Last month I toured the wine regions of Sonoma California and Portland Oregon, visiting 15 wineries in total.

The huge size of the northern Californian wine business is quite overwhelming with about 800 wineries, and Portland Oregon boasting over 400.
I was advised to avoid the Napa region, in favour of Sonoma in order to avoid the very large commercialised wineries and summer crowds. And I picked Oregon because of its cooler climate wines, especially my favourite red variety, pinot noir. Wines from the USA are regarded as ‘new world’ wines by the vino cognoscenti. That is, their wine industry is relatively young compared to Europe. And similarly to NZ, a culture of regular wine consumption goes back about only about 40 years.
Napa and Sonoma in California are the major USA quality wine regions – famed for chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and zinfandel. Portland Oregon is located further north and more of a cool climate boutique region best known for pinot noir and aromatic varieties.
In Sonoma, we based ourselves in the very hip town of Healdsburg where the summer temperatures soared to 40C on some days. The town square reminds me of Martinborough, and is bustling with restaurants, tasting rooms and high end shopping. The local rural landscape was very dry and brown obviously suited to growing full bodied reds. Portland on the other hand is a large and prosperous city famed for its bohemian lifestyle and foodie culture. With a higher rainfall, Portland is very green and felt much more like home.

Over all, the wines were very impressive – with big, bold chardonnays and reds from Sonoma. Portland’s Willamette Valley boasted some velvety ripe pinot noirs and white varieties such as viognier and pinot gris.
Here’s a few that you can buy locally. Try Herne Bay Cellars or Glengarry.
Geyser Peak Pinot Grigio 2013  $NZ14.99
Bogle Chardonnay 2015 $NZ23.00
Bogle Petite Sirah 2014  $NZ23 .00
Erath Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 $NZ46.99
Mondavi Private Selection Californian Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  $NZ21.00
Geyser Peak Walking Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2013  $NZ18.99
XYZin Californian Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 $NZ11.99
Ravenswood Sonoma County Old Vine Zinfandel 2013 $NZ24.99

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Allan Scott Generations Gewurtztraminer 2016

Just last week I was invited the launch of a new release from the Allan Scott Family Winemakers label – the 2016 Marlborough Gewürztraminer. The Alan Scott winery is owned by founder Allan Scott and his family. Allan was a pioneering  wine grower, planting the first vines in the Marlborough region back in 1973 when he worked as viticulturist for Montana. He subsequently worked for Corbans before starting his own operation.
Wife, Catherine runs the cellar door and also oversee their Twelve Trees Restaurant at the winery. Son Josh (who founded the Moa beer) is wine maker.  Daughters Sara and Victoria are involved in viticulture and marketing, respectively.

On a rainy day, the launch was held in deepest Grey Lynn. Appropriately, the food match was fresh dumplings !

Allan Scott Generations Marlborough Gewürztraminer 2016 $NZ26
Pale green gold in the glass, it has the typical Gewürtz aromas of lychee fruit and Turkish delight.
Swished around in the mouth, it opens up with a just off-dry palate of tinned lychee, perfumey Turkish delight, with added tangy yeast and hint of green herbs. Some time in oak has added extra complexity.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Cristom Wines from Oregon

Cristom Vineyards is a relatively new label, hailing from the Willamette Valley in Oregon USA. Willamette Valley is a USA AVA.
Pardon my TLA (Three Letter Acronym).  AVA = American Viticultural Area. That is, a designated wine growing region within the United States of America and distinguishable by geographic features and boundaries. (Not unlike the French appellation controllé system). Oregon, in general, is famous for its Pinot Noirs and cooler climate grape varieties
Cristom Vineyards is the result of collaboration since 1992, between an engineer, a winemaker and a farmer. Founder Paul Gerrie hired winemaker Steve Doerner and Vineyard Manager Mark Feltz in 1992. Together at the winery since day one, they have consistently produced excellent wines.
Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Oregon USA Viognier 2014 $NZD 40
Sealed with a very smart glass stopper. Fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak, it is pale gold in the glass and smells of poached pear with a whiff of blond tobacco and vanilla. In the mouth it starts with subtlety then broadens out with peach, clover honey, quince and nectarine and then closes with an elegant and lengthy dry palate.

Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Willamette Valley Oregon USA Pinot Noir 2013 $NZD 40
Very much in the Burgundian Pinot Noir style. Translucent and a bit shy in the aromas, but has a whiff of plum, and savoury truffle. Lean and elegant, with mildly astringent tannins and mainly earthy flavours, plus plum, black currant, truffle and dark chocolate.

Cristom Eola-Amity Hills Willamette Valley Oregon USA Pinot Noir 2013 $NZD 65
Definitely a step up from the Mt. Jefferson. Again a translucent garnet red colour. This time a bit more aromatic concentration with spice, white pepper, pot pourri, red fruit compote. In the mouth it opens up silky, fruity and generous with spiced plum, liquorice, and a cocktail of ripe berry fruit.
Stunningly good. Classically nuanced Burgundian style Pinot.

Friday, May 19, 2017

No 1 Family NZ Wines

Number One in Sparklers
Marlborough’s No 1 Family Estate

French-born Champagne-maker Daniel Le Brun launched his wholly family-owned Méthode Traditionelle producing business back in July 1999, using the processes perfected by his Champagne-making family in France over 12 generations. The Marlborough winery has been set up with state-of-the-art processing equipment, imported from the Champagne region. The company is owned by Adele and Daniel Le Brun and their two children Virginie and Remy. And the winery is dedicated solely to the production of Méthode Traditionelle wines. Their aim is to produce Champagne method wines in NZ to rival some of the best from France. I would agree that they have done just that! Here is a sample of the Le Brun portfolio of exceptional wines.

No 1 Family Estate Assemblé Non-Vintage $33
Pale apricot blush colour, fine beaded bubbles.  A traditional blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (60/40) with a minimum 18 months lees aging (i.e. left on yeast residue). A good whiff of carbonic acid (CO2) and a hint of yeasty brioche on the nose. Mouth filling and rich flavours of pear, nougat, Mum’s apple pie and stone fruit with a dry mineral tangy finish.

No 1 Family Estate Cuvee $NZ36
Pale gold and made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. Delicate citrus, yeast and floral aromas. Spent 2 years on yeast lees. Tastes rich and creamy with flavours of blanched almond, nectarine, and a hint of mandarin. Lengthy palate with a dry but not bone-dry finish.

No 1 Family Estate Rosé Non-Vintage $NZ45
Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this is a salmon pink bubbly with aromas of red apple skin, brioche and marzipan. In the mouth, it has a rich and complex palate of cherry/almond, a hint of strawberry and a tangy yeasty mid-palate with a dry, mineral finish.

No 1 Family Estate Cuvee Virginie Non-Vintage $NZ85
Pale gold in the glass, this is an 80/20 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
The grapes were harvested early-mid March 2009. Dedicated to Daniel’s daughter Virginie. It has a lively frothy mousse and is suitably feminine – elegant and delicate. It is bone dry and has a hint of yeasty croissant, with nudges of blanched almond and citrus and a lengthy palate

For local availability – definitely Glengarry, or I highly recommend searching

Phil Parker hosts the BEST NZWINE TOURS EVER !!!!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Foreign Fab Four

It’s always good to step outside the comfort zone of the frequent and familiar wine choices, so this month I’m featuring four very different wines. Two from France, one from Spain and an unexpected treat from Lebanon. We are finally seeing a good range of foreign wines on the shelves of wine stores and in online providers. Affordable non-NZ wines used to be limited to bulk Australian producers who did largely deliver bang for buck, but now larger producers from Europe are able to export good wines at a good price point for the average wine drinker.

Sacha Lichine La Poule Blanche VDF 2015 $22.00
This is a sauvignon blanc from Languedoc, the hot southern region of France formerly an area of mass produced cheap wines. Nowadays they are lifting their game to make wines under the entry level VDF (Vin De France) classification, and often from grapes atypical to the region. This is a dry and mineral take on sauvignon blanc. Not much aroma – just a whiff of minerality and a hint of stone fruit. In the mouth it’s very dry, mineral and flinty with a hint of gooseberry.  Match with oysters.
Availability – Mairangi Bay Fine Wines and online at Vino Fino

Bodegas Franco-Españolas Rioja Bourdon Gran Reserva 2007 $38.00
A garnet red and opaque wine made of Tempranillo, Mazueleo and Graciano.
Aromas of cedar, sherry and black pepper. Gamey and astringent. A complex and elegant wine with flavours of ripe plum, cherry, liquorice and spice with persistent tannins and a dry finish. Only 5,000 cases produced. Not widely available. A good match with a rich venison casserole.

Sacha Lichine Le Coq Rouge VDF 2015 $22.00
From the same producer as La Poule Blanche, a red blend of Grenache and Syrah from the Hérault region, south of France, between Pezenas and Béziers. With aromas of ripe red berries and flavours of cherry, cassis and plum, this is a light bodied fresh and fruity easy drinking red. Match with lighter picnic fare.
Availability – Mairangi Bay Fine Wines and online at Vino Fino

Chateaux Marsyas BQa de Marsyas 2013 $41.40
Hailing from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, one of the few Middle East wine regions, this is a juicy dark ripe red. A cab Sauv/Syrah/Mourverdre blend. Slightly pongy earthy beetroot aromas (but in a good way) lead on to a complex palate of black berry fruit compote, and Christmas cake. The finish is soft and dry. Match with marinated BBQ eye fillet.
Availability – Mairangi Bay Fine Wines.

For local availability – I highly recommend searching

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ten Top New Zealand Whites. Or – what I drank in the holidays

Over the last few months of warmer weather, white wines have dominated our drinking at home.
Here's a lineup of some NZ great whites.

Domain Road Defiance Central Otago Pinot Gris 2016 $20.95
A light and fruity refreshing wine, ideal for warm weather. Smells a bit like lemon squash and nectarines. Best served a tad chilled – maybe 30 min in the fridge. Flavours of Rose’s Lime Juice, with a hint of pineapple, nectarine and juniper.

Soljans Estate Marlborough Riesling 2016 $19.00
This one should please hard-core Riesling fans. Pale gold colour, with aromas of beeswax, honey and nectarine. Crisp and just off-dry, it has flavours of guava, honeysuckle and clover honey with a dry and tangy crisp finish.

Toi Toi Reserve Marlborough Riesling 2014 $22.00
Classic beeswax and citrus aromas and a nice green gold colour in the glass.
Just nudging off-dry at 12% alcohol, in the mouth it’s crisp and fruity with flavours of sultana, mandarin and apricot. Lengthy aftertaste. A great NZ Riesling that has garnered many awards.

Fairhall Downs Single Vineyard Marlborough Pinot Gris 2016 $24
Stone fruit and floral aromas. Opens up in the glass with Nashi pear, nectarine, nice and mouth-fulling with a hint of oak.

Gladstone Vineyard Viognier 2016 $25.00
Hailing from Carterton. Smells like blond tobacco and honey. In the mouth, it’s rich and slightly oily with a good hit of 14% alcohol. Flavours of ripe peach, pineapple, lime and orange peel. Dry lengthy finish.

Matawhero Church House Gisborne Chenin Blanc 2016 $25.00
Fresh, crisp and zingy - this one has aromas of lime and lemon with a hint of nectarine. On the palate, it has crisp mouth-watering acidity and flavours of Nashi pear, lime citrus and honeysuckle.

Ngatarawa Stables Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2016 $16.00
Aromas of toffee apple, lemon zest and lime squash. Easy drinking style. Very creamy palate with ripe pineapple and raw cashew, with a tad of pineapple and a soft acid finish.

Dry River Martinborough Chardonnay 2015 $55.00
A lean, classy and elegant style (imagine … Gwyneth Paltrow in a white designer dress, with an enigmatic smile) similar to Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard premium chard. Smells like hay, clover honey, tonic water and vanilla pod. In the mouth, it is crisp and dry with a lengthy aftertaste. Flavours of quince, fresh cut pineapple, almond nougat and a hint of clover honey.

Domain Road Defiance Central Otago Chardonnay 2015 $28.00
Very classy Chard from Central. On the nose, it’s hazel nuts, stone fruit and citrus. Swished around in the mouth it opens up with crisp fruit, minerality and a dry finish. Flavours of toasty vanilla oak, peach and a hint of herbs.  Dry and lengthy finish.

Pegasus Bay Waipara Gewürztraminer  2016 $28.00
Even as a youngster, this wine has a huge amount of depth and complexity. Aged in old oak barrels and using some Botrytised fruit, it has a gold colour in the glass and aromas of honey and crystallised ginger. In the mouth, it is oily, ripe, rich and mouth-filling. A symphony of canned peach, nectarine, Manuka honey, ginger in syrup, and lemon zest with a surprisingly dry finish.

For local availability – I highly recommend searching

Phil runs the Best Golly Gosh Darned Wine Tours in New Zealand 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A visit to Languedoc-Roussillon

As part of a family trip to Europe last July, we spent a week in stonkingly hot (45C) southern France with three days based in Carcassonne. Venturing out of our air-conditioned Airbnb apartment to take wine tours with a local boutique operator, we covered two local appellations – Corbières and Minervois.
Languedoc-Roussillon for many years was regarded as a bulk producer of cheap and not very good wine. The European ‘wine lake’ phenom of the 1980s was largely due to hyperproduction from this very region. However, things have changed. Modern winemaking techniques have resulted in much better quality wine, and some boutique wineries are stepping away from the hidebound French appellation rules and growing non-traditional varieties such as cabernet sauvignon and pinot noir.

The hot, dry region grows approx 75% red grapes including carignan, grenache, cinsault, mourvèdre, syrah and merlot.  Whites include a number of obscure varieties like clairette, rolle, and picpoul and a few standards such as muscat, viognier and chardonnay.

Languedoc boasts 320 days of sunshine and I can confirm that there is sun - and a lot of it. Most days when we exited the Airbnb we would subconsciously head straight for the shady cool side of the street. Local history is quite fascinating and sadly barbaric. An 11th Century heretical Christian sect known as Cathars flourished and built many churches, and becoming the majority religion in many places in the region. Within a hundred years, they were ruthlessly persecuted and exterminated by the mainstream Catholic church.

Sorry to kill the holiday atmos.  Anyhoo – here we go with some ab fab local wines.

Châteu Tourens Minervois Languedoc-Roussillon 2013  $NZ 16.40
Typically French and a tad rustic, it has slightly dusty aromas with prune and plums. In the mouth it’s plummy, savoury and earthy with soft tannins and hints of rhubarb and liquorice. Medium bodied and soft. Match with mushroom risotto.
Availability – Regional Wines & Spirits Wellington.

Gérard Gertrand Corbières 2013 $NZ 28.00
Robust and chunky red. Smells like cedar, anise and black plums. Tastes like a medium to big tannic red with flavours of plums, Christmas cake, and dark Ghana chocolate. Long finish of savoury spice and tannin.
Availability - Caro’s Wines

Châteu Olliex Romanis Corbières 2014  Purchased in France
A renowned label in the Corbières  appellation, Fab and Bordeaux-like, this is a blend of four local grapes - carignan, grenache, mourvedre, and syrah. Very full, soft, ripe and juicy, it’s a slightly gamey with aromas of leather and savoury spices. Flavours of cassis, black plums, bouquet garni, and roast meat. Dry lengthy finish with fine tannins.  

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland - to Kumeu, Waiheke and Matakana