Spitbucket Sessions Vol 9: Kiwi Reds that ain’t Pinot, part 1: Hawkes Bay

16 02 2011

This Spitbucket theme came about after a chat with Monty James – New Zealand wine’s main man in Australia. We’d already decided to focus on non-Pinot Kiwi reds for a change after having successfully covered Pinot before. So that left world-class Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet from the North Island. “How about a two part tasting? Hawkes Bay up first, compared with Waiheke Island which I’ll help to host next time I’m up?”

Sounded like a PLAN to me…so here we are…

Pair 1: Hawke’s Bay Syrah
Villa Maria Private Bin Syrah 2008 (@villamaria_wine)
Elephant Hill Reserve Syrah 2008 (@elephanthill)

Pair 2: Gimblett Gravels Syrah
Mission Estate Reserve Syrah 2009 (@missionestate)
Te Awa Syrah 2009 (@teawawinery)

Pair 3: Merlot
Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot 2009 (@villamaria_wine)
Elephant Hill Merlot 2007 (@elephanthill)

Pair 4: Left Bank Style Bordeaux Blends
Mission Estate Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2009 (@missionestate)
Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec Blend 2006 (@forestwinesNZ)

Pair 5: Right Bank Style Bordeaux Blends
Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red (Merlot Malbec blend) 2008 (@TheWildRockGuy)
Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2007

(Aerial shot of the Gimblett Gravels, top, with close up below, both courtesy of Trinity Hill)

The tasting is full up now unfortunately, but you can still get your fix of great New Zealand wines and awesome Coast food when the winemakers come to town in a week or two. Chef, Adam Lord, will be matching his dishes to a range of wines from the length and the breadth of the North and South Islands. More details here.


Kiwi Pinot Noir: the verdict

10 10 2010


Well it was a joyous evening of fantastic Pinot Noir. Everywhere you looked there was a trophy winning wine or a “Top 10…” in such-and-such magazine. The reality is there there weren’t any stinkers at all, which reflects equally on the quality of Kiwi Pinot now and also the generosity of some great wineries out there. Here are some of my very brief notes. Trying to compere and taste wines and write notes and look cool all at once was almost beyond me… 

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2009: Gravel and cherries, smoky hint too. Light red fruit is ripe. Very approachable.

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008: A lot more funky and complex on the nose. Mushrooms in amongst the red fruit. Velvety texture and long. Still just a baby.

Trinity Hills High Country Pinot Noir 2007: Intense funky nose with tomato leaf, black olives and ragu! Quite chunky and rich, but not subtle.

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008:  A highlight for me. Really fragrant and delicate. Complex, sappy, peppery and raspberry notes. Elegant. Feels complete and beautifully balanced.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2008: Bright red fruit and bags of juiciness with hints of peppery spice. Finish is medium length.

Neudorf Pinot Noir Tommy’s Block Pinot Noir 2008: Subtle, understated and elegant with sappy and earthy characters. Savoury. Lovely mouthfeel and decent length.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctor’s Creek Pinot Noir 2008: Pure Pinot nose, balance of red fruit, raspberry and savoury. Also a creamy element too. Tight with a sour cherry note on finish.

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 16 Awatere Pinot Noir 2008: More open and expansive than the Block 14. Another well ballanced, refreshing Pinot with delicate red fruit and just a hint of funk. 

Wither Hills Wairau Valley Pinot Noir 2008: One of the richer Pinots with dark fruit as well as red. Silky palate wrapped around intense fruit and savoury core. Good, long finish.

Wither Hills Ben Morven Pinot Noir 2007: Some doofus left this sample at home by mistake. He has been severely reprimanded.

Greystone Pinot Noir 2008: Really earthy, interesting nose with ferrous hints (yes I did get pulled up on using such a wanky word!). Complex with tight, cherry fruit on the finish. 

Greystone Pinot Noir 2009: Richer, riper and more open than the 2008. Loads more juice and hold the mineral. Still tasty but preferred the ’08.

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2009: Great for a long lunch. Sweet red fruit up front and suitably refreshing. Not overly complex.

Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2008: As you’d expect feels a more serious proposition. Worlds apart in terms of complexity, class and length. Tonnes going on here, with darker fruit, bitter hints and lots of secondary characters. Deep like @mikerism101.

At the last moment, we were joined by the gang from Misha’s Vineyard, who proffered their approachable Impromptu Pinot and their more serious High Note Pinot, both from Central Otago. I’m afraid my notes had run out of steam by this point, so you can find out more about these wines here – http://www.mishasvineyard.com/

And notes to selves…in future we’re going to limit the tastings to 10 wines. This one went on a leeetle beeet too long. Hasta la proxima folks. Remember if you’d like to attend a Spitbucket Session then you just need to tweet @coastrestaurant.

(The beautiful view from the Coast #rooftopbar)

(The Gang)

Spitbucket Sessions Vol. 2: Kiwi Pinot

27 09 2010

(Wither Hills Chief Winemaker, Ben Glover, surfs the wave of Kiwi success)

After the first successful foray into the Spitbucket with Semillon, it’s time to get some reds on the go before the Sydney Summer goes nuclear and we’re all begging for white wine, bubbly and ice pops again. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is still the single biggest growth driver for wine in Australia. It’s the fastest growing grape, the fastest growing sector of imported wine and takes out the top 8 spots for Sauvignon Blanc brands by value in Australia. But do I really want to taste 12 in a row? If i’m honest…not really (tho prepared to be proven wrong!). Pinot Noir is where New Zealand’s fine wine reputation rests and there a hundreds of mad bastards there trying to squeeze the best out of this most capricious of grapes.

The French have had hundreds of years of practice in Burgundy, but New Zealand winemakers are an impatient lot and they’re trying to catch up as fast as they possibly can. There’s no doubt that nature has been kind to New Zealand and its love of this grape, but there are a lot of stylistic questions being struggled with at the moment. There is ethereal, elegant Pinot and then there is big, gutsy Pinot (or “Shiraz in Drag” as suggested by @iloveriesling). As New Zealand’s prime Pinot regions establish identities and winemaking practices to go with them, now is as good a time as any to get to the very core of what New Zealand Pinot Noir is all about.

That and…well…it tastes that bloody good frankly. Especially with the line-up we’ll be showing…

The Full Line-up of Wines (order may change)

Martinborough Vineyard Te Tera Pinot Noir 2009

Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Trinity Hills High Country Pinot Noir 2007

Neudorf Pinot Noir (wine TBC – I know, we’re living on the edge…)

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2008

Craggy Range Te Muna Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2008

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 14 Doctor’s Creek Pinot Noir 2008

Saint Clair Pioneer Block 16 Awatere Pinot Noir 2008

Wither Hills Wairau Valley Pinot Noir 2008

Wither Hills Ben Morven Pinot Noir 2007

Greystone Pinot Noir 2008

Greystone Pinot Noir 2009

Mount Difficulty Roaring Meg Pinot Noir 2009

Mount Difficulty Pinot Noir 2008

With a bit of luck some of the winemakers will be joining in from across the Tasman. To chat to the winemakers live during the tasting make sure you’re following them in advance:



@WitherHillsWine and @maxatwhills



Date: Wed 6th October

Time: 6.30, for prompt 6.45pm start

Location: The beautiful Coast Roof Top Bar – see full details here

Book: Tweet @coastrestaurant to reserve one of the 20 spaces

Cost: Zip