Seifried Nelson Riesling Ice Wine 2006

Saw this on the supermarket shelf the other day and it piqued my interest, both because it’s a dessert wine made of Riesling and it’s (ostensibly) an ice wine too. The Seifried website says this wine is made “in the style” of an ice wine, and that the grapes are pressed frozen (whether on the vine or not – the site isn’t specific).
Although this wine is under screwcap, I swear there’s a slightly corky flavour on the nose that hasn’t blown off with swirling. It’s the same slightly musty note one sometimes observes in aged Rieslings and Semillons – quite attractive actually, but unexpected in this wine. It’s otherwise a lovely, if subtle, nose of intense, musky florals and sweet candied fruit. The palate is strikingly sweet from the very first moments of the entry onwards, and shows a flavour profile approaching delicate marmalade. Good complexity and, in spite of the level of sweetness, quite a linear structure, owing to well balanced acidity. So, it’s a sweet wine, to be sipped rather than gulped, but it’s not broad or sloppy in the least. The after palate tapers off gently, towards a delicate finish of good length.
I enjoyed this wine very much, and would probably choose to serve it with a dessert of equal intensity, perhaps with both in small quantities. A big experience in miniature, as it were.
Seifried EstatePrice: $NZ25 (375ml)Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Bears' Lair California Merlot 2005

Sure, the packaging isn’t gonna win any awards – the label looks like it was done in Microsoft Word 97 complete with early dot com era clip art, the capsule is cheap and flimsy, and the cork looks like someone scrounged it from a county fair, but the first whiff ain’t half bad – at first, generic industrial red wine, but then, suddenly, fresh red raspberries appear. There’s also a bit of dusty oak there – I’m assuming chips, shavings, something cheap – but it works just fine. There’s also a hint of sourness as well as something that’s either Mint or Murphy’s oil soap. All in all, surprisingly complex.Color-wise, it’s medium ruby red in the glass, bright and sparkling, pretty enough to look at it. The big surprise is when you take a taste of it: it’s full, round, not half bad. It seems kinda bit flabby – a bit too much residual sugar without supporting acidity, and it’s kind of dumb on the finish; it sticks around longer than you’d probably want it to, which I suppose makes it perfect for holiday gatherings (Kidding! Hi Dad!). It may be nothing special, but it’s better than most wines at this price point.Bears’ Lair (but really Bronco Wine Company)Price: US $3.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: December 2007

Unison Vineyard Marie's Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2006

If you’re in the Hawkes Bay area, I strongly recommend a visit to Unison Vineyard. We dropped in and were greeted by the effusive and extremely passionate viticulturalist, who gave us a sensational tasting and lots of information about each wine, the vineyard, and the region generally. Oh, also they make a lovely olive oil (from Estate fruit) and a delicious Balsamic vinegar. This wine is their straight Merlot, priced reasonably and intended to be consumed sooner rather than later. Garnet colour, looking a bit older, perhaps, than one might expect from a 2006 vintage wine. Attractive, though. The nose is fabulous — a lifted, multifaceted flavour profile that passes through herbal, medicinal notes, dark fruits and some oak quite seamlessly. Overall, quite savoury and tight. The entry is subtle, and the wine builds intensity as the palate progresses. The middle palate is again quite savoury, with lots of dark fruit and more herbal flavours, and a sweet edge to keep things relatively easygoing. Medium weight palate with a nicely textured, rustic mouthfeel (somewhat Italianate, perhaps). Oak is reasonably prominent, and perhaps a little coarse in its sappiness, but never overwhelms the wine. The after palate starts to drop slightly in intensity before drying, slightly rustic tannins kick in to carry the wine off with good length. This is a very drinkable wine that will, I imagine, go very well with Italian food. A nice expression of Merlot that will please lovers of the more savoury side of this variety. Good value too.Unison VineyardPrice: $NZ24Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Black Barn Sauvignon Blanc 2007

I had a few Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blancs while in the area and, perhaps inevitably, found some wineries comparing their wines to (perhaps even justifying against) Marlborough wines. This wine from Black Barn is pretty representative of the Hawkes Bay style.Pale, hay-like colour, brilliant clarity. Heavy, thick tropical fruit aromas that lack the higher register of flavours that make the Marlborough style so distinctive. Some may consider this a very good thing. Certainly flavourful, if not explosive. Lively entry that zings with firm, though not searing, acidity. The middle palate is full of tropical fruit flavours and passionfruit, not lightfooted so much as thick and heady. No great complexity here, but it’s a nice flavour profile for sure. The after palate rises in the back of the mouth to a climax and then tapers off pretty quickly. The finish is of adequate length for this variety.I’m in two minds about this wine. On the one hand, it’s a nice change from Marlborough wines, it tastes good and it’s well priced. On the other hand, it’s a not especially distinctive wine (and style). Nice for a change of pace, perhaps.Black BarnPrice: $NZ18Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007


To my shame, I’ve been drinking even more than I’ve been writing up while in New Zealand. Here are a few bits and pieces of marginal interest.Mission Estate Winery Hawkes Bay Merlot 2006I used most of this wine for cooking but swilled a glass once the casserole was underway. And whaddya know, it’s actually pretty good. Nice fruit, easygoing structure, no boiled lollies in sight. Definitely on the riper end of the spectrum for Merlot, and none the worse for that. Great quaffer. Wish all Aussies at this price point were as good. Fruit comes from various vineyards in the Hawkes Bay region, including the Gimblett Gravels.Mission Estate WineryPrice: $NZ14Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007Jacob’s Creek Shiraz 2005I don’t know what this wine is doing in here, but let’s just say that it was offered, and as we all know, it’s rude not to accept a gift.It’s actually not too bad, certainly a fault-free wine at the very least. The fruit flavour has that confected red fruit quality that screams “industrial” to me, but hey, it’s tasty and has lots of flavour. Not bad.Jacob’s CreekPrice: $NZ9Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007Matua Valley Late Harvest Muscat 2006I was having cravings the other night in Gisborne (just a few nights before the big earthquake, no less) and wandered up to the local supermarket to grab some dessert and, of course, wine to go with. I have no idea what grapes are in this wine, although the label does, at least, let the purchaser know that they are from the Gisborne wine region.There’s some nice, sweet fruit flavour here, a little “jasmine tea” in character, but harsh acidity quite overwhelms any sense of flavour. It’s not the sort of acidity that is cleansing or sprightly — it’s just harsh and unbalanced. Oh well.Matua Valley Price: $NZ12 (375ml)Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Unison Vineyard Syrah 2006

This wine sits alongside the Unison blends (regular and Selection) that form the core of the Unison Vineyard range. All Gimblett Gravels Estate fruit. A deep, perfumed nose that shows as much rich dark berry fruit as it does floral pot pourri and black pepper. There are also violety, raw meat and vanilla edges to the wine that create an overall impression of depth and complexity of flavour. The palate’s entry has good impact, and rich berry flavours begin from the very tip of the tongue onwards. This is a generous, full bodied wine that has a focus on ripe fruit without becoming vulgar or one-dimensional. There’s also a bit of toasty oak in there but it’s very much a support act. Acidity isn’t especially attention-grabbing but provides firmness and structure, and a focussed line. Mouthfeel is sophisticated, mostly silky smooth, with slightly chunky tannins as the finish takes hold. Length is quite impressive in its quality (deep fruit just keeps on singing) and persistence. An excellent Syrah that is rich yet balanced. If I had more bottles of this, I’d probably wait a year or two before retasting, as it’s quite evidently a youthful wine that may benefit from time in bottle.Unison VineyardPrice: $NZ35Closure: DiamDate tasted: December 2007

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2005

Had a lovely, professional experience at the Te Mata cellar door, and was able to taste a sampling of their range, if not perhaps some of the “heavy hitters” (ie Coleraine). Ended up purchasing a few, of which this was one.
Varietally dusty Cabernet nose, but not dominatingly so, as the primary note is of fleshy dark berry fruits, with some oak in support. The entry is one of those that widens immediately to a generous middle palate — instant gratification, if you will. The wine is medium to full bodied, and quite fruit driven. The fruit is of high quality and satisfying depth, never even hinting at simple, confected flavours. Instead, it’s masses of dark, juicy fruit, perhaps on the less structured end of the spectrum as Cabernets go, but certainly not flabby. The palate is quite linear until the end, where it spikes in a gorgeous lift of red fruits, before fading away on a blanket of fine tannins.
What an excellent wine this is. If you’re looking for a “drink now” Cabernet that is full of flavour and not an ounce industrial, give it a go.
Te Mata EstatePrice: $NZ35Closure: CorkDate tasted: December 2007

Trinity Hill Syrah 2006

Second in a lineup of Gimblett Gravels Syrahs. I was a little underwhelmed by the previous example (from Craggy Range).
Youthful purple colour, good clarity, a lovely wine to look at.
On the nose, identifiably regional notes of black pepper and pot pourri, but also a prominent strand of clean, attractive bright berry fruit and some undergrowth. Good complexity and interest. Also some nice vanilla oak, in a supporting role.
On entry, the wine feels a little dilute and lacking in immediacy of impact. The middle palate is where things become quite expressive. Medium bodied, fresh flavours that echo those on the nose, with good balance between all the elements. The mouthfeel is very clean, not especially textural, but appropriate given the freshness of the flavour profile. The after palate shows good continuity from the middle, and attractively persistent flavour. Chalky tannins finish off the wine nicely.
This wine is a tasty, drinkable expression of Syrah and stood up extremely well to a rather spicy pasta dish.
Trinity HillPrice: $NZ29Closure: DiamDate tasted: December 2007

Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah 2006

I bought a few Gimblett Gravels Syrahs to taste so that I can better understand the style being produced there as well as how individual producers are approaching things. This one is from Craggy Range, which gets my vote for most grand tasting facility in Hawkes Bay, at least that I’m aware of.
Nice sparkling purple-red colour, good density.
A really striking nose of black pepper and dried flowers, a bit like sharp pot pourri. Lots of impact, and quite characterful, but the more I sniffed it, the more I realised that it’s a wine that exists almost entirely at this high toned, spicily aromatic end of the spectrum, with little fruit weight of the regular berry kind. With some time in glass, a bit of red berry fruit emerged, but it really does remain in the background.
The palate is a virtual rerun of the nose. The same pepper and dried flowers dominate the flavour profile. The wine is of light to medium weight, very linear, with firm and yet delicately structured acidity. Despite the acidity’s presence, it adds very little to the texture of the wine, and the tannins are quite laid back. Again, there are some berry flavours but they are an undercurrent more than anything else. Fairly good length on the finish.
Whilst it’s a wine with impact, it’s also quite one-dimensional and didn’t go with a dinner of lamb (NZ’s finest!) especially well. The food seemed to clash with the wine’s flavours and reduce rather than add to complexity. Possibly needs some time in bottle to settle down, as I expected much more from this wine, given its reputation. Would be interested in retasting in a few months.
Craggy RangePrice: $NZ38Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Beringer Chardonnay, Napa Valley 2004

Opening the bottle is about the same as opening that giant can of Libby’s fruit cocktail they’d serve when you were back in elementary school: it smells like pears and cheap corn syrup… not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. There’s also a whiff of something like sulfur dioxide, and some sort of generic oak note (barrel fermentation?), but not a particularly strong one: it smells clean and nonoffensive, like it should be served in a Tokyo pâtisserie.Medium-weight in the mouth, there’s a not particularly appealing woodiness about it (low level TCA taint?), a slight sweetness, and very little interest. The finish is short and perfunctory.Overall, this wine is probably best bought for the tasteful label – just not for the wine itself.BeringerPrice: US $11.99Closure: CorkDate tasted: December 2007