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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."


Friday, March 28, 2014

Stella Bella Wines - Perth

Being in the wine tourism business, I do get to meet some interesting characters.  And a recent tour to Waiheke Island with two Australian couples resulted in a box of nine bottles of very nice wine being delivered to my door (barking mad Maltese/Shitzu cross notwithstanding).  It turned out that the Aussies were investors in a Margaret River winery in Perth.  “How about we send you a few bottles and see what you think of them?” they suggested over lunch at Mudbrick.  “Jolly good,” I replied.

The winery goes by the name of Stella Bella – also the name of their premium range wines.  Sounds like a great name for a thoroughbred.
“And … it’s Stella Bella out of the bottle, into the glass and racing into the mouth. Swishing gently around the palate, down the neck and looking for a lengthy finish.” 
They had some fun with the other lower ranges, namely Skuttlebutt and Suckfizzle.

As you may know, Margaret River is a cooler climate boutique region near the Perth coast where the Western Australian climate is moderated by cool winds from the Indian Ocean. Consequently they can grow white grape varieties as well as the renowned reds.

Here we go.

Skuttlebutt Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013
Surprisingly Marlborough-like, this is a soft but full flavoured blend with gooseberry and passion fruit flavours.

Suckfizzle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2009
This one was oak aged and not quite to my palate with more vegetative flavours than the previous white blend.

Stella Bella Sauvignon Blanc 2012
Again, not unlike a Marlborough Sauv but with softer acidity and gooseberry flavours.

Stella Bella Chardonnay 2010
Very classy wine, with a creamy soft texture, upfront stone fruit and toasty nutty and lengthy aftertaste.

Skuttlebutt Rosé 2013
A typical fresh young thing – raspberry and strawberry palate with mild sweetness and moderate acids.

Skuttlebutt Cabernet Shiraz 2010
Slightly ‘dusty’ aromas, fairly typical of Cabernet, with some spicy Shiraz notes in there.  Big, juicy and voluptuous velvety red.

Stella Bella Shiraz 2009
Slightly feral aged Shiraz aromas but balanced with medium to firm tannins and liquorice/spice flavours.  Yum.

Stella Bella Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009
Dusty nose again.  Sweet ripeness and black berry fruit flavours, with medium tannins.

Suckfizzle Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Showing nice mellowing from bottle age. Ripe and soft with black currant and cherry flavours.

My personal faves – the big reds and the Chardonnay

Phil runs personal food & wine tours - Auckland New Zealand

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Zealand Rose Wines for Summer

Some years ago, Rosés were quite rare and largely undrinkable.  However, now that summer is kicking in, the shelves are steadily filling with a number of very respectable light reds vinted from grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Merlot, Syrah, and even Cabernet Sauvignon.  Plus the really good thing is, in warmer weather you can chill many of them with a clear conscience.

Rosés are made by crushing red grapes, then leaving the juice on the skins for a short period (as little as 12 hours) to extract a minimum of colour and maximum grape juice flavours before pressing and racking off into fermentation tanks.  The resulting wines are light, often blush pink and have red fruit flavours of strawberries, plums and raspberries.  These are crisp, refreshing drink-young wines, which will not benefit from cellaring.  They also come in a spectrum of sugar level from dry to medium sweet.  Buyer beware.  It may be lolly water or Pinot-Lite depending on the whim of the winemaker.
The sweeter Rosé styles can tolerate chilling before serving, but the more delicate dry, to off-dry Rosé, could be cooled in the fridge for no more 30 minutes.

Food matches – BBQ tuna, salmon, crayfish, prawns, chicken, crab, spiced rare lamb.  And here comes summer! Whoo Hoo!  Here’s a selection, from dryer to sweeter, and finishing with a fantastic bubbles.

Wooing Tree Central Otago Rosé 2013 $NZ 28
Dry and crisp. Flavours of red plum and strawberry.

Bélouvé Côtes De Provence Rosé (France) 2012 $NZ 24
Cabernet, Grenache and Syrah go into the blend for this French Rosé from Provence.  Clean ripe flavours and a lengthy palate.

Soho Waiheke Rosé 2013 $NZ 26
Hand-picked Waiheke Island fruit – Merlot and Malbec are blended to make this red fruit cocktail of flavours. Cherries, red berry fruit and plum flavours with crisp acidity.

Kate Radburnd Hawkes Bay Berry Blush Rosé 2013  $NZ 16
A Hawkes Bay Rosé from Pask winemaker Kate Radburnd.  This one is just off-dry, with red berry fruit ripeness and soft acid finish.
Marques de Carceres Rioja Rosado (Spain) 2012 $NZ 22
Two typical Rioja red grapes-  Tempranillo and Grenache are blended to create this wine.  Mild oaky flavours, and a rich just off-dry ripe palate of plums and strawberries.

Quartz Reef Rosé Methode Traditionelle  Central Otago $NZ 40
100% organic Pinot Noir, and aged for 24 months. Rich and rounded with a lingering finish.  A lovely elegant bubbly for the summer season.
These wines are stocked by Glengarry. 

Disclaimer: I work in part time retail at Glengarry Grey Lynn. 
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

Monday, November 18, 2013

FOX IN THE CITY - Foxes Island comes to Town

John Belsham, regarded as one of New Zealand’s top winemakers and wine critics founded Foxes Island in 1992.  His focus is on hand made, regionally expressive wines – the philosophy that he absorbed in his time as a winemaker in France, where he lived in Bordeaux from 1977 to 1981.

Following his return to NZ he founded Rapaura Vintners - the first contract winemaking company in New Zealand.  A year later, he established Foxes Island in Marlborough’s Awatere Valley where he focuses on premium single vineyard wines.  Notably recognised as a Pinot Noir producer, Belsham planted the Awatere Estate with its seven distinct terraces in 2000. The vineyard is planted primarily in Pinot Noir (70%) plus select blocks of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.

Just this year John opened his Cellar Door - not in Marlborough but at 15 Williamson Avenue.  The central location and spacious show room/Cellar Door provides a tasting room with further options for weddings and corporate functions.
Tastings start at $20 per person for two wines with a small cheese platter, accompanied by a video tour of the Marlborough vineyard. Specialised group tastings are available by arrangement, including the option of a private guided tasting with winemaker John Belsham.
Company director Kelly Brown is often onsite. She has a sound science, viticulture and oenology background and has served on international wine judging panels.  Cellar Door manager is Kirsten Heaps.

Here’s some notes on a recent sampling.

Foxes Island Sauvignon Blanc 2011  $NZ 23
A softer style of Sauvignon without the over the top Marlborough acidity that can be off-putting.  Grassy flavours with blackcurrant and gooseberry palate and a medium dry finish.

Foxes Island Chardonnay 2009 $NZ 40
Creamy, toasty and mellow with stone fruit characters and a long finish.

Fox Vineyard Selection Pinot Noir 2009 $NZ 23
Soft and silky, with spicy red berry fruit a hint of liquorice and a savoury earthiness.

Foxes Island Belsham Estate Pinot Noir 2008 $NZ 42
Elegant and
savoury, with herbal and red berry fruit flavours. Beguilingly delicate at first, yet with a lengthy complex finish.

Foxes Island
15 Williamson Avenue
Grey Lynn
Auckland City
Ph:  09 378 1369  Web:
Cellar Door & Events:
Open Monday to Friday 9.00 am -6.00 pm  Saturday 12.00 Noon -5.00 pm.

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine Tours in Auckland.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Kumeu River Chardonnay 2011 release and 2007 Review

Michael Brajkovich
Yesterday, I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Kumeu River’s 2011 Chardonnay line-up.  Gracious and generous hospitality was provided in the home of Melba Brajkovich, and attended by the whole family – Michael, Paul, Milan and Marijana plus Cellar Master Nigel Tibbits.  As expected , the wines were stunning and the lunch of Manuka BBQ cooked steaks, olive oil roast potatoes and salad (cheese board to follow) were fabulous.  My faves- 2011 Coddington and the 2007 Estate.

We had two flights of wines – all Chardonnays.  The first was the new 2011 release, and finally a retrospective tasting of the 2007 vintage.
Okay …

Kumeu Village 2011 $NZD 18
Colour: Pale yellow gold
Aromas:  Floral citrus blossom, hazelnut, lemon
Palate: Subtle flavours of mandarin and white peach, toasted almond, with a ripe and soft mid palate and crisp finish.

Kumeu River Estate 2011 $NZD 30
Colour: Pale yellow gold
Aromas: Greengage, Brioche and nectarine
Palate: Elegant and lean with toasty oak, lime and a mineral crisp finish.

Kumeu River Coddington 2011 $NZD 45
Colour: Pale yellow gold
Aromas: Grapefruit, brioche, citrus
Palate: Softer than the Estate – white peach, toasted almond with a creamy mid palate.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill 2011 $NZD 50
Colour: Pale yellow gold
Aromas: Grapefruit, herbs, toast
Palate: Toast, peach, raw cashew nut.  Crisp finish

Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard 2011 $NZD 70
Colour: Pale yellow gold
Aromas: Toast, grapefruit, lime
Palate: Mineral and toasty with a creamy, yeasty mid palate and crisp finish.

Kumeu River Estate 2007 $NZD 45
Colour: Gold
Aromas: Nectarine, yeast, citrus fruit
Palate: Full and toasty, with creamy and ripe mid palate, toasted cashew and a crisp finish.

Kumeu River Coddington 2007 $NZD 80
Colour: Gold
Aromas: Citrus and mineral, hint of toasty oak
Palate: Tighter and leaner than the Estate. Slightly smoky and toasty, with creamy yeast and  ripe nectarine.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill 2007 $NZD 80
Colour: Gold
Aromas: Citrus, stone fruit
Palate:  Slightly leaner than the Coddington.  Nectarine and a hint of herbal anise.  Crisp finish.

Kumeu River Mate’s Vineyard 2007 $NZD 100
Colour: Gold
Aromas: Citrus, yeasty
Palate: Very crisp, dry and elegantly lean, with nectarine/ peach and a mineral finish.