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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."


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Food & Wine Matching

Phil Parker runs Food & Wine tours around Auckland New Zealand

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Food and wine matching can be an area of wine enjoyment where many people get worried about making the wrong choice. Yet there are some food and wine matches where the components work in harmony, and the final experience seems far more than the sum of its parts.
Having said that, if there are any rules about food and wine pairings, the first rule is: drink whatever you prefer. The best wine to go with your food is: the wine that you enjoy.

So, relax. It’s fairly simple: match the intensity of flavour of your wine with that of your food. For example, a blockbuster Aussie Shiraz is likely to overwhelm the subtle flavours of a poached chicken dish. On the other hand, a delicate floral Pinot Gris matches well with a white fish like Terakihi. Each wine has its own floral, fruit, vegetal and other characters which can lead to a foodie marriage made in heaven.
The following are some classic food and wine pairings that have stood the test of time and numerous memorable shared meals.

Asparagus. Any which way – with a drizzle of olive oil, a dab of butter, hollandaise, aioli, a poached egg or even the good old asparagus roll.
Wine match: Sauvignon Blanc Suggestion - Grove Mill Marlborough

Mussels & Scallops.
Mussels - scrubbed, debearded and steamed. Leave in the shell, reduce the cooking stock and add some wine (Sauvignon Blanc) cream, seasonings and spices – paprika or chilli, garlic, chopped parsley and/or coriander.
Scallops - poached in water, wine (Riesling), lime juice and zest, seasonings and a bouquet-garni.
Wine match: Medium Riesling Suggestion – Villa Maria Private Bin

Chicken and Crayfish.
Chicken e.g. Cacciatore – needs a robust chardonnay with plenty of rich toasty oak and creamy flavours.
Crayfish – poached or grilled; not over-sauced but perhaps a beurre-blanc (white wine, shallot and butter sauce).
Wine match: Chardonnay Suggestion – Pegasus Bay

Beef. Burgundy (Pinot Noir) is the traditional match. Use well-aged beef, simply cooked. Roast a topside or fillet steak, served with a jus and seasonal vegetables. Merlot or Pinot Noir are a good match.
Wine match: a sturdy Pinot Noir suggestion – Clayridge Excalibur Marlborough

Lamb. Roast lamb - insert garlic slices and tender tips of rosemary into a leg of spring lamb, and serve with your choice of mixed roast veges and a silver beet salad. Or Lamb Provençale. Bone a leg or shoulder of lamb, and casserole with wine, tomatoes, onions, olives, rosemary, thyme and anchovies. Takes about three hours to cook but is meltingly tender and utterly delicious.
Wine match: Syrah Suggestion – Cottage Block Hawkes Bay

Paté. Makes a perfect match for sweet white wines. Use a good quality shop-bought, or your best homemade chicken liver. The classic French gourmet match in is Pate de Fois Gras (goose liver pate), matched with a sweet Sauternes.
Wine match: Dessert wine Look for a rich Late Harvest or Botrytised dessert Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Semillon, or Chardonnay.
Suggestion – Pegasus Bay Aria Late Harvest Riesling

Desserts. For example – a flan made with caramelised oranges, or
saucy steamed lemon pudding served with cream flavoured with lemon zest and Riesling. These citrussy desserts go well with a light dessert wine which has some residual acidity to balance the sweetness.
Wine match: Selaks Ice Wine blend of freeze concentrated Riesling and Gewürztraminer.

These suggestions are by no means hard and fast – feel free to experiment.
Here’s a few more:

Spicy foods – for the hot and spicy kind, beer is a good match to quench the thirst and the flames. For more delicate Asian foods like Thai and Japanese, Gewürztraminer or a medium Riesling are a good match.

Oysters & Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling.

Roast Pork & Gewürztraminer.

Roast Chicken & Pinot Noir.

Venison casserole & Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cheese board & Tawny Port.

Tomato-based pasta sauce & Shiraz.

Bon appetit

Jasper and Me

Phil Parker takes wine tours around Auckland New Zealand

Herewith: a recent pic of the previously moribund Jasper.

I got him for $NZ50.00 as a 1 year-old on death row at South Auckland pound circa August 2000)

Okay - for whatever reason he has totally recovered from his acute lameness and senile incident of about a month ago.

He is unfortunately back to normal:

Bashing on the door wanting to be let in to sleep by the bed at 2.00 a.m.
(That's 40 kg / 80 lb of solid dog launching himself at a plywood door)

Sneaking into the stinky pond water at the off-leash dog reserve when we go walkies.

Begging food from the dining table.

Ya gotta love ya dog.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

What I had for dinner - Torlesse Waipara Gewurztraminer

Okay, I did make a chicken curry to go with the wine.

Despite being one of those tedious home chefs who likes to everything from scratch, I did use a pre-made tandoori paste - that we found in one of those archaeological digs which begins as a pantry cleanout. It all kind of came together as a Friday night dinner when I visited the local and very good Faro deli on the way home. Free-range chicken pieces, fresh pineapple and melon and a few goodies from the fridge turned into a jolly fine homemade curry.

While I was at Faro, I grabbed one of the few Gewürzt available - the Torlesse 2009 $NZ20. It proved a good match - crisp, just off-dry, with clean fruit flavours of lychee, plus ginger in syrup and rose water. The previous vintage of this wine picked up numerous awards.

Wine maker is Kym Rayner, a graduate of Roseworthy Wine College, South Australia, where he spent his early years honing his skills. Top level is the Omihi Road label. Next step down is the Torlesse range. Prices are pretty keen with the Torlesse at around $18, and the Omihi at around $25.

Notable Wines Torlesse Riesling and Chardonnay. Omihi (Medium) Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir.
Also look out for their Cassis – blackcurrant liqueur at $25 a bottle.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Te Mata Rymer's Change Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2004

Phil Parker hosts guided wine tours around Auckland New Zealand

It was one of those nights when we had friends over on Friday for a last minute dinner, but we had run out of chilled white wine. Quelle horreur!

So I ventured down to my under-stairs ‘cellar’ which sadly lacks any lighting, to see if I could find anything white in the gloom apart from my modest collection of not-to-be-touched Dry River wines. Hitting my head on the low door jamb, I loudly said something that rhymes with duck, and groped blindly in the musty murk. Bringing the bottle into the light I discovered I had grabbed a bottle of 2004 Sauvignon Blanc from Te Mata’s entry level Rymer’s Change label.

Now, most Savvies lose their intense fruit flavours after a year or two, so I was intrigued to see how this one fared after six years of cellaring, albeit under screw cap. I scrunched open the wine, poured about 100 ml into a large glass, swirled and sniffed. Aromas of roast bell pepper and cape gooseberry. Palate – soft and integrated flavours of the above, plus a hint of asparagus, and still some guava/tropical fruit showing through, with a lengthy finish. Yum! As a dedicated avoider of young savvies, this was a pleasure to drink.

Hawkes Bay icon – Te Mata produces internationally famous labels such as the Coleraine and Awatea Cabernet/ Merlots, Bullnose Syrah, and Elston Chardonnay. Owner John Buck is something of an industry legend and also claims to have the oldest winery in NZ (along with Mission Estate, and Auckland’s Pleasant Valley!) With no less than ten Hawkes Bay vineyards plus their newish Woodthorpe estate, they have a solid portfolio of wines.
The cellar Door is a striking white building designed by Wellington architect Ian Athfield. It features curved Deco-inspired lines, a ‘verandah’, and a tall chimney.

Notable wines – Elston and Woodthorpe Chardonnay,
Woodthorpe and Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Awatea Cabernet/Merlot, Woodthorpe Cabernet/Merlot, Coleraine (blended red), Bullnose and Woodthorpe Syrah. Prices - $30 - $65.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hunter's Marlborough Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009 $NZ15

Jane Hunter heads the very successful company, Hunter's Wines, founded by Jane and her late husband, Ernie in 1983. Hunter’s Wines have since won more than 100 gold medals at national and international wine competitions. The winery and café is set among native gardens where a vine-covered trellised walkway links the café, wine shop and art gallery. The wines available for tasting include current vintages and ‘library’ wine tastings.

I was lucky enough to have hosted Jane Hunter and her partner on one of my Kumeu wine tours, a few years back.
She was very laid back and affable - preferring to stay under the radar, and just anonymously sample Kumeu's finest. More recently, I managed to attend her book launch and get a signed copy of her biography.

So, I do feel a closer than usual connection to Jane and Her wines.

This 2009 Savvie is wonderful. As a reluctant Marlborough Sav drinker, I was pleasantly surprised by the full and mellow flavour. It has the usual Marlborough aroma suspects: cut grass, gooseberry, and green bell pepper.But it also shows some tropical fruit notes and a hint of minerality.

Perhaps a year in the bottle allowed this one to mellow out - certainly it lacks the swingeing acidity of a brand new Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. Yum My kinda Sav!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Heron's Flight Matakana New Zealand - a recent tasting

Phil Parker takes wine tours around Auckland New Zealand


Established 1988 by David Hoskins (ex Philadelphia USA) and his partner Mary Evans, with plantings of Chardonnay and Merlot. In 1994 the Italian Chianti grape – Sangiovese Grosso was planted. David and Mary have pulled al the other varieties out and now Sangiovese is the dominant grape from Heron’s Flight’s 15 acre vineyard, with production at about 1,000 cases per year. David produces about 700 cases of another red Italian grape variety - Dolcetto which comes from the Piedmonte region in northern Italy. Very little wine sold other than over the counter or mail list, but they do have an agent in UK.

Recently Heron’s Flight has formed a joint company with Runner Duck wines of Matakana and features their wines in the tasting flight.

Also – Heron’s Flight’s new restaurant and cellar tasting facility produce jams, chutneys and relishes, plus Sangiovese and Dolcetto non-alcoholic fruit juices.

2007 RUNNER DUCK RED Spicy and savoury blended red, with pot pourri aromas and soft tannins.

2007 RUNNER DUCK SYRAH Black pepper aromas, savoury and soft, with black olive and cherry palate and a hint of almond.

2008 DOLCETTO Gamey, with a ripe fruity palate of black berry fruit flavours.

2005 SANGIOVESE Heron’s Flight’s premium red wine. Full bodied, and soft from a good vintage. With spicy/herbal/pot pourri aromas and ripe flavours of roast venison, cherries and black berries, with mild tannins.

2008 IL ROSSO An Italian style food wine, vinted from the same Sangiovese grapes. Rich, with flavours of game meats, black berry and dried fruits.

SANGIOVESE Juice Unfermented pure grape juice, bursting with flavour and natural sweetness.

DOLCETTO Juice Unfermented pure grape juice. Dryer than the Sangiovese, with an interesting aroma of dry grass – or hay .

Crawford Farm Merlot 2008 $NZ22.00

Phil Parker takes wine tours around Auckland New Zealand.

This is a blended Merlot from our best red wine region - Hawke's Bay. It picked up a Bronze in the Air NZ 2009 Wine Awards - one of out top NZ wine competitions.

And rightly so - a lovely ripe and soft Merlot with sweet cherry, plum, blackberry and a nice oaky/spicy finish.

The Kim Crawford name has gone through some major episodes over the years: from a scandal back in the 90s when a competition wine was found to be not what it claimed to be on the label (when he was winemaker for Coopers Creek) to launching his own label, then selling to Vincorp, then Vincorp being swallowed by Constellation USA who own Nobilo NZ. Crawford has nothing to do with the winemaking or promotion after a falling out with Constellation NZ.

Omaha Bay Vineyard Syrah 2007 $NZ30

Hegman and Bev Foster opened for tasting in May 2007. They have three estate grown wines - Flora, Pinot Gris and Italian variety Montepulciano.

Also wines made from Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and west Auckland grapes. As you drive through the vineyard to arrive at the tasting room and wine cave on the brow of the hill, there are breath-taking views of Omaha Bay and Little Barrier Island from the elevated Cellar Door.

A recent purchase was the Omaha Bay Vineyard Syrah 2007
Deep garnet red colour, smoky and gamey aromas plus plum, blackcurrant and cherry.
Medium tannins. A great match for BBQ steak or venison.

Friday, March 19, 2010


On the right - Stephen Versalko, stole $NZ 17.5 million from ASB investors - spending most of the loot on prostitutes, wine and travel.

On the left - a Cabbage Patch Kid. On the right - Versalko

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 - a good year for Auckland's Vineyards

With an extended warm and dry summer, Auckland's vineyards are producing some excellent quality grapes. 2010 looks like one of our best years - ever.

Starting around early March, we have been harvesting Pinot Gris and Chardonnay. Red grapes will ripen later in the season, with Pinot Noir one of the first reds to be picked.

Auckland's small production (less than 3% of NZ's total) is all hand picked. Thus only the best bunches are selected, and extraneous matter such as spoiled grapes, dead starlings, slow wine writers etc., miss the crush.

I was lucky to sample some freshly pressed Brick Bay (Matakana) Pinot Gris juice two weeks ago. Winemaking is by Anthony Ivicevich and James Rowan of West Brook winery.
James handed me a glass of cloudy cold juice. Fantastic - intense ripe sweet fruit flavours and a hint of acid. Yum. Just wait till those yeasts get a hold on the fructose and start working their magic.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Make it - one for my baby. And one more for the roadie.

Spy Valley Gewurtz 2009 $NZ19.00

Phil Parker takes wine tours around Auckland New Zealand.

Taking its name from a sly dig at the local American Waihopai electronic eavesdropping station, Spy Valley is a stylish modern winery owned by the Johnson family. The very modern two-storied bare timber and steel building is surrounded by tussock grasses planted in pebble gardens. The vineyards are located on the southern side of Marlborough’s Wairau Valley, nestled on the sunny terraces of the Omaka River. Eight varieties of grapes planted over 145 Ha (360acres) produce premium quality fruit which has in five short years, established the label as one of Marlborough’s leading new wineries.

I recently sampled their 2009 Gewurtztraminer - stunning Gewurz: a ripe and lush fruit bomb of lychee, rosewater, ginger in syrup and canned peach. With around 15 g/L of residual sugar it is a medium sweet wine which would go well with pork or ham, or even rich seafood like scallops.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Great Value Pinot Noir 2008 - Taylors Australia

Phil Parker runs wine tours around Auckland New Zealand

For Pinot lovers who like a full-bodied cherries & berries Pinot, the Taylors label is hard to beat. I picked up a dozen on special for about $12 a bottle - an absolute steal.

The wine is full bodied with ripe flavours of juicy black cherries. Delicate spice characters of liquorice, clove and cedar throughout the palate. The wine finishes with lingering sweet fruit flavours.

Thursday, March 4, 2010


Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers in-house vintage survey tells us the 2010 vintage is later than usual by about two weeks and expected to begin mid to late March but this won’t affect the high standard of quality the Hawke’s Bay industry strives for. Wineries and grape growers responded to the survey commenting on the above average rainfall for January and cool Spring period slowing the start of the traditional growing season. Most indicated they were expecting the same size or slightly reduced crop as the 2009 vintage although a few were looking at a larger yield.

Tony Bish of Sacred Hill says “Looking good so far, nice warm average temps and ripening progressing well. Forecast is for a dry March so optimistic we will have a great vintage.” Rod McDonald, Winemaker and Chairman of Hawke’s Bay Winegrowers agrees, “We had a great start to the season with a warm flowering and fruit set. The last couple of weeks have been more like the Summer and Autumn we rely on to ripen fruit for high quality wine production. With the cooler summer we've had, we will typically see wines of deeper colour and great aromatics due to the higher natural acids in the grapes. These characteristics are a couple of the hallmarks of great wine from HB. With late season heat and dry weather, this could be another exciting vintage for Hawke’s Bay."

Varieties expected to stand out for 2010 are those Hawke’s Bay is most well known for – Chardonnay, Merlot, Syrah and other Bordeaux varieties (Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc). All the varieties look very good at this stage with minimal disease present in the vines from the wet weather. Most indicated they were expecting the same size or slightly reduced crop as the 2009 vintage although a few were looking at a larger yield. Most surveyed did not have new varieties coming into production this vintage but those that did cited Semillon, Pinot Gris, Tempranillo, Sauvignon Blanc, Arneis and Sauvignon Gris showing yet again the diversity and strength of the region for wine growing.

Given recent press reports on surplus grape requirements, particularly for Sauvignon Blanc, the majority of Hawke’s Bay’s wineries and growers responding were not leaving any grapes on the vine. Some are affected with small surpluses of red wine and Sauvignon Blanc under these challenging industry conditions but for most, this vintage is not expected to differ from 2009 as a result of surplus requirements. Thirty-two per cent of wineries surveyed indicated they would still be buying Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris fruit for 2010.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

To Dry For - Dry River Wines Martinborough New Zealand

By Phil Parker, wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine Tours Ltd.

Dry River Wines, of Martinborough held a tasting of their latest releases in central Auckland over the weekend.

Neil McCallum started the winery in 1979. Dry River shares the Craighall vineyard with Ata Rangi and also sources fruit from contract growers in the area. Plus they have recently bought the Arapoff vineyard in Martinborough

Dry River would easily be in the top three NZ producers of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They produce a miniscule two and a half, to three thousand cases of wine a year. (Nobilo makes over two million.)

The tastings really are labour of love and a gift to the wine community, as Dry River’s loyal mail list members snap up nearly all the output in advance. A little is exported and anything spare generally goes within a few weeks of release. There is even a waiting list to get on the mailing list – basically you can be added if the member doesn’t order any wine for three consecutive years, or they die. Could be a motive for homicide. Coming soon to your screen: WCSI – Wine Crime Scene Investigation.

Anyway, Neil McCallum sold Dry River to El Molino Wines of California and has largely handed over the reins to young winemaker Katy Hammond, but he stays on as chief winemaker. Now am I getting old or are winemakers getting younger? Sadly, all of the above, I’m afraid. The slim bubbly blonde looks no older than 25 and is passionate about her craft. She sees the wines as feminine and each with a personality of its own.

Despite being owned by a US company there are no plans for expansion or even increase in output. In fact, McCallum plans to spend his spare time at Dry River “…doing it better.”

The wines -

Dry River Estate Gewurtztraminer 2009 $NZ48
Classic spicy flavours of ginger plus Turkish delight, with floral rose aromas. Slightly flinty and mineral in a just off-dry style. Fruit sourced from 30 year-old vines.

Dry River Pinot Gris 2009 $NZ50
Flavours of poached pear, quince and peach and a hint of honey.

Pinot Noir 2008 $NZ82.00
Cherries and dark berries on the palate, with a slight smokiness on the nose, silky texture but a dry finish.

Late Harvest Craighall Riesling 2009 $NZ56 (750 ml bottle)
At 80 grams per litre of sugar, (a can of Coke is about 110 g/L) definitely a dessert style wine. Lemon and lime and citrus flavours with a hint of a hint - of oregano. Mouthwatering crisp acidity balances the sweet fruit flavours.