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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."


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Heron's Flight wines - a vertical tasting!

On May 21st I ventured north to Matakana – a boutique region 50 minutes away from Auckland, with my wine buddy Steve Thompson from Seattle.
Our Noble Quest … to participate in a ‘vertical tasting’ of one of my favourite wines, Heron’s Flight’s Sangiovese.  Sangiovese is the classic red wine of Chianti and a wine not grown in any great volume here in NZ. 
I have long been a fan of winemaker David Hoskins’ 100% Sangiovese – a wine he will produce only in a ‘good year’ when the grapes achieve  optimal ripeness in Matakana’s  clay-based North Auckland soils.  Rainfall and humidity late in the season can play havoc with a potentially superb vintage.

OK – a vertical tasting is what wine fans call a tasting of the same wine over several vintages.  I.e. Heron’s Flight lined up eight wines from vintages covering 12 years from 1998 to 2010.  (Horizontal tasting is what happens when you swallow all the samples in a short space of time.)

David does credit me with a good palate, which is very kind of him.  But on the day, I felt my palate was a bit off.  Dunno.   Wine writers and wine critics do have their off days – which is really inconvenient for all concerned.  Most days I know my palate is on the nail and every wine sample is a myriad of aromas and nuanced flavours across every subjective spectrum.  Some other days, everything tastes a bit flat and I can only pick 3 or 4 wine descriptors. 
Yennyhoo – here’s what I can summon from my scribbled notes evaluating eight vintages of Heron’s Flight Sangiovese.

1998 Brick red colour.  Astringent, dry and light bodied with smoked meat flavours and aromas. Still quite tannic.

1999  Garnet colour. Complex, dry and earthy with cherry/almond/raspberry flavours and a gamey spicy quality.

2000  Not my favourite. Earthy and mushroomy with a cranberry/cherry astringency.

2002  Now we’re talking . Sweet and ripe, with a smooth mid palate and smoky savoury cherry flavours.

2004   Another winner.  Flavours of ripe black cherry and plum, with spiced smoky salami meaty flavours.

2005  Funky aromas.  Flavours of soy and black cherry.  Yum.

2009  OK this one’s an experimental 50/50 Sangiovese and Dolcetto blend.  In my mumbled opinion - a winner.  Fermented in old oak barrels.  Flavours and aromas of cherry, plum, mushroom, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and earthy forest floor.

2010  Wildly vibrant and fruity. A youthful Julian Clary of a wine.  Cherry plum and almond dominate with assertive tannins and sweet ripeness.

Phil runs The Top Auckland Visitor Activity according to TripAdvisor.  But what do they know.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Marlborough Wine Region - a quick visit

A few weeks back I took a quick  trip to Marlborough to catch up with family.  Mainly my step-Dad who lives in Blenheim, and his extended family.

We stayed at the D’Urville Hotel – a quirky boutique hotel with fab restaurant in the centre of Blenheim town.   We were randomly allotted The Rajah Suite which was kind of Indian themed, with intricately carved and painted wood panelling, brassy things and general Bollywood d├ęcor.  All pretty cool, but the entrance to our ensuite was a wooden doorway carved thingy more suited to your average Hobbit than a 6ft 1” 54-year-old wine writer.  I stooped and banged my head on the lintel many times.  Otherwise – very nice.  Crisp linen, wireless Internet, and acres of white towels.  The other suites looked reaaally cool – Polynesian and Cuban themed.

We had one free day so checked out a few of my favourite wineries:

Domaine Georges Michel - 6 Vintage Lane
A slice of France in the heart of Marlborough - Georges Michel and his wife Huguette acquired the vineyard in 1997 and have made their Gallic mark on the region.  We had a great light lunch there – rich and hearty venison ragout with crusty bread.

Standout wines: Legend Pinot Noir 2009 $48  Golden Mile Chardonnay 2008 $15

Framingham Wine Company
Conders Bend Road
The vineyards date back to the early 1980’s making them some of the oldest vineyards in the region. Riesling is their flagship wine, with other whites, Pinot Noir and the Italian variety Montepulciano completing the line-up.

Standout wines: Gewurtztraminer 2009 $28  Classic Riesling 2009 $25

Grove Mill Winery
Waihopai Valley Rd
Eco-friendly Grove Mill is a corporate owned winery, which is situated in the Waihopai Valley.  Their philosophy is to produce high quality wines with minimal environmental impact. The company mascot is the Southern Bell Frog, which lives in the winery wetland. 

Standout wines:  Grand Reserve Riesling 2009 $27 Grand Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 $43

Phil's wine tours are "The best visitor attraction in Auckland" according to TripAdvisor