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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."


Monday, October 22, 2012

West Brook Winery Auckland

One of my favourite Kumeu wineries which I frequently visit on my wine tours is West Brook.  Situated in Waimauku next to the Riverhead pine forest, the vineyard and winery sit among landscaped manicured lawns with a placid duck pond and neat rows of vines climbing the slopes beyond.  Third generation Croatian winemaker Anthony Ivicevich and his charming wife Susan own the small family business,  which has been in operation since 1935. The Cellar Door welcomes visitors 7 days a week, with picnic tables, petanque, giant chess and BBQ facilities available.  Deli foods are available from the cooler.

Anyway to the wines:
Waimauku Pinot Gris 2012 $26.00
Delicate and elegant with mineral notes on the palate and a deliciously crisp finish.  Flavours of Nashi pear, quinine and Braeburn apple.

Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2011  $22.90
Made from a blend of Waimauku and Marlborough fruit.  Toasty oak and lush flavours of peach and  pear, with a hint of yeasty brioche.

Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2011  $29.50
All home vineyard fruit. Citrus, stone fruit and toast with a mineral crisp finish.

Waimauku Pinot Noir 2011 $26.00

Light and elegant with cherry/berry red fruit flavours with earthy undertones.

Waimauku Estate Malbec 2010 $ $32.00
Ripe and full with black fruit intensity and spicy, savoury flavours. Medium tannins and lengthy palate.  Drinking beautifully now, but could cellar for another 3 years.

West Brook Winery
215 Ararimu Valley Road  Kumeu
09 411 9924  
Open 7 Days  Mon – Fri 9.00 to 5.00 Sat 10.00 am to  5.00 pm Sun 11.00 am to 5.00 pm
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Satellite Gewürztraminer & Ha Ha Pinot Noir

Okay - here's a couple of absolutely fabulous wines that have restored my faith in quality NZ wine after a few months of stingy, tannic pinots and washed-out wimpy white wines.

First up -Satellite Gewürztraminer 2010  $NZ 14.00   From a pretty obscure Waihopai producer in Marlborough's 'spy central' area.  Can't find much info on the producer but they are cashing in on the Waihopai satellite spy station riff - a la Spy Valley.

No matter.  Whatever - they are doing it right.  This is a glorious unctuous, medium sweet style Gewürz with a full and lush palate of lychee fruit, Turkish Delight, ginger, lime, pot pourri and clove.  Lengthy palate which draws you back for another glass.  Perfect for mildly spiced Thai cuisine.

And in the red corner - Ha Ha Pinot Noir 2011 $NZ18.00  Knockout Pinot from Marlborough.  Silky, ripe and softly seductive with fine tannins, and mouth filling cherry/berry floral and dark fruit flavours.  Savoury gamey and spicy with a soft but persistent finish.  A seamlessly integrated Pinot which is a benchmark wine for all the other substandard overpriced NZ Pinots on the shelves.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Why I left Qualmark

I have lately been put under intense pressure from Qualmark, regarding their branding on my old brochures, because I withdrew from the Qualmark programme about 12 months ago, and am no longer Qualmark accredited.  They have insisted that I remove these brochures from hotels, B&Bs, information desks etc., or replace them with new ones without the logo.
(This hysteria was largely prompted by another wine tour operator in Auckland who is fiercely competitive and obsessive).

 So, in short, under threat of legal action I complied and removed or replaced the brochures.  I had erroneously thought that a grace period would be allowed in which time the brochures would have been all used up and replaced by a brand new print run without the logo. I.e. the Qualmark branding was correct at the time of printing.

I withdrew from Qualmark because they are basically an accommodation rating agency, paper-based ‘tick the boxes’ assessment system with little or no customer feedback. 

Since the advent of TripAdvisor, Qualmark is redundant as far as tour guide rating, and I gather that a number of  accommodation providers have seen the light and are also dropping out.  Apart from the fact that they charge me around $750 a year for participation, I am assured by all my overseas clients that they do not have the faintest idea what Qualmark is.

Qualmark, in my opinion has utterly failed to promote itself effectively to inbound tourists as a QA brand.

Finally, I can assure you that Fine Wine Tours provides tours of the highest quality despite opting out of Qualmark.  I maintain the highest standards of industry practice - I am a certified passenger vehicle driver.  I have $1,000,000 public liability insurance, I hold a St. Johns First Aid certificate etc.

This year Fine Wine Tours was awarded a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor and rated as TripAdvisor’s  Best Auckland Visitor Activity in June 2011

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stonyridge Larose Vertical - Glengarry wines

Being as I am a member of the Glengarry Team, I have the chance to sample the upcoming wines at our monthly staff tasting (with free pizza).
This time we were in for a bit of a treat:  a ‘vertical tasting’ of Stonyridge’s famous Bordeaux blend - Larose.

This was pretty special because most of the tiny output from Stonyridge’s 25 acre plot on Waiheke is snapped up en primeur – I.e. even before it’s bottled as a speculative buy based on past history.  Hosted by Ethan MacDonald, assistant winemaker, the tasting took us through three consecutive vintages of Larose – 2008, 2009, 2010.
Nobody knows exactly what the blend of wine is but grape varieties in the Larose mix are Cabernet Sauvignon (predominantly), Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.  They also grow other French varieties – Syrah, Merlot, Grenache and Mourvèdre. 

Larose 2008
Crimson red and dense colour.  Aromas of pot pourri black berry fruit and spice.  Flavours - dry and tannic, with cherry, black fruit, plums, herbs, and savoury spice.

Larose 2009
Garnet/ruby red.  Herbal and spice aromas.  Flavours of vanilla spiced oak with firm tannin, yet full and ripe. Herbs and game, black pepper and liquorice.  Yum.

Larose 2010
Ruby red, ripe and firm.  Still very young and a bit edgy with black currant, plum and spice flavours.

With cellaring potential of 6 to 7 years we were sampling some babies, and no doubt tannins will soften and drop out over that period. 
Still my pick is the 2009.

When he's not a retail sales assistant at Glengarry wines Grey Lynn, Phil runs wine tours in Auckland