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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
independent
analytical
non-commercial
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
RECENT RELEASES,  INCLUDING A GREAT NEW ZEALAND MERLOT


Top wines for me in this batch are:  2005 Chard Farm Pinot Gris,  2004 Peregrine Pinot Noir,  2004 Daniel Schuster [ Pinot Noir ] Omihi Hills Vineyard Selection,  and 2004 Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard.

Some of the modern (and affordable) Spanish reds imported by Ted Money of Argosy Wines are included,  too.

These reviews first appeared on the www.regionalwines.co.nz website during 2006.  With the change to Regional's website linking directly through to this one in March / April 2007,  they are now re-formatted and inserted here at their appropriate dates.  In general,  they are not updated.  The word [then] is inserted occasionally,  to emphasise that.  Obvious errors have been corrected.



LAYOUT – AND THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
2005  Craggy Range Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard
2005  Culley Chardonnay
2004  Forrest Estate Chardonnay
2005  Koura Bay Chardonnay Mt Fyffe
2003  Ma Maison Chardonnay
   nv  Riverstone Chardonnay Vintage Selection
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2005  Culley Sauvignon Blanc
2004  Ferry Bridge Sauvignon Blanc
2005  Joseph Ryan Sauvignon Blanc
Riesling
2004  Chard Farm Riesling
2005  Culley Riesling
2005  Te Mania Riesling
2004  Waimea Estates Riesling Dry
Pinot Gris
2005  Chard Farm Pinot Gris
2005  Mebus Pinot Gris
2005  Mount Riley Pinot Gris Winemaker's Selection
   nv  Riverstone Pinot Gris Vintage Selection
Gewurztraminer
2004  Cono Sur Gewurztraminer Varietal Reserve
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
2005  Gravitas Riesling Late Harvest Hugo’s Delight
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Red
Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2004  Angus Cabernet Sauvignon The Bull
2004  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard
  2004  Morton Estate Merlot White Label
2004  Saint Clair Merlot
2004  Tiwaiwaka Cabernet Sauvignon
2001  Trinity Hill Cabernet / Merlot Gimblett Road
2004  TW Merlot / Malbec Makauri
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2003  Burnt Spur Pinot Noir
2003  Chard Farm Pinot Noir Vipers Vineyards
2005  Culley Pinot Noir
2004  Daniel Schuster [ Pinot Noir ] Omihi Hills Vineyard Selection
2004  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Waipara
2004  Delta Vineyards Pinot Noir
2004  Delta Vineyards Pinot Noir Hatter's Hill
2003  Ma Maison Pinot Noir
2003  Minaret Peaks Pinot Noir
2004  Mount Alexander Pinot Noir
2004  Mt Michael Pinot Noir
2004  Mt Michael Pinot Noir Bessie’s Block
2004  Peregrine Pinot Noir
2004  Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block
2004  Saint Clair Pinot Noir Omaka Reserve
2005  Wild South Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2003  Castano Coleccion
2003  Castano Hecula
2002  Castano Pozuelo Crianza
2001  Castano Pozuelo Reserva
2003  Coto de Hayas Fagus Garnacha Seleccion Especial
2004  Kemblefield Zinfandel
2004  Trinity Hill Montepulciano
From the Cellar. Older wines.
   

White
Chardonnay
2005  Koura Bay Chardonnay Mt Fyffe   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap; 2005 not (then) on website;  www.kourabaywines.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  A big clean chardonnay in the Marlborough style,  with MLF and new oak noticeable on peachy fruit,  plus mealy bread crust and faint caramel notes adding complexity.  Palate is much the same,  quite rich though possibly a gram or two residual sugar,  reasonably well-balanced.  The oak is apparent at this stage,  but the fruit is rich enough to marry it down.  Cellar 3 – 8.  GK 03/06

2005  Culley Chardonnay   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  LA several months in s/s only;  www.culleywines.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is reticent alongside the Koura Bay,  with a dry seemingly oak-related hessian note,  spirity and almost faintly quincy.  Since it is said to be un-oaked,  perhaps it is faintly oxidised.  Palate is rich,  very dry,  with taut integration of the lees-autolysis and stonefruit qualities.  This wine demands time in cellar to marry up and soften.  Acidity is prominent at this stage.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 03/06

2003  Ma Maison Chardonnay   16  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ 2 + 2 cork;  100% MLF ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is a caricature of the [former] charry oak / Corbans Cottage Block style,  with the mercaptan component becoming unpleasant.  Many people however like this level of sulphur complexity,  interpreting it as toasted / nutty.  Below is good varietal fruit.  Palate continues in the same vein,  the whole wine reminiscent of some of the wayward Jadot wines of the 70s,  quite bitey on the complexed sulphur / oak factors.  The richness of fruit has to be rewarded (reluctantly),  and in its distinctive style this should cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/06

2005  Craggy Range Chardonnay Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  wild yeast,  BF & LA in 44% new French oak for 10 months;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Lemonstraw.  An aggressive chardonnay bouquet,  the clear varietal fruit upset by VA and new oak.  Palate shows good fruit and complex winemaking,  but the VA introduces coarse canned pineapple flavours.  A flavoursome but unsubtle wine,  which may be more mellow in a year.  Short-term cellar,  say 2 – 5 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Forrest Estate Chardonnay   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  40% of the wine BF,  LA,  MLF in oak 12 months;  balance s/s plus LA only;  RS 5.6 g/L;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Lemon.   A fragrant chardonnay bouquet combines suggestions of florals with slight sackyness,  fruit dominant over oak.  Palate is white stonefruits,  tending acid in the Marlborough style (which completely hides the residual sugar),  reasonable richness,  straightforward wine to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

nv  Riverstone Chardonnay Vintage Selection   15  ()
New Zealand:  13.5%;  $11   [ screwcap;  may include Gisborne,  Hawkes Bay & Marlborough fruit,  some MLF;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is plentiful,  but coarse,  tending to the banana essence style some so-called aromatic yeasts produce.  Palate is much the same,  good fruit,  low oak,  but simple fruit salad flavours,  and with a harsh finish,  as if acid-adjusted Australian.  Wholesome,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 03/06

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2004  Ferry Bridge Sauvignon Blanc   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  no info on winery ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is clear-cut ripe sauvignon blanc,  ripened almost past red capsicum to honeysuckle,  black passionfruit and stonefruit.  It is very fragrant,  as if a dash of riesling has been blended in (which can work well with sauvignon,  augmenting the honeysuckle notes of really ripe sauvignon).  Palate shows good fruit richness,  in a pure stainless steel wine contrasting well with the Culley,  yet it is equally good.  Finish is dryer than most Marlborough sauvignons,  approaching nil residual sugar,  yet the wine is not too acid.  Great drinking.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  as desired.  GK 03/06

2005  Culley Sauvignon Blanc   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  the website implies the wine is all s/s,  but detail is lacking and the evidence in the glass contradicts;  www.culleywines.co.nz ]
Pale straw,  out of line with typical Marlborough sauvignon blanc.  On bouquet,  the reason is obvious:  oak.  Bouquet is thus complexed,  presumably barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis for at least a component,  introducing wholegrain bread and honey suggestions to clear red capsicum and the passion fruit smells – interesting.  Palate is quite big,  fatter than many Marlborough sauvignons,  the varietal character broadened by oak,  yet firmed by clean acid,  leaving flavours almost of stonefruit and black passionfruit fruit salad,  lingering well,  'dry' but not as dry as some.  This will be more complex in a year,  and should cellar well,  to taste.  A worthwhile style complement to the Ferry Bridge wine,  which will be great with smoked seafoods.  GK 03/06

2005  Joseph Ryan Sauvignon Blanc   16 ½  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  website not [ then ] functional;  www.josephryan.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is slightly clogged or cardboardy mainstream sauvignon,  the fruit ripened to red capsicum and the black passionfruit level.  Palate has good fruit and body suggesting some sur lie component (and explaining the bouquet),  drier than many sauvignons,  straightforward  wine.  Short-term cellar.  GK 03/06

Riesling
2005  Te Mania Riesling   18  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  4 g/L RS;  www.temaniawines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  An understated,  faintly freesia-like bouquet,  very clean and pure,  but not easy to pick the variety in the blind lineup.  Palate clarifies matters considerably,  with clear lime-zest flavours on attractive riesling fruit showing beautifully-handled phenolics,  and a neat ‘dry’ sugar / acid balance.  This wine might cellar surprisingly well,  5 – 10 years,  in its understated and pure way.  GK 03/06

2005  Culley Riesling   17 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  “dry”,  several months LA in s/s;  detail lacking;  www.culleywines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is sweet,  fragrant,  and clearly riesling,  with almost freesia florals (in bud) at this stage,  and good vanillin and lime-zest qualities.  Palate is rich with a possible sur lie component,  dry,  quite acid,  all very youthful.  It is a bolder wine than the subtle Te Mania one,  and fractionally sweeter.  It should cellar well,  5 – 8  years.  GK 03/06

2004  Waimea Estates Riesling Dry   17  ()
Nelson,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  no detail [then] on website;  www.waimeaestates.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet here is clearly riesling in the South Australian style,  softly vanillin,  less floral and more resiny than the Culley.  Palate is similar,  with slightly hoppy terpene flavours,  all a little broader,  milder and dryer than that wine,  with pleasing beeswax suggestions and palate richness.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Chard Farm Riesling   15  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  price approx;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is plain,  with noticeable VA,  plus an odd cooking-oil suggestion,  scarcely varietal.  Palate is awkward too,  slightly grapefruit,  medium dry sweetness,  quite phenolic and clumsy.  The nett impression is vaguely varietal,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 03/06

Pinot Gris
2005  Chard Farm Pinot Gris   18 ½  ()
Cromwell,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26   [ screwcap;  small crop,  all s/s implied;  only available ex vineyard;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is clean,  sweet,  and highly varietal,  with suggestions of the yellow florals that characterise good examples of the grape in its homeland,  Alsace.  Palate blends these florals with pearflesh and rich white stonefruit,  plus some subtle complexing from winemaking I suspect (part barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis ?) giving attractive varietal richness.  Finish is nearly dry,  just outside the dry class.  The whole mouthful is pinot-like,  with the grape dominant,  not oak.  Lovely wine to cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

2005  Mount Riley Pinot Gris Winemaker's Selection   18  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $24   [ screwcap;  ’05 wine not [then] on website;  www.mountriley.co.nz ]
Lemonstraw flushed straw.  Bouquet is very clean,  and smells rich though it is not immediately varietal – just light rosepetal aromas a little more floral than the Chard Farm.  Palate immediately jumps in quality,  with great bottled nectarine fruit,  and nicely judged phenolics against near-dry sweetness.  Too casual taste,  the wine is ‘dry’,  with fine fruit richness.  It has good pinot-family flavour,  and more substance to it than the pearflesh of 'normal' New Zealand pinot gris.  If there is oak in this,  it is exquisitely done – perfection for the variety.  Cellar 3 – 5  years,  perhaps longer.  GK 03/06

2005  Mebus Pinot Gris   16  ()
Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  BF,  LA and batonnage ]
Slightly flushed straw.  Bouquet shows fair fruit ,  and some rosepetal qualities almost overlapping with pinot meunier.  It is perhaps a little old for its age,  but is not oxidised.  It is much less obviously lees-autolysis enhanced than the 2004.  Palate is not so good,  the phenolics for which the variety is notorious being obtrusive,  even though the fruit weight is good.  Finish is skinsy,  and dryer than the Chard Farm.  This could be tiring to drink.  A dubious cellar prospect.  GK 03/06

nv  Riverstone Pinot Gris Vintage Selection   15 ½  ()
Italy:  12.5%;  $11   [ screwcap;  imported as bulk wine, and fine-tuned by Villa Maria;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet is clean dry white,  faintly floral and biscuitty.  Palate shows a little more character,  including some of the body and pearflesh of the variety,  in a non-oaked,  straightforward,  nearly dry wine.  This should be a pleasant inconsequential food-friendly QDW which will cellar a year or two,  and offers good value at the price.  GK 03/06

Gewurztraminer
2004  Cono Sur Gewurztraminer Varietal Reserve   17 ½  ()
Bio Bio Valley,  Chile:  14%;  $17   [ plastic closure;  Gw 100%,  hand-picked;  RS 5.6 g/L;  NZ importer www.goldmedalwines.co.nz;  good winery website;  www.conosur.com ]
Good lemon.  Bouquet is a clean,  spicy,  and slightly muscatty presentation of good gewurztraminer and lychee characters,  with a clear citronella lift – all very fragrant.  Palate is good,  with attractive fruit richness,  just the right amount of spice and phenolics to make the wine unequivocally gewurztraminer,  set against an equally appropriate quantity of residual sugar to balance it.  The wine finish is 'dry',  on appropriate acid.  Not magic gewurztraminer,  but pretty good at the price.  Would cellar 5 – 8 years,  but the plastic closure a worry,  so 3 – 5.  [ Some variation bottle to bottle has subsequently been noted.]  GK 03/06

Sweet / Sticky
2005  Gravitas Riesling Late Harvest Hugo’s Delight   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  11%;  $24   [ screwcap;  4 months LA in s/s;  www.gravitaswines.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet on this sweet wine is light,  fragrant and clearly varietal,  with citrus blossom,  vanillin and lime-zest notes.  Palate is fresh,  continuing very varietal,  sweetness more full spatlese to auslese level,  lighter and more resiny / phenolic than some Marlborough examples of the style.  Should cellar well,  3 – 10 years.  GK 03/06

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2004  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels Single Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $26   [ cork;  details not [then] on website;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  much denser than the Block 14 Syrah.  Bouquet is a whole size larger than the Block 14,  a little boisterous in its youth,  but much subtler and finer than the 2003.  Darkest black doris plums dominate the bouquet,  with almost a blackberry-in-the-sun berry fragrance and richness.  Behind the oak there are real merlot violets and florals in this wine,  which should emerge further as it marries down.  Palate shows sensational fruit,  wonderfully rich,  explicitly varietal despite the oak and alcohol,  inclining to the 'garagiste' new wave wine styles of St Emilion and Pomerol.  Acid balance is fine-grained and natural – and quite apart from the floral and varietal fruit quality,  this is where Kiwi merlot triumphs,  and the Australian examples languish – the latter too hard,  hot-climate,  acid adjusted and coarse.  This wine,  in contrast, will be velvety in five years.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Morton Estate Merlot White Label   17 +  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  12 months in oak;  www.mortonestatewines.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  more a pinot density than a cabernet / merlot one,  but not weak.  Bouquet is lovely,  very clean,  gentle florals of a violets kind as is legitimate for merlot,  but in the blind tasting slotting beautifully into the pinots.  Palate however is more Bordeaux,  some East Bank flavours and tannin balance emerging,  with plummy and tobacco-y fruit and hints of cassis.  It is already an enjoyable and potentially mellow claret-styled red (though it looks light against the brawny Aussies).  It gains points for sheer drinkability and style,  and beautiful oak-handling not dominated by new.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  VALUE  GK 03/06

2001  Trinity Hill Cabernet / Merlot Gimblett Road   17 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $26   [ cork;  CS 66%,  Me 21,  CF 13;  hand-picked,  cuvaison > 3 weeks;  c. 20 months in mostly French oak 30% new;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby, some age showing.  Bouquet is uncanny,  close to Bordeaux in an oaky way,  with fine cassis / cedar / tobacco / plummy complexity.  Palate initially continues the magic of bouquet,  but as it rests in the mouth it becomes just a little harder,  stalkier and more acid than classed Bordeaux,  and the oak exacerbates that.  But stylistically this Hawkes Bay blend is another great achievement for Trinity Hill,  which with fine tuning and a somewhat riper year,  will be delightfully confuseable with Bordeaux.  Cellar 5 –15 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Angus Cabernet Sauvignon The Bull   16 ½  ()
Seven districts in Victoria / South Australia,  Australia:  14.5%;  $20   [ 2 + 2 cork;  roto-fermenter or s/s fermentation,  some oak maturation;  www.angusthebull.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  dense.  Bouquet is relatively rich,  potentially cassisy,  but there is a worrying lesser Coonawarra-like odour combining retained fermentation odours with green machine-picked fruit.  Palate immediately expands the green and stalky component,  though the wine is indeed rich,  and one can see cassis and cabernet berry character.  The new oak is a bit raw,  which with the retained fermentation odours and the colour makes one wonder if some of the wine may be chips plus stainless steel (later:  website hints at this).  The result is a real doughnut cabernet,  big but not very beautiful.  It does breathe up,  and as a youthful wine is well balanced technically,  and may cellar well.  It could surprise.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 03/06

2004  TW Merlot / Malbec Makauri   16  ()
Gisborne,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  Me 50%,  Ma;  hand-picked;  18 months mostly new oak;  TW = growers Paul Tietjen & Geordie Witters;  www.twwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is immediately too oaky,  but it is clean,  with a novel suggestion of fivespice.  Berry fruit suggests better ripeness than the average these varieties usually achieve in the Gisborne district.  Palate has good rich black doris plummy fruit,  but is let down by a stalky quality and noticeable acid,  so the bouquet is misleading on fruit ripeness,  unfortunately.  Physiologically ripe Bordeaux-styled reds are an elusive goal in the Gisborne district.  This one has the richness to cellar 5 – 10 years in its style,  and marry down the oak.  GK 03/06

2004  Tiwaiwaka Cabernet Sauvignon   15 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $24   [ cork;  10 months in French oak 25% new ]
Lightish ruby.  Bouquet shows clean light cassis and mulberry fruit,  very fragrant and pretty,  reminiscent of the Chifney in 1986.  Palate however pulls things up abruptly,  being lighter and tending acid and leafy,  even though the red fruits persist well.  A fresh and fragrant light Loire-styled cabernet,  in many ways more pleasing to drink than the TW,  but to be cellared 3 – 5 years only (before the fruit thins).  GK 03/06

2004  Saint Clair Merlot   14 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  12 months LA in French oak 50% new;  www.saintclair.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little deeper than the Tiwaiwaka wine.  Bouquet is almost the flipside of that wine,  however,  with the leafiness of that wine's palate immediately apparent on bouquet,  in clean red fruits and oak.  Palate has the exact leafiness of minor St Emilion-satellite reds in cool years,  and is green.  In general,  Bordeaux-styled reds are not a good endeavour in Marlborough,  as Montana demonstrated conclusively in the 70s and 80s.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/06

Pinot Noir
2004  Daniel Schuster [ Pinot Noir ] Omihi Hills Vineyard Selection   18 ½  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $60   [ cork;  hand-harvested from the home vineyard;  open-vat fermentation,  cuvaison 22 days,  16 months in French oak,  RS 1 g/L,  dry extract 31 g/L;  www.danielschusterwines.com ]
Ruby,  a classical presentation of pinot noir.  Bouquet is captivating,  sweetly fragrant and spicy,  with whole-berry fermentation and floral components of pinot noir alongside a great volume of nutmeg-tinged soft spicy oak.  This oak is reminiscent of the wines Gary Farr was making in the 1980s.  The bouquet is an exciting and stylish statement about pinot noir,  handled in an individualistic and European way,  but one does initially wonder whether there will be too much oak on palate.  In the comparative blind tasting,  however,  the palate wins out,  with rich cherry fruit sustaining the smooth spicy oak into a long finish,  which is very varietal and stylish indeed – 31 g/L dry extract confirms excellent concentration.  In one sense,  the Omihi makes the top ’04 Otago wines look a little simple alongside,  though they are equally fine examples of New Zealand pinot noir.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Peregrine Pinot Noir   18 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  10 months French oak;  www.peregrinewines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  almost some carmine and velvet,  big for pinot noir.  Bouquet is full-throttle Otago pinot,  showing gorgeous floral components blending violets,  boronia and buddleia on black cherry fruit.  It is so floral,  one can overlook the spirit.  Palate is aromatic cherries much more than dark plums,  with the freshness of cherries counterpointed by fine oak to a maximum at this stage,  and a fresh acid balance.  This is refreshing wine chockfull of flavour,  unequivocally pinot,  rather more new world than the Schuster Omihi,  but both equally good.  It has the richness to need several years to marry up,  and become velvety.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Pisa Range Estate Pinot Noir Black Poplar Block   17 ½  ()
Cromwell Basin,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $37   [ screwcap;  12 months French oak;  www.pisarangestate.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  a fine colour for pinot noir.  Bouquet shows all the florals for which pinot noir is famous,  violets and boronia and red roses,  grading through to red and black cherry fruits.  Palate in contrast is a bit raw and youthful at this stage,  with good berry fruit on slightly jagged oak.  The wine needs a couple of years to marry up,  when it should score higher.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Mt Michael Pinot Noir Bessie’s Block   17 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  mostly BF and 6 – 8 months LA in French oak some new,  with batonnage,  some tank-fermented;  www.mtmichael.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Clear red fruits and cherry introduce a straightforward pinot noir on bouquet,  clean and lightly floral / fragrant.  Palate shows a little much oak at this stage,  on a quite rich red cherry palate with attractive ripeness,  no stalkyness,  an understated wine.  In fact,  the more one drinks it,  the better it gets,  and it is attractive with food.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Mount Alexander Pinot Noir   17  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $32   [ cork;  11 months in French oak ]
Classical pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is a little oaky freshly opened,  but quickly becomes fragrant and attractively varietal,  with buddleia florals on blackboy and red cherry fruit.  In mouth the fruit dominates,  crisp cherry,  lovely balance,  subtle oak.  This will be attractive mediumweight Martinborough pinot noir in a year or two,  in a lighter Beaune style against the more deeply floral Otago wines.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/06

2003  Chard Farm Pinot Noir Vipers Vineyards   17  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $41   [ screwcap;  website lacks specific info;  www.chardfarm.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Given the extra year on this wine,  bouquet is tending unknit,  with some rose florals,  and some red fruits touching on raspberry,  currant and cherry,  but not integrated in the way the Schuster wines are.  Palate has good fruit almost hinting at sweetness,  subtle oak,  straightforward cherry flavours,  all attractively ripe.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Daniel Schuster Pinot Noir Waipara   16 ½ +  ()
Waipara,  North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $40   [ cork;  hand-harvested from two vineyards;  open-vat fermentation,  12 months in French oak,  RS 1 g/L;  www.danielschusterwines.com ]
Lightish and older ruby than the Omihi wine.  Again this wine has a big and distinctive bouquet,  with overt whole berry fermentation characters including a leafy note,  and fragrant but slightly varnishy oak.  The whole wine is stylistically related to the Omihi,  but a little plainer.  Palate shows better than the bouquet,  the components becoming melded into a supple and fragrant mouth-filling wine,  with buddleia florals and cherry fruit on fragrant oak,  which is noticeable yet at the same time not harsh or obtrusive.  The result is distinctive and more-ish wine with a fragrant but slightly leafy Cote Rotie undertone,  which will cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Delta Vineyards Pinot Noir Hatter's Hill   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $27   [ screwcap ]
Ruby,  a good pinot noir colour.  Bouquet is clean ripe varietal pinot noir,  showing soft fruit in the strawberry,  red cherry and blackboy peach spectrum,  plus gentle oak.  It is not an overt bouquet,  but it is pleasing.  Palate is a little less,  quite rich blackboy flavours predominating,  in youth a little acid and oaky,  finishing a little phenolic.  Better in two years,  when some softness should appear.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 03/06

2003  Burnt Spur Pinot Noir   16 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  not [then] on website;  now a sub-label of Martinborough Vineyard;  www.burntspur.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  about the same as the Ma Maison.  This is more straightforward New Zealand pinot,  with fragrant soft red fruits which are slightly stewed (in the sense of red (yellow flesh) plums stewed),  plus a hint of pennyroyal.  Palate picks up the pennyroyal,  and a hint of stalkyness intrudes,  but the wine is riper than the Ma Maison.  This is mainstream Martinborough pinot noir,  which will cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

2003  Ma Maison Pinot Noir   16  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $ –    [ 2 + 2 cork;  hand-picked,  8 months in French oak,  not fined or filtered ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  fractionally deeper than the Schuster wines.  This wine really needs vigorous decanting,  opening up with overt grassy / stalky notes which are somewhat misleading.  Well breathed,  the stalky notes fade away,  and the wine is rescued by the rich berry and cherry fruit,  which is long and lingering (but still tending stalky).  I admit there are thoughts of cabernet franc / St Emilion satellite fragrant wines too,  but with food,  well decanted,  this will be a useful bottle after a year or two in cellar.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Mt Michael Pinot Noir   16  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ screwcap;  mostly BF and 6 – 8 months LA in French oak some new,  with batonnage,  some tank-fermented;  www.mtmichael.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Initial bouquet shows some unusual but pleasant red fruits characters,  including suggestions of pink South African guava (canned),  as well as stewed red plum.  Palate is shorter than the bouquet promises,  tending acid and slightly varnishy,  but all clearly varietal.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Saint Clair Pinot Noir Omaka Reserve   15 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  4 – 5 days cold-soak,  11 months LA in French oak;  www.saintclair.co.nz ]
Classical pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet opens up a little congested and leafy / stalky,  but the underlying red fruits are clearly pinot noir.  Palate is lighter than some,  again with stalky and faintly peppery threads in the slightly too acid red berries.  Oak is attractively balanced to the light fruit.  A sound straightforward pinot,  lacking excitement and ripeness in the present company.  Cellar 3 – 5 years.  GK 03/06

2003  Minaret Peaks Pinot Noir   15  ()
Wanaka, Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested ]
Lightish ruby,  the lightest in this bracket of pinots.  Bouquet is lightly red fruits,  slightly stalky and cardboardy,  not clearly varietal in the blind tasting including sangiovese and montepulciano.  Palate is more stalky,  the red fruits lacking physiological maturity.  This is a straightforward QDR pinot,  expensive at the price.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/06

2004  Delta Vineyards Pinot Noir   15  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $19   [ screwcap ]
Pinot noir ruby.  A modest pinot bouquet in Hawkes Bay strawberry style,  just a hint of tinned sardines.  Palate is light,  somewhat stalky and lacking concentration,  but will soften in a year or two into pleasant QDR pinot,  reminiscent of some similarly-priced Australian ones.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 03/06

2005  Culley Pinot Noir   14  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $18   [ screwcap;  modern clones of PN;  4 days cold-soak,  French oak;  www.culleywines.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is reductive,  and though the fruit is quite rich and recognisably pinot,  it is tending stewed.  Palate similarly shows fair weight,  but is phenolic to the point of being astringent,  on top of the retained fermentation odours.  Needs three or so years to mellow,  and will cellar longer,  but unlikely to improve beyond heavy QDR pinot.  GK 03/06

2005  Wild South Pinot Noir   13 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  part of Cairnbrae Vineyards,  owned by Sacred Hill;  website [then] under construction;  www.cairnbrae.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  A scarcely varietal light bouquet,  indeterminate red fruits,  both stalky and varnishy,  modest as pinot noir.  Palate is considerably more stalky,  acid,  with some suggestions of botrytis in the lightest red fruits,  all lacking ripeness and vinosity,  not bone dry.  QDR pinot at best,  not worth cellaring.  GK 03/06

All other red wines, blends etc
2002  Castano Pozuelo Crianza   17 ½ +  ()
Yecla DdO,  Spain:  13.5%;  $18   [ cork;  Mv 70%,  Sy 15,  CS 10,  Te 5, 10 months in US oak;  www.bodegascastano.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is first and foremost ripe dark red fruits,  and winey,  with mellow oak.  Closer examination reveals a hint of brett,  giving it a savoury and pleasant edge,  and the whole wine just smells sun-drenched and delicious.  Palate is likewise ripe in a mourvedre very dry style,  black fruits and black olives,  balanced gentle oak,  long and lingering on grape tannins much softer than the Coleccion.  This will cellar well,  5 – 15 years,  becoming more velvety.  VALUE  GK 03/06

2003  Castano Coleccion   17 ½  ()
Yecla DdO,  Spain:  14%;  $24   [ cork;  Mv 80%,  CS 20;  18 – 20 days cuvaison,  14 months in French & US oak;  www.bodegascastano.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is very rich and ripe to the point of roti,  but at least the raisiny fruit is dominant over oak.  Palate is clearly over-ripe fruit,  raisiny and pruney,  not as good / fresh as the 2001 of this label,  clearly reflecting the hot 2003 season in Europe (and again making one wonder why the Castano Hecula and Syrah ‘03 wines are so under-ripe).  Finish is devastatingly dry,  tanniny,  and old-oaky,  rich but firm at this stage.  Cellar 10 – 20 years,  maybe to lighten up and become more fragrant and seductive.  This is classic Spanish wine for cellaring.  GK 03/06

2003  Castano Hecula   17  ()
Yecla DdO,  Spain:  14%;  $18   [ cork;  100% Mv;  6 months in oak;  not filtered;  www.bodegascastano.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  virtually identical to the Pozuelo Crianza.  The bouquet is immediately more leafy than that wine,  however,  and more like mourvedre in a cooler year in the Barossa Valley.  Doesn't compute,  really,  2003 being so hot over most of Europe.  Palate is rich raspberry and red plums,  slightly stalky,  old oak,  reminiscent of the 2003 Castano Syrah,  with the same leafy under-ripe notes.  At this richness,  this is a winestyle I like,  and it will cellar well,  but my enthusiasm for it is not universally shared.  Cellar 5 – 10 years-plus,  for it is rich enough.  GK 03/06

2003  Coto de Hayas Fagus Garnacha Seleccion Especial   16 ½  ()
Campo de Borja DdO,  Spain:  13.5%;  $48   [ cork;  Gr 100% harvested @ 1 kg / vine,  vines 40 – 50 years;  www.bodegasaragonesas.com ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is not at all Spanish,  but in the modern cynical suck-them-in-with-mocha style,  which owes nothing to grape quality,  terroir,  or typicity,  and everything to winemaker manipulation in the cellar.  The result is one of the many gross and overdone rich wine styles so favoured by winewriters in the New World.  Never in 100 years could one tell the variety by bouquet,  so reeking of mocha and wood-handling is it.  Palate reveals rich over-ripe plummy fruit,  very concentrated blackest of plums,  so concentrated it seems not dry,  plus again this all-pervasive mocha / charry / and vanilla oak.  This wine is a sad commentary on the modern taste for the ersatz.  The score is for the original fruit richness:  coffee in wine is offensive,  in my view.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 03/06

2004  Trinity Hill Montepulciano   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ screwcap;  no detail for ’04 [then] on website;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  a touch of carmine and velvet.  Bouquet shows some whole berry fermentation juicy / fruity characters (as in Beaujolais),  together with an intriguing plum / olives / stalky character reminiscent of pinotage.  Palate does little to dispel the notion,  with stalky red fruits and slight retained fermentation odours,  producing a quite rich but plainish fruity wine.  Pinotage has to be very well ripened to be attractive (which it can be),  and the same may apply with this variety in New Zealand.  Cellar 5 – 8 years,  to follow with interest.  GK 03/06

2001  Castano Pozuelo Reserva   16  ()
Yecla DdO,  Spain:  13.5%;  $21   [ cork;  Mv 80, Te 10,  CS 10;  12 days cuvaison,  20 months in oak;  www.bodegascastano.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly older than the 2002 Crianza.  Bouquet is rich,  grapey,  and ripe to over-ripe in one sense,  but also aromatic,  slightly rank and volatile,  as if old (US) cooperage.  Palate reveals plenty of grapes,  but also the casky flavours of old wood,  plus some brett.  An old-fashioned rich wine,  which will cellar 5 – 10 years.  As has often been the case with less than majestic Spanish reds,  the less-oaked crianza version is preferable.  GK 03/06

2004  Kemblefield Zinfandel   13 ½  ()
Mangatahi,   Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $24   [ ‘Diam’ cork; ’04 not [then] on website yet;  www.kemblefield.co.nz ]
Older lightish ruby.  Bouquet is rank and stewed vague red fruits,  with botrytis undertones.  In the blind tasting,  it fitted in comfortably with some minor Italian reds.  Palate is very acid,  stalky,  and lacking any of zin’s varietal characters or charm,  apart from a curious bacony quality in the oak.  In the same way cabernet / merlot is pretty well impractical for Marlborough,  zinfandel is impractical for Hawkes Bay in eight or nine years out of 10.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 03/06