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Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
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Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.
SOME BORDEAUX BLENDS FROM WAIHEKE ISLAND,  NEW ZEALAND



Background:  As a follow-up to my June visit to Waiheke Island for a syrah workshop,  reported on 22 July 2008,  several producers were keen that I should specifically see their cabernet / merlots.  Additionally a few more samples of the winestyle accumulated in visits to winemakers.  It seemed logical therefore to assemble a blind tasting of the wines to hand,  noting however that it is not at all representative of all Waiheke Island producers.  As a foil for these wines,  and to avoid being too insular,  I looked back to my tasting accompanying the recent article on the evolution of Bordeaux blends in New Zealand 18 December 2007.  There I noted the 2005 Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels ($31) could be regarded as the new gold standard,  and anything better than that wine had to be gold medal level.  It seemed sensible therefore to use it as the reference point in this tasting of some Waiheke Island Bordeaux blends.  Due to travel circumstances,  the wines could not be assessed exactly in my usual format,  where there are enough wines to completely hide all known contenders,  but it was blind.  Not being a believer in absolute palate infallibility / reproducibility of results,  these scores therefore may err a little to the indulgent side –  Waiheke Island is a very pleasant place to visit.  

Winestyle:  A key issue to emphasise is that Waiheke Island Bordeaux blends may be somewhat different in character from Hawkes Bay examples.  Both colour and palate weight may be apparently lighter,  yet florality and fresh Bordeaux style may be greater.  In their elegant precision (at best) therefore,  the task is to assess both absolute ripeness achieved,  and length of flavour / dry extract.  This is made more difficult currently by a tendency to over-oak the wines,  in the process obscuring the subtlety and beauty of style.  I have been a little tolerant of that issue in this report.  

Anybody who has seen 1987 Stonyridge Larose in a blind tasting of the 1986 classed growth Bordeaux will know that Waiheke Island can make Bordeaux blends of world-class,  and even of better classed growth standard.  And in this visit too,  and the subsequent blind tasting,  the best wines again showed a delightful comparability of style to the Medoc or St Emilion.  The down-side in our temperate climate I felt was the over-reliance on oak for character,  rather than allowing the berry and fruit to determine the character of the wine.  Using American oak may exacerbate the difficulty.  There is no doubt that the vanillin and potentially cedary character of good American oak long air-dried before cooperage is attractive in cabernet / merlot blends,  but on the basis of these tastings it would be wise to keep the percentage of American below 10% of the cooperage,  it seems to me,  and the time in oak closer to one year than two.

Brettanomyces:  Waiheke Island winemakers have taken a lot of stick,  particularly from some Hawkes Bay winemakers,  that the whole island is riddled with brett,  and the wines can not be taken seriously.  Presumably the harshness of this criticism reflects the fact that Waiheke Island is the red wine district best suited to challenging Hawkes Bay as the producer of the finest New Zealand Bordeaux blends.  This challenge has been unsubtly underlined by Stonyridge Larose consistently setting out to be New Zealand's most expensive red – on the domestic market.  Both Providence at Matakana,  and now Destiny Bay at Waiheke Island,  are seeking to topple Larose from this position,  in their thus-far export-dominated efforts.  As I have written elsewhere,  I do not applaud wineries aspiring or competing to be the most expensive wines of any given style.  The practice can too easily become a conceit,  appealing to lesser human values.  The value of the wine should emerge from objective tasting evaluation over some years,  the results flowing through to the marketplace in the way the 1855 Bordeaux classification arose.  Currently for example it is noteworthy that Stonyridge Larose consistently fetches around half its recommended retail price,  when it comes up for auction in Wellington.

So returning to the brett issue,  firstly,  many Waiheke winemakers are certainly striving to get on top of this fragrant but vexatious yeast,  by both rigorous barrel heat-sterilising procedures,  in the case of the keenest at every emptying,  and moving towards temperature-controlled cool barrel storage.  The irony in this brett affair is that the wine-loving public couldn't give a toss,  most people naturally tending to like the fragrant,  savoury,  and exceedingly food-friendly (even food-mimicking) characters low-level brett introduces to wine.  This particularly applies to people who are familiar with and appreciative of French wine.  All too often in private tastings,  it is only the smart-arses who draw attention to the presence of brett,  partly no doubt to display their superior / up-to-the-moment learning.  C'est la vie.  

All that said,  however,  there is now an increasing desire to minimise brett,  rather more in the new world,  but also gradually in the old.  In one sense,  it is just a misfortune that we in New Zealand are located right alongside the world centre of expertise in brett,  namely the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) in Adelaide.  Accordingly Australasian wine judging practice is becoming overly,  in truth obsessively,  concerned with brett in wine,  so leading Australasian winemakers are setting the world pace in achieving brett-free wines.  Many consumers will lament the reduced complexity these pure wines display.  And it is true to say that if affected wines are sterile filtered to bottle,  the brett complexity will not increase in bottle,  nor the wine age any faster than usual,  or deteriorate – as may happen if there are any sugar-related components left in an unfiltered brett-infected wine.

In New Zealand,  in a year or two from now,  brett will be an issue only from the more artisan winemakers,  the kind who don't participate in winemakers' forums,  industry judgings,  or benchmark tastings.  Meanwhile,  if you want to tune up on what Brettanomyces character is like in wine,  buy just about any bottle of supermarket Montepulciano d'Abruzzo.  In a more subtle rendering,  the 2003 vintage (but not 2004) of Guigal's ubiquitous Cotes du Rhone is informative too.  Or use the edit / find function on articles in a more technically-inclined website,  to find wines that are said to be significantly bretty,  with a view to purchasing them.  The two main sensory phases of brett were discussed in Part 1 of a report on the Pinot Noir 2007 conference 26 February 2007 on this site.

The Tasting:  For the wines that follow,  no 2008 barrel samples are reviewed.  It is worth noting however that winemakers are very excited by the 2008 vintage.  For Waiheke Island they feel it will match and may exceed the 2005 vintage,  which is universally agreed to be the best of the decade so far.  A thumbnail outline of the vintages since 2000 is given in the syrah workshop account accompanying this article.  

The establishment of the Destiny Bay operation is of interest.  Proprietors Mike and Ann Spratt are Americans (and now New Zealanders) who would appear to have fallen in love with Waiheke Island,  around 1997.  Their goals are set out on the winery website www.destinybaywine.com   Production thus far has been essentially shaped for,  and sold in the American market,  at prices that owe more to the Californian approach to wine than the New Zealand one.  It is early days,  so in this report I will just report on the wines.  From the 2006 vintage (release details below),  there will be more emphasis on New Zealand and Australian sales.  The wines are marketed at three pricepoints:  Magna Praemia c. $275,  Mystae c. $115,  and Destinae c. $80,  with no differential between New Zealand,  Australian or American dollars in their respective markets.   Meaning of names in wine reviews.  Thus far most has gone offshore,  with a very limited quantity locally to a handful of restaurants,  and a little to The Fine Wine Delivery Company.  Obtaining the wine is best pursued directly via the winery website,  or from Fine Wine.  There will be an annual en primeur offer,  which will require enrolling as a Destiny Bay 'patron',  implying an annual commitment to purchase.

The other winery featuring largely in these reviews is Te Motu,  longer established.  It belongs to the Dunleavy family,  headed by Terry Dunleavy for long the CEO of the then Wine Institute (now New Zealand WineGrowers),  and now the founder and editor of the wine industry's national reference magazine New Zealand WineGrower.  The vineyard though is majority-owned by son Paul,  the land being bought in 1987,  with planting on rootstock largely in 1989.  Considerable follow-up replacement grafting was needed,  perhaps 15% of the initial vines.  There was fair fruit in 1992,  but Paul emphasises their priority was to get the vineyard set up as desired first,  so no wine was made.  Te Motu makes only the one wine,  a fragrant and distinctive Bordeaux-styled red with longer oak elevage than most in New Zealand.  The main wine is simply labelled Te Motu,  and the second wine is Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot.  In the least years,  all the wine is declassified to Dunleavy.  The first commercial crop and Te Motu bottling was in 1993.  

Pricing:  Waiheke wines in general have the reputation of being too expensive for what you get.  Michael Cooper wrote tellingly on this subject in the Sunday Star Times 27 August 2000,  and comments now that no article of his has ever engendered so much feedback,  all supportive.  Certainly there is an unease amongst Waiheke winemakers about the rise and rise of Hawkes Bay reds,  but asserting some kind of superiority by pricing is not the way to go.  That caters only to the snob market,  never (sad to say) far from wine matters.  It is good therefore that wineries such as Passage Rock and the Weeping Sands Label of Obsidian are entered in wineshows,  and compete on price.  The higher cost of production on Waiheke has to be borne,  I fear,  for the attentive will note that good European wines from undoubtedly high-cost production zones have lately (with our high dollar) been competitive in price with Hawkes Bay too – Bordeaux notably.  Thus the logic for including a $30 benchmark Hawkes Bay red in this tasting seemed inescapable to me.  There is no need to write further about the issue,  for the scores tell my view of the story.  

Acknowledgements:    The reception from all winemakers met on Waiheke Island was much appreciated.  Vertical tastings presented by the Dunleavy family at Te Motu,  and by Luc Desbonnets at Destiny Bay,  were remarkable,  a real treat.






CABERNET, MERLOT, AND RELATED BLENDS



2005  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels
2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Destinae
2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Destinae (barrel sample)
2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Magna Praemia
2005  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Magna Praemia
2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Magna Praemia (barrel sample)
2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae
2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae (barrel sample)
2005  Destiny Bay [ Merlot / Cabernets ] Aeolus
2003  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot
2001  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot
2006  Goldwater [ Cabernets / Merlot / Franc ] Goldie
2006  Goldwater Merlot Esslin
  2005  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2006  Passage Rock Merlot Reserve
2005  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2004  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2002  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2000  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
1999  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
1998  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
1993  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
1996   [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy Reserve Cabernet / Merlot
2005  The Obsidian [ Cabernets / Merlot ]
2004  The Obsidian [ Merlot / Cabernets ]
2002  The Obsidian [ Merlot / Cabernets ]


2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Magna Praemia (barrel sample)   19  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $275   [ cork;  CS 74,  Me 14,  CF 7,  Ma 5,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 – 14 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  en primeur offer date 1 April 2009 "significantly" below the above price,  release date 1 April 2010;  Magna Praemia alludes to great reward,  and contains a greater proportion of press juice;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the deepest of the Waiheke wines,  but not as deep as the Craggy Range Merlot.  Given some air,  bouquet is really something on this wine,  deep,  dark,  but unlike the 2005,  clearly floral,  varietal and potentially bordeaux-like.  The interaction of deep violets and aromatic cassis is as intense as the Craggy wine,  at this stage suggesting a wine of great depth yet not over-influenced by oak.  Palate shows a richness of fruit,  and a quality of cassisy complexity,  reminiscent of the 1987 Stonyridge Larose at the same stage.  This wine (thus far) encapsulates my vision for an optimal Waiheke Island Bordeaux blend,  and confirms again that cabernet sauvignon can be fully ripened on the best sites (and in good years) on Waiheke.  It has the potential to be an outstanding New Zealand red of classed growth standard – at what level should await bottled samples.  [ NB:  the finished wine may differ from this barrel sample.]  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 06/08

2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Magna Praemia   18 ½ +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $275   [ cork;  CS 74,  Me 14,  CF 7,  Ma 5,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 – 14 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  en primeur offer date 1 June 2008 "significantly" below the above price,  release date 1 April 2009;  Magna Praemia alludes to great reward,  and contains a greater proportion of press juice;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  not quite the depth and freshness of the 2007.  Bouquet is rich,  deep and dark,  totally Medoc cassisy cabernet dominant,  with merlot floral suggestions and aromatic potentially cedary oak.  Palate is sternly cabernet in classic Bordeaux style,  not quite as rich as the 2007 and 2005 and hence a little too oaky maybe,  but the whole wine long in flavour.  For this report,  I will record the wine quality as I see it,  and leave the price till another day,  in a more rigorously comparative blind tasting.  Cellar 10 – 15 + years.  GK 06/08

2005  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $31   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 86%,  CF 14,  hand-harvested @ 3.5 t/ac;  20 months in French oak 50% new;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a model Bordeaux-blend colour,  yet not a heavyweight.  The wine is little-changed from previous reports,  the bouquet is simply sensational for the variety,  explicit violets florals,  and beautiful bottled black doris dark plum.  Palate matches perfectly,  ripe,  warm,  generous without being big,  totally of (say) Fourth Growth Bordeaux standard.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/08

2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae (barrel sample)   18 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $115   [ cork;  CS 57,  Me 22,  CF 17,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  en primeur offer date 1 April 2009 "significantly" below the above price,  release date 1 April 2010;  Mystae alludes to the name given to students entering the schools of philosophy of the great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle,  and presumably implies the thought of understudy to Magna Praemia;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as deep as the Craggy,  but one of the deepest Waiheke reds.  Bouquet is rich,  ripe and aromatically deeply cassisy,  very attractive.  Fruit richness in mouth is good too,  not as rich as the same-year Magna Praemia,  darkest plums,  more aromatic than the Craggy (reasonable,  it is cabernet-dominated) and on examination,  much more oaky,  at about the maximum the fruit can sustain.  As with the top years of Stonyridge Larose,  this wine shows full physiological flavour maturity and ripeness of cabernet sauvignon is achievable on Waiheke  Island.  [ NB:  the finished wine may differ from this barrel sample.]  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/08

2005  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   18 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF,  Sy & Ma,  handpicked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French & Hungarian oak c.30% new;  c. 500 cases,  not yet released,  current vintage is 2002 @ $90;  thus far,  the vintage of the decade;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little older than the other 2005s.  Bouquet is beautifully fragrant,  and notwithstanding the cepage,  is remarkably reminiscent of St Emilion rather more than the Medoc,  the merlot violets showing up delightfully.  Below are red and black currants plus plum,  and a suggestion of pipe tobacco,  beguiling.  Palate is firmer than the bouquet,  crisp cassis bespeaking the cabernet and plum fruit,  potentially cedary oak a little noticeable,  long-flavoured and lingering well,  suggesting good extract.  In contrast to the bouquet,  palate is more Pauillac in style,  the way Grand Puy Lacoste used to be for example,  when it was more oaky than recently.  This is much the best Te Motu thus far,  the oak having been too generous in earlier vintages.  Cellar 5 – maybe 20 years.  GK 06/08

2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Mystae   18 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $115   [ cork;  CS 57,  Me 22,  CF 17,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  en primeur offer date 1 June 2008 "significantly" below the above price,  release date 1 April 2009;  Mystae alludes to the name given to students entering the schools of philosophy of the great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle,  and presumably implies the thought of understudy to Magna Praemia;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  significantly deeper than Destinae of the same year.  Bouquet and flavour show a riper spectrum of fruit colour and density than the junior wine,  with clear cassis and bottled black doris plums,  though not the depth of the Craggy Range Merlot.  Palate is darkly fragrant,  just a hint of violets,  deeper and more raisiny / plummy than many,  yet light on its feet,  totally best cru bourgeois / lesser classed growth in style.  The oak seems better concealed here than in the 2006 Magna Praemia,  or 2007 Mystae at this stage,  so in a sense it seems better balanced – hence the score matching the same-year Magna Praemia though it is not as rich.  It is not as fragrant as the 2005 Te Motu,  but is a little plumper.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/08

2007  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Destinae (barrel sample)   18  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $80   [ cork;  CS 46,  Me 22,  CF 15,  Ma 17,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  en primeur offer date 1 April 2009 "significantly" below the above price,  release date 1 April 2010;  Destinae alludes to one’s destiny,  or perhaps more the notion of arrival into nirvana (maybe in the sense of enjoying this wine);  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is a little fresher than the 2007 Mystae,  very youthful,  some cassis,  more dark plum and aromatic oak.  Palate darkens the fruit considerably,  good ripeness and seemingly a better oak balance at this stage than some of the more serious labels,  all in a firm Medoc style.  [ NB:  the finished wine may differ from this barrel sample.]  This should cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/08

2006  Goldwater [ Cabernets / Merlot / Franc ] Goldie   18  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $65   [ screwcap;  CS 51%,  Me 45,  CF 4,  hand-picked at 2.1 ± 0.3 t/ac;  s/s ferment,  then c.20 months in "predominantly" French oak 50% new;  www.goldwater.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little deeper than the Goldwater Esslin.  This wine is so northern Medoc in approach,  Potensac or Senejac maybe,  fragrant and nearly floral,  the cassisy cabernet showing through.  Palate is firm,  a touch riper with darker red fruits than the Esslin,  in the lean and elegant style Kim Goldwater set out to achieve,  yet ripe.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/08

2006  Passage Rock Merlot Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested;  5 days cold soak;  12 months in French oak 80% new;  sterile-filtered;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  tending old for age.  Freshly opened,  this wine is understated to a fault,  coming across as under-ripe and oaky.   With decanting and plenty of air,  it blossoms into an extraordinary mimic of the Cote Rotie style as if syrah were a large part of it,  with clear dianthus florals and cassisy fruit,  plus a touch of mint and smokey oak.  Palate is firmly cassis,  just as confusing,  long-flavoured.  This will be enjoyable and good food wine,  unusual but attractive.  My score reflects the fact I like fragrant syrah – the wine could be marked down on atypicity.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/08

2005  Destiny Bay [ Merlot / Cabernets ] Aeolus   17 ½ +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $80   [ cork;  CS 35,  Me 49,  CF 12,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  released;  note for the 2005 vintage this wine is labelled Aeolus (alluding to loess) on the Australasian market,  Mystae (see other reviews) on the US market,  but from 2006 on naming will (hopefully !) be rationalised into the three labels shown elsewhere in this report;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  a touch of age.  Benefits from decanting,  to reveal a clear Bordeaux look-alike red,  fragrant,  some pipe tobacco in cassis and plum fruit,  not a big wine.  Palate is complex with a little savoury complexity in older firm cassisy fruit.  As with Bordeaux,  these are wines optimised for food,  tending light by Hawkes Bay standards,  and both light and subtle by Australian.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/08

1999  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17 ½ +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $125   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF & Ma,  handpicked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  good crop,  long coolish vintage;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  much deeper than the 2001.  Bouquet is clear cassis with a suggestion of blackberry,  very fragrant and Medoc-like,  with cedary overtones to the noticeable oak.  It reminds of some St Emilions,  or Gruaud Larose from St Julien,  the way it used to be in the 1960s when there was new oak.  Perhaps there is trace brett complexity here,  but it would be churlish to mention it since most 1999 Bordeaux would show similar levels – and the wine is obviously stable in bottle.  Palate epitomises the fragrant Te Motu approach,  good cassisy fruit,  not obviously rich yet deceptively long-flavoured,  oak mellowing into the wine,  not dominating the finish unduly,  a cedary Bordeaux-styled wine.  And the classic Bordeaux alcohol level is superb.  Cellar 2 – 7 years.  GK 06/08

2002  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17 ½ +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $90   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.30%,  balance CF  & Ma,  handpicked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  very good crop and summer to follow;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is lifted on this wine by a touch of VA,  to be very fragrant and red plummy,  fruit dominant to oak as in the 2005.  Palate follows appropriately,  plummy as if merlot dominant,  the cassis character a bit lost in the complexity.  This is one of the best-balanced and rich Te Motus in the set,  unless you are sensitive to VA.  Many people like the lifted character it introduces.  It will cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/08

2000  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $100   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF  & Ma,  handpicked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  good crop,  fine warm summer;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  a little fresher than the 1999.  Freshly opened,  this wine like the 1999,  reminded of Gruaud Larose of earlier decades.  Cassisy berry is evident on bouquet,  plus trace brett,  and oak a little too overt to be cedary.  Palate is therefore a little shorter and harder than the 1999,  perhaps not quite so ripe,  but the quality of the cassis is clear.  With such attractive Bordeaux-modelled alcohols,  the Te Motus could handle a little more ripeness.  Coupled with less time in oak,  this would make them a little more contemporary without losing their essential character.  The 2005 vintage seems to reflect such moves.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/08

2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Destinae   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $80   [ cork;  CS 46,  Me 22,  CF 15,  Ma 17,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  en primeur offer date 1 June 2008 "significantly" below the above price,  release date 1 April 2009;  Destinae alludes to one’s destiny,  or perhaps more the notion of arrival into nirvana (maybe in the sense of enjoying this wine);  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is beautifully fragrant,  suggestions of Margaux violets in a lighter wine than some,  showing clear merlot varietal character,  remarkably comparable (though lighter) on bouquet with the Craggy Range Merlot.  Palate is less though,  a little cooler in its ripeness achievement,  not stalky but a touch firm with the thought of red plums as well as black,  yet the fruit in mouth lingers delightfully.  Again the oak balance on this Destinae label seems more appropriate than some of the Mystae and Magna Praemia wines,  as if it had less new oak exposure.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/08

2006  Goldwater Merlot Esslin   17 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.3%;  $80   [ screwcap;  Me 98,  CF 2,  hand-picked at 2.1 ± 0.3 t/ac;  s/s ferment,  then c.20 months in French oak 30% new;  Esslin is the name of the original property from which the vineyard land was sub-divided;  www.goldwater.co.nz ]
Ruby,  not too different from the 2006 Destiny Bay Destinae.  This is another one that needs decanting / breathing,  to allow the fruit to develop.  Bouquet  is clearly stewed plums (+ve),  oaky initially,  but marrying up with air.  Palate is on the crisp side for merlot,  a touch of raspberry in the plum,  aromatic on the oak.  Though the flavour is very different,  the similarity of weight and style between this and the 2005 Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot is intriguing.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/08

2005  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   17 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  CS 90%,  Me 5,  CF 5,  hand-harvested;  14 days cuvaison;  15 months in mostly American oak 50% new;  sterile-filtered;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the deeper ones.  This one could be confused with a Hawkes Bay wine.  Bouquet shows good aromas even including a hint of mint,  cassisy and cabernet-like,  but is also very oaky.  On palate there is plenty of flavour,  but even more oak,  which hardens the wine and robs it of fruit generosity.  There is sufficient underlying fruit to cellar reasonably well,  but whether to lose oak tannins or not is hard to say.  A bit out of balance,  therefore,  given the emerging fragrant and poised Waiheke style.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/08

2005  Destiny Bay [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Magna Praemia   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $275   [ cork;  CS 74,  Me 13,  CF 6,  Ma 8,  hand-harvested;  12 – 14 months in American 50% and French oak c. 50% new;  released;  Magna Praemia alludes to great reward,  and contains a greater proportion of press juice;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  fresher than the 2005 Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve,  one of the deeper wines.  Bouquet is dark,  and unusually for Waiheke,  there are suggestions of over-maturity for the cabernet sauvignon,  at least in a Bordeaux context.  Florals are relatively lacking therefore,  but dark plum,  and even savoury prune and moist dried fig notes are evident,  the whole style almost hot-year Pomerol-like.  Winemaker Luc Desbonnets spoke of an aniseed note,  approvingly.  In mouth,  fruit weight is very rich,  and the wine is now more reminiscent of Napa Valley cabernet than Bordeaux,  though on natural acid balance.  It therefore looks subtler texturally than most Australian cabernets,  even though the oak is more than optimal.  I imagine American tasters would mark this in the 90s,  but in the context of the last 20 + years of Bordeaux-styled blends from Waiheke Island,  an opportunity has been lost here.  Sur-maturité is a new world desire,  I fear,  and not so food-friendly.  Even so,  one can understand a winemaker wanting to initially explore the limits of style,  for this exciting new venture in a new location.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 06/08

2002  The Obsidian [ Merlot / Cabernets ]   17 +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 40%,  CS 35,  CF & Ma,  hand-picked;  c.13 months in French oak,  50% new,  balance 1 and 2-year;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  tending mature.  Bouquet is immediately reminiscent of mature Bordeaux,  more 10 to 15 years old than six,  but all very much in style.  It is a bit old for florals as such,  but it is fragrant,  with browning cassis,  dark plum,  pipe tobacco,  cedary oak,  and a little brett maybe,  all adding complexity.  Palate is astonishingly cru bourgeois-like,  of similar weight,  acid balance and integration of fruit and oak,  just a little oakier all through.  This wine was made off the island,  so future vintages,  less travelled etc,  may not mature so quickly.  Cellar a year or three.  GK 06/08

2004  The Obsidian [ Merlot / Cabernets ]   17  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  Me 40%,  CS 35,  CF & Ma,  hand-picked;  c.13 months in French oak,  50% new,  balance 1 and 2-year;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is significantly mellower and more mature than the 2005,  with plummy and dark tobacco qualities on both bouquet and palate.  Oak is in fair balance to the fruit,  and total style is reminiscent of many a minor Bordeaux,  Entre Deux Mers in particular,  but all slightly acid.  It should cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/08

2004  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS c.70%,  Me c.20%,  balance CF,  Sy & Ma,  handpicked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French & Hungarian oak c.30% new;  not yet released,  current vintage is 2002 @ $90;  good crop,  long coolish summer;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some age creeping in.  Bouquet has again achieved this marvellous fragrance the Dunleavys have in Te Motu.  It is an amalgam of merlot and the cabernet varieties,  tending floral,  very berried,  but the long exposure to and interaction with the oak makes the wine distinctive,  and hard to characterise.  Palate is light,  yet not weak,  fresh,  fragrant in mouth,  a total mix of blackcurrant,  redcurrant and plum,  again Bordeaux-like (apart from the oak).  The astonishing thing about these Te Motus is that given the time in oak approaching 30 months,  though they are fragrant with oak,  they are not as harshly oaky as one would expect,  indicating good dry extract.  The style is therefore distinctive on the island,  lean,  cedary and reminiscent of 1960s Bordeaux,  some vintages cellaring well.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/08

1998  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   17  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $320   [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF  & Ma,  handpicked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  on  Waiheke 1998 was a good but not hot year (unlike Hawkes Bay),  small crop,  warm dry vintage;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  not too different from the 1996.  It is curious the way individual Te Motus express their oak quite differently.  This one too shows a touch of the carbolic fragrance of American oak,  like the 1993,  on sweet cassis and blackberry fruit.  Palate is fresher and richer than the colour suggests,  clearly related to the 1999,  fruit in fair ratio to the oak,  an intriguing mint hint in the depths of it.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/08

1996   [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy Reserve Cabernet / Merlot   17  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS >95%,  balance Me,  handpicked @ < 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  this wine a special bottling for export;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  much older than the 1993.  This seems to be not a wine to decanter and leave to breathe for an extended time.  Freshly opened,  it is sweetly fragrant,  again reminding of some lesser classed Pauillacs such as Grand Puy Lacoste,  with browning cassis and cedary oak.  Palate is mature,  fading a little so drying to the finish.  Like the other Te Motus,  the oak is more apparent than real,  initially,  but increases if the decanted wine is left to stand.  Food-friendly fully mature wine,  best used in the next few years.  GK 06/08

2005  The Obsidian [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   16 ½ +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS 48%,  Me 48,  CF 3,  Ma 1,  hand-picked;  c.13 months in French oak,  50% new,  balance 1 and 2-year;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  brighter than most of the '05s.  This wine too takes one immediately to the northern Medoc,  being fresh and fragrant,  the aromatic cassis tending crisp with more red fruits than black supporting it.  Palate is much the same,  just escaping being stalky or green,  but like so many northern Medocs such as Potensac and Senejac,  tending austere all through.  As it matures,  it should soften harmoniously,  and become a more food-friendly wine,  in its cru bourgeois style.  But given that 2005 is an optimal vintage for the island,  Obsidian will be needing to enhance the physiological maturity of the fruit in the vineyard,  for their premium wine.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 06/08

2001  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot   16 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS c.55%,  Me c.35%,  balance CF  & Ma,  handpicked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak c.30% new;  nearly as poor a season as 2003 for Te Motu;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  some garnet.  Bouquet shares the fragrance of the Te Motu family of wines,  but this one is more oaky,  on red and blackcurrant browning into maturity.  Palate is richer than the 2003 Dunleavy,  but much more oaky,  with total acid up a bit too.  The oak and acid interact,  to reduce the harmony in mouth.  This might not cellar so well,  so perhaps 2 – 5 years might be best.  GK 06/08

2003  [ Te Motu ] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot   16 ½  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Me c.74%,  Sy c.12,  CS 8,  CF c.6,  handpicked @ < 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in predominantly French and some American oak none new;  2003 is the worst vintage thus far for the vineyard,  botrytis-affected,  there is no Te Motu,  everything worthwhile being consigned to this one wine for the year;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Pale and older ruby,  some garnet.  Bouquet is very fragrant indeed,  and despite the cepage,  surprisingly  reminiscent of the soft 1973 (NZ) McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon,  with a little botrytis influence and characteristic American oak aromas.  Palate is light,  yet not stalky or thin,  fresh despite the colour,  a total impression of minor St Emilion more than 10 years old (rather than five).  It has benefitted from no new oak,  though it is still a little oaky to the finish relative to minor Bordeaux.  The fruit and traditional Bordeaux alcohol wraps it up well.  There is no Te Motu in 2003,  so this lean but food-friendly wine is the only representative.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/08

1993  Te Motu [ Cabernets / Merlot ]   16 +  ()
Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS c.60%,  Me c.30%,  balance CF  & Ma,  hand-picked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.2.5 years in French and American oak c.60% new;  first commercial vintage;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  good depth and freshness for its age.  On bouquet,  this one takes the taster straight back to late 1960s McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon,  complete with its faintly carbolic / phenolic American oaky edge to surprisingly fresh cassisy fruit.  Palate is in the same style,  oakier than the later 90s wines,  tending acid,  but the fruit still fresh and vigorous,  surprising for this post-Pinatubo year.  For those who like oak,  this will be attractive,  but mindful of the Bordeaux model which maritime Waiheke is so uniquely placed to emulate,  this wine now seems a little wayward.  Will cellar for some years yet,  say 2 – 5.  GK 06/08