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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.
WAIHEKE ISLAND OF WINE EXPO,  2 OCTOBER 2012,  NEW ZEALAND:  THE RED WINES …


[ Preamble:  For a review of this kind,  where many samples are gathered under some time pressure,  I think the best result is gained if the report is first sent to all participating district winemakers and other keen local parties,  to pick me up on any simple mis-recordings or mis-transfers of info etc.  I also invite comment on the content,  for me to think about,  but no commitment.

In response,  several people commented (as have winemakers in other districts previously) that I do reference the classical districts of France rather much.  Why not set out to make distinctive Waiheke winestyles,  given the clay soils are so different from Hawkes Bay in the first instance.  This is a  valid point – I have to plead guilty.

Two things.  The maritime climate of Waiheke Island is I suspect uncannily capable of producing wines which very closely match Bordeaux in style,  as 1987 Stonyridge Larose still shows.  The power-without-weight fragrance and beauty of Bordeaux has long been one kind of benchmark in world wine-styles,  and moreover a winestyle well-suited to food.  From another tack,  I have for some time felt that in setting out to make great wines,  there is much benefit in new world proprietors first seeking to emulate the acknowledged masters,  before declaring:  we can do something else so much better.  The latter approach has not always lead to reds of beauty or interest (beyond locally) in Australia,  where proprietors have sometimes quite forcefully pursued that path.

So for both these reasons,   I applaud the approach of people like Stonyridge,  who,  like Te Mata in an earlier generation,  and Craggy Range today,  set out first to match the classics.  Readers will note that even for Stonyridge,  I now have a caveat.

One part of some of the new winestyles is the availability now of exquisite American oak,  air-dried for three years and more,  and of a fineness,  fragrance and delicacy totally unavailable to an earlier generation of Australian winemakers.  Some is even coopered in France now,  and likewise there are French coopers working in America.  Spain has long (many generations) shown that beautiful fragrant reds can be made with a predominance of American oak.

Winemakers have also commented that I am reviewing very young wines,  in the case of 2010 from a special and concentrated year,  and that the noticeable oak I speak of will marry in with time.  That is true to a degree,  but I speak as a person who likes wines to be in such harmony that they cellar for much longer than the average winemaker in the new world contemplates.  My experience is that wines that are oaky in youth may seem less so at a new-world concept of maturity (which in New Zealand being a young wine country seems to be well under 10 years),  but in later years they again become oaky.  To my mind,  truly beautiful and subtle wines best suited to food do not show this oak problem.  Instead they are balanced and beautiful in youth,  middle-age and real old age.

The whole wine scene on Waiheke Island in 2012 is brilliantly dynamic and stimulating.  One goal of this review is to stimulate reflection and debate.]



INTRODUCTION:
Waiheke Island in the Hauraki Gulf,  c.30 km east of Auckland City,  is becoming increasingly well-known for its wines,  particularly its bordeaux blends and syrah reds.  Nearly all the wineries belong to The Waiheke Winegrowers Association Inc  (WWA).  In recent years they have held an annual Wine Expo,  following the lead of the Hawkes Bay Hot Red Expo.  This year's was styled the 2012 Waiheke Island of Wine Exposition,  held in Auckland on 2 Oct. 2012.  Seventeen wineries participated.  

Attendance at this year's Expo must have given the organisers pleasure.  There were over 70 people at the media and trade sessions,  and about 160 at the follow-on public tasting.  The venue was well-chosen,  on the waterfront at The Floating Pavilion.  

The best information source about Waiheke Island wines,  and the Island's physical setting,  can be found at the WWA website:  www.waihekewine.co.nz  A schedule of member wineries is given under the heading on the page:  OUR WINES ––> WINES PRODUCED.  Much of the information on the site,  including the map,  a good map of the geology,  and descriptions and photos of the 11 main grape varieties grown on the Island,  is reproduced in their outstanding brochure WAIHEKE – Island of Wine.

The main names involved in The Waiheke Island wine scene can be tentatively summed up as below,  noting there is constant change.

LIST OF WINERY AND RELATED NAMES ASSOCIATED WITH WAIHEKE ISLAND

Waiheke WineGrowers Association (WWA) member wineries  
exhibiting at the Expo  (17):

Cable Bay Vineyards
Destiny Bay Vineyards
Goldie Wines
 (formerly Goldwater Estate)
Jurassic Ridge
Kennedy Point Vineyard
Man O’War
 (formerly Stony Batter Estate)
Miro Vineyard
Mudbrick Vineyard
 (including Shepherds Point)
Obsidian Vineyard (including Weeping Sands)
Passage Rock Wines
Peacock Sky
 (formerly Peacock Ridge)
Poderi Crisci  (formerly Christensen Estate)
Soho Wine Company
Stonyridge Vineyard
Te Rere / Expatrius
The Hay Paddock
View East Vineyard

WWA member and wine producer not exhibiting at the Expo  (4)
Batch Winery
,  formerly Ridgeview Estate,  new owners,  new to
WWA,  plan to open Jan. 2013
Saratoga Estate

Te Motu Vineyard
Woodside Hill

WWA member,  but now primarily grape-growers or hospitality,  
not wine producers  (2)

Edbrooke Estate,  grape-grower only,  for other vineyards
Wild On Waiheke,  activity centre,  formerly Topknot Hill Vineyard,  
some grapes,  small quantity wine made for them for on-site sale

Producing Wineries not members of WWA   (3)
Awaroa Vineyard
Owhanake Bay Estate
Te Whau Vineyard

Former wineries and other / earlier names no longer making wine
commercially,  or at all:

Fenton Estate,  grape-grower for other vineyards,  small quantity wine
made for them for private use
Isola Estate,  grapes no longer grown
Oakura Bay,  grape-grower for other vineyards
Peninsula Estate,  grape-grower for other vineyards
Putiki Bay Vineyard,  grapes no longer grown
Turere Cove,  a former small vineyard,  the name a mis-rendering of Te
Rere,  transition to present Te Rere (which is of wider extent) unclear.



MAIN CONCLUSIONS in 2012:  
This year's Waiheke Island of Wine Expo (2 Oct. 2012) was an absolute delight for two compelling reasons.  The first,  trivial in one sense yet important too,  was the layout of the participating wineries in alphabetical order starting at the door.  This is a technical challenge that The Hawkes Bay Hot Red Expo has resolutely refused to consider let alone implement,  and it makes their Expo a nightmare for anybody wishing to sample and re-sample the wines in a systematic way in the limited time.  So the Waiheke Expo was a great pleasure to work around.

More importantly,  the Waiheke Expo showcased many wines from the great 2010 vintage.  This vintage is variously described as the best in X years depending on how long the speaker has been making wine on the Island,  or more simply the best in a lifetime.  Not all the wines of that vintage captured its remarkable beauty,  but the best did,  and amply so.  The results not only confirmed that Waiheke has exceptional potential for its temperate-climate-aligned bordeaux-blends,  but both syrah and montepulciano are performing to very high world standards too.

The key message from this Expo to all keen New Zealand wine-lovers must be:  ensure your cellar contains a good representation of the best 2010 Waiheke reds.  In years to come it is certain you will rue not making this investment now.  The best of these wines will provide countless years of pleasure,  and are of a calibre to compare with the great 2009 warm year in Hawkes Bay,  and the best of the fractionally cooler more aromatic 2010s.  

But the comparisons will not stop there.  2009 and 2010 are exceptional in both Bordeaux and the Northern Rhone,  displaying the same bigger riper softer 2009 and crisper more aromatic 2010 sequence as Hawkes Bay.  It is gradually becoming apparent that Waiheke Island's bordeaux blends show a parallel with Bordeaux which can be both compelling,  and their best may surpass Hawkes Bay's bordeaux blends.  This will make such comparisons even more interesting.  
The main factor holding back Waiheke Island bordeaux blends in these comparisons is the over-enthusiastic use of oak,  as is characteristic of emerging new world wine countries.  The wine reviews later in this article comment further on this issue.  In general Northern Rhone winemakers are even more sparing in their use of new oak than Bordeaux.  Like pinot noir,  when not over-ripened syrah is at best a floral variety.  It simply does not reveal its full beauty when over-oaked.  It is no use quoting Australia in this argument,  to try and justify oak use.  Our goal in a temperate climate is to optimise the floral and pinot noir-like beauty intrinsic to syrah the grape,  while at the same time achieving body and power in the wine.  Australia's goal all too often in a hotter climate is to add spurious complexity and aromatics to the wine via oak,  having baked all the natural aromatics out of the grape in the vineyard.

Also on my caveats list is the increasing and unwise enthusiasm for the less noble variety malbec,  which lacks ultimate beauty in its aromas and flavours,  and in addition is so hard to ripen properly in New Zealand.  There is more comment in the wine reviews.  Another cause for concern is the high alcohol some proprietors favour.  For the winestyles optimally suited to our temperate climate,  we do not need alcohols over 14%:  they simply detract from ultimate wine quality in any delicacy and finesse sense.  High alcohols can be difficult to avoid in a bounteous year like 2010,  but quality viticulture and yield design can lead to full physiological maturity,  harmony and balance in the fruit at more appropriate sugar levels.  Winemakers need to bear in mind that sometimes the most beautiful wine components are lost in the shift from 13.5% to 14.5%.  Syrah illustrates this most vividly,  with the loss of wallflower and cassis aromas,  and the arrival of blueberry and dark plum,  but the pattern repeats in all varieties.  Riper is not always better.  

There are no hard-and-fast rules about this,  because in some seasons optimal physiological maturity is achieved at for example 13%.  For many years classical clarets were ripe at 12.5 %,  but that is rare now.  Global warming is partly to blame,  but rather more it is a fashion issue lead by the Americans,  who favour bigger,  richer,  riper wines.  Too many French proprietors are abandoning the classical norms of beauty appropriate to their district in pursuit of American favour and custom.  Beyond even these factors however,  there is a tendency in New Zealand for the classical vinifera varieties to display higher alcohols when at optimal physiological maturity than in Europe.  The much higher UV levels in New Zealand when compared with Germany and the temperate-climate Bordeaux,  Burgundy,  and Northern Rhone districts of France are considered to be the main reason for this discrepancy in the point of peak maturity in the two countries.  

One noticeable feature of this year's Expo was the number of new wineries exhibiting.  The Island seems to provide a magnetic appeal to people wishing to combine work and lifestyle in an admittedly magical setting.  Rather many of these new wineries are producing initial wines which are too oaky,  perhaps reflecting the difficulty new wineries have in sourcing quality used barrels.  I did also gain the impression that there is a touching faith in the ability of the market to absorb more high-priced wines.  Proprietors might be wise to bear in mind that the Auckland market is not representative of New Zealand as a whole.

On that note,  it was good to see that some proprietors have registered that among the wider population,  the discretionary dollar has receded.  A number of wines have not increased in price from the 2008 vintage,  despite the excellent 2010 vintage.  Some have actually been reduced – a good move.  Beyond Auckland,  there is a widespread feeling that Waiheke wines in general are simply too expensive for what you get.  Unfortunately for Waiheke producers,  the cost structure of production on Waiheke Island does not engage public attention.  The 2010 vintage therefore provides a heaven-sent opportunity to supply a quality of wine which matches the best of Hawkes Bay reds,  and in a number of cases at less cost.  The reputation of Waiheke can only be enhanced.

There is still a lack of official climate information for Waiheke.  Though the population has increased nearly 7-fold since 1950,  to over 8,000 today,  there is no continuing NIWA weather station on the Island.  There was a station at an earlier point,  reflecting central Waiheke values.  The information available from the Auckland Regional Council includes isohyet maps which tend not to accord with the general observation that rainfall diminishes as one travels east in North Auckland,  for example on the Whangaparoa Peninsula,  or the Karikari Peninsula.  At present the best information available comes from the weather records kept by Edbrooke Estate and Goldie Wines,  formerly Goldwater Estate.  The 11-year average annual rainfall for these two central Waiheke sites is around 1050 mm,  very different from both the mean of around 1250 mm implied by unofficial ARC maps,  and from the 1400 mm or more in the Henderson district.  This difference is critical to quality red wine production.  

There is interest in comparing the indicative climate numbers for Waiheke with those from Hawkes Bay,  since these two districts will increasingly be engaged in spirited competition for 'the best New Zealand red' in certain vintages.  In the figures compiled for Michael Cooper's 2008 edition of the Wine Atlas of New Zealand,  NIWA used a 7-month growing season from October to April.  There is some vine activity and sometimes bud-burst in September,  but 7 months is a reasonable starting point.  On that basis,  Waiheke Island in growing degree days is 9% warmer than Hastings (as a good representative site in Hawkes Bay),  but also 61% wetter.  That rainfall difference is critical for disease risk rather more than dilution.  Looking at the rainfall for the critical vintage months March and April over the last 12 years as indicated by the Goldie and Edbrooke data,  and comparing that 2-month sum with the 20-year March & April mean summed for Hastings (in the 1980 publication Summaries of Climatological Observations to 1980),  4 years in the last 12 on Waiheke have fallen below the Hastings mean of 133 mm,  2010 quite spectacularly so at 27 mm or thereabouts.  Broadly therefore,  for most years in vine management terms it will be somewhat easier to make quality red wine in Hawkes Bay due to better vine health,  but in Waiheke's driest years they will match Hawkes Bay directly,  and sometimes surpass them.  And there are the as-yet-unexplored sensory differences in red wine style between the two districts,  a product of both the slightly higher temperatures and the more maritime / more Bordeaux-like climate of Waiheke,  in comparison with Hawkes Bay.  There is scope for research in this field,  though in sensory terms it would be a minefield.  

And finally,  Waiheke wines used to receive a lot of stick primarily from Hawkes Bay winemakers about the rustic nature of their wines.  The principal basis for this criticism was the wild yeast brett,  as discussed in earlier reports.  It is good to report that the incidence of brett in the wines is now much reduced,  with some wineries now producing immaculate wines,  and others approaching that goal.  Some winelovers will regret the loss of complexity associated with the modern approach.  The quality of the best 2010 wines now poses an exciting challenge to Hawkes Bay winemakers,  for the wines of the two districts are subtly different in style.

THIS REVIEW:  
Notwithstanding the number of new wineries,  and the WWA website and brochure,  for an introduction to the general winemaking scene,  the layout of the land and the climate,  readers are referred to my 2009 review of the 2009 Waiheke Winegrowers Expo,  which also helps set the scene.  There is a follow-up review of the 2010 Expo in which there is more discussion of wine style in relation to Waiheke Island,  and the brett issue,  now happily much less evident.  Apart from the Conclusions above,  this review will be limited to a quick sketch of a few wines beyond the reds,  a vintage chart update,  and the reviews for the 60 red wines.

Procedure:  my goal was to systematically review as many of the reds as possible,  following the procedure set out in previous review articles.  I can only conveniently carry 60 glasses of wine.  In the event there were 62 reds in the review.  Since I had seen some of the Weeping Sands wines a couple of months before,  and have published reviews of them 9 September on this site,  the 2011 [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano and the sibling Tempranillo were omitted,  since there was only one other wine like them in the Expo.

Once first impressions for the 60 reds had been made,  and samples annotated and collected,  a procedure which takes many hours,  I used the balance of the time to gather fleeting impressions of a couple of other classes.  These are reported on only superficially,  since the notes were taken on the run.

Rosé:  One strength of Waiheke Island is the rosé class.  Is this a result of the need to cater to the needs of the many summer and day-time picnickers ?  Whatever the reason,  the Island is ideally placed to produce exciting and fragrant Loire-styled roses particularly from cabernet franc and merlot,  wines which offer so much more stimulation and substance than the effeminate rosés so typically emanating from pinot noir further south.  Additionally,  syrah too can produce rewarding rosés,  in a more spicy and interesting style.  I just wish winemakers would escape from the stupidity of the prevailing New Zealand sauvignon blanc mentality,  that these wines are saleable within weeks of vintage.  Good rosé should be at least a year old,  and under 5 g/L residual.

There were a couple of near-dry ones I would argue for gold medal in a judging.  Wines to particularly appeal to me were:  2012 Soho Westwood Merlot / Malbec Rosé,  $26,  2012 [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Merlot Rosé,  $24,  2011 Jurassic Ridge Syrah Rosé,  $30,  2012 Poderi Crisci Merlot Rosé,  $29.

Viognier:  Passage Rock has shown that this variety has potential on the warmest sites on the Island,  but even then it has not been consistent.  Their best have been as good as any in New Zealand.  Like pinot gris before it,  this variety is not being accurately judged in New Zealand yet,  and too many inadequate / scarcely varietal wines are being awarded ridiculous medals – if judged by international standards.  None bowled me over,  this year.

Chardonnay:   this variety continues to be all over the show on Waiheke,  sadly,  given the seafood setting.  Sadly too,  some of the better ones are damnably expensive.  Three that appealed are:  2011 Obsidian Chardonnay,  $38,  2010 Man O'War Valhalla Chardonnay,  $40-ish and bigger,  and new-kid-on-the-block Soho Carter Chardonnay,  $34 and more petite.  The price problem is evident,  though – some of New Zealand's best chardonnays are in this territory – Clearview Reserve and Te Mata Elston,  for example.


WAIHEKE ISLAND VINTAGE CHART,  UPDATED:
Since preparing the last vintage review,  the Destiny Bay and Cable Bay websites have expanded their summaries of each vintage,  as they see it.  I have used this information extensively,  as a basis for discussion with other proprietors,  and for summarising below.  The vintage ratings are primarily for the reds,  as being of the greatest cellar interest to most people.  Ratings may be revised:

2012                    
  7 – 8 +  
Flowering reasonably normal,  but the season as elsewhere in NZ became cool,  wet and markedly late.  March one of the wettest on record,  with consequent disease issues.  Some good chardonnay reported,  even so.  For those who had the courage to hang on,  miraculous change from 25th March,  apart from 25 mm on 12 Apr the weather fine and dry (and fractionally warmer) till 9 May.  Hopes are growing for good aromatic reds,  even possibly cabernets – taste will tell if the season became warm enough.  Last cabs picked first week May.  Syrahs could be exceptional,  the best possibly 9.
2011
 4 – 6  
The season started well,  with good flowering and fruit set.  Consequent large crops needed reduction,  if quality to be achieved.  Summer had warmth,  but too frequent rain also,  leading to humidity and disease pressure.  Some fairly good whites and early reds,  difficult for syrah and cabernets,  over 50 mm rain 17 April and 40 mm 26 April dashing hopes for cabernets.  Winemakers feel dilution the main issue,  but some leafyness as well,  mostly lighter reds for earlier drinking.  One or two better syrahs reported.
2010
 9 – 10
Some rain at flowering,  fruit-set and crop variously 20 – 30% down,  then appropriate light rain January,  followed by a perfect summer and autumn through to end April.  March – April combined rainfall c.25 mm,  by far the lowest in recent years.  Whites good,  reds including cabernet clearly best ever due to both dry season and reduced crop,  good acid balances,  a dream vintage (apart from reduced quantities).  Cellar wines par excellence.  Stonyridge considers 2010 one of 4 best vintages last 20 years.
2009  7 – 8Good flowering,  over-large crops for some,  unsettled late Feb / part March affected whites and early reds,  and delayed cabernet.  Dryish late summer and autumn right through April,  with unusually cool nights later March and April,  allowed good ripening even for late reds,  with promise seen in some syrahs particularly.  Some wines show stalkyness.
2008  8 – 9Good flowering,  good crop,  long settled late spring and early summer meant a little rain in early March was beneficial.  Then dry from 3 March through to 14 April,  just late enough to allow a cabernet year,  both good quality and good quantity.  For most just replaces 2005 as the best vintage till then in the vinifera era.  Cellar wines.  Stonyridge considers 2008 one of 4 best vintages last 20 years.
2007  5 – 6Difficult flowering,  low crop particularly in merlot and malbec.  Cool season overall,  some early season varieties promising,  over 150 mm rain in late March caused difficulties for most producers,  and April not quite dry enough.  A drawn-out harvest,  later varieties / cabernet lesser.  Again,  careful selection needed.
2006  5 + – 6 +Settled spring and most of summer lead to both big bunches and large crops.  Good ripening was abruptly curtailed by onset of intermittent rain from 27 March,  then 80 mm on 26 April finished hope for late season reds.  Some earlier wines good,  selection needed.
2005  8 – 9Difficult flowering,  smaller crops,  then a settled summer with a particularly dry April (8 mm total) produced superb grapes for all varieties.  Considered the best vintage in the decade,  till then.  Cellar wines.
2004  6 – 7 Unsettled early spring,  then good flowering and fruit set.  Unsettled  December,  improving January on to give a long tending cool but dry season with distinctly cool night temperatures March and April,  producing good whites but lean aromatic reds.
2003  4 – 5Reasonable crops,  but summer coolish and a month too short,   wettish March and April.  Even so,  some good chardonnay.  Reds affected by significant rainfall before and over harvest.  Most should be finished up by now.
2002  7 – 8 +Good flowering and fruit set,  a large crop yet quality of summer allowed good ripening all varieties even though not ideally dry,  fractionally ahead of 2000.  Cellar wines.
2001  3 – 4Small crops,  considerable rainfall in both February and April,  summer lacking,  the least vintage of the decade.  Most should have been finished long since.
2000  7 – 8Good flowering and crop,  early season dry,  March and April less favourable,  but quality surprisingly good all varieties.  Larose 2000 is still youthful in 2012,  alongside Hawkes Bay and Bordeaux 2000s.


Acknowledgements:  In discussions for the vintage chart and other matters,  Dave Evans (Passage Rock),  Ken Christie (Goldie Wines),  Lance Blumhardt (Jurassic Ridge Winery),  Lindsay Spilman (Obsidian),  Martin Pickering (Stonyridge),  Neill Culley (Cable Bay),  Patrick Newton (Mudbrick),  and Jenny Holmes (WWA) were generous with their time – many thanks.





LAYOUT – THE WINES REVIEWED:

White
Sparkling
Chardonnay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Riesling
Pinot Gris
Gewurztraminer
Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Red
Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2008  Cable Bay Merlot / Malbec Five Hills
2008  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Destinae
2008  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Magna Praemia
2008  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot ] Mystae
2010  Expatrius Cabernet / Merlot Blend of Eight
2010  Goldie Wines Cabernets / Merlot Goldie
2011  Goldie Wines Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Island Red
2010  Goldie Wines [ Merlot ] Esslin
2009  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc
2010  Kennedy Point Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2008  Kennedy Point Merlot
2010  Kennedy Point Merlot Reserve
2010  Man O' War [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Ironclad
2005  Miro Vineyard [ Cabernet / Merlot ]  Archipelago
2008  Miro Vineyard [ Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot ] Miro
2009  Mudbrick Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon
2010  Mudbrick Vineyard Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2010  Mudbrick Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon
2011  Obsidian [ Cabernet Franc / Petit Verdot ] The Mayor
2008  Obsidian Vineyard [ Cabernet / Merlot ] The Obsidian
2010  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve
2010  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Sisters
2010  Peacock Sky Cabernet Sauvignon
2010  Peacock Sky Merlot / Malbec
2011  Poderi Crisci Merlot / Cabernet Franc Nostrum
2009  Poderi Crisci Merlot / Cabernet Franc Viburno
2008  Poderi Crisci Merlot / Cabernet Franc Viburno
  2010  Poderi Crisci Merlot Riserva
2009  Poderi Crisci Merlot Riserva
2010  Soho Merlot / Malbec Revolver
2010  Stonyridge [ Cabernet / Malbec / Merlot ] Airfield
2010  Stonyridge [ Cabernets / Petit Verdot / Malbec ] Larose
2010  Stonyridge [ Malbec ] Luna Negra
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot
2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Merlot
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2011  Cable Bay Syrah
2010  Cable Bay Syrah Reserve
2010  Expatrius Syrah
2011  Goldie Wines Syrah
2009  Jurassic Ridge Syrah
2011  Kennedy Point Syrah
2010  Man O' War Syrah Dreadnought
2010  Miro Vineyard Syrah / Viognier
2011  Mudbrick Syrah Shepherd's Point
2009  Obsidian Syrah
2010  Passage Rock Syrah
2010  Passage Rock [ Syrah Blend ] Magnus
2010  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2011  Soho Syrah Valentina
2010  Stonyridge [ Syrah / Mourvedre ] Pilgrim
2010  Te Rere Syrah Motukaha
2008  The Hay Paddock [ Syrah ]
2009  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man
2009  The Hay Paddock [ Syrah / Petit Verdot ] Petite Reserve
2010  The Hay Paddock Syrah Silk
2010  View East Syrah
2009  View East Syrah
2010  View East Syrah Reserve
2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2009  Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano
From the Cellar. Older wines.
 

Red
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2010  Stonyridge [ Cabernets / Petit Verdot / Malbec ] Larose   18 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 50%,  PV 21,  Ma 17,  Me 8,  CF 3,  carmenere 1,  hand-picked,  organic vineyard;  yields may be as low as 2.5 t/ha = 1 t/ac;  up to 30-day cuvaison (in 2010);  MLF in barrel;  oak usually 90% French,  10 US,  65% new;  not filtered;  1000 cases in 2010 (sold out),  but varying considerably with vintage;  price not given as considerable variance now between full retail price at vineyard,  occasional offers around the country,  and auction realisations,  range $100 – 200;  vineyard offers en primeur purchase;  website has no wine detail later than 2008 vintage,  and detail is meagre;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little deeper than 2010 Passage Rock Reserve Cabernet.  Bouquet has that becoming-distinctive Stonyridge lifted and aromatic pennyroyal note on overtly floral berry of great freshness and richness.  It is not quite as classically bordeaux in aroma as the Passage Rock,  but will fit in well all the same.  Fruit and berry richness are good,  on potentially cedary and well-judged oak.  The wine astonishes for the ripeness achieved in the 21% petit verdot,  which shows what a sensational year 2010 was on Waiheke island.  I worry a little about the growing percentage of malbec in Larose,  which ultimately will I think coarsen one of New Zealand's longest-established and finest 'new world bordeaux' labels.  If you taste the wine alongside the Passage Rock Reserve Cabernet,  the cabernet sauvignon focus is muddied in comparison.  In its ripeness and total style,  though,  this is exciting Larose to cellar 5 – 25 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   18 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  CS 85%,  Me 10,  Ma 5,  hand-picked;  c.28 days cuvaison in 2010;  c.15 months in barrel,  all French oak in 2010,  35% new;  sterile-filtered;  300 cases;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a lovely young colour.  The first impression on bouquet is the wonderful fresh vibrant cassis,  totally of bordeaux quality and dominating good berry and subtle oak.  There is a florality in this bouquet too which is delightful and equally fresh classical bordeaux – before overt oak use became fashionable.  Palate shows great cabernet sauvignon flavours,  and a delicacy of both fruit and oak not apparent in Passage Rock wines five or so years ago.  The perfect pitch of ripeness is wonderfully judged,  no hint of sur-maturité,  no hint of stalks.  This is not a big wine,  but it is very beautiful.  It will pose an exciting challenge to wines like Te Mata Coleraine 2010,  as well as being great in 2010 Bordeaux tastings proper.  Cellar 5 –20 years.  GK 10/12

2008  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Magna Praemia   18 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $ –    [ cork;  cepage CS 74,  Me 14,  CF 6,  Ma 4,  PV 2,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 – 14 months in American c.80% and French oak,  80 – 90% new;  Magna Praemia contains the highest % of press wine of the three labels,  is cabernet-lead,  and aims to be Medoc in style;  price not given,  since like Stonyridge Larose it is complex,  and primarily aimed at the serious wine-lover who will buy 6 or more bottles before release on an en primeur basis,  similarly to the Bordeaux procedure.  The en primeur price is half or slightly more the final retail price,  details via website under 'Patron Club'.  The point of difference from Bordeaux is that there,  reliable tasters from both sides of the Atlantic report on the wines,  and the prospective buyer can identify with a taster who matches the buyer's taste preferences,  and act accordingly.  In New Zealand that quality of guidance is not readily achievable.  It is best therefore to give the price as a range: $175 – $330;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Good ruby.  Bouquet gives the impression of being modelled on a Ribera del Duero interpretation of Pauillac,  the wine showing cedar and citrus-infused berry fragrance with great lift and excitement.  Even more so than the Expatrius,  one has to wonder about the emphasis on the oak in the elevage,  no matter how good it is.  The flavour is exciting,  though,  with attractive cassisy berry melding with this fragrant oak.  The total wine is quite light in the sense (back to Pauillac) Grand-Puy-Lacoste can be light yet long,  and deceptive.  The distinctive style of this family of wines rests solely on the elevage,  yet the fruit is there.  Their present direction is taking them away from classical bordeaux,  which for me is a matter of regret,  yet the achievement in quality terms is comparable.  The future will be watched with interest.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  

This time around,  I'm having difficulty with the pricing structure on these Destiny Bay wines.  At first sight one might think that Destiny Bay is primarily seeking a market outside New Zealand,  but this is not the case.  The proprietors advise that the majority of customers are in New Zealand,  but the wines do go to several countries overseas as well.  I have been to the winery,  and there is no doubt that no expense is spared in making the Destiny Bay wines,  with a state-of-the-art winery and many detailed and passionate procedures in fruit cultivation,  low cropping-rate,  fruit handling and processing all aimed at making the best wine possible,  so ultimately I guess my issue is style and achievement.  2008 was a good vintage for cabernet-blends on Waiheke,  and I had hoped for more from these three 2008 wines.  They were being assessed against 2010 wines from other wineries,  which admittedly made it tough for them.  From another tack though,  wine is already saddled with so much snobbery baggage,  that a pricing structure at this level (matched by only one other winery in New Zealand whose wines are never seen in fair blind review) does put a reviewer on guard.  As my scores for them may indicate,  I do not yet see the wines occupying another stratum.  A key difficulty is the wines are stylistically very different.  Time will tell whether in future blind tastings up against the wines particularly of Spain,  California,  and Italy,  rather more than classical Bordeaux,  the Destiny Bay wines claim their place in the sun.  Other New Zealand wineries have shown that it is possible (underlined) to take a high profile and price-leading approach with one's wines,  and to convince a surprising number of people for a surprisingly long time on the alleged superiority of the produce.  I feel the last thing we need in New Zealand however is a local variant on the Screaming Eagle approach.  It does not spread good vibes about wine.  Ultimately,  auction realisations will be the final arbiter on this matter.  GK 10/12

2010  Mudbrick Vineyard Cabernet / Merlot Reserve   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $52   [ screwcap;  CS 80%,  Me 15,  CF 5,  hand-picked;  cuvaison up to 21 days;  c.14 months in all-French oak 40% new;  180 cases;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper again than 2010 Larose.  Bouquet on this wine shows a richness and ripeness which is more Hawkes Bay 2009 – more precisely Gimblett Gravels 2009.  The cassis of the cabernet is melding into opulent darkest bottled plums of great purity and depth, and fragrant oak.  Flavours in mouth are very ripe,  again Hawkes Bay / Gimblett Gravels 2009,  or like Bordeaux 2009,  fractionally ripe for a Bordeaux traditionalist but well-suited to new world palates,  all with ample fruit weight.  The quality of oak is good but the level is too high (except for winning medals in judgings).  It will marry up in the medium term,  I think.  In one sense this is simpler wine than the Passage Rock Cabernet Reserve and Larose,  because of its greater ripeness.  Many will prefer it for that,  however.  Cellar 5 – 25 years.

A couple of points for Mudbrick Vineyard in general.  There is a prestige wine named Velvet made in the best years.  The 2010 was not shown at the Expo (sadly).  The cepage is not given,  if it is anything like the 2008 one might guess syrah as well as the bordeaux varieties contributes to a rich winestyle meriting its name,  it spends 19 months in all-French oak this time (great !) 50% new,  there are 200 cases of it,  and it costs $110.  Given the reputation of the winery and the performance of the bordeaux varieties reviewed here,  it seems a safe bet to add it to one's 2010 Waiheke collection.  Secondly,  the website is weird,  there is virtually no wine info,  it is as if wine production were completely incidental to social activity,  even locating the skimpy wine info that is there is not obvious.  The website needs completely re-orienting and re-emphasising,  to give equal weight to the wine component.  That is after all the only facet of this place anyone beyond Auckland will ever know.  GK 10/12

2010  Expatrius Cabernet / Merlot Blend of Eight   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $90   [ cork;  CS 48%,  Me 22,  PV 16,  Sy 8,  CF 4,  tannat,  kolor and Vi 2 in total,  all hand-picked;  c.16 months in French and American oak 100% new;  www.expatrius.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a little lighter than the Passage Rock Cabernet Reserve.  This is more a style wine,  with the oak-handling and elevation to the fore in rich berryfruit.  Vanillin American oak of high quality adds to the fragrance,  but also introduces a Napa Valley-like quality,  which will confuse in future blind tastings.  The flavours are exciting,  yet another 2010 Waiheke premium red showing perfect fruit ripeness,  yet no over-ripeness.  I would prefer less winemaker influence and more emphasis on fruit and site:  the oak level will be debated in years to come,  but meanwhile it will win it medals and many people will like the oak.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years,  perhaps longer.  GK 10/12

2010  Mudbrick Vineyard Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon   18  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.6%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Me 50%,  CS 35,  CF 10,  Ma 5,  hand-picked;  c.9 months in French oak none new;  515 cases;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  an excellent colour.  Bouquet is sweet,  floral,  fragrant and lovely,  another with suggestions even of violets,  in ripe plummy fruit.  In mouth the ripeness of the merlot is greater than the Kennedy Point wine,  the wine showing dark plum and even blackberry notes.  Oak is more apparent than one might hope – more like a Reserve wine – until you taste the same firm's Reserve,  which is much smoother and richer and yes,  oakier.  I have to conclude both are oaky,  but the quality and ripeness of the fruit is so good in each wine,  testament to the wonderful 2010 vintage,  that both have to score highly.  Cellar 5 – 15 years,  though at the moment it needs a year or two to smooth out.  GK 10/12

2008  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot ] Mystae   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 61,  Me 23,  CF 9,  Ma 4,  PV 3,  hand-harvested;  c. 12 months in French 60% and American oak c. 40% new;  the middle wine of the three tiers,  with less pressings than Magna Praemia and a greater role sought from merlot;  great info on website;  price not given,  since like Stonyridge Larose it is complex,  and primarily aimed at the serious wine-lover who will buy 6 or more bottles before release on an en primeur basis,  similarly to the Bordeaux procedure.  The en primeur price is half or slightly more the final retail price,  details via website under 'Patron Club'.  The point of difference from Bordeaux is that there,  reliable tasters from both sides of the Atlantic report on the wines,  and the prospective buyer can identify with a taster who matches the buyer's taste preferences,  and act accordingly.  In New Zealand that quality of guidance is not readily achievable.  It is best therefore to give the price as a range: $80 – $150;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  a little deeper and younger than the Magna Praemia.  Bouquet is very fragrant,  with a clear citrus component reminiscent of Riserva Spanish reds with American oak.  Below are complex berry suggestions including blueberry,  confusing.  Flavours are delicious,  soft supple berry fruit,  juicier than Magna Praemia,  long,  seductive,  not the authority of the top wine,  however.  Total style here is so outside the bordeaux or New Zealand cabernet / merlot square,  it is hard to score.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2008  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Destinae   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $ –    [ cork;  CS 39,  Me 29,  CF 15,  Ma 16,  PV 1,  hand-harvested;  c.18 months in French and American oak about equal,  c.50% new;  Destinae is designed to be the softest of the three,  texturally more aligned with right-bank wines though cabernet sauvignon still being dominant confounds that goal somewhat;  price not given,  since like Stonyridge Larose it is complex,  and primarily aimed at the serious wine-lover who will buy 6 or more bottles before release on an en primeur basis,  similarly to the Bordeaux procedure.  The en primeur price is half or slightly more the final retail price,  details via website under 'Patron Club'.  The point of difference from Bordeaux is that there,  reliable tasters from both sides of the Atlantic report on the wines,  and the prospective buyer can identify with a taster who matches the buyer's taste preferences,  and act accordingly.  In New Zealand that quality of guidance is not readily achievable.  It is best therefore to give the price as a range: $50 – $100;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  clearly the freshest hue of these three Destiny Bay wines,  or the least oak influenced.  Bouquet is wonderfully sweet and fragrant with the characteristic 'one blue orange in a (wooden) crate of oranges' aroma of American oak,  once so much the trademark of the fragrant Riserva wines of R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia.  The elevage so dominates the fruit on bouquet,  it is impossible to tell what the grapes are,  but clearly there is good fruit.  Palate is light in one sense,  yet fruit richness is good,  again like good Spanish Riservas the oak is more apparent than real,  but one does have to wonder if the winemaker input is not outweighing the varietal quality.  Looking carefully at the base wines,  Destinae is not as concentrated in its fruit component as the top two Destiny Bay wines.  Like the Kennedy Point pair,  there is almost a hint of coolness here.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Man O' War [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Ironclad   17 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ screwcap;  CF 39%,  Me 30,  CS 18,  Ma 7,  PV 6,  all hand-picked and further hand-sorted;  100% de-stemmed,  wild yeast supplemented by cultured,  up to 30 days cuvaison;  MLF and 15 months in barrel,  mainly French oak,  some American,  25% new;  sterile-filtered to bottle;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as deep as some.  Bouquet is fresh and fragrant in a tending oaky bordeaux style,  immediately appealing.  Berry notes include both cassis and blackberry-in-the-sun,  attractive.  On palate the oak creeps up to be a little more old-fashioned / new world / oaky than the Passage Rock Reserve nowadays,  but the exciting feature is the vastly improved purity of these Man O' War reds.  Any traces of European complexity are now completely academic.  Ripeness is greater than the Kennedy Point Cabernet Reserve.  Still a worry the sodium levels are noticeably high.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Peacock Sky Cabernet Sauvignon   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  CS 97%, Ma 3;  13 months in all 1-year predominantly French oak,  some American,  not much wine info on website;  www.peacocksky.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a good weight.  Bouquet shows attractively ripe cassis and bottled black doris fruit,  all influenced by potentially cedary oak which is tending prominent,  but should marry away.  Berry ripeness is between the Passage Rock and the Mudbrick Reserve,  but the wine is a little lighter.  An exciting debut.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Goldie Wines Cabernets / Merlot Goldie   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap; CS 50%,  Me 40,  CF 10,  hand-harvested usually around 2.5 t/ha = 1 t/ac;  MLF and 14 months in all-French oak,  20% new;  www.goldiewines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is plummy and fruity,  a suggestion of brown tobacco,  a little different from the other reds,  perhaps partly due to the suggestion of desiccated coconut.  Palate shows good fruit,  fair ripeness though perhaps more redcurrant than one might expect,  a certain simplicity.  Total achievement compares favourably with the Soho and Mayor reds,  but it is oakier than the former and riper than the latter.  Should cellar attractively 5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2008  Obsidian Vineyard [ Cabernet / Merlot ] The Obsidian   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $54   [ cork;  CS 38%,  Me 30,  CF 14,  PV 12,  Ma 6,  all hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and c.13 months in all-French oak 30% new;  395 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is fragrant aromatic but rather oaky cabernet / merlot,  looking old-fashioned in the context of some of the 2010 bordeaux blends from both Waiheke Island and Hawkes Bay.  Palate shows good richness and cassisy berry fruit,  but when compared with the Destiny Bay wines,  there is a clue why they want to charge so much.  Their wines smell even more elevage-influenced,  but the tannin load on palate is less than Obsidian.  They will therefore cellar more gracefully.  2008 Obsidian is therefore a premium winestyle suited to customers coming from an Australian-influenced and more oaky approach to red wine.  The quality of the Waiheke Island climate allows a much more finessed approach,  where fruit quality dominates,  as in Bordeaux,  and oak frames the picture rather than dominating it.  Cellar 3 – 12 years,  but the oak will probably increase.  GK 10/12

2010  Stonyridge [ Cabernet / Malbec / Merlot ] Airfield   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS 43%,  Ma 31,  Me 26,  hand-picked,  organic vineyard;  28 days cuvaison in 2010;  MLF in barrel,  12 months in French 80% and American oak 10% new in 2010;  now marketed as the second wine of Larose,  500 cases;  not fined or filtered;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  lighter and less oak influenced than Larose,  more the weight of the Passage Rock Cabernet.  Bouquet is nowhere near as minty as Larose,  raising the interesting question,  is that mint associated with petit verdot,  since that variety is lacking here ?  I guess on reflection,  no,  for Pilgrim shows pennyroyal too.  The quality of bouquet inclines to bordeaux notwithstanding the malbec,  beautifully fragrant,  oak subtle.  Palate is even more bordeaux-like,  absolutely cru bourgeois level,  fragrant,  well-balanced,  attractive,  immaculately pure,  understated but not weak.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2008  Kennedy Point Merlot   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $49   [ cork;  earlier vintages have been Me dominant,  with a little CF and CS,  all hand-picked and BioGro certified organic;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 20% new;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby,  some development.  Bouquet is ripely plummy,  a fragrant new world merlot,  tending oaky.  Flavours show good merlot plums on palate,  the oak has some cedary suggestions,  and the wine is softer than the bouquet promised.  It seems a little riper all through than the 2010 Merlot.  Attractive,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Kennedy Point Merlot Reserve   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $49   [ cork;  Me dominant,  a little CF and CS,  all hand-picked and BioGro certified organic;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 20% new;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  nearly as deep as Ironclad.  Bouquet is clearly varietal,  this wine teaming up well with the Kennedy Point Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to illustrate the complementary characters of the two varieties.  There are nearly violets on the bouquet,  leading to plummy fruit suggesting bottled omega plums.  Flavour is fresh,  slightly cool and crisp by good merlot or Pomerol standards,  but still a good evocation of varietal merlot,  sympathetically oaked.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/12

2011  Obsidian [ Cabernet Franc / Petit Verdot ] The Mayor   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $54   [ cork;  CF 45%,  PV 33,  Ma 22,  all hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast;  MLF and 13 months in all-French oak 33% new;  200 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Carmine,  ruby and velvet,  very bright,  the malbec,  I guess.  Bouquet is youthful juicy red fruits,  reflecting the cabernet franc in an exciting way.  It hints at raspberry as well as redcurrant and red plum,  but is lighter in style like the Soho Revolver,  with a suggestion of stalk.  Fruit in mouth and ripeness achieved are however a little better than that wine,  and the oak ratio is an improvement over Obsidian 2008.  It is not a rich wine, though,  the 2011 vintage precluded that.  Like the Stonyridge wines,  I feel the ratio of malbec lets the wine down,  introducing the thought of stalks into what could have been a pretty and attractive wine reminding of St Emilion.  Malbec really is not a fine grape:  just because it makes impressive wines in Argentina (perhaps as much due to size and complex elevage tricking tasters,  rather than the beauty of the fruit) does not mean it will make beautiful wines in the more marginal climate of New Zealand,  even in the one-year-in-ten it ripens properly.  2011 was not such a year on Waiheke Island,  so future better vintages of this new label are keenly awaited.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Stonyridge [ Malbec ] Luna Negra   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ cork;  Ma 100%,  hand-picked,  organic vineyard;  American and French oak about equal,  some new;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Carmine,  ruby and velvet,  intense,  as malbec may be.  Bouquet illustrates to perfection the slightly corrupt character of malbec – in the same way pinotage does not reflect the beauty of the best vinifera grapes.  There is a black olive component to the edgy plummyness,  which is ultimately non-winey.  Here it is well hidden by vanillin American oak.  Palate is rich,  not quite perfectly ripe (but that is hard to achieve with malbec in New Zealand) so there is a trace of leafyness,  and intensely fruity.  As noted for Larose,  in expressing my doubts about increasing malbec's percentage there,  the flavour of malbec is coarser than cabernet sauvignon,  cabernet franc or merlot.  This wine has not achieved the perfect ripeness of the Jurassic Ridge montepulciano for example,  but both grapes illustrate hearty coarse flavours rather than classical finest vinifera.  Luna Negra is an interesting wine,  sometimes bearing comparison in its best years with Esk Valley's The Terraces.  The latter's situation in its good years gives it the advantage in accurately ripening malbec,  added to which it is only made in outstanding years.  In either case,  whether malbec is worth the price for these two wines is over to you.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Kennedy Point Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $49   [ cork;  CS dominant,  with some Me and a little CF,  all hand-picked and BioGro certified organic;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 20% new;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby,   carmine and velvet,  a fabulous concentrated colour.  Bouquet is fresh cassis,  rather like the remarkable Passage Rock Cabernet Reserve,  but simpler,  with fair fruit and some oak.  Flavours in mouth are slightly cooler,  still great cassis,  but a slight suggestion of herbes / stalk like some Medoc bourgeois cru,  and the total acid is up slightly.  There might be a trace of ester,  but not worryingly so.  This should mature into an aromatic and fragrant Waiheke Island claret style.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Soho Merlot / Malbec Revolver   17  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ screwcap;  Me 72,  Ma 20,  CF 7;  c.21 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 35% new;  www.sohowineco.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  similar weight to the Destiny Bay Destinae but much younger / more carmine.  Bouquet is intriguing,  in the company of the Waiheke wines it is very berry-lead,  and conspicuously less oaked than nearly all the others.  Like The Mayor,  aromas of redcurrant and red plums dominate,  yet it smells ripe.  Palate shows fresh red berry flavours in a St Emilion balance,  not quite capturing the optimal ripeness of the vintage,  but a pretty wine,  which will cellar gracefully and in due course smell beautiful,  as better St Emilions do.  Interesting small-scale wine,  to cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Passage Rock Cabernet / Merlot Sisters   17  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;  CS 37%,  Me 33,  Sy 17,  Ma 13,  hand-harvested;  c.21 days cuvaison;  12 months in French oak c.25% new and more French than American;  sterile-filtered;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet is fragrant on berry and plum,  the faintest hint of mint like Larose,  and some oak.  Palate shows good fruit,  cassis as well as plum,  fresh flavours,  and pleasing length,  but also a hint of savoury herbes.  These Passage Rock wines are showing so much more restraint in their elevation now,  with less oak in total,  less or better American oak,  and like so many Waiheke reds,  the progressive elimination of brett from the cooperage.  Not a big wine,  but this is probably the best value for quality red on the Island.  It will be softer and much more pleasing with time in cellar,  5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Goldie Wines [ Merlot ] Esslin   17  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested usually around 2.5 t/ha = 1 t/ac;  MLF and 14 months in all-French oak,  50% new;  RS 1.8 g/L;  www.goldiewines.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This is Goldie Wines flagship red,  made only in good years.  The wine opens rather oaky,   with any floral component masked,  but breathes up to reveal fragrant red plummy merlot fruit.  Like the Kennedy Point Merlot Reserve,  the ripeness achieved is slightly on the pinched side,  like The Obsidian the wine is a little too oaky,  but the varietal quality nonetheless is pleasing.  There seems to be some American oak adding to the vanillin aromas here.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2009  Poderi Crisci Merlot Riserva   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $46   [ cork;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested,  wild-yeast ferments,  18 months in all-French oak 30% new;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet.  Bouquet shows a more old-fashioned wine which has seen rather more air than is ideal in its elevation,  so though there is good plummy fruit,  there is also a trace of leathery oxidation,  and a little brett complexity.  Palate shows plummy merlot but more oak than is ideal.  The nett result is pleasing in that style,  in one sense an harmonious assemblage of minor faults.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Peacock Sky Merlot / Malbec   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ screwcap;  Me 71%, Ma 16,  CS 13;  13 months in all 1-year predominantly French oak,  some American,  not much wine info on website;  www.peacocksky.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is fresh red and black fruits,  smelling riper than the Kennedy Point Merlot,  but also more oaky.  Palate has better fruit than first impressions suggest,  but the oak level makes the nett impression seem phenolic.  One has to sympathise with new small wineries lacking quality used barrels.  Few wines benefit from all-new oak.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  though the oak will increase.  GK 10/12

2011  Goldie Wines Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Island Red   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Me 75%,  CS 14,  Sy 9.5,  CF 1.5,  hand-harvested;  10 months in all-French oak,  none new;  RS not given;  the website info does not correlate at all with my observations on the wine;  www.goldiewines.co.nz ]
Fresh lightish ruby.  One sniff,  and this is something totally different,  a beaujolais / maceration carbonique winestyle made from bordeaux varieties.  As such it is fresh,  fragrant and inconsequential,  like a Loire Valley red from cabernet franc rather than the cabernet sauvignon in the label.  Whatever,  the actual fruit is delightful,  Bourgueil for example,  virtually no oak (glory be !),  all lingering nicely in mouth.  Hard to think of the better picnic red than this,  come summer.  This is technically perfect light red,  an intriguing and different kind of red for the Island.  Cellar 1 – 2 years.  GK 10/12

2009  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested from 16-year old vines;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  MLF and 9 months in all-French oak 15% new;  450 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  In the set of wines,  the bouquet is oaky,  rather drowning the soft charms one seeks in merlot,  as exemplified by so many affordable wines from Entre Deux Mers.  Palate follows pro rata,  pleasant plummy fruit but too much oak,  so the wine is hard in the mouth,  and that makes it less food-friendly.  Like several other merlots here,  there is just a hint of stalk in the finish,  further detracting.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2008  Cable Bay Merlot / Malbec Five Hills   16 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $35   [ screwcap;  Me 46%,  Ma 31,  CS 17,  CF 6,  hand-picked @ usually < 2 t/ac;  14 months in French oak,  25% new;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  The wine needs splashy decanting,  to reveal red fruits all through,  centred on red plum and becoming more fragrant with air.  As elsewhere,  I'm not convinced malbec ennobles the wine,  but this label is not intended to be a premium blend.  The predominance of red fruits (rather than black) means the wine ends up a little short with some acid and stalks noticeable,  but the oaking is restrained,  which helps the balance.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Poderi Crisci Merlot Riserva   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $46   [ cork;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested,  wild-yeast ferments,  if like other vintages,  18 months in all-French oak 30% new;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Ruby,  something odd here,  the colour is paler and older than the 2009 Merlot Riserva.  Does this reflect a supposition that because 2010 is a great vintage,  the wine would benefit from more oak ?  Both bouquet and palate do show more oak,  but less oak 'other complexity' than the 2009.  The nett result is the wine has ended up a size smaller,  though clearly related.  Intriguing.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2008  Miro Vineyard [ Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot ] Miro   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ NeoCork plastic 'cork',  which the proprietors swear by,  no issues;  CS 52%,  Me 30,  CF 17,  Ma 1,  hand-harvested;  c.12 months in French oak mostly new;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly fresher than the Weeping Sands 2008 Cabernet / Merlot.  Bouquet is fragrant and attractive,  with redcurrant / red plum suggestions,  and hints of cassis.  Flavours are less,  clear suggestions of under-ripeness and the flavours are short,  even though the oak is gentle and not reinforcing the under-ripe tannins.  Total acid and stalks are noticeable.  The wine is beautifully clean,  and will cellar well in its pinched way for 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ screwcap;  CS 54%,  Me 40,  PV 4,  Ma 2,  hand-harvested from 15-year old vines;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  MLF and 10 months in all-French oak < 15% new;  500 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  more age showing than the 2009 Weeping Sands Merlot.  Bouquet here is even more oaky than the sibling merlot,  but in more complex fruit showing some browning cassis as well as plum.  Palate is distinctly old-fashioned,  showing too much oak for the weight of fruit,  Australasian in a negative sense,  and not at all confuseable with minor bordeaux.  It will hold the style for 3 – 8 years,  becoming more oaky.  GK 10/12

2008  Poderi Crisci Merlot / Cabernet Franc Viburno   16 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $40   [ cork;  Me 70%,  CF 30,  hand-harvested,  wild-yeast ferments,  18 months in all-French oak 25% new;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is in the smooth integrated slightly leathery / old-fashioned red plummy style of the Podere reds,  approximately how a minor Entre Deux Mers would be if the vintage were 10 years older.  Palate is light and food-friendly,  a little more oak than the comparison,  but still quite soft.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 10/12

2011  Poderi Crisci Merlot / Cabernet Franc Nostrum   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $33   [ cork;  Me dominant,  CF,  hand-harvested,  wild-yeast ferments,  12 months in all-French oak 20% new;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Light ruby.  Bouquet is light and fragrant red fruits and old oak,  very much like a minor and light-year Entre Deux Mers red.  Palate is light ripe red plums,  no harsh tannins,  appropriate oak,  softish in mouth,  slightly acid as a petite wine,  easy drinking.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 10/12

2009  Poderi Crisci Merlot / Cabernet Franc Viburno   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $42   [ cork;   Me 70%,  CF 30,  hand-harvested,  wild-yeast ferments,  18 months in all-French oak 25% new;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some age showing.  Bouquet is complex in an old-fashioned way,  indeterminate red fruits,  light oxidation,  quite a lot of oak relative to the weight of fruit.  Palate shows less fruit than the Merlot Riservas,  and older cooperage,  plus a stalky suggestion of under-ripeness.  The whole wine is pleasingly food-friendly though,  vaguely reminiscent of minor mature chianti.  Pretty well mature,  or cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 10/12

2009  Mudbrick Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon   15 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Me dominant,  then CS,  Ma,  CF,  hand-picked;  cultured yeast;  some months in French and American oak 80 / 20,  none new;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby.  A good splashy decanting is needed,  to reveal pleasant red fruits gently oaked,  in a minor bordeaux styling.  In mouth the wine shrinks somewhat,  red currants rather than cassis,  red plums too,  some stalks,  a little lacking in ripeness and total fruit,  but gaining points in the oak nicely judged to the light fruit.  The wine is clearly a size smaller than the Weeping Sands Merlot.  Cellar 1 – 4 years.  GK 10/12

2005  Miro Vineyard [ Cabernet / Merlot ]  Archipelago   15 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.8%;  $28   [ NeoCork plastic 'cork';  CS 58%,  Me 30,  CF 10,  Ma 2,  hand-harvested;  c.12 months in French oak 25% new;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Mature ruby,  some garnet.  Bouquet and flavour are suggestive of a merlot-dominant minor bordeaux,  again Entre Deux Mers or similar,  all clean,  but not quite ripe enough,  a leafy thread through both bouquet and palate.  Oaking is subtle and suited to the light weight,  so the result is a pleasant mellow but fully mature light claret style.  Will hold a year or two.  GK 10/12

2009  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc   15  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ screwcap;  CF 100%,  hand-harvested;  c.12 months in French oak,  30% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  no fining,  light filter;  www.jurassicridge.com ]
Ruby.  This wine needs pouring from jug to jug 10 times,  to dispel quite noticeable reduction.  In a clouded sort of way it then reveals the red fruits of the variety.  Flavour shows good berry,  appropriate oak,  and a lost opportunity on the technical side.  The quality of fruit looks to have been pretty good.  It will be great when New Zealand has more cabernet francs as subtly oaked as this one.  Doubtfully worth cellaring due to the reduction,  or 2 – 6 years,  if appropriately handled on opening.  GK 10/12

Syrah = Shiraz
2010  View East Syrah   18 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $52   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  c.12 months in predominantly French oak a little new,  some older American;  www.vieweast.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest syrahs.  Bouquet is a little different from the top wines,  the syrah ripened a little more,  the cassis qualities and florality giving way to more blueberry and suggestions of plum notes,  the fruit rich.  In mouth the wine is impressively rich too,  warmer in style than the Cable Bay Reserve Syrah.  There is more new oak than the bouquet suggested,  but it is fragrant and attractive,  and the length of blueberry flavour is appealing.  This wine too is immaculately clean.  In terms of my syrah ripening curve,  this is the absolute maximum,  if florality and complexity are to be retained.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Passage Rock [ Syrah Blend ] Magnus   18 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $65   [ cork;  Sy-dominant perhaps c.80%,  CS,  Me,  Ma,  PV;  hand-picked;  c.21 days cuvaison (because syrah thinner-skinned than cabernet);  c.12 months in French oak perhaps 80% and 30% of it new,  balance older American;  130 cases;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a fabulous colour,  close to the Cable Bay Reserve in weight.  Bouquet is very fragrant,  showing a lightness,  charm and florality surpassing the other Passage Rock syrah wines.  It seems to be a product of perfectly ripe and floral fruit,  and near-cedary fine oak which might be all-French.  Palate is potentially soft,  not greatly rich but complex,  beautiful berry,  slightly oaky at this early stage but lovely oak,  great length in mouth.  This is a special wine,  to cellar 5 – 20 years.  There is not much of it.

A word of protest does need to be entered about the bottle for this prestige / top of the range wine.  Yes it looks super with its heavy wax sealing,  you have to look twice to confirm it is not a magnum,  but at 1230 grams it must be the heaviest 750 ml bottle in New Zealand.  Jancis Robinson has been campaigning against overweight bottles for some years now,  in a world of shrinking resources.  It does make sense for the quality of a wine to be determined on taste,  rather than packaging.  This bottle is even heavier than the ostentatious bottles used for the top-of-the-range Craggy Range wines,  which weigh just over a kilo in the case of the bordeaux-blend bottles and just under in the case of Le Sol.  The Homage bottle from Trinity Hill is also just over a kilo.  In contrast a standard good quality bottle from Bordeaux weighs c.550 grams and one from Burgundy 20 or so grams more.  Very few classed-growth Bordeaux proprietors have followed the pushy lead of Mouton Rothschild in using overweight bottles,  preferring the quality of the wine to be measured by achievement in the glass – though sadly in this day and age in swanky inflated-size glasses.  Swanky bottles are very much a new world indulgence,  I fear.  GK 10/12

2010  Cable Bay Syrah Reserve   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $85   [ screwcap;  Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  hand-picked;  18 months in all-French oak,  33% new;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not quite as deep as Pilgrim.  This is beautiful syrah,  more exactly floral and varietal on bouquet than Pilgrim,  with even the elusive syrah wallflower aroma in red and black fruits,  and light black pepper.  It is slightly cooler than the View East Syrah,  therefore.  Palate shows similar weight and exact cassis to the Pilgrim,  delightfully pure varietal expression,  but slightly skewed by fragrant new oak.  This too is immaculately clean.  It makes a good running mate for Pilgrim,  both being roughly the same size.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Passage Rock Syrah   18 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ screwcap;  Sy 95%,  Vi 5;  hand-picked;  21 days cuvaison;  c.10 months in French and American oak about equal,  one third of the French new;  1200 cases;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  fresher and deeper than the more serious Passage Rock Reserve Syrah,  as if less oak influence.  Bouquet suggests that too,  with both floral and cassis notes,  but also a suggestion of riper boysenberry,  in great fruit.  Fruit in mouth is particularly attractive,  supple cassis,  suggestions of bottled black doris plums,  succulent quality,  less oak complexity than the more serious labels so it seems simple (in one sense),  yet in many ways it is therefore more varietal and beautiful.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Stonyridge [ Syrah / Mourvedre ] Pilgrim   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ cork;  Sy 90%,  Mv 6,  Gr 2,  Ci 1,  Vi 1,  hand-picked,  organic vineyard;  12 months in all-French oak,  none new;  website has no wine detail later than 2008 vintage,  and detail is meagre;  200 cases;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the richer colours.  Bouquet is explicitly floral,  with rose aromas and faintest pennyroyal,  on red and black fruits with a touch of spice / black pepper and light oak.  There is a dark suggestion of something else maybe detracting,  in the same way malbec detracts from cabernet / merlot blends.  The wine is neither unduly big or heavy.  Palate is clearly Hermitage syrah in weight,  cassis berry is like Hermitage too,  showing fractionally cool ripeness by temperate climate syrah standards,  so the wine is slightly fresh alongside some Gimblett Gravels wines.  Both this attribute and the dark character alluded to could be the Southern Rhone grapes not achieving perfect ripeness,  like the malbec in Luna Negra.  I imagine this intriguing and immaculately clean wine sitting alongside Bilancia's La Collina most informatively – in fact I look forward to it,  and must provide for that.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  The Hay Paddock Syrah Silk   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.7%;  $55   [ screwcap; Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  20 months in 1 – 3-year French oak;  not on the website,  some doubt whether will be available for general sale;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  promising.  One sniff and this is the kind of syrah The Hay Paddock proprietors set out to make,  before they were misled by technically illiterate British appraisals.  The quality of berry is fresh and cassisy,  the oak is nicely in balance,  and the whole wine is much more correct.  There might still be a trace of other complexities,  it is not quite as rich as some of the other top wines,  but it should cellar well 3 – 12 years.  Great to see.  GK 10/12

2010  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   18  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ screwcap;  Sy 95%,  Vi 5,  hand-picked;  cuvaison up to 21 days;  12 – 14 months in predominantly French oak,  35% new;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as fresh and dense as the standard syrah,  as if more oak influence.  Bouquet confirms that thought,  wonderful berry,  but a lot of very fragrant oak.  Palate is rich in cassisy and plummy fruit,  with significant oak and a trace of brett.  There is a dark streak in this wine which adds depth and interest,  though I'm not totally sure I like it,  and the fruit richness is impressive.  An intriguing choice to be made here,  whether one invests in the standard wine or the Reserve.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Expatrius Syrah   18  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $90   [ cork;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  15 months in French and American oak about equal,  100% new;  98 cases;  www.expatrius.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as deep as the top syrahs.  Whereas the top syrahs rest on berry more than oak,  in this one the beautiful fruit is carrying more oak,  including fragrant vanillin American.  In mouth the berry is clearly cassisy,  but the oak contribution masks the variety to a degree.  Whether the variety is cabernet sauvignon or syrah,  though,  you have to conclude this is good wine.  Concentration of berry is good,  not as great as the top Passage Rock wines,  but the oak speaks too loudly.  Being a new winery,  perhaps they too have the problem of lacking top-notch older barrels.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2009  Obsidian Syrah   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.3%;  $54   [ cork;  2.5% Vi co-fermented;  10 months in French oak 40% new;  120 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  noticeably older than the 2010 wines.  Bouquet is fragrant and appealing,  but one factor contributing to the less fresh hue is the relative prominence of the oak in cassisy and spicy berry.  Palate continues in the same vein,  beautifully pure,  fruit just starting to gain a suggestion of secondary flavours,  but the oak too noticeable.  Fruit richness is good.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Te Rere Syrah Motukaha   17 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $90   [ cork;  Sy 92%,  CS 8,  hand-picked;  16 months in French and American oak about equal,  100% new;  98 cases;  from the same stable as Expatrius,  reflecting a different site and vineyard owner;  no wine info on website ref;  www.waihekewine.co.nz/vineyards/te-rere ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deeper colours.  Bouquet is richly cassisy,  but also showing significant fragrant American oak,  so it has a clear Spanish quality reminiscent of some Ribera del Duero wines.  Palate shows lovely cassisy berry fruit to which the 8% cabernet sauvignon must be contributing,  all rather sabotaged by the level of oak.  This is a style of winemaking California and Australia have been through,  but in our more restrained climate it would be wise to allow the beauty,  the florality and aroma,  of temperate climate grapes to speak more clearly.  I acknowledge there is a constituency for oaky wines,  but Waiheke Island has the climatic potential to achieve more classical and beautiful wines.  It would be good therefore if proprietors set trends,  rather than following outmoded ones.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  View East Syrah Reserve   17 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $62   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked,  all de-stemmed;  c.12 months in French oak,  50% new;  www.vieweast.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the richer colours.  This is another example of a Reserve wine having been longer in oak,  or having more new oak,  so that the varietal quality is skewed by the level of oak.  The cassisy quality of the fruit is gorgeous,  but the level of oak damps down its varietal expression considerably,  and comes to nearly dominate the later palate.  Again,  many will like the wine more for that,  and vote the Reserve wine above the standard wine.  Your choice.  Fruit in both is gorgeous.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 10/12

2010  Man O' War Syrah Dreadnought   17 +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $45   [ screwcap;  CF 39%,  Me 30,  CS 18,  Ma 7,  PV 6,  all hand-picked and further hand-sorted;  100% de-stemmed,  wild yeast fermentations,  up to 28 days cuvaison;  MLF and c.15 months in barrel,  mainly French oak,  some American,  some new;  website advises not sterile-filtered to bottle for the 2010;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a great colour.  Bouquet shows the lovely cassisy berryfruit of the 2010 season,  complexed with wallflower floral notes,  fragrant oak,  and trace brett.  Palate is a little shorter than the bouquet suggests,  and slightly phenolic / oaky,  all coming as a surprise after the appealing colour and bouquet.  Perhaps the wine is in an awkward phase.  Should mellow attractively in cellar,  5 – 12 years.  GK 10/12

2011  Mudbrick Syrah Shepherd's Point   17 +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%;  cultured yeast;  c.10 months in French oak,  none new;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper than most of the 2011s.  There is an abrupt change of gear here,  from the perfection of berry ripeness in the 2010s to a somewhat lighter more fragrant but less substantial style in the 2011s.  It is exactly the difference between good (but not great) Crozes-Hermitage,  and good Hermitage proper.  Bouquet contains fragrant red fruits nearly as deep as cassis,  with floral qualities which are lighter than wallflower.  There is a hint of the magical bush-honey quality Rhone syrah sometimes achieves,  a big plus.  In mouth there is fresh almost loganberry fruit,  hints of white and black pepper,  pleasant weight,  and only a little oak.  It is much less serious syrah,  but attractive in its style.  A good result for a lesser season,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2011  Kennedy Point Syrah   17  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  hand-picked;  MLF and 15 months in French oak c.40% new;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Good ruby.  Bouquet shows the fresh red fruits and explicit fragrant white pepper characteristic of an earlier point in the syrah ripening curve.  Palate is of similar weight and ripeness to the Mudbrick,  but the flavours are in one sense purer,  fresher,  yet narrower and less complex.  The wine is still dramatically varietal,  and will mature gracefully in its Crozes-Hermitage style.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2011  Goldie Wines Syrah   16 ½ +  ()
Clevedon,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  MLF and 10 months in all-French oak,  20% new;  RS 1.3 g/l;  www.goldiewines.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This 2011 too is in the lighter less substantial Crozes-Hermitage style,  but it is fresh and fragrant with red fruits.  Like the Mudbrick,  there is a hint of future bush-honey complexity,  but here the honey has a touch of American foul-brood aroma adding complexity to pleasing berry fruit and subtle oak.  Fruit weight is good for 2011.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 10/12

2011  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  c.18 days cuvaison;  MLF and c.9 months in barrel 30% new French,  balance older French only;  282 cases;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet shows unequivocal syrah white pepper spice in lightly floral red berry fruits,  clearly fragrant as all these better 2011 syrahs are.  Palate is a little shorter than those marked more highly,  not quite the ripeness,  showing some stalks which the oak reinforces.  A firmer wine,  to cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 10/12

2009  Jurassic Ridge Syrah   16  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% Limmer clone,  hand-harvested;  2 weeks cuvaison;  French and American oak 50/50 and 30% new for 12 + months;  no fining,  minimal filtration;  www.jurassicridge.com ]
Ruby,  some development showing.  Initially opened,  the wine is tending reductive,  and needs a good splashy decanting.  Bouquet is then seen to be much more evolved,  complex and European in the company,  with mellowing berry fruit and some dark tobacco and brett complexity.  Palate is soft,  food-friendly and appealing,  forward for its age and tending old-fashioned,  quite rich.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 10/12

2009  View East Syrah   16  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $39   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  c.10 months in barrel,  young oak but none new,  c.20% American;  www.vieweast.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is old-style Waiheke,  fair maturing berry but rather much bacony brett complexity.  Palate is soft,  round and attractive,  some oak noticeable now,  good maturing fruit.  In a technical judging this would be rejected,  but the facts are:  many people like brett smells and flavours,  such wines are food-friendly,  and if they are sterile-filtered to bottle they keep perfectly well.  Other factors in the wine are pleasing,  so the score is a compromise.  Cellar 2 – 5 years might be safest.  GK 10/12

2008  The Hay Paddock [ Syrah ]   15 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $65   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Syrah dominant,  usually some PV (unwisely),  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  6 days cold soak,  cultured yeast,  c.28 days cuvaison,  MLF in tank;  initial 6 months in new French oak,  then 6 – 8 months in unspecified;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet.  Bouquet is beautifully fragrant in a European way,  but partly for the wrong reasons.  The lovely venison casserole complexity notes on browning cassis,  plum and black pepper fruit are the result of brett infection,  which used to be characteristic of Southern Rhone wines.  In flavour the wine is soft and at full maturity,  all food-friendly and enjoyable at table,  but nowadays this character has to be marked down technically as old-fashioned.  The Hay Paddock 2010 Silk wine shows the way forward for this winery.  Cellar 1 – 3 years might be safest.  GK 10/12

2011  Soho Syrah Valentina   15 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.6%;  $42   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  c.21 days cuvaison;  c.12 months in French oak 35% new;  www.sohowineco.com ]
Light ruby.  Bouquet is light but clean and fragrant,  nearly carnations on red fruits only,  some white pepper as the fruit analogy would predict.  Palate is simple,  juicy redcurrant,  loganberry and red plum notes,  slightly stalky,  understated oak,  not bone dry.  Easy drinking,  in an inconsequential way.  Scarcely worth cellaring 2 – 5 years.  GK 10/12

2011  Cable Bay Syrah   15 +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $32   [ screwcap; Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  hand-picked;  varieties co-fermented;  c.11 months in French oak,  10% new;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Light ruby.  Bouquet shows the carnations and wallflower florality of cool syrah well,  on red berries only,  in the style of Les Collines Rhodaniennes syrah from above Cote Rotie.  In mouth there is a hint of white pepper,  rather more of stalks and acid,  and a meagre fruityness.  This is not ripe enough to be worth cellaring,  more QDR for a year or two.  GK 10/12

2010  Miro Vineyard Syrah / Viognier   15  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $45   [ NeoCork plastic 'cork';  Sy 97%,  Vi 3,  hand-harvested;  no elevation info on website;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Medium ruby,  but old for age.  Bouquet is off-centre,  with smoky / salami / crushed manuka leaves and some VA and thoughts of brett on vaguely red berries.  Palate is better,  red berries,  some older oak,  quite good fruit concentration but undesirably 'complex' flavours,  not clearly varietal and not bone dry.  More QDR.  GK 10/12

2009  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man   15  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.4%;  $39   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  all Chave clone;  hand-picked;  c.12 months in French oak,  60% 1-year,  balance older;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  Initially opened the wine is tending reductive,  and needs a good splashy decanting several times.  Well ventilated,  it becomes vaguely varietal in a lesser European under-ripe way,  quite good richness and softness,  more red fruits but all tending leafy,  not too oaky,  another wine along the lines of lesser Crozes-Hermitage (of which there are many).  More QDR.  GK 10/12

2009  The Hay Paddock [ Syrah / Petit Verdot ] Petite Reserve   14 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $49   [ screwcap;  Sy 60%,  PV 40,  hand-picked;  c.15 months in French oak 1 – 3 year old;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some development showing.  Bouquet is old-fashioned to a fault,  so bretty as to obscure the varieties.  Flavours in mouth show browning red fruits,  leather and bacon,  in a winestyle leaning more to the Southern Rhone from a very old-fashioned winemaker – except the wine is unusually stalky for that district.  This is more than likely the result of the eccentric blending of petit verdot with syrah which the proprietors favour – an unlikely marriage.  These flavours are perfectly wholesome,  but they are simply not part of the future for wine in New Zealand.  Happily with the release of the 2010 Silk Syrah,  this vineyard now seems to be on track.  Will hold several years.  GK 10/12

All other red wines, blends etc
2009  Jurassic Ridge Montepulciano   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $45   [ screwcap;  Mo 100%,  hand-harvested;  3 weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 30% new;  no fining,  minimal filtering;  www.jurassicridge.com ]
Good ruby and velvet,  some carmine.  Bouquet is simply beautiful montepulciano,  fragrant,  darkly floral,  intensely berried,  slightly spicy,  but unlike so many of the wines from this grape's homeland,  this one is perfectly clean.  Palate is soft rich and velvety,  the oak in good new world proportion,  the flavours long and dry.  This is benchmark montepulciano,  a grape which is doing exceptionally well on Waiheke Island.  Sadly for Waiheke producers,  increasingly good and technically-modern examples are also coming forward from its Abruzzo homeland,  and they are so much more affordable.  Cellar 5 – 12 maybe 15 years.  GK 10/12