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New Zealand 2006
by Darryl Roberts
Magazine Issue: Online Only

TASTING NOTES:

The wine reviews below are based on the following scale:

XXX = Exceptionally Cool
XX = Fo' Shizzle (Highly Recommended)
X = Gets It Done (Recommended)

Since this article was a bit delayed in reaching the 'Net, I solicited current vintages from every winery on this trip. These new wines are listed under "Tatsed in our Santa Rosa office." If no current vintage wines are listed, it's because 1) There aren't any newer vintages 2) The wines aren't available in the U.S. 3) The wineries were too lazy to send wine. (I'd like to tell you which is true for each winery, but I'd really like to go back to NZ again.)


It’s 8am. On my 4th cup of coffee. My leg’s beating faster than a drummer on crack. Breakfast was great. Very private. Just me, some toast and a dollop of tamarillo and orange marmalade. A very weird mix of music spews from the sound system. Blues Brothers. Stained. Elvis. Blur. Who the hell put this CD together? God, I gotta give up coffee.

Woo-hoo.

Queenstown

It’s my first time to New Zealand; the first day of my four-region romp. I’m in Queenstown. South Island. I’m moving here. Soon. Maybe now. I mean it. God it’s beautiful. Remember Lord of the Rings? This is the backdrop. Stunning. Absolutely stunning.

Spire Hotel

When you come here – and you will, trust me – stay at The Spire Hotel. Cheap? No. Incredible? Absolutely. Treat yourself to The Spire, even if it means starving yourself for the rest of your trip.

Being picked up this morning by Warwick Hawker. Heading out to Central Otago, which is east/northeast of Queenstown. Warwick and his wife, Jenny, own Pisa Range Estate. Gonna do a little tasting, lunch and whatever.

On the way out, Warwick apologizes for the roads. Really? Where? What? Seems there’s been some recent construction and there’s a bit of gravel on the sides (off of the road).

OH. MY. GOD!

The road is immaculate. Like glass. I explain to Warwick that we don’t have roads in California. We have potholes with pieces of asphalt between them.

Central Otago

Upp, there’s the famous Kawarau Bridge Bungee. Lori Rackl (Wine X writer) jumped off it for her Thrills, Spills and Hills in New Zealand article. I wouldn’t do it for a million bucks. Wait. Maybe for a million. (It’s a fear of death thing.)

Somehow Warwick and I get talkin’ ‘bout politics. How can you not with uber-Bush. Warwick explains that the most recent political “scandal” in New Zealand was that the president’s motorcade was pulled over for speeding because they were late for a meeting.

Yep. Moving here. NOW!

There are 30+ wineries in Central Otago. I‘d give you an exact number but they’re multiplying faster than the rabbits that play in the vineyards. The region’s made up of six sub-regions (just in case wine geeks are reading). But I ain’t gonna name them. Gotta draw the line somewhere. Okay: Wanaka, Lowburn, Bendigo, Alexandra, Gibbston, Bannockburn. There. Happy now?

Pisa Range

Pisa Range Estate is located north of Cromwell (city), about an hour east of Queenstown, at the base of the Pisa Range Mountains. Saw that one comin’, didn’t ya?

Warwick and Jenny run a small but cozy operation. Very cozy. Very friendly. They only had two vintages released (as of 2006) – a 2003 Pinot Noir (XX), which was soft, smooth, with nice fruit and a slightly spicy finish, and a 2004 Pinot Noir (X), which was a bit more tart and angular but still very enjoyable. We also tasted a 2005 Quartz Reef Pinot Gris (XXX). Clean, crisp, refreshing and everything a pinot gris should be. In case you’re interested.

Prophet's Rock

After a very enjoyable lunch at Pisa Range, I join Paul Pujoi (winemaker) and Mike Mulvey (proprietor) at Prophet’s Rock Vineyard. They make wines under two labels, the second being Rocky Point. Their first two vintages (2003 and 2004) were bottled under the Rocky Point label. Tasting notes:

XX Rocky Point 2005 Riesling
Crisp, dry, spicy, with floral and mineral notes. Nice structure, body and crisp acidic lingering finish.

X+ Rocky Point 2004 Pinot Noir
Nice red fruit. Much like a Santa Barbara County pinot. Good structure and a nice lingering finish.

We tasted a barrel sample of the Prophet’s Rock 2005 pinot, which had nice fruit and structure. A little young (at that point) to say much more about it.

It’s a short day. We head back to The Spire in Queenstown. Damn. Another night at The Spire.

Inspire Restautant

Dinner’s at Inspire. (Wanna guess where that is?) I’m joined by Paul (Prophet’s Rock) and Blair Walter, winemaker for Felton Road. Writing about eating dinner is like listening to people taste wine on the radio (read: BORING), so to make it quick, dinner was excellent, excellent, and the wines fab.

Next morning I weep as I check out of The Spire. I’ll be back. Trust me.

Mt. Difficulty

Now comes something I love to hate: a big regional tasting. Love it because it offers the opportunity to taste a bunch of wines (from a slew of wineries) that’d I’d never be able to visit (time constraint). Hate it because there are too many wines. See, I’m a cheap date. Ten to 12 wines and I’m up for anything. And I spit. Doesn’t matter. So when there are 40+ wines… I suck it up and do my best. So here’s the best of my Central Otago regional tasting:

X+ Nevis Bluff 2003 Pinot Noir
XX+ Carrick 2002 Pinot Noir
XX Carrick 2003 Pinot Noir
XX+ Mt. Difficulty 2004 Pinot Noir
XX+ Mt. Difficulty 2005 Pinot Gris
XX Pisa Moorings 2003 Pinot Noir
XX Quartz Reef NV Chauvet Sparkling Wine

Thanks to Mt. Difficulty for hosting the tasting.

Onward.

Amisfield Winery & Bistro

Amisfield Wines and Bistro. Beautiful setting, complete with bistro and scenic grounds. I should mention that a lot of wineries in New Zealand have restaurants attached to them. Personally, this makes for a much nicer visit. Wish more U.S. wineries would do this. I know, I know. Permits.

Anyway. I was joined for lunch by Bistro General Manager Fleur Caulton (gotta love a woman named Fleur) and winemaker Jeff Sinnott. We tasted the wines with the meal, so no detailed tasting notes, but here’s the skinny:

XX 2004 Pinot Gris
XX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
X+ 2004 Pinot Noir
XX+ Sticky (dessert wine)

Tasted in our Santa Rosa office:

XXX 2005 Pinot Noir
One of the best pinots I’ve tasted from Central Otago. DeeeeLish!

And yeah, the bistro food was superb as well.

Fleur. Yowza!

Mount Edward

Next stop was Mount Edward, in Gibbston, where I met Duncan Forsyth, winemaker/partner. It’s a small winery, ‘bout 1,500 cases a year. But they’re growing (like everyone else in the region). Here’s what I liked at Mount Edward:

XX 2005 Pinot Gris
Crisp, clean, citrus and tropical fruit with a nice lingering finish.

X+ 2004 Pinot Noir
Nice ripe fruit flavors and a spicy lingering finish.

Time flies, so Duncan and I head back to Queenstown for dinner. We decided on Thai. (I know, I know. Why go to New Zealand for Thai food, but we both had a taste for it.) Duncan suggested Thai Siam. It was good, very good. Kinda formal yet family kinda place. The Thai beer (okay, beers) sure tasted good.

Afterward we went to The Pig & Whistle for some live music and locally crafted brew. (They make their own.) Ales were good. Good wheat. Not crazy about their brown nut. But it’s a great place to unwind, relax and listen to some good local live music after a long day of wine tasting.

Next morning I boarded a puddle jumper to Marlborough country. Funny thing is, I had to stop in about every city/airport in between (and some not). But that’s okay. The scenery outside the plane window was, yes, gorgeous.

Huia Vineyards

Sarah Booker met me at the Blenheim (Marlborough) airport and shuttled me to Huia Winery who was hosting the tasting. God, every time I see or here Huia I think of Pacino in Scent of a Woman.

Huia!

Yes, another regional tasting. But this time focusing mostly on Marlborough sauvignon blanc. And I love NZ SBs. Here’s the notes:

XX No. 1 Cuvee Sparkling Wine
XX Spy Valley 2005 Riesling
XX Huia 2005 Pinot Gris
XX Wither Hills 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Seresin 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
X+ Framingham 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XXX Cloudy Bay 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Omaha Springs 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Dashwood 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Huia 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XXX The Crossings 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX+ Mud House 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX+ Fairhall Downs 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX+ Jackson Estate 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Lake Chalice 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX+ Forrest Estate 2005 Riesling

Tasted in our Santa Rosa office:

X Spy Valley 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $18
Typical grass/hay/mango nose and palate, with a bit of green veggies hanging around. A little tart and bitter on the finish.

X Spy Valley 2005 Pinot Noir $29
A little more oak and chocolate than I prefer, but nice red, spicy fruit underneath and a zesty lingering finish.

X Spy Valley 2005 Gewurztraminer $20
Nice floral spices, some tropical fruit, but could use a little more oomph.

X Jackson Estate 2005 Pinot Noir “Vintage Widow” $22.50
Have to let this wine open up a bit. Didn’t care for it the first tasting, but overnight it got good.

XX Isabel 2005 Pinot Gris $22
A really interesting nose of citrus and floral spices, grass and hay. Better on the palate, with nice clean, crisp flavors and a warm lingering finish.

XX Isabel 2004 Pinot Noir $32
Dried red fruit, some tea/coffee, leather, spice and oak. More fruit in the mouth and a long, spicy, lingering finish.

XXX Isabel 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $22
Yeah, you’re gonna wanna get this one!

Huia!

Well, the acids had pretty much ripped the buds off my tongue, but I had only one more visit and I was free for the night.

Brancott Winery/Montana

Patrick Materman, winemaker for Brancott Winery/Montana, was my host at their Riverlands Estate winemaking facility. They have a rather large portfolio of wines, so I asked him to narrow it down to 20 or so. Having just tasted 60 at, say it with me, HUIA!, I needed a break.

And 20 it was. Here’s what I liked:

X+ Conders Forest (Montana) 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Festival Rock (Montana) 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
X+ Starborough 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Stoneleigh 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
XX Brancott 2005 Sauvignon Blanc “B” (tank sample)
XX Brancott 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve
X+ Stoneleigh 2004 Pinot Noir
XX Camshorn 2004 Pinot Noir

Patrick and his wife took me to dinner. I wish I could remember where, ‘cause it was really good.

HUIA! Okay, last time.

Saint Clair

New day. New winery: Saint Clair. They make four tiers of wines – Vicar’s Choice ($13 to $15 range); Saint Clair ($16 to $20 range); Saint Clair Pioneer’s Block ($25 range) and Saint Clair Reserve ($25+ range). Here’s what stood out (and there are tasting notes, too. See what happens with a fresh palate!):

X+ Saint Clair 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
Clean, crisp, tartish, with grass, hay, citrus and a puckery – but nice – lingering finish.

X+ Saint Clair 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve
A bit more green and more intense than above.

XX Vicar’s Choice 2004 Pinot Noir
Grapy red fruit, pepper spice, toasted wood, vanilla and cinnamon. Pretty tasty for the $.

XX+ Saint Clair 2004 Pinot Noir Doctor’s Creek Reserve
Soft yet vibrant fruit, spice and a nice long lingering finish. Mighty tasty.

Tasted in our Santa Rosa office:

XX Vicar’s Choice 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $14
Bright citrus fruit, grass/hay, a little tart, vibrant on the palate, and a bit sticky on the finish. Still, a very nice wine.

XXX Saint Clair 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $16
This is what NZ SB is supposed to be!

XXX Saint Clair 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Pioneer Block 7 $25
Ditto.

X Saint Clair 2006 Pinot Noir $18
Nice dried red fruit, some spice, cola. Medium to light body, crisp acids and a nice lingering finish.

Allan Scott

Josh Scott, from Allan Scott Wines, picked me up from Saint Clair and we headed to his winery. Josh, Allan’s son, is into making beer as well (which sure sounded good right about then). But work is work. Here’s what to look for from Allan Scott:

XX 2005 Riesling
Nice floral spices, citrus fruit, light petrol. Tight and crisp on the palate, with perfumed fruit and a nice lingering finish.

Afterward, we did take a short detour to Josh’s brewery, Moa, to sample a few suds. It’s basically right across the street, next to Cloudy Bay winery. Josh makes some nice, hoppy lagers and is planting his own hops on the grounds. Look for Moa when you’re down there.

On to lunch (and a tasting) at Clifford Bay Estate.

I have to note that Eric Bowers and his wife were lovely company. But she had on so much perfume I couldn’t smell a thing. Oh well. Food was good. Café/bistro-like. Tasty.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking. In “Scent of a Woman” Pacino could name the perfume a woman was wearing. I, personally, cannot. But it does kinda tie nicely into… HUIA!

Hans Herzog

Hans Herzog: the Arnold (you know who) of New Zealand, met me at Herzog (since renamed Hans Herzog due to a name conflict with Herzog in the U.S.). The winery/restaurant is a beautiful wooden structure brought over piece by piece from Switzerland. It reeks of warmth and comfort. And no… no perfume!

Here’s what impressed me:

XX+ 2003 Pinot Noir
Nice red fruit, spice, some tobacco/tea notes, oak. Nice spicy body and a long lingering finish.

X+ 2003 Late Harvest Riesling
Coconut, honey, apricots, some stone fruits. Rich, nice flaves and lingering finish.

XXX 2005 Late Harvest Chardonnay (barrel sample)
Yowza. This will bring me back to Herzog next trip!

It’s at this point in the trip that you start to question whether seven days is too much. Need a break. Luckily the next day was a travel day (three more airports) and I didn’t have to taste wine until 3:30 pm.

Hawkes Bay

But, of course, it was a regional tasting: Hawkes Bay. Before the tasting, though, I had a great lunch and tour of Hawkes Bay with Lyn Bevin. Lunch was at Mission Estate (fab), and Hawkes Bay is everything you’d think it would be. Magnificent.

Moving. Very. Soon.

The regional tasting was hosted by Sileni Winery. Here’s what caught my attention:

XX Woodthorpe (Te Mata Estate) 2004 Chardonnay
XX+ Alpha Domus 2004 Viognier
X+ Trinity Hill 2005 Viognier Gimblett Gravels
XX Gunn Estate 2004 Syrah
XX Villa Maria 2002 Cabernet/Merlot
X+ Esk Valley 2004 Merlot-Cabernet-Malbec
X+ Esk Valley 2002 Merlot-Malbec-Cabernet Reserve
XXX Sileni 2004 Late Harvest Semillon

After the tasting, Sileni hosted an informal BBQ, which was a perfect complement to the days activities. Why? 'Cause we drank beer! Okay, and some fine Sileni wine.

Kemblefield

On to Kemblefield. Interesting story. John Kemble (half of Kemblefield, the other half being Kaar Field) was one of the "originals" at Ravenswood (in Sonoma). In the 1990s, before Raveswood was acquired by Constellation (Damn!), Kemble decided to take up residence in New Zealand and continue his craft here.

The place is beautiful. But even more beautiful are the guest facilities, in which I was lucky enough to spend a night. When I move down there I wonder if he’d consider renting it out to me… probably not.

Anyway, here are John’s wines:

XX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
Nice grass/hay, citrus fruit and a crisp, tart body and nice lingering finish.

XX 2005 Chardonnay
Fruit-forward, apple, pear and peach with light floral notes and a beautiful long lingering finish.

XX 2004 Chardonnay
Lush, rich and smoother than 2005. A very sexy chardonnay.

XX 2005 Gewurztraminer “The Distinction”
Floral notes, upfront fruit, light bubble gum, some spice and a nice lingering finish.

XX 2002 Zinfandel Reserve
Yes, a Zin from NZ. (What would you expect from a former Ravenswood winemaker?) Jammy fruit, spice, oak, vanilla, coffee/tea, with a nice mouthfeel and lingering finish.

Lunch time!

Te Awa

Scooted over to Te Awa Winery for a taste and lunch. It’s nestled in a quiet garden-like setting, among tress, flowers and everything in between. The restaurant is kinda indoor/outdoor, and you can sit along small paths between the trees and foliage.

Simon Ward, general manager, was my host. Here’s the lowdown on the wines:

XX 2002 Merlot
Nice nose of red fruit, plum, some light herbs. Same on the palate, with a smooth lingering finish.

XX+ 2002 Syrah
Smoky, rich fruit, smooth and mighty tasty!

XX+ Merlot “Boundary”
Nice, soft, mature fruit aromas and flavors, and a long lingering finish.

The restaurant was quite good (as they’ve all been), and the atmosphere is very refreshing.

Now, I really didn’t want to bring this up, for fear of ruining the beautiful images you’re looking at here, but it was basically overcast and/or it rained the entire time I was down there. An anomaly, according to the locals. Figures. Anyway, the lunch at Te Awa was during one of the brief periods that it didn’t rain, so sitting outside and enjoying the wine and food was, like the Boundary merlot, very refreshing.

Had a little bit of free time, which was nice, so I looked around an area called Gimblett Gravels. Locals speak very highly of this growing area. It’s the soil. Really? Never heard that before. Okay, I’m outta line. But it looked like a typical growing area to me. But then again, what do I know about soil.

Craggy Range

Met by Steve Smith at Craggy Ranch Winery. Steve's the first winemaker/viticulturalist to earn a master of wine title. The winery and restaurant are situated between a mountain range (wanna guess which one?) and the ocean, and at night, the sun sets behind the range, giving the area a mystical red/orange glow. Absolutely extraordinary!

We tasted wines:

XX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Te Muna Road Vineyard
Crisp, clean, vibrant fruit and a beautiful long lingering finish.

XXX 2004 Pinot Noir Te Muna Road Vineyard
Dried red fruit, spice, oak, chocolate, some tea/tobacco. On the palate, nice, smooth, spicy body and a long lingering finish. Bordering too much winemaking for me, but…

XX Le Sol Syrah Gimblett Gravels
Nice smoky black, red and blue fruit with some coffee/tea and floral notes. Smooth and sexy on the palate, with a slightly tight, chewy finish.

Tasted in our Santa Rosa offices:

X Wild Rock 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $16
Juicy citrus fruit, grass/hay, banana and guava. Zesty and feisty on the palate, with a nice prolonged finish.

XXX Wild Rock Pinot Noir Rose $16
About as perfect a rose as you’ll find!

Terroir

Then we ate dinner at their restaurant Terroir. Aside from the food being fab, sitting outside (the rain had taken a break again) and watching the sun set behind the range was absolutely breathtaking. Strongly recommend this for dinner and a view.

Another travel day, but this time only one puddle to jump. Destination: Auckland.

Auckland

Auckland reminds me of a cross between San Francisco and Vancouver. It’s a modern, active, beautiful city, with a wonderful downtown waterfront restaurant/club row for entertainment.

Babich

My first stop was Babich, located in Henderson, about an hour outside Auckland. Originally considered to be in the “country,” the winery is now surrounded by urban sprawl. The original facility still produces wine, but Babich contracts/owns other winemaking facilities in Hawkes Bay and Marlborough, where it also owns vineyards.

Before I get to the wines, on arriving I was a bit flattered to learn they’re very big fans of Wine X and our concept. In fact, they’ve used our model to produce ads and PR materials (locally) to help attract young adults to their brand. Ironically, the marketing director, John Lang, and third-generation general manager, David Babich, are both in our target demo.

Gee, imagine that.

Annnnnyway, on to the wines:

XXX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
Grass/hay, vibrant fruit, crisp acids and a long lingering finish.

XXX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Winemaker’s Reserve
Ditto.

X+ 2004 Chardonnay “Unwooded”
Nice fruit-forward nose and palate, well-balanced and a nice long lingering finish.

X+ 2004 Dry Riesling
Typical Riesling nose of peach, apricot, light petrol, lemon/lime. Clean and crisp on the palate with a nice finish.

Tasted in our Santa Rosa office:

XX 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay $12
Clean, crisp and very refreshing. Wish more wineries would make chard in this style.

XX 2006 Sauvignon Blanc $14
Everything you’d expect from a NZ SB. Only little flaw was a slightly sticky finish. But after a coupla glasses you won’t notice.

I’d learn over lunch that New Zealand harbors a significant Croatian population. Josip Babich, founder, emigrated to New Zealand from Dalmatia (Croatia) in 1910.

Kumeu River

Speaking of Croatians, Milan Brajkovich was my host at the next watering hole, Kumeu River. Located in Kumeu (makes sense), the winery’s been in the family for generations.

Here’s what stood out:

X+ 2004 Pinot Gris
Nice citrus and stone fruit, crisp acids and a nice lingering finish.

X 2003 Malbec “Village”
Spicy black and blue fruit, nice balanced mouthfeel and easy on the finish.

Tasted in our Santa Rosa office:

XX 2006 Pinot Gris Kumeu $19
Great citrus fruit, floral aromas and spices in the nose. Little sweetness on the palate, with nice mouthfeel and a smooth finish.

X 2005 Chardonnay Village $19
A well-structured chard, with all the typical characteristics you’d expect.

Sebel Suites

Allllrightythen. Back to the Sebel Suites hotel on the waterfront for some R&R and a good rest. Stay here when you’re in Auckland. It’s in the heart of the waterfront business district, close to a dozen restaurants, clubs, etc. Best of all, a two-minute walk gets you to the ferry. It’ll save you time when you come see me in my new home (read below).

Waiheke Island

The next morning I would find my future home: Waiheke Island. Words cannot describe how beautiful it is (that’s why the slideshow). Located about a half-hour ferry ride from Auckland, the island boasts 20+ wineries.

Cable Bay

I’m headed to Cable Bay Vineyards to meet winemaker Neill Culley. We do a bit of touring before we taste his wines.

I’m in love with Waiheke Island. Yes, this is my future home.

The wines of Cable Bay: (NOTE: They make wines under the Cable Bay and Culley labels)

XX+ Culley 2005 Riesling
Pretty floral notes, citrus, apricots, peach. Crisp acids, slightly tart fruit, great mouthfeel and a long lingering finish.

X+ Cable Bay 2005 Sauvignon Blanc
Nice citrus, grass/hay, and some floral notes. Lacks a bit of acid on the palate, but the flavors come together into a nice lingering finish.

X+ Cable Bay 2004 Pinot Noir
Pretty nose of red fruit, spice, some oak, tea and tobacco. Soft and smooth on the palate, with nice spicy character, gentle fruit and a good lingering finish.

Tasted in our Santa Rosa office:

X Culley 2006 Pinot Noir $13
Dried red fruit, light minerals, spice, cola and mild oak. Same on the palate, nice balance and a soft lingering finish.

X Cable Bay 2005 Pinot Noir $26
This wine has nice fruit and spice, but unfortunately it’s covered by oak. This will appeal to oak lovers.

I spent the whole day on Waiheke. They had to pry me from the launch to get me on the ferry back to Auckland.

Kim Crawford

Dinner that evening was with Kim Crawford. You can’t miss Kim. About 6’5”, long surfer-dude hair and shockingly stylish glasses. I always roll my eyes when people talk about winemakers as “rock stars,” but Kim fits the bill to a T. (I found the picture above after I wrote this piece.)

I‘ve always been a big fan of Kim Crawford wines (can’t go wrong with any of them!), which, along with a nice dinner (don’t ask me where… somewhere close to the Sebel Suites), made for a very enjoyable evening.

Matua

Next morning it’s off to Matua Winery to meet Simon Beck. Like many wineries in the area (Auckland), Matua sources fruit from other major regions, i.e. Marlborough, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay, as well its estate vineyards.

Wines to watch for:

XX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Estate Series Paretai
The typical grass/hay, citrus, stone and passion fruit. crisp, clean and well-balance in the long lingering finish.

XX 2004 Pinot Noir Estate
Pretty nose of red and black fruit, oak, vanilla, spice and hints of cola. In the mouth, nice round, smooth flaves and long lingering finish.

XX 2003 Syrah Hawkes Bay
Interesting aromas of black and blue fruit, spice, light oak and tobacco/tea. Same on the palate, with good structure and a nice round finish.

X+ 2003 Merlot Bullrush Vineyard Hawkes Bay
Nice nose of plum, red and black fruit, oak, hints of chocolate and vanilla. A bit heavy on the oak (for me) but a nice, round, smooth palate and lingering finish.

Villa Maria

My next stop, Villa Maria, where I met with Neil Hadley, Ian Clark and Tom Ravech. This was the last winery on my trip, and I was feeling a bit anxious about leaving this beautiful place. After a quick look around, we sat down for a tasting.

(Please Note: The bottles for this tasting were taken from the tasting room, which means they’d been opened at some point in the past few days, so my notes may not accurately reflect their true quality.)

Here’s my take on the wines (as they were):

XX 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin
X+ 2005 Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection
X+ 2005 Chardonnay Un-Oaked
X+ 2005 Pinot Gris Cellar Selection
XX+ 2005 Gewurztraminer Private Bin
XX+ 2004 Pinot Noir cellar Selection
XX+ 2004 Pinot Noir Reserve

Tasted in our Santa Rosa offices:

XX 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin $15
Bright, crisp and refreshing (Jesus, how many times can I say this!), with nice balance and a slightly sticky finish.

XX+ 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection $20
A bit more intense and elegant than above, with a wonderful, smooth, lingering finish.

XX 2006 Gewurztraminer Private Bin $15
A good balance of fruit, floral spices and minerals in a dry, crisp finish.

Well, after a nice lunch it was time to leave New Zealand. But not without a Waiheke real estate guide, of course.

Oh, and by the way, if you fly down to New Zealand and have miles to upgrade to business class, fly New Zealand Air. Their business class is like everyone else's first class. Yeah, baby!

Cheers!


Thanks to the following organizations for images:

Tourism New Zealand
Tourism Auckland
Destination Queenstown
Waiheke Tourism
Destination Marlborough
Hawkes Bay Tourism
And all of the participating wineries.

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