Another great year

As I sit to prepare this newsletter Celine Dion is singing “Another year has gone by” in the background. Surely not, I say, but it is so. Where has it gone?
We can start by reviewing our year. We began with our summer BBQ at the end of January. The usual excellent occasion and thanks to Derek for continuing to make his premises available. February saw us heading on a “Summer Romance – a love affair with Wine” where some of your committee members presented their favourite summer wines. In March Mark and Susan Haythornthwaite presented some of their “Haythornthwaite” wines and told us of the success they have had adding platters to the tasting experience at their premises.

Unison Wines

In April Simon Bell from MacVine took us on a tour of Europe embracing France, Italy and Germany. May was the usual AGM then in June Unison Vineyards from the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay presented some lovely wines. July was something of a disappointment when we went to Saigon Van Grill Bar. The meal was lacking, particularly in quantity, and subsequent efforts to redress the problem have been futile. Never mind, we were back on track in August with a great tasting from Clearview.

September saw a continuation with European wines when Maison Vauron gave us a taste of French wine with some cheese matches. Then who could forget Negociants presentation from that iconic Barossa winery, Yalumba.

The tastings for the year finished with a return to Europe, this time Portugal with Confidant Wines, and some great wine with food matches. All this travel and we haven’t had to leave home.

As I finish this Celine has moved on to “Holy Night” and is singing about a night divine. I can’t quite work out if she means Christmas Eve or the December Dinner at Juniper. You be the judge.

Cheers
Robin Semmens, Editor

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Ash Ridge Wines – Feb 2015

Date: Wednesday 11 February, 2015

Time: 7:45 – 9:45 pm

Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, 30 Moorefield Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037 – Directions.

Cost: Members or guests $10, member with a guest $14.

Presenter: Simon Bell, Sales Manager. An EIT graduate, Simon spends his time ensuring that the public has access to Ash Ridge wines whether through the cellar door or charming the wine trade to ensure that you can enjoy our wines in restaurants and shops around the country.

Wines offered at the tasting are likely to include:

  • 2014 Ash Ridge Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2013 Ash Ridge Chardonnay
  • 2013 Ash Ridge Viognier
  • 2013 Ash Ridge Vintners Reserve Chardonnay
  • 2014 Ash Ridge Rosé
  • 2013 Ash Ridge Syrah
  • 2013 Ash Ridge Vintners Reserve “The Blend”

Background

In January 2014, in their biggest step to date, Ash Ridge opened a brand new Winery on their home site in Maraekakaho. The 100 tonne winery was designed to offer all modern winemaking facilities in a boutique size, allowing them to be truly hands on in their winemaking. The small winemaking team can nurture the process from vineyard to bottle.

Ash Ridge wines are all hand-crafted, single estate wines which reflect the unique vineyard location, the passion for winemaking and the premium quality that they make. Ash Ridge produce premium Hawkes Bay Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

In order to create a range of Bridge Pa Triangle wines they have partnered with the Peet Vineyard. The vineyard is based on an ash pumice ridge of soil, and is planted in sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon. In more recent years they have also partnered with neighbour Shawn Hill, of Raptor Rise Vineyard, to source Malbec and Viognier grapes. With the vineyard being over the fence and on the same soil they are truly staying local.

Tasting review

Anne opened the evening with a thud and spilt wine. One of the tables with Ash Ridge wines broke sending bottles all over the place. What an introduction for Simon to the Cellar Club. Anne went on to thank Simon and Ash Ridge Wines for their effort in replacing Man O’ War at short notice. We’ll have Man O’ War presenting in October.

A gifted and passionate speaker, Simon spoke in some detail about the Bridge Pa Triangle convincing even the most steadfast Gimblett Gravels supporter that wines from Bridge Pa are worth more than a passing sip. In fact it’s those differences that gives Ash Ridge wines that expression of the terroir in which the grapes are grown. This was expressed exquisitely across the range of wines tasted.

Read Yvonne Lorkin's review of Ash Ridge Wines
Read Yvonne Lorkin’s review of Ash Ridge Wines

Simon had obviously presented Ash Ridge Wines a few times before because his knowledge of the winery, the wines being produced and allround wine knowledge was outstanding.

After a brief history lesson of Ash Ridge Wines, it wasn’t that bad in fact it made you realise just how much effort has gone into developing the vineyard since 2000, Simon got into his stride with the tasting. Simon’s wine knowledge allowed members to understand nuances between Ash Ridge and other regions in New Zealand and around the world. This made interesting listening and even taught us a thing or two.

The wines selected for the night showcased all Ash Ridge wine styles. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was definitely Hawkes Bay, tropical rather than grassy. The Chardonnays were very fruit driven with the Estate making an exceptional replacement for non-savvy drinkers with its acidity just right for seafood and salads but would go just as well with most meats. The Viognier was elegant and true to its style.

The Syrah was well rounded needing several years, I’d suggest five to seven, to reach its potential so well worth stocking up on.

The showstopper of the night for most members was the first release of five varietals that make-up “The Blend”. Well balanced with great mouth feel now just wait ten to fifteen years for it to develop further. We were privileged to be the first outside Ash Ridge’s own cellar club to taste this wine.

A great evening with wines representative of the terror from a winery voted Winery of the Year 2014 at the Hawkes Bay Bayleys A&P. The only truly boutique winery to do so.

Tip: Start collecting “The Blend” as I’m sure overtime it will get as great a following as similar wine styles like Quintology, Sophia, Talisman and others.

When next visiting Ash Ridge Wines, ask about joining the Cellar Club.

Cheers Steve

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December Dinner – Strawberry Fare

strawberry-fareDate: Wednesday 10 December 2014

Time: 7:00 start for seating at 7:30pm

Venue: 25 Kent Terrace, Mt Victoria 6011 – Directions

Cost: Members & guests $50

December Dinner at Strawberry Fare and your committee are turning it on with some bubbles to get those attending into the appropriate festive mood.

We will also be providing some of Clearview Estate’s Sea Red as a dessert wine, seeing as we are going to be at Strawberry Fare.

Numbers are looking OK and we are hoping to be able to arrange two long tables with 20-21 on each table.

We are looking forward to an enjoyable and convivial evening.

Starter

Breads and spreads

Mains

Lamb Shank
With a rich puttanesca sauce, potato mash and honey glazed carrots (gf)

Porterhouse Steak
Served medium rare with potato rosti, Portobello mushroom, blue cheese, horseradish cream and port jus (gf)

Chicken Breast
Pan seared then roasted served with sweet corn puree, potato gnocchi and toasted grana padano

Manuka Smoked Salmon Fillet
Served with a salad of gourmet potato, fennel, green apple and mayonnaise accompanied by a fire roasted capsicum sauce (gf)

Potato Gnocchi
In a Portobello mushroom cream sauce with grana padano

Desserts

Your choice from Strawberry Fare’s amazing selection of desserts

Dinner review

Wow what a night.

On arrival we were provided with a refreshing glass of Cloudy Bay sparkling wine. This gave us time to chat and get reacquainted with fellow members before sitting down to breads and spreads. The salmon spread was obviously the most popular; blink and you miss out. Not to worry, pesto became my favourite.

The time between courses allowed members to share each others fine wines and do what we usually don’t have time for in our normal tastings – relax and talk.

One of a large number of fantastic desserts

The mains were great – flavoursome, well presented, and filling. We needed the time between courses to make room for dessert.

Impressive was an understatement of dessert. Whether your taste was for berry, chocolate, sorbets, fruit, nuts, citrus, ice cream or cheese, there was something for everyone; mouth-watering and beautifully presented.

Strawberry Fare has changed very little since I was last there more than 10 years ago. It’s a place where you can sit and have a real conversation without needing to talk over others to be heard with very friendly and extremely attentive staff. It won’t take me another 10 years before I’ll be back.

Well done guys and gals.

Cheers Steve

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Blush, bubbles & stickies – Nov 2014

advintage-logo-headerDate: Wednesday 12 November 2014

Time: 7:45 – 9:45 pm

Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, 30 Moorefield Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037 – Directions.

Cost: Members $18 Guests $18

Presenter: Mac (John) Macpherson of Advintage ably supported by John Kemble

An extended supper was provided with wines presented on the night to including:

Rosé
2014 Aronui Single Vineyard Pinot Rose
2014 Rockburn Stolen Kiss Pinot Noir Rosé

Bubbles & champagne
Bubbles by Lobetia
Squawking Magpie SQM Blanc de Blanc Brut
Champagne H.Garnier and Co. Brut NV
Roederer Vintage 2007

Sweet wines – very cool, different  options, exciting flavours
Buller Fine Old Muscat
Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado

The club would very much like to thank Advintage for their regular participation and generosity at our November tastings over recent years. We would love it if members were able to place orders to make it worthwhile for Mac to make this annual trip to Wellington.

Tasting review

Advintage
Click image to view more images in the gallery.

Mac and JK’s roadshow was even better than the last two years. The tasting started with a quaffer Bubbles by Lobetia, a refreshing low-priced bubbles with citrus flavours – surprisingly good.

One of the most popular items sold by Advintage is Champagne H.Garnier and Co. Brut NV and Advintage are the only New Zealand provider of this finely beaded tipple with apple and yeasty notes from the wooded chardonnay – very smooth.

We finished the first half of the show with the 2007 Vintage Roederer. Subtle woodiness reinforced lightly toasty and vanilla flavours with a superb rich finish. As Mac says, ‘pay that little bit more and you’ll get that increase in quality you’d expect’ especially when comparing bubbly.

After a great supper we got into the rosé and sweet wines. As Mac says, ‘very cool, different options and exciting flavours’.

The 2014 Rockburn Stolen Kiss Pinot Noir Rosé was just as first remembered it back in 2010, candy-floss aromas with crème-brûlée and strawberry flavours.  The committee provided Christmas pies and biscotti to go with the showstoppers, Buller Fine Old Muscat and Valdespino Pedro Ximenez El Candado.

The muscat, oh what a revelation, raisin notes with a rich intense molasses finish. This is truly a drink for anyone, even beer drinkers would appreciate the fine quality at an affordable price.

One last note. “After a brief hiatus, ‘JK’ has returned to his first love with a vibrant range of Hawkes Bay varietals. John has always made wines ‘with a big bunch of flavour ‘, and much like the man himself, these are generous, outgoing wines – full of character and colour.” – Go to Advintage for Big Bunch Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.

Thanks to Mac, JK and all the team at Advintage.

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Villa Maria wines – Oct 2014

villamariaDate: Wednesday 8 October 2014

Time: 7:45 – 9:45 pm

Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, 30 Moorefield Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037 – Directions.

Cost: Members $12 Guests $16

Presenter: Jonathan (Jono) Hamlet, Manager and Viticulturist, Joseph Soler Vineyard

Details: Villa Maria Estate Viticulturist Jono Hamlet presented a range of VM’s organic range of wines including:

  • 2011 Private Bin Organic Gewürztraminer
  • 2013 Private Bin Organic Merlot
  • 2013 Cellar Selection Organic Sauvignon Blanc
  • 2013 Cellar Selection Organic Merlot
  • 2012 Single Vineyard Ihumatao Organic Verdelho
  • 2013 Single Vineyard Templar Sauvignon Blanc

We were also be treated to some more interesting varieties from some of the 15 varieties of ‘barrel samples’ produced across the Hawkes Bay. We won’t be tasting them all on the night but these will provide us with an interesting wine experience.

A bit about Jono

Jono plays an integral part in managing Villa Maria’s 65 hectare Joseph Soler Vineyard in the Hawkes Bay, 21 hectares of which are fully certified with BioGro. His role involves the challenge of managing the vineyards organically, while meeting the economic and quality parameters set out by the company and industry.

The Joseph Soler Vineyard currently produces 15 grape varieties and supplies to all three company wineries, Villa Maria Estate (Auckland), Vidal (Hawkes Bay), and Esk Valley (Hawkes Bay).

Over the next five to seven years, Jonathan will take the lead role in bringing the entire Joseph Soler Vineyard (44 hectares remaining) into organic production.

Seeing the opportunities in viticulture, he spent several years growing grapes on Waiheke Island before migrating south to the Hawkes Bay, to work for CJ Pask and Ngatarawa wineries. He was later employed by Villa Maria to manage the organic vineyard, Joseph Soler.

Jono is the vice president of the NZ Organic Winegrowers Association.

Tasting review

Jono’s roadshow show was a polished display of art, chemistry, showmanship combined with facts and superb organic wines.

What was of great interest was the breadth of Jono’s knowledge of viticulture, winemaking and the impacts and trends he is apart of at Villa Maria. This includes moving the Joseph Soler Vineyard from a traditional vineyard to organic, about 5% of total Villa Maria wine production, and the biodynamic trends Villa Maria have set in the wine industry.

Passionate about his role at Villa Maria, Jono expressed the impact that terroir has on vine growth and took his time in explaining in some detail how this has impacted on the various Villa Maria vineyards in all wine growing regions of New Zealand.

The wines selected for the night showcased a small proportion of Villa Maria’s stable of wines. The quaffer, Gewürztraminer, was fairly typical of the varietal. The two Sauvignon Blancs again typical except the Templar very refined and is a likable type for those not as passionate about Sauv’s as some. Villa Maria is one of only a few vineyards to produce Verdelho in New Zealand. Another vineyard is Esk Valley, one of Villa Maria’s other brands.

Jono then produced two barrel samples, a Chenin Blanc and a Merlot, which were both unfined and cloudy. For many members it was their first taste of barrel samples and a great way to understand the development of wine from barrel to bottle to glass to lips. A unique and a great touch to the night. The night wasn’t finished there.

From Jono’s box of tricks he produced a beautiful Chenin Blanc sticky. Superb considering where it came from. After a wet summer in 2012 left the Chenin Blanc underdeveloped Jono left the grapes on the vine until May. By this time there was not a lot left to the grapes but wow what depth of flavour. Shame it was in such a small amount.

Thanks Jono and Villa Maria.

 

Want to find more about Villa Maria? Have a look at the playlist.

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RM (Rod MacDonald) Wines – Sept 2014


Date: Wednesday 10 September 2014

Time: 7:45 – 9:45 pm

Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, 30 Moorefield Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037 – Directions.

Cost: Members $10 Guests $14

Presenter: Jason (Jase) Pearce (Central and Lower North Island Sales and Marketing for RM Wines and a Master Sommelier level 1)

Details: We have secured a future star for this tasting – guess which one?

Quaffer: Quarter Acre Sauvignon Blanc

A bit about Jase

Jase comes from over 15 years in the Wellington Hospitality industry, where he built and managed bars and restaurants, including St Johns Bar and The Occidental.

While living and working in in Wellington Jase gained a passion for wine and achieved the distinction of Master Sommelier level 1.

On moving to Hawkes Bay, with a view to expanding his wine knowledge and a change of lifestyle, Jase contacted Rod McDonald who offered him a job in the prestigious position of cellar rat in the winery.

Jase worked through the fantastic 2013 vintage and continues to lend a hand in the winery when he’s not working in his usual role in sales and marketing for Rod McDonald wines covering the Central and Lower North Island.

Jason (Jase) Pearce presenting RM Wines
Jason (Jase) Pearce presenting RM Wines

Tasting review

Jase started the night with an apology from Rod. Rod was in China with a delegation promoting the virtues of Hawkes Bay’s fine vintners, vigneron’s and négociants. Johnsonville – China; I know what I’d choose too.

After being introduced by our President Anne, Jase launched into the RM Wines philosophy of making wines that promise to deliver great drinking from release right through to giving it time to develop.

Extremely passionate about the RM wines, Jase talked about his own experiences in the winery where he still spends a day a week keeping his hand in the production side. I think this makes for a marketer that knows the wines instinctively, and that instinctiveness comes across.

Jase highlighted just how well respected and in demand Rod is. From winemaker at Vidals where Rod became New Zealand Winemaker of the year in 2006 to making not only his own wines but wines for more than 10 other labels, Rod has developed a cult following.

Jase was right on the money with the wines for the night. The wines selected are a tribute to the winemaker and his team. There was the strong RM distinction of flavour and character in each varietal when you compared it with similar type wines from other winemakers.

Some wines you may not associate right away (Sauv. Blanc and Viognier) but at least you’d know it was better than just a good drop; they were exceptional. Each left you feeling a sample was never going to be enough; hence Jase left enough order forms for each person on your table.

20140910_211017
A comparative tasting of three Rod MacDonald’s Syrahs – 2012 Blanket Hills Syrah, 2011 Te Awanga Syrah, 2011 Rod McDonald Trademark Syrah

It was hard to pick just one white or red as each wine was distinctive. The highlights for me were the Viognier and Trademark Syrah. The Viognier baked apricot on the nose, rich tropical flavour of pineapple and mango with a long warm spicy finish. The Trademark was simply elegant; reminds me of a lightly spiced plum cake on the nose with a rich mouth feel of dark ripe plums and baked cherry pie with plain yoghurt. The finish was a little tight and sharp so I know I’ll enjoy it in another 10 – 15 years.

Tip: If you can get it, the 2012 Blanket Hills Syrah is the best value Syrah around. Stock up on it before it all goes.

 

Cheers Jase … and Rod and the team.

 

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A Taste of Italy with Cangrande

cangrandeMichele Marai from Cangrande presented a fantastic line-up of some of Italy’s best exports – wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and finishing with biscotti to go along with ‘Il Fortificato’.

Cost – members $14 and guests $18.

Wines tasted include:

Quaffer: Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene DOCG – Bortolomiol (Veneto)

  1. Pinot Grigio DOC – Masut da Rive (Friuli – Venezia Giulia)
  2. Soave Superiore DOC “Monte Sella” – Le Mandolare (Veneto)
  3. Negroamaro del Salento IGT – Cignomoro (Puglia)
  4. Nebbiolo Langhe DOC – San Biagio (Piemonte)
  5. Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC – Caterina Zardini (Veneto)
  6. ‘Il Fortificato’, a fortified red wine based on Recioto della Valpolicella – Giuseppe Campagnola (Veneto)

Tasting review

Click image to view more images in the gallery.

Michele is a very passionate speaker in true Italian style you’d expect coming from Verona; home of Romeo and Juliet.

Michele along with his assistant and taste tester Carlo (Michele’s father) introduced members to a fascinating range of quality Italian wines. What proved to be a hit was Michele knowledge of Venetian history and the background of the many smaller family owned wineries assembled as part of his wine portfolio for New Zealand.

Members were treated to a great range of wines including a magnificent Amarone della Valpolicella Classico; one of Italy’s top reds. Not for the cost conscious but definitely worth every euro. This wine would compete with the best New Zealand and Australia offers with its purple colour, spicy aroma, gutsy mouth feel and rich lingering tobacco and liquorice finish.

Amoarone della Valpolicella blend includes Corvina which provides the blend’s acidity and sour-cherry flavors while Rondinella is used to add colour and body. If you see this on your next wine list, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

My three favourites on the night were the Prosecco, Negroamaro and Amarone. The Prosecco was fresh and lively with bosc pear and green apple notes, plump mouth feel and a lingering finish. The Negroamaro was more what I was expecting from an Italian red; rustic with strong savoury herb notes with a slight acidic finish. The Amarone was the hit of the show; big, bold luscious with a warming ripe plum mouth feel, and finishing like and express train.

A presto! … Steve

The first coat of arms of the Scala family. Still today it appears on the flags of the Verona Province, Verona football team and in logos and symbols of clubs, wine labels etc.

More on Cangrande

Cangrande takes its name from Cangrande della Scala, a great military and political leader and a well known wine lover, who ruled Verona in the early thirteen hundreds, making Verona one of the most powerful forces in Italy.

Through the centuries, Verona has developed into one of the most important districts in the world for wine production, trading and marketing.

In this time, all over Italy, wine making has become an art. Italian wines are still getting better, and in the last few decades more and more producers have focused on improving quality, achieving some impressive results.

Thanks to their work, Italy has now become the number one wine producing and exporting country in the world. Many native grapes have recently become world famous, and the effort of the winemakers that chose quality over quantity is paying off.

 

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