Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

The Waiheke WineGrowers' Association (WWA) uses the word WineGrower in its title to encourage membership both by full wineries and grape-growers,  but membership is voluntary.  For Waiheke as a whole,  in June 2009 there are 24 winery members of the Association,  3 wine-producers who are not members,  and several other names who are either emerging or former producers.  The latter may still have wine in the retail system.  The 27 are less than the 29 wineries listed by Sue Courtney in her neat tabulated summary of Waiheke wineries in April 2008 @ http://www.wineoftheweek.com/regions/waiheke.html,  presumably reflecting the state of flux the New Zealand wine industry as a whole is currently in,  after the recent phenomenal (and unsustainable ?) increase in aspiring wine producers.

The Association presented the first Annual Expo of Waiheke Wines in Auckland city on 9 June 2009.  About 90 wines were available for tasting,  from 16 of the wineries.  These included most of the larger,  better known or more widely distributed wineries,  though Stonyridge and Destiny Bay did not include their topmost wine.  The following list shows which member-wineries participated in the Expo,  those members who did not for various reasons (including no stock in tasting condition at the moment),  and finally the non-member wineries and other uncertain categories,  as far as I can establish in the time available.  It is not the last word.

WWA member wineries exhibiting at the Expo  (16):  
Awaroa Vineyard
Cable Bay Vineyards
Destiny Bay Vineyards
Goldwater Estate
Isola Estate
Jurassic Ridge
Kennedy Point Vineyard
Man O' War  (formerly Stony Batter Estate)
Miro Vineyard
Mudbrick Vineyard (including Shepherds Point)
Obsidian Vineyard
Passage Rock Wines
Poderi Crisci  (formerly Christensen Estate)
Stonyridge Vineyard
Te Motu Vineyard
The Hay Paddock

WWA member wineries not exhibiting at the Expo  (8):  
Edbrooke Vineyard
Peacock Ridge
Ridgeview Estate
Saratoga Estate
Te Whau Vineyard Ltd
Topknot Hill Vineyard
View East Vineyard
Woodside Hill

Wineries on Waiheke not members WWA (3):
Owhanake Bay Estate
Putiki Bay Vineyard
Turere Cove

Status Uncertain  (3):
Fenton Estate  (understood to be no longer making wine)
Oakura Bay  (understood to now be a grape-grower)
Peninsula Estate  (understood to be no longer making wine)

There are grape-growers who supply grapes for other wineries.  Some of these are small-scale,  or lifestyle growers,  not wine-sellers as such,  but there may be wines made for them which add to the wine labels possibly encountered from Waiheke.

In addition to Wine of the Week (above),  the two best sources of information on the wines of Waiheke Island are first,  as always,  Michael Cooper's exemplary Wine Atlas of New Zealand,  in its 2002 and 2008 editions,  and now,  the Waiheke WineGrowers Association's excellent website:  www.waihekewine.co.nz  This site has some info for each member,  including the few without their own website.  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.

Presenting Wine Expos
Unusually for such events,  the organisers asked winewriters in particular what they most needed to gain the best result from such a presentation.  The nett result was a preliminary media session only,  from 10 am to 1.30,  where the bottles were available for winewriters to annotate,  pour and taste samples in peace and quiet,  without winemakers or other trade people.  From 1.30 to 5.30 or so was allocated to the trade generally,  and the balance of the evening was public.  Additionally,  there was a user-friendly wire-bound catalogue printed on matt paper,  both features making the recording of notes much easier.

This approach was a tremendous success,  a model which I hope will be quickly adopted by other districts.  Practices at some of the other wine Expos are virtually a nonsense,  for example saddle-stitched catalogues printed on shiny paper so the booklet won't stay open and the ink smears,  and some allowing only 2 hours for both media and trade.  That means for winewriters there is no time in which there is easy access to a desired bottle,  without more or less jostling.  Think about it for a moment.  To check the alcohol alone for each and every bottle of 100 bottles on display could take 60 secs per bottle,  allowing for the obscurity of labelling on some bottles,  and the distractions of access and people desiring to talk.  That single annotation could take 100 of the 120 allocated minutes.  Further,  it is a physical and mental impossibility to competently taste and record notes on 100 wines in 120 minutes.  How can 2 hours for a 100 or so wines be even considered in the first place ?  

Even with the superb innovation of a media-only session of 3.5 hours for the 90 wines in the Waiheke Expo (for which total credit must go to Lindsay Spilman,  Convener),  several of us interested in a more detailed approach felt that the winewriters' session would have been even better if it had started at 9 am,  and run for 4.5 hours till 1.30.  I was just able to document and collect samples of the 90 wines in the 3.5 hours,  by virtue of scarcely speaking,  and Michael Cooper who also values a detailed approach expressed similar views.

I urge all organisers of Wine Expos to move to a timing layout whereby the first 4 – 5 hours are a self-pour session for media only,  many of whom wish to write notes in peace and quiet,  the second 3 – 4 or so hours add in the trade who in general do not write notes,  and the final 4 hours are available to the public too.  Winemakers commonly spend 12-hours-plus days at vintage time:  surely investing a long day in promoting their wines would be worthwhile too,  particularly considering a number of winewriters attend these promotions at their own cost,  to in effect promote the wine industry.

Waiheke Island
Waiheke Island lies some 30 km ENE of downtown Auckland,  and leaving aside the larger Great Barrier Island to the outer northeast,  is the largest island within the Hauraki Gulf.  Total land area is about 9200 hectares (22,720 acres),  most of it modestly hilly and below 100 m (328 ft).  In the eastern half,  the NE-trending ridge from Maunganui (the highest point at 231 m = 758 ft) overlooking Awaawaroa Bay to Stony Batter in the volcanic zone of the NE peninsula rises to 200 m in several places.  Excellent location maps and a particularly good geological map (though none with spot-heights) are on the WineGrowers' website,  above.  Permanent population is around 8000 people.

In the modern era,  the first vinifera vines were planted in 1977 by Kim & Jeannette Goldwater.  From the outset,  they were focussed on Bordeaux blends,  the temperate maritime climate being seen as closely akin to that of Bordeaux.  Merlot followed by cabernet remain the most-planted varieties.  Since then the district has increasingly come to be seen as the place posing the most credible challenge to Hawkes Bay's pre-eminence with this winestyle in New Zealand.  This is a consequence of Waiheke being somewhat drier than most other wine-growing districts in mainland Auckland.  Rainfall on Waiheke further decreases to the eastern end,  due to the prevailing southwesterly winds.  The Matakana district some 50 km due north of Auckland claims similar advantages,  but the evidence is lacking.

Rainfall:  There are in fact some fantastic local district rainfall claims for nearby wine districts to be seen from a quick search on the web.  My NZ Meteorological Service statistical summaries are not up to date enough for Waiheke to be officially listed in the 20-year normals,  but there is now some information.  The Auckland Regional Council has published a rainfall map of the Auckland region in one of their Technical Publications:  Auckland Water Resource Quantity Statement 2002 – Overview of the Auckland Region's Water Resources  select Climate chapter,  scroll down to Fig. 2.2,  p.4 (the link is slow).  Extraordinarily,  the map omits the isohyets for Waiheke Island,  presumably as a consequence of no network of weather stations.  It does however show quite clearly that the Matakana district is wetter than the Kumeu district (c.1350 mm / annum).  For Waiheke one can only extrapolate from the vivid rainfall gradient shown along the Whangaparaoa Peninsula.  From west to east the annual rainfall there falls from 1300 mm at Orewa to well below 1100 mm at the eastern end,  and to 950 mm at Tiritiri Island beyond.  

For eastern Waiheke,  the high ridge from Maunganui to Stony Batter does curtail any hoped-for west to east gradient,  at least immediately adjacent to it,  unfortunately for viticulture.  By the same token,  the gradient east of the ridge may steepen.  More weather stations would be very useful.  All in all,  it seems likely that western and central Waiheke is in the order of 1250 – 1300 mm varying from place to place (the peninsulas drier,  for example),  and the eastern end of the Island is more like 1150 – 1250 mm (discussion with David Evans of Passage Rock).  The only NIWA / MetService-grade recording station is at Awaawaroa Bay,  just west of the above ridge.  Mean annual rainfall there is approximately 1280 mm,  according to the Island's weather site:  www.waihekeweather.net/home.  All numbers however are a far cry from Havelock North's annual rainfall of c.800 mm – this figure closely matches Bordeaux.  Not too much can be made of Waiheke's "lower" rainfall therefore,  except relative to places like Henderson.  [ The map does show however why such fantastic fruit has from time to time come off the Mangere / Ihumatao vineyard zone for Villa Maria.  It is the driest spot in the local Auckland region – 1100 mm.  The optimal place for wine grapes in the greater Auckland district however must be the eastern end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsula – apart from an increased risk of salt. ]  In checking websites,  caution is needed – rainfall totals can be massaged infinitely,  for example by citing a 7 or 8-month growing season,  or the February to April rainfall totals only.

Recent Vintages  (adapted from the Waiheke Syrah Workshop article,  this site 22 July 2008)
Note this is a broad-brush estimate for all grapes / the whole island.  Individual wineries may feel it under-estimates their achievements.  The problem grape is cabernet sauvignon.  All too often the dry weather of the typical Auckland summer finishes before cabernet is fully physiologically mature / ripe,  introducing the leafy notes so characteristic of reds in the Auckland / Matakana / North Auckland districts generally.  This is why merlot is increasingly the dominant variety in Bordeaux blends,  and the earlier-ripening syrah (at much the same point as merlot) looks so promising in the district.  It is all early days yet,  but it does seem likely that favoured (drier) microclimates exist on Waiheke (relative to the central aggregation of wineries),  particularly to the east and towards the extremities of peninsulas.  There however the risk of salt exposure is higher.  Using James Halliday's excellent vintage charts (for Australia, @ http://winecompanion.com.au/vintagechart.cfm) as the model,  the rating is out of 10.

Vintage Ratings for the last 10 years on Waiheke Island:
20097 – 9 Good flowering,  good crops,  unsettled part Feb / March may affect whites,  dry late summer and autumn allowing good ripening all reds.
20088 – 10Good flowering,  good crop,  long settled summer,  best vintage yet in vinifera era.
20075 – 7Difficult flowering,  low crop,  early season reds good,  late / cabernet lesser.
20066 – 8Reasonable flowering and crop,  good ripening for all but latest season reds.
20058 – 9Difficult flowering,  small crops of superb grapes for all varieties.
20045 – 7Good flowering and crop,  long slightly cool season giving lean aromatic grapes all varieties.
20034 – 5Reasonable crops,  but summer a month too short,  only chardonnay good.
20027 – 9Lowish crops but good long summer all varieties,  fractionally ahead of 2000.
20013 – 4Small crops,  rain,  summer lacking,  the least of decade.
20007 – 8Good flowering and crop,  long dry season,  all varieties good.

Waiheke Island has been famous first and foremost for its Bordeaux-blend / cabernet / merlot and similar winestyles.  This was the initial goal of 1980s pioneers the Goldwaters,  and Stephen White at Stonyridge.  Now,  syrah is about to leap into prominence as an absolutely premium grape and wine for the district too.  Its ripening time approximates merlot.  The key thing to say about both these winestyles is,  due to the cool-temperate maritime climate,  the Island interpretations of these grapes have the potential at best to be clearly delicate and fragrant,  with superb floral complexity and total physiological maturity,  yet without sur-maturité / over-ripeness.  In comparison with Hawkes Bay they show greater potential ripeness than the all-too-often under-ripe Te Awanga district reds.  The best merlot / cabernets closely match the very best of the Bordeaux blends from the Havelock North and Ngatarawa Triangle districts,  much more so than the sometimes burlier winestyles coming off the Gimblett Gravels in warmer years.  They match classical Bordeaux very closely indeed.  And likewise the Island syrahs are at best extraordinarily close to one or other of the principal syrah villages in the Northern Rhone Valley,  namely wonderfully fragrant aromatic wines which are closer to the wines of the Cote de Nuits than to Australian shiraz.  

I hope Waiheke Island winemakers will rejoice in this distinctiveness,  and optimise their wines' complexity accordingly,  in particular by subtle use of oak.  They will then be truly distinctive,  and very close to the classical wines of France.  In contrast,  the Gimblett Gravels wines run the risk in warmer years of being confused with either Napa Valley wines,  or even Australian.  Simply from a marketing viewpoint,  and the optimising of the concept 'New Zealand wine',  the latter is the last thing we want.

It is fair to say that for the cabernet / merlots,  the history of Island wines is a microcosm of the New Zealand experience.  We have long been habituated in New Zealand to red wines which the greater world sees as lean at best,  and green / stalky and acid at worst.  Though there have been marvellous individual wines in past years,  starting with the 1987 Stonyridge Larose,  now several of the best contemporary Island wines have relatively suddenly made a tremendous leap in achieved quality.  This is largely due to the advent of another group of growers (since the founders) who are equally passionate about Bordeaux sensu stricto as a winestyle.  Because the Island heat summation and climate is at a knife-edge of adequacy,  adapting viticulture and yield to optimise every heat unit,  and achieve full physiological maturity of fruit flavours,  is the outstanding challenge.  

All that said,  the diversity of 'claret' interpretations developing amongst the top cabernet / merlot winemakers of Waiheke,  ranging from conventional new world (Mudbrick,  Isola,  Passage Rock) through classical Bordeaux (Te Motu,  Goldwater) to more modern Bordeaux-influenced European (Stonyridge,  though Larose not in the tasting,  Destiny Bay,  though Magna Praemia not in the tasting) is exciting.  

The Island's temperate climate also works well for achieving subtle satisfying not too alcoholic chardonnay on the Island.  Traditionally the Island chardonnays have been a bit rumpty on the winemaking side,  but in this tasting several elegant and totally modern wines can be found.  Again the analogy with Hawkes Bay districts holds true.  It can be argued that the finest and subtlest Hawkes Bay chardonnays come not from the warmest places in the Bay,  but slightly cooler zones like the Dartmoor Valley – for example the Sacred Hill range and notably their Riflemans.  Locally the chardonnay achievements of Michael Brajkovich at Kumeu set all the example that is needed.

Sauvignon blanc deserves special mention.  Waiheke is a wine tourism destination.  If one goes to the Mosel Valley,  the goal is to taste riesling,  not roussanne.  It seems to me regrettable that several Waiheke wineries are expanding their commercial footing by importing generally modest examples of grapes such as Marlborough sauvignon blanc,  and pinot noir,  which belong elsewhere.  Waiheke sauvignon blanc is a different animal,  incidentally much closer to the Graves blanc model,  and one which can be delightful and even exciting (depending on the winemaking) in its own right.  In presenting straightforward or sometimes ordinary examples of wines from other districts in their house repertoire,  but at Waiheke prices,  the risk of not satisfying the tourist is high.  They then go away (not having read the fine print) saying,  Waiheke wines are average and over-priced.  This happens commonly,  and does not help Waiheke wine one little bit.  The goal must be too accentuate what is distinctive to the Island.  Waiheke sauvignon is a natural extension of the sauvignon spectrum in New Zealand,  from the crisply aromatic and zingy in Marlborough,  to the softer and fragrant slightly more tropical fruits version in Hawkes Bay,  through to the even more ripely-fruited yet still refreshing ones on Waiheke.  This is a story worth telling.  Passage Rock is providing a model approach.  

Pinot gris is a versatile grape,  which in the north has already been shown to work well in the Matakana district.  The fact that it is the wine for people who don't like wine should not detract from the goal of making good ones on Waiheke.  In particular,  low-alcohol and fragrant flavourful ones to optimise seafoods (the minds-eye sees scallops) offer more potential than has been achieved so far.  

In general,  the individual wineries are not further discussed in this account,  beyond the wine reviews.  See Cooper,  Courtney and the WineGrowers website,  already cited.  However the Man O' War venture needs mention.  This extensive vineyard estate lies out to the northeast on the 4500 acre / 1821 ha Man O' War Station,  owned by the Spencer family of Stony Batter fame.  There are 90 individual vineyards scattered over this easternmost land,  and Ponui Island to the south too.  They total 150 acres / 60 ha.  They span a fabulous array of altitudes and aspects,  and must offer the potential for outstanding wines in a diversity of styles.  Thus far wine achievements have been mostly modest,  notwithstanding some lavish praise where systemic faults in the wines have been ignored,  but the sheer scale of this enterprise,  and the thought that all the problems thus far (bar one) are readily resolvable,  mean that one day Man O' War will be an exciting wine name,  and a place to watch.  Already there is evidence of this in the wines themselves,  though thus far too,  the wines give the impression of winery staff working in isolation,  not tasting enough with contemporary progressive winemakers.  It is exciting therefore to contemplate the changes the new winemaker Duncan McTavish will introduce,  and express the hope he will make the drastic changes needed.  The caveat is the exposed nature of some of the vineyards,  on this relatively more exposed peninsula,  and the likelihood therefore of enhanced maritime notes / sea-salt in some of the wines.  But then they say that of manzanilla,  and few object to that wine.  The vineyard already has a great website,  very informative.

The goal of this review is to provide in effect a snapshot of wine achievements on Waiheke Island,  as at June 2009.  As noted,  not all wineries participated in the Wine Expo,  but most of the style and achievement leaders did,  so the goal has validity.  

My approach to wine-writing differs from the norm in New Zealand,  in that I prefer to take carefully protected and numbered (against the catalogue) glass-samples away with me,  and as soon as possible set up a blind tasting of all the wines.   At the venue,  only the bouquet is checked and noted,  primarily for faults.  In this way I can achieve a much more clinical result than attempting to write notes at the function,  where people wish to talk (for example).  And I can compare and contrast wines one against the other,  on the table.  The samples taken are of sufficient volume (c.60 mls) to not deteriorate in transit.  Normally my tasting is a two-stage written affair,  the first goal being to assess all the reds (or whites) blind,  to see if the wines firstly have faults,  and secondly see if they have recognisable varietal characters which emerge blind.  That completed,  wines are identified as to variety only (and with the number of samples,  plus the conscious effort not to,  maker identity will not be remembered),  and sorted into varietal classes.  The still-masked glasses are then re-assessed and ranked within their class.  Clearly if a wine is recognisably varietal in the first instance,  this is a plus.

For this Waiheke exercise,  due to the number of samples,  and the fact I was working away from home,  for the more numerous reds the first stage was omitted.  The glasses were immediately sorted into varietal classes out of the box,  the control wines from elsewhere in New Zealand added as appropriate,  and the masked and newly-numbered glasses laid out in a randomised procedure evolved over 25 years.  Even so,  the cabernet / merlot and related class with foils amounted to 50 glasses.  Wines are described in a standard format and stationery approach,  with the important step of fault-recognition well in mind at the blind stage.  That completed,  the wines are ranked.  Completely fresh descriptive wine notes suited for publication are then written.  This stage leads to even closer examination of the wines,  for as one attempts to characterise them in terms which when read back in fact make sense against the fluid,  one's appreciation of them changes.  Ranking may therefore change several times,  in achieving the final result presented with this account.  But that is the nature of wine,  where there are few blacks and whites.

Quality-control – wine-writing
Once those longhand notes are typed,  and print-out is available,  it is as if one is reading some-one else's report.  The words and the quality of communication leap into focus.  Tasting the wines back against the printed notes is one key part of total quality control,  in wine-writing.  The other is the inclusion in the blind line-up of non-local wines known and agreed to be good at their medal level,  so in this case the Waiheke wines and the quality currently being achieved are strictly judged to national standards,  not some local one influenced by the circumstances of the day.    

The quality-control wines used for the Waiheke exercise,  their prices and their perceived scores on that day were:

2007 Sacred Hill Chardonnay Riflemans  $52,  18.5
2007 Villa Maria Pinot Gris Taylors Pass Single Vineyard  $30,  18
2008  Astrolabe Sauvignon Blanc Awatere Valley Discovery  $22,  18.5
2007  Te Mata Syrah Bullnose  $43,  18.5 +
2007  [ Waimata ] Cognoscenti Syrah (Gisborne)  $30,  16 +
2007  Te Mata Cabernets / Merlot Coleraine  $72,  18.5
2006  Villa Maria Merlot Omahu Gravels Single Vineyard  $57,  18
2007  Villa Maria Merlot / Cabernet Private Bin  $19,  17.5

Note not all wines are expensive or class-leading – the goal being to better assess nett wine achievements and value for money (not further discussed in this report) on Waiheke.  There are several Villa Maria wines not only because of their ubiquity,  but also because of their superlative technical control.  

The reviews follow my normal format, with an italicised 'admin' section giving background to the wine as presented in the catalogue,  the details supplemented at the Expo,  before my review.  I later contacted each winery with a list of supplementary questions.  Additionally on this occasion I have grafted in the winery notes for each wine from the Expo catalogue.  They conclude the 'admin' section under the wine name,  indicated within '  ' marks.  They help illuminate both the wine,  and the grower's thoughts on it.  Some wines in the catalogue included a W symbol for 'WWA Certified'.  To quote from the catalogue:

Waiheke Winegrowers' Certification Trade Mark – A commitment to quality standards
Waiheke Island's wine production represents less than 1% of New Zealand's production,  which in turn represents under 1% of the world's export wine sales.  With just 216 hectares under vine,  shared among 30 growers,  it is axiomatic that winegrowing on Waiheke is small-scale.  Volumes are low and economic viability depends heavily on the ability to achieve quality standards that justify a loyal following at the price levels needed for mainly 'boutique' operations.

The WWA Constitution has long recognised the need for members to pursue high standards in the vineyard, winery and product presentation.  This has now been taken further with the establishment of a registered Certification Trade Mark for wines meeting the three benchmark standards detailed in the Constitution,  i.e.:
#  That they are made from 100% Waiheke Island-grown grapes
#  That the grapes are grown in vineyards that are members of an internationally recognised sustainability programme
#  That the wine has met the sensory evaluation, fault analysis and winery audit standards which apply for Export Eligibility

This mark is designed to protect the integrity of wines labelled as being "Waiheke Island",  and to provide assurance to wine consumers.  All certified wine entries in this catalogue can be identified by the inclusion of the certification logo W
   [ a W in a circle ]

Note the sensory evaluation and fault analysis requirement referred to is that required by New Zealand WineGrowers for export  (http://www.nzwine.com/certification/),  in association with the Crown Research Institute HortResearch.  There is no Waiheke Island involvement in that phase.

The Wines
All Waiheke Island wines are hand-picked.  In assessing the wines of the Island,  Michael Cooper in his 2002 Wine Atlas stated:  ' ... their quality ranges from mediocre to outstanding.'  Today seven years later,  that remains true,  but the exciting conclusion is,  the ratio of good and very good wines to lesser has increased dramatically.  The top wines are both of good international quality,  and local gold medal standard (these are not necessarily the same thing).  Ripeness levels in the top wines are exhilarating,  the wines showing the all-important quality of florality which can only be achieved in grapes perfectly ripened in cool-temperate viticultural districts (like fragrant apples,  or cherries).  

Key issues to emerge from the reviews are:  many wines still show high total acids,  by European standards;  some wines still show leafy,  stalky or otherwise under-ripe taste components;  wine-making standards are still very uneven on the Island,  and not only in smaller artisan wineries;  and the use of oak is in some cases excessive,  given that these are delicate wines.  We are too much influenced by Australia in this respect,  unfortunately.  Mainland Australia is a warm to hot winemaking climate,  and their use of oak is all too often to back-introduce an aromatic quality and interest to the wine which has been cooked out of the grape in the vineyard.  We need to be very clear about this,  and optimise the fact that lower-alcohol and less-oaked wines are infinitely more subtle and food-friendly.  This should work well in a district such as Waiheke,  which is so clearly a wine-tourism and wine & food destination.  

In red wines,  the spoilage yeast Brettanomyces (brett) remains an issue on the Island,  as traversed in my review of Waiheke Island bordeaux blends 14 Aug 2008 on this site.  Already however,  there are a number of wineries now completely or essentially free of it,  which is great news.  Proprietors need to evaluate how they want their wines to be endorsed.  For the two most highly-regarded and credible New Zealand wine shows,  where winemakers are present on nearly every panel,  and may dominate,  increasingly in Australasia a bretty wine has no hope of winning a good award.  The alternative is to use only shows such as the London International Wine Show,  where technical standards are lax.  Coupled with the gullibility factor still all too evident in New Zealand wine circles,  whereby any overseas award or comment de facto means more than a local one (irrespective),  such wineries can promote their wines on mystique rather than reality – an approach commoner than is acknowledged.  The accompanying reviews mention brett where relevant,  without making a song and dance about it.  I tend to be indulgent of this fragrant little yeast,  but one can certainly have too much of it.  So constant care is needed to maintain winemaking practices which minimise its incidence,  and where it is detected,  ensure the wines are sterile-filtered to bottle.  

Reading through the wine descriptions which follow,  the number of references to highish total acid,  and leafy or stalky elements,  is a worry,  as discussed above.  Another factor coming up over the horizon may be an excess maritime element,  tasteable sea-salt,  particularly in the more exposed sites on peninsulas and in the otherwise drier and therefore more desirable eastern sites.  In this,  eastern Waiheke may to a degree share the dilemma of Karikari Estate on the peninsula of the same name northeast of Kaitaia,  a district which may one day challenge the Island in its wine achievements.

Further information on less than satisfactory aspects of the wines is included in the reviews below – along with the good things.  Where production data in this report vary from previous reports,  the latest is the most up-to-date.  Most wine info is given verbally (or the email equivalent),  and 100% accuracy should not be supposed.  Prices given are mostly ex vineyard.  Wineshop prices are mostly higher.

The Waiheke WineGrowers' first Annual Expo was an unqualified success,  not least in the way it optimised opportunities for the three main target groups:  winewriters,  the trade,  and winelovers.  Total attendance was in the order of 300 people.  In answer to the question posed in the title,  in 1987 Waiheke showed it could make world-class wine.  In the years since,  there have been further occasional exceptional wines from the leaders,  but rather more ordinary ones from the Island as a whole.  Now,  with the latterday increase in professionally-qualified winemakers on the Island,  the average level of wine achievement is rising dramatically.  The best Waiheke red wines are now as good as any in New Zealand,  and for the whites the gap is closing rapidly.  In particular the cabernet / merlot and related Bordeaux-styled blends,  and now the Northern Rhone-styled syrahs,  can be exceptional.  They closely match both their French prototypes,  and the best Ngatarawa Triangle / Havelock Hills Hawkes Bay wines.

I appreciate very much that all winemakers were happy for me to collect 90 samples in a way that fits in with my procedures.  Assessing and first writing up of the wines was optimised by the kindness of Lindsay Spilman,  who kindly provided both accommodation and a complete office in which to work uninterrupted.  This does raise the issue of impartiality in writing up the results,  in that Lindsay is a Waiheke Island winery proprietor,  in addition to being Convener of the Expo.  This whole matter has recently been summarised well by Jancis Robinson,  in an extraordinarily thoughtful article titled The ethics of wine writing @ www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/a20090418.html.  My circumstances differ from Robinson's in this site being declaredly 'non-commercial',  so participation in this Expo would not have been practicable from Wellington,  without this consideration.  I have to ask readers to believe that honours-level science training and then a career in our then-well-regarded DSIR organisation,  coupled with some forensic and court-work experience,  enables me to proceed pretty rigorously.  After the tasting at the writing-up and documenting stage,  I appreciated receiving follow-up info from all winemakers approached.  Lindsay Spilman too was infinitely patient with more inquiries about Island wine in general.


2007  Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island
2008  Goldwater Chardonnay Zell
2008  Kennedy Point Chardonnay Cuvée Eve
2007  Man O’War Chardonnay Valhalla
2007  Man O’War Chardonnay Waiheke Island
2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve
2008  Obsidian Chardonnay
2007  [ Stonyridge ] fallen Angel Chardonnay Hawkes Bay
Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2008  Cable Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
2008  Kennedy Point Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
2008  Man O’War Sauvignon Blanc
2007  Man O’War Sauvignon Blanc Gravestone
2009  Passage Rock Sauvignon Blanc Waiheke Island
2008  [ Stonyridge ] fallen Angel Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough
2008  [Stonyridge ] fallen Angel Riesling Marlborough
Pinot Gris
2008  Jurassic Ridge Pinot Grigio
2008  Man O’War Pinot Gris Ponui Island
2008  Passage Rock Pinot Gris
2008  Poderi Crisci Pinot Grigio
2008  Cable Bay Gewurztraminer Marlborough
2008  Obsidian Viognier
2008  Passage Rock Viognier
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2008  Cable Bay Rosé Waiheke Island
2008  Miro Rosé
2008  Poderi Crisci Rosé
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2007  Awaroa Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec
2006  Awaroa Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec
2007  Awaroa Merlot Stell Hawkes Bay
2006  Cable Bay Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Five Hills Waiheke Island
2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Destinae
2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Mystae
2005  Destiny Bay [ Merlot / Cabernet ] Mystae
2005  Goldwater Estate [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Goldie
2005  Goldwater Merlot Esslin
2008  Isola Estate Cabernets / Merlot
2007  Isola Estate Merlot / Cabernets
2007  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc
2006  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc
2005  Kennedy Point Merlot
  2007  Man O’War Cabernet Franc / Merlot
2007  Man O’War [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Ironclad
   nv  Miro Vineyard [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Aphrodisiac
2004  Miro Vineyard  [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Archipelago
2005  Miro Vineyard Miro
2005  Mudbrick Merlot / Cabernets Reserve
2006  Mudbrick Merlot Shepherds Point
2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Cabernet / Merlot
2007  Obsidian [ Cabernet / Merlot ] The Obsidian
2005  Obsidian [ Cabernet / Merlot ] The Obsidian
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot
2006  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot
2008  Passage Rock Cabernet Reserve
2007  Passage Rock [ Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet / Syrah ] Sisters
2007  Poderi Crisci Merlot
2006  Poderi Crisci Merlot
2008  Stonyridge Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Cabernet Franc Airfield
2005  Te Motu Cabernet / Merlot
2004  Te Motu Cabernet / Merlot
2006  [Te Motu] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot
2005  [Te Motu] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
2007  Cable Bay Pinot Noir Marlborough
2008  Kennedy Point Pinot Noir Marlborough
2008  [ Stonyridge ]  fallen Angel Pinot Noir Otago
Syrah = Shiraz
2008  Awaroa Syrah
2008  Awaroa Syrah [ Reserve ] Melba Peach
2008  Cable Bay Syrah Waiheke Island (pre-bottling tank sample)
2005  Jurassic Ridge Syrah
2007  Kennedy Point Syrah
2007  Man O’War Syrah Reserve Dreadnought
2007  Man O’War Syrah Waiheke Island
2007  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve
2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Syrah Shepherd’s Point
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah
2008  Passage Rock Syrah
2007  Passage Rock Syrah
2004  Passage Rock Syrah
2008  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2007  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2006  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2005  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve
2007  Stonyridge Syrah / Mourvedre / Grenache Pilgrim
2006  The Hay Paddock Syrah
2007  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve   18  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  100% BF in all-French oak 30% new,  50% wild-yeast ferments,  30% MLF;  10 months LA in barrel,  with batonnage the first 6 months;  ‘A fruit driven, rich & elegant wine. Citrus, stone fruit and warm toasty oak. Beautiful texture and excellent balance.’;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Attractive pale lemon to lemongreen.  Bouquet is beautifully ripe chardonnay illustrating subtle varietal character,  complexed by understated barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and maybe MLF [ confirmed ].  It reminds of Puligny-Montrachet or delicate Meursault in a modern interpretation.  Palate is fresh,  citric,  somewhat less French and more new world,  attractive light body in which chardonnay dominates as white fruits but winemaking artefact and mealy flavours complex the wine admirably.  Model modern chardonnay in the light elegant style,  to cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Goldwater Chardonnay Zell   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  95% wild-yeast fermentation and 100% BF and MLF in French oak 50 % new,  balance 1 and 2-year,  12 months LA and weekly batonnage;  RS <2 g/L;  246 cases;  ‘100% Chardonnay. The wine is straw yellow in appearance with toasty oak and mealy barrel fermentation characters. It has a velvety texture, soft, silky smooth and full bodied with nectarine, caramel and ginger flavours. All balanced by fine acidity and framed by toasty new oak giving a long and intense finish.;  www.goldwaterwine.com ]
Lemon.  The Goldwater wine shows very good chardonnay varietal character on bouquet,  in pale stonefruits complexed by barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF.  Palate is broader though,  just a suggestion of banana ester,  and the wine lacks their fine fruit / artefact integration and structure.  It finishes a little disorganised and with a suggestion of stalks.  It is a richer chardonnay though,  which will be better in a year.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  probably to come together and score higher.  GK 06/09

2008  Obsidian Chardonnay   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF in French oak 33% new with inoculated yeast,  7 months LA and batonnage,  40% MLF;  RS 2 g/L;  135 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Very young wine with pure balanced fruit, oak & MLF. Grown on Millar’s property. Excellent components & structure for development potential.;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Pale lemon.  Bouquet is even more delicate than the Mudbrick,  with a floral component including English pale flowers initially raising the possibility of pinot gris (in the blind tasting),  backed by excellent barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF.  The whole wine shows a light and deft hand in the winemaking,  an approach optimising the variety and style of the wine,  without artefact dominating.  Palate includes creamy and mealy notes with pale stonefruit flavours,  good acid balance,  all just a little leaner than the Mudbrick.  Neither are big chardonnays,  so these marks will seem generous to those who want fine big chardonnay like the Clearview Reserve from Hawkes Bay,  for example.  Aftertaste lingers delightfully,  with perhaps a gram more residual sugar than the Mudbrick.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Cable Bay Chardonnay Waiheke Island   17 +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $33   [ screwcap;  4 clones of chardonnay hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  20% wild-yeast fermentation and BF in French oak some new,  10 months LA and batonnage;  WWA Certified;  ‘A restrained yet complex style of Chardonnay with layers of flavour and interest.  ***** Winestate (Michael Cooper) 2008;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Straw.  This is chardonnay in a clearly contrasting and more old-fashioned and hearty style than the top two.  Bouquet shows golden queen peachy mendoza-like fruit with some over-ripe banana and mango notes,  and oak.  Palate is rich,  figgy,  oaky,  harsher than the top wines,  with a hint of stalk / mixed ripeness.  This will appeal more to people liking big chardonnay,  for whom the top two may seem too understated.  Cellar 1 – 4  years.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War Chardonnay Valhalla   16 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF in French oak 20% new but only 10% MLF,  10 months LA and weekly batonnage;  RS < 2 g/L;  260 cases;  ‘Lemon, lime and melon aromas unfold to reveal subtle cedar and creamy notes.  90 Points, Robert Parker, Wine Advocate April 2008;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Full straw,  old for age.  Bouquet shows a broader old-fashioned chardonnay approach,  golden queen peach and some tropical notes,  all a bit estery on the one hand yet stalky notes of uneven ripeness on the other.  Palate suggests some botrytis broadness and a touch of VA in yellow mendoza-like flavours,  with the oak too obvious for subtlety.  The wine is already at its peak.  Coarse alongside the top wines,  but one maybe to appeal to lovers of ‘big’ chardonnay.  Cellar only a year or so.  GK 06/09

2007  [ Stonyridge ] fallen Angel Chardonnay Hawkes Bay   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  French oak mostly older;  RS 4 g/L;  no info on website;  ‘The key to this wine is the balance, the winemakers have worked on this wine without losing sight that the fruit should show itself rather than being overwhelmed‘;  www.fallenangelwines.com ]
Lemongreen.  Freshly poured the wind is tending youthful / aggressive,  and benefits from decanting.  With air it opens to pale stonefruits in an understated way,  another which in the blind tasting can be confused with pinot gris.  That thought follows through into the palate,  which is more pale pear flesh than yellower chardonnay,  a little phenolic,  with any barrel-ferment and lees-autolysis characters very subtle.  Nearly an unoaked chardonnay,  not bone dry [ confirmed ],  more suited to white fish and lighter meals.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Kennedy Point Chardonnay Cuvée Eve   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested @ c.1.2 t/ac,  100% BF and MLF in French oak 30% new,  12 months LA in barrel;  RS 1 g/L;   50 cases;  ‘Aromas of ripe pear and melon, and a full fruit driven palate that has great balance and a long toasty finish.’;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Straw.  Bouquet is unusual,  with a presumably oak and autolysis-derived weetbix / Vogel’s Wholegrain character initially obscuring the variety.  In mouth,  the taste and texture tend to yellow-fruited chardonnay,  but there is a lot of oak and not quite the fruit to carry it.  Aftertaste lets the wine down,  with acid and oak showing,  and a suggestion of undesired wild yeasts.  Short-term cellar might be better.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War Chardonnay Waiheke Island   14 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  s/s-ferment,  then 90% kept in s/s,  10% to barrel;  9 months LA and stirring but no MLF;  RS < 2 g/L;  600 cases;  ‘Clean lemon and lime aromatics with a hint of lees complexity lead into a ripe succulent mid palate finishing with fresh crisp acidity and vibrant minerality. Silver Medal – NZ International Wine Competition 08’;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Full straw with a wash of gold.  This is time-travel wine,  real 1980s stuff.  There is a lot of bouquet,  but it shows mixed ripeness levels ranging from coarse tropical notes of mango and pineapple,  through to leafy and stalky under-ripe berries too.  Palate is aggressive on esters and some VA exacerbated by oak,  though fruit richness is good.  A flavoursome old-timer,  in a style which still has its followers.  It is not the future,  though.  Not a cellar wine.  GK 06/09

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
2008  [ Stonyridge ] fallen Angel Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau & Awatere Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ screwcap;  RS 4.9 g/L;   no info on website;  ‘This Sauvignon Blanc has a generous nose showing ripe aromas of passionfruit, citrus and tropical fruit - pineapple and lychee.’;  www.fallenangelwines.com ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet has a little free SO2 still to marry away,  below which are quite complex floral and fruit notes including white elderflower,  honeysuckle,  black passionfruit,  honeysuckle and suggestions of basil and red capsicum.  Palate is still a bit hard on the extra S02,  but fruit is good,  extending the bouquet.  Finish is slightly above the standard Marlborough ‘sauvignon dry’ level,  so this wine too is a ‘popular’ presentation.  Cellar for several years,  to taste.  GK 06/09

2009  Passage Rock Sauvignon Blanc Waiheke Island   17 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  no oak;  RS 4 g/L;  300 cases;  ‘A result of a mix up in the nursery this Sauvignon blanc is full of passionfruit and pineapple and finishes crisp and fruity.’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Lemongreen.  Bouquet still shows some bottling sulphur,  reasonably enough,  but already one can see floral / elderflower notes and black passionfruit.  It is much milder than the Marlborough sauvignons,  as one would expect from study of Hawkes Bay ones – Waiheke is more temperate again.  Fruit flavours are almost confuseable with pale viognier,  showing quite a fruit-salad component.  This is sauvignon blanc in the subtropical spectrum yet still refreshing,  beautifully made,  better when it has settled down – next Christmas – when it should score higher.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Cable Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  machine-harvest;  s/s wine,  some LA;  4 g/L RS;  ‘A classic Marlborough Savvie with excellent fruit concentration, generous texture and crisp acidity. Food friendly. **** Winestate MC 2008’;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Lemon.  Bouquet is more straightforward good Marlborough sauvignon,  alongside the complex 2008 Astrolabe Discovery wine  (which has the complex herbes of the Awatere Valley),  displaying some black passionfruit and yellow rather than red capsicum complexity.  Palate shows good flavour and length but is a little phenolic,  which lengthens the finish.  Cellar 1 – 3 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War Sauvignon Blanc Gravestone   16  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% BF in French oak 10% new,  then 10 months LA and occasional stirring but no MLF;  RS < 2 g/L;  60 cases;  not in Expo catalogue;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Yellowish lemonstraw.  Bouquet is loud and awkward,  in a winestyle from the 1980s.  Experience since then has shown that for sauvignon and oak to have a good relationship,  the fruit must be ripe with no methoxypyrazines,  and the exposure to oak will preferably be via barrel-fermentation to achieve natural fining of the phenolics,  or via old oak,  or both.  This wine has heaps of character,  and plenty of fruit,  but it is under-ripe,  then over-oaked with new oak.  Finish is dry. The result is clumsy,  hard to match to either food or taster.  There are now plenty of models to study in achieving desirable versions of this wine style.  Apart from Graves blancs,  Te Mata Cape Crest and Dog Point Section 94 (without MLF) and Cloudy Bay Te Koko (with) lead the way.  Dubious for cellar.  GK 06/09

2008  Kennedy Point Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough   15  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $18   [ screwcap;  s/s wine,  nil RS;  2400 cases;  ‘Aromas of elderberry flower, citrus and passionfruit with fresh, tangy flavours of tropical fruit. 90 points Wine Spectator’;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Lemongreen.  Freshly opened,  this wine has too much SO2 and a little lees sulphur,  but it is otherwise clean.  Another to pour briskly from jug to jug 10 times,  as splashily as possible.  Once aired,  surprisingly delicate sauvignon aromas emerge,  showing white elderflower and citrus on bouquet,  just as the back-label notes say.  Palate includes black passionfruit on pleasant clean fruit.  In the blind tasting I was startled at how many of the sauvignons showed Marlborough characters,  Later reading of the fine print sorted that out,  but it does seem regrettable that more is not made of the contrasting Waiheke sauvignon styles.  Needs three years to maybe bury the SO2 and mishandled sur-lie character,  so for a variety which most prefer young,  is it worth it ?  GK 06/09

2008  Man O’War Sauvignon Blanc   14  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  90% s/s-ferment,  10 % BF and 6 months LA in old French oak,  occasional stirring but no MLF;  RS 3.5 g/L;  3000 cases;  ‘This Sauvignon blanc grown on the coastal vineyards of Eastern Waiheke Island shows intense lime and passion fruit aromas typical of cool climate Sauvignon blanc.;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Lemon.  This is an unhappy wine,  with pongy sulphurs congesting sauvignon fruit ripened to the sub-tropical stage.  Some of the aromas tangled up in the now-complexed sulphurs remind of the downside of over-ripe mango,  on a passionfruit base.  Palate is clogged and cardboardy,  plain,  though some of the fruit peeps through too.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

2008  [Stonyridge ] fallen Angel Riesling Marlborough   17 +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  12.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  RS 8.5 g/L;  no info on website;  ‘Pale straw in hue and a perfectly poised, elegant and concentrated wine. The characters found in the bouquet move effortlessly on to the palate.‘;  www.fallenangelwines.com ]
Lemon.  Initially opened,  bouquet is a little scented,  as if the wine had been touched up with gewurztraminer or muscat.  It benefits from a splashy decanting into a jug.  With air it settles down into a fruity white with a suggestion of freesia florals on white stonefruits.  Palate swings the wine clearly into riesling,  citrus components now apparent in good fruit,  a little limezest,  higher residual sugar than the other aromatic whites,  and a long hoppy medium-dry finish nicely extended on the sweetness / acid balance.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

Pinot Gris
2008  Passage Rock Pinot Gris   16 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $23   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  around 5% BF in older oak,  RS c.10 g/L;  450 cases;  ‘A ripe sensual wine with aromas of peach and pear with a warm soft finish’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  Bouquet inclines to the anonymous pearflesh style of pinot gris,  lifted by a little VA.  Palate is rich and juicy,  with some pale nectarine adding weight and interest.  The oak component in this is very subtle,  attractive.  Residual sugar is higher than the optimal ‘riesling dry’ point.  A popular rather than fine pinot gris,  but will cellar several years.  GK 06/09

2008  Poderi Crisci Pinot Grigio   16  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $29   [ cork;  hand-harvested;  100% BF in older French oak,  4 months LA,  goal a European styling so nil RS;  sold out,  260 cases of the 2009 to be released in July;  ‘Floral, rich, honeysuckle, stewed quince with hints of mango and peaches. Rosewater and hints of Turkish delight on the nose. Followed by a dense, full and creamy palate with flavours of quince and pear with some nutty characters. Shows good drive with a fine dry finish’;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Slightly flushed lemonstraw.  Bouquet is quite full for pinot gris,  showing rosepetal and pale stonefruit notes on the usual pearflesh,  all a bit lifted.  Palate is rich and quite juicy,  a little estery,  with some late flavours suggestive of lesser yeasts.  Unusually for pinot gris,  finish is dry.  Total sulphur might be on the low side for security in cellaring,  so 1 – 2 years only.  GK 06/09

2008  Man O’War Pinot Gris Ponui Island   15  ()
Ponui Island immediately SE of Waiheke,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  100% s/s-ferment,  6 months LA and stirring but no MLF;  RS < 6 g/L;  3000 cases;  ‘Ethereally fragrant aromas of apricots and lime cordial combine with subtle yeast autolysis characters reminiscent of a fine Champagne. The palate is poised between a balance of fine acidity,  a hint of natural sweetness and a pleasing tonic like finish.’;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Slightly  flushed pale straw.  Freshly opened the total sulphur is much too high on this wine.  It needs to be poured from one jug to another jug as splashily as possible,  ten times.  Thus aired,  pearflesh and pale stonefruits emerge from the grey fog on bouquet.  Palate is still hardened by the total sulphur,  but there is good pinot gris fruit of fair weight,  enriched by the mishandled / non-aerated lees-autolysis.  The ‘riesling dry’ finish is good.  The wine is not transparent enough to know if there is any older oak in its make-up (by tasting).  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  possibly to bury the sulphur after three years or so – a pretty doubtful exercise really.  Hard to score,  the above is ‘ventilated’,  so generous.  GK 06/09

2008  Jurassic Ridge Pinot Grigio   15  ()
Western Waiheke,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $25   [ glass closure;  hand-harvested,  100% s/s-ferment @ 10 degrees,  2 months LA and stirring,  no MLF;  RS < 1 g/L;  25 cases;  ‘Refreshing, dry and minerally with apple, citrus and nashi pear.’;  http://www.waihekewine.co.nz/TheVineyards/VineyardLinks/JurassicRidge.aspx ]
Rich lemon.  Bouquet comes across as a subdued chardonnay,  with some sulphur-related cardboardy suggestions – another one needing the jug to jug treatment.  Palate is rich in fruit,  subdued pearflesh more than peach,  but again the sulphur hardens the palate and shortens the flavour and mouthfeel.  Finish is better as the hardness tapers away,  and the original fruit richness reasserts itself,  notwithstanding being really dry.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  doubtfully.  GK 06/09

2008  Cable Bay Gewurztraminer Marlborough   17 ½ +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ screwcap;  s/s wine,  some LA;  ‘A medium-dry style with attractive rose petal and Turkish Delight characters, and seductive texture. “Top 5 Wines under $30” Rec. Mindfood, Nov 2008’;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Good lemon.  Bouquet is sweet and fragrant,  with clear nearly tropical floral notes such as wild ginger blossom,  on clear-cut lychee fruit.  There is only the slightest hint of the more spicy citronella varietal complexity.  Palate is lychee from one end to the other,  plus some attractive firmness from gewurztraminer terpenes and phenolics,  and an attractive residual sugar / acid balance at the upper end of ‘riesling dry’.  Not a dramatic gewurz,  but a very more-ish one,  well-suited to Asian foods.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Passage Rock Viognier   18  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  up to 50% BF,  only small percentage new oak,  up to 50% MLF,  4 – 5 months LA;  RS 4 g/L;  250 cases;  ‘A full bodied partially barrel fermented Viognier with rich aromatics and lovely soft finish’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Elegant pale lemon.  Bouquet on this wine is enchantingly varietal,  real citrus complexity including orange blossom and fresh-cut apricot,  a hint of yellow honeysuckle,  and lightest oak.  Palate brings up the apricot delightfully,  both fresh and canned and not over-ripe,  the barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF components beautifully illustrating the need for these techniques if viognier is to have texture and palate complexity and satisfaction (given sufficient ripeness in the first place).  Not a big or bold example of the grape,  but absolutely of Condrieu quality,  very more-ish and food-friendly,  with a  neat ‘dry’ finish.  Some viogniers are exciting to taste,  but quickly pall.  This is one to drink right through the meal.  Cellar to three years or so.  GK 06/09

2008  Obsidian Viognier   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  whole-bunch pressed;  50% BF in older French oak with inoculated yeast,  balance s/s,  barrel fraction 6 months LA with some batonnage,  < 20% MLF;  RS 3.8 g/L;  127 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Full bodied viognier with subtle aromatics. Fruit from “Saddle Block” and “North Face”. Some oak and MLF influence. Cuisine ****stars & top five’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Pale straw.  This is a muffled wine alongside the Passage Rock example,  only reluctantly conveying (in a blind tasting of 28 whites) that it might be viognier.  Varietal expression is hidden behind some high solids complexity,  oak,  and maybe some barrel-ferment,  lees-autolysis and MLF.  Faint apricot is apparent on palate,  with fair body and richness,  but the lack of varietal character and a bit more acid than is ideal suggest greater ripeness is needed in the vineyard.  Cellar to three years or so.  GK 06/09

2008  Cable Bay Rosé Waiheke Island   17 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  Me & Ma,  hand-picked;  12 hours cold-soak,  s/s wine,  3 months LA;  RS 8 g/L;  WWA Certified;  ‘A vibrant Rose produced from Merlot and Malbec, displaying lifted strawberry and rose petal characters. Silver Medal, Liquorland Top 100, 2008;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
A good rosé colour.  Bouquet freshly opened is a little spritzy.  It quickly settles to clear redfruits  suggesting redcurrants and even raspberry with plums,  all clearly red grapes – a great start for any rosé.  Palate has body and enough tannins to give it backbone,  and the nett impression of serious rosé.  Finish might be a little sweeter than ideal,  but that balances both the acid and the tannins well to give a pretty dry overall impression.  An attractive fresh wine which will cellar several years,  and mellow.  GK 06/09

2008  Miro Rosé   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  11.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  cepage Me 100%,  hand-harvested;  inoculated yeast,  all s/s,  no MLF,  no oak;  RS 7.5 g/L;  c.70 cases;  ‘Miro Vineyard does not make its rose as a by-product of high alcohol red wine fermentation (the saignée method). Instead, the grapes are picked at a perfect ripeness to produce a low alcohol wine suitable for long lunches in the hot summer weather. This rose is harmonious with the acid, fruit weight, delicate flavour and alcohol in perfect balance.’;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Pale rosé.  Bouquet is clean and fragrant but not suggestive of red grapes.  In a black glass,  one would suppose it to be a white wine.  Palate does nothing to dispel that impression,  tasting of pinot gris pearflesh and white nectarine,  a flush of light stewed rhubarb or faintest red plum notes maybe,  but scarcely more than pinot gris with skin contact.  Finish seems sweeter than 2.5 g/L (initially) given [ confirmed ].  Some phenolics on the finish again could be pinot gris as much as red varieties,  but they are well-covered by the residual.  Later inquiry revealed the wine is all merlot.  The level of fruit is good,  and the goal of a low alcohol rosé is admirable.  Good rosé does need to taste of red grapes though,  so perhaps some riper fruit component is needed.  Cellar a year or two,  to taste.  GK 06/09

2008  Poderi Crisci Rosé   14  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $21   [ cork;  Me 90%,  CF 10,  hand-harvested;  all s/s,  2 months LA;  goal southern France / Italian rosé styling so nil RS;  sold out,  WWA Certified,  160 cases of the 2009 to be released in July;  ‘Merlot grapes, light colouring, great structure vibrant nose showing aromas of crisp apple,  white peaches and candid fruit with a full palate showing ripe redcurrants and other red fruits,  long fresh dry finish.’;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Palest salmon rosé.  Bouquet is dumbed down by high solids and reduction,  obscuring the kind of grapes.  Palate is bone dry,  setting it apart from the other two,  but that highlights the sour taste of the complexed sulphurs.  Later a merlot plummy note is tasteable,  but it is more akin to the sour flavours from sucking on the stone of a red plum.  It would be good to have a clean properly dry rosé on the Island.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2008  Isola Estate Cabernets / Merlot   18 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $37   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 46%,  Me 43,  CF 7,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  cold-soak 1 day,  cultured yeast,  9 days cuvaison,  MLF in tank;  11 months in all-French oak 20% new;  sterile filtered;  280 cases,  second release this label;  ‘2008 was the arguably one of the best vintages that Waiheke has seen in over 20 years. Excellent concentration due to a great summer. Ripe black currant and plum aromas backed up with a similar palate. Ripe tight tannins that give excellent mouth feel. The silky tannins as with the 2007 make it so drinkable already. This is exciting stuff for us here at the vineyard.’;  www.isolaestate.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a marvellous claret colour,  deeper than 2007 Coleraine.  Initially opened,  the wine seems disorganised.  Decant it splashily and leave for a few hours.  Once breathed (and it is after all a very young wine,  just bottled) it displays a cassis-rich aromatic bouquet which in the blind tasting reminds of syrah initially,  on dense bottled black doris fruit with wafts of violets.  Oak is now much less apparent.  In mouth it tastes merlot-dominant,  plummy rich and fat,  with a rounder acid balance than the Mudbrick or Weeping Sands.  Cellar 5 – 15 years plus.  This is a fragrant modern Bordeaux look-alike,  a little more accessible than Coleraine ’07 but still firm in youth,  reminiscent of some classed Margaux wines,  and totally pure.  GK 06/09

2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Cabernet / Merlot   18 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $29   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 49%,  Me 32,  Ma 10,  CF 9,  hand-picked;  up to 20 days cuvaison,  cultured yeast;  time in French and American oak 80 / 20,  none new;  ‘Bright bramble and blackcurrant fruit with merlot adding hints of spice and chocolate.’;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  virtually identical in weight and hue to the 2007 Coleraine.  Bouquet shows clear lifted florals reminiscent of violets,  on beautifully fresh cassis,  blackberry and darkest plum.   The oak is fragrant too,  and potentially cedary.  Palate is vivid cabernet / merlot,  fresh and fragrant dark berry flavours as for bouquet,  very aromatic,  all fractionally softer than the Coleraine (which is the best in years).  Comparison with the Isola is fascinating,  each time one looks at them there are different facets appealing.  As a pair to cellar,  they are going to provide great interest for years to come – both are made by Martin Pickering.  This wine is completely pure,  the aftertaste is glorious,  and it can be cellared with confidence 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/09

2005  Destiny Bay [ Merlot / Cabernet ] Mystae   18 ½  ()
New Zealand:  13.9%;  $115   [ cork;  Me 49%,  CS 35,  CF 12,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested @ average 1.7 t/ac;  10 – 15 months in French and American oak about equal,  60% new;  released 1 April 2009;   Mystae alludes to the name given to students entering the schools of philosophy of the great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle;  in style it lies between the Medoc-oriented Magna Praemia,  and Destinae conceived as more right bank (though the cepage confuses the issue);  610 cases,  WWA Certified,  in general the en primeur offer for this wine has passed,  however persons taking up membership and the 2006 wines will be able to secure the 2005 @ $70 until the 2006 release date 1 August 2009,  when RRP for both will be $115.  At that date,  the 2007 en primeur campaign opens – volumes for the 2007 vintage are maybe half those for 2006,  so the possibility arises only subscribers will secure the 2007 wines;  ‘Dark and rich with lush texture and fresh berry fruit; lovely structure, great length and racy acidity; smooth, intense and totally balanced;’;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than the 2006 Mystae and denser,  much older than the 2005 Goldie.  Bouquet is richer and deeper than the ’06 pair,  cassisy berry and dark tobacco melding with quite a lot of oak at this stage.  Palate shows good fruit with some maturity,  with seemingly more apparent cedary oak than the subtler 2006 wines,  yet the mellow flavours and Bordeaux styling of the wine are well apparent,  and the richness gives it an edge on the 2006s.  There is just a trace of brett complexity,  and it is a little too oaky,  but its ripeness and richness augur well for future vintages.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Passage Rock Cabernet Reserve   18 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:   – %;  $39   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 80%,  Me 10,  Ma 10,  hand-picked;  c.20 days cuvaison;  c.12 months in barrel,  60% French oak,  40 American,  35% new;  sterile-filtered;  300 cases,  August 2009 release;   ‘Strong blackberry aromas with cherry and cigar box full bodied with a long rich concentrated finish.’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is a little different in this wine,  and adds diversity to this set of Waiheke cabernet / merlots.  It is not as cassisy as the other top wines,  but adds an attractive aromatic note hinting a little at black pepper and the florals of syrah,  all made fragrant by potentially cedary oak.  Palate is softly cassis and dark plum,  thoughts of violets and blackberry too,  an earlier-developing and softer wine than the Mudbrick or the Isola.  Part of the intrigue of this wine I suspect is a slightly greater maritime influence,  a hint of sea-salt maybe.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.

These top five Waiheke cabernet / merlot and related blends in this review (note Stonyridge Larose,  Destiny Bay Magna Praemia and Te Whau were not in the Expo) illustrate and confirm one glorious thing.  In the best years on Waiheke Island,  it is possible to ripen even cabernet sauvignon-dominant blends to perfect Bordeaux-modelled physiological maturity.  Additionally,  their style closely matches the very best Havelock North / Ngatarawa Triangle wines from Hawkes Bay.  Note that perfect physiological maturity in each of these places is achievable only once or twice a decade,  exactly as in Bordeaux,  confirming yet again that the most beautiful wines are made in marginal climates.  Such wines optimise the beautiful floral components of cabernet and merlot particularly.  This contrasts with the sometimes riper and heavier Bordeaux blends from the Gimblett Gravels.  In the warmest years those wines may lose precise Bordeaux elegance and charm,   and move towards the bigger and more impressive but not necessarily more beautiful winestyles of the Napa Valley.  This is unlikely to be a problem for Waiheke sites.  The challenge now is for other Waiheke cabernet and merlot growers to optimise their viticulture to achieve the soft fragrant ripeness these top wines show,  with lower total acid and less stalkyness.  GK 06/09

2005  Goldwater Estate [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Goldie   18 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS 60%,  Me 40,  hand-harvested @ 0.8 – 1.3 t/ac;  cultured yeast and cuvaison averaging 20 days including cold-soak;  18 months in ‘predominantly’ French oak,  50% new;  fined and filtered;  RS < 2 g/L;  250 cases;  ‘Unreleased sample highlighting the excellent 2005 Waiheke Island vintage – release date 01 July 2009. Robert Parkers The Wine Advocate May 2008 92 Points. "This has a superb, intense nose of black cherry, smoke and cedar. Very focused and great breeding. Excellent"’;  www.goldwaterwine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  a great hue for 2005.  Bouquet is berry-rich and concentrated,  with cassis,  bottled plums and cedar,  another delightfully fragrant wine.  There is a touch of Bovril / savoury complexity too,  bespeaking some brett,  but it complexes the wine delightfully without compromising it unduly,  in the long-established style of Leoville-Barton.  Palate shows soft toasty oak integrated with plummy fruit of great length,  and again the analogy to Bordeaux is exact,  for example older-style St Juliens.  Finish is long,  tapering,  no drying on brett here.  The Goldwaters state the 2005 vintage is the best red wine vintage for them since 1987.  I still have the 1987s from both Goldwater and Stonyridge.  While both are good,  the latter is exceptional,  totally of good classed-growth standard.  Their statement adds interest to this wine,  therefore.

Scoring a wine like this is so difficult.  In an Australasian higher-level judging with winemakers on all panels and sometimes in a majority,  it would be thrown out,  on brett.  At a judging like the much-touted International Wine Show London,  where faults are often marked up,  it would be gold medal wine.  Robert Parker’s Neal Martin has rated it 92 points,  noting that both Parker and Martin don’t always recognise brett,  sometimes even at quite severe levels of infection.  But I am siding with the hedonistic approach on this one,  for this Goldie is so absolutely Bordeaux including contemporary Bordeaux in approach,  and classed Bordeaux at that (Leoville-Barton quoted above is a second growth.).  So gold medal it is.  If you are sensitive to brett,  don’t buy it (or Leoville-Barton) for your planned Bordeaux 2005 comparative cross-country tastings.  I plan to however,  since I have the Barton to put with it – and it will be interesting indeed.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  

Goldwater Wines has now become something much greater than the original Waiheke dream of Kim & Jeannette in 1978.  The winery is now owned by the New Zealand Wine Fund,  along with Vavasour,  and Clifford Bay.  The Goldwaters are still on the Board.  They are now one-third owners in the highly regarded Rapaura Vintners,  Wairau Valley,  Marlborough – hence the succesful Goldwater Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.  They are expanding into pinot noir and more sauvignon in the Awatere Valley.  In the 2000s they have also acquired and planted 8 ha (20 acres) on the Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  with more affordable Bordeaux-styled reds in view.  None of these wines were shown in the Waiheke Expo,  the company limiting themselves to solely Waiheke wines.  Odd ones tasted in recent years have been very good,  however.  There are about 10 wines all told in the portfolio (on their website).  GK 06/09

2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Mystae   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $115   [ cork;  CS 57%,  Me 22,  CF 17,  Ma 4,  hand-harvested @ average 1.7 t/ac;  10 – 15 months in French and American oak about equal,  60% new;  Mystae alludes to the name given to students entering the schools of philosophy of the great Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle;  in style it lies between the Medoc-oriented Magna Praemia,  and Destinae conceived as more right bank (though the cepage confuses the issue);  398 cases,  WWA Certified,  offered 1 Nov 2008 to Patron Club members @ $70 (en primeur,  in effect),  this offer continues until release date 1 August 2009,  when RRP will be $115.  At that date,  the 2007 en primeur campaign opens – volumes for the 2007 vintage are maybe half those for 2006,  so the possibility arises only subscribers will secure the 2007 wines;  ‘Dark, dense and luscious with racy plum and notes of coffee, chocolate and spice; smooth, fresh and supple with balance and good length; elegant and complex;’;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  lighter and a little older than most.  Bouquet is extraordinary on this wine,  showing a  complexly fragrant cedar / oak / dark tobacco and fruit interaction which immediately reminds of Rioja or Ribera del Duero.  There are some reminders of Pauillac too,  particularly earlier incarnations of wines like Grand-Puy-Lacoste from a lighter fragrant year,  and many 1998 Medocs.  Though not a big wine,  the volume of bouquet,  backed by cassis and red / black berry is marvellous.  Palate is equally complex,  fragrant oak melding with medium-weight fruit,  no acrid edges,  acid balance better than many but still a little fresher than ideal or the 2005 Mystae.  The elevation of this wine has been extraordinary,  the way the oak has softened into the fruit.  It makes the 2006 Villa Maria Merlot Omahu Single Vineyard wine look hard and youthful and clearly new-world,  even though it scores nearly as well in its style.  Exciting wine,  with exciting use of a measure of new American oak – though to a maximum.  A little forward for long cellaring,  but 5 – 10 years or so.  GK 06/09

2005  Te Motu Cabernet / Merlot   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $89   [ cork;  DFB;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF,  Sy c.5% & Ma,  hand-picked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.30 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  c.30% new;  sterile-filtered;  c.500 cases,  just released;  ‘Just released, everything you expect from a fantastic vintage.’;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  close to 2005 Mystae.  Bouquet is tightly integrated red more than black bottled plums,  cassis and berry,  with fragrant oak and a better balance of berry to oak than the 2004 and previous vintages.  Palate is ripe and integrated,  the long elevage seeming to condense angular oak tannins to leave just the aroma and flavour,  without so many phenolics.   Flavours are red currants,  cassis and bottled plums,  with this intensely fragrant oak.  I think this is the best Te Motu yet.  Worth mentioning that the style parameters for this wine were set rather more in the 1960s than in the 2000s,  when wines such as 1965 McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignon here,  and 1966 Grand Puy Lacoste in Bordeaux,  had much longer elevages than is common nowadays.  There is a need therefore to look past the apparent oak,  and check out the actual fruit balance on the later palate.  Then the wine measures up,  though it may not be a style familiar to younger tasters.  The diversity of ‘claret’ interpretations developing amongst the top cabernet / merlot winemakers of Waiheke,  ranging from conventional new world (Mudbrick,  Isola,  Passage Rock) through classical Bordeaux (Te Motu,  Goldwater) to more modern Bordeaux-influenced European (Stonyridge,  though Larose not in the tasting,  Destiny Bay,  though Magna Praemia not in the tasting) is exciting.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Awaroa Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  CS 60%,  Me 30,  Ma 7,  CF 3,  hand-harvested @ c.1.6 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  5 days cold-soak and 25 days cuvaison;  MLF and 12 months in French oak 50% new;  sterile-filtered;  100 cases,  website not up yet;  ‘A classic Cabernet nose with olive, blueberry notes and toasty oak. On the palate the wine has terrific structure. Will age superbly. 86 points Bob Campbell, **** Michael Cooper’;  www.awaroawines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  This is a quieter wine in the line-up,  in the same modern Bordeaux style  illustrated by the Coleraine,  but here mellowed a little with age,  more like the Destiny Bay wines.  On bouquet,  cassis,  bottled black doris plums,  dark tobacco and fragrant oak combine into a Bordeaux look-alike.  Palate is not quite as rich as the bouquet promises,  acid balance and ripeness are slightly fresher than optimal Bordeaux,  and the oak is more noticeable therefore.  Even so the berry flavours are long in mouth.  Attractive wine to cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  CS 54,  Me 40,  PV 4,  Ma 2,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed,  cuvaison c.15 days,  cultured yeast;  MLF and 10 months in barrel all French < 15% new;  500 cases,  release date c. mid-2010;  ‘Unreleased bottled example to highlight the excellent vintage of 2008’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  close to the Mudbrick.  The similarity between this wine and the Mudbrick is so close,  that if one were given them in repeated triangular blind tests,  I doubt many tasters would win through.  Looking very closely,  the cassis and berry components are near-identical,  but the Weeping Sands is a little leaner,  and so reveals its acid more.  Both are modern firm-year Bordeaux interpretations of cabernet / merlot,  surprisingly comparable in weight and style.  Total acid is still higher than ideal on this Weeping Sands though.  In five years time this will be fragrant and refreshing wine.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Destiny Bay [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Destinae   18  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.7%;  $75   [ cork;  CS 46%,  Me 22,  CF 16,  Ma 16,  hand-harvested @ average 1.7 t/ac;  10 – 15 months in French and American oak about equal,  60% new;  released 1 April 2009;   Destinae alludes to ‘destiny’ being not a matter of chance,  but a choice and goal to strive for;  in style Destinae is seen as the winery’s right bank one,  though the cepage does not immediately lead to that conclusion until one thinks about the malbec;  1016 cases,  WWA Certified,  offered 1 Nov 2008 to Patron Club members @ $45 (en primeur,  in effect),  this offer continues until release date 1 August 2009,  when RRP will be $75.  At that date,  the 2007 en primeur campaign opens – volumes for the 2007 vintage are maybe half those for 2006,  so the possibility arises only subscribers will secure the 2007 wines;  ‘Silky and spiced with lively acidity and supple texture; fresh, juicy and bright with fine tannins and flavours of plum and tangy fruit; long, balanced;’;  www.destinybaywine.com ]
Ruby,  maybe a little deeper than 2006 Mystae but certainly redder,  implying less oak exposure.  Bouquet on this wine is fragrant and mellow,  again with Rioja / Ribera del Duero suggestions,  but closer to Bordeaux than the 2006 Mystae.  The softness of the berry / oak interaction on bouquet reminds of St Emilion,  as the makers intend,  the cabernet component being scarcely apparent in the more mellow merlot-like aroma.  Perhaps the significant malbec component is achieving this.  Flavour is long and harmonious,  not as rich as 2006 Mystae but similar acid,  not as plummy as Pomerol,  again like a typical-year St Emilion with cabernet sauvignon content.  These Destiny Bay wines stand apart in the field,  largely because of their delicacy yet substance.  In one sense (the Spanish one),  they achieve even more European finesse than Coleraine,  which is Hawkes Bay’s most Bordeaux-influenced cabernet / merlot.  One could drink a lot of this Destinae,  already.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2005  Mudbrick Merlot / Cabernets Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $50   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me,  CF,  CS,  hand-picked;  14 months in French oak;  ‘Rich and full-bodied, exhibiting lush aromas of ripe forest berries, crushed violets and smoky oak. Gold Medal - Bragato’;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  clearly older than most.  There is quite a premium Australian cabernet turn to this wine,  the bouquet being rich and fragrant fruit but in a browning cassis style with oak noticeable.  Palate is softer,  and acid balance better than many,  with rich melding berryfruit including cassis,  cedary oak,  all very fragrant.  The oak returns to intrude a little on the finish,  though.  Cellar 2 – 6 years.  GK 06/09

2005  [Te Motu] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS c.62%,  Me c.27%,  balance CF & Ma,  hand-picked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.22 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  none new;  sterile-filtered;  c.350 cases;  ‘Current release of second label.’;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  deeper and denser than the 2006 Dunleavy,  a little older.  Bouquet is rich and fragrant,  Graves-like,  a tight amalgam of berry,  dark tobacco and oak.  In mouth the wine is richer and softer than the 2006,  with better acid balance.  Tasted alongside the 2005 Te Motu,  it is simply a junior version of it,  all the flavour,  balance and style,  perhaps not so concentrated but not so oaky either,  so it is very pleasing in mouth.  This 2005 Dunleavy is a better wine than some Te Motus have been,  so it provides a great opportunity to become familiar with the distinctive Te Motu / Dunleavy style.  All these wines benefit greatly from decanting and breathing several hours,  being careful to present them at a good red wine temperature too (to soften the tannins).  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2004  Te Motu Cabernet / Merlot   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $75   [ cork;  DFB;  CS c.60%,  Me c.25%,  balance CF,  Sy & Ma,  hand-picked @ c 1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.30 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  c.30% new;  sterile-filtered;  c.500 cases;  ‘Heavy weight yet to blossom.’;  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby and garnet,  much older than the 2005 Destinae.  Bouquet is fragrant but also very oaky,  so in this tasting the wine is at peril of looking ‘varnishy’.  Palate shows browning cassis,  berry and dark tobacco,  with an almost bush-honey-like fruit sweetness emerging on the later palate.  These Te Motus are distinctive wines on the Island,  and providing they have the fruit weight to carry the oak (with its sometimes faint shadow of camphor),  as they breathe and open up they can be very attractive.  There have been Haut-Brions somewhat in this style,  admittedly some years ago.  They are best seen on their own,  though,  with food rather than in this kind of magnifying-glass line-up.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Stonyridge Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec / Cabernet Franc Airfield   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS 61%,  Me 28,  CF 11,  hand-picked;  cultured yeast,  c.9 days cuvaison (2 cold-soak);  MLF in barrel,  12 months in French oak 40% new;  now marketed as the second wine of Larose;  not fined or filtered;  210 cases;  ‘Deep garnet with good depth of colour. A pretty, fruit forward, bouquet showing complex aromas of blackberry, plum, cassis, liquorice, candied peel and spice and well integrated,  classy oak.’;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Initially this wine seems disorganised,  another presumably just bottled.  It needs a splashy decanting.  Once breathed and settled down,  bouquet shows plummy red fruits more bottled plums than cassis,  but hard to resolve due to some carried-over retained fermentation odours –  unfortunately.  Palate is quite fat plummy fruit tasting merlot-dominant so far,  a little acid but not stalky,  attractively and subtly oaked.  Scoring is hard at this stage,  the above gives it a fair chance to settle down and blossom in bottle.  Leave for a couple of years,  cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Obsidian [ Cabernet / Merlot ] The Obsidian   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $46   [ cork;  CS 39%,  Me 24,  CF 24,  PV 12,  Ma 1,  all hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and 13 months in all-French oak 40% new;  205 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Trade release of a new vintage. 2007 introduces 5 Bdx varieties with Petit Verdot (12%) and a significant component of fragrant cabernet franc (24%)’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  This one was unusual in the field,  in the blind tasting displaying a clear mint suggestion on quite oaky cassis and plum.  Thoughts of Australia came to mind.  Palate is firm,  the oak unsubtle relative to the fruit weight and ripeness,   though there is fair cassis and plums more red than black.  This too is very much in the new world cabernet / merlot spectrum,  squeaky clean but the fruit lacking the sensuous generosity of perfectly ripe berries,  making the oak and acid too apparent.  Though quite rich,  it therefore seems less mellow than some others  in the tasting.  Cellar 3 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2005  Goldwater Merlot Esslin   17 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 96%,  CS 4,  hand-harvested @ 0.8 – 1.3 t/ac;  cultured yeast and cuvaison averaging 20 days;  20 months in French oak 50% new;  fined and filtered;  RS < 2 g/L;  112 cases;  ‘Unreleased sample highlighting the excellent 2005 Waiheke Island vintage - release date 01 July 2009’;  www.goldwaterwine.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  much lighter than the 2005 Goldie.  Comparing Esslin alongside Goldie,  on bouquet Esslin provides a textbook analogy of cabernet vs merlot,  Medoc vs Pomerol.  It is much less aromatic than Goldie,  less cassis,  much more bottled omega plum,  softer in a way.  The contrast doesn’t follow through quite as well on palate,  since this particular Esslin is not as concentrated,  and the oak therefore shows more.  Again there is complexing savoury brett adding a smokey bacon complexity to good fruit ripeness,  making the wine attractively food-friendly.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Isola Estate Merlot / Cabernets   17 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 55%,  CS 40,  CF 4,  Ma 1,  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  cold-soak 1 day,  cultured yeast,  cuvaison 8 – 11 days;  MLF in barrel,  11 months in older French oak;  sterile filtered;  c.150 cases;  ‘The 2007 Isola vintage our first vintage on the property has evolved into a fantastic wine. The palate is bursting with ripe currant fruit and overtones of cherries. More subdued in concentration than the 2008 but so drinkable. The wine has an excellent 'fleshy' mid palate and a lingering finish. Silky tannins make this a very approachable wine already. *Bronze medal Liquorland Top 100 2008*;  www.isolaestate.com ]
Ruby,  medium weight.  Bouquet is lean and fragrant and oaky,  with cassisy berry notes.  Palate is a little richer than the bouquet suggests,  clear cassis,  some plums,  some fruit sweetness as well as a suggestion of stalkyness,  pleasant acid.  This too is fairly representative of straightforward contemporary local cabernet / merlot,  clean,  fragrant,  but half the ripeness and depth of the marvellous 2008.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2006  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Cabernet / Merlot   17  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ screwcap;  CS 60,  Me 35,  Ma 3,  CF 2,  hand-harvested;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  c.16 days cuvaison,  MLF and 12 months in French and American oak 15% new;  1340 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘“The best value Waiheke red on the market” M Cooper, Listener, Feb 7 2009’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a suggestion of carmine and velvet.  Though in style with the attractive 2008,  this is a smaller firmer wine,  with just a trace of retained fermentation odours damping down bouquet.  Palate shows crisp cassis and red plums,  all less ripe than the 2008,  total acid up a bit,  and a feeling of austerity right through despite fair berry.  This is a much more straightforward kiwi cabernet / merlot,  without the magic Bordeaux-like touches of the riper wines.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Cable Bay Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Five Hills Waiheke Island   17  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $34   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 39%,  Ma 29,  CS 26,  CF 6 hand-picked @ c 2 t/ac or less;  12 months in French oak;  WWA Certified;  ‘An elegant blend of the Bordeaux varietals displaying ripe fruit, hints of wild thyme and mocha, balanced by fine, supple tannins. **** Winestate MC 2008’;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a similar hue to the 2006 Mystae,  but denser.  Bouquet is quite evolved and integrated on this wine,  closer for example to the Destiny Bay wines than the vibrant Mudbrick.  Aromas of cassis olives and plums entwine with oak.  Palate is somewhat leaner and less ripe,  a little leafy,  showing a slightly smokey influence from the cooperage,  but the acid balance is attractive,  not as fresh as some 2006s.  This is a good step up from the 2005.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2006  [Te Motu] Dunleavy Cabernet / Merlot   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  CS c.62%,  Me c.27%,  balance CF & Ma,  hand-picked @ c.1 t/ac;  c.11 days cuvaison,  inoculated;  MLF and c.22 months in French c.70%,  Hungarian c.20% and balance American oak,  none new;  sterile-filtered;  c.350 cases;  'Next release of second label';  www.temotu.co.nz ]
Ruby,  close to 2006 Mystae,  a little older.  Bouquet is distinctive on this wine,  a little scented,  with a nutmeg and dark tobacco component hiding a trace of brett.  Below are red and black currants,  red plums more than black,  and fragrant oak,  along the same lines as Te Motu.  Palate is lesser,  the flavours integrated,  but the total acid is higher than desirable,  making the wine seem short in the mouth,  till one has had several mouthfuls.  Nett impression then ends up favourable.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War [ Cabernets / Merlot ] Ironclad   16 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ cork;  CS 54%,  CF 34,  Me 10,  PV 2,  hand-harvested from optimal sites,  all de-stemmed,  MLF and 11 months in mostly French oak 20% new,  some older American;  ‘93 Points, Robert Parker, Wine Advocate April 2008,  96 Points, Australian Gourmet Wine Traveller, September 08, Bob Campbell MW’;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  a similar weight to 2007 Coleraine,  but older.  Bouquet is on the evolved complex side in this tasting,  rather than the squeaky-clean one,  with aromas of black olives,  smokey bacon,  cassis,  bottled plums and oak,  all quite ‘black’ and austere.  Palate shows fair richness,  complexity factors including rather much brett and dark soy sauce,  good ripeness but firmish acid balance,  an unusual style for the New Zealand cabernet / merlot class,  partly due to a subtle maritime / sea-salt influence.  I suspect this dark balance of flavours might appeal more in the Napa Valley,  for example,  than to me.  The ’05 Goldie treads a similar path,  but stops on the Bordeaux side of the line.  An interesting and distinctive wine,  not as compromised by brett as the Dreadnought Syrah but sharing some of its characters,  to cellar 3 – 10 years (if you are brett-tolerant).  GK 06/09

2005  Obsidian [ Cabernet / Merlot ] The Obsidian   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $46   [ cork;  CS 48%,  Me 48,  CF 3,  Ma 1,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  cultured yeast,  MLF and 13 months in all-French  oak 50% new;  (was) 273 cases;  ‘Stylish wine from classic 2005 year. 92/100 Bob Campbell, ****1/2 Winestate’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is fragrant cassis and berry made aromatic by rather much oak.  Palate however takes the wine down a notch,  for though there is fair fruit,  the fresh red berry flavours are made angular by quite high total acid with assertive oak,  and lose further harmony on a clear stalky streak.  It is therefore an older style of New Zealand cabernet / merlot,  which we need to move away from if our reds are to succeed overseas.  More fruit ripeness and a better acid balance are needed in the first place.  Cellar 3 – 8 years,  as a lean but fragrant wine.  GK 06/09

2005  Kennedy Point Merlot   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $32   [ cork;  Me 85%,  CF 10,  CS 5 hand-picked @ c.1.2 t/ac;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 50% new;  300 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sweet cherrystone and bitter dark chocolate on the nose. A full rich palate of dark cherry, plum and chocolate with fresh acidity, fine tannins and a clean finish. 90 points Bob Campbell, Gourmet Traveller.’;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly as rich as the 2005 Goldie,  but fractionally older.  Bouquet is curious on this wine,  showing cassis but also a suggestion of sage stuffing plus VA,  all giving the nett impression of a dark wine.  Palate is rich and fleshy,  very plummy,  reminiscent of older Pomerol in an oaky way,  but all let down by a clear herbes / under-ripe component.  Despite the richness,  probably not a good longterm cellar wine,  more 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Mudbrick Merlot Shepherds Point   16 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  100% Me,  hand-picked;  all French oak 60% new;  ‘Rich and full-bodied, exhibiting lush aromas of ripe forest berries, crushed violets and smoky oak. Gold Medal - Bragato’;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is in an older Australian style,  a little leathery and smokey,  maybe a little oxidation,  producing a cabernet  / shiraz kind of aroma.  Palate continues the analogy,  some American oak [ later,  wrong ],  browning plummy and perhaps boysenberry fruits,  all quite oaky,  some brett maybe.  Sturdy ripe wine,  lacking the finesse of better Waiheke.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Awaroa Cabernet / Merlot / Malbec   16 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $30   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  CS 60%,  Me 30,  Ma 7,  CF 3,  hand-harvested @ c.1.6 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  5 days cold-soak and 25 days cuvaison;  MLF and 12 months in French oak 50% new;  sterile-filtered;  75 cases,  website not up yet;  ‘Mint, blackcurrant and oak notes on the nose. Balanced with lovely fine grained tannins on the palate. New release.’;  www.awaroawines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This wine benefits from decanting some hours ahead.  Bouquet is then piquant on cassis,  pepper,  and oak,  almost as if there were some syrah in the blend.  Palate does nothing to dispel that idea,  being attractively cassisy,  with fresh black plums and fragrant oak,  all quite aromatic.  Total acid is however on the fresh side,  and there is a clear stalky component bespeaking not enough ripeness.  Intriguing very fresh wine to cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Poderi Crisci Merlot   16 +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $29   [ cork;  Me 85%,  CF 15,  hand-harvested;  18 months in French oak 30% new,  goal Italian merlot styling;  330 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Blackcurrant and blackberry on the nose. Full, rich and spicy characters underlying the fruit aromas. Black fruit on the palate, blackberry and cherry stones, full and velvety with fine cedar tannins leading to a long and lingering finish’;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a similar weight to the 2006 Mystae but a little redder.  Bouquet is quiet,  trace retained fermentation odours and brett,  in a reserved cabernet / merlot cassisy style.  There are some reminders of Graves.  Palate is lean austere cassis and red plums but a stalky thread too,  total acid and sulphur up a bit.  Another wine needing more ripeness and concentration in the vineyard,  I think.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War Cabernet Franc / Merlot   16 +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  CF 68%,  Me 24,  CS 5,  PV 3,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed,  MLF in tank and barrel,  10 months in French and American oak 10% new;  ‘With further bottle aging this wine will provide a unique flavour and aroma profile as each component compliments and integrates with each other.’;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is a little horsey due to brett,  on reasonable fruit of uncertain character.  In mouth there is good berry,  but also leathery old-fashioned flavours sitting uncomfortably with the young fruit.  This will mellow into a pleasantly old-world winestyle,  all a little acid,  maritime,  and clearly rustic.  Refer to comments for the same winery’s Dreadnought Syrah.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc   16  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.6%;  $29   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  DFB;  CF 100%,  hand-harvested;  3 weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 50% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  sold out;  133 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Medium body with smooth tannins and varietal characteristics of raspberry fruit, violets and dark chocolate. WWA Certified.  Library sample only – vintage SOLD OUT.’;  www.waihekewine.co.nz/TheVineyards/VineyardLinks/JurassicRidge.aspx ]
Ruby.  Initially opened,  this wine has a friar’s balsam-like taint to excess,  but it breathes off somewhat if splashily decanted.  Bouquet then inclines to an Italian maceration carbonique style,  showing red fruits and making one think of valpolicella (but with oak).  Palate is light and fresh,  red currants and some raspberries beautifully varietal (under the taint),  but a little acid and short even though not quite bone dry.  Cabernet franc is a variety we need to respect much more in New Zealand,  particularly in Hawkes Bay,  so it is great to see this varietal bottling of it.  It would be great to have more single-variety and not over-oaked examples of it,  but this one is a bit off-target.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 06/09

2004  Miro Vineyard  [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Archipelago   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $22   [ plastic NeoCork closure;   DFB;  CS 58%,  Me 30,  CF 10,  Ma 2,  hand-harvested;  c.3 weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 25% new;  RS nil;  c.200 cases;  ‘A Bordeaux blend made from the second quality grapes at Miro Vineyard, but given meticulous attention in the winery with a portion of new French oak. This is a delicious full flavoured harmonious red with bottle age at a bargain price’;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Older lighter ruby,  a little garnet.  Bouquet shows some herbes on fragrant red berries,  and inclines to an Entre-Deux-Mers styling.  Palate is exactly that district (apart from the new oak),  the berry ripeness clearly leafy,  but the whole wine fragrant.  Berry flavours include red currant and almost raspberry.  Surprisingly the acid balance is quite good,  so the wine is harmonious in mouth,  and food-friendly in its cool-climate under-ripe style.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Passage Rock [ Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet / Syrah ] Sisters   15 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $23   [ screwcap;  Me,  Ma,  CS,  Sy,  hand-harvested;  c.20 days cuvaison;  18 months in mostly older oak,  American 80%,  Fr 20;  sterile-filtered;  500 cases;  ‘Lovely aromas of cherry and spice supported by fine oak from 1.5 years ageing in oak barriques.’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Light ruby,  the lightest in the cabernet / merlot flight.  Bouquet is fragrant on oak and VA more than fruit,  to first sniff.  Closer inspection reveals red currant / red plum berry,  on a tending leafy palate which is oaky for the weight of fruit.  More an oaky QDR,  to cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Awaroa Merlot Stell Hawkes Bay   15 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $20   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Me 100%,  hand-harvested @ c2.4 t/ac;  all de-stemmed,  no cold-soak,  cultured yeast,  15 days cuvaison;  MLF and 12 months in barrel French 80%,  American 20%,  none new;  sterile-filtered;  200 cases,  website not up yet;  ‘The grapes for this easy drinking Merlot were sourced from the organic Stell vineyard in Te Awanga, Hawke’s Bay’;  www.awaroawines.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is loosely in style with the cabernet / merlot flight,  showing smokey suggestions on light red fruits.  Palate has more fruit than the bouquet promises,  leafy bottled red plums,  and a reasonable acid balance for its ripeness level.  More a clean QDR red,  cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

nv  Miro Vineyard [ Cabernet / Merlot ] Aphrodisiac   14 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.9%;  $18   [ screwcap;  DFB;  CS dominant,  Me,  CF & Ma 1,  hand-harvested;  elevage similar to Archipelago;  c.300 cases;  ‘A Bordeaux blend made from the second quality grapes at Miro Vineyard, but given meticulous attention in the winery with a portion of new French oak. This is a delicious full flavoured harmonious red with bottle age at a bargain price’;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is initially minty going on eucy,  with some retained fermentation odours too,  all quite distracting.  In mouth it illustrates an older-style under-ripe cabernet / merlot approach,  hard on both stalky red fruits and slight reduction.  It is not too oaky,  so it ends up reasonably  straightforward as a cardboardy lean QDR red.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Poderi Crisci Merlot   14 +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $29   [ cork;  Me 90%,  CF 10,  hand-harvested;  18 months in French oak 30% new,  goal Italian merlot styling;  75 cases (remaining),  WWA Certified;  ‘Rounded fruitfulness, with low natural acidity giving a lush mouth feel. Final blending includes a small percentage of Cabernet Franc. Nose has aroma black and red fruit mingled with cedar wood and cigar box. The multi layered palate is distinctively Merlot with wonderful black cherry flavours. Long savoury finish’;  www.podericrisci.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is in an older style,  some oxidation,  some reduction,  combining to give the familiar leathery aroma of 1960s Australian reds,  time-travel,  not varietal.  Palate is leathery too,  slightly brackish.  Plain but wholesome QDR,  not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

2005  Miro Vineyard Miro   14  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  12.8%;  $35   [ plastic NeoCork closure;  DFB;  CS 52%,  Me 30,  CF 17,  Ma 1,  hand-harvested;  12 months in French oak 50% new;  ‘This is a Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec. It was vinified from the best grapes from the best sites on the Miro Vineyard. It was aged in 50% new French fine grained barriques for 12 months and has beautiful bottle aged characters.’;  www.mirovineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet shows VA to excess,  on red fruits.  Palate is strangely fleshy,  a suggestion of sage / herbes and bottled red plums,  but all too varnishy from the cooperage plus VA.  Rough QDR,  not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

2007  Jurassic Ridge Cabernet Franc   13 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $29   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  DFB;  CF 86%,  Me 14,  hand-harvested;  3 weeks cuvaison;  12 months in French oak 50% new;  RS < 1 g/L;  sold out;  108 cases;  ‘Easy drinking, typical young and vibrant cabernet franc with good structure and acidity with raspberry and violet nuances.’;  www.waihekewine.co.nz/TheVineyards/VineyardLinks/JurassicRidge.aspx ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is tending to the estery home-made fruit-wine style,  with simple yeasty overtones.  Palate likewise has a still-fermenting organic and too wild-yeasty quality to it,  though it seems dry.  May settle down in bottle into a plain QDR,  but not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

Pinot Noir
2007  Cable Bay Pinot Noir Marlborough   16 ½ +  ()
Brancott Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $34   [ screwcap;  several clones of PN,  hand-picked at 2 t/ac;  several days cold-soak,  details to come;  ‘An intriguing wine that captures the finesse of Pinot Noir. Rich, dark berry and earthy flavours with soft, silky tannins. GOLD Medal, NZ Int. Wineshow’;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Full pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is clearly pinot noir even when hidden in a flight of syrahs.  There are some dark rose florals on blackboy peach and dark cherry notes,  but with a hint of leaf too.  Palate is quite rich but a little stewed,  the fruit showing a tending-coarse tannic quality as well as some stalks.  A flavoursome foursquare pinot which is dry to the finish,  and will soften in cellar 2 – 7 years.  GK 06/09

2008  [ Stonyridge ]  fallen Angel Pinot Noir Otago   15 ½  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $59   [ screwcap;  10 months in French oak 30% new;  minimal info on website;  ‘Vibrant and youthful crimson with good depth of colour. This Pinot Noir is fruit focused with an elegant underlying oak character. The wine finishes with a clean lingering flavour of classic Pinot fruit.’;  www.fallenangelwines.com ]
Pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the three.  Bouquet is light simple pinot noir,  smelling as if chaptalised and Marlborough in style,  a hint of strawberry and redcurrant,  again leafy.  Palate is lighter and softer than the Kennedy Point,  but with better mouthfeel,  not quite as stalky,  almost pinot meunier flavours.  Finish is soft and pleasant,  so this is more QDR pinot,  to cellar 2 – 5 years maybe.  GK 06/09

2008  Kennedy Point Pinot Noir Marlborough   15  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  PN cropped at c.1.2 t/ac;  3 days cold-soak;  MLF and 18 months in French oak 40% new;  150 cases,  release date August 2009;  ‘This wine has a complex nose of ripe raspberries, cherry stone and plums with subtle hints of earth tones. A rich velvety palate of red and black fruit, gives way to an excellent structure with very fine tannins.’;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Pinot noir ruby.  The aromas in this glass are clear reminders of previous decades of pinot noir in New Zealand,  leafy more than red fruits,  the fragrance of under-ripeness.  Palate brings in light red fruits,  redcurrant and red plums,  but all quite stalky.  Oaking is subtle,  and the finish is soft,  which helps the nett flavour / mouthfeel.  Cellar 2 – 5 years,  for a QDR pinot noir.  GK 06/09

Syrah = Shiraz
2008  Awaroa Syrah   19  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.9%;  $35   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested @ c.1.2 t/ac,  all de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  cold soak up to 14 days and cuvaison up to 35 days;  MLF and 12 months in barrel 90% French and 17% new,  older American 10%;  not sterile-filtered;  75 cases,  release date Sept. 2009,  the proprietor Steve Poletti offers an en primeur programme;  website not up yet;  ‘Dark dense complex wine from a fantastic vintage.’;  www.awaroawines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is very ripe syrah,  tip-toeing into Australian territory in the sense the thought ‘porty’ did pass through my mind to first sniff.  On closer examination however it is explicitly black-pepper cool-climate syrah with dark cassis and nearly floral characters (but not as much as 2007 Bullnose),  with some blueberry and black olive aromas too.  Palate is strange,  deeply spicy on the black pepper,  rich and nearly viscous like a Napa Valley zinfandel,  clearly spirity yet not rough,  nor is it too oaky.  Yet somehow the wine doesn’t quite gel,  presumably because it is recently bottled.  The ripeness of the fruit exceeds anything else on the table,  the acid balance is appropriate,  oak is subtle,  and it is intensely varietal as syrah,  not shiraz,  so (later) no more thoughts of Australia.  The closest analogy might be brett-free Californian syrah,  or Le Sol,  but it is subtler than the latter,  with a beautiful pure chewing-on-grapeskins finish.  I suspect in another year this will be looking sensational,  despite the alcohol,  and my mark though a bit gambitous,  reflects that.  Young syrahs are hard to assess accurately in their first six months or so after release.  Te Mata’s Bullnose only blossoms after the 24-months-from-vintage stage,  for example.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Mudbrick Vineyard Syrah Shepherd’s Point   18 ½  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $36   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  15 days cuvaison,  cultured yeast;  10 months in French oak all 2-year or older;  ‘Lifted floral aromas of violets and rose petals mingle with fresh cracked black pepper. Silver Medal Bragato’;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This wine is vibrantly floral and varietal syrah,  with even a suggestion of carnation and wallflower on clear cassis and dark plums.  It is faintly more zingy / aromatic on the black pepper than the Weeping Sands.  In mouth that translates into very aromatic cassis with gorgeous round bottled black doris plummy fruit.  It is plumper than the Weeping Sands,  and equally long-flavoured.  These top syrahs make an exciting offering from Waiheke.  They show the variety has a great future on the Island,  in a style comparable exactly with the Northern Rhone.  They also closely match the fragrant wines from the Ngatarawa Triangle in Hawkes Bay,  rather than the sometimes heavier Gimblett Gravels examples.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   18 +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $55   [ screwcap;  Syrah 100%, hand-picked;  c.30 days cuvaison;  c.10 months in barrel, much more French oak than previously,  now predominant,  c. 70% new;  sterile-filtered;  not in catalogue;  August 2009 release;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine.  Bouquet is pure fragrant cassis,  blueberry and black pepper,  with lighter fractions suggesting wallflowers and bush honey.  The volume of bouquet is great.  Palate is cassis and black pepper,  fragrant aromatic oak with both a higher ratio of French oak than the 2005,  and a subtler handling of oak in general.  Fruit ripeness is succulent and good,  acid balance is appropriate,  but there is still a hint of brett persisting.  This wine is a great step forward from the 2007 Reserve.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Awaroa Syrah [ Reserve ] Melba Peach   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $65   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Sy 90% in two equal picks,  one late,  CS 10,  all hand-harvested @ c.1.2 t/ac;  all de-stemmed but not crushed,  cold soak up to 14 days and cuvaison up to 35 days;  cultured yeast,  MLF and 12 months in barrel French 95% and 50% new,  older American 5;  sterile-filtered;  25 cases,  release date Sept. 2009,  the proprietor Steve Poletti offers an en primeur programme;  website not up yet;  ‘Reserve Syrah built for the long haul. Our best Syrah to date.’;  www.awaroawines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  older and lighter than the standard 2008 Syrah,  presumably reflecting longer in oak [ later,  more the new oak,  it seems ].  Bouquet is fragrant with almost carnation-like florals,  a honeyed note,  black pepper,  and a hint of leaf,  all on cassis,  plum and oak.  Palate is rather different,  all the above elements showing plus a stalky note,  which in the blind line-up I surmised might indicate the Waiheke syrah known to have mourvedre in it.  Both in the Barossa Valley and Spain,  mourvedre can easily show stalky notes in less than ideal vintages,  and ripening it properly in New Zealand seems a big ask.  Later the interesting detail emerges that rather than mourvedre,  this wine contains 10% of cabernet sauvignon.  The cassis components of the two grapes should marry seamlessly,  and this will certainly be very fragrant wine in five or so years.  Whether or not it loses that subtle stalky note is going to be the issue.  It contrasts vividly with the opulent tannin ripeness in the overly alcoholic standard syrah.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Kennedy Point Syrah   18 +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ cork;  Sy 97%,  Vi 3, hand-picked @ c.1.2 t/ac;  MLF and 18 months in French oak some new;  300 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Our Syrah is reminiscent of a Northern Rhone, fermented with 3% Viognier that shows perfumed floral notes with some gamey and sweet oak aromas. It has ripe and rich fruit on the palate with some peppery nuances. This wine is complex, powerful with great length. Gold Medal, International Wine Challenge, London’;  www.kennedypointvineyard.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  nearly carmine.  Initially opened,  the wine smells a bit much of toasted barrels.  All it needs is a breath of air,  to open up to an aromatic,  cassisy and dark plum syrah with some black pepper and a little brett.  Palate softens the wine desirably,  a better acid balance than some,  some blackberry as well as plummy fruit appearing with air.  The tannin backbone is firm,  and this wine will benefit from time in bottle to further marry up.  Vin de garde therefore,  which will probably always benefit from decanting.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2008  Cable Bay Syrah Waiheke Island (pre-bottling tank sample)   18  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:   – %;  $34   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  details to come;  ‘Fragrant violet and bramble aromas. Rich berryfruit and gamey notes on the palate, with a refined structure. NEW RELEASE’;  www.cablebayvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  but lighter than the top examples.  Bouquet is close to the Weeping Sands but less oaky,  clearly wallflower-floral and dark roses,  with vanillin and black pepper components.  Fruits include cassis,  cherry and plum.  Palate is firm and aromatic,  slightly oaky (as yet),  the berryfruit and acid balance nearly as good as the top wines.  It is more in the lighter style of the 2007 Awaroa,  which reminded me of Cote Rotie this time last year.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  [ NB:  the finished wine may differ from this assembled tank sample.]  GK 06/09

2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Syrah   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $31   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  up to 4 days cold-soak,  cultured yeast,  c.18 days cuvaison;  MLF and 9 months in barrel 13% new American,  13% 1-year American,   8% new French,  balance older French;  359 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Release of third vintage. 30% new oak to complement a generous, ripe vintage. Full bodied syrah showing floral aromas, red & black fruits, pepper.’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is crisply varietal syrah,  clearly wallflower and dark rose floral,  beautiful cassis and darkest plum,  and explicit white going to black pepper.  A new oak component adds aromatics and vanillin,  at this stage still a little too prominently.  Palate is firmer than the bouquet promises,  the richness nearly as good as the class-leading examples,  the total style absolutely northern Rhone.  It is more clear-cut syrah than most Crozes-Hermitage,  but a little too firm for Hermitage.  Modern St Joseph is a better comparison.  This 2008 extends the promise indicated by last year's wine,  but total acid is still higher than optimal – for example alongside the near-perfect ripeness,  plumpness and acid balance of 2007 Bullnose.  The exciting news from this estate is,  in the excellent 2008 vintage there will be an Obsidian Syrah,  in effect a Reserve,  to be released probably late November.  Cellar 5 – 12years.  GK 06/09

2007  Stonyridge Syrah / Mourvedre / Grenache Pilgrim   17 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $80   [ cork;  Sy 91%,  Mv 4.5,  Gr 4.5,  trace Vi,  hand-harvested;  cultured yeast,  10 day cuvaison (2 days cold soak);  MLF in barrel,  12 months in French oak only,  30% new initially,  then none;  not fined or filtered;  75 cases;  ‘Deep garnet with good depth of colour. A pretty, fruit forward, bouquet showing complex aromas of blackberry, plum, cassis, liquorice, candied peel and spice and well integrated,  classy oak.’;  www.stonyridge.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet on this wine is straight out of the Rhone Valley,  but where ?  In the blind line-up it is not dramatically syrah on bouquet,  yet it is fragrant and sits with them perfectly.  There is a quiet reminder of good modern lighter-year examples of Ch Beaucastel,  on nutmeg and black olives fruit including a faint bretty note.  Once the label is known,  one can readily suppose the black olive character is the mourvedre speaking.  Palate is leaner and firmer than the top wines,  more the weight of the Weeping Sands,  but the complexity of flavour with a clear sage stuffing (+ve) quality stands out.  With a little more palate richness and purity,  and slightly less acid,  this would be a world-class and confusing wine,  somewhere between Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Hermitage in style.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2006  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  c.25 days cuvaison;  12 months in barrel,  90% American and 60% new,  balance French;  sterile-filtered;  not in catalogue;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  This is a more youthful wine than the 2005 Syrah Reserve,  showing good cassis,  bottled black doris plums and black pepper,  all in the same oaky style.  It seems just as rich,  though in general 2006 was a lighter year [ this may not be true for wineries on the south-eastern peninsulas,  since Destiny Bay rate their 2006s as highly as 2005 ].  Brett is less noticeable,  but oak persists through the palate.  It should cellar a little more harmoniously than its predecessor,  5 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2007  Passage Rock Syrah   17 ½ +  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13%;  $32   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  10 months in oak,  mostly American 35% new;  800 cases;  ‘Aromas of blackberry plum and black pepper supported by toasty vanillin oak and beautifully balanced tannins.’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is smokey oak first,  a little aggressive after the supple bouquets of the top wines.  Underneath is cassis.  This cassis carries on into the flavour,  but whether the wine is cabernet or syrah is not obvious immediately.  There is quite a lot of oak including American,  yet in mouth black pepper qualities emerge in the berry and are attractive on the later palate.  This seems to be a totally different wine now,  riper and softer than the impression and lower score I rated it a year ago – unfortunately (see comment in the 2008 Awaroa Syrah review).  Though it is not a big wine,  it should cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 06/09

2005  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   17 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  c.25 days cuvaison;  12 months in barrel,  90% American and 60% new,  balance French;  sterile-filtered;  not in catalogue;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is inclining to an Australian style in this tasting,  with ripe spirity berry made aromatic by a fair percentage of American oak,  which is still prominent at this stage.  Palate is very rich though,  a lot of plummy berry,  some black pepper,  a little brett,  all a bit leathery now.  I'm worried the fruit is drying and the oak is becoming more prominent –accentuated by the alcohol.  The level of brett does not seem high enough to cause this,  though brett ‘nazis’ would suggest that.  More the boisterous oak,  I think.  Cellar 2 – 6 years,  maybe,  but keep an eye on it.  GK 06/09

2008  Passage Rock Syrah   17 ½  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $33   [ screwcap;  Sy 100% hand-picked;  30 days cuvaison;  c.10 months in oak mostly American 60% new,  but more French oak than 2007;  600 cases;  ‘Our new release preview of the 2008 Syrah rich concentrated and up there with any syrah any price point.’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is explicitly syrah,  wallflower florals and cassis,  darkly plummy,  very fragrant.  Palate is leaner however,  with some stalky notes like the Awaroa Reserve,  in beautiful fine-grained cassis.  The oak use in these 2008 Passage Rock wines is subtler,  which should enhance their standing and cellar potential.  They are still oaky by Rhone standards though,  which does well in local judgings (including sometimes mine,  I see,  sadly) but does not optimise the long-term beauty of syrah in cellar.  This fragrant wine is comparable with better-level Crozes-Hermitage,  to cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 06/09

2004  Passage Rock Syrah   17  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $ –    [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  c.10 months in oak,  mostly American oak;  not in catalogue,  only one Syrah label in 2004,  the Reserve Syrah was introduced in 2005;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet shows Australian reminders,  with aromas suggesting browning cassis and boysenberry in strong American oak.  Palate is developing some soft varnishy complexity on the oak,  with lingering ripe oaky rich-fruit flavours,  trace brett,  more shiraz than syrah,  but rich and ripe in its oaky way.  Cellar 1 – 5  years.  GK 06/09

2007  Passage Rock Syrah Reserve   17  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  hand-picked,  25 days cuvaison;  c.11 – 12 months in barrel,  90% American and 60% new,  balance French;  sterile-filtered;  300 cases;  ‘Bold and powerful opulent concentrated aromas of Plum and black cherry with a great supporting role of fine grained barrels.’;  www.passagerockwines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet.  Freshly opened,  this one seemed very oaky indeed,  quite resiny with a slightest reminder of splitting macrocarpa – not in itself unattractive,  but distracting.  In mouth there is good cassis,  some black pepper,  and the syrah varietal quality emerges clearly,  though the backdrop of resiny American oak remains.  This may not be such a good cellar wine,  as noted (now) for the 2005.  Cellar 5 – 8 years,  keeping an eye on it.  GK 06/09

2007  The Hay Paddock Syrah Harvest Man   16 ½ +  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $38   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked @ 2.1 t/ac from fourth year vines;  100% de-stemmed,  cultured yeast,  cuvaison 18 days (8 cold-soak,  8 ferment,  2 maceration);  MLF in tank,  12 months in French oak 60% new and 1 year,  balance older;  sterile filtered,  372 cases,  WWA Certified,  first release of this label;  ‘An earlier-drinking, fruit driven style suited to the on-license restaurant trade. 12 months in predominantly 1- and 2-yr old French oak and held for another 12 months before release. Chave vines predominate in this vintage. The wine is designed to complement food and be ready for consumption on release, but it will continue to improve with bottle age. The increased production in 2008 and 2009 will ensure continuity of supply under this label. International Wine Challenge, London 2009 GOLD.’;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is of an older wine,  only faint varietal florals,  the wine already showing some maturity akin to old bottled red plums.  Palate is old-fashioned,  pleasant berry but a little oxidation leading to leathery notes in red fruits,  some oak vanillin and a hint of white pepper and cassis.  Total ripeness achieved is at the Crozes-Hermitage level,  but the acid is up a bit and that exaggerates the oak component.  See background note in the 2006 below.  More ripeness in the vineyard needed.  Cellar 2 – 6 years or so.  GK 06/09

2007  Mudbrick Syrah Reserve   16 +  ()
Western Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.6%;  $50   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-picked;  14 – 20 days cuvaison,  cultured yeast;  14 months in American oak 50% new;  ‘Spicy plum, sweet black cherry fruit characters and sweet vanillin oak characters Silver Medal - Bragato’;  www.mudbrick.co.nz ]
Ruby.  This is an awkward wine,  for when one takes under-ripe fruit,  and over-oaks it including with a fair percentage of new,  the result is angular.  The palate is quite rich,  and  there is some varietal white pepper and fresh red-curranty fruit,  but the aftertaste is acid and oak-dominated.  Should soften in a year or two,  but disappointing as a Reserve wine.  Cellar 2 – 5 years.  GK 06/09

2006  The Hay Paddock Syrah   16  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  Sy 98%,  PV 2,  hand-picked first crop from third year vines @ c.1 t/ac,  100% de-stemmed;  no cold soak,  cultured yeast,  10 days cuvaison,  MLF in tank;  15 months in French oak 75% new, balance third year;  300 cases,  sterile filtered;  WWA Certified,  inaugural release; ‘From 3-yr old vines cropped at 500gms per vine and harvested at 24 Brix. 12 months in new French oak and bottled under Diam cork. Cellar aged for 2 yrs before release. Annual production limited to 300 cases and magnums with priority given to members of The Hay Paddock Syrah Society. Decanter World Wine Awards and IWSC 2008 Silver Medals - ‘Best in Class’.’;  www.thehaypaddock.co.nz ]
Older ruby.  Bouquet is that of a fragrant but prematurely-aged wine with some oxidised and leathery characters,  reminiscent of 1960s Australia.  In mouth there is reasonable fruit but less berry than the junior wine.  Like it,  total acid is up,  and ripeness is lacking,  the dominant flavour being browning red fruits and excess oak.  A mistake I think to release a Reserve wine on such young vines.  Will hold in cellar 2 – 5 years,  but unlikely to improve.  The Hay Paddock is an intriguing new venture dedicated essentially to one grape – syrah.  The proprietors have great goals in view for this variety in New Zealand,  as set out in their informative website.  These initial two wines get them off to a somewhat shaky start,  but it is worth noting that for many small wineries,  the issue of securing clean older oak at start-up may be more difficult than one might suppose – perhaps even for industry stalwarts such as Chris Canning and Bryan Mogridge.  Syrah like pinot noir does not benefit from too much new oak,  notwithstanding the Guigal grand crus.  It will be fun to watch these two build their dream.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War Syrah Waiheke Island   15  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $28   [ screwcap;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  cold-soak plus 18 days cuvaison with cultured yeast,  MLF in both tank and barrel,  10 months in barrel French and American oak,  10% new;  ‘This wine exhibits aromas of blue berries and cloves with complex savoury tones. On the palate the wine is full bodied and succulent with firm ripe tannins and a core of minerality derived from volcanic soils of the island.’;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Bouquet is curious,  with a slightly antiseptic note in leathery red fruits,  lacking in varietal character.  Palate explains the ‘antiseptic’ note,  being a rather good demonstration of the so-called ‘band-aid’ version of quite serious brett infection.  Underlying fruit is browning and drying,  with stalky and acid components,  leading to suggestions of fustiness on the aftertaste.  Another under-ripe wine,  but winery practices need sorting out even more than vineyard ones.  Not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

2007  Man O’War Syrah Reserve Dreadnought   14  ()
Eastern Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ cork;  Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  hand-harvested from ‘Our most extreme sites are the steepest hottest hillsides dedicated to the Syrah grape.’,  all de-stemmed,  2 – 4 days cold-soak,  up to 21 days cuvaison;  MLF and 11 months in barrel French and American oak 20% new;  ‘The vines extreme environment translates into a wine of uncommon depth and muscularity.  Showing the fleshy cushioning of youth the Dreadnought Syrah will reveal its distinguished features with maturity.’;  www.manowarvineyards.co.nz ]
Colour is a much older ruby than the standard wine,  implying more oak exposure.  Initial bouquet is unpromising.  The main thing to say about this wine is that if you have wondered what all the fuss about the wild yeast Brettanomyces = brett is about,  and want to see a crystal-clear example of a severe infection,  this is the wine for you,  along with its junior sibling.  Though Dreadnought is a quite rich wine,  the brett component is heavier and more complex than the standard ’07 Syrah,  and all varietal character on bouquet has been destroyed.  On palate the smoked fish / venison (male) casserole and bandaid characters of severe brett infection in both phases are rampant (phase differences summarised in a report on the Pinot Noir Conference 2007,  Pt I,  26 Feb 2007 (scroll down to BRETTANOMYCES:) on this site).  All that said,  these characters are also strongly savoury,  perfectly harmless,  and many people like such wines with very strongly flavoured foods such as well-hung game casseroles.  The wine is already drying,  and will continue to do so.  Not worth cellaring,  unless you like the style of traditionally severely bretty wines such as the Chateauneuf-du-Pape Domaine St Benoit.  

Interesting therefore to see Neal Martin’s (in www.erobertparker.com,  subscribers only) comparison with de Beaucastel from the same district,  in a report in which he endorses the wine winningly (92 points),  though mentioning there is brett.  Worth mentioning that Beaucastel is in fact cleaning up its act,  something not yet evident at Benoit (for vintages that have reached New Zealand).  The Rhone in general,  and Chateauneuf-du-Pape in particular have become notorious as the most vivid exemplars of brett in red wines (though some Californian compete),  a character rapidly becoming regarded as old-fashioned at best,  and undesirable or even objectionable by many (in Australia particularly),  as new-world technology increasingly flows back into old-world wine districts.  

The question can fairly be asked,  how come you reject this rich wine on brett,  yet score the 2005 Goldwater Estate Goldie (in the same tasting) at gold-medal level ?  Be assured I did not decide this lightly.  The decision is based on the degree of infection:  the level of odoriferous yeast metabolic by-products in the Dreadnought is so high,  the variety is not recognisable.  The fact it is compared with a Southern Rhone grenache-based wine,  and not a Northern Rhone syrah-based one,  confirms that.  The Goldie in contrast is still clearly varietal (and strictly comparable with Bordeaux),  and the tongue is left clean,  not saturated with biting yeast chemistry.  As implied in the previous wine review,  if Man O’War is to achieve its potential on perhaps the best sites in the Island (maritime influence / salt aside),  winery practices and cooperage care must be modernised.  GK 06/09

2005  Jurassic Ridge Syrah   13 ½  ()
Western Waiheke,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $33   [ supercritical ‘cork’;  DFB;  Sy 100%,  hand-harvested;  3 weeks cuvaison;  French oak;  RS < 1 g/L;  105 cases,  sold out,  WWA Certified;  ‘100% Syrah MS [13.9%] Full bodied, savoury wine with long smooth tannins, dark fruit, liquorice and white pepper. WWA Certified. Library sample only – vintage SOLD OUT’;  www.waihekewine.co.nz/TheVineyards/VineyardLinks/JurassicRidge.aspx ]
Ruby.  This is a reasonably richly-fruited wine,  but is tainted with a non-wine odour which removes it from contention.  All I can smell and taste is something akin to friar’s balsam.  The underlying wine is softish,  round,  but scented.  QDR at best,  not worth cellaring.  GK 06/09

All other red wines, blends etc
2008  [ Obsidian ] Weeping Sands Montepulciano   18 ½  ()
Central Waiheke Island,  Auckland district,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  all de-stemmed;  cuvaison c.15 days,  cultured yeast;  MLF and 9 months in barrel 10% new French,  25% 1-year American,  balance older French;  302 cases,  WWA Certified;  ‘Release of third vintage. Dark & plush with concentrated fruits and spice.’;  www.obsidian.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is richly ripe and dark,  blackest plums at dropping-from-the-tree ripeness,  a bit fumy on alcohol,  a suggestion of black olives like one of the syrahs,  a dense wine.  Palate contrasts immediately with bouquet,  being very aromatic on presumably quite high American oak,  with a fleshy yet firm tannin profile,  and firm acid – but critically,  a little softer than the Obsidian Syrah.  It is easy to imagine black pepper in this one too,  and slot it in with the heavier syrahs,  but it is not so spicy,  just dark and at this early stage a little oaky.  As for the 2007 wine but moreso,  this is a great introduction to this grape in a thoroughly modern brett-free presentation,  so different from the average example from Abruzzo.  Don't even think of drinking one for a couple of years,  then cellar 5 – 12 years or so.  GK 06/09