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


2004  Amisfield Pinot Noir
2004  Bladen Pinot Noir
2004  Capricorn Wines Pinot Noir Struggler’s Flat
2004  Fairhall Downs Estate Pinot Noir
2004  Fairmont Estate Pinot Noir Block One
2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir
2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3
2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5
2003  Jackson Estate Pinot Noir
2004  Lake Hayes Pinot Noir
2004  Mount Riley Pinot Noir Winemakers Selection
  2003  [ Villa Maria ] Northrow Pinot Noir
2004  Palliser Pinot Noir
2004  Terrace Heights Estate Pinot Noir
2004  Vidal Pinot Noir
2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection
2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin
2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve
2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Taylor’s Pass Single Vineyard Reserve
2003  [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Pinot Noir Steve Bird
2003  Waipara Springs Pinot Noir Reserve

2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 5   18 ½ +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $56   [ screwcap;  winery only;  probably not filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Attractive full pinot noir ruby,  nearly as dark as the straight Felton Pinot.  Bouquet combines marvellous pinot florals ranging from boronia to violets and deepest red roses,  with obvious black cherry fruit,  and very fragrant oak with just a hint of nutmeg.  On palate the oak is a little assertive at this early stage,  but the black cherry fruit is long and succulent,  yet crisp as well.  I get the impression the acids are little higher on these 2004 pinots from Felton,  relative to the 2003 vintage,  but I do not have them alongside.  Block 5 seems to be fractionally the least acid of the three,  or perhaps it is just the richest.  I like it the most,  despite the lamentably high alcohol,  but have to say there is not much in it.  It should be a good cellar wine,  and as the oak softens,  with the volume of bouquet it already shows,  it should become as exciting as the 1999 is now,  or more so.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir Block 3   18 ½  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $56   [ screwcap;  winery only;  not filtered;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  the lightest of the three Feltons.  This Felton shares the wonderful florals of the other two,  but in a way it seems both lighter (buddleia more than boronia) and yet more fragrant.  Below there is wonderful cherry fruit,  but here not quite as dark,  with some red cherries in the black.  Palate is classic pinot,  lighter in flavour than the other two,  but in a way seemingly sweeter,  longer and richer.  Oak is milder here than on the Block 5 – perhaps a lesser percentage of new.  The truth probably is,  that each time one tastes these three lovely wines,  on one occasion one will appeal the most,  and on the next another.  All three will cellar beautifully,  this one for 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Felton Road Pinot Noir   18 +  ()
Bannockburn,  Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  $40 @ winery;  www.feltonroad.com ]
Attractive full pinot ruby,  fractionally the deepest of the three Felton pinots.  These Feltons were assessed in a rigorously blind tasting of 21 New Zealand pinots.  When the top three wines turn out to be from the same maker,  that tells you several things.  The straight Felton Pinot might not be quite as complex as the Block 5,  due to less oak input,  but as a consequence one can see the superb varietal and floral qualities of the fruit even more clearly:  violets,  boronia,  buddleia.  Of all New Zealand pinot noir producers,   Blair Walter at Felton seems to have most clearly grasped the notion that great pinot is about sweet enticing floral components on bouquet,  to be followed up by crisp aromatic and tactile red or preferably black cherry fruit.  Oak must play a supporting role to these basics,  and not dominate.  This wine illustrates those factors to perfection.  So buy the basic Felton for its great expression of ripe but not over-ripe pinot noir varietal quality,  more vividly expressed than in the more complex Block 5.  This wine is fractionally more acid than the two Block wines,  which will augment its bouquet development in bottle,  but detracts slightly from the palate.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  This too should develop like the 1999 straight Felton,  and will then compete with many a Cote de Nuits wine.  GK 11/05

2004  Amisfield Pinot Noir   18  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $43   [ supercritical cork;  hand-harvested;  7 days cold-soak,  BF and 10 months in French oak 23% new;  www.amisfield.co.nz ]
A deep pinot noir ruby,  about the maximum desirable for the variety.  Bouquet is very ripe,  flirting with being over-ripe,  my notes in the blind tasting saying for bouquet,  more plummy than cherry.  Floral components are therefore less apparent,  but not entirely absent – there is a dusky dark rose sweetness,  which is very attractive,  plus a suggestion of almonds,  less so.  On palate a more desirable black cherry quality becomes apparent,  giving a very rich flavour braced by oak to a maximum.  It is richer and softer than any of the Feltons,  but not so vibrantly varietal.  Nonetheless,  this big wine will give a lot of pleasure,  and cellar well.  It would have been more complex with a little less ripeness (or a component less ripe),  I suspect,  though bouquet may build in cellar.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/05

2003  [ Villa Maria ] Northrow Pinot Noir   18  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:   – %;  $30   [ screwcap;  French oak;  a Villa Maria brand label particularly associated with Villa Marlborough winemaker George Geris;  no website info as yet;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby,  fractionally lighter than the two Villa Reserve wines.  This is a big wine,  combining the Marlborough mixed blackboy and cherry fruit with a hint of pennyroyal on bouquet,  and other florals too.  It seems more deeply floral and varietal than the two Villa Reserve wines,  with a better ratio of dark cherry to blackboy.  Perhaps it is just the extra year’s age,  and the melding of fruit and oak.  In mouth the wine is richly fruited,  really concentrated blackboy,  with oak to balance and slightly more.  Attractive new world pinot with great mouthfeel,  which should cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  100% de-stemmed;  11 months and MLF in French oak 50% new;  2004 not on website,  but 2003 was cold soak up to 9 days, 9 months in oak;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  It would be a brave person who guaranteed they could consistently separate out this wine from the 2004 Seddon Reserve wine,  in repeated blind triangulated tastings.  Essentially,  the notes are interchangeable,  though perhaps the Seddon (q.v.) has a whisper more skin tannins and depth of flavour –  or is it just a little more oaky ?  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Taylor’s Pass Single Vineyard Reserve   17 ½ +  ()
Awatere Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $50   [ screwcap;  2004 not on website,  2003 10 months in French oak 60% new;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Full pinot noir ruby,  one of the deepest.  Bouquet is fragrant and clear-cut pinot noir,  in the lighter blackboy and cherry style of Marlborough and Martinborough,  not quite achieving the ultimate varietal florals and black cherry depths of the best Otago wines.  Palate is sweetly fruity,  red and black cherry and some plums,  plus blackboy peach,  long-flavoured on fruit and fragrant oak,  but neither too tannic or too oaky.  It is great to see Villa Maria retreating from their heroic black oaky pinots of a few years ago,  even if such styles are lamentably fashionable in new world cultures.  There is now a much more international approach to styling the variety in New Zealand,  with the ubiquitous New Zealand problem of high alcohols the main issue to be tackled.  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Terrace Heights Estate Pinot Noir   17 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:   – %;  $ –    [ screwcap ]
Pinot ruby.  This pinot has the sweetness of the variety in its attractively floral bouquet,  light boronia exactly,  on red cherries.  Palate too has that neat quality of real pinot,  a ‘crunchy’ texture (by imagination),  just like chewing on crisp cherry fruit,  indicating a perfect flavour, acid and tannin balance that bursts into life on the tongue.  Not a big wine,  but real pinot,  very pleasing.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2003  [ Villa Maria ] Thornbury Pinot Noir Steve Bird   17 ½  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14.2%;  $25   [ screwcap;  cropped 2.5 – 3 t/ac;  the relationship between Villa Maria and Thornbury is not clear on either the Villa website,  or the not-recently-updated www.thornburywines.com;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  A fragrant bouquet,  both for the sweetly floral fruit,  and for nearly cedary oak.  Palate has matured more quickly than some 2003 pinots,  with attractively integrated flavours in which the oak is more apparent than real – fruit length is good.  A trace of brett adds complexity and old world charm to the wine.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Capricorn Wines Pinot Noir Struggler’s Flat   17 ½  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $21   [ screwcap;  s/s ferment,  6 months in French oak with LA;  www.capricornwines.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  What an astonishing value-for-money wine this pinot has become,  offering a quality fully matching many wines of twice the price.  Long may it continue at its price point,  to inject reality into the overheated New Zealand pinot market.  Bouquet offers convincing florals in the lighter buddleia and vanilla pod style,  on cherry and blackboy peach fruit.  Palate is classic pinot,  loosely speaking in a paler / softer red-fruited Beaune style (relative to the more vibrant and aromatic Cote de Nuits-like styling on the Feltons,  for example),  carefully oaked,  long-flavoured.  One could drink a lot of this !  Cellar 3 – 10 years.  VALUE  GK 11/05

2004  Palliser Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Martinborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $39   [ screwcap;  2004 not on website,  but little info on winemaking;  www.palliser.co.nz ]
Good pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is light fragrant red fruits,  blackboy and red cherries,  just a suggestion of a floral component.  Palate picks up a hint of the Martinborough pennyroyal character,  on blackboy fruit of good weight,  noticeable oak,  and pleasing slightly tanniny and savoury flavours.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Lake Hayes Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Central Otago,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ supercritical cork;  hand-picked;  s/s ferment,  part oak-matured,  part s/s;  www.amisfield.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Bouquet is very floral,  in the lilac and buddleia style,  on attractive red fruits.  Palate is pure red cherries,  subtly oaked,  beautifully balanced.  This is a second wine to Amisfield,  and though much less serious and lighter,  it is by no means lacking fruit,  substance,  and character,  and it is more floral.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Fairhall Downs Estate Pinot Noir   17 +  ()
Wairau Valley,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  9 months in French oak 45% new;  www.fairhalldowns.co.nz ]
Pinot noir ruby.  Initially poured,  there is a whisker of reductiveness on this wine.  It quickly clears,  and all that is needed is decanting.  Fruit is more in the red cherry and blackboy spectrum,  with good concentration and length of palate.  Should cellar 3 – 10 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection   17  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested,  up to 10 days cold-soak,  c 9 months in French oak 40% new,  and MLF in barrel;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Pinot ruby.  A simpler blackboy pinot bouquet,  clean,  fragrant,  but not as exciting as the cherry-oriented top wines.  Palate is sweetly-fruited,  almost seeming not bone-dry on the fruit richness,  well-balanced for oak.  The flavours are not complex,   more blackboy than cherry,  a hint of stalk,  but good richness.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Vidal Pinot Noir   17  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  cold-soak up to 10 days,  LA and MLF in (presumably French) barrel;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Pinot ruby.  A lighter wine,  but with attractive red roses and boronia floral components on red cherry fruit,  which is quite Cote de Beaune in style.  Palate is ripe,  pleasing fruit,  an attractive hint of mushrooms,  carefully oaked to make the wine aromatic,  well-balanced.  Good sound pinot with fruit sweetness,  a pleasure to drink.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2003  Waipara Springs Pinot Noir Reserve   17  ()
North Canterbury,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $38   [ cork;  2003 not on website,  2002 hand-harvested,  part of cepage off limestone-rich soils,  12 months French oak;  www.waiparasprings.co.nz ]
Older pinot ruby.  This is a pinot more in the fragrant soft blackboy peach style than cherries,  not lacking in bouquet,  but simpler.  Palate follows exactly,  softer and easier,  good fruit and acid balance,  but all slightly oaky.  These blackboy peach pinots are becoming a distinctive and pleasing New Zealand style.  Cellar 2 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Fairmont Estate Pinot Noir Block One   16 ½ +  ()
Gladstone,  Wairarapa,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ screwcap;  www.handcraftedwines.com ]
Pinot noir ruby.  This is a pinot in a conforming yet slightly different style in the blind line-up.  It is beautifully floral,  with a suggestion of wallflowers in addition to the usual pinot flower analogies,  almost syrah-like.  Palate is crisply red cherry,  with plenty of flavour,  partly because it is more acid than others marked similarly.  The flavours are attractive and lingering,  but just escaping a stalky thought.  In truth,  the exact floral qualities on bouquet in this pinot do indicate an ultimate lack of physiological maturity in the fruit.  Cellar 3 – 8 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Mount Riley Pinot Noir Winemakers Selection   16 ½  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:   – %;  $31   [ screwcap;  no info on Winemakers Selection on website;  www.mountriley.co.nz ]
Big pinot noir ruby,  one of the deepest.  This is very much a new world pinot,  with excessive French oak drowning out any chance of florals or clear varietal expression on bouquet.  But there is fruit there.  On palate the oak again dominates,  but fruit richness is good,  with blackboy flavours slightly almondy (-ve) underneath,  and good acid balance.  Mainly it is the oak out of kilter,  dulling the wine:  fine pinot needs subtlety of handling to reveal varietal complexity.  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin   16 +  ()
Awatere & Wairau Valleys,  Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $22   [ screwcap;  a wide mix of techniques in the winemaking;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot ruby.  Bouquet is clean sweet straightforward pinot noir,  such as one might expect in a minor Beaune village wine (loosely speaking).  Palate has red cherries in slightly buttery (+ve) oak,  all easy and quaffable,  apart from a hint of stalks.  Though I still think this wine should be under $20,  to switch our market on to pinot,  it illustrates how true to the variety even our mainstream commercial pinots are.  Cellar 3 – 6 years.  GK 11/05

2004  Bladen Pinot Noir   16  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  14%;  $31   [ screwcap;  hand-harvested;  15 months in French oak;  www.bladen.co.nz ]
Lightish pinot ruby.  This is another oaky pinot,  though there is good red cherry fruit and black boy peach too.  On palate however the wine is much too oaky,  quite crippling the fruit,  though it is still recognisably pinot noir.  Cellar 3 – 10 years,  to soften and be more food friendly.  GK 11/05

2003  Jackson Estate Pinot Noir   14  ()
Marlborough,  New Zealand:  13%;  $25   [ screwcap;  wild-yeast fermentation,  10 months and MLF in French oak 33% new;  www.jacksonestate.co.nz ]
Light pinot ruby,  the lightest of this set.  Bouquet on this wine is in that light red fruits and sweetly grassy area that both minor bourgogne rouge,  and minor satellite Saint Emilion reds,  can occupy.  Palate is clean light red fruits in the tart redcurrants spectrum,  clearly stalky,  acid and under-ripe.  A smaller crop ripened more intensively is needed here,  I suspect.  QDR pinot,  which will cellar for several years,  but not really worth it.  GK 11/05