Craggy Range 2008 Te Muna Road riesling

A short note today on a riesling from New Zealand. Riesling has many guises from the deliciously slatey, fruity Germans of the Mosel, bone dry yet aromatic Alsatians to the limey Australian rieslings that come from the Clare and Eden Valley. There is a riesling for everyone, no matter what your preference. And now, New Zealand has joined the club of premium riesling producers. Riesling does very well in the cool climate and and stoney soils of  Martinborough and Marlborough, New Zealand. Craggy Range has produced a real cracker of  a Riesling from their Single Estate Te Muna Road vineyards in the Martinborough region. The grapes come from 2 small terraces that are part of the famous Martinborough Terrace which has exceptional, old stony soils.   The grapes are handpicked, whole bunch pressed and go through cool fermentation before being left on the lees for 4 months. This gives the wine a complexity and body that is a hallmark of Craggy Range. I find that New Zealand rieslings seem to combine the aromatic quality of Alsace with the fruitiness of a german riesling while still retaining it’s dry character. There can be some residual sugar but I find that there is no where near as much as can be found in many German rieslings, especially those that have a few  years of age. I often find that New World rieslings go very well with Indian cuisine. I was at Mint Leaf Lounge for a dinner and  The Craggy Range Te Muna Road riesling was served with a curry, potato and mullet dish with a mustard sauce. The riesling had a vibrant, floral citrus nose, a well balanced wine with lovely passionfruit and citrus notes, it had a depth and elegance that made it a true pleasure to drink. I enjoyed  it on its own as well a with the fish, the wine neither being overpowered or overpowering the fish. Craggy Range’s riesling is a fine example of what New Zealand is doing with this...

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Cloudy Bay Crab Shack, coming to Parsons Green

Summertime. Time to head outdoors and enjoy whatever sun we can get here in London. Cloudy Bay is getting into the spirit of the season and featuring a touring crab shack in the UK. They’ve teamed up with Chef Tom Aikens to bring sustainable seafood to the people. I was one of a few lucky wine and food bloggers invited to Tom’s Kitchen in Chelsea to match Tom’s especially created dishes with Cloudy Bay wines. Tom had come up with 8 different seafood dishes which we had to narrow down to the top 4 and match them with Cloudy Bay’s range. It wasn’t easy as all the dishes were delicious, although there was a bone of contention as to the merits of the salmon with chili lime peanut crumb. It was good but nowhere near as good as the spiced crab cakes with tomato salsa and guacamole. That had me reminiscing about the Maryland crabcakes I enjoyed when I lived in the States. The crabcake was matched with Cloudy Bay’s 08 Chardonnay and it was a lovely match. The chard was not too heavily oaked, the tropical fruit highlighted as well as the spiced notes which married well with the crab cakes. One of my favourite Cloudy Bay wines is the 2006 Te koko sauvignon blanc. I do adore this wine. Fermented with wild yeasts and left by itself for anywhere from 3 – 12 months to finish fermentation in open oak barrels, it is a unique wine. I tried this wine a year ago and my has it evolved since then. I enjoyed it then and I still do now but what a different profile. Where as before it was quite buttery and yeasty, now it had acquired a mineral, savoury character with some very creamy notes and lifted white flower notes, most notably jasmine come to mind with a savoury palate and a lemony citrus finish. Matched with the fried paprika squid with lime, a tasty combination, the squid very tender and...

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Millton Vineyards, pioneering biodynamic NZ wines

The Winesleuth has finally gotten a new job!! Yay!!!  I’m so glad to be moving on and my new job is with the natural  (and local) wine bar, Artisan and Vine. I met Kathryn (first post here) back in February and was so impressed by her enthusiasm and passion (see video here) for natural and local (read English) wines that I started hanging around A&V, even taking a trip with Kathryn to Davenport Vineyards (video here) this past March. And now I’ve joined A&V to be able to work with all those amazing, interesting natural wines.   Trafalgar roundabout from on high So earlier this week, I found myself at the top of New Zealand House on Haymarket, enjoying the views of London – London Eye on one side, Buck House on the other with  Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in between. It really makes you realize how closely packed everything is in London. Now you might be wondering, what the hell was the Winesleuth doing up in the penthouse of NZ House? Why, at a winetasting of course, deciding what new wines to add to the A&V list. They were of course natural and biodynamic wines, this batch from New Zealand with winemaker, James Millton of Millton Vineyards, Gisbourne, NZ, in attendance and hosted by the good folks of Vintage Roots, one of the UK’s leading organic wine specialists. Bio certified James and Annie Millton were one of the pioneers of natural, biodynamic wine production in the Southern Hemisphere, establishing their vineyard on the banks of the Te Arai River near Gisbourne on the North Island of New Zealand. The Millton philosophy is to produce wine traditionally using biodynamic techniques. They adhere to the original biodynmic principles as laid out by Dr Rudolf Stiener in 1924 and all the wines are certified biodynamic and have the “Bio-gro”organic trademark and grower number on the back of the bottle. What does this mean? In a nut shell it encompasses “…growing the grapes without the use of herbicides, insecticides, systemic fungicides or soluble fertilisers. It also...

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Cloudy Bay, video winetasting at the Bluebird

Cloudy Bay=Sauvignon blanc=New Zealand’s iconic wine. The one that put it on the map.This was all I knew about NZ sauvignon blanc until I moved to London and had opportunity to try it. Cloudy Bay has been so iconic that consumers might not even know how it tastes but buy it on the name alone.  Is it all it’s cracked up to be? Until recently, it was fabulous but their main wine maker, the one who put them on the map left, after being taking over by LVMH (Louis Vuitton Möet Hennessy) So, how is it now? Well, Wine90 (Sarah Newton) and I were at the the Wine Cellar at the Bluebird the other night to try the latest releases which included some surprisin other varietals as well as the usual  sauvignon blanc on show. See what we thought… Tasting notes: Cloudy Bay 2008 Sauvignon Blanc – nettly nose with notes of ripe pineapple and other tropical fruits. Good acidity but quite a rounded mouthful with a long lime finish. I liked it but think it’s a bit overpriced at £21.99 Cloudy Bay 2008 Gewurztraminer  – We both loved this one! Honeysuckle, rose water, and apparently Turkish delight on the nose, a lovely palate of more honeysuckle and orange blossoms. I thought it was an excellent example, lush and well balanced with just enough acidity to stop it from becoming louche and flabby. £26.00 Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2006, released 2009 –  this is their boutique wine, made from a wines that have been fermented using indigenous yeasts. A few barrels were put aside and they let nature run it’s course. The result was this rich, complex, creamy wine with layers of fruit, smoke, butter, and gingery spices, a fabulous wine. £37.00 Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2006 – New Zealand is certainly carving out a niche for themselves in the pinot noir stakes. I’ve had a fair amount of NZ PN and Cloudy Bay’s offering is typical New world – loads of smoky bacon and black plums, wood spices lurking in the background. On the palate, lush tannins, but a...

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Kai Schubert

What if I told you, you could get world class Burgundy at a fraction of it’s normal price? You’d jump at it wouldn’t you? Well, here is your opportunity but it’s not from France as you might think, it’s from New Zealand. I was at the Wine Cellar at the Bluebird the other night for a wine tasting of NZ wines made by the German winemaker Kai Schubert. Kai Schubert and his partner, Marion Deimling, both graduates of the Viticulture and Oenology University in Geisenheim, Germany worked in vineyards around the world, stopping in Europe, Oregon and S. America before finally settling in New Zealand to grow and make the notoriously difficult pinot noir. They found what they thought was the best site in Wairarapa Valley, near the town of Martinborough and founded Kai Schubert Vineyards. The pair bought an established vineyard in 1998 and began planting pinot noir which comprises more than 75% of their plantings. The remainder is comprised of syrah, cabernet and merlot as well as some white varietals. Their first vintage of pinot noir was released in 2003 and they haven’t looked back since. Schubert’s 2004 Pinot Noir “Block B” even beat out the 1999 “Musigny Grand Cru” of Comte de Vogue, Chambolle Musigny (€450 in Germany) in a blind tasting held in Berlin recently. Kai brought a couple of whites and his prizewinning pinot noirs for us to sample. I was a bit late so I missed the white wines but I was able to get my mitts on the pinots and the syrah. Kai’s pinots were cool, sleek, elegant offerings like the afghan hounds one sees lounging insouciently in 18th century paintings.   I loved the Marion’s Vineyard 2006 pinot noir (£26). Kai says that legend has it a Kiwi winemaker travelled to La Tache in Burgundy and stole a few clippings. On returning to NZ he was busted by customs trying to smuggle the cuttings into the country. Of course the cuttings were confiscated but rather then burning the plants, the Customs Officer took them home and planted them. Thus the Able clone...

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Stokes Fine Wine tasting

The Groucho Club is probably better known as the place to see media movers and shakers but last week one upstairs room was taken over for the Stokes Fine Wine Spring Portfolio tasting. It was a small affair but as we know, bigger is not always better. The standouts, for me, of the tasting were some amazing New Zealand wines. Auntsfield Winery is the site of the first colonial vineyard and winery established in Marlboro back in 1873. They produced quality wines for 50 years before falling into disuse during the Great Depression. They’ve now been revived by the Cowley family who are busy making some fabulous wines! I sampled the ’05 Auntsfield Cob Cottage Chardonnay– creamy, fresh fruit, full bodied, nicely balanced. Their pinot noirs were also excellent Marlboro offerings. The ’06 Hawk Hill  had this lovely savouriness, great minerality with plenty of red berries in the undertow and a bit of spiciness, smooooth…. The ’05 Heritage even better, it had been infused with 100  year old wine that had been found on the estate from the original vineyard. Upfront fruit, ripe raspberries and black cherries and again that lovely hint of wet rocks swirling around. Rabbit Ranch was another stellar performer. A collective of vineyards in the Central Otago region, they are getting together and making some delicious red and white vinous delights. The ’08 Pinot gris – ripe mandarins, full bodied, citrus aromas and flavours, definitely worth seeking out. Their pinot’s – fabulous!  ’08 Rabbit Ranch Central Otago P.N. plenty of ripe red fruits, lovely smokiness and silky – a winner. The ’07 Sliding  Hill from Marlboro another fabulous offering, showcasing the best of  Marlboro,smokey, perfumed red fruits, a whiff of autumnal scents on the nose, light bodied but plenty of red fruits. I could have taken them home with me then and there. There were some other lovelies there as well but I was really bowled over by these NZ wines. Really worth seeking out. These NZ boutique wineries are proving that sauvignon blanc is not the only wine those Kiwis...

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