Château Haut-Bages Monpelou 2002

86 points

Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. 13%

A Cab, Cab Franc blend that is surprisingly not fragrant, fresh or varietal – especially so given the vintage. A warm mellow rustic claret. Old fashioned, inexpensive.

I think it is a 2nd wine (of 5th growth Ch. Batailley) although the (lovely old fashioned) label doesn’t give any clues, to me at least.

Chateau Haut-Cabut 2003

85 points

Premieres Cotes De Blaye, Bordeaux, France. 14.5%

This is a really odd wine in that it’s not obviously from 2003. It’s a somewhat weedy Bordeaux, pretty typical of a good quality minor wine. No baked characters at all, indeed the grapes aren’t physiologically ripe, though there is plenty of alcohol, and a fair bit of oak.

With a few years this will be better, never great or fine, but not jammy either.

Goes to show that some vineyard sites, or perhaps some price points, will always be vegetal. Or should I say usually – 2005 might be the exception.

Chateau d’Armailhac 2002

92 points

Pauillac, Bordeaux, France. 12.5%

This is a superb wine, really showing off the best of 2002, where the cabernet dominant areas did best. This wine has great purity of flavour, plenty of zesty energy, but also a richness that only the best wines of the vintage achieved. Haut Bages-Liberal, also a great wine, is in comparison harder and less expressive.

This is classic classed growth left bank claret, and should last 15 years easily. Special occasion wine, and in this context (it’s still not exactly cheap) a bit of a bargain.

Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002

88 points

South Australia, 14.5%

This is a multi-region blend most probably a mix of cooler regions in the South (eg Coonawarra, Pathaway) and warmer regions in the North (eg Barossa, McLaren Vale). It sounds ideal on paper, but seldom seems to work out so well in practice. But 2002 was a cool elegant year, particularly successful in the warmer regions and I thought this wine might really do well in this vintage.

And it is not a disappointment. An enjoyable sweetish blackberry and currant flavoured wine, with emphasis on impressive structure (balancing alcohol and acid, and tannin) rather than producing a complex food friendly wine. It still seems very young, but drinks quite well without food. There is some fairly overt slightly sweet oak. With more age the wine will become more mellow and old-fashioned big cabernet.

Good value (especially given it’s available retail at 5 years old). The current release 2004 should also be good.

Elderton Barossa Shiraz 1999

91 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14.5%

Dark colour – throwing a bit of crust.

At around 6-8 years from vintage this wine starts to show more traditional characters of added acidity, greasepaint, and also lovely savoury (somewhat Spanish) character. It really is the optimum time to drink.

This was a particularly good bottle, better than several I bought from the winery a couple of years ago (odd as one would have thought they had excellent cellaring conditions).

Puriri Hills Reserve 2005

91+ points

Clevedon, Auckland, New Zealand. 13.5%

Another impressive 2005 wine from Puriri Hills. Again a merlot dominant “right bank’ bordeaux blend.

Lovely expressive nose, nice smoky aromas (the house style) and quite fragrant fruit.

The wine is a bit syrupy but I suspect that is not a bad thing on a wine so young. Certainly it is very concentrated.

I’ll give a proper evaluation of this wine when I taste it directly alongside some others, and with a few more months in bottle. But for now it appears to have lots of potential to be fine wine with ripeness, concentration and still nice acidity – good with food.

Puriri Hills 2005 Estate

90+ points

Clevedon, Auckland, New Zealand. 13.5%

Merlot dominant blend. Lovely dark shiny colour young, but not purple. Deep, tight, closed aromas with nice tough of herbaceousness and nice touch of warm oak.

Ripe burst of red currant fruit with savoury tarry edge. A smidge of burnt toffee, in a proper claret savoury style. This really is a very flash young wine, with a mid palate weight that makes the wine quite approachable in spite of its age. This might be similar in style to many 2005 Bordeaux, it has the fresh acids and perfectly ripe fruit of this great vintage.

Above this is a reserve wine and another super premium (the Pope) – which is very impresive given the quality of this wine !

Why are Puriri Hills releasing these 2005s when they still have several previous vintages for sale? I think it’s because they are so good. This is to put a stake in the ground and show what they are capable of. I’m sure they must be very proud of this vintage. It’s very impressive, I hope that there are more to come. A top wine for NZ and good value too.

Puriri Hills Reserve 2004

87 points

Clevedon, Auckland, New Zealand. 13%

A merlot, carminere, cabernet blend. Another example of classy winemaking from this new estate. Very much a classic lean-ish Bordeaux style, dark colour, nice tight fruit and deft use of neutral French oak. More concentration than the 2002, but not the right bank style they are aiming for, there just isn’t the weight or physiological ripeness – wait for the next vintage 2005 for that.

This should age well, indeed it really needs a few more years of age. And appropriate food. Impressive wine from an estate that obviously has ambitions, but as with the 2002 not quite justifying the price.

Chateau de Seuil (rouge) 2002

89 points

Graves, Bordeaux, France. 12.5%

I knew nothing of this wine. I think I bought it last year for around $30. I opened it as a contrast to Puriri Hills Reserve 2004. Both are lean-ish rather classical wines with aging potential.

Dry, nice mineral iron-like characters, more savoury than the Puriri, also more fragrant, and some deeper riper flavours. Clean, with nice balance and energy. A very good example of how good 2002 can be. A surprise. Good value.

Walnut Ridge Pinot Noir 2003

89 points

Martinborough, New Zealand. 13.5%

A warm soft, big cuddly Pinot Noir. Drinking well now. It’s not super fine, and certainly not vin de garde. But it is pure, well crafted and flavourful. Vastly better than the Chard Farm ‘River Run’ Pinot tasted alongside.

This is the sort of Pinot that is building NZ reputation.

PS Apparently this winery is now opened and operated by Ata Rangi, who have a fine reputation for Pinot Noir.

Peter Lehman Stonewall Shiraz 2001

87 points

Barossa Valley, South Australia. 14.5% cork

A very concentrated, somewhat traditional Barossa shiraz. A classic for cellaring and investment. This vintage was warm and the wine shows tight concentrated ultra ripe (even dried) fruit, and some savoury black olive falvours up front. Yet while all this sounds very nice it’s overshadowed by substantial alcohol burn and a (very long) slightly jammy finish.

Anne took one sip and announced she would drink no more – “it’s like port”.

Indeed it is. I very much like good vintage port, but don’t drink it often and certainly not with the main meal. But I don’t want to give the impression that this wine is in the modern sweet, alcoholic (Yellowtail etc) style, it isn’t it is dry and rather savoury. Like dry port, Grange style.

Others have been kinder eg
“Stonewell comes back to true form. Welcome back, we‚ve missed you. Pull up a chair, better still a sofa, and sit back to enjoy the performance of black macerated prunes, plums and drunk raisins dancing around the camp fire. An entire cast of black and red cherry fruit swings in on the finish, and there’s a hint of tang from hung meats, cured hams and dry spice wafting down from the main street of Tanunda. Andrew Wigan manages to capture every molecule of essence from the Stonewell vineyard in this heroic, legendary wine. Tyson Stelzer & Matthew Jukes; Taste Food & Wine 2007

Pio Cesare Barolo 1999

85 points
Barolo, Italy.

Warm soft, somewhat spicy. Pleasant but disappointing for a Barolo, expensive as always. I think this highlights the dangers of buying aged wines off retail shelves, they often seem to have the stuffing knocked out of them.

Cave Spring Riesling 2005

83 points

Jordan, Ontario, Canada. 11%

Stuck in a Toronto hotel with minus 20C outside there was no choice but room service and the miserable wine list. Rather than pay top dollar for horrible commercial Australian or Californian reds we settled for this local riesling. Drinkable, very cool climate wine – a pleasant surprise after the back label announced that due to the diminished yields of 2005 they had had to blend in some (unspecified) international wine – yikes. But, as I said, still very limey cool climate. Sadly lacking in riesling full flower flavour, but not bad.

Spann Vineyards Mo Zin 2003

87 points

Sonoma County, California, USA 14.3%

Zinfandel 72%
Mourvedre 23%
Petite Syrah 5%

from a tiny liquor store in Venice Beach, California. Staffed by some real wine enthusiasts.

A blend that really seems to work. The Mourvedre tones down the overt characters of Zinfandel which under the Californian sun can be ridiculously “tomato sauce with alcohol”.

Lovely fruity tannins on the finish like a good Southern French wine. A touch of mocha oak, but only a deft touch. My main criticism of this wine is the alcohol burn which is annoying even though the wine has 14.3% which is not excessive given the blend and region.

Overall a good fun and honest wine. The blend points the way for others.