Visiting some West Auckland wineries

Earlier this month, hubby and I decided to explore some of our local wineries.  We are lucky to live in an area that has a number of great vineyards and wineries.

I jotted down some notes on the wines we tried to put in my CellarTracker app, so I thought I’d share them with you.

Babich Wines

Our first stop was Babich Wines in Henderson.  We used to live literally just down the road from them, but had never been there before.  Seems crazy, when they were in walking distance for more than ten years, but there you go.

The building itself was lovely and well presented.  It was bucketing down with rain on the day we went, and the young guy there came and opened the door and guided us in (not that it was confusing, more just offering assistance as we were too busy dodging the rain to look where we were going).  Inside had a nice, professional ambiance, and there was a little room off the main one where they had some history about the business, with awards, photos and memorabilia showcased.

The guy serving us was really nice, helpful without being patronising.

Babich Winemaker’s Reserve 2015 Pinot Noir
Website description: A sweet, dark aromas with cedar and strawberry. Palate is rich with cocoa and spice. Morello cherries and velvety tannins fill the mid palate runs through to join vanilla and more sweet darkness on the finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Peppery smell, quite smooth, no lingering aftertaste.  We bought a bottle for $40.

Babich Black Label 2017 Syrah 
Website description: Beautifully scented dark fruits, dark spice and raspberry.
Elle’s thoughts: Smooth.  We bought a bottle for $23.

Babich 2017 Merlot Cabernet
Website description: Deeply coloured, with berry, plum,and spice flavours – well rounded finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Light, a little sharp, a little dry.

Babich 2015 The Patriarch
Website description: Fleshy and full entry with dark plums and sweet tarry notes. Chocolate. Tannins bind red floral aromatics to the palate and stretch the flavours through onto the lingering finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Smooth, rich, a little dry.  We bought a bottle for $80.

Babich Winemakers’ Reserve 2017 Late Harvest Riesling 
Website description: Tropical fruit, apricot marmalade and honeyed flavours with good depth
Elle’s thoughts: Very sweet, very smooth, nice flavour for a white dessert wine.  I prefer red dessert wines, but this was definitely drinkable and I enjoyed it.

Overall, we were really impressed by Babich Wines and thought it a shame we hadn’t visited sooner.  I’m sure we’ll go back.

Coopers Creek Vineyard

Out to Huapai, we had lunch at Coopers Creek’s restaurant, The Tasting Shed, which was quite nice.  It had a rustic feel to it, but the food was nice and well presented.  They catered well to my husband’s dairy allergy.

After lunch, we went to the cellar door to try some wines.  They had a roaring fire going in their tasting room, which was lovely (as it is winter here in New Zealand).  The gentleman was busy serving other customers, which was a shame as he seemed very knowledgeable and chatty.  We were served by a woman who didn’t seem interested in telling us anything about the wines.

Coopers Creek 2015 Syrah
Website description: This skilfully crafted red has bright, youthful colour, good density of ripe, plummy, spicy flavours, savoury notes adding complexity and a well-rounded finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Very sharp. Didn’t like this at all.

Coopers Creek Guido In Velvet Pants 2015 Single Vineyard Montepulciano
Website description: At bottling this wine was full of youthful vitality. Soft, velvety tannins balanced by loads of juicy black fruit in the mid palate.
Elle’s thoughts: Very sharp. So much for ‘velvet’. Didn’t like at all.

Coopers Creek Gimblett Gravels 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon 
Website description: Not a massively full-bodied wine, but a wine with great balance, fineness and finesse. The tannins are soft and round and there is just enough fruit sweetness to give the wine real length and focus.
Elle’s thoughts: Very sharp. Didn’t like this at all.

The Hunting Lodge Winery

We ate at the Hunting Lodge’s restaurant for our wedding anniversary in January, and really liked their Single Vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir.  We’d later ordered three bottles of it online, all of which we still have, waiting to be enjoyed.  We’d gone back for the North West Wine and Food Festival but they hadn’t had any of their reds available for tasting that day, and their cellar door had been closed.  This was our first chance to try some of their other wines.  They actually didn’t have a big selection of reds, but the lady assisting was friendly.  We didn’t experience much of the ambience of the place, but there were areas for dining (separate from the restaurant proper) and it seemed inviting enough.

The Hunting Lodge 2018 Lagrein
Website description: Dense ruby in colour, it displays bright Damson plum, black cherry and wild bramble characters. A juicy, round mid-palate is densely packed with fresh boysenberry flavours, licorice and bitter dark chocolate. Hints of tobacco, vanilla and a mineral edge dance around firm acidity and pronounced tannins. Full bodied, but not heavy, Lagrein delivers straight-up, fruit-forward pleasure underneath it’s dark, tough exterior.
Elle’s thoughts: Quite nice. Interesting flavour.  We bought a bottle for $32.

The Hunting Lodge 2018 Expressions Pinot Noir 
Website description: Underneath the varietal Pinot charm, lies a serious side wine with an enticing richness of dark cherries, red plums, licorice, dried herbs and wild mushroom. Fragrance and fruit sweetness are met by firm acidity and svelte tannins. Toasty French oak completes the structure, providing an air of class, worthy of this noble variety – a perfectly balanced Pinot Noir with all the sophistication and none of the temperament.
Elle’s thoughts: Very light, no lingering aftertaste. Quite quaffable.

Fino Valley Wines

We headed back home after The Hunting Lodge, but decided to pop into Fino Valley Wines on the way back.  It’s a very small outfit, with a ‘tasting room’/shop that’s not much more than a little shed.  Very basic.  The ‘door bell’ that went off when we arrived was more like a serious burglar alarm, but we understood that it was intended to alert those who were further afield on the property as the shop is not staffed fulltime.  The guy serving us seemed a bit socially awkward and quite abrupt.  Not unpleasant, just like he’d be more comfortable talking to his dog than actual people, you know?

Now, I have to be very clear about the wine we tried.  While I’ve noted my impressions of it, I genuinely think the wine had oxidised.  We think it had been open for some time (I doubt they get many visitors) and while we don’t know if it had been open for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, it wasn’t good.  I don’t believe that our impressions are indicative of what you’d experience if you opened a new bottle and tried.  Now, having said that, who the fuck doesn’t make sure that they’re offering a decent glass of whatever it is to the person trying it?  Like, that’s your job, right?  You’re allowing a customer to taste your product, you make sure it hasn’t gone off.  But whatever.  Although the guy told us that they export a lot of wines, particularly to China, they’re not well known here.  Locally they’re known for their ports (although, being made outside of Portugal, they’re not actually referred to as ports), and that’s what I was really interested in.

Fino Valley 2014 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon
Website description: This fine blend has lovely blackcurrant and blackberry aromas and flavours, complimented with delicate floral notes. After French Oak maturation, this wine has developed subtle leather complexity with a lingering finish.
Elle’s thoughts: Awful. Absolutely undrinkable. Made us wonder if the bottle had been open for days (weeks?!). Maybe it was off? Tasted horrendous anyway.

Fino Valley Classic Old Tawny
Website description: Complex mellow flavors are smooth and sweet with very delicate wood notes that compliment the rich aromas of mature fruit.
Elle’s thoughts: Smooth. Nice flavour.

We bought a bottle of their 10 Year Grand Old Tawny for $30.

All together, it was a nice half day out, and we came home with four bottles of wine and a bottle of port.  We’ll definitely go back to Babich I think, and I’ve signed up for their email newsletter.  Don’t think we’ll go back to Coopers Creek.  Fino Valley was a bit of a weird experience, but I did like the port, so I won’t write them off.  I think Mazurans is better when it comes to port (especially on the service side!) but I’ll enjoy the bottle I bought.

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