We went to Winetopia in the Auckland viaduct last night.  It cost us $35 each for earlybird tickets, which got us 5 tasting tokens each.  We then paid $20 each extra to attend a pinot noir masterclass with Master of Wine, Bob Campbell.  I had wanted to go to the masterclass he was doing on expensive wines, but that was already sold out.

We did the masterclass first.  Bob talked a bit about why he likes pinot noir, and his thoughts on how pinot noir wine is evolving in New Zealand.  We had five wines to taste.  With each wine, we tasted the wine, then we voted with a thumbs up, thumbs down or so-so.  Then he rated them.  He seemed to like all but the last one.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have pen and paper to take notes, so I am relying on my memory here.

Rockburn 8 Barrels Pinot Noir 2019 – I found it a bit sharp, and hubby was so-so.

Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir 2018 – I didn’t like it much, but hubby said he found it quite drinkable.

Craggy Range Te Muna Pinot Noir 2016 – I was so-so on this one.  I thought I could probably drink it, but I wasn’t wowed.  Hubby really liked this one and it was the favourite of the class.

Pisa Range Black Poplar Block Pinot Noir 2004 – Didn’t like this at all.  I thought it was past it ‘best by’ date, and Bob seemed to agree that it was past its best.

Big Sky Te Muna Pinot Noir 2018 – I didn’t like this, and Bob said that he thought it needed more cellaring time.  Interestingly, we have a bottle of the 2015 in our wine fridge at home.

Bob commented that I seemed to be the only person in the class that didn’t like any of the wines.  Steve replied that I was ‘hard to please’.  I spoke briefly to Bob afterwards and said that I enjoyed collecting them more than drinking them, and he said ‘Oh no, you’re a hoarder!’  Ha ha!

After that, we went out to browse the stalls of all the wineries that were there, and try some wines.  I didn’t take notes (as I said, I didn’t have a pen and paper) so here’s my best guess at what we tried.  Most tastings were $2 each (one silver token), some were double that, and wines with a retail value over $100 were $5 each to taste (one gold token).  We used 25 silver tokens and 5 gold tokens over the evening.

Clos Marguerite Pinot Noir 2015 – I liked this.  Thought it was quite drinkable.  The lady from the winery was very chatty and quite personable.

Rapaura Springs Limestone Terrace Vineyard Pinot Noir 2018 – My favourite of the night.  We bought two bottles for $40 each.

Decibel Wines Testify Pinot Noir 2018 – This was hubby’s favourite of the night.  We bought two bottles for $65 each.

Greystone Thomas Brothers’ Pinot Noir 2018 – We liked this one.

Smith & Sheth Ohamu Cantera 2018 – We liked this one.  We’d tried their syrah at a restaurant last week, and my boss likes their cabernet franc (which he tried at the same restaurant), so it was interesting to note that all their red wines seem to be a hit.  This is a name we’ll keep our eyes open for.

Karikari Estate Hell Hole 2016 – Hubby described this as ‘unique’.  It was quite easily drinkable, but more of a quaffing wine than something you’d cellar.  Worth buying just for the name I reckon!

Karikari Estate Port 2018 – This was the only port available at the event that we saw.  I love port (definitely in preference to wine) but this port was a serious disappointment.  It had the worst aroma I’ve ever come across.  It was dreadful.  I honestly couldn’t get past the smell to decide whether I like the taste or not.  And it lingered, sticking to my glass.  Of course, there was nowhere to wash my glass, so I just had to rinse it out as much as I could with the drinking water available.  Seriously though, I’d lift my glass to my nose to try another wine and all I could smell was this port.  So gross.  This was easily the worst drink of the night.

Cardrona Distillery The Source gin – I’m not a fan of gin, and neither is hubby, but this was quite nice.  I’d rather have their vodka or orange liqueur (which we have in our alcohol cupboard at home, along with their whisky for hubby) but as far as gin goes, it was pretty good.  The young chap we spoke to said that their butterscotch liqueur (which two ladies I work with both like) is ‘fucking amazing’.  So there you go!

I know I tried one from Osawa Wines that I liked, but unfortunately even looking at their website, I can’t recall which one of their pinot noirs it was.

I also tried one from Clearview Estate that I didn’t like, but I’m not sure which of their reds it was.  I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t like it, because their Sea Red is a permanent fixture in my collection at home and one of my favourite wines, but their regular reds just don’t do it for me.  I’m sure this is the second time I’ve tried their non-dessert red wines.

We also tried wines from Greywacke and Mount Michael, but I can’t remember which ones or whether we liked them or not.

These were the gold token (read: expensive) wines we tried:

Church Road TOM Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Prophet’s Rock Cuvee aux Antipodes Pinot Noir

Escarpment Kupe Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017

Te Mata Estate Coleraine 2018

Quartz Reef Royal Series “Otto” Pinot Noir 2017

The only one of the gold star wines that stood out to me was the Kupe from Escarpment.  I liked that one, and we seriously debated buying a bottle, but in the end we didn’t.  We tried the gold token wines right at the end of the night, so everything was starting to blend into each other, which was a shame.  I kinda wish we’d started there, but of course you generally don’t like the cheaper ones after you’ve tried the expensive ones!

I found the food options very lacking.  The food seemed more intent on being ‘trendy’ than being easy to eat, filling or tasty.  Also, the event was very noisy, and towards the end they started up a band, which was utterly unnecessary as it was already so loud that it was virtually overwhelming.  At that point, we left.

Next time I do a wine tasting, remind me to take pen and paper!  I really regretted not being able to take notes.


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