edited by Sue Courtney
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Waiheke Island, New Zealand
It's hard to think of New Zealand wine when travelling in the wine regions of Australia. But there is one wine I've tasted this past week that stands up to the best that Australia can offer. I know, for I bought a bottle from New Zealand with me to take out to dinner with some of Australia's most discerning wine drinkers. It was the Stonyridge Larose 1999, a superb blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
It's deep red-black in colour with an opulent berry and smoky nose. Rich cassis flavours in the mouth combine with big fruit tannins, leather, plum, smoke and spice with great fruit and licorice complexities on the very long rich, ripe and weighty finish.
Tasted blind, half the winers in the room thought they had a top-notch red from Coonawarra in front of them. The others took the option of New Zealand, for they had remembered I had said I was a bringing a kiwi wine over that would knock their socks off.
Ask any wine person who knows anything about NZ wines to name their top reds made from the Bordeaux varieties of grapes and you can bet your bottom dollar that Stonyridge Larose will be in the list. If it isn't, then the person is probably new to wine and hasn't had the opportunity to taste it. That may not be surprising because Stonyridge Larose is pretty hard to come by these days. Although it is possibly New Zealand's most expensive red and its quickly snapped up by those in the know.
Stonyridge Larose is the creation of the charismatic Stephen White (pictured on the right together with Jeremy Burn on the left) and his alter ego, the flamboyant Surge Blanco.
Just for fun, or that is what Stephen and Surge say, the next mail order release, due to be sent out this April, has a special 'Make your own Stonyridge Larose' pack as one of the options. It's wine from the vintage 2000 and contains one bottle of each of the five component varieties and a bottle of Larose itself.
I had the opportunity to taste the wines when over on Waiheke Island a couple of weeks ago.
The Stonyridge Cabernet Franc 2000 is lifted and aromatic with sweet velvety tannins. It is just lovely on its own.
The Stonyridge Merlot 2000 has sweet berry and plum aromas, rich chocolate tannins with ripe plum fruit, leathery notes and a dense finish. There's good acidity in this wine which makes it too youthful to enjoy right now as a drink on its own.
The Stonyridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 has sweet cassis aromas. There's excellent length on this wine which has lifted berry fruit, leathery tannins, smoke, cassis and cigar and a lingering leafy character.
The Stonyridge Malbec 2000 is so deep in colour it is almost inky black. It's ripe, rich and smoky with juicy plum and blackberry fruit, a lovely tannin structure and superb weight. The chocolate and sweet berry flavours are delicious. This wine is simply phenomenal!
Stonyridge Petit Verdot 2000 has heaps of colour - more inky, if that's possible, than the Malbec. It's meaty, rich, dense and powerful with ripe raisin-like fruit and smooth integrated tannins.
Blend them together in the proportion of 56% CS, 23% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 8% CF and 4% PV and you have the Stonyridge Larose 2000.
This richly coloured wine has a wondrous creamy berry nose with a lovely fragrance. In the mouth it's a huge wine with big powerful leathery tannins, generous berry fruit and spicy creamy berry oak that lingers. Having tasted the components I can sense the fragrance of the Cabernet Franc that adds to the aroma and lifts the blend while the weighty Malbec and Petit Verdot add structure and power without intruding. Stonyridge Larose 2000 is very much in its youth. It's got a lot of coming together to do and although doesn't have the drinkability that the 1999 has right now, it is destined to be one of the greats.
Ask Stephen to rate his top five vintages of Larose and the 2000, comes in second, behind the great 94. The 'top five' list to date is 94, 00, 99, 96 and 87.
If you are on the Stonyridge mailing list, you may have to opportunity to buy one of these unique packs. Just thirty packs were made. The price is NZ$750.
Expect to see Stonyridge Larose 2000 in retail at around NZ$125 a bottle.For further information, contact the new Stonyridge marketing manager, Jeremy Burn or check out the www.stonyridge.co.nz.
© Sue Courtney
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