Held in Auckland, at the Hancocks Tasting Room. 29 special guests of Mr Grahame Haggart; as it was his enormous generosity at offering from his own private collection 18 vintages of Stonyridge Larose that the event happened at all. The tasting started with the 1987, then from 1993 working our way through to the 2009 vintage. Over 2 flights of 9 wines all served in Riedel stemware - with the owner & winemaker Steve White taking us back to each vintage in turn and with comments and stories of the day from many in the room, the tasting was one of a life time. It was the largest tasting Steve had hosted of its type in the world. To be able to taste 3 decades of one of New Zealands iconic wines, was a journey and experience that will not be forgotten.
The following are a copy of my; notes, scribbles, observations and wine theatre / poetry from the night... I hope that they bring a smile and a little insight into the ‘Stonyridge Larose’ wines that we enjoyed on the night.
80 Onetangi Rd, Waiheke Island, New Zealand
Owner/ Winemaker: Stephen White
Owner/ Winemaker: Stephen White
On the nose wild truffle, game, hints of smoky Parma Ham, wild theme and dark bush berries. The truffle and berries carry through onto the palate, woven with leather, silky tannin notes have completely knitted themselves through the backbone of the wine, with a pleasant lingering character of homemade Xmas pudding. The finish has those summer bonfire smoke notes and the wine is crying out to be matched with very slowly cooked aged Lamb Shanks that are falling off the bone as your plate in placed in front of you, on a bed of truffle mash.
Stonyridge Larose 1993
On the nose as you raise the glass you have a hint of dried herbs hanging in the pantry, with a open bag of field mushrooms in the corner, then as you air the wine a dare to swirl it to the edge of the glass - these notes develop further and remind you of the first time to used a pestle ‘n mortar and crushed herbs, and spices with coarse salt, then as you place the wine into your mouth you simply seem to forget that you have a wine on your palate as all you can taste are these herbs rubbed over a aged sirloin steak, having been seared to perfection. The wine is starting to show its age that only a full life can genuinely achieve, though far from tired in the glass.
Stonyridge Larose 1994
The nose gives you a hint to what seems a precocious wine, with lively and bright aromas leaping from the glass. Notes of herbs, wild theme are supported by elegant violets and lavender characters. On the palate these notes direct you to ripe cassis, sautéed cherries in brandy, hints of sweet cranberries - that engages the brain to think only of Roast Lamb and rustic season vegetables. This wine has good length and well balanced tannin structure, still life in this wine for another 5-7 years of careful cellaring. I liken this wine to a well written book, (not a fast page turner, as each page has a great deal of detail to take in, but the ending is an exciting mystery well worth the wait)
Stonyridge Larose 1995
The nose is packed with summer berries, in particular dark black Doris plums. On the palate with wine shows Xmas tart spices and integrated tannins from both the fruit and the oak. The oak plays a much more obvious role in the wine; holding all the characters in the wine evenly together so one doesn’t fall behind or another take too much of centre stage. The palate is for ever changing as you tune out all surrounding noises to concentrate on the multitude of layers and nuances in the wine. It is one of those wines that you need ‘David Attenborough’ to guide you through (and narrate) the kaleidoscope of flavours some known, and others that have evolved in the bottle. Plus a finish - that thankfully doesn’t end.
Stonyridge Larose 1996
The aromas of this wine take you back to being a young child - the first time you walked into a roadside orchard shed makeshift stall packed with the morning harvest of ripe summer berries, some split and dripping in their baskets and punnets and the aromas carried on the breeze running from the back door. The palate is packed with flavour, where do I start - how do you describe a wine like this and ensure you do it justice. I feel I will fail miserably - so I apologise now, but here goes.
It’s like someone has finally put a wine in front of you, and in your glass and it finally explains everything about wine that you have only read about and never had a clue what the writer was talking about. This is the wine that turns the light on. Stunning complexity, layered with herbs, summer fruits, tannin, and oak that even after 14 years - has got a firm grip on this wine, but a fair hand and has all the instruments in the orchestra playing to the same tune. Do you remember as a child finding fresh black berries on a wild bush on the walk home from school and no one is around to spoil your fun - this wine gives you back that honest pleasure and infectious smile you won’t be able to explain unless someone was there with you. Possibly one of the greatest wines I have ever had the pleasure to listen too. Yes listen, a story I will never forget and want to share for a life time.
Stonyridge Larose 1997
Wow - what a bouquet - leaping from the glass like freshly cut garden flowers to large for the vase they are standing in. Aromas of freshly ground Guatemalan coffee, toffee, bitter chocolate, cassis, hazelnuts and vanilla pods. For those who have travelled or have had the opportunity to have a genuine ‘Black Forest’ Gateau - you will instantly connect with what is currently in my glass. The wine currently reminds me of a Barbarians Rugby team in the UK at their first training session - packed with quality - but still to find its best combination, but still has the confidence to knock you over. Imagine a country pub famous for Guinness, Steak & Mushroom pie, this wine will make it a match winner. Will cellar for another 8-10 years.
Stonyridge Larose 1998
Stonyridge Larose 1998
Shy on the nose, but don’t be fooled by first impressions. This wine is far from lacking the skill set to win the next Triathlon World Champs. This could be a perfect wine for the Duracell Battery adverts; the flavours and the wine will last longer than the next best red wine in your cellar. As you swirl the glass to the point where the odd drop stands up on the edge of the glass notes of violets and lavender are subtly integrated with tobacco and dark berries - with a hint of liquorice and silky tannins guiding you like a well experienced tour guide - giving you confidence to take the next step and explore more into the darkness of the cave. This wine cries out for game meats, venison, ostrich and char-grilled vegetables.
Stonyridge Larose 1999
The wine draws you closer with notes of theme, freshly ripped mint, herbs, and floral aromas, with what reminded me of a warm berry tart cooling on the kitchen bench. The tannins from both the fruit and the oak are firm, confident and taking a forward/leading position in the wine. But as with any tight unit all the other components are tightly knitted and in close quarters in equal proportion following the tannin and oak notes. The wine has an amazing mouth feel and finishes with an exotic spice, you could be in the markets in Morocco, watching you dinner being slowly turned over an open flame.
Stonyridge Larose 2000
Don’t sneak up to this wine - as it will catch you by surprise, (Like an ‘Indiana Jones’ surprise - the movie). I didn’t think you could pack some much into the aroma of a wine. This wine has it all (no I didn’t look for the kitchen sink) - but it has everything you could hope for. Black Doris plums, Black Liquorice (the old fashioned type you used to get in a grocers store in a small brown paper bag).
This wine is not for the faint hearted - this wine should have safety warning on the label - this is a wild ride. The aromas and flavours of this wine simply have you salivating and craving meat like you have never done before, it releases the carnivore in all of us.
Imagine for a second - as I’m sure very few people have actually done this, but it paints the best picture of what this wine is like on the palate.
Imagine trying to BBQ a wild Buffalo while riding on its bare back - it was a wild ride. This wine is simply too big for one bottle, only time will ‘tame’ this wine. Cellar for another 10+ years.
Stonyridge Larose 2001
The nose is full of Xmas fruit cake notes, roasted herbs and a subtle floral note giving it a final lift. The palate has red plum, nectarine, and an overwhelming character that reminds me of homemade Rum-Balls (that sweet mixture of chocolate, rum and diced raisins...) the finish is lively and energetic, bouncing from one taste bud to the next. This wine still has not completed the pages to its life story; it still has time in the bottle and still many memories to create for those who can wait.
Stonyridge Larose 2002
The glass is fighting a losing battle to restrain all the aromas packed into this wine. Rich, ripe cassis berries, fresh chocolate torte, and a strong note of what I describe as Hazelnut Praline, then on the palate small explosions of Morello cherries. The ‘recipe’ - if there is such a thing for a living breathing creation as this Larose should be kept in a Swiss Bank vault, as the palate feel and flavours are such a dynamic experience that Movenpick the ice-cream company will fight wars to get the secret. Eat your heart out Movenpick and Haagen-Dazs - this is ice cream for adults and the best thing – is that this won’t melt away or run down your arm, and even though it seems hard to believe, this wine will improve over the next 8+ years.
Stonyridge Larose 2003
The nose instantly reminds me on Brandy-Snaps filled will chocolate cream, mocha-coffee and the odd blackberry on the side. The palate reminds me of the first time I saw a Picasso - instantly drawn to the dramatic colours, angles and emotion, but needed to sit down and take some time to get to grips with it. This wine is no different; so much is going on in the glass, this wine walks to a different beat, but one that is not offensive to the eyes, ears or palate, on the contrary - but I would advise careful cellaring and enjoy with friends that you trust and whom appreciate good wines and bring someone along that can really cook. I would enjoy this wine in another 10+ years, but first study up on your Picasso’s, so you are prepared for the sensory journey this wine will take you on.
Stonyridge Larose 2004
A bottle of wine is still to date the only time-machine man has made, and the aromas of this wine instantly take me back to my childhood - when visiting a sweet shop, where your senses were bombarded from all directions by colour and aromas. Dark hard lollies, berries and a dominate note on the nose is liquorice allsorts. Then you have this enveloping aroma of oak, like you had fallen asleep in the afternoon in a barrel room and the smells of red wine, alcohol and oak soaked barrels fill the cellar.
As the wine hits your palate you are greeted and overwhelmed with power and length of flavour, you find yourself putting your wine glass down and drawing in breath while you deal with the explosion overload in your mouth.
With only 6 years in the bottle - I liken this wine to the Stage Show ‘Les Misérables’ performed recently at the O2 arena in the heart of London. Arguably the most enthralling, powerful and dramatic performances on the stage - by a cast of characters that each on their own is a story and an emotional connection that cannot but affect you, then they all have a much larger entwined story to tell and share.
But with so little time in the bottle - the wine is no less special - though it is like this world class cast has just returned from a short season break, time away from the stage and they know each part that they are to play - but they are not quite hitting the perfect notes as yet. So I would suggest you get a group of friends together and come back to this wine and it will affect you like no other for the rest of your life.
Stonyridge Larose 2005
Imagine letting young kids loose in the kitchen with a bench-top full of dark summer berries, chocolate cookies and asking them to mix them all together and serve on a bowl for a summer dessert. Then imagine you are one of those kids and you are licking your fingers - that is what the nose on this wine reminds me of, call me mad if you like, but what a great image and what a great bouquet to this wine.
The palate is warm and inviting, but it is not showing you all that is has to offer, it wants to get to know you first, and then with a little time in the glass and air – it will reveal pockets of mocha, tobacco and a hint of cigar smoke wrapped up in firm tannin and oak structure. This wine is like meeting and making a new best friendship, one you instantly know will endure a long and dynamic life. This is such an honest wine, it has nothing to hide - it is a sheer delight. Please cellar for another 10-12 years and treat yourself.
Stonyridge Larose 2006
Boiled lollies on the nose, with hints of black liquorice, tobacco smoke, mocha-coffee and sautéed blueberries in a pan with a dash of sugar and alcohol. Currently you hear people reciting the song, “the sounds of summer” - well the aromas of this wine remind me of ‘the smells of summer’. On the palate you have spice, chorizo, and Tuscan aged ham all balanced with confident tannin and oak.
Aromas and flavours always take my mind on a journey and this wine is no different. My first thought was imagine stopping at a roadside trattoria in Tuscany on a hot summer’s day, selecting from the open serving area and choosing a few slices of a locally aged and cured Tuscan ham, a few slices of locally grown Tuscan tomatoes, Parmigiano cheese and a few slices of unsalted local bread and making a sandwich and sitting under a Cyprus tree and enjoy. What could be better, oh yeah - sharing the moment. This wine will reward those with patience for another 12+ years.
Stonyridge Larose 2007
The nose reminds me of Xmas pudding packed with berries, raisins and supported by violets and a subtle hint of lavender. The palate is gamey, rich and complex and layered only showing you tiny glimpses of the full picture of a full flavoured mouth filling wine. Even after decanting the wine for more than 2 ½ hours - this wine is packed with detail that can’t be completely appreciated this young in its life, though please be clear the wine is no less enjoyable - though it is clear there is still so much to learn and explore.
I liken this wine to a 2 day Contiki Bus tour exploring and visiting Rome while looking through a glass window. You can see Rome (well parts of Rome) - but you won’t truly experience, feel, understand Rome and its history, culture, language and cuisine.
I suggest that you come back to Rome and spend a lifetime getting to know Rome / Italy and bring the wine with you at the same time, as this wine has a long and full life to live and share with you if you wish.
Stonyridge Larose 2008
Who remembers ‘After Eight’ dinner mints wrapped in dark chocolate, well that is the first impression I get on the nose. Then hints of Morello cherries, mocha chocolate and well balanced tannin and oak are there to ensure the wine takes the right course through it development. This wine is so youthful and showing so much natural, raw potential, you have to hold back and not rush it too fast.
This wine reminds me of Usain Bolt - (the world fastest man) - not because this wine will be over in a short time, far from it. It reminds me of Usain Bolt just arriving in the stadium (or in this case - the wine glass) - greeting people, smiling, making small conversation - while the whole world awaits the exposition and sheer power, and natural ability of the man to excite every person who sees him take each step along the track. This wine is just the same - from previous vintages (journeys down the track) - we have high anticipation of the wine to come and know it will be special. For those with patience - invest 12-15 years.
Stonyridge Larose 2009
This wine is just like an unbridled thoroughbred that has thrown its jokey in the starting gates, it simply can’t wait to show the rest of the field, (wine enthusiasts) what is can do. The wine already has a very inviting and rich nose. Like this well groomed thoroughbred in the starting gates - it is clear for all to see the rippling muscles - (quality of fruit, tannin and oak structure) - but like the horse it would be a very brave person to get into the gate and try and tame the horse (wine) and try and ride it today.
But like a sure thing investment - (which is not a common thing these days) - I would put my money/ invest in this wine and enjoy in about 8-10 years. The reason for the slightly early drinking time - is that the wine is no less a wine than previous vintages, but unlike a wild stallion - this lively thoroughbred has had a much more gentle upbringing, introduction to the world, (growing season) and a soft, caring hand from the winemaker to bring it along to show its winning potential in a slightly shorter time frame.