At the end of February I jumped at the chance to visit Fine Wine Delivery Company in Auckland, to taste some library releases from the portfolio of Misha's Vineyard of Bendigo, Central Otago. Very belatedly, I have written up my notes

I fondly remember (I think) working in the vineyards there over the summer of 2013/14 - tough work on steep sites, but I certainly got a lot fitter! It was great to catch up briefly with Misha Wilkinson and her husband Andy during this very popular event.

The walk around event consisted of multiple vintages of 5 different wines, totalling 19 wines. The current vintage of each is included in brackets in the notes below, but these were not part of the tasting.

There were lots of highlights, and I did have some clear favourites. I ordered some 2012 Pinot Gris and 2008 Verissimo Pinot Noir. 

Brief Notes

Dress Circle Pinot Gris (currently on 2018)

  • 2016 Bright, floral lifted nose. Ripe yet elegant. Uncut melon and tropical fruit, with a touch of spice [92]
  • 2014 Deeper aromas, lower notes of melon and apple. Rich and textured in the mouth [93]
  • 2013 Rather dumb on nose by comparison. Floral on palate, touch soapy [88]
  • 2012 Floral, high toned nose. Explosive on palate. Bright tropical fruit, more citrussy on finish. Good balancing acidity. Excellent [96]
  • 2011 Lime aromas at first then more tropical as opens in glass. More lime on palate. Touch of minerality and crisp finish. Linear but great length [92]
  • 2010 Apple pear, banana, uncut melon on nose. Spicy apple flavours, very lush. Great texture, very long. Drinking superbly at 9. [96]

Limelight Riesling (2015)

  • 2013 Perfumed aromas of lemon and lime. Loads of lime on palate [88]
  • 2011 Vegetal, waxy nose. Round, juicy lemon and lime flavors [89]
  • 2010 Honeyed aromas. Honey and ripe lemon flavors. Harmonious and complete. Some reminders of good older Mosel, but not quite the extract or length of finish of those wines [90]

The Gallery Gewurztraminer (2016)

  • 2014 Perfumed with grapey Muscat charcaters [87]
  • 2013 Melon aromas. Spicy palate with nice balancing acifity [90]
  • 2012 More obviously floral nose. Pear drop flavours. Touch of warmth on finish [89]
  • 2011 Delicate aromas. Light and subtle [87]
  • 2010 Nose reminded me of plasticine or play-dough - in a good way. Subtle flavours but excellent length [90]

I should admit that I am generally not a fan of the Gewurztraminer variety,

High Note Pinot Noir (2016)

  • 2013 Nettles and cherries on nose, Touch of cream and deep fruit on palate. Good length, lingering fruit extract [92]
  • 2012 Some confected fruit on nose, then spice and leather. Juicy cherry fruit on palate then woodspoce. Fresh acidity and good length, but less fruit on finish than 2013 [90]
  • 2009 Evolved savoury and vegetal notes with vanilla oak characters. Creamy texture. Lacked a little complexity compared with others [88]

Verissimo Pinot Noir (2011)

  • 2009 Shared charcateristics with the 09 High Note. Roast meast on nose, very creamy palate with savoury characters continuing. Harmonious and broad [90]
  • 2008 Bright vibrant, expressive. Floral and spicy high notes and vivid fruit with vegetal back notes. Generous cherry and berry fruit on palate, Very lively; elegant power. Lovely, it sings [96]

NB I paid for my ticket to this event and have no ongoing commercial link with Misha's Vineyard. 

This entry was posted in Wine Tasting Notes, Wine by Tom Jarvis | Leave a Comment

Sadly I couldn't make it to the dinner in London last week, but I was delighted to be shortlisted in the Emerging Writer category of the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers' Awards. This has come at a great time, coinciding with receiving my New Zealand Residency which gives me greater working freedom.

While I intend to continue to write full time for Wine-Searcher, residency does allow me to pursue interesting side projects, including book editing and (if the boss is happy) occasionally writing for other publications. The LRIWWA shortlisting has freshened up my CV, and given me a fair bit of momentum in terms of networking.

Congratulations to Hannah Fuellenkemper who won the award. For a lit of my attributed work on click on Wine Writing in the menu of this website.

This entry was posted in Wine by Tom Jarvis | Leave a Comment

The second part of a five-day trek following on from the Caples Track (see previous post).

Day 1 (Day 3 of Trip): Key Summit Return, Lake Howden Hut to Lake Mackenzie Hut

DOC guide time: 1h30m + 3 hours. I took: 2 hours + 4 hours.

As we had come from the Caples Track we started the Routeburn track at Lake Howden Hut. We had certainly had a dramatic night, one of the more "memorable" of any hut stays.

Despite being one of the later arrivals I was pleased to secure a bottom bunk. A group of 10 or so middle-aged Korean men and women were well established in the hut, sharing a massive meat stew of some kind and drinking serious amounts of what I took to be Shochu out up shallow metal cups. By 7pm they were mostly in bed. However when I was ready for bed there was plenty of snoring, and at least two of their group were shouting out in their sleep, including the fellow in the bunk above me. At midnight, there was then an almighty crash. I knew straightaway what had happened...

I reluctantly turned on my headtorch and saw a hand on the floor, then followed the arm up to the bottom half of a face, underneath the bottom bunk opposite. The Korean guy above me had fallen backwards off the bunk, hitting his head on (hopefully) the ladder of the bunks opposite, or, more seriously, the frame of the bottom bunk. He had a beanie pulled down over his eyes, which made me think he had still been asleep. He had certainly had plenty to drink, at any rate.

Thankfully the guy in the bunk opposite me took control of the situation, and I was able to stay mostly in my bunk. The Korean was barely breathing, but there was a pulse. But we tried to keep him still because of possible spinal injuries as he very slowly came round. The warden was fetched, and others in the Korean party were woken. We were discussing with the warden the options regarding evacuation when one of the Koreans announced he was a doctor (as apparently did one of the women in the group). He basically shook the guy like a rag doll and declared he was fine.

The rest of us got the distinct impression that his companions were not about to let the guy and his major concussion spoil their holiday. They soon had him walking up and down outside the hut. By 4:30am the group were on their way on what turned out to be a 14 hour epic all the way to Routeburn Flats Hut, which we would reach on the morning of the day-after-next. As you can imagine, the reports we heard suggested the guy did not look too hot, and there were a few hangovers among the rest of them.

Above: Nearing the top of the trail to Key Summit.

Our schedule was much less tough. Not starting at The Divide cutting out about 90 minutes of the trail. However we began our day by heading up the path towards the trailhead for 20 minutes then turning up the side track which climbs Key Summit. We enjoyed good weather, and these proved to be the best views of our excursion.

Above: More views from the top of Key Summit.

After this 90-minute there-and-back trip I loaded up all the stuff I had left at Lake Howden Hut, and set off on the 4 hour trip to Lake Mackenzie Hut.

Above: A steady wooded climb from Lake Howden.

Above: The highlight of this section of the trail were the 174-metre Earland Falls.

Above: Looking back to the Earland Falls. The path contours along these steep slopes, around the height of the bottom of the falls as visible here, only occasionally coming out of the cover of the trees.

Above: Arrival at Lake Mackenzie Hut. 

Above: Happy in a dry change of clothing and sandals. Having said that, I should mention that for this 5-day trip I wore my Altra Lone Peak 3.0s again, as I did for the Heaphy (see review of these shoes in previous post). Once again I had the - for me - unusual experience of a multi-day hike with no suggestion of a blister. And I also enjoyed the certainty of being able to splosh through streams knowing my shoes and Icebreaker socks would be comfortable again within seconds.

Day 2 (Day 4 of Trip) Lake Mackenzie Hut to Routeburn Falls Hut

DOC guide time: 5-6 hours. I took: 8h15m

As we climbed up through the trees from Lake Mackenzie, it was already raining and apparent that this was not the ideal day to be walking the highest section of the Routeburn Track, the one consistently above the treeline and supposedly with the best long-range views on the main track. As one counters along the flank of Ocean Peak, heading noth for 4 or 5km, there should hopefully be stunning views across and down the Holyford Valley. However....

... after an early look back down at Lake Mackenzie.....

... my camera was not brought out again until I reached the shelter on the Harris Saddle, 3 or 4 hours later. I had tried to focus on keeping moving to stay warm; up to this piont I had worn a merino top and hiking pants plus my waterproofs. But in the shelter I felt wet and cold and was still feeling the effects of my chest infection. Still struggling to eat any quantity during the day, I nibbled at a Clif Bar, and put on a second merinot top and a light fleece jacket, plus gloves and two dry Buffs as a hat These remained on for the rest of the day's walk.

The weather did however improve enough for me to take a few pictures, helped by the fact that after the shelter we were heading broadly east, meaning I could usually shelter my camera from the worst of the rain.

Above: Skirting around Lake Harris. Trampers can be seen on the path halfway up the right side of the picture.

Above: Looking back along Lake Harris. This view often crops up in publications. Usually with more sunshine.

Above: Routeburn Falls Hut sits below the cascades after which it is named. There are two main falls around 50 metres apart.

Above: The evening weather cleared enough to give fine views down the valley - our route for the following day.

I arrived at the hut to find that a lot of the contents of my rucsac had got soaked through. My recently purchased Gregory pack is the first I've owned with a bag cover supplied, and I rather placed too much confidence in it. Some key items of clothing were left in various locations in the communal area of the hut in the hope that they might dry a little, and the hut warden kindly dried out my sleeping back above his log stove, which made the night much more pleasant than it might have been. But my IPod may never recover.

Day 3 (Day 5 of Trip): Routeburn Falls Hut to Routeburn Shelter

DOC guide time 2-3 hours. I took: 3 hours including breakfast break.

For the other days on this trip I had largely walked alone, meeting up wih the group in the huts. (There should be some more social photos here, but I tended to spend the evenings in recovery mode!). This was because - conscious that I had been unwell - I wanted to set my own pace in the early stages of each day to make sure I got to the end more or less in one piece.

However on the final day I certainly did not want to miss the bus! So I started at 8am rather than my previous norm of 9am. After stumbling stiffly down the rocky path immediately below the hut, the remainder of this section was easy and enjoyable, and I could revel in the sunshine.

Above: Another view down the valley towards the trail end.

 Above: Looking down to Routeburn Flats and my breakfast stop.

Above: Not as many of these on the Routeburn compared with the Heaphy Track.

Above: Veronique still feelin energetic in front of the Routeburn Flats hut. Some of the group caught me up here. As the hut is a few minutes from the main path, some bypassed it and headed straight for the finish.

Above: The last section of the trail served up the most spectacular river crossing. One benefit of the previous day's poor weather.

Above: The last good long-range view.

Above: The final bridge, with the Routeburn Shelter just on the other bank.

Above: Finished my third Great Walk!

So ended an excellent 5-day walk along the Caples and Routeburn tracks. The poor weather on the middle day of the Routeburn just gives me a justification to do it again someday (though for now my eye is on the Kepler).A stunning drive back to Queenstown via Glenorchy provided an excellent postcript - I would like to take a weekend break in Glenorchy sometime soon, just chilling out and soaking up the views.

Many thanks to Colin from the Auckland Adventure Group (via for organising the trip. And thanks also to the rest of the group who let me pace my own walks while keeping an eye out for me.

The first part of a five-day trip including the Routeburn Track.

Day One: Trailhead (Lake Wakatipu) to Mid Caples Hut

Doc guide time: 1h30m to 2h30m. I took: 3 hours.

The above timings were an early indication that I was not going to meet any of the recommended times on this trip. I had taken a few days off sick with a chest infection earlier in the week and was trying to pace myself to get through the five days in one piece.

Above: the view over Lake Wakatipu from the trailhead near the mouth of the Greenstone River.

We were are group of nine travelling in from Auckland. We are all members of the Auckland Adventure Group on Half a dozen of us took a 0710 flight out of Auckland, arriving in Queenstown about 0900. Unfortunately we had to then wait a few hours for the Jetstar flight to arrive. Several people had cancelled and had sold on their hut tickets - but the substitutes could not get the same flight. On the bright side I got to have some half decent Eggs Benedict.

We were picked up and delivered at the trailhead in a minibus by Glenorchy Journeys. Nice people, very helpful; I would use them again, especially as I imagine I would commbine the Routeburn Track with Greenstone  Trackif I walked it again. See for more details; they mainly operate on the Glenorchy/Kinloch (Routeburn Shelter) side of the Routeburn Track and service the Rees-Dart, Greenstone and Caples Tracks but will quote for journeys to out from The Divide. 

Above: the trail either ran across the meadows or wound through the trees on the edge of the slopes to the right.

Above: Mid Caples Hut, reached after three hours of relatively easy walking. However my slow pace meant that I was one of the last to arrive and ended up sleeping with a few others on the kitchen floor. At least we avoided the snoring of the dorms.

Above: The view further down the valley from the Mid Caples Hut; the route takes you through the trees on the left and then up and around to McKellar Saddle.

Day Two: Mid Caples Hut to Lake Howden Hut

DOC guide time: 6-7 hours I took: 9 hours.

The fact that the faster members of the group covered this in 5h15m made me feel rather old. The climb to the saddle is gentle but very long. I decided to have my lunch before the last 45 minutes or so of the climb, but could not digest my tuna-pocket wraps and felt very ill until reaching the saddle, and some refreshing breeze.

Above: the long wooded trudge up to the McKellar Saddle. The forest is beautiful in its own way and probably a place of wonder for those who really know their trees and plants. But with limited long-distance views for several hours this was perhaps one of the less memorable parts of the trip for me.

Above: I finally broke through the treeline at around 1000m.

Above: Approaching McKellar Saddle. Troy was also impressed by the view after several hours in the trees.

Above: Boardwalks across ecologically sensitive areas of bog.

Above: Descending towards the floor of Greenstone Valley, tramper ahead of me crossing the stream.

Above: The view along Greenstone Valley towards Lake Howden and Lake Howden Hut. The path generally traced a line through the trees on the left, just at the point where the slope met the valley floor.

Above: Looking in the opposite direction, back up Greenstone Valley. Perhaps a walk to add onto another visit to the Routeburn Track sometime in the future.

Above: Lake Howden Hut. 

Above: Lake Howden, the following morning, April Fools Day, 2018.


I recently tasted two 2013 McLaren Vale Shiraz wines side by side in a miniature "Do You Get What You Pay For?" exercise.

I'd managed to source the Gemtree Uncut Shiraz at the bargain price of NZ$19.99 against a usual price of $30 to $32. The bottle was not decanted - I would however recommend doing this both for aeration, and because the wine has thrown some sediment. The wine spends 16 months in French oak barrels froom 225l to 500l in size, with minimal racking and was bottled unfined and unfiltered. There is quite a lot of oomph in this wine; on the nose there is plenty of fruitcake, licorish and spice. Upfront the palate is ripe and juicy, then a line of bitterness develops and the ripe tannins come to the fore. [90]

D'Arenberg Dead Arm is a wine which features in my wine collection, though I have no vintages after 2004. The 2013 is a much juicier, supple, less oaky wine than my recollection of tasting those earlier vintages. This wine, at NZ$58 to $62 is around double the (usual) price of the Gemtree. Here the ferment begins in open top vessels with foot treading then after basket pressing the last third of the ferment takes place in new and used French and American barrels. Some descriptions of the winemaking which I have seen suggest only a portion of the wine remains in barrels throughout the maturation. On the nose the wine is higher toned with aromatic wood and licorish. It is even juicer than the Uncut, with brighter flavours of red and black fruit, subtle oak and well-balanced acidity. There is a stripe of grainy tannin across the tongue, but overall this is a more polished wine than the Uncut. The finish is very long, and again higher toned characters are noticeable. [93]

This was a very pleasurable return to Dead Arm. The suppleness, brightness of fruit and length of finish do mark it out from the Uncut. But event at $32 the Gemtree wine is very fair value. And at NZ$19.99 it is an absolute steal. Hunt around on if you are in New Zealand - at the time of posting Wine Central still have this wine at this great price.

This entry was posted in Wine Tasting Notes, Wine by Tom Jarvis | Leave a Comment