14.1.18 [Picture credit: altrarunning.com]
Over the New Year I hiked the 81-kilometer Heaphy Track on New Zealand's South Island (see upcoming post). I knew I wanted a shoe with plenty of underfoot cushioning for stony trails where the bottom of my feet would take the big hits, and no waterproof lining so my feet could keep cool and the shoe would dry quickly after river crossings and (if I got caught out by the tide) wading in the sea.
My normal go-to brand for non-alpine footwear is Keen, but I could find nothing in New Zealand without a waterproof lining. So I took the plunge and bought the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 for $249 from Shoe Science in Albany, Auckland. I also bought (from Living Simply in Newmarket) the Altra fabric minigaiters. These are pricy at $60 but prices seem to vary among retailers.
These shoes are lighter than my New Balance running shoes; hiking in them would be a new departure for me, especially as as I am 118kg (260lbs) and would be hiking with a 14kg (31lb) pack including camera gear. I did a couple of 6km warmups with them, and headed to the trip pretty confident. They turned out to be a real success. These are zero-rise shoes, but after consultation in the shop I used them with supplied wedges under the heel to reduce strain on my achilles.
They are the most comfortable footwear I've owned in ages. the broad forefoot gives plenty of toe wiggle room. This was the first multi-day trip I can remember without blisters. I did not even get a hot spot. Three others in my team wore waterproof-lined fabric boots and really suffered with blisters.
The shoes laced up nice and snugly. I only had to tighten the laces on one or two occasions where a bad step moved my foot within the shoe. But at no time did I miss having ankle support. The fit feels a smidge loose in the heel on starting a walk, but I found that after a while walking my feet spread into the shoe nicely. At no time did I feel that the shoes were unstable, despite my body + pack weight. I wondered if I would find the toe box too flimsy, but there were few opportunites on the Heaphy to stub a toe. The ankle gaiters kept the grit out effectively. Underfoot cushioning was fine; I may talk to Shoe Science about gel heel inserts, as I am a heavy heel striker and have come out of the Heaphy walk with some ongoing heel pain. Initially I put this down to a bone bruise due to impact on the stony terrain, but a podiatrist has told me I have an alignment problem (my right foot points outwards too much when walking and running) which I need to work on and the shoes are not the issue. [This post has been updated to this effect].
There were some imperfections. Some stitching has come away on the upper, which is a little annoying but does not seem crucial. Also the fabric gaiters' velcro patches require some care after use and during washing - the loose covers for the tabs supplied at sale were quickly lost. And one trade-off for the excellent breathability and drainage of the mesh on the shoe was that I got a dozen sandfly bites on my feet. Next time I use these shoes I will spend more time treating my feet with repellent before walking.
Overall, they will be my go-to footwear for most Spring to autumn backpacking from now on.
Château Clerc Milon 2005 should be a fairly classic example of red Bordeaux wine. This Pauillac property, ranked as a Fifth Growth in the 1855 Classification, languished in obscurity until becoming part of the Baron Philippe de Rothschild stable in 1970. It now has a strong reputation for often portrayed as a lighter sibling of Mouton.
This 12 year-old from a great vintage is, on paper, a solid buying proposition, ready to drink but with another 8 or more years of life in it. the 2005 Clerc Milon is generally rated as the best example for many vintages, and is a blend of 48 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 40 percent Merlot and 12 percent Cabernet Franc
Tasted at Wine-Searcher last Friday, the wine showed cedar, floral, minty and medicinal aromas with dark fruit notes in the background. It was juicy and open with more, generous, black fruit and a touch of spice; acidity and tannin were nicely balanced. There was a fleeting sensation of hollowness, but then a long creamy finish with an appealing stripe of extract across the tongue.
The wine delivered well on its promise on paper both in terms of quality and typicity as a ready-to-drink Pauillac. 
A couple of Wednesdays ago myself and five colleagues attended a very special customer tasting at Glengarry Wines' Victoria Park branch in Auckland. We were tasting 8 white Bordeaux wines, six of which were in what I would call the affordable-on-special-ocasions category - with five of these being from the Pessac-Léognan appellation. The two others were Y d'Yquem, a more established luxury classic, and a new Vin de France from Château Palmer - both at prices which will forever be beyond me.
Ch. Olivier Blanc 2014 Pessac-Léognan (NZ$49.99) Very pale colour right now. Initially subtle lemon-lime notes on nose. More tangerine and peach with time. Lots of zippy citrus and green apple, crisp and mineral-laden with great length. Should flesh out further in a couple of years but very impressive now [93+]
Ch. Couhins Blanc 2014 Pessac-Léognan (NZ$59.99) The only relative dud on the evening - lots of sulphurous matchstick aromas on nose which did not dissipate. Broader texture than Olivier on palate; juicy lemon-lime flavours. Good length but finish quite sour. Comments were similar from people who tried a different bottle; would love to try this wine another time 
Ch. Brown Blanc 2014 Pessac-Léognan (NZ$70.00) Floral and high-toned aromas; hints of honey and wax. Rounded, well-textured palate, flavours initially muted but lemon and grapefruit appear with a few swirls and time in the glass [90+]
Ch. Larrivet Haut-Brion Blanc 2014 Pessac-Léognan (NZ$89.00) Quite a deep intense gold colour already with just a narrow watery rim. Butterscotch [100% new oak on this one], tomato leaf, melon and tropical notes on the nose. Big, generous ripe and weighty with more melon and lemon on the palate, long citrussy finish. Felt more ready to go than some others here [93+]
Ch. Carbonnieux Blanc 2014 Pessac-Léognan (NZ$92.00) Another pale and watery wine, and again some hints of burnt match but more integrated with floral and melon skin aromas. Very bright lively fruit on palate; ripe apple, melon. Complex and ripe on mid palate, but with an edge of flintiness, then butterscotch coming through on finish [95+]
S de Sudiraut Blanc Sec 2014 Bordeaux (NZ$89.00) Rich deep, expressive nose with anise, gooseberry, melon and menthol (Olbas pastille) notes. Aromatic spice on the palate too, with ripe lemon barley and melon flavors. Spicy finish, with a touch of heat [92+]
Y d'Yquem 2014 Bordeaux (NZ$365.00) Nose is slightly closed but shows nutty, cheesy hints and herbal notes. Profound on the palate; minerality, toastiness, lovely texture. Elegance goes up a notch here; composed and complex. 7g per litre residual sugar but tastes a little drier. Definitely a work in progress [97+]
Vin Blanc de Palmer 2014 Vin de France (NZ $399.00) Very different beast [mostly Muscadelle with some Sauvignon Gris and the very rare Loset variety]. Nose seemed dominated by volatile acidity to me. Initially very nutty on the palate, reminiscent of Rioja and Sherry, then more lemon and apple flavours arrive. Popular with other tasters but I found it hard to evaluate, especially at this price level [90+]
Hello! Welcome to my new blog. Previously I posted sporadically on wine at atomic-wine.com, and had a gallery website dedicated to my photography. I have now decided to combine the two on this new site, which should soon feature a section where I can sell some of my images.
Working 9-5 as a writer for wine-searcher.com, I now find it hard to knuckle down to also post regularly about wine in my free time, therefore this blog will also feature photography, hiking, travel and any other topics which take my fancy.