The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: The Waipara Wine Region

Published by Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Permalink 0

The Art of Tasting Wine with James Flewellen: The Waipara Wine Region

by James Flewellen

About 45 minutes drive north of my hometown of Christchurch, NZ, lies the North Canterbury wine region of the Waipara Valley. The valley is nestled between the Teviotdale Hills, which shelter the region from the cool Pacific, and the foothills of the Southern Alps. The everchanging interplay of light and shadow on these surrounding hills and the immense Cantabrian skies make this one of my favourite places to visit.

Hills in the Waipara wine region

New Zealand’s wine industry is still very young (about 30 years) by global standards, yet the Waipara region has been recognised for less than half of that. While there are some well-established names in the area (Pegasus Bay, for instance), many of the wineries have only been around a decade or so, and a whole host have sprung up in the last two or three years. I’ve long been impressed with the quality of wine issuing from Waipara’s small-scale, boutique wineries. A recent visit over the New Year reconfirmed for me why this spectacular region is receiving a surge of interest and that the future looks stellar for quality wine production.

Inasmuch as such a young region can be ‘known’ for a particular style of wine, Waipara is fast becoming a home to Riesling in New Zealand, an alternative base for Pinot Noir, and a lighter, less pungent style of Sauvignon Blanc. Chardonnay is also planted and there are small plantings of other reds including Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec.

Unfortunately, my visit coincided with a public holiday, so I was unable to see many of the region’s top wineries on this trip; however, we had a lovely tasting and lunch at well-established winery Waipara Springs, newcomer Black Estate wines opened their doors up especially for us, and a trip to a family friend’s farm at Limestone Hills resulted in a tasting of their very small-scale (and delicious) Syrah and seeing a champion truffle-sniffing dog in action!

Waipara Springs

Waipara Springs is one of the more established wineries in the region. They have a well-equipped tasting room and a charming garden restaurant serving delicious food designed to match with their own wines. Waipara Springs produces a wide variety of styles. I was most impressed with their 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, which was very smartly-made, melding fresh gooseberry and passion fruit flavours with a high-acid, dry palate and a long, lemony finish.

Their ‘Premo’ series wines all showed great character and were a significant step up in quality from the house wines. The Premo Riesling, 2008, showed toffee notes of bottle age, zesty lime fruit, and was medium-sweet. Quite a full, luscious  body for a lowish alcohol wine and a refreshing tartness to the finish. The Premo Chardonnay, 2011, I found to be a rather light, elegant wine. Perhaps not one for those who like their Chardonnays to be bold and assertive, but a very pleasing wine nonetheless. The Premo Pinot Noir, 2010, seemed to me to have a bit much oak on the nose; the wine is aged in French oak for about 15 months, 20% of the barrels are new wood. But this is something that will resolve with time. Otherwise, the wine showed lovely concentration of dark plum fruit on the nose, an appealing sour cherry palate with green, herbal notes, crisp acidity and finely-etched tannins.

You can find a list of their overseas distributors here.


A delicious light lunch at Waipara Springs

Black Estate

While the Black Estate winery and cellar door is reasonably new, the site was planted back in 1993 with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The purchase by the Naish family in 2007 has seen the estate extend its plantings, with a constant eye on terroir and what the soil and mesoclimate bring to the wine. Their first Riesling release was in 2008, and I tried their 2011 incarnation. A beautiful nose with lime blossom, cream, mint leaf and sage was followed up by a rather intense lime sorbet palate. Crisp acidity was balanced nicely by the off-dry sweetness; medium alcohol (11%) and a medium length, but very pleasant finish.

Interestingly, the winery releases two different Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs: Black Estate and Omihi Series. Each comes from separate plantings with artisanal winemaking techniques (such as foot treading, and avoiding pumping) designed to bring out the terroir character in each wine. I enjoyed all of the wines and it was fascinating to see the difference the vineyards made. The Omihi Series Chardonnay, 2011, was a lean, delicate and very well-balanced wine. I discerned lighter, floral notes, with apple, cream and some truffle hints on the nose. By contrast, the Black Estate Chardonnay, 2011, had more apricot and peach notes on the nose and a heavier, more rounded body.

The Omihi Series Pinot Noir, 2010, was very aromatic, with a bright slightly estery, raspberry note along with hints of mushroom. The palate began with this bright fruit character and evolved savoury, stemmy notes all the way through to a crunchy, firm yet quite finely-etched tannic finish. Delicious, though my one criticism was the finish came through a bit hot. The Black Estate Pinot Noir, 2010, had more boysenberry on the nose, was less estery, with appealingly Burgundian ‘cooked carrot’ and white pepper hints. The palate showed a riper entry than the Omihi, with less of a progression to savoury (at least at this stage in its evolution); however, a slightly fuller, ‘gutsier’ body I felt balanced the alcohol on the finish more.

Black Estate wines are imported to the UK by Lea & Sandeman.

Limestone Hills

A highlight of the day was seeing Rosie the truffle-snuffler unearth an enormous truffle at the Limestone Hills farm. Well, I thought it was enormous, though Gareth Renowden, our host, assured me it was probably only a about 200 grams and therefore just a ‘medium sized one’! Gareth also grows Pinot Noir and Syrah grapes for his own wine made in vanishingly small quantities. I tasted the 2011 Limestone Hills Syrah and found a very interesting complex nose: black plum and berry fruit with medicinal, peppery hints alongside lavender and manuka honey. The palate showed only a medium body – a far cry from the full-bodied Shiraz of much of Australia, and even lighter than many Northern Rhone examples. Green, herbal flavours came through on the palate with a rich concentration of spicy strawberry and peppery plum. The wine had moderate acid, well-integrated alcohol and the classic, ‘ragged’-textured tannin profile I associate with Syrah. Overall a fascinating and very palatable wine.

Rosie the champion truffle-snuffler unearths some black gold at Limestone Hills farm

Waipara certainly is a region to watch in the very near future. One of the risks with hyped-up new regions is that many people can flock to invest there, resulting in huge increases in quantity and a dramatic decrease in average quality. However, as Bob Campbell MW suggests in this article, the difficulty of securing reliable yields in Waipara means that viticulturists and winemakers really do need to focus on quality to bring about a return. Long may this continue!

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Food Art: Still Life with Silver Fork, Dark Chocolate, and Red Flower, food photography by Giuseppe Bognanni

Published by Tuesday, February 19, 2013 Permalink 0

Food Art: Still Life with Silver Fork, Dark Chocolate, and Red Flower, food photography by Giuseppe Bognanni


Photo courtesy of 35 Examples of Still Life Photography.


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35-year-old Arnaud Dockele to Enter Among the 27 Michelin Stars, to be Announced Tomorrow

Published by Monday, February 18, 2013 Permalink 0

Le Monde announced a few hours ago that Arnaud Donckele chef of La Vague d’Or in Saint-Tropez, will be awarded in Michelin’s famous red restaurant guide to France 2013. The new guide comes out tomorrow, February 18, 2013.








There will now be twenty-eight 3-star restaurants in France, including five new restaurants, and 487 new 1-star restaurants.

Docklele’s style of cuisine is referred to as regional and terroir.







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Food Poetry: Fame is a Fickle Food, by Emily Dickinson

Published by Sunday, February 17, 2013 Permalink 0

Fame is a Fickle Food

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson














Fame is a fickle food
Upon a shifting plate
Whose table once a
Guest but not
The second time is set
Whose crumbs the crows inspect
And with ironic caw
Flap past it to the
Farmer’s corn
Men eat of it and die


Emily Dickinson was born in 1830 and died in 1886. The Poetry Foundation describes her as “A poet who took definition as her province, Emily Dickinson challenged the existing definitions of poetry and the poet’s work. Like writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman, she experimented with expression in order to free it from conventional restraints.” Read more of Emily Dickinson’s biography on Poetry Foundation.

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Latest rumors, first results for 2013 Michelin Stars from Gilles Pudlowski

Published by Saturday, February 16, 2013 Permalink 0

by Jonell Galloway

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Gilles Pudlowski‘s roundup of what we know so far about the 2013 Michelin guide for France.


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Jonell Galloway’s Résumé

Published by Thursday, February 14, 2013 Permalink 0

Jonell Galloway
Skype telephone number: 1-270-859-1112
Skype name: jonell.galloway.white


Professional History and Experience

I started my culinary career in Paris in the early 80s. At the Sorbonne, where I studied French language and civilization, I asked for special authorization to write my thesis on the history of French cuisine, which was exceptionally granted. I later studied at both the Cordon Bleu and La Varenne, and studied wine in various locations all over France, including Steven Spurrier’s Académie du Vin. While in France, I developed and taught a method I called Spontaneous Cuisine, a market-based derivation of classic French cuisine; was a contributing editor for the English version of GaultMillau for France; and worked as a food translator and interpreter.

I have recently dedicated myself to a “literary” food website, The Rambling Epicure, joining the voices and visions of professional writers and photographers from around the world who promote a mindful, responsible approach to real food shopping, cooking, and eating, as well as food politics, safety, history, art, literature and philosophy. I invite you to browse the site to see the depth and professionalism of the coverage.

I am fluent in English (native tongue), French and Spanish, and have proficient skills in Italian and Portuguese. Having a scientific background, I thrive on investigative journalism and writing that requires in-depth research and documentation.

I currently divide my time between Switzerland and France, where I have a 1,000-year-old house in Chartres.

Other publications and projects I have worked on or participated in:

10Best / Travel Media Group at USA TODAY, Gannett Media
Travora Media
Le tour du monde en 80 pains/Around the World with 80 Breads, Orphie (Paris)
Serious Eats
Paris Voice
André Raboud: A Review of his Life’s Work, Edipresse (Switzerland)
Ma Cuisine Méditerranéenne/Small Plates of the Mediterranean Basin, inspired by Christophe Certain’s recipes
CityGuide Paris
Geneva Lunch, Savouring Switzerland
The New York Times dining section
Athena Publications
Three Sisters’ Café, farm-to-table restaurant (Kentucky)
La Fourchette de Dimanche, RSR (Swiss French-speaking radio station)
Kentucky Poetry Review
Biography of Pierre Gagnaire, St-Etienne Tourist Bureau (France)

For more details about my professional path and education, please consult my résumé on LinkedIn at


University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. Bachelor of Science Magna Cum Laude in Psychology. Honors: Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa

University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky. Graduate studies, psychology and literature.

Sorbonne, Paris, France. French language, literature and culture. Level A diploma.

L’Ecole du Cordon Bleu, Paris, France. “Grand chef” diploma.

La Varenne (French cooking), Paris, France. Non-diploma program.

L’Ecole du Louvre, Paris, France. Art, 17th-century to present. Special diploma for foreign students.

L’Academie du Vin, Paris, France. Wine tasting.


International Association of Culinary Professionals

Geneva Writers Group

Slow Food

Les Artisanes de la Vigne et du Vin (Swiss women wine producers association, for which I am ambassadress)

Social Media and Marketing


Twitter @RamblingEpicure @SwissFoodies @JonellGalloway approximately +3,000 followers

Facebook: Jonell Galloway, The Rambling Epicure, Swiss Foodies, 4,400+ followers

Google+ 5,000 followers

Klout index usually between 61 and 63

Alexa rating The Rambling Epicure 1,200 in Switzerland (currently being rescanned). My main readership is Western Europe and the Anglophone world as well as the BRICS.



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