How has your week been? Not too traumatic I hope.
Sadly, I've suffered a fate in the last few days that I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. I've been found by Readers Digest.
Only two years ago I celebrated finally being rid of those constant "Authorised Prize Guarantee" and pushy "Sweepstakes Chances" letters, but now they're back.
If I reply, even just to tell them I'd rather perform plastic surgery on myself with a pair of pinking shears than renew any kind of contact with them, Readers Digest will take that as a yes and send me more letters.
If I don't reply, they'll interpret that as an indication I don't harbour the same hostility I once did and they'll send me more letters. It's a First-World dilemma for sure.
The only thing keeping me from wanting to scoop my own eyeballs out with a spoon this week, thanks to being stalked by Readers Digest, is the amount of sensational wines I've been lucky enough to taste over the last seven days, and I can't wait to tell you about them.
Before I begin I'd like to say that I'm also a huge fan of all things 500. I love that increasing numbers of Kiwi craft beers are arriving on shelves in 500ml bottles.
The piddly 330ml size just doesn't have the same appeal. I like being able to pour a long, slow slug of well-made pale ale or pilsner into a large glass from these more portly bottles; it's far more rewarding and it makes one want to slow down and savour it.
On the other side of the coin, I'm applauding Mission Estate Winery in Hawke's Bay, which recently released its first two wines in the reduced 500ml bottle size. Its award-winning, peppery, plum-laden 2011 Syrah and popular 2011 Sauvignon Blanc are now available in these petit pours for around $11, making them perfect for that romantic lunch date picnic, or to take to a BYO.
There's enough in one bottle for two decent glasses and a small top-up - but as a serving for two, there's no risk of over-indulging. Sold at select New World supermarkets and online at www.missionestate.co.nz
PENFOLDS BIN 28 KALIMNA SHIRAZ 2009, $29
The Bin 28 Kalimna is the oldest of all the Penfolds Bin series wines and there's no surprise as to why it's stayed a firm favourite for generations. I love the sweet, spicy, vanilla-infused oak and concentrated plum, boysenberry and smoky notes in this wine. It's warm, velvety and sensual when you sip and coats the mouth with delicious savoury, peppery spices and gripping tannins. An amazing wine where value for money comes into the equation - but I reckon forget the maths and just relish the mouthfeel. Amazing.
CRAGGY RANGE GIMBLETT GRAVELS CHARDONNAY 2010, $34
Drool-inducing aromas of grapefruit pith, ripe peach and buttered crumpets slathered in honey. It's succulent and juicy with tropical tones and nicely balanced, gently-managed toasty oak to counter the fruit sweetness. Crisp and tangy, it's a real treat and worth every cent. www.craggyrange.com
AMISFIELD CENTRAL OTAGO DRY RIESLING 2010, $30
Subtle mango sorbet and delicate limey citrus notes are what you'll find on the nose, yet in the mouth it's a different pot of pesce altogether. Full flavoured, rich, concentrated fruit flavours are fleshed out with mineral-driven intensity, lipsmacking acidity and punch on the palate. It's a beautiful wine with many exciting years ahead of it. www.amisfield.co.nz
WITHER HILLS MARLBOROUGH CHARDONNAY 2011, $20
The best thing about this wine (apart from the fact that it's absolutely fabulous) is that you can get it pretty much everywhere and that it's such an awesome price! Concentrated tropical pineapple, peach and citrus fruit flavours frolic across the palate, yet it's also quite taut and tangy with solid acidity and a toasty, textural finish. Take a bottle of this to your next pot-luck dinner and you'll definitely win friends and influence people. www.witherhills.co.nz
WOLF BLASS GOLD LABEL BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2009, $25
If the heady, exotic perfume of red rose, anise, cigarbox, sweet dark cocoa, violets and seasoned leather don't wow you, the succulent dark fruit flavours and velvety finish definitely will. It's a sensational wine, in the true Aussie style but without a hint of jamminess. The acidity and tannins are fresh and flexible, making it a stunning wine to serve with a slab of steak.
EAGLE VS DOG EPISODE 2 PAN GALACTIC GARGLE BLASTER IMPERIAL BROWN ALE 500ml, $9.20
Sean Harris, from Raindogs Brewing, and Dave Gaghan, from Golden Eagle Brewery, have formed an evil twinship to produce a beer they reckon "is like having your brains smashed out by a slice of lemon wrapped around a large gold brick". It's actually more like rolling a big brown mama bear in lemon and North African spices before slow-roasting, pulverising and fermenting it. Crazy and super-tasty. www.beerstore.co.nz
8 WIRED C4 DOUBLE COFFEE BROWN ALE 500ml, $11.75
With its rich amber-bronze colour, aromas of toasted hazelnuts, sweet espresso and intense hops, this beer is definitely a new favourite for me. I love the moorish, malty mid-palate and the beautifully balanced coffee flavours on the finish. www.beerstore.co.nz