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Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Best of the Best---New Zealand


More than 100 wines were tasted on the recent Wine-Knows trip to New Zealand.   As we visited only la crème de la crème wineries, choosing the premier wines is like being asked to pick your favorite Michelin star meal from 2 weeks of outrageously grand dining in Europe or Japan.  Of interest is that only one Sauv Blanc made it on the list.

Below is what floated to the top.  Wines varied from $12 to $80 US and are listed in alphabetical order by producer:

  • 2008 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir:  This winery was one of our Wine-Knows clients’ favorites.  An outdoor tasting overlooking the vineyards with one of the owners and the winemaker…what could be more sublime when you add rock-star wines?  This Pinot, with soft but complex tannins, was an elegant standout. ($60 US)

  • 2010 Bilancia La Collina Viognier:  Maybe it was the drop-dead gorgeous panoramic hillside terrace setting where the wines were tasted?  Maybe it was the oh-so-talented female winemaker that lead us through the tasting of her “babies.”  Maybe it was the unique combination of 85% Viognier mixed with Gewurztraminer (another aromatic bombshell) that created this heavenly mélange?  Whatever it was, it had me at “hello.”  ($40 US)

  • 2013:  Brannock Brae’s Grϋner Veltliner:  This white varietal, little unknown outside of Austria, was just only released from quarantine in New Zealand in 2008.  If this is any example of what the varietal is capable of in the Southern Hemisphere I would say that Grϋner might be the Kiwi’s next Sauv Blanc.  With a nose of peaches and nectarines, tastes of exotic fruits and white flowers, a solid acid backbone, all matched with a lovely finish… this one really stood out.  ($20 US)

  • 2012 Dogpoint  Pinot Noir.  The earth moved on this one, and it may have been the best Pinot of the trip.  A combination of old vines mixed with others, the aromatics were cinnamon and cloves mixed with raspberries.  Roses and blueberries on the taste, along with a very good finish completed this near perfect package.  ($50 US)

  • 2012 Dry River Chardonnay:   This winery’s owner has a PhD in Chemistry from Oxford.  As chemistry is the science of composition and structure, this Chardonnay is a perfect example of complex structure and well composed parts.  With its kaffir lime, melon, pear & vanilla nuances, I can imagine drinking it with everything from Asian to Mediterranean cuisine.  ($37 US)

  • 2011 Fromm La Strada Chardonnay:   This Char garnered “one of the best buys of the trip” award.  Made in the style of un-manipulated French Burgundy, it was all about the more austere mineral profile, with hints of gooseberry and lemons.  The winning element was the finish---impressive at this price point.  ($30 US)

  • 2013 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc:  It was a real toss-up between this and their 2011 Wild Ferment Sauv Blanc, but I chose this one for its tropical nose versus the Wild Ferment’s slightly vegetal aromatics.  The flavors were grapefruit, lychees and a hint of peaches.   A fabulous finish wrapped it all up with a big bow for me.  ($25 US)

  • 2011 Mt Difficulty Long Gully Pinot Noir.  The outdoor tasting at this knock-out winery was stupendous…breathtaking vistas, gorgeous weather and 10 beautiful wines.   This single vineyard wine was the star of the Central Otago area (the new darling area for Pinot), and one of the best in the country. ($80 US)

  • 2011 Paritua Chardonnay:  I cried crocodile tears when I learned that this one is not exported to the US.  (In fact, China buys most of the winery’s limited production.)  Nonetheless, the long finish of its tropical fruit mixed with nuts really rocked my world.  The winemaker is coming to our home in August for a winemaker dinner…my fingers are crossed he’ll bring this wine.  ($30 US)

  • 2012 St Clair Grϋner Veltliner Block 5:   Although Grϋner is a very food-friendly varietal, I could sip this one all afternoon at our pool on a warm summer’s day….or, serve it as the perfect aperitif.  With an enticing lemon curd nose, it boasted a savory and spice-filled palate and a fairly decent finish considering the price point.  ($25 US)

  • 2013 Unison Rosé:  We had a killer night here at a private dinner composed of a 5 course degustation menu…all paired perfectly with this brilliant winery’s portfolio.  Bone dry, this well-made rosé made from Cab, Merlot and Sryah was matched with a homemade pumpkin tortellini in a tomato and chorizo sauce.   Loved every sip and morsel.  Fabulous buy.  ($15 US)

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