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One on One With Winemaker: Phil Rose of Wairau River, New Zealand

July 15, 2017 2 comments

It just happened to be that once again, we will be talking about New Zealand wines. Once again, we are going to visit Marlborough. And once again, we are going to meet with a pioneer.

Wairau River Vineyards

Source: Wairau River

Wairau River Wines‘ story started in 1978 when Phil and Chris Rose became grape growers (Phil was a farmer since the childhood, so the transition was not that dramatic). In 1991, they also became winemakers, producing their first wine. Today, Wairau River vineyards span 550 acres, making it one of the biggest family owned wineries in New Zealand. And it is all truly in the family, as Phil and Chris’ two sons and three daughters are all working at the winery.

Wairau River Wines produces two lines of wines. The Estate collection includes all of the usual suspects, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and Chardonnay, but you can also find some oddballs there, such as Albariño. The Reserve line also includes Syrah and Viognier, as well as late harvest botrytized Riesling.

I had an opportunity to sit down with Phil Rose (albeit, virtually), and inundate him with questions – here is what transpired.

[TaV]: You started growing grapes in 1978. Was there a pivotal moment which got you into the grape growing? Were grapes a long-time passion before you started, or was there an event which brought you into the world of the wine?

[WR]: The oil shock in the 1970’s meant we looked for an alternative away from the farming of beef and sheep plus the growing of Lucerne and other crops. However due to a rural council district scheme rule, grape growing was prohibited on land north of old Renwick road. 
We were required to apply for permission to establish a vineyard, which we did but the application received 56 objections and not one single vote of support. There were a number of reasons for the objections. Forestry owners were concerned they would no longer be able to use sprays like 2.4.5.t because of its impact if grapes were nearby. Local farmers were also concerned their normal farming methods would be threatened. There was also the moral opposition such that no one should be able to grow a product that could be turned in to alcohol. 
Unfortunately the council denied our application, so we appealed. But things moved even slower back then than they do now – and it took 18 months for the independent tribunal to take place. 18 months where we worked hard to try and convince the powers that be and our own neighbors that grape growing in the Rapaura area of Marlborough had huge merits. 
Finally in 1978 we got a unanimous decision from the tribunal which gave us the permission we needed to become contract grape growers. As a result, the council had to change the district plan and open the Rapaura area up to grape growing.

[TaV]: Can Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc age? What was the oldest Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc you ever tried? What is the oldest Sauvignon Blanc you have in your cellars?

[WR]: Of course the wine will age well although the wine takes on different characters with age as do all wines. Most sauvignon blanc now though is consumed in its youth as its fresh, crisp and lively style that have become hallmarks of our success. 1991 was our first vintage and we still have a few bottles of that in the cellar.

[TaV]: Did you ever experiment with cork versus Stelvin closures? Obviously, all your wines use the screw tops, but I wonder if you ever tried to create a control batch with the conventional corks and see how the wines would compare.

[WR]: We bottled our first wine in screwcaps in 2002. Prior to that we were 100% cork but never really happy with the closure. We felt that cork was tainting, oxidising and affecting the delicate aromas of sauvignon blanc in particular. 
Wairau River was part of the New Zealand screwcap initiative that was formed in 2001 and we did many trials in the early days – all of them showing that wine under screwcap was far better in terms of consistency and quality than corks. 
Today we are 100% screwcap for all of our wines.

[TaV]: It seems that Wairau River is truly a family operation top to bottom. Do you ever have any work conflicts? If yes, how do you resolve them?

[WR]: Yes we now have the whole family and some their partners involved in running the business across vineyards, winery, cellar door and restaurant. It is not often there are any issues but having a voice and opinion is important and so we all listen and work through this and will always achieve a result that works for everyone. We also have a board of directors which meets regularly which helps with accountability and offers independent advice.

[TaV]: The question I always like to ask: what was the worst vintage you remember at Wairau River and why? 

[WR]: I think 1995 will long be remembered as the toughest vintage we have had. It rained and rained

[TaV]: And the second question I always like to ask: what were your most favorite vintage years and why? 

[WR]: Actually there are many years we look back and think that was one of the best vintages however we never like to look backwards for too long. We are always striving to improve our wines each year so lately it seems every year we are getting better results across all varieties.

[TaV]: How would you differentiate Sauvignon Blanc from Wairau Valley and Awatere Valley? Are the pronounced differences there? Do you think Marlborough needs further subdivision?

[WR]: There are quite big differences between the 2 valleys in terms of flavor profiles however strategically the Rose family have chosen to focus in the Wairau Valley and then within that a tight area surrounding our home vineyard and winery. 
Further sub regions like Rapaura or Dillons Point will develop with time however Marlborough as an overall region will still be the key to our success and the protection of that is paramount.

Wairau River Wines

[TaV]: It seems that your wine portfolio is very diverse and includes a wide variety of grapes as well as styles (white, rosé, red, dessert) – the only notable absence nowadays is Sparkling wine – do you plan to fix it?
[WR]: haha – always a good topic of conversation…..we are happy with what we are doing at the moment, however we have a rule of never saying no to anything so who knows what the future will bring – perhaps the next generations may want to make sparkling wine.

[TaV]: Sauvignon Blanc and then Pinot Noir squarely put New Zealand on the world wine map. Is there a next big white and/or red grape for the New Zealand?

[WR]: We consider Pinot Gris to be the next big thing especially from Marlborough. It has a certain style that resonates well with wide variety of cuisines and will help those drinkers that are looking for NZ wine and want to try an alternative to our Sauvignon Blanc.
In the reds perhaps the wines from Hawkes Bay may make a statement but this will also be limited by smaller production.

[TaV]: Outside of New Zealand and your own wines, do you have any other favorite producers or regions for Sauvignon Blanc?

[WR]: We are lucky enough to travel the world selling wines and meeting customers so we are exposed to a number of different wine areas and styles.
In all honesty I think we produce a world class Sauvignon Blanc that is hard to beat however I do quite enjoy wines from Sancerre in particular Domaine Vacheron.

[TaV]: Same question as before, but only for the Pinot Noir – any favorites outside of New  Zealand?
[WR]: Of course, we enjoy Jim Clendenen wines at Au Bon Climat.

[TaV]: What are your next big plans at Wairau River? Any exciting projects you have started or about to start? 

[WR]: We are comfortable with where we are at in terms of our vineyard ownership and winery capabilities – our challenge is to grow sales and return better margins in all markets as we have wines that are in high demand but with limited availability. 
Gaining recognition for our other varieties such as Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir will be a key focus. Ros sales have become very hot lately so this will also be a focus going forward.

[TaV]: Last question: as you run winery as a family, I’m sure you had some funny moments in your daily wine business. Anything you care to share?

[WR]: We work extremely hard throughout the year and don’t often come together as a whole family outside of the work environment. Although I can’t pick one particular moment we have a lot of fun with the family when we gather to celebrate Christmas in the Marlborough sounds with our 5 children, their partners and 12 grandchildren there is always something happening that creates some funny occasions and a great laugh.

I’m sure you are thirsty by now, so let’s taste some wine, shall we? Here are the notes for a few Wairau River wines I had an opportunity to taste:

2016 Wairau River Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand (13% ABV)
C: white pearl, pale
N: intense, currant, touch of grass, bright, fresh
P: herbaceous, nicely restrained, fresh, bright, touch of grapefruit on the finish.
V: 7+/8-, an excellent example of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Wairau River Pinot Gris Marlborough New Zealand (13.5% ABV)
C: light golden
N: medium intensity, minerality, limerock
P: white stone fruit, nice minerality, salinity, crisp, refreshing
V: 7+

2015 Wairau River Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand (13% ABV)
C: bright ruby
N: freshly crushed berries, cherry, plums
P: cherries, fresh fruit, plums, touch of smoke, medium body
V: 7+, nice, traditional Marlborough Pinot Noir

Passion and perseverance rule in the wine world – we all know that, but it is always fun to listen to the stories. Pour yourself another glass – you deserve it. Cheers!

Exploring Wines Of New Zealand – With Villa Maria on Snooth

July 8, 2017 6 comments

Wines of New Zealand need no introduction – for sure to the oenophiles. Winemaking started in New Zealand in the 1850s, but it really flourished in the second half of the 20th century, when jet travel allowed much easier access to the future winemakers to get educated and experienced in Europe. Since the 1990s, New Zealand greatly embraced sustainability and … screw tops. I’m definitely very happy about the first – sustainable farming always leads to the better wines and happier environment. The screw tops – they are fine, I’m not convinced though that they are the best for aging the wines properly. However, I don’t want to convert this post neither into a rant, nor into a debate, so let’s just move on.

Villa Maria WinesThe story of Villa Maria winery is easily an exemplary story of realizing the “American Dream” – only in this case, it is, of course, have to be called a “New Zealand dream” (I hope such a concept exists).

George Fistonich started in 1961, at the age of 21, with one acre of vines in Auckland. In 1962, he harvested the grapes and produced the wines under the name of Villa Maria. That was the beginning of the journey of one man, who had the passion, vision, perseverance and enough obsession to make it. Villa Maria was a one man operation through the 60s, hiring its first staff in the early 70s, and now employing 250 people and exporting their wines to the 50 countries. As a perfect proof of making it, George Fistonich became Sir George Fistonich, receiving the first knighthood in the country for the services to New Zealand’s wine industry.

Villa Maria today has vineyards located in Auckland, Gisborne, Hawkes Bay and Marlborough regions. The grapes range from the New Zealand’s staples such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir to such an obscure varietals as Arneis and Verdelho. Villa Maria became a cork-free zone in 2001. And I can tell you, they really treat sustainability seriously – the Villa Maria bottles were some of the lightest wine bottles I ever came across, which I’m sure greatly affects the carbon footprint.

A week or so ago, I was a part of the big group of winelovers tasting Villa Maria wines together in the virtual tasting organized by Snooth (no worries, the wines were real). Here are my notes from tasting and also, re-tasting of the wines.

First, two of the Sauvignon Blanc wines. First one was called “bubbly” as it was lightly carbonated – and it was definitely a fun wine, perfect for a summer picnic, fresh and delightful. And the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was simply a classic New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, done with a perfect restraint:

2016 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (12.5% ABV, $15)
C: literally non-existent
N: touch of grass and currant, a classic SB, restrained.
P: nice, touch of bubbles, touch of sweetness, black currant, nice and round, refreshing.
V: 8-/8, definitely nice

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (12.5% ABV, $13)
C: straw pale
N: pure cassis, beautiful, freshly cut grass, classic
P: excellent balance, acidity, currant and a touch of grass. Nice and pleasant.
V: 8, I can drink this at any time, excellent wine

Now, the Rosé and then Chardonnay. The Villa Maria Rosé is predominantly Merlot. It is light and simple, but it has enough finesse to pass one of my personal tests – I particularly like the white and Rosé wines which are well drinkable when they are a bit warm – it is annoying to maintain the wines at the ice cold level (at home, for sure). The Rosé was delicious and drinkable even at the room temperature, so it definitely passed that test. And as for the Chardonnay – I know that I will be in the tiny minority from our tasting group, but I found it to be just okay. It had all the classic Chardonnay traits, but, somehow, didn’t hit the home run for me…

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé Hawkes Bay (12.5% ABV, $14)
C: Pink
N: strawberries and strawberry leaves, round and pleasant
P: strawberries, touch of sweetness, could use a touch more acidity, but still, nice and delicate
V: 8-, definitely improved the next day, more delicate, better balance

2015 Villa Maria Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Chardonnay Marlborough (13.5% ABV, $45)
C: straw pale
N: creamy, vanilla, freshly baked brioche buns with a touch of butter on them
P: Granny Smith apples smothered in butter, good acidity, excellent midpalate weight, nicely plump, but clean. Nice cleansing acidity on the finish.
V: 7+, needs food.

Now, the reds. Pinot Noir was unusual compared to what I typically expect from the Marlboro Pinot Noir. It was heavier than I expected, and on the day 3, it became a lot closer to the powerful Oregonian Pinot (which is a good deal at $26, right? ). The Merlot blend was an enigma. It opened up beautifully as I just opened the bottle, but then it went back into its shell and never came out of it, even on the day 3 …

2014 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir Marlborough (13.5% ABV, $26)
C: bright ruby
N: touch of sweet cherries, violet
P: tart cherries, tart acidity, touch of tobacco
V: 7, 7+ on the day 3 – showed a lot more fruit on the palate, Oregonian notes of dark power, espresso, mocha, with sweet core of cherries and plums.

2013 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay (13.5% ABV, $20, 70% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Malbec)
C: dark garnet, almost black
N: medium intensity, baking powder, vanilla, sweet mocha
P: black currant, ripe and sweet, touch of espresso, tar, dark fruit, dry, tannic finish
V: 7, unusual experience …

Have you had any of these wines? What are your thoughts? Cheers!

One on One With Winemaker: Jeff Fyfe from The Crossings Winery, New Zealand

October 2, 2015 8 comments

The Crossings New ZealandFew days ago I was offered an opportunity to meet Jeff Fyfe, senior winemaker at The Crossings Winery from New Zealand – only I couldn’t. What about the title of this post, you ask? No, I’m not trying to purposefully mislead you with some dark intent. What I did was very simple and logical 🙂 – I came up with a bunch of questions, and asked Jeff to answer them on his own. We can call it a “virtual interview”. I also had an opportunity to taste two of the latest wines from The Crossings – including the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc. I was quite excited about it, as my first wine of the current vintage typically is Beaujolais Nouveau, so this was a welcome deviation.

Let’s start with the interview. Imagine yourself out in the vineyard, on a sunny day, with the glass of cold and refreshing white wine, talking to Jeff Fyfe:

What was your favorite vintage(s) for both Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and why?
We have been extremely lucky in Marlborough in recent years with a number of great vintages in a row. In 2014 we had harvested all of the Pinot Noir prior to commencing any Sauvignon Blanc which is fairly unusual. This gave us the opportunity to focus on the varieties individually a little more than usual which was nice. There are some great Sauvignon Blancs from 2015 and we are excited about releasing them.

What was your most difficult vintage for both Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc and why?
Both 2008 and 2009 were reasonably difficult vintages in the fact that the crops were slightly heavier than normal and we had some unseasonal rain during harvest making things difficult.

Many winemakers in NZ experiment with oak and Sauvignon Blanc. What do you think of that? Is this an up and coming trend? Do you make any oaked Sauvignon Blanc wines?
I don’t know if I would call it a trend, I think it is now a style in its own right in Marlborough. Many producers are making them, and have been for some time. Dog Point Section 94 is a great example of barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. They wines obviously age well, in my opinion the better examples show great balance and integration of the oak and the fruit. Some producers are also creating wines with small amounts of barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc to add texture and weight to their tank fermented Sauvignon Blancs.

Today, there are many new grapes been planted in NZ – Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Syrah. I see that you are already making Riesling and Pinot Gris wines – do you have plans for any other new grapes?
Yes, we already make very small quantities of Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling and we planted some Gruner Veltliner at our Willowflat vineyard 2 years ago, which is looking promising. I think Marlborough already produces world class aromatics, particularly from the cooler sites which enables longer ripening and extended hang time for the fruit which creates wines with texture, weight and acidity.

Outside of your own wines, what are your other favorite wines from New Zealand?
There are some great aromatics coming out of the Nelson region, Waimea, and Seifreid are favourites. Also Hawkes Bay Syrah, in my opinion the best examples can rival the great Syrahs of the world. Bilancia, Crossroads, Trinity Hill are all great examples.

What are your favorite Sauvignon Blanc wine outside of New Zealand – regions and/or producers?
White Bordeaux! If only I could drink them more often. Generally I like to drink Austrian or German Rieslings, there are so many amazing producers, Brundlmayer, Ansgar  Clusserath, Donnhoff, Wittman to name a few.

Same question for Pinot Noir – favorite regions/wines/producers outside of New Zealand?
I tend to drink the wines coming from cooler climate regions as I like the elegance and finesse they can have, cooler parts of Australia such as Tasmania, and the Mornington Peninsula are great. There are obviously some pretty special wines coming out of Burgundy, I just can’t afford to drink them that often! Although when I do I enjoy wines from the appellation of Volnay.

If you would have a “do-over” opportunity – go back in time and start the winery again – would you still start it at the exact same place, or would you chose a different location, region or even country?
I wouldn’t change the location of the vineyards that’s for sure. We have 3 amazing vineyard locations in the Awatere Valley, each very unique which provides us with quality fruit to make the wines that we do.

Today, a lot of wineries around the world add sparkling and Rosé wines to their portfolios, but this trend doesn’t seem to catch up in New Zealand. Do you think this will change? Do you have any plans to start producing sparkling or Rosé wines?
There are already a number of producers in Marlborough making some great rosés. The demand for Marlborough Pinot Noir is strong, so I guess that has an impact on the ability of some producers to make Rose, hence why you don’t see them often on a global scale. At The Crossings we are hoping to make a rose in vintage 2016. It’s the same with sparkling wines in Marlborough, some world class wines being produced but on a reasonably small scale.

What is the oldest vintage of your own wines you ever tried? Do you think the wines held up well?
We recently had a vertical tasting of The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc from 2005 to 2015. We were pleasantly surprised at how well the wines were holding up. The majority of the older vintages still looked fresh, showing varietal character and maintained the mineral acidity that is signature of the Awatere Valley. All of the wines were under screw cap

* * *

The Crossings Pinot Noir New ZealandI think Jeff provided great answers. Hearing that 10 years old Sauvignon Blanc is still fresh makes me very happy – I love wines with an age on them, and I love it when the wines are aging gracefully, so I would love to try it by myself. Well, yes, I didn’t try the 2005 – instead, I tried the wine from the vintage Jeff was so happy about it – the 2015. I tasted latest releases of both Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, which I got as samples, courtesy of the importer, Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. For you to understand how new the 2015 was, the bottle even didn’t have an official label on it yet.

Here are my tasting notes:

2015 The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc Awatare Valley Marlboro, New Zealand (13% ABV, SRP $14)
C: straw pale
N: beautiful fresh cut grass, just a hint of grapefruit, lemon zest
P: clean acidity, fresh, lemon undertones, herbal notes, perfectly balanced
V: 8, one of the very best NZ sauvignon Blanc wines I ever tasted. Summer day in the glass.

2014 The Crossings Pinot Noir Awatare Valley Marlboro, New Zealand (14% ABV, SRP $18)
C: dark ruby
N: smoke and raspberries, lavender, touch of mint, baking spices
P: sweet cherries, plums, hint of vanilla, touch of spices, good balance, medium body, medium-long finish.
V: 7+/8-, classic Marlboro Pinot Noir

There you have it, my friends – virtual interview and very real, delicious wines. Now, let me ask you a question – if you would have an opportunity to talk to the winemaker, what would be your questions? What do you think of our Q&A session? Happy Friday and Cheers!

 

New Zealand, Familiar and Not

May 15, 2015 8 comments

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc TastingHere is your motivational quote of the day: “open your mind, and discovery will follow”. If you are wondering what the heck is wrong with this Talkavino guy starting the wine post with motivational quote, read on, I will explain.

Today we will be talking about the wines of New Zealand. What is the first wine which comes to mind when you think “New Zealand”? Don’t know about you, but for me it is a Sauvignon Blanc. Closely followed by Pinot Noir. But then there is beautiful Chardonnay, and Bordeaux blends, and Riesling – please, don’t forget the Riesling!

Two weeks ago I attended the New Zealand wine tasting event in New York. The event consisted of the seminar and the tasting, so below you will find my notes from both. But before I will inundate you with the wines and the tasting notes, let me share some general thoughts.

New Zealand wine industry is relatively young. First Sauvignon Blanc was planted in 1973, and first commercial release took place in 1979. [However, the first vines were planted in New Zealand in 1819, and in 1881 Pinot Noir from Central Otago got gold medal in the “Burgundy” category at the wine show in Sydney – but let’s leave it aside for now]. Through the 1980s, Cloudy Bay found its magic, and New Zealand wines spread out throughout the world (definitely in US). The New Zealand wine export had been growing steadily for many years, from 30M gallons of wine in 2009 to the 44M gallons in 2013, also reaching almost US $1B in revenues in 2013. Also, a lot of New Zealand wineries utilize sustainable winemaking methods and use organic grapes (you can read more here).

What I also sense from reading the blogs and listening to the experts is that the New Zealand winemakers are feeling constrained by what they already achieved and are trying to break the boundaries. Few simple facts for you. There are 11 defined wine regions in New Zealand. However, many winemakers believe that this is not enough, and want to define the sub-regions with much smaller boundaries. Such sub-regions are not yet official [I might stand corrected here – according to the New Zealand wine web site, the sub-regions are defined, but I still don’t know how widespread or how official those designations are], but on many labels you can already see designations for the sub-regions, such as Awatere or Waihopai in Marlborough, or Pisa in Central Otago. Different soils, different micro-climates, different terroirs, if you will – all lead to production of stylistically different wines coming from the different areas of the same bigger region.

There is more to this “breaking the boundaries”. New Zealand wine is not only a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. There are Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and even Grüner Veltliner and Chenin Blanc wines which are shining. And even familiar Sauvignon Blanc is taking to the totally new territories, by using oak and not only – which leads us to the seminar, so we can finally talk wines.

The seminar was very interesting. It was done in the unusual format. There was no classroom with a head table and presenters. There was a big roundtable (well, it was actually a square), with presenters and winemakers sitting around the room among the participants. But this was not the most unique characteristic of the event. There were 9 Sauvignon Blanc wines presented in the event. And all 9 were … oaked. With the various degree, but yes, all Sauvignon Blanc wines went through some oak ageing process. There was also a 7 years old Sauvignon Blanc wine, which was quite unique for me. All in all, it was very different and interesting. Was it successful? I will defer you to my notes below. Here we go.

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2014 Amisfield Sauvignon Blanc Central Otago (SRP $20)
C: pale straw
N: fresh cut grass, very restrained, lemon notes, minerality, touch of sapidity, interesting complexity.
P: tremendous acidity, more of a Muscadet style, lots of minerality, food wine (oysters!)
V: nice and restrained, Drinkability: 8-

2014 Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro (SRP $17.99)
C: light straw, greenish
N: concentrated green notes, more of a fresh vegetables greens in the garden than grass. Touch of sweetness after swirling the glass.
P: very restrained, complex, salinity, white stone fruit, acidity on the finish.
V: Drinkability: 7+

2014 Huia Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro (SRP $19)
C: pale straw
N: hint of gasoline – disappeared after intense swirling. Touch of white fruit, restrained. Hint of lemon. Overall, nose is not very pronounced.
P: tremendous acidity, hint of Granny Smith apples
V: wine finishes nowhere, lacking conclusion. Drinkability: 7-

2014 Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc Nelson (SRP $17.95)
C: light straw yellow
N: non-typical. But may be a distant hint of grass.
P: lemon, fresh, supple, good acidity, nice textural presence. Still, tremendous amount of acidity is coming through, plus tannins in the finish!
V: Drinkability: 7+, okay wine

2014 Craggy Range Te Muna Road Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro (SRP $28.99)
C: pale yellow
N: touch of vanilla, touch of tropical fruit, hint of grapefruit
P: great complexity, restrained, guava, lemon, minerality, grass, touch of tannins, but it is well integrated.
V: Drinkability: 7+

2013 Seresin Marama Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro (SRP $40)
C: light yellow
N: butter, vanilla, butterscotch- wow, is this is a Chard? Pronounced, concentrated flavors!
P: vanilla, butter, more akin to a butterscotch candy, fresh and exuberant! The clearest expression of butterscotch candy of any wines I ever had (bold, I know)
V: it gets 8 (or even 8+) as a Chardonnay and 6 as Sauvignon Blanc. I would be glad to drink this wine – just don’t tell me what it is.

2013 Trinity Hill Sauvignon Blanc Hawke’s Bay (SRP $16.99)
C: light straw yellow
N: very inexpressive. Whatever I think I smell, is a product of my imagination. After 5 minutes of swirling, grass showed up, more of a typical expected SB. Still Very restrained.
P: nice acidity, good with oysters, nice touch of white fruit, fresh and clean
V: Drinkability: 7

2012 Pegasus Bay Sauvignon Blanc Waipara Valley (SRP $28)
C: pale straw yellow
N: complex aromatics, touch of oak, elevated white fruit (apples, hint of tropical fruit). One of the best on the nose so far. Distant hint of grass
P: Elegant, fresh, well integrated acidity, apples
V: one of the best in the tasting. Drinkability: 8-

2008 Mahi Ballot Block Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (SRP $24)
C: light yellow, doesn’t show the age at all
N: some vegetative notes and fresh salami (yes, you can unfollow me if you want). Some distant resemblance of fruit. On a second thought, it has a Chablis-like minerality. The sausage is off, Chablis is in.
P: most elegant palate in the tasting. Acidity definitely wore off, but the wine is elegant, complex, mellow, just an interesting wine in the style of nicely aged white Rhône.
V: best of the tasting. Very round and elegant. Drinkability: 8.

And then there was a tasting. I didn’t get an opportunity to taste all the wines. Also, as you would expect, I liked some wines more than the others. Thus below are the wines which I liked the most from what I tasted. Oh wait, I still have to explain myself with that “open your mind” intro. Let me do it now, the story is rather simple.

What flavors do you typically associate with the Sauvignon Blanc? Grass? Check. Lemon? Check. Grapefruit? Check. Gooseberry? As Chris Kassel mentioned recently, most of the people who didn’t live in Europe have no idea how Gooseberry smells or tastes, but okay. Check. Some white tropical fruit? Possible and Check. But what about Black Currant? I don’t know about you, but I don’t associate red or black berry aromas with Sauvignon Blanc. But – black currant is one of the main characteristic aromas of Cabernet Sauvignon. And Sauvignon Blanc is a parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Thus when I heard from one of the hosts talking about the wine “beautiful black currant aroma”, that was a nail on the head! Yes – exactly – the revelation – forget the damn Gooseberry, just open your mind (talking to myself) and understand that black fruit can be associated with white wine (I’m sure the opposite is true). I would honestly say this was my main discovery of the tasting, the revelation.

Now let’s get back to wines. My absolute favorites where Sophora Sparkling wines (simply a wow and an incredible QPR), Syrah from Elephant Hill, Chenin Blanc from Astrolabe, Sauvignon Blanc from Saint Clair, Doctors Grüner Veltliner and Lake Chalis lightly fizzed Sauvignon Blanc – all shown in blue below. But all in all, lots of delicious wines in the tasting. All prices are suggested retail as listed in the brochure. Let’s go:

2014 Amisfield Sauvignon Blanc Pisa, Otago ($20) – +++, clean, restrained
2013 Amisfield Pinot Gris Pisa, Otago ($25) – +++, nice touch of oak
2011 Amisfied Pinot Noir Pisa, Otago ($35) – ++1/2, nice balance, still needs time
2012 Amisfied Pinot Noir Pisa, Otago ($35) – +++, elegant, round, touch of green notes

2014 Ara Pathway Sauvignon Blanc Waihopai, Marlborough ($16.99) – +++, very good, traditional
2013 Ara Pathway Pinot Noir Waihopai, Marlborough ($18.99) – ++1/2, nice, clean
2014 Ara Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc Waihopai, Marlborough ($19.99) – +++, clean, balanced
2013 Ara Single Estate Pinot Noir Waihopai, Marlborough ($23.99) – ++1/2, very good, tannins, needs time

2012 Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($23) – +++, excellent, black currant, perfect balance
2014 Astrolabe Province Pinot Gris Marlborough ($23) – +++, beautiful aromatics
2012 Astrolabe Province Pinot Noir Marlborough ($28) – +++1/2, excellent!! Best of tatsing?
2013 Astrolabe Vineyards Chenin Blanc Wrekin Vineyard Southern Valleys, Marlborough ($22) – +++, concentrated, Vouvray-like, excellent, creamy

NV Sophora Sparkling Rosé Hawke’s Bay ($16) – +++, wow! beautiful – aromatics and structure of the classic Chgampagne. Outstanding QPR
NV Sophora Sparkling Cuvée Hawke’s Bay ($16) – +++, equally excellent as the previous wine

2012 Domaine-Thomson Surveyor Thomson Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Lowburn, Otago ($44) – ++1/2
2011 Domaine-Thomson Surveyor Thomson Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Lowburn, Otago ($44) – +++, excellent!

2013 Elephant Hill Syrah Hawke’s Bay ($28) – ++++, spectacular! An absolute precision of Syrah with peppery profile

2014 Fire Road Sauvignon Blanc Marlboro ($13) – ++1/2, nice, simple, balanced
2013 Fire Road Pinot Noir Marlboro ($15) – ++1/2, probably best QPR at the tasting

2013 Doctors Grüner Veltliner Marlborough ($18) – +++, touch of petrol, nice
2014 Doctors Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($18) – +++, nice, clean, good acidity
2013 Seifried Pinot Gris Nelson ($18) – ++1/2, clean, nice
2012 Seifried Riesling Nelson ($18) – +++, petrol, beautiful
2013 Maimai Syrah Hawke’s Bay ($20) – +++, excellent, dark
2014 Lake Chalis Cracklin’ Savie Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($18) – +++1/2, beautiful, fresh, lightly fizzed, very unique. Similar to Moscato in creaminess, but dry
2014 Lake Chalis Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($18) – +++, perfect, black currant, beautiful!

2014 Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($17.99) – +++, beautiful balance
2014 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 18 Snap Block Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough ($26.99) – +++, interesting complexity
2012 Saint Clair Wairau Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Wairau, Marlborough ($31.99) – +++1/2, very complex, very unusual
2012 Saint Clair Pioneer Block 16 Pinot Noir Awatere, Marlborough ($17.99) – +++, Oregon-like, very elegant

And we are done here. What do you think of New Zealand wines? What are your favorites? Did you ever associated Sauvignon Blanc aromas with black currant? Until the next time – cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – #MWWC16 Vote, #SauvBlanc Day, WTSO Marathon, Chianti in New York

April 22, 2015 2 comments

Meritage Time!

Don’t have a lot today – but a few things are worth mentioning.

First – Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC16, “Finish”  concluded with a very modest 7 entrees. All of you, who were busy (or lazy) – and you know who you are – think about it, this is not cool. I really hope you will eagerly fix that behavior for the next time around, or the whole MWWC will be finished. Nevertheless, it is time to vote note – you can do it here.

Last time I reminded you about whole bunch of coming and going wine and grape holidays, so here I will focus only on one – Sauvignon Blanc Day (known in the social media as #SauvBlanc Day), which will be celebrated this coming Friday, April 24th, [hopefully] right in your glass. Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most delicious wines, showing a great range of expression from Sancerre in France to Marlboro in New Zealand to Chile and on to California – it is somewhat similar and ohh so different. One thing in common, no matter where the wine would come from – Sauvignon Blanc always means fun! Festivities will take place all over the world, both on April 24th and onward. On April 30th, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc will be celebrated in New York – information about this event can be found on the New Zealand Wine web site. If you will scroll down, on the same page to the right you will see information about various events taking place on April 24th in New Zealand, Australia, UK and Canada. You should check Twitter and Facebook (look for #SauvBlanc tag) – I’m sure there will be celebrations all over the world, no matter where you are. Most importantly  – pour yourself a glass of delicious Sauvignon Blanc – this is all you need to join the festivities.

Wine Til Sold Out (WTSO), one of the finest purveyors on the great wines at the value prices, is doing “it” again. What “it”? Of course the Marathon! This time it is Magnum Marathon, which will take place on Tuesday, April 28th. WTSO went extra step and created a great information page about all of their Marathons, so now it is easy to learn about what, when and how (and I don’t need to repeat the rules every time) – here is the link.

The last one for today – Chianti anyone? If you like Chianti, and live in a close proximity to New York, you are in luck, as Consorzio Vino Chianti will be hosting Taste of Italy Chianti tasting event in New York on Monday, April 27th at the High Line Hotel. The event will be open to the public – you can find all the information here.

And we are done here. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

Wednesday’s Meritage – #MWWC16, Grape and Wine Holidays, Spirits Talk on the Radio, M. Chapoutier Tasting, LBW Marathon

April 15, 2015 Leave a comment

Meritage Time!

Today’s news are a very eclectic mix – from big international grape celebrations to the interesting, but very local updates. Nevertheless – let’s get to it!

First – this is the last reminder for Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #MWWC16, “Finish” – the deadline to submit your entry is Monday, April 20th. I don’t think I saw a single entry so far, which is sad, as I think the theme is great. Come on – I know you can do it (addressing myself as well as part of the group) – so let’s just do it!

Grape and wine holidays, anyone? I don’t know who, where and how comes up with all of those holidays, but still, as oenophiles, we must support them, aren’t we? First of all, April is the Michigan Wine Month. Well, this might be a tough celebration for those who don’t live in Michigan – don’t know about your state, but Michigan wines are nowhere to be found in the state of Connecticut. If you don’t have an access to the Michigan wine, at least you can read about it – here is the link to the Michigan Wine web site.

Up and coming in the glass next to you is… Malbec! Friday, April 17th is a Malbec World Day. Unquestionably associated with Argentina today, but really one of the core Bordeaux varietals, Malbec often creates soft, luscious and approachable wines well appreciated by the wine lovers everywhere. Your celebration instructions are simple – open a bottle of Malbec, pour, smell, sip and savor. Don’t forget to say “ahhh” if you really enjoy it, and tell the world about it #MalbecWorldDay.

Next holiday is a Sauvignon Blanc Day (#SauvBlancDay), which will be celebrated on April 24th, less than 10 days from now. Actually, when it comes to this holiday, we know where and when – it was created by the folks at the St. Supéry winery in California 6 years ago, to celebrate one of the most popular white grapes in the world, Sauvignon Blanc. If should be easy for you to join the festivities by opening the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, and then sharing your impressions in the social media.

The last wine holiday for today is a 2nd annual Rioja Week, which will start on May 2nd with the Wine and Tapas Festival taking place in Chicago. Again, easy to celebrate – get a bottle of Rioja and drink it with friends!

How familiar are you with the wines of Michel Chapoutier, one of the oldest producers in France (established in 1808), best known for his Rhône wines? Whether you are well familiar or not, you are not going to miss out on a tasting of a few of Chapoutier’s Hermitage wines, wouldn’t you? On April 19th, Total Wines & More, one of the largest wine retailers in US, will be conducting a virtual tasting event, where you will have an opportunity to taste (for real) some of the great wines made by Michel Chapoutier. The tasting will take place at the Total Wines stores near you – for more information and to get tickets (priced at $25) please use this link.

Be forewarned – the madness is coming! Nope, not the apocalypse type. Just a simple wine madness.  Last Bottle Wines, purveyor of great wines at value prices, will conduct their Madness Marathon tomorrow (04/16), starting at 12 PM Eastern/9 AM Pacific time, and continuing for the next 48 hours, or until the Last Bottle cellar will be empty.

During the Madness Marathon, all the wines will be offered in the rapid succession, without any notifications – no twitter, no e-mails, no text messages. The only way to follow the madness is by constantly refreshing your browser window. There are no minimum purchases to get a free shipping – you can buy 1 bottle at a time, it is fine. All the wines you will buy will ship together after April 27th.

You will need to have an account with Last Bottle Wines, and all account information should be pre-filled – speaking from the experience, the wine you want might be well gone by the time you will finish putting in an expiration date for your credit card. In case you don’t have a Last Bottle account already, I will be glad to be your reference – not that you need a reference, but if you will sign up using this link, you will get $5 credit on your first order  – and yes, I will get $20 credit after your first purchase – but once you are in, you will be the one who will tell your friends about it. In case the link doesn’t work, feel free to send me an e-mail to talkavino-info (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Lastly, two updates more of a local nature. First, last Friday I had an opportunity once again to talk (yep, that is something I like to do) about my favorite subject. Well, with a slight twist – the conversation was about liquid pleasures outside of wine – Vodka, Scotch, Bourbon and the others. Once again, I was a guest at the Off the Vine Radio Show with Benita Johnson – and you can listen to that show here. Next time, you should call in and ask questions – will make it more fun!

Before we part, I want to mention that I finally produced a post #4 in a series of the Spanish Wine Recommendations – this post is focused on the places where you can buy Spanish wines around the world. The reason I’m mentioning it here is because after I published the post, I got very useful comments extending the coverage of the good places to get Spanish wines around the world. I updated the post with those comments, so if you read the post already, you might want to check it out again. Here is the link for you to make it easier. If you also got any suggestions or comments, please make sure to share them.

And we are done here. The glass is empty, but the refill is on the way. Cheers!

 

Instant Gratification, and Arrival of the Spring

March 21, 2014 9 comments

flowers 2014You know, when the winter is like the one we had in New England, you get to the point when you sort of stop believing that  the spring will come. You wake up in the morning, your thermometer shows 20F, and your mind doesn’t even comprehends the concept of spring, flowers, grass – no, those leftovers of the snow are going to stay forever. Only a few days ago I was explaining to my daughter about the flowers called snowdrop in English, which are usually showing up as soon as snow melts, and I was lamenting that this year we probably will see no snowdrops as the winter was so brutal here.

Then today was the first official day of spring, and while it was still cold outside, it was definitely more palatable (read: warmer), and the snow was almost gone. And walking around the house all of a sudden I saw… flowers! It was simply magic, the magic of life happening right here, right now. No matter how brutal the winter is, the spring will come no matter what – and I was looking at the proof. Don’t know if this is exactly a snowdrop or simply a similar flower, but I was definitely happy to see it.

Okay, so spring is here. And for the instant gratification part? Easy. Here I’m talking about wine (wow – total surprise, huh?). You know, I can define the instant gratification as a sequence of a few very simple steps – twist, pour, sniff, say “ahh”, sip, roll your eyes towards the ceiling – have a moment of bliss. The wine which gave me this moment of blissful instant gratification – 2006 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir Central Otago, New Zealand. I wanted to have a good glass of wine, and as I only have a vague idea of what wines are in the cellar, I was simply looking through the wines on one of the shelves – and when I saw this bottle Mt. Difficulty, I thought  – yes, that will do it – and it delivered. Beautiful classic Pinot Noir on the nose – a little smoky, a little earthy – and perfectly fresh, full of juicy cherries and herbs, harmonious palate. You know, the one which gives you an instant gratification. I loved that wine so much that I simply had to connect the first flowers with this wine – as you can see it in the picture below:

flowers and pinot noir

The spring is here! Let’s drink to Life! Cheers!

Month in Wines (and Whiskys) – December 2013

January 3, 2014 2 comments

At first I wanted to preface this post with the notion of December being somewhat uneventful in terms of great wine experiences, but as I was thinking about it, I realized that this would be a mistake to put it like that. So yes, December brought quite a few of the great discoveries.

Here we go:

NV Ayala Brut Majeur Ay Champagne, France (12% ABV, 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier ) – one of the very best non-vintage champagne I ever tasted – perfectly complex, yeasty, showing aromas of the fresh bread and apples, all in a very bright and energetic package. Considering the price ($26.99 on special) is simply unbeatable (people, stop buying the yellow label, get the real thing and save some money!). 8

2011 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury, New Zealand (14% ABV) – nice, restrained – recognizably New Zealand, but more in the Sancerre style, with grass and lemon prevailing over the grapefruit. Well balanced and very refreshing.  8-

2012 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury, New Zealand (13.5% ABV) – clean. delicate. perfectly balanced. perfectly delicious. Saying that Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir is beautiful sounds somewhat broken, but there is nothing I can do here – definitely an outstanding Pinot Noir of a rare precision. 8+

2010 Hooker Breakaway Chardonnay Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley (13.3% ABV) – Perfectly classic – vanilla, apple, butter and toasted oak, all elegantly connected, round and supple, perfectly balanced and supported by acidity. A pleasure. 8-

2011 Bogle Petite Sirah California (13.5% ABV) – probably one of the very best value wines in existence – I have to yet to taste a bad Bogle Petite Sirah. Amazingly consistent from vintage to a vintage – dark fruit on the nose and the palate, blackberries and raspberries, firm structure, powerful but elegant tannins, very good balance. 8-

2007 Talullah Syrah Bald Mountain Napa Valley (14.8% ABV) – inky black color in the glass, very restrained on the nose, nice dark fruit on the palate with the spicy notes. Definitely needs time to evolve. 8-

2004 Chateau Puy Arnaud Maureze Côtes de Castillon AOC (13.5% ABV) – very nice, rich, open and classic Bordeaux – hint of cassis, touch of bell peppers, well structured with firm tannins, good overall balance. 8-

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2008 Gorys Crespiello Cariñena DO (14% ABV, 100% Old Vine Vidadillo) – outstanding. Very restrained, with nice dark fruit on the nose, on the palate shows raspberries and elegant sweet oak undertones, nice earthiness. Well balanced and intriguing, a thought provoking wine. Medium to long, mellow finish. This is the wine to be enjoyed slowly, preferably with the book or by the fire. Highly, highly recommended. Ahh, and on top of everything – a new grape. 8

1998 La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva, Rioja, Spain (12.5% ABV) – dialed back and elegant, needs time to open up. Nice fruit, cedar notes, well present tannins, good overall balance. Needs time. 8-

2010 Quota 31 Primitivo Menhir Salento, Salento IGT (14% ABV) – playful and elegant. Dark, dense fruit, raspberries and blackberries profile, round tannins, good balance. Very enjoyable. 8-

And here are few of the whisky discoveries:

Blue Ridge Distilling Defiant Whisky, North Carolina (41% ABV, 100% Malted Barley) – North Carolina, really? Well, I’m kidding, I’m not that surprised at all – after tasting great drams from Oregon, Utah, Texas and New York, I believe that great whisky can be made anywhere, as long as you apply enough passion. This whisky was unique and different, as it was the most scotch-like compare to all other US whiskeys I tasted. Very well balanced with nice viscosity, some caramel undertones, herbs and acidity.

The Lost Distillery Company Auchnagie Blended Malt Whisky (46% ABV) – one of the very best whiskys I ever tasted – touch of smoke, perfectly clean and balanced. It is also a very unique product – you can read my original post for more details about it.

Gordon & MacPhail Highland Park 8 yo (40% ABV) – I know that many people will just turn their nose away from this scotch simply based on the “low age” of 8 years. To me, this was absolutely delicious – excellent peatiness (I love peat in my scotch, if you don’t – this will not be your drink), clean, balanced – an excellent dram.

That’s all I have to report for December. Cheers!

Of Great Wine and Whisky

December 9, 2013 4 comments

I’m sure everybody loves the holiday season – at least in the US, where the holiday season is typically the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas. While there are many reasons for that, I think the wine lovers can have their own additional reason. All things wine make the perfect gift, and the wine stores want you to remember that – particularly, by running a lot more wine tasting events and bringing out more interesting wines!

Along these lines, I had an opportunity to taste a few of the great wines and whiskies, which I want to share with you here. Let me start with the wines first.

NV Ayala Brut Majeur Ay Champagne, France (12% ABV, 45% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Meunier ) – Champagne lovers, rejoice – as the New Year is getting closer, the opportunity to taste Champagne will be only increasing. But when it comes to this particular Champagne Ayala, this wine is a reason to celebrate on its own. Beautiful nose of everything you want in Champagne – baked bread, touch of yeast, a fresh apple. Considering concentration and complexity of all these flavors on the nose, it was more resembling a vintage Champagne than a regular NV (the fact that this AYALA Champagne ages for 2.5 years on the lees is probably a contributing factor). Fine mousse on the palate, light, effervescent, delicious – I had to ask for the refill of my tasting cup. At around $30, this well might be the best Champagne the money can buy. Drinkability: 8

2011 Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury, New Zealand (14% ABV) – I know that not everybody like the pronounced grapefruitiness of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. So If you still want to experience the bright and uplifting character of New Zealand SB, sans the grapefruit, this might be the wine for you. Light straw color in the glass, the nose of lemon with some grass notes, vibrant acidity, clear cut lemon with a bit of a lemon zest on the palate, medium to full bodied, refreshing and invigorating. This wine will be great with food and on its own. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury, New Zealand (13.5% ABV) – light garnet color in the glass, this wine was a quintessential Pinot Noir for me. First and foremost characteristic of this wine is a perfect balance and harmony, both on the nose and on the palate. Hint of cherries on the nose with the touch of mushrooms and earthiness – one of the wines you want to smell forever. On the palate, both red and black cherries, red plums, perfect acidity, soft tannins, medium body, overall extremely round and supple. Super dangerous – I’m sure the bottle will be gone in no time if you are just left alone with it. It is also a steal at $19.99. Drinkability: 8+

2010 Ferrari-Carano Siena Red Wine Sonoma County (14.1% ABV, 74% Sangiovese, 14% Malbec, 8% Syrah, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon) – dark garnet color int he glass, inviting nose of fresh dark fruit, very balanced on the palate with chewy cherries and touch of black plums. Good structure and acidity, overall very pleasant. Drinkability: 7+

2011 Damilano Barbera d’Asti DOCG (14% ABV, 20% aged in 225L Frenchbarriques, 40% aged in second use 225L French barriques, and 40% aged in 500L French tonneaux) – I would call this an ideal Pizza wine. Light cherries on the nose and the palate, with the addition of the tart blackberries, noticeable but balanced acidity. Drinkability: 7

2011 Produttori del Barbaresco Nebbiolo Langhe DOC (14.5% ABV) – excellent rendition of the young and approachable Nebbiolo. Brick color in the glass, earthy nose, good amount of dark fruit on the palate withaddition of leather and tobacco. Very enjoyable. Drinkability: 7+

2009 Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo DOCG (14% ABV, aged for 24 month, 80% in 10,000L oak barrels, 20% in second use 225L French oak barrique) – this wine is a blend of fruit from 5 different vineyards, all from Barolo DOCG designated zone (Castellero in Barolo, Monvigliero in Verduno, Fossati in La Morra, Ravera in Novello and Cavourrina in Grinzane Cavour). This wine was [expectedly] similar to the previous Nebbiolo wine, but with “more of everything” – higher concentration of fruit, nice power, well integrated  after few hours of decanting, tobacco, leather, ripe cherries, hint of violet – a full package of an excellent Barolo. Also, at around $30, it is pretty much a steal. Drinkability: 8-

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And now, here comes Whisky. I will present to you 4 different whiskies – care to guess where they came from? I will give you a few seconds to think about it. So they actually came from … Scotland (of course), Japan and North Carolina!

Blue Ridge Distilling Defiant Whisky, North Carolina (41% ABV, 100% Malted Barley) – what a treat! This Whisky has a great story, which is well captured on the distillery’s web site and in this Huffington post article, so I will have to defer you to those sources for the full information. I can only tell you that this is a very young distillery (a bit older than one year), which uses a unique ageing process, where toasted white oak spirals are used instead of a cask to impart the color and character. This was a perfect whisky – smooth, round, with a touch of sweetness and perfect, oily, silky viscosity and texture, which is the trait of some of the best Scotland single malts. If you like whisky, this is something you have to experience to believe it. Outstanding.

Nikka Whisky Taketsuru Single Malt 12 Years Old, Japan (40% ABV) – Japanese Whisky are so hard to find! I have most of my experience with Yamazaki and Hibiki, both of which are some of my favorite. This Nikka Taketsuru 12 y.o. was nice but rather simple, without much of the explicit character. At around $70/bottle, this might not be the best choice for the money.

Nikka Whisky Yoichi Single Malt 15 Year Old, Japan (45% ABV) – this was a lot more interesting than the previous one – playful on the palate, with good power, hint of caramel, crisp acidity, nice and balanced. While this is a good dram, the pricing still makes the value somewhat questionable – at around $115, I’m not sure this would be the best investment.

The Lost Distillery Company Auchnagie Blended Malt Whisky (46% ABV) – in a word, spectacular! One of the best whisky I ever tasted, one of the very best! It also comes with the great story. The Lost Distillery Company has its mission to recreate the whisky made by some of the best distilleries in Scotland, which are long gone (actually, there are hundreds of those). Auchnagie, which existed for almost hundred years, 1812-1911, was a farm distillery located in Highlands. Recreation of the Auchnagie whisky was one of the first projects undertaken by The Lost Distillery Company – I can only direct you to their web site where you can read pages and pages of detailed research information. And to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t dare to describe this whisky from that few second I had to taste it (it was mostly a moaning session). I will hopefully get a bottle at some point and will write the whole dedicated post as this beverage deserves. But – if you are a whisky aficionado, I have only two words for you – find it! It is truly spectacular and you don’t want to miss it. Also, at around $65 /bottle, it worth every penny for the countless amount of pleasure it will bring.

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That’s all I have for you today. Happy Monday and a great week to all! Cheers!

Wines, Wines, Wines – Part 2

August 18, 2013 15 comments

As promised, here is the second part of the Wines, Wines, Wines post. In the first part, we talked about great Riesling and Gewurzrtraminer wines, with some extra value wines and Prosecco. Let’s continue our “memorable wine extravaganza” with a couple of Chardonnays.

Chardonnay

It is so interesting how things work in life. You might walk past say, a picture, every day, and never notice it. And then all of a sudden you say “what is it? Was it always here, or is it something new??”, and people around you look at you like you have two heads or something. Where am I going with this? Give me a minute, I will make my point.

Couple of month ago I got a bottle of Chardonnay, accompanied by the words “try it, it is pretty good”. I’m a sucker for good Chardonnay (yeah, true, you can substitute “Chardonnay” with any other varietal – I’m just a sucker for any good wine, but this can be a subject for a different post). But this Chardonnay was from New Zealand. And New Zealand in by book is the land of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir – but not really a Chardonnay. So I finally got the bottle opened and … wow.

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Seresin Chardonnay

2008 Seresin Chardonnay Reserve Marlboro New Zealand (13.5% ABV, 11 month in oak).  The symbol of the hand on the label has a deep meaning. Quoting few words from Seresin Estate web site, “The hand is a symbol of strength, gateway to the heart, tiller of the soil, the mark of the artisan, and embodies the philosophy of Seresin Estate”. Here are my tasting notes for this wine: Outstanding, classic. Perfect nose of vanilla and white apples, just right. Very balanced fruit on the palate – hint of butter, vanilla, oak, good acidity – one of the most balanced Chardonnays ever. Drinkability: 8+

Oh yes, you are still waiting for me to connect to the opening sentence about passing by and not seeing things around for the long time, right? As of very recently, as I walked in the New Zealand isle in the store, I noticed all of a sudden that almost every producer now features Chardonnay in addition to Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. When did it happen, how long this was the case with New Zealand Chardonnays – I don’t have any idea, but based on this experience, I definitely want to try more.

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

Frédéric Gueguen Chablis

2005 Frédéric Gueguen Chablis Les Grandes Vignes (13% ABV) – I don’t have a lot of experience with Chablis overall. I had a few bottles of Chablis here and there, but never was really impressed with it (I never had Chablis of a Grand Cru or even Premier Cru level). I don’t know what possessed me to get this wine from the Benchmark Wine Company, I guess it was in the right price range ( under $20), and somehow caught my attention. Then I read somewhere, that Chablis requires on average about 10 years of age in the bottle to really start transforming and going past the initial “steely acidity” flavor profile to get to the next level. And then I tried this Frédéric Gueguen wine – wow. Here are my tasting notes: some darker yellow color, but not quite golden yet. Amazing nose, reminiscent of Côte-Rôtie – almost a touch of sulfur (think freshly burnt matches), or even more of a smell of a hot piece of granite on a summer day, a “roasted rock”. Side note: pardon my naive definition here – I recently learned that professionals call it a “gunflint” – but I will not use this term as it doesn’t lead to any associations for me. Perfect complexity on the palate – white fruit, vanilla. Lots and lots of minerality. Full bodied and very balanced, excellent wine overall. Drinkability: 8+

Pinot Noir

And we are moving along to the Pinot Noir wines – both of the wines below were excellent:

Siduri Pinot Noir

Siduri Pinot Noir

2011 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma County (13.1% ABV) – perfectly clean California Pinot – good smokey nose, with a touch of red fruit aromas. Light cherries on the palate, hint of earthiness, medium body, perfect acidity, very clean and balanced. Drinkability: 8-

Carmel Road Pinot Noir

Carmel Road Pinot Noir

2008 Carmel Road Pinot Noir Monterey (14.0% ABV) – outstanding. Bright ruby color in the glass, raspberries and hint of smokiness on the nose. Raspberries, cranberries and cherries on the palate. Medium to full body. Excellent acidity, overall perfectly balanced. Drinkability: 8+

Cabernet Franc

I have only one wine for you here, but it was mind blowing.

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc

Field Recordings Cabernet Franc

2010 Field Recordings Three Creek Vineyard Cabernet Franc Santa Barbara (15.9% ABV, 90% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec, 18 month in French oak) – spectacular. If you read this blog on the regular basis, you know that I’m very impartial to the wines of Field Recordings – but this is not my fault, it is Andrew Jones’ fault ( Andrew Jones is the winemaker behind Field Recordings). This wine had beautiful garnet color in the glass. The nose was clean and open, withhint of black currant and other red fruit. The palate is stunning with black currant, cherries, touch of black pepper, dark chocolate, perfect acidity, soft and supple tannins, all in the format of full-bodied wine. Perfect balance of fruit, acidity, tannins and alcohol – which is pretty amazing at 15.9% ABV. Drinkability: 9

Last, but not least – Syrah

Villa Pillo

Villa Pillo Syrah

Appearance of the large amount of Italian Syrah wines is also somewhat of a revelation, similar to the one I mentioned at the beginning of this post. All of a sudden I start noticing that there are more Italian Syrah wines showing in the wine stores, and people are just talking more about them, in the blogs and otherwise.

2010 Villa Pillo Syrah Toscana IGT (14.5% ABV) – we got this wine when we visited Millbrook Winery in New York (this will be a subject of a separate post), as they are importing this and a number of other wines from Italy. Tasting notes: Dark garnet color in the glass. Nose of dark fruit and dark chocolate. Outstanding on the palate – hint of pepper, cherries, plums and raspberries, more dark chocolate. Full bodied, with the velvety texture weaved over firm structure. Drinkability: 8

Whew, we are done here! Enjoy the rest of your weekend and cheers!