Pairing Beyond the Ordinary

Once, at a trade event, a woman advised me that the wine I was tasting went well with food. Well, duh! Wine has always been a beverage meant to be enjoyed with a meal and is among the only ones where both are enhanced by one another. In some cultures, drinking wine without food is anathema.

More recently the trend has been to look well beyond the axiom, “What grows together goes together,” in favor of showcasing the flexibility of a given wine by pairing it with less expected culinary options. Think Alsatian Gewürztraminer with Indian curries or Prosecco with sushi.

At Atla, Michelin-starred Cosme’s younger, more casual sibling, Mexican inspired food was served alongside a selection of New Zealand wines from Kim Crawford. This NZ producer has always been one of my go-tos for Sauvignon Blanc, but it was nice to see that the range seems to have been expanded stateside, as we also had the opportunity to taste the Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Rosé and Pinot Noir. Adding a further twist to the evening, dessert was a Mexican Hot Chocolate (recipe below), featuring the Pinot Noir. This was served after I left, so I didn’t get a chance to taste it, but with the cold rain pouring down that evening, I am sure it was a welcome treat.

Image courtesy of Susannah Gold

A few blocks away, I was introduced to the wines of Lugana, a small Italian wine region, which spans both Lombardy and the Veneto. These wines, primarily produced from the Trebbiano di Soave grape variety, may be dry, sparkling or, in the case of late harvest, sweet, dessert style wines. During the dinner at La Pizza Fresca, these beautiful white wines were more traditionally matched with a traditional Italian meal of arugula salad, beets, pizzas and a selection of fish, chicken and meat.

Among the less traditional decisions was choosing to pair these white wines with short ribs, but it worked well due to the richness, depth and full-bodied nature of many of the wines. My tasting notes are a bit spotty, but I was particularly impressed with the light, freshness of the Olivini Lugana DOC 2016, the complexity and richness of the Selva Capuzza Lugana Riserva DOC Menasso 2013 and the beautiful balance of the Margona Lugana DOC Vendemmia Tardiva dessert wine.

Both the Kim Crawford and Lugana events worked well primarily due to the basic pairing principle of ensuring that the wines had sufficient acidity to go well with the various dishes. Accordingly, their crisp, clean nature meant that one’s palate was cleansed between bites and ready for more, while simultaneously they highlighted the flavors in the accompanying food; an overall reminder that simple rules can serve us well even when we think we are breaking them.

The next night found us in Williamsburg at an unusual venue for the launch of Enjoy la Vie from Bordeaux negociant, Cordier. Entering through a loading dock, we were immediately struck by the quirky, high-ceilinged, warehouse-style space of ACME Studios. The space appears to be more regularly used for photo shoots, but it was a fun place to explore these new, entry-level wines.

The focus was on decidedly on France, with the classic pairing of cheeses and charcuterie. Similarly, attendees were invited to don a beret, grab a baguette and pose for a photo, instantly transformed (and immortalized) into cute, French clichés. But, despite the expected match, the event was far from boring and not all things were classically French. Namely, the brass band with its bold and boisterous jazz music meant that this was not a typical Bordeaux tasting.

With regard to the wines themselves, I was more impressed with the Bordeaux Blanc and Bordeaux Rouge wines than the varietally-labeled Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon. Regardless, I had a great time at the event. Most likely because I was paired with my wonderful husband. Which just underscores that context and company are is often just as important as the cuisine.




4 oz Kim Crawford Pinot Noir
2 oz dairy milk or non-dairy milk (almond is a good option)
3 Tbsp powdered baking cocoa
1 oz coffee liqueur
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch chili powder

Pre-warm an 8-10 oz coffee mug. In a saucepan, combine chocolate powder and brown sugar with milk to make into a rich syrup. Add coffee liqueur and Kim Crawford Pinot Noir. Stir until ingredients are hot. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and ground cinnamon. Pour into pre-warmed mug and garnish with whole cinnamon stick and pinch of chili powder.

And now for some GOOD News! True and Daring Riesling Returns to U.S. Market


In other New Zealand news (see previous post), Hennie & Celia Bosman have returned to the U.S. market with their True & Daring Riesling.

Recently, my friend Cheri texted me a photo with the question: Did you bring us this wine? When I looked at the photo, I recognized the True & Daring label (I had given her the wine as a gift several months earlier).

Well, apparently she and her husband had finally gotten around to opening it with their friends and the next text from her, after I confirmed that it was indeed from me was: “We are with Michael and Magdalena and we are freaking out with how good it is! I mean it blew everyone away. Stunning.”

The following day, I shared this story via email with Hennie, who noted that it must have been cosmically ordained since he and Celia had just been talking about me (and their previous visit to New York) the day before!

Hennie further advised that they had recently conducted a vertical tasting of their Riesling from 2015 (still in tank) back to 2004, which underscored how much they enjoy older Rieslings. He added that, “It is so difficult to judge when wines have reached their peak but we’ve come to the conclusion that the changes in older Riesling are what make the varietal so unique. I don’t think older, secondary characteristics are to everyone’s tastes but we both love the extra layers that come with time.”

If you are among those who enjoy aged Rieslings, I strongly recommend that you check out their wines, now available direct to consumer via Vinoshipper.

A Summer for Sauvignon Blanc

2016-06-20 19.14.52While Riesling and rosé are highly touted for the summer season, Sauvignon Blanc is equally well-suited for sipping this time of year. This citrus-scented grape variety is cultivated worldwide, resulting in a broad range of wine styles from which to choose.

However, among the most well-known areas associated with this grape is New Zealand and, in particular, the region of Marlborough. New Zealand producer Nobilo brings two Sauvignon Blancs to the table this season: its Regional Collection and Icon. Icon is the company’s flagship wine, having been established by the Nobilo family in 1943.

The grapes for Icon presently come from the Castle Cliffs Vineyard, planted in 2002 in the Awatere Valley. Conversely, while the grapes for the Regional Collection wine are primarily sourced from Awatere, they are supplemented with those from the Wairau, Southern and Waihopai valleys within the region and then blended together to create a more consistent wine each year.

A side by side tasting permitted a comparison of the two:

Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, NZ, $10.00
This wine is very fruity with bright, tropical fruit predominating the nose and palate. Although it has the same acidity level as the Icon wine, the perception is that it is lower in acidity on the palate due to its higher level of sweetness. Light and refreshing; perfect for an aperitif and light fare.

Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, NZ, $18.00
The Icon has a leaner profile than the Regional Collection, displaying much more citrus aromas and flavors, along with a slightly grassy note. It is drier with more acidity, permitting it to pair more easily with a wider array of cuisine.

Although Sauvignon Blanc is less closely connected with Spain, this variety is slowly, but surely, finding a home here as well. Pago los Balancines, a winery within the Spanish region of Extramadura, about 200 km north of Seville, produces several wines with this grape. Its wines fall under the Ribera de Guadiana DO.

Pago los Balancines, Balancines Blanco Sobre Lias 2015, Ribera de Guadiana, Spain
This entry-level wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viura and offers up a bright and fresh wine with citrus, tropical fruit and melon notes on the round palate.

Pago los Balancines, Alunado Sauvignon Blanc 2013 The Bootleg Wines vol. 0, Ribera de Guadiana, Spain
This full-bodied wine has clearly been oaked, with its citrus and pear aromas and flavors wrapped in oak and vanilla.

2016-06-20 19.15.21Alunado


Truth or Dare? (Grand Cru Grapevine: January 2012)

If you make only one wine, it can be a bit risky. If you only make Riesling in New Zealand, it’s downright daring! In fact, that is precisely what Hennie Bosman and his wife, Celia, are doing. The proprietors of True & Daring admit that the venture is high risk; at a recent event Hennie joked that they should have called it Truly Mad. But, despite the inherent madness, the result is a wine that is true to their palate.

Born in South Africa, the affable Hennie planned to make wine in retirement, but their relocation to New Zealand prompted them to accelerate their plans. Starting out in the usual vein, they made several different varietally-labeled wines, including Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. However, as Hennie explained, they “decided to be daring; to stay true to the wine [they] love.” Accordingly, they turned their attention exclusively to Riesling.

Not wanting to imitate a particular style or region, Hennie believes that the vineyard speaks through Riesling more than other grapes. In this regard, the grapes are carefully sourced from vineyards in Nelson, on the northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island. He then works in small batch fermentations and leaves the wine on the lees for a longer period of time (by New Zealand standards). Consequently, the wine is bottled in December or January as opposed to September. Finally, the couple allows the wines to age before releasing them, further adding to their audacious behavior. Production is deliberately kept tiny with only 2,200 cases produced.

So what does all this mean in the end? An event held at Porterhouse brought together several top New York sommeliers, including Roger Dagorn, MS, all of whom were asked to taste nine wines blindly. While the tasters knew that the wines were all Riesling and that the True & Daring was among them, they didn’t know what else was in the line-up. Despite the tasters’ honed skills, upon tasting the True & Daring Riesling they couldn’t place the wine as being either distinctly Old World or New World. Moreover, the wine held its own in the company of such wines as Trimbach’s Cuvee Frederic Emile 2004 from Alsace, France, the Muller-Catoir 2009 from Pfalz, Germany and Eroica 2009 from the Columbia Valley, WA joint venture between Chateau Ste. Michelle and Dr. Loosen.

First released with the 2004 vintage, True & Daring’s current release is the 2007 vintage. Tasted in October, this wine was showing some development with honey, citrus and a hint of petrol on the nose. The dry palate was dominated by citrus and petrol with high acidity, medium body and long length.

Unfortunately, all of the Bosmans’ audacity doesn’t come cheap; the wine retails at $35.00/bottle, but it is well-worth the splurge.

Quick Sips

A number of wine samples crossed my dining table in the latter half of 2011. Some were quite nice; others were amazingly good. Here are the highlights.

Italy Calling

The Frescobaldi Remole 2009, Tuscany, Italy ($10.00) is a country level wine (it’s labeled as IGT Toscana) that combines 85% Sangiovese with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. With leafy, cherry and vegetal aromas and flavors, the wine was in keeping with its Sangiovese origins, but the Cabernet Sauvignon was more evident on the palate, with black fruit lingering in the finish. A nice value at this price and an excellent foil for the homemade pizza we paired with which we paired it.

A more traditional “Super Tuscan” style wine, Frescobaldi’s Tenuta di Castiglioni 2008, Tuscany, Italy ($22.00) switches the blend to lead with 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and only 10% Sangiovese. The nose presents blackberry, mint, smoke and slight vegetative aromas, while the palate offers bright acidity, firm tannins, full body and black cherry, vegetal, mint and cedar flavors. Overall, it is nicely structured with some complexity.

From further south, the Xavier Flouret Quattro Canti 2007, Sicily, Italy ($24.00) offers an interesting 50-50 mix of the indigenous Nero d’Avola with the non-traditional Cabernet Franc, aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. This deep colored wine had aromas of plum, vanilla, oak, licorice and some spice with dusty tannins, ripe, jammy fruit flavors of plum, cocoa, black cherry, vanilla and oak, with medium+ length.

You had me at Pinot

A  Pinot Noir “taste off” pitted Foppiano Pinot Noir 2008, Russian River Valley, CA ($25.00) against Bouchaine Pinot Noir 2007, Carneros, CA ($30.00) with the following results. The Bouchaine showed cherry, black cherry and vanilla aromas, which were joined by spice and herbs with vibrant acidity, medium+ body, ripe tannins and long length on the palate. The Foppiano offering was a bit shier on the nose, with less pronounced aromas of cherry and herbs. Bright red fruit, spice and wood dominated the slightly lighter-bodied palate, culminating in long length.

Down by the bay

Shifting attention down under, a series of wines from Hawkes Bay were tasted in anticipation of a New Zealand wine seminar given at the American Wine Society’s annual conference.

Among the whites, the Decibel Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($14.00) showed citrus and grassy aromas on the nose, giving way to lemon, lime marmalade, slight grass and minerality with high acidity and medium+ body, while the Te Awa Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($18.00) displayed more grapefruit and pith with slightly less acidity on the palate. The Te Awa Chardonnay 2009 ($27.00) offered apple notes with slight oak and mineral character, which were joined by citrus and spice flavors on the full-bodied palate.

Moving onto the reds, the Te Awa Syrah 2009 ($27.00) had fresh fruit aromas of blackberry with a hint of oak followed by spice, earth, leather and black cherry flavors with medium acidity, full body,  med tannins and long length. The more unusual, varietally-labeled Decibel Malbec 2009 ($18.00) is a blend of blueberry, cranberry and slight spice on the nose with ripe tannins, medium+ acidity and rich blueberry and blackberry notes on the palate.

German Riesling and beyond

I ended the year with several German wines including Silvaner, Lemberger and Riesling.

The P.J. Vlackenberg Gewürztraminer 2010, Pfalz, Germany ($14.00) has pronounced aromas of spice, floral and pear, which persisted on the off dry palate with medium+ body and medium length.

With notes of pear, blossom and smoke, the Castell-Castell Silvaner Trocken 2010, Franken, Germany ($18.00)’s palate gives way to riper versions of these aromas on its light-bodied palate.

A nice red, quaffing wine, the Grafen Neipperg Lemberger 2010, Württemberg, Germany ($24.00) greets the nose with cherry, plum and slight spice and finishes with medium length.

The Liebfrauenstift Dry Riesling 2010, Rheinhessen, Germany ($15.00) is a good value, food friendly wine, offering  fresh citrus and candied lemon aromas, with good acidity on the dry palate.

Enjoyed on Christmas day and shared with close friends, the Baron zu Knyphausen Erbacher Michelmark Riesling Erste Lage 2009, Rheingau, Germany ($57.00) was a wonderful surprise. Displaying floral, citrus and tangerine aromas on the nose, the dry palate offered piercing acidity with rich, ripe flavors of peach, tangerine, citrus pith, lime zest, floral and minerality, finishing with a very long length. Truly amazing.

A Meeting of the (Winemakers’) Minds

While it is great to hear from winemakers about their wines, it isn’t exactly a unique experience. However, listening to a panel of winemakers from around the globe talk about key issues in the wine world is a special treat. And, one perhaps made even better when that panel is moderated by Kevin Zraly.

In July 2010, amidst a torrential downpour, I arrived at Moet-Hennessy’s Chelsea offices damp, but not downtrodden. Welcoming the cup of coffee that was offered, I spent some time viewing various displays for Moet-Hennessy products. Once everyone had arrived and was assembled in the conference room, the Winemakers’ Forum began.

The panel included Leone Contini Bonacossi, Owner of Capezzana; Marc Sorrel, Estate Director for Chateau de Sancerre; Nicolas Audebert, Cheval des Andes’ winemaker; Ian Morden, Estate Director for Cloudy Bay; Joel Burt, Assistant Winemaker at Domaine Chandon; Andrea Leon, Winemaker for Casa Lapostolle; Andrea Felluga, Livio Felluga’s winemaker; Laura Bianchi, owner of Monsanto; Chris Millard, executive winemaker at Newton Vineyard; Winemaker Manuel Louzada from Numanthia; and Terrazas’ senior winemaker, Adrian Meyer.

Kevin kicked off the session by asking the winemakers to share their favorite wine memories, especially those that cemented their interest in, and love for, wine. For some, it was a single wine – perhaps a 1996 Bandol (Adrian), Krug 1928 (Nicolas) or a Bonne Mares from one’s birth year (Marc). For others, it was a particular experience – tasting sparkling wine in the winery with one’s grandfather (Manuel) or stealing down into the cellar at 13 (Andrea L.) or 5 (Leone) and drinking from either the bottle or barrel, respectively. And, as Ian reminded everyone, context is everything; “You can’t divorce wine from the occasion.”

Trekkies know that space is the final frontier, but Kevin next queried where in the world was the next wine frontier. There was a diversity of responses ranging from the need to explore higher altitudes due to climate change and the shift in wine styles to up-and-coming grape varieties and regions. There was no one grape variety identified, but rather, certain varieties were associated with new areas such as Syrah in New Zealand’s Hawkes Bay; Chenin Blanc in Stellenbosch, South Africa; Petit Verdot in Maipu, Chile; and the  rediscovery of Trebbiano, Malvasia and Friulano.

Building on the topic of change and innovation, the discussion then centered on changes in winemaking. On this, there was more consensus among panel members. Many spoke about the return to more traditional winemaking and a less is more approach. Another theme was an increased emphasis on the vineyard and terroir.

Viticultural advances were further noted such as drip irrigation and the development of rootstocks. A focus on balance was also mentioned, whether through canopy management, matching grape varieties with the right climate or achieving balance in the wine itself.

Here, Mary Ewing-Mulligan asked the panel to address the fact that the alcohol is not in balance even though winemakers say it’s not about alcohol. In response, Nicolas explained that sometimes waiting for full maturity in the grapes results in high alcohol levels. He added that while “[the alcohol level] could be high and be too much, it could [also] be high and you don’t feel it.” “I feel it,” said Mary.

With regard to wine in the market, both Laura and Marc lamented that consumption habits had declined in Europe, especially with the younger generation which drinks less wine and more beer and cocktails. While others agreed, Ian countered that new markets, especially China and Brazil, were becoming increasingly sophisticated with regard to wine.

More specific to the American market, Leone expressed pleasant surprise at the level of knowledge displayed by the people at her hotel’s reception desk. She was impressed with the broad picture they had on wine compared with young Italians whom, she said, have a more regional palate.

When Kevin mused about the outlook for the U.S. – Is it generally getting better? There was a resounding yes from the group. However, this sentiment needs to be tempered in light of recent economic issues.

And, what was their opinion of American wines? A number of people mentioned the quality of Oregon wines, naming its Pinot Noirs and sparkling wines in particular. However, Laura confessed that she had tasted American Sangiovese, but wasn’t worried about the competition (she produces Chianti, which is primarily made from Sangiovese).

Questioned about wine critics, the feeling was that critics play an important role, helping to narrow the field for the consumer. However, it was also admitted that, like any system, it has some good and bad elements associated with it. While Andrea L. stated that it was rewarding as a winemaker to receive high scores, Nicolas emphasized that, “if you are making wine as a passion, you are not making wine for critics.” Joel also suggested that the power of big critics is waning due to blogs, an opinion that Chris shared.

As a final topic, the conversation turned to biodynamics and organics. A few, such as Nicolas and Adrian, admitted that being organic was easy for them due to climatic conditions. Yet, Andrea F. and others pointed to high rainfall and humidity as impediments to such practices. However, the overall feeling was that such viticultural practices were crucial in and of themselves, not as marketing efforts. Consequently, many winemakers don’t indicate their practices on the label. In this regard, Joel proposed that, “It’s important to be stewards of the land,” an emotion echoed by Andrea F., who noted that, “We have to take care of the planet.”

Grand Cru Grape Vine: There’s More to NZ than SB (March 2011)

Two weeks ago, we were tasting wine at the Pegasus Bay Winery in Waipara on New Zealand’s South Island. Thirty miles away, a major earthquake hit the city of Christchurch, with a magnitude of 6.3. We felt the earth’s violence and soon learned of the devastating destruction and death left in wake of the quake. Although we were literally and figuratively shaken, we were, thankfully, unharmed. Our thoughts go out to the citizens of Christchurch as they struggle to rebuild their city and their lives.   

Now, safely back at home, we are beginning to focus on the upcoming season and plan to post the 2011 Summer/Fall class schedule to the website by mid-April. In the meantime, Tracy is teaching at NYU and judging at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition this month. Additionally, she is now a contributing writer for Wine Portfolio. Her article on Bordeaux’s new generation   

 appeared on the site in early February.   

Drink wisely and well,   

Tracy Ellen Kamens, Ed.D., DWS, CWE   

CEO: Chief Education Officer   


Jared Michael Skolnick   

COO: Cork Opening Officer    

There’s More to NZ than SB: The Diversity of New Zealand Wines

Cloudy Bay was the Sauvignon Blanc (or as the New Zealanders call it, Savvy) shot heard round the world when it hit the ground running in 1986. In fact, the company is celebrating its 25th birthday this year. With pungent tropical fruit and overt herbaceous character, this wine from Marlborough, New Zealand put this grape on the world wine map in a way that Bordeaux Blanc (white) and Sancerre (both of which are also produced with Sauvignon Blanc) never had. And, it was deserved praise.    

But, if all you know about New Zealand is Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, think again. Hailing from areas such as Hawkes Bay, Martinborough and Central Otago, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Syrah and Pinot Noir are all thriving. And, with wines worthy of Alsace, Burgundy and the Rhone Valley, New Zealand is quickly earning a reputation as the France of the New World. Today, the wines of New Zealand are much more varied than a single wine region or a single grape variety. Rather, New Zealand’s winemakers are crafting world-class wines from a whole host of grapes and in a wide range of climates from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island and many places in between.   

While grapes arrived in New Zealand in the mid-1800s, brought by the missionaries who came to settle the English territory, winemaking didn’t become a major focus for New Zealanders until the latter part of the 20th century. With a solid understanding of stainless steel tanks and refrigeration/temperature control, thanks to the country’s booming dairy business, New Zealand was able to create clean, well-made wines that were fresh and fruity. And, with its primarily maritime climate, the grapes achieve full ripeness, but remain balanced, with lively acidity.   

Just off the coast of the city of Auckland, Waiheke Island is home to a small, but well-respected, wine region. Here, full-bodied reds such as Syrah and Bordeaux-style blends can do well alongside the usual suspects of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Also sufficiently warm, the Hawkes Bay region, on the North Island’s East Coast, finds many of its winemakers focused on Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, among others. South of Hawkes Bay, which in the Southern Hemisphere means a cooler climate, we find Wairarapa Valley/Martinborough. Known for its Pinots – both Noir and Gris – the region also excels in Riesling.   

On the northeastern tip of the South Island is the region of Marlborough, Cloudy Bay’s birthplace and which is responsible for nearly 60% of all New Zealand wine production, much of which is devoted to Sauvignon Blanc (if it ain’t broke…). Yet, these producers also show great aplomb with Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. Still further south, Central Otago is home to the southernmost vineyards in the world and a diverse set of microclimates in this much cooler climate. Here, in places like Bannockburn’s desert, the miners left their mark as they sluiced the landscape in search of gold and other minerals, resulting in a scene that seems more Bryce Canyon, Utah than New Zealand.   

And, of course, there are the occasional oddities from producers thinking outside the box. Along our travels, we also tasted Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Pinot Blanc, Semillon, Gamay, Montepulciano, Tempanillo and even a Pinotage blend, called Robert the Bruce. From sparkling Pinot Gris to late harvest Sauvignon Blanc and everything in between, the wines from New Zealand are truly diverse.   


Wines are listed by region, from North to South, instead of the usual alphabetical listing.

Man O War, Syrah 2008, Waiheke Island, New Zealand, $22.00
The largest producer on the island, Man O War is among the only Waiheke producers exported to the U.S. While we didn’t have a chance to visit the winery while we were in town, Tracy did have the opportunity to taste this wine blind against a wine from the Northern Rhône Valley (Nicholas-Perrin 2007, St. Joseph, France) and it held its own. The wine shows notes of meat, spice and red fruits, with full body, lively acidity and firm tannins.    

Te Mata, Cabernet Merlot 2008, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, $18.00
Te Mata maintains a self-catering cottage (1892 Vineyard House) just down the road from its winery with breathtaking vineyards views one can see from bed. This Bordeaux-style blend has a small amount of Petit Verdot also included. Showing black currant, vanilla and oak on the nose, the wine was dry with medium tannins and flavors of coffee, oak, black cherry and black currant.   

Ata Rangi, Pinot Noir 2009, Martinborough, New Zealand, $40.00
Helen Masters is winemaker for this pioneer producer and has been with Ata Rangi for 9 years. We absolutely adored her Pinot Gris (and her dog, see photo), but they don’t export that wine. Fortunately, her Pinot Noir is equally amazing with aromas of raspberry and dried herbs on the nose. The palate presents with high acidity, fine-grained, medium tannins and notes of raspberry, dried herbs, savory and a slight undercurrent of earth, culminating in long length.   

Villa Maria, Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand, $18.00
OK, we’ve just finished telling you to expand your horizons beyond Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but this single-vineyard wine is worth the rut. The namesake bay sits just south of the famous cloudy one, on the eastern side of the region known as the Awatere Valley. A typical nose of gooseberry and herbs gives way to a more restrained and elegant palate of tropical fruit, nettles, tomato leaf and slight salinity, all of which persist throughout the extremely long length.   

 Pegasus Bay, Riesling 2008, Waipara, New Zealand, $26.00
As noted above, we were at this winery during the earthquake – an occupational hazard of stopping for wine tastings may have spared us harm. Thankfully, the winery building was built to withstand the shocks and other than a swinging chandelier, there was no evidence of the disaster when we left. Their Riesling has won many awards and it was easy to see why with its floral and honeyed nose. On the palate, the wine is off-dry with high acidity to balance the slight sweetness and flavors of honey, pineapple, lime zest and a trace of minerality in the finish.   

Amisfield, Rocky Knoll Pinot Noir 2006, Central Otago, New Zealand, $85.00
This wine is only produced in outstanding vintages, which currently include 2003 and 2006. Compared to Amisfield’s other Pinot Noir offering, this wine spends a longer period of time aging in oak (15 months). Showing some development on the nose, with dark red fruit, herbal and earth aromas, these are joined by cherries, plums and wet leaves with beautiful balance, complexity and concentration, along with a hint of minerality in the long finish.