There is a lot more to New Zealand wine than Sauvignon Blanc. Nothing wrong with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, there is just a lot of it! The style can be homogenous, but there is some good juice coming out of New Zealand. I attended a fascinating luncheon and wine tasting in which Cameron Douglas, MS guided us through quite a flight of wines, paired expertly with a menu courtesy of Napa Valley Grille. This luncheon and tasting reminded me of the wide range of wines from New Zealand. Yes, there is plenty of basic and uninteresting Sauvignon Blanc, but there is also a wide selection of honest, regional wines available at many different price points.
Below is my journey through the wines of New Zealand as expertly paired with a delectable meal.
No 1 Family Estate: Cuvee Blanc de Blancs, NV, Marlborough
A lovely sparkling made by 12th generation Champenois, Daniel Le Brun. This 100% Chardonnay sparkler from all Marlborough vines gives all the lees and toast a girl could want! A fine starter.
2017 The Darling Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
And we have firmly landed in Marlborough; specifically, the Wairau Valley. This wine delivers great acid and jumps out of the glass with its “Marlborough Lift”. Approximately 10% of the blend is barrel fermented with wild natural yeast to give texture and body.
Spinach Salad & Strawberry Shooter
Humboldt Fog, Roasted Almonds, Dragon Apples, Balsamic Drizzle. Strawberry Shooter (Cucumber, Serrano, Mint, Micro Peppercress)
2016 Brightwater Sophie’s Kiss Rosé of Pinot Noir, Nelson
This deep salmon color is darker than many rosés. A beautiful Pinot Noir rosé with a floral nose with red berries. On the palate, this wine has heft. Not all rosés have to be light and fluffy…..this one is not. Spicy, zesty, fresh, and fruity that really holds up to the shooter.
2015 Ceres, Swansong Vineyard, Pinot Gris, Bannockburn, Central Otago
This Pinot Gris is from Central Otago, which is the southernmost wine region in the world. A faint aromatic intensity with green fruit (pear, green apple), tropical fruit, stone fruit (apricot), and white pepper on the palate. A textured wine with slight RS (residual sugar).
Skuna Bay Salmon
“Farrotto”, Frisee and Mizuna Salad, White Wine Beurre Blanc
2015 Clearview Estate Reserve, Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay
A California style Chardonnay with texture and body. It almost has a chewiness to it. Lovely notes of toast, cream, and oak, as the wine is fermented and aged partially in new French oak. This wine has great structure which will aid in its ageability.
2016 Vidal Estate ”El Legado” Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay
A Burgundian style Chardonnay. With oak (vanilla, toast), butter/cream, and smokiness on the nose. The palate is crisp and clean with citrus (lemon) and tart little green apples. This wine worked well with the salmon dish with the creaminess of the wine matching the fattiness of the fish. 2016 produced a beautiful Chardonnay here. The cooler than normal start to the season delayed ripening, which allowed the slow accumulation of flavor and retention of natural acidity in what was a relatively warm year. Vidal Estate is owned by Villa Maria Group.
Duck Confit Pasta
Strozzapreti Pasta, Port Jus, Mirepoix, Baby Kale, Pecorino Romano
2014 Big Sky, Te Muna Road, Pinot Noir, Marlborough
This is definitely a Pinot Noir with classic bright red fruit (strawberry) on the nose plus forest floor, earth, and pepper. Lots and lots of pepper! Good acid on the palate, plus red fruit (Bing cherry, plum) and DIRT. I love me a dirt-y wine.
2015 Ceres Composition Pinot Noir, Bannockburn, Central Otago
A much more floral (rose) nose than the Big Sky. Plus dried herbs/thyme, which I am told is a Central Otago hallmark. A juicy and fruity palate with ripe red berry fruit (raspberry, plum, and cherry). Also, spice and mineral notes. Fine tannins and moderate acid on this wine. Youthful. I dig it.
Lamb Two Ways
Braised Colorado Lamb (thyme and apricots) and New Zealand Lamb Rack (with Peppercorn Jus)
2013 Mills Reef, Elspeth, Syrah, Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay
A lovely fruit basket of red plus black fruit, including: blackberry, boysenberry, and bramble. Continuing on with black pepper and black licorice. A deeply concentrated, intense, and warming wine. Barrel aged in 46% new French oak for 17 months. Great structure and suitable for cellaring.
2013 SQM Squawking Magpie, Big Red, Hawkes Bay
Hello Cab Sauv! Pyrazines up the yin yang! All Gimblett Gravels fruit made up of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 11% Cabernet Franc. A complex wine showing: blueberry plus black fruit, black peppercorns, cedar, cigar box, and dried herbs.
Frangipane, Honey Yogurt, Orange Tuile, Berry Coulis
2012 Ostler, Riesling, Lake Waitake
The requisite Riesling petrol nose plus citrus and floral notes. The palate serves: citrus, petrol, plus a briny saltiness. These vines are on alluvial greywacke soil in Central Otago.