Some New Zealand Selections
NEUDORF 2008 CHARDONNAY $25.99
NEUDORF 2009 "Tom's Block" PINOT NOIR $29.99
Neudorf's 2010 CHARDONNAY "Moutere" $39.99
Neudorf's 2009 PINOT NOIR "Moutere" $39.99
- We recall
hearing British wine writer Hugh Johnson, back in the 1980s, speculating
that New Zealand might have a good future with respect to
He must have tasted wine from this venerable (old for New Zealand, anyway)
- Neudorf ("new town" in German) takes its name from an old German
settlement in the Nelson region of the south island. The winery was
founded by Tim and Judy Finn. They followed their dream of making good
wine, despite the bank's advice to take the more safe path and raise
The New Zealand wine world is much better off as a result, for if one tastes
the wines of Neudorf, it's easy to see the future is very bright indeed!
The 2008 Chardonnay is superb! Beautifully balanced, it tips its chapeau
to the French in Burgundy and yet it retains an element which says New
Zealand! Dry, lightly oaked and showing some stony, minerally
notes and a touch of toastiness, this is a complete and totally satisfying
We tasted good Sauvignon Blanc from Neudorf--different from Marlborough
And they make really good, soulful Pinot Noir. The 2009 Tom's Block Pinot
is quite good. Medium+ bodied and intensely fragrant varietal
aromas. Nice flavors and a touch of tannin, but not too much.
They make a "reserve" wines called Moutere.
Chardonnay from a single vineyard undergoes an indigenous yeast fermentation
and it's fermented in wood (barriques and puncheons). Its yeasty
sediment is stirred for about a year and it has undergone a malolactic
fermentation. Very complex and it's a wine for which most Burgundian
winemakers would be proud.
The Moutere Pinot Noir comes from a couple of vineyard sites...low yields
for this, as you might expect. They employ a nice range of coopers for
the barrels in which this is matured and about one-third new wood. No
fining or filtering...dark cherry fruit character...very fine! Only a
few hundred cases are produced.
to the Finns and their 'team' of Neudorfers!
- An Australian winery, many years ago now, launched a little winery in
New Zealand's Marlborough region called Cloudy Bay.
They hired a young feller named Kevin Judd to be the winemaker, as he'd
graduated from Roseworthy College, worked for Australia's Reynella winery
before moving on to New Zealand's Selaks.
Judd worked for 25 harvests at Cloudy Bay so he's seen it all. He
witnessed the blossoming of New Zealand's wine industry, dealt with all
sorts of vintage challenges and make some wines which put the country on
the world's wine map.
When he started at Cloudy Bay, of course, things were manageable. It
was a small business. Today it's a 250 hectare winery and even
that's not enough to meet the demand, so they buy fruit from numerous
Well, with Cloudy Bay being part of the Veuve Clicquot branch of the Louis
Vuitton-Moet-Hennessy conglomerate, things started to become fairly
corporate at the winery. Despite his accomplishments, if you have a
gander at Cloudy Bay's web site, there's not a mention of Judd, let alone
of tip of their corporate cap! That's a bit like Napa's Beaulieu
Vineyards not keeping Andre Tchelistcheff's memory alive or the Mondavi
winery forgetting about Robert Mondavi...
In 2009 Judd started making wine for his own brand, a name he'd registered
back in the 1990s, thinking then, "one day perhaps I'll have my own
winery!" And some pals with whom he'd worked at Cloudy Bay
offered him some space at their new winery, Dog Point.
We had seen the Greywacke wines listed in the large liquor company
catalogue and, while we knew whose wines they were, we had not tasted
them. I asked the sales rep, a "wine specialist" and he
knew nothing about Greywacke. So we bought a bottle of the 2011
"regular" Sauvignon Blanc and a 2010 "Wild Sauvignon."
We liked both wines very much. The "Wild"
bottling is more of a winemaker's wine or a wine for some wine writers...it's
showing notes of Sauvignon Blanc, for sure, but there's a whiff of wood and an
overtone reminiscent of honey.
Showing greater clarity of the grape and the place is the 2011 Marlborough
Sauvignon Blanc. It's a thrilling bottle of wine, showing beautiful
citrusy notes of New Zealand Sauvignon with ripe melon notes, a touch of an
herbal quality and maybe a note of gooseberry or "green." It's
dry. It's marvelously fruity and it's got zesty, zippy acidity.
What's not to like?
Currently in stock: 2011 GREYWACKE SAUVIGNON BLANC
most people speak about New Zealand wines, the main appellations include
Marlborough, of course, perhaps Martinborough, Central Otago and perhaps
Nelson and Hawke's Bay.
The Waiheke Island is one most people will miss, though it's a region
that's close to Auckland, New Zealand's most populous city.
It's located 11 miles east of Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf and you can
take a short ferry ride from the big city, if you like. The island
has nearly nine-thousand residents and there's a seasonal influx of people
who maintain a vacation residence there.
Captain James Cook anchored in this region back in 1769, or so they
say. And his journal indicates he'd seen some rather large trees
there which he felt would make perfect masts for British war ships, hence
the association with "Man o' War."
The big land owner of this island is the secretive Spencer
family, a seriously wealthy clan. John Spencer is the patriarch of the
family and one of his two grown children operates the Man o' War winery.
That would be Berridge Spencer, who actually had invested in some vineyard
property in Sonoma's Knights Valley some years ago, but sold his interest to
dabble in New Zealand wine.
Their holdings on the Waiheke Island amount to 4500 acres and today they've
planted numerous little parcels (something like 76 different plots), mostly
We found their 2009 Syrah called "Dreadnought" to be
exceptional. It's a magnificent expression of Syrah and I can't imagine a
Rhone Valley vigneron not being impressed by this wine.
The grapes come from a very steep, north-facing slope. The grapes are
de-stemmed and put into the fermenter in a gentle manner to retain as many
"whole berries" as possible. The first few days the tank is
chilled to essentially have a "cold soak," before allowing it to warm
and begin its fermentation using indigenous yeasts. After it's dry, the
wine was transferred to small oak cooperage, with about one quarter of the
barrels being new.
The resulting wine is amazingly fine and most tasters would identify it, poured
"blind," as some sort of Northern Rhone Syrah. There's a pepper
spice note which is exceptional and the wood remains in the background as a sort
of seasoning for the fruit and spice. The tannin level is modest, making
for a balanced wine. Drinkable now, this can probably be cellared for
another decade, if you like.
Currently in Stock: 2009 MAN O'WAR "Dreadnought"
is a couple of hours' drive north of Cheviot in the Canterbury region
where you'll find Mount Beautiful. And you'll need an
hour and a half to drive north to this place from the big city of
Canterbury is home to nearly two dozen wineries and its climate is best
suited to early-ripening varieties, though there is a bit of Cabernet
This winery is the work of Dr. David Teece and his wife Leigh. He's
from New Zealand, but spends a fair amount of time here in the San
Francisco Bay Area as he's a professor of Business Administration at UC
Berkeley's Haas School of Business. He was hired by the music
recording industry here to argue their case in favor of shutting down the
music file-sharing web site, Napster.
Teece holds four honorary doctorates, too and now he's got his hands in a
vineyard and winery project as if he doesn't have enough to do!
Mrs. Teece is an American and she was living in the world of
business, banking and venture capital when she meet Dr. Teece. Instead of
their investing in a region where wine was already a part of the local scene,
they pioneered an unheralded area of the Canterbury region on the southern banks
of the Waiau River close to 6 miles from Cheviot.
Vineyards are mostly devoted to Sauvignon Blanc with about 30% planted to Pinot
Noir and a scant few percent each to Riesling and Pinot Gris.
Sauvignon Blanc vineyards are predominantly a UC Davis (California) clone of
Sauvignon, with two clones from France's Bordeaux region. Pinot Noir
vineyards are of Burgundian clones along with some UC Davis clones.
We found their 2010 Sauvignon Blanc to be of interest and a bit different from
the typical Marlborough bottlings which are so popular. The Mt. Beautiful
Sauvignon displays some herbal tones leaning towards vegetal rather than the
overt citrus/grapefruit of Marlborough. There's a hint of bell pepper and
some of the green, gooseberry sorts of notes here, too. Dry, no oak and
purely Sauvignon! It's a good aperitif and seafood white.
A 2011 Pinot Noir is also delightful. It's a medium-bodied wine with
classic Pinot aromas, showing a bit of cherry and a hint of wood. They did
a cold soak before the fermentation and even left the skins in contact with the
wine for a couple of weeks after the fermentation completed. It spent ten
months in French oak, with 25% of the barrels being new. Delightful and
Currently in stock: 2011 MT. BEAUTIFUL PINOT
2010 MT. BEAUTIFUL SAUVIGNON BLANC $14.99
- LAWSON'S DRY HILLS
- The Lawsons started their winemaking adventure in 1992, though they had
been growing grapes since 1980.
We've found Gewürztraminer from Lawson's to be of interest and recently
tasted a 2007 Pinot Noir that's well-priced and a top quality red.
They get most of their Pinot Noir from a site overlooking the Brancott
Valley. With an understanding of winemaking in France's Burgundy, they
do a really good job in making a complex and stylish wine. About 25%
of the small French oak barrels are new...we like the dark cherry fruit of
their Pinot and the sweet, woodsy notes from the oak.
Currently in stock: 2007 LAWSON'S DRY HILLS Pinot Noir $21.99
wines of the Central Otago region tend to be rather costly, so we've had
trouble finding good wines which represent 'value' for the lofty prices they
carry. Add to the mix, the fact that the climate is variable and so
the batting average there is a bit low.
The Hinton family has been in the fruit growing business in Otago since
around 1910. They've been cultivating cherries, apricots, peaches and
plums, for example. At one point they planted some table grapes, but
these were grown in greenhouses. In the 1940s they decided to plant
some grapevines "outside" and this didn't work so well, as wild
rabbits found the fruit to be delicious, apparently.
In 1999, they took another stab at grapes and planted some Pinot Noir and
Merlot. And, with attention to detail, it seems they can make a go of
it. And now they're in the wine business.
We tasted a 2008 Hinton Pinot Noir and were pleased to find such nice fruit
and a deft handling of the oak program...the wine is easy to peg as Pinot
Noir and there's a hint of wood, but it's merely a light 'seasoning' and not
the focus. Combine these features with an affordable price tag and
We suspect this wine is probably at its best now and for a few more years,
but don't leave this in the rack for a decade. It's charming now, in its
- Currently in stock: HINTON 2008 Central Otago PINOT NOIR Sold
winery made some superb Sauvignon Blancs a few years ago, winning some
blind-tastings we had organized. Some difficulties with the importer
at the time meant the wines were not available, much to our disappointment.
We were delighted to see Saint Clair has returned to the Bay Area and we
bought a bottle to taste and evaluate.
It's as exceptional and exuberant as earlier vintages. Think of passion fruit,
lime, citrus blossoms and a hint of grass.
I was interested to see the winemaking notes on this wine. Some
Sauvignon producers like to give their wine some "skin contact,"
citing increased aromatics and flavors. Saint Clair's winemaker Matt
Thomson prefers to press off the skins as quickly as possible. The juice
is fermented in stainless steel at low temps to retain as much "grape"
as possible. The results are delicious.
The 2011 is a rather dry white with nice snappy acidity. It's a lovely
wine for cocktail service and it'll match nicely with Asian-styled foods and
many fish courses. The wine is intensely Sauvignon and it's a showy
bottle of New Zealand wine...
- Currently in stock: 2011 Saint Clair "Marlborough"
SAUVIGNON BLANC (list $18) SALE $15.99
- CLOS HENRI
has been quite a flood of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc wines
arriving in our market. It's no secret that many of the
wines produced there are excellent expressions of the grape.
A real validation for the Marlborough region was the arrival of
the Bourgeois family from France's Loire Valley. Their
arrival was rather like the Baron Rothschild's or Christian Moueix'
interest in owning a piece of the Napa Valley far from their
Bourgeois is the leading ambassador for the Sauvignons from
various top Loire appellations, especially that of Sancerre.
The land purchased by the
Bourgeois family was virgin vineyard territory, featuring three soil
types. They're planting several hectares annually and expect this to
be a 12 year project before reaching the finish line. They expect to
plant about 65 hectares of the 100 hectare estate.
We find the Clos Henri wine
to combine elements of top Loire Valley Sauvignons with top New Zealand
wines. Having notes of each makes for an unusually complex bottle of
Sauvignon Blanc, no matter the wine's birthplace. We like the
minerality of this wine, as well as the spicy pineapple and citrus tones.
It's got more 'weight' than your average New Zealand Sauvignon, yet it's
not as potent as most California Sauvignons.
We're big fans and delighted to have some bottles to share with our
customers. Don't miss this. I included the 2006 in a
blind-tasting with 7 Loire Valley Sauvignons. I ranked this in my
top 3 and did not find it 'stood out' as something particularly different
as would most New Zealand wines.
Pinot Noir from this estate can
be truly special as well. We tasted several vintages recently and they
seem to be getting closer in style and character to Burgundy! We have
the 2007 Pinot Noir in stock...it's a wonderful example of Pinot Noir.
There's a beautiful black cherry fruit aroma and the oak is just right
(meaning it's not much in evidence, but there's probably some in the mix)...
This is deliciously drinkable now and should be fine for a number of years...
Currently in stock: 2008
CLOS HENRI SAUVIGNON BLANC $18.99
2007 CLOS HENRI PINOT NOIR $29.99
The Australian family, Hill-Smith, started a distribution business in
neighboring New Zealand and along with that the distribution company
launched a winery called Nautilus.
The distribution company offers an impressive portfolio of wines to sell to
shops and restaurants in New Zealand: Gaja, Sassicaia, Bollinger,
Chateau d'Yquem, Guigal, Henschke, Egon Muller and St. Clair from their
They launched Nautilus in the mid-1980s and today it's a well-regarded brand
in its home market. We'd had their wines quite a few years ago and
have found this to be a reliably good producer of Sauvignon Blanc.
In 2000 they finished building a winery devoted exclusively to making their
Pinot Noir and in 2006 they put the finishing touches on an energy-efficient
facility devoted solely to white wine production.
In making Sauvignon Blanc, they strive to produce a wine for the dinner
table, not to be a cocktail-hour show-piece. If you need a translation
for that, it means they make a wine which is a good deal more subtle than
the typical Kiwi-land Sauvignon. Further translating, this means for
some people, the wine will not be "audible" as they've not cranked
the volume up all the way so the VU Meter is not in the red zone.
The grapes come from a handful of Estate vineyards and they have
long-term contracts with local growers.
Wairau Valley, gravelly soil sites are one part of the puzzle...gravel over
mud-stone in the Awatere Valley and some clay/loess soils in the south. As
they make their blend, they look more for texture rather than the 'loud'
expression of many NZ Sauvignons and they use the term "sophisticated"
in describing their wine.
And so the resulting wine is perhaps more suited to the "Old World"
wine drinker than today's hipster wine fan.
We like the Nautilus wine, as it occupies a place on the spectrum of New Zealand
Sauvignons which few winemakers seek.
Currently in stock: 2010 NAUTILUS SAUVIGNON BLANC
ATA RANGI 2010 Martinborough PINOT NOIR $49.99
ATA RANGI 2010 Martinborough SAUVIGNON BLANC Sold Out
- One of the original pioneering winegrowers in this
"new" region of New Zealand, Clive Paton saw the benefits of Martinborough's
deep soil and relatively dry climate for the cultivation of red wine grapes.
only a few bottles annually of exceptional Pinot Noir. If you like the wines of
Burgundy's Robert Jayer-Gilles, then you'll probably be as entranced with Ata Rangi Pinot
Noir as are we. Yields are low, French oak is high, a delightful combination. I
included the Ata Rangi Pinot in a recent blind-tasting and it was the first
place wine. Not surprisingly.
Blanc from this estate is also excellent. It's from Martinborough,
so you shouldn't expect the same sort of aromatics and flavors you'll find
typically in Marlborough wines.
They ferment approximately 10% in neutral oak and the rest is vinified in
stainless steel. No M-L, as they want to retain the fresh, zippy notes
of the Sauvignon. It's dry, full-flavored and a very expressive white
- CLOUDY BAY 2011 SAUVIGNON BLANC SALE
CLOUDY BAY CHARDONNAY $27.99
- Associated today with the Champagne producer Veuve Clicquot,
Cloudy Bay was founded in 1985 by the folks at Australia's Cape Mentelle winery.
They are world famous for their exceptional Sauvignon Blanc, but also produce Chardonnay,
Pinot Noir and a bottle-fermented sparkling wine. The supply used to
be much sought-after and doled out to "worthy" customers who
supported the Clicquot line of Champagne.
Today there are dozens of terrific New Zealand Sauvignons and hundreds of
brands of Kiwi plonk and this has taken the pressure off Cloudy Bay.
They still make good wine, though, but it's not as "hot" a brand
as it once was.
The 2009 is a good example of their handiwork. Nice fruit, dry
Chardonnay from Cloudy Bay is relatively unknown, but it's a nice bottle of
wine. Apples and hints of pear fruit with a touch of wood...dry, of
noted elsewhere on this web page, New Zealand's wine history is quite recent
as far as most wineries go. But Auntsfield has history going back to
the 1840s! The place was probably the home of some of the first New
Zealand vineyards and the present owners have worked to restore what was a
small winemaking facility from the 19th century.
- Auntsfield is today owned by Graeme Cowley and his wife,
with their two sons now working in the Wairau Valley vineyard and
cellar. Cowley has great respect for history and has researched the
story of this property. At some point, they will replant a patch of
land which is thought to be the site of the original vineyard with clones of
Muscat from an historical vineyard collection.
That was then and now is now...We tasted a remarkably fine Pinot Noir from
this domaine and thought it was worthy of its lofty price tag...
The wine is from the 2006 harvest and it's their Hawk Hill Vineyard Pinot
Noir. We found the wine to display classically Burgundian Pinot fruit
on the nose and it's nicely balanced and delicious in its youth. We
suspect this will cellar handsomely for another 5 to 8 years, but enjoy it
immensely right now. There's dark cherry fruit and a touch of oak
here...very fine. And the finish is long and lingers nicely...
Currently in stock: 2006 AUNTSFIELD "Hawk Hill" PINOT
SELAKS 2006 RIESLING/GEWÜRZ "ICE WINE" $19.99 (375ml)
- This winery and accompanying restaurant were purchased
some years ago by the famous House of Nobilo (one of their clan is a pro golfer, so you'll
sometimes see the Nobilo name on the sports pages of your newspaper).
Selaks has a pretty good name for table wines and is a highly-regarded source of "Ice
Wine," blend this vintage of Riesling and Gewürztraminer. I
don't know why they're allowed to call this "Ice Wine," since
American producers of frozen grape (not on the vine but in a freezer) wines
can't use the term on their bottlings.
In any case, the resulting
wine is amazingly well-balanced for a wine of such sweetness. The other nice feature
of this is the modest price tag, the wine costing far less than comparable German or
Austrian "ice wines." The 2006 is crisp, mildly citrusy and very fresh and
- FIRE ROAD
The Fire Road label is a brand made for a US importer, as we understand it
and it's vinified at some sort of custom-crush facility in
The name comes from a catastrophic event back at the turn of the century
when there was a major fire in Marlborough around Blenheim and some sort
of "fire road" was established in an effort to extinguish the
The wine is not only a good example of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, it's
attractively-priced at ten bucks. As a result, this wine flies out
the door as we offer a case discount off the already low $9.99 bottle
Currently in stock: 2011 FIRE ROAD SAUVIGNON BLANC $9.99
While we don't have the facilities to keep an
encyclopedic collection of New Zealand wines in the shop, we'll be happy to special order
your favorites. There's been a flood of wines arriving in the market.