New York, New Zealand, New Sauvignon Blancs (And Pinots)

Tasting Nobilo, Kim Crawford, Monkey Bay and Drylands new releases Or “Big Acid in The Big Apple

Last week, I was the guest of Constellation Brands (good sports that they are!) who trotted me up to New York city for a media tasting of the new releases from their New Zealand portfolio.  A lot of “new” going on in general there.

On deck were winemakers Darryl Wooley and a jet-lag-battling Dave Edmunds to walk me and a few other wine-writing-types through a handful of tastings at the Institute of Culinary Education.  Afterward, we donned aprons and threw back a heap of wine as the ICE staff walked us through cooking our own dinners.  Or, I should say, walked most everybody else through cooking dinner, while I mulled about and chatted up everyone and generally avoided poisoning the food with my sub-par culinary skills.  To be fair, I did pat down a rack of lamb; not only do they need to be dried off a bit before cooking, but it’s NYC and so you never know, that lamb might have been packing heat.

Apologies if this post has a bit too much “weeeee! I was there! check out my blurry cell phone pix!” factor to it – but the approach felt right for recapping the event (and the cell was the only available photographic equipment I had at the time…).

Anyway, highlights for me included catching up with Tish (who was working an event in an adjacent room), and finally meeting the World Wine Guys.  Oh, and watching Constellation’s Rebecca Hopkins perform the most perfect oyster shuck that I’ve ever witnessed (see inset pic).

While not all of the 2010 Kiwi SBs floated my boat, the style is more “me” than the heavier take on SB so prevalent on the U.S. Left Coast, and the 2010 Marlborough harvest has yielded some interesting fruits worthy of note.

The yields in Marlborough were down seven percent vs. 2009, thanks to a slightly cooler end of Summer and a dry harvest that ran three weeks late in some places. This had the effect of raising abv levels to some of their highest points ever, though you’d be hard-pressed to tell when it comes to Constellation’s NZ brands, as the wines on the whole were very well-balanced. There were a few badge-worthy standouts from the festivities, and I found Nobilo generally to be the best brand of the bunch – particularly their Pinot Noir, a grape that, after a rocky-but-promising start in Kiwi land seems to be coming more and more into its own. PN clone selection has been an ongoing experiment, but Marlborough seems to have found the right matches now, and plantings are up 930% since 1996 (no, that’s not a typo).

Badges and the full run of the wines sampled are after the jump…

1WD_Badge_Sexy_thumb[1]2009 Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir (Marlborough): Ok, where has this sexy, toasty, earthy, spice, vibrant red-fruited thang been all my life? $22 B+ #

Well, if I was going to write up a description for what I like in New World Pinot Noir, it would come awfully close to this wine. Dark red berry and red plum fruits, spice, a touch of earthiness, a hint of toast – it’s all here, and it just draws you in seductively. A bit more complexity and balance would put it into greatness territory, but then it would end up costing like $50 so we’re probably better off this way.

1WD_Badge_Crowd_Pleaser_thumb[1]2010 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): 14% abv?? And yet it totally works, and will rock your next shellfish meal like a star. $22 B+ #

This wine surprised the hell out of me.14% abv and nary a sign of it except for a more luscious mouthfeel.  Wet rock is prominent, and it’s almost flinty. All of that is offset nicely by the passionfruit flavors typical of the area, and things are charged up a notch with a hint of lemon zest/rind. Rock star material for seafood dinners. 

1WD_Badge_Overachiever_thumb1_thumb[1] 2010 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Overachieving to the point of being smarmy. The gooseberries & flint are esp. nice touches. $16 B #

This wine is like Eddie Haskell, it’s so obvious about how pleasant it is and how much it delivers for the price that it’s almost f*cking smarmy about it.  The gooseberry fruit is just over the top on this, and it mineral/herbal components are complex enough that, for me, it outshone some other wines at the event that were twice the price…

The rest of the Kiwi bunch:

  • 07 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir (Central Otago): Red, dark & enticing, like a chocolate-covered strawberry, but being shoved into your face. $33 B #
  • 09 Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay (Marlborough): Balanced w/ fun aromas of apricot & buttered popcorn. Might be onto something here! $17 B #
  • 09 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir (Marlborough): Loved the chewy cherry & raspberry; but the rough mid-palate, not-so-much loving that. $19 B #
  • 10 Kim Crawford “Spitfire” Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Like a group of animated cartoon citrus fruits; it’s almost *too* lively. $26 B # (tank sample)
  • 10 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Green tinge hints @ heap of nettles on the nose. Passion fruit & mouthfeel 2 the rescue $18 B #
  • 10 Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Crisp, almost sweet but solid as the wet rocks its aromas evoke. $14 B- #
  • 10 Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough): Finally tastes like it’s got the mark of the ‘borough (but otherwise unremarkable). $11 C+ # (tank sample)
  • Cheers!





    • Susan Guerra

      Hey Joe,

      If I had known you and Tish were going to be there I would have accepted the invite. Instead I spent the evening with my son's guidance counsellor as he explained to us how we were about to take on roughly the same amount of debt as buying a home so that my son can (with any luck) read the classics, learn that builders build buildings and later in life capitalize on that fabulous education so he can afford to house us in a stylish nursing home when we are old and feeble.

      Believe me when I tell you that I needed a drink after that–though something a lot stiffer than the average New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Sorry I missed it.


      • 1WineDude

        HA! Sue – I am not looking forward to those days, which are coming for me…! :)

    • Rebecca Hopkins

      Thanks again for joining us and great recap on the wines – comforting to know I can go back to my "oyster days" if the wine gig doesn't work out!

      • 1WineDude

        You've got mad skillz, Rebecca, no doubt!

    • Kimberly

      So often lately, I'll read about a wine on your blog that gets a badge and a good thumbs up, and realize, "Hey, we sell that where I work and I've never tried it, I must buy a bottle, ASAP!" This time it's the Drylands Sauvignon Blanc. One of my co-workers adores it and frequently suggests it customers.
      This summer I fell in love with Sauvignon Blanc after ignoring it for years, and discovered I like the New Zealand style with it's limy acidity and grassy/grapefruit-y nature. I'm sure they're not all like that, and that it depends on the winemaker, but as I'm learning more about wine, I feel like it's an achievement when I can stick my nose into a glass of SB and know it must be from New Zealand. : )

      • 1WineDude

        Thanks, Kimberly – for some reason, this has been a Summer of SB for me as well. Must be something in the water? :)

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