New Zealand’s Wairau Valley and the Wairau River 2015 Marlborough Pinot Noir

New Zealand's modern wine industry began in Marlborough in the 1970s with growers planting Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir vines in the southern Wairau Valley. Nowadays, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are world famous and the Wairau Valley is home to some of New Zealand's most famous producers. One of these early growers was the Rose family who planted their estate vineyards on the banks of the Wairau River.

"The Wairau Valley is one of three zones – along with the Southern Valleys and the Awatere Valley – which make up the heartland of New Zealand's Marlborough wine region. It accounts for approximately 45 percent of plantings within the wider region. It is a wide river valley that follows the Wairau River from the Spenser Mountains in the west to the Pacific at Cloudy Bay. The Richmond Mountains in the north separate it from the sunny region of Nelson, ...

Maison En Belles Lies L’Étrange 2016

With its Gothic equilateral arches it reminds me of Darth Vader. . . inside the liquid is Burgundy, but not as I know it. . . a blend of pinot noir, gamay and chardonnay - it's fast, slippery, sappy and absolutely delicious. Red fruited, musk and spice; a Morgon nose. Floral and beautiful, pixie like - small and delicate but intense. Sour and edgy, terrific acids, just the right side of jagged. #Yes.

Pinot Noir Day: California, Part I — 2014, ’15, ’16

Twelve examples of pinot noir today, as I catch up on wines that I tasted throughout the last six months. This post is just the beginning. There will be at least one more in this particular series, a post devoted to pinot noir from Willamette Valley, and a series about individual wineries and producers. We range from Sta. Rita Hills in the south, in Santa Barbara County, to Anderson Valley in the north, in Mendocino. Ten of these wines rate Excellent, one Very Good+ and one Exceptional. The arrangement is alphabetical, not hierarchical. Enjoy! In moderation, of course. These wines were samples for review.
The Dierberg “Dierberg Vineyard” Pinot Noir 2014, Santa Maria Valley, is a really pretty pinot noir that exhibits a serious depth of sinew and underbrush. The wine aged 14 months in French oak, 20 percent new barrels. The color is a limpid, transparent medium ruby ...

Bison Meatballs Recipe from Merry Edwards Winery

The Merry Edwards Winery is located in California’s Russian River Valley. Wines to look for at the winery include: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. If you like a sweet wine look for the Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, a dessert wine.The winery tasting room offers two types of wine tastings: In-Depth Tastings and Walk-in Tastings. The recipe below is from the Merry Edwards Winery. Try the Bison Meatballs soon!

Bison Meatballs

Serves 4 Pairs well with Klopp Ranch Pinot Noir Meatballs INGREDIENTS 1 pound ground bison, drained of excess liquid and blotted dry
2 large garlic cloves, mashed
¼ teaspoon alaea sea salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil PREPARATION Incorporate all ingredients together by kneading with your hands. Shape into 12 medium-size meatballs. Sauté in olive oil in skillet over medium heat, turning to lightly brown all sizes. Do not overcook as ...

Upward with Onward

Current releases from Onward Wines confirm my belief that Faith Armstrong Foster is one of California’s best winemakers, notable for her deft touch, her thoughtfulness and care; she’s also the owner. She produces lamentably small quantities of wines — from impeccably maintained vineyards — that are low in alcohol, see minimal new oak and that are allowed to speak for themselves and the vineyards from which they derive rather than exist as proponents of the winemaker’s ego. I urge My Readers to seek out the Onward Wines and the second label Farmstrong as brilliant examples of honesty, authenticity and integrity. These wines were samples for review. Every accompanying label image is one vintage retrograde; the winery website has not caught up to the current releases.
When we tried these petillant naturel sparkling products from Onward Wines, my wife said, “Can we get a case of these?” Yes, they’re ...

Wine of the Day, No. 423

Here’s a rosé whose fairly robust presence sets it apart from the usual crowded field. The Copain Tous Ensemble Rosé of Pinot Noir 2017, Mendocino, made all in stainless steel, offers a pale smoky topaz hue and notes of strawberry and raspberry, watermelon and rose petals, with a hint of Rainier cherry in the background; coming to the fore are elements of damp, dusty flint and limestone that bolster crisp acidity and a lovely texture that caresses the palate with silky drape and flow. This beguiling rosé is quite dry but shapely in structure and almost juicy with raspberry, peach and red currant flavors. 13 percent alcohol. Take it on a picnic and enjoy with cold fried chicken, deviled eggs, watercress and cucumber finger sandwiches, rabbit and duck terrine on chunks of crusty bread. Winemaker was Wells Guthrie. Jackson Family Wines purchased Copain, a highly regarded boutique winery, in May ...

The Light of Day

Brianne Day launched Day Wines in 2012 with 125 cases of pinot noir produced from a friend’s vineyard in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Today, she makes about 5,000 cases of a diverse group of wines, most in very small quantities, most single vineyard wines from certified organic or biodynamic vines. A few wines are made from grapes sourced from Applegate Valley, in the state’s southern regions, but most by far are from Willamette Valley appellations. The wines are fermented using naturally occurring yeasts, typically with no sulfur added at fermentation; very little new oak is employed; the wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered. The result is wines that exhibit intense purity and sense of purpose, with an aura that feels untamed, untrammeled and highly individual. These wines were samples for review. Image of Brianne Day from

The Day Wines Belle Penthe Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Yamhill-Carlton District, spent 19 ...

Discovering #BourgogneUnknown with Bourgogne Wines

"I normally shy away from white wines, but that one (Jean Chartron Rully Montmorin 2015) was delicious", Anonymous Neighbor 1

"This wine (Domaine Dominique Gruhier Bourgogne Epineuil 2015) is so good....we loved it", text from Anonymous Neighbor 2

I generally disperse wines I receive as samples amongst my neighbors once the official tasting session has concluded and a recent #BourgogneUnknown registered immediate and overwhelmingly positive feedback from the beneficiaries. That is Bourgogne and not Burgundy as Bourgogne Wines seeks to "re-affirm its identity as one of the most iconic ‘brands’ of France, the region and its producers are reverting back to the original French iteration of its name – Bourgogne".

This iconic region spans 230 km of territory from North to South and encompasses 84 distinct appellations. Of these, there are seven regional appellations, 44 village appellations, and 33 Grand Cru Climats. Some of these appellations, such as Chablis ...

Wine of the Day, No. 415

The Bianchi Extra Brut Sparkling Wine, non-vintage, hails from Argentina’s Mendoza region, where it is made by Bodega Valentin Bianchi. A blend of 60 percent chardonnay and 40 percent pinot noir grapes, grown at 2,460 feet elevation, this charming sparkling wine was produced in the Champagne method of second fermentation in the bottle. The color is very pale platinum blond, animated by a steady foaming stream of tiny bubbles; notes of roasted lemon, spiced pear and fresh-baked brioche are twined with hints of quince and ginger and an undercurrent of limestone that burgeons across the palate; there’s a faint, tantalizing touch of almond blossom. It’s quite crisp and dry, revealing lovely tone and presence, and culminates in a finish that delicately evinces the limestone-chalk element. 12.2 percent alcohol. A delightful aperitif on a warm Summer afternoon. Excellent. About $22. Imported by Quintessential Wines, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

Wine of the Day, No. 413

The Wonderland Project was conceived by former sommelier Matt Ahern. He makes a White Queen Chardonnay, which I have not tried, and this Two Kings Pinot Noir 2016, grapes derived from two vineyards on the Sonoma side of Carneros; the designation is Sonoma County. If the idea is to offer great tasting and authentic wine at reasonable prices, the Two Kings fills that proposition exactly. Aged a brief seven months in French oak, only 20 percent new barrels, the wine evinces a delectable purity of varietal character. The color is a totally transparent light ruby hue; aromas of red and black cherries are permeated by notes of sassafras, rhubarb and cranberry, with highlights of cloves, lavender and sandalwood. This is lovely, spare and elegant on the palate, with a satiny, lithe and supple texture through which acidity cuts a swath; cherry and plum flavors culminate in a slightly woodsy, floral ...

Wine of the Day, No. 411

Winemaker Joe Ibrahim fashioned the Willamette Valley Vineyards Whole Cluster Pinot Noir 2017 by pouring the bunches of
grapes into large stainless steel containers, laying on a blanket of carbon dioxide and allowing the weight of the clusters above to crush the grapes below, starting fermentation in an atmosphere free of oxygen. Called carbonic maceration, this process — much simplified in this explanation — produces wines of immediate freshness and fruit-driven appeal. That’s certainly the case here. The color is transparent medium grape-purple, and the wine is fresh, ripe and vigorous, offering scents and flavors of black raspberry and cherry with undertones of blueberry; a few moments in the glass bring in a vibrant weaving of graphite and lavender, black licorice and bittersweet chocolate, with a background of spiced plum. A pleasing traction of moderate tannins and bright acidity lends thrust and grip on the palate, and the wine concludes ...

Jérôme Balmet Beaujolais 2016

On the label the maker - eyes blue and askew, a discombobulated lemon. . . the grapes come from a non cru southern site - the granite hill of Vaux-en-Beaujolais.

It's delicious, sans sulfites, vibrant and earthy; sticks, rhubarb and roots more than fruit. It exudes a rude good health. . . Tart and lively, a witches brew of game, bitter medicinal herbs and liniment. It reminds me, faintly, of the home brew medicine / tea / soup my maternal grandmother tried to fortify me with.

A suitcase wine from Singapore's Artisan cellars.

Weekend Wine Notes: Allons, enfants de la patrie!

The wine regions of France, especially Bordeaux and Burgundy, long served as the models and the ideals for producers and winemakers all over the world. Even nowadays, when wine-making has proliferated worldwide and expanded far beyond the so-called “noble grapes” of French origin, Burgundy is often seen as the apotheosis of chardonnay and pinot noir, Bordeaux the epitome of cabernet sauvignon and merlot, Champagne the ur-text of sparkling wine. I offer today, in celebration of Bastille Day, 12 examples that illustrate, even if in a severely limited degree, the diversity and the versatility of French wine production. Some of those noble grapes are involved — cabernet and merlot, indeed, chardonnay and pinot noir, riesling — but also a more everyday variety like gamay and obscure grapes like jacquere. In one blog post, no one could begin to assay the immense complexity of France’s geographical extent and appellation system, but I ...

Hess Select Central Coast Pinot & North Coast Cabernet

Looking for wine to bring to a party? Then think of Hess Select wines; they are suitable because they are generally very approachable and boast an agreeable $20 SRP.  Whereas the Hess Collection wines are produced from the winery's Mount Veeder Napa estate, the Hess Select wines are produced from grapes sourced from other California appellations. Many of these are small family growers whom Hess Family Wine Estates has established long term relationships. Here are two such wines we received this month.

Hess Select Central Coast Pinot Noir ($20) - The grapes are sourced primarily from the Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey. Director of Winemaking Dave Guffy says these grapes are grown in the Sarmento Vineyard, "located on the benchlands of the Gabilan Mountains in Monterey, where the Pacific breezes boldly cross the range each afternoon to cool the vineyards". This results in an extended and moderate growing season. ...

Joshua Cooper ‘Spring’ 2017

Macedon Pinot noir, 13%, Diam.

Minimal sulphur dioxide, the liquid is cloudy and there's a fine rim of CO2 as the wine settles in the glass. Stems, roots and earth, ginger more than fruit. A whiff of game, once the opening distraction of spritz settles it's nimble and unpolished. A short term bottle, there's already a hint of mouse by nights end.

#FirstSipNZ with Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Villa Maria Estate Winery

"Taylors Pass Single Vineyard wines are pure expressions of soil and climate and varietal interactions",  Kathrin Jankowiec Marlborough Winemaker at Villa Maria Estate Winery

The Villa Maria Estate Winery's Taylor Pass vineyard is located in Marlborough's Awatare Valley along the northern bank of the Awatere River. In the larger picture Marlborough is in the northeast of the South Island with the Awatare Valley in the southernmost section of this famous wine region. The river not only helped carve the vineyard plots but also gives the region its name as awatere means "fast-flowing river" in the local Maori dialect. The vines are planted on rugged terraces and with each terrace the soil type changes: stony gravels are nearest the river, whereas the mid terrace has silt over gravels, and the highest terrace is deeper silt over clay-papa base. The grapes benefit from a large diurnal temperature swing as cool ocean breezes ...

Fathers milk 2017

Scary Gully, Adelaide Hills. 11.5%. Pinot noir. Cork. Approx $A75. 1172 bottles made.

An awkwardly named neighbourly collaboration between Gentle Folk Wines and Ochota Barrels - made from the loose berried rot resistant Geisenheim clone. It's slow to open; dusty and dark, brooding. In juxtaposition it's curiously creamy with cherry cola and confection.

A trainspotter's wine. It's interesting to see whose hand is more perceptible - from my small sample size - it seems more like an Ochota Barrels wine - the nose more dirt than fruit and in the mouth atypical with unexpected texture.

Day 2 dregs - left unpreserved and sealed only with its original cork - it's more convincingly unified and more traditionally appealing.

Manon Pino 2017

Forest Range, Adelaide Hills. 12%. Cork. Approx $A35.

A very primary and quite primal pinot noir; earth and roots, the most geosmin scented wine I've had for some time. . . rhubarb, spice and smoulder. Spritzig to open, beet juice and grape skins, musk. . . very pert, quite skeletal but certainly not green. Challenging, but rewarding.