Archive | Central Otago RSS feed for this section

That Time of Year: 2014 Thanksgiving Postmortem

29 Nov

For lovers of the grape, “holiday” means wine time! When chance put a perfect Halloween wine in my hands, I wrote about it (here). But this fall, I found myself somewhat reluctant to write about the biggest food holiday we celebrate: Thanksgiving. Every year I write about what I’m serving, and make suggestions to the myriad friends and lurkers who have come across me in person, at a wine event, on Facebook, WordPress, or via the ‘net. So why was I reluctant to talk about my plans for Thanksgiving wines this year?

*The four wines are I usually serve are: 1) a fun white, 2) a serious white, 3) a delicate red, and 4) a bold red. -JvB UnCorked

What would my four wines be thus year? Last year I had six wines, (one held in reserve for a guest who didn’t make the meal after all) but this year was a serious question. I’ve had some great wines over the summer and fall that made me re-think my choices.

Furiously working on the broadcast of the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and dinner was (thankfully) not at my home this year, yet the wine is still my domain. Because pre-production and broadcast equates to very long hours of hectic work, I planned to serve wines from my cellar, so that removed a lot of options from contention. I had been deep in thought about the stunning pinot noir wines I tasted from Santa Barbara and Central Otago, New Zealand this year. In SB County I had been impressed by Fess Parker, Cottonwood, Blair Fox, Au Bon Climat, and Ken Brown, -just to name a few of the SB wines. Some specific bottles were so shockingly good they just haunted me, such as the Dominio del Falcon from Sanford  as well as Pipeclay Terrace and Long Gully Pinots from Mount Difficulty, and wines from the Otago NZ crowd like Felton Road, Quartz Reef, Rippon, Amisfield, and Mud House.  

IMG_0463

MtDifficulty

 

I was also spoiled by a hot summer of killer treats, and these wandered into my thoughts as I considered what to serve.

Starting with the reds: the delicate red was in contention. I usually serve a bright and acidic pinot, gamay, or cru beaujolais but I kept returning to this crazy idea of serving an Aussie sparkling shiraz called The Red Brute from Bleasedale Vineyards I tasted earlier this fall. Sometimes I have to take a chance, right?

The serious red has lots of options but can be a tough choice, when you have my wine cellar. I have some nicely aged reds (like the 2000 Pomerol, or 1996 Cos D’estournel, and other earlier delights) but knowing the guests who would attend, I kept thinking that one of the 1.5L northern Rhône bottles I have on hand would pair best. The Pierre Gonon syrah is a juicy black currant delight with tons of darker notes of earth and leather, good acidity, and is a crowd pleaser. While I consider this vintage too young for a red meat entrée, given this meal, it will provide a perfect pairing, and I know people will adore it.

Having waffled on my traditions for those two, I have to sit back and slow down for a moment. There are three more wines I need to consider, one is the delightful rosé from Modus Operandi Wines that blows away most wine drinkers at the table. It always goes something like this:

Guest: “Sorry, I don’t like rosé.”

Me: “No problem, just humor me and take a tiny taste of this, then we’ll move on.”

Guest: “Oh, ok. (sip). Oh. Wow, that’s really good. May I have that?”

Me: “Of course!”

But having enjoyed so many great rosé’s this summer and fall, in my mind even my kick-ass Modus Operandi rosé was in question after being impressed by this inexpensive sleeper rhône rosé, Belleruche Rosé from the Côtes du Rhône just recently. I really enjoyed it, but was not sure it could stand up to the red meat in the soup or the savory flavors on its own. I decided to stick with my gut on this and transferred the Napa 2012 Modus Rosé from the rack in the cellar to the safety of my six-slot wine bag.

I also wondered about the red and white blend from Tess Vineyards that I found on Underground Cellars. It’s a little bit of a lot of things, and its fresh and light yet fruity and fun. But I feared a red/white blend would be too much of a challenge for some of the older & traditional crowd at the meal, so I decided to hold that for a tasting I’ll host  in the next few months.

Tgiving Reds

 

I needed a simple solution for at least ONE of my wines! So the “fun” white was easy: Leitz’ Dragonstone riesling from the Rheingau. It offers great minerality, white stone fruit, a touch of sweetness, and a crisp finish.

On to my final tough choice, the serious white. My go-to here is a Bordeaux blend, and my cellar has some great choices. I opened up a couple of crates and looked at options while thinking about the total wine lineup, and I went with a choice that for me seems out of left field:  I took a bottle of my ’09 Vintage Tunina from Silvio Jermann that is huge, rich and creamy.  I adore this classic IGT blend of white grapes, and I could not think of a better meal to pair it with that Thanksgiving dinner.

Tgiving Whites

 

I finally sat back and was able to breathe. This year’s Thanksgiving wines, all told. Wines from Germany, Italy, USA’s Napa Valley, Australia, and France: a true melting pot, just like NYC.  For me a few surprises, but lots of tradition. Something for every palate, and the only repeat is my favorite rosé.

TgivingWines

 

 

As I had hoped, when the day arrived, the wines were a hit. Everone who tried The Brute sparkling shiraz was surprised how savory, dry and refreshing it was, and both it and the rosé paired amazingly well with the first course, a beef vegetable soup, and the main meal. The Gonon Saint-Joseph was the crowd pleaser I expected, pairing beautifully with the meal, while the non-drinkers enjoyed the riesling and the vintage tunina held court nicely. My wife’s ninety-one year old uncle said to me, “you brought a lot of wine, you might have a little left over at the end of the meal”, but I told him not to worry. Like the leftovers from the meal, I was sure they would not last long.

à votre santé!

 

A Whole New World…Down Under!

28 Feb

New Zealand.

I confess I have never spent much time thinking about New Zealand.

Sure I’ve been fascinated by Māori culture with movies like Whale Rider and The Lost Warrior. And I’ve wanted to visit what is obviously a lush, beautiful country with rich history in the same way that I want to visit many places in the world I have yet to see first hand.

But wine? No. To be succinct, I never really thought about New Zealand wine. I’ve tasted a few in the $9-12 range which were good wines – nice, every day wines that are totally fine, just not mind-blowing. 

That has all changed. I attended a tasting that enlightened me, and now I’m finding myself daydreaming about the wines of New Zealand.

Do I have your attention yet? Well, I should. You already know that I’m a classic French wine snob with great appreciation for all European wines: Italian, German, Spanish, Austrian and even a few Greek wines. And then after a decade I started to appreciate what could be found at home in the USA, with great work being done not only in California but also quality wines found in Oregon and a few small producers around the country whose work can actually compare to the Europeans.

Many times it took a visit to a location to taste something to spark my interest. Sometimes by accident I tried a wine from an unusual region and had to investigate (Argentina, Chile) or was handed something I had no interest in and fell in love with (eiswein, white rioja).

Don’t do what I did and wait for someone to push you on the fine wines of New Zealand. Take the plunge. I’ve now spent a considerable amount of time investigating and can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt: if you appreciate fine wines, you want, nay, you NEED to know about the quality production being done in New Zealand’s Central Otago region.

Here’s the inside scoop: Do you like the quality of the wines that are created on the 45th Parallel? (The wines of Oregon, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhone, Lombardy, and Piedmont, for example.) Central Otago is on the SOUTHERN 45th Parallel, along with great wine country in Chile and Argentina. Great winemaking isn’t just about location- they are made, not born. But to make a great wine, the location is the first major point. Location, location, location.  Bill Daly from the Chicago Tribune did a great story on the 45th Parallel. It’s worth a read. But I’m here to tell you that, after tasting these wines, there is no denying that Central Otago has something serious going on.

Here’s the one that really impressed me:

Mount Difficulty Pipeclay Terrace 2010; a single vineyard pinot noir and a screwtop closure. My tasting notes: nose of blackberry and hints violet and lavender. Gentle red and black fruit, sumptuous, lithe, delicious. Secondary notes of spice, oak, and clay. Huge on the mid-palate, strong finish with great tannin-feels like powerful reserve while being kept in check, like a Porsche 928 at only 50mph. Reminds me of Grand Cru / Cote de Nuit.

Did you re-read that last part? It’s no joke. This wine floored me. It was “oh, that’s good. Wait…that’s really impressive. Let me taste that again!”  

MTD10PipeclayPinot

And it’s not just the Pinot. Another wine that left a great impression was a chardonnay from Felton Road. 

Felton Road “Block 2” Chardonnay 2011

Pale straw color, subtle nose- gentle citrus, white flowers. In the mouth, a focused effort of white stone fruit and citrus with good minerality, soft wood in the background. Complexity without any cover-up. Tough to discern specific fruit flavors might be one of the features that is so compelling. Very direct acidity and great balance. I’d never guess this to be NZ, as it feels like a concentrated California wine in the style of great Burgundy. While that sounds like a knock, I love this wine. Amazing with appetizers and fish course. A great, mineral-driven, home run of a wine.

MtDifficulty

I tried nine wines this tasting from the Central Otago. None of them would have landed in the under-$20 range, but every one had solid backbone and quality, without the requirement of a decade of age to have refinement.

For example, check out these tasting notes from this unassuming Quartz Reef Pinot Noir 2010:

-Decanted for two hours. A complex nose of red fruit entices, while a blend of elegant cherry, blackberry and red plum bathe the soft palate with gentle acidity as velvety tannins rise slowly. I enjoyed this wine three nights in a row, with the same responses each time. The wine is well made: developed, mature, and refined. My tongue lolled as my brain raced. If I didn’t know better, I’d be placing this totally wrong. It feels distinctly European to me. Never has being so wrong felt so right. Not long ago, I was have sworn this wine was Burgundy. I’m so happy I know better, and hats off to the winemaker!

Quartz Reef

Following the tasting, I tried several other Central Otago wines and in the process I discovered that one of my biggest wine suppliers carries many of the wines I had tasted. This is a supplier I trust with providing great European wines and choosing ideal vintages. Imagine my surprise to see a list of  names, similar or matching  to the ones I’d tasted? It’s not coincidence. They knew. Now I know. And now YOU know.

New Zealand. It’s a whole new world of wine for you.

mud house

à votre santé!

%d bloggers like this: