When you live in wine country, the release of special bottlings – a “Reserve” this or a “Single-Vineyard” that – is always cause for excitement. These are usually the best that an estate can create in a given calendar year. But when you get away from the fray, the cost of these specialties comes under more exacting scrutiny. Am I really prepared to spend twice as much, or more, for a particular wine among hundreds of options? When the wine is beautiful, all things do fall into place.
New Zealand’s Villa Maria, headed up by Sir George Fistonich, is over 50 years of age now, crafting singular wines in the Marlborough region of its south island. Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are always delicious here, and tasting their Taylor’s Pass Chardonnay shows what excitement also resides in the Chardonnay vines.
- 2011 Chardonnay, Villa Maria, Taylor’s Pass Vineyard $44 srp
Color of egg white with golden highlights. A fresh, breezy nose of caramel apple, pear and citrus. It’s bracing and inviting with spice-laced liveliness. Flavors are creamy and persistent, including lemon peel and green apple notes inside a “buttery” mix. Acids are vibrant and the finish is savory and balanced. Drink now-2015.
I recently tasted a hodge podge of wines from Italy to New Zealand. Here are some of the most fascinating–and worthy of your coin.
Contratto is the first name in the history of Italian sparkling wine. The project began in 1867 when a 100-foot-deep cellar was carved into the limestone hills of Canelli, located in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. Contratto made the first Italian bubbly using the “Champagne” process of second fermentation in the bottle. In recent years, acclaimed wine maker Giorgio Rivetti has acted as consultant, and the new Brut sparkling is indeed an exciting venture.
- 2007 Contratto Brut Millesimato, Oltrepo Pavese $34 srp
A beautiful golden color with pinpoint bubble. Excellent forward bouquet of complex fruit elements and nutmeats. Besides a berry component, there is that wonderful sensation of a toasty brioche that reminds one of the finest Champagnes. Flavors are brisk and fresh with lemony touches on the medium bodied and lingering flavor. This wine spent 4 years resting on its sediment before bottling. (80% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay.) Drink now-2014.
Gil Family Estates are new to me, but what quality and values they represent. Scour the market for these. Old vine Verdelho from the Rueda region of Spain? If you’d like a shockingly good white for your seafood feasts, try this remarkable novelty.
- 2011 Shaya Verdejo Old Vines, Rueda $15.65 srp
Deep straw color. An overt nose of ocean-kissed fruit with minerality coursing through every sniff. There’s a spice box of scents with nutmeg especially prominent. Gorgeous round flavors with low acidity that cling to your palate for dear life. Great complexity makes this a red wine lover’s white. (This somehow reminds me of the long-aged whites of R. Lopez de Heredia) Fabulous buy.
Also from the Gil Family Estates comes a high-octane Tempranillo.
- 2010 Entresuelos Tempranillo, Castilla Y Leon $13.80 srp
Black cherry color. A huge pungent nose of pure Tempranillo fruit that includes dark chocolate, graphite and concentrated plum scents. Big yet velvety flavors with excellent length and a bone-dry finish. A blockbuster in its way but also forward and inviting. Grilled beef or a Paella would love this. Drink now-2016.
Familia Zuccardi has been a cutting edge Argentinean winery for decades. Their various “Series” bottlings raise the bar, utilizing numerous grape varieties. It was a Cabernet Sauvignon, most reminiscent of Bordeaux, that caught my tongue.
- 2009 Familia Zuccardi ‘Q’ Cabernet Sauvignon $22 srp
Purple to garnet color. Fresh and vibrant with high-toned cranberry, blackberry and an appealing, overall “dusty” element. A big wine on the palate but beautifully balanced. A serious red with excellent spicy texture and room for improvement in the bottle. (Reminiscent of a Bordeaux St. Julien.) Drink now-2018.
Spy Valley wines, named for a satellite communications station in Marlborough, New Zealand, have been estate-bottled since 2000. Theirs is the kind of Pinot Noir that turns heads and excites even die-hard francophiles.
- 2011 Pinot Noir, Spy Valley Wines, Marlborough $27.70 spr
Deep ruby color. Absolutely lovely purity of fruit with raspberry, beet root and multiple spice impressions. Middle-weight mouth texture with plenty of long, red fruit flavors and a cinnamon kick of refreshing end acidity. Already a treat, this will improve nicely with bottle age. Drink now-2018.