On Monday, March 13 we visited San Francisco’s Ft. Mason center for Made in New Zealand. Over the years we have had several encounters with David Strada, US marketing manager for the New Zealand Winegrowers Association.
By our count there were 33 wineries pouring. And that doesn’t count the ten pinots on the “Wine Discovery” Table. Every one we visited had at least one pinot noir. We managed about 20. The good news is that nearly all of the pinots were at least good, competent presentations. We rated 14 as either superb or outstanding. Another three were rated excellent. We won’t review those we deemed merely quaffable.
New Zealand terroir produces earthy, leathery, coffee-ey, tobacco-ey pinots. Each one we tasted had at least a bit of those characteristics. Here are our highly impressionistic ratings. Within each rating category the order is random. If a winery grows grapes in more than one region, the one(s) that grow pinot noir are listed. The New Zealand Wingrowers website has an excellent summary of the various wine regions, their terroir, and the effect on pinot noir.
A Fun Fact
When you visit these winery websites, pay close attention to the grape harvest dates. They’re mostly in April. We leave it to you to figure out why.
Three wineries stand out as pioneers of the New Zealand industry. Whitehaven founder Sue White was behind the table and graciously consented to a video interview. Stay tuned for our in-depth review to see what she has to say.
Staete Landt Vineyard was also hosted by a legend of New Zealand winemaking, Ruud Maasdam. In 1997 he bought a farm that had grown apples and cherries for about 70 years. Ruud is the owner, winemaker, and bottle-washer. We also have a video interview with him that will be included in a longer review. Regarding the winery’s name,
When Abel Tasman first discovered New Zealand back in 1642, the name he gave to this land mass was “Staete Landt” which means “Land (discovered in honour) of the Governors (Staete) (of the Dutch Republic)”.
More than 350 years on, “Staete Landt” is the name for an emerging wine company founded by Ruud Maasdam and Dorien Vermaas, originally born in the Netherlands. The link between their new home and New Zealand’s discovery by one of their predecessors, was obvious: the perfect combination of their heritage and their future.
They uncovered a copy of the original map drawn by Abel Tasman. This very first and original map of New Zealand strongly influenced the label design for Staete Landt wines. Abel Tasman sailed the West Coast of New Zealand and quite accurately mapped the coastlines.
But the grandparent of them all is Cloudy Bay.
Established in 1985, Cloudy Bay was one of the first five wine makers to venture into Marlborough. At the time, it was almost an unimaginable place to set-up a vineyard. But Cloudy Bay’s founder – David Hohnen – was convinced of its potential to produce great wine and invested in the best land of the region. Since then, Marlborough has risen to become New Zealand’s leading wine region, as well as one of the finest winemaking locations in the world.
The winery was named after Cloudy Bay, a body of water explorer Captain James Cook came across during his voyage to New Zealand in 1770. His discovery coincided with flooding in the region, which washed large amounts of sediment into the sea. Noticing the water’s opaque appearance, Cook cleverly christened the area Cloudy Bay.
Today, Cloudy Bay not only captures the essence of Marlborough but also embodies New Zealand’s luxury to the world. The luxury of space and time, of intimate moments and nature’s rarest qualities.
The tasting was hosted by Kristen Bratt.
An Old Friend
We were pleasantly surprised to find Mud House among the various wineries. We discovered them through our friends at Artisan Wine Depot and wrote a lengthy review. In the process of writing that review we made contact with Stephanie Hahn, their representative. We didn’t taste their wines but we did get a good picture of Stephanie.
And, Finally, the Wines
Here’s the complete listing with links to each winery’s website. Also includes region, vineyard, and other potentially useful information.
|Wither Hills||Superb||Taylor River vineyard, Wairau Valley, both Marlborough|
|Greywacke||Superb||Marlborough, “principally sourced from the Yarrum Vineyard situated on the Brancott / Ben Morven ridge.”|
|Giesen||Superb||Six pinot noirs, all from Marlborough. Four single-vineyard, one estate, one
|Delta Wine Company||Superb||Two pinots from the Wairau Valley, Marlborough. “Hatter’s Hill” and Delta are the labels|
|Craggy Range||Superb||Te Muna Road vineyard, Martinborough|
|Cloudy Bay||Superb||Marlborough; Calvert and Northburn vineyards, Central Otago for their spectacular Te Wahi label|
GREG label is from Michelle and Andy Peter in the Awatere Valley
|Waipara Springs||Outstanding||Waipara Valley|
|Staete Landt||Outstanding||Marlborough, many pinots and vintages|
|Saint Clair Family Estates||Outstanding||Six separate vineyards in Marlborough including Rapaura, Awatere, Waihopai and Omaka Valleys|
|Mt. Beautiful||Outstanding||North Canterbury|
|Loveblock||Outstanding||Two Central Otago pinots|
|Crown Range||Outstanding||Two Central Otago pinots. On their website look for “Signature Collection” and “China Girl” to find them|
|Astrolabe||Outstanding||All pinots are from Marlborough. Two blends, one Wairau Valley, Wrekin Vineyard; Sleepers Vineyard|
|Trinity Hill||Excellent||Hawkes Bay, Marlborough|
|Spy Valley Wines||Excellent||Marlborough. Envoy label is four single-vineyard pinots|
|Lake Chalice||Excellent||Marlborough. Three pinots|
We now have enough material to take us to the Family Winemakers Tasting in late August. Stay tuned for detailed reviews.