June 28, 2005

Tasting New Zealand Pinot Noir

I’ve been tasting lately with some local winemakers who like to branch out from the usual Oregon fare. This month’s line up featured the wines of New Zealand, tasted blind as usual and discussed together as a group after sampling. One taster is a Kiwi working here for the growing season, the others bring experience from many of the top Oregon producers. And then there’s me, the home brewer looking in from the outside.

I’ve tasted a number of New Zealand whites over the years, but only a handful of reds. So I was excited and overall impressed by what I tasted. Lots of pure flavors and consistency from wine to wine, even if none of them particularly inspired me. These are nice drinking wines, possibly good for aging, probably tasty with a nice meal. The downside the $25-$40 price range, but who knows, maybe that’s just enough to make it feel special.

Two whites to start. The 2002 Pegasus Bay Rielsing Waipara – apparently the gold standard of NZ riesling – was spatlese sweet with a grapefruit aroma and some light diesel notes. In the mouth it was auslese sweet with fat grapefruit and lemon flavors and more diesel. It was nicely fresh but not a brand new wine, with a full texture and a nice finish.

Next the 2004 Villa Maria Pinot Gris Cellar Selection, a greenish tinted, super clean, leesy minerally smelling wine with lime and some alcohol showing. Flavors of salt, minerals, light yellow fruit with a steely edge, light in the middle and finish with obvious alcohol, I should have guessed the grape as it seemed very much like a fair Oregon pinot gris.

The first red was the 2001 Martinborough Pinot Noir Martinborough Terrace. Spicy wood aromas with pure black cherries and some pleasant stalkiness. Silky in the mouth with tart cherries, spice and a bit of French oak char. Turns a little bitter on the finish, but smells and tastes more full with time. I thought this was a pretty good Oregon pinot.

The 2002 Martinborough Pinot Noir Martinborough Terrace had the brightest color and a woodsy almost plasticy aroma with some greenish stemmy notes. Bright and tart on the palate with simple cherry fruit and a slightly harsh bite, this needs time.

The 2000 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir Martinborough showed some voliatile plastic notes but opens nicely with earthy, woodsy spicy cherry aromas. Similar in the mouth with tangy cherry flavors, gains silkiness with time, this was my favorite overall despite being more acidic than the others.

The 2002 Felton Road Central Otago Bannockburn Vineyard was the darkest, with a clean caramelly and sweet black cherry aroma. On the palate were silky berry and caramel flavors, all smooth and integrated but a bit too glossy for my tastes.

And finally the 2002 Patton Valley Pinot Noir Estate Willamette Valley. Interestingly, this Oregon wine was the group favorite by a slight margin over the Felton ROad. Spicy berry and cherry aromas, more caramelly with time, gingerbread, oaky but not aggressively so. Silky caramelly red fruit and spicy earth flavors, tangy on the finish, this is nicely "made" wine but not my style.

And two parting contributions. The 2003 Cameron Pinot Noir Dundee Hills has a dark but translucent color and smoke, ash, and cherry aroma. It’s bright and pretty, not oaky so much as earthy. Very silky on the palate, a bit glossy with a rich but still winey red berry flavor, brightly acidic with tangy on the finish. Nice stuff.

Finally the 2003 Holloran Riesling Le Pavillon Vineyard, a pale wine with a clean light diesel and peach aroma. Medium sweet on the palate with tangy peach, orange, and lemon flavors, strong acidity with a hint of creaminess, but a nice honest riesling that should age a while.

June 10, 2005

Thiese Catalog

Like you came here to find this out. Still, I feel it's worth noting that at last you can get the latest Terry Thiese catalogs for your own reading pleasure.

Yes, they are catalogs, available no less on web site of the Terry Thiese Selections importer. But believe it or not you need to pay to get a hard copy. $15 a piece. Of course I'd never really pay money for a catalog. But this one's probably worth it.

You don't just get truly thoughtful writing on the latest wines of Germany, Austria, and Champagne, about which Terry writes passionately, certainly subjectly, and more intelligently than most out there. You get good wine writing, plain and simple.

So read it and taste some white wine.

June 01, 2005

What I Been Drinkin'

In the past few years there's been less time and money for wine drinking, but I still get in a fair mix of things. Especially on the value end of things. Here's what I been drinkin' lately:

2002 Trimbach Pinot Blanc Alsace
I try to resist the following sort of declaration, but Pinot Blanc is boring. This bottling from Trimbach, long known for its minerally whites of all varieties, seemed like a shoe-in for Pinot Blanc of the year. 2002 saw a favorable harvest in Alsace, but Trimbach would surely produce a crisp, ripe, and lively Pinot Blanc. Unfortunately, no. The aroma is nice, with minerally seashell and ripe yellow fruit smells. But in the mouth it’s limp and dull, with fat, round, and simple flavors. Not much zip, not much length, still it’s not a bad drink. Just boring, even for $8.49.

1999 J.M. da Fonseca Periquita
The venerable Portuguese classic, no small production hand made thing but a classic and well worth the same price you probably paid for it 20 years ago. Dark ruby color. Fragrant earthy strawberry, tobacco, and balsamic aromas. There are some sweaty horse notes as well, but in a clean way if that makes sense. This is old school wine. Similar flavors, with a soft texture but unexpectedly bright tangy acid. Could it be acidified? Good enough length, this is still a deal for $5.49 but you have to dig the funk a little bit.

1996 Joseph Roty Bourgogne "Cuvee de Pressionier"
This wine comes from the Les Pressionier vineyard in the Burgundian village of Gevrey Chambertin, apparently in a section entitled to village status where the producer deems it Bourgogne. This bottling can be a nice source of inexpensive, authentic red Burgundy. Unfortunately, this bottle seems damaged somewhat, perhaps by heat but perhaps not. Some leakage is evident when I take off the foil covering. Sure enough, the cork is soaked through with wine. But neither of those things means the wine will be bad. And sure enough, the color looks nicely ruby, and the perfume is classic Burgundy, with an earthy black cherry, gravely aroma with some nicely integrated wood toast and even an ashy quality that reminds me of some Oregon pinot. Yet the wine is tart on the palate, even sour with the flavor completely stripped, but it’s not extremely dried like a heat-damaged wine. And the aroma, while not intense, is gorgeous. Hard to figure this one, but too bad and it cost $20.

2001 Evesham Wood Pinot Noir Seven Springs
Evesham Wood is a favorite producer of mine, and it is known for producing elegant, silky pinot noir that ages well and, when mature, delivers aromatically like few other Oregon pinots. Big words, I know, but that’s how I see things. Even young, the wines are attractive as they typically favor balance over youthful exuberance. As such, while I find them delicious, I can see how some people used to more powerful wines might find Evesham Wood’s a bit too lean. But I love them, and when I find them on discount I want to back up the truck. Here’s one being cleared out by the producer, who recently updated its label design and probably had too much 2001 pinot noir to begin with. Nice translucent but rich red color. Moderately fragrant cherry, cranberry, light toast, and some clean soil aromas, all seamless and elegant. Medium bodied with silky cherry and spice flavors, juicy but finishing a little lean and simple. Not a blockbuster and never will be, but pretty wine that will probably age well and might surprise with its development. Ridiculous bargain at $13.99.