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Hannah’s June Pinot Noirs

Hannah would like to dedicate this month’s picks to her first vinous love – Pinot Noir.

Known as one of the most fickle grapes, this noble varietal needs extensive care and attention, perfect ripening conditions and very specific soil types in order to flourish. But, in those times where the stars align and the wine gods smile, this grape produces some of the most sublime (and expensive) wines on the planet.

While Central Otago and Oregon compete for the mantle of ‘Best outside of Burgundy’, Martinborough and Sonoma Coast are also producing outstanding examples. We’d love for you to try these outstanding wines of even a delicious Burgundian number thrown in for comparison.

Tasting note bellow.

2016 Aurum Estate Pinot Noir  – Lowburn, Central Otago
2013 Julicher 99 Rows Pinot Noir – Te Muna, Wairarapa
2012 Georgetown Pinot Noir – Kawerau, Central Otago
2014 Cristom Mount Jefferson – Willamette Valley, Oregon
2015 Flowers Pinot Noir  – Sonoma Coast, California
2014 Domaine Olivier ‘Les Temps des Cerises’ – Santenay, Burgundy

(Click to view tasting notes)

Hannah’s May Spotlight – De La Terre

Tony examines grapes at the De La Terre Winery

Later on this month, I am co-hosting an event at Auckland’s Beirut, to celebrate the debut of their new executive chef.  Diners will experience dishes from chef Alex’s exciting new menu, expertly paired with wines from one of the prize stallions in the Dhall & Nash stable – De La Terre. Click here for more information.

The brain-child and personal project of one of Hawke’s Bay’s most celebrated winemakers (Tony Pritchard, 15 years at Church Rd), De La Terre is a family-run vineyard and winery with an uncompromising approach to exceptional winemaking.

The very first time I met Tony last year, I was blown away by his encyclopædic knowledge, and passion for his craft. Tony is a trained food scientist as well as a legendary winemaker, and happily tells how he will sacrifice ‘varietal expression’, in order to produce a wine that is food-friendly. Visits to his custom-built winery often involve a delicious offering from their famous pizza oven to accompany his exceptional wines.

Unsurprisingly, his Chardonnay and Syrah are exemplary. But for me, the real stars are the 5 expressions of Viognier – a particularly fussy varietal, seldom seen outside of it’s spiritual home of the Northern Rhône. I have never experienced a more thrilling Viognier than the 2015 Ridgeline – Tony actually hand-selects specific bunches from his Viognier plantings for this very special wine, based on ripeness and concentration.

I highly rate all of Tony’s wines, and encourage you to discover them.

-Hannah

California Dreaming – The Icons

Here is the Definitive List of Our Top 10 Californian Wines.

Scroll down our blog for more information on these exclusive wines!

Left to Right (10-6): 2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, 2013 HdV Chardonnay, Opus One The Overture, 2013 Cardinale, 2014 L’Aventure Côte a Côte

Left to Right (5-1): 2012 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 L’Aventure Optimus, 2013 Vérité La Muse, 2004 Dominus Estate Dominus, 2013 Opus One

  1. 2013 Opus One: The Composer’s Masterwork… Mondavi and Rothschild linked through the king of Californian Bordeauxs.
  2. 2004 Dominus Estate Dominus: Christian Moueixs’ not-so-little slice of California at Napanook.
  3. 2013 Vérité La Muse: A combination of old world experience and new world fruit. The wine is a distinct blend of varietals harvested from small vineyard blocks, each cuvée culminating in a bespoke union of grape varieties, climate, soil expression and winemaking technique.
  4. 2014 L’Aventure Optimus: Black raspberries, spice box, dried flowers and underbrush in a full-bodied, balanced and lengthy package. A great example of what’s to come from Paso Robles.
  5. 2012 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon: Combining the S.L.V. and Fay; Aromas of black cherry, cola, currant and ripe figs begin the nose of this rich and opulent Cabernet Sauvignon
  6. 2014 L’Aventure Côte a Côte: Deep, full-bodied, gorgeously layered and with plenty of fine tannin, this big, rich 2014 is loaded with notions of cassis, toasted spice, peppery herbs and graphite.
  7. 2013 Cardinale: Mt. Veeder, Spring Mountain, Howell Mountain, Oakville, and Diamond Mountain come together in perfect harmony. Likened to Coltrane’s “Love Supreme” and Led Zeppelin’s “Houses of the Holy”, “…deep, powerful and explosive..”.  
  8. Opus One The Overture: As a natural extension of the creation of the estate’s signature cuvée – Opus One – Overture’s varietal composition evolves based on the lot selections made for each vintage. Overture reflects the proportion of Bordeaux-heritage grape varieties planted on the estate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot & Malbec. Uniquely, Overture captures the essence of the estate across vintages; therefore the exact blend and cellar approach will always differ from Opus One.
  9. 2013 HdV Chardonnay: This Napa-Burgundy love child balances the finesse of  Romanée-Conti with the brashness of Hyde Estate. White peach, tangerine and citrus blossom with balanced acidity.
  10. 2015 Flowers Sonoma Coast Chardonnay: Blending from the two extreme vineyards of Camp Meeting Ridge and Seaview Ridge, this stunning wine layers richness against minerality.

Opus One – The Composer’s Masterwork

Opus One – The Composer’s Masterwork

Two names which are unavoidable when talking about Bordeaux blends are Mondavi and Rothschild. One representing the new world and one the old. The first meeting between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild occurred in 1970 in Hawaii. This fateful meeting marks the genesis of this composition…

Rothschild is considered one of the great personalities in the history of wine and definitely one of the true pioneers of the 20th century. Retaining management of his family estate in Pauillac at the tender age of 20. Soon after he changed the whole idea of wine sales. Instead of selling everything En Primeur he introduced on estate bottling. This revelation gave them complete control on every aspect of the wine. This idea quickly spread through many Grand Cru and Premier Cru producers. Tied in with this was Rothschild’s unique approach to labeling. Post World War II, Philippe commissioned labels from great artists and sculptors – Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, Henry Moore and Jean Cocteau – and many more luminaries were included.

In conjunction with this he started a secondary brand (Mouton Cadet) for the wine he thought wasn’t up to scratch or from a unsatisfactory vintage. However his achievements don’t stop there, he also through intense lobbying managed to elevate Chateau Mouton-Rothschild from a second growth to first growth – a feat not since repeated.

Baron Philippe de Rothschild

Mondavi is also viewed as one of the major pioneers in the world of wine. In 1942 he joined his brother and father on the Charles Krug Estate located in St. Helena. However in 1965 he left after a serious feud with his younger brother over the direction of the winery. This fueled him to found the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville with his sons Robert and Tim. The focus of this winery was to produce wines that would compete with the finest Europe had to offer.

Robert Mondavi

Being the first major winery to be opened in California since prohibition. Including land from the historic To Kalon Estate, founded by Californian wine pioneer H.W. Crabb in the 1860’s.

A year after founding the vineyard they took the wine world by storm by making a heavily oaked Sauvignon Blanc, which was very unpopular at the time, and selling it under the monica Fumé Blanc which was a major success for the new winery.

In 1978 Philippe invited Robert to visit him in Bordeaux. After a few hours of these two heavyweights sitting together they hatched a plan. . .

Château Mouton Rothschild winemaker Lucien Sionneau and Robert Mondavi’s son Tim made the partnership’s first vintage at the Robert Mondavi Winery in 1979. The following year the partners officially announced their joint venture.

In 1981 the first case of this astounding, and yet unnamed, wine was sold for $24,000, at the time the highest price ever paid for Californian wine. A year later they began to design a label and think about a name. They both agreed on a Latin Phrase to make it easier in their respective homelands. Philippe suggested Opus: meaning a composer’s first masterpiece. After sleeping on this name the word One was added.

The 1979 and 1980 vintages were simultaneously unveiled in 1984 as Opus One’s first release. Opus One then became known as America’s first ultra-premium wine, establishing a category of wine priced by the bottle at $50 and above…

From left to right : Robert Mondavi, the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild and her father the Baron Philippe de Rothschild in California.

The winery has since expanded and now also produces a second non-vintage wine – the Overture; a musical term in Latin referencing the beginning piece played before an opera or play. This wine, whilst still being comprised of the same overall varieties as Opus One, is very different. This multi-vintage wine is a hommage through incredible blending work to the original masterpiece.

3. Jackson Family 2013 Vérité La Muse

Jackson Family 2013 Vérité La Muse

3. Jackson Family 2013 Vérité La Muse: A combination of old world experience and new world fruit. The wine is a distinct blend of varietals harvested from small vineyard blocks, each cuvée culminating in a bespoke union of grape varieties, climate, soil expression and winemaking technique.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – A History in Stubbornness

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars – A history in stubbornness

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars was founded by Warren Winiarski in 1970 next to the Fay Vineyard owned by Nathan Fay. However his interest in wine was stemmed from studying in Italy for a year focusing on the Philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli. His real love was initiated in Chicago in the early 60’s where he experimented at home making his own wine. This in turn eventually led him to uproot his family and travel cross country in 1968 to California. After roles with Chateau Souverain and the then new Robert Mondavi Winery, Winiarski decided to go it alone.

Warren Winiarski – Founder of Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars

The eureka moment came when tasting Cabernet with Nathan Fay. Realizing that it was possible to achieve a sense of regionality but also strong elements of classic Cabernet style. The original Stag’s Leap vineyard (S.L.V) was purchased and planted 1970. Originally the land was planted in prunes, cherries, walnuts and small amounts of Petite Syrah and Alicante Bouschet. These were all promptly replaced with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  The first vintage of S.L.V. was produced in 1972 in a rented wine making facility.

SLV Vineyard – The site of the Original Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars plantings

However 1973 was the big one for this young vineyard. The first of the onsite winery buildings were completed and the famous ‘73 S.LV. Cabernet Sauvignon was produced. The following year the first Cask 23 was produced after one lot from the vintage was noted as being a truly outstanding expression by consulting winemaker André Tchelistchef.  The life of the vineyard carried on as it had until Steven Spurrier came to visit…

In what is now known as the Judgement of Paris, Steven Spurrier curated a blind tasting of American wines pitted against French wines with a panel of French wine experts. The focus of this tasting was looking at Bordeaux and Burgundy style wines. For the French wines all were First growth or classified-growth including the likes of Château Mouton-Rothschild, Château Haut-Brion, Puligny-Montrachet etc. Whilst on the American front wines from all over California from Napa to Santa Cruz. Needless to say in Cabernet (Bordeaux), Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars pipped all the others.

This revelation in wine changed drinking trends over night! There was increased interest in new world wines regardless of whether or not they had been included in the tasting.

Throughout the 80’s and 90’s the business grew, buying out the neighbouring Fay vineyard and having a bottle of the ‘73 S.L.V. being placed in the Smithsonian. Excavation work also began on the now famous Napa Wine Caves.

The Three Cabernet Sauvignons produced off the 2 original Stag’s leap Wine Cellars Estates.

In 2007 after 37 years of stubborn dedication, Warren Winiarski seeded stewardship of his life’s work to a partnership of Michelle Wine Estates and Marchesi Antinori. Winiarski stayed on after this partnership to ensure that all the wines produced still met the prestigious standard historically set.

5. 2012 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon

2013 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon

6. 2013 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon: Combining the S.L.V. and Fay; Aromas of black cherry, cola, currant and ripe figs begin the nose of this rich and opulent Cabernet Sauvignon