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.


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.

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.

L’Aventure – A Slice of the Bordeaux in California

L’Aventure – A Slice of the Bordeaux  in California

Stephan Asseo equals L’Aventure. ..

Stephan Asseo – Owner/Vigneron of L’Aventure

Stephan Asseo has been in the wine industry for nearly three decades. After he graduated oenology college in the Burgundy region of France in 1982, the Asseo family purchased their first property, Domaine de Courteillac , on the Right Bank of Bordeaux. Later they purchased a further two Chateaux. With accolades and offers flowing in, Asseo choose to take the path less traveled…

For Stephan, who wanted to expand his expertise while gaining more freedom in viticulture and vinification, it was the beginning of L’Aventure (the “adventure” in French). Whilst searching with his wife, Beatrice, in California for land, including Napa/Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties. It was after this tour that he was most impressed with the quality of  terroir of California wine country’s newest rising star: Paso Robles.

L’Aventure Vineyard in Paso Robles

The vineyard site was selected after an extensive study of the area utilizing Stephan’s experience as a vigneron. He immediately favoured the west of Paso Robles for its sloping hills and authentic quality terroir. The one hundred twenty seven acre property he chose is comprised of multiple hills of various elevations, complex soils and excellent water drainage. He finds the aspects of this terroir to be fundamental in obtaining the high quality fruit necessary to create the wines he had envisioned for L’Aventure. Combined with its proximity to the ocean,  the vineyard is characterized by warm clear days with nighttime temperatures which can drop by approximately 4.4 degrees(c). This diurnal activity creates complexity and combined with the long growing season mean fruit with developed flavour and a good level of acidity.

The Winery at L’Aventure in Paso Robles

This combination of excellence from Bordeaux, invigorating terroir and lack of restrictions, means some truly unique wines are coming out of this hip little section of So-Cal.

Vérité – In vino, veritas

Vérité – In vino, veritas

Vérité translates from French to “truth”. This is the dream of the late great Jess Jackson and Vigneron Pierre Seillan. The resulting 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 wine-making technique.

“In vino, veritas – In wine, Truth”

Jess Jackson & Pierre Seillan

This outpost of France, more specifically Bordeaux, specializes in producing high level micro-cru wines in the 3 styles of Pomerol (La Muse), St. Emilion (Le Désir) and Pauillac (La Joie). All of these styles are uniquely blended from specific sites throughout the region whilst keeping to the tradition of the Bordeaux blends, which they are a hommage to.

Vérité vineyard in Sonoma

La Muse focuses on a Merlot dominant style heavily associated with Pomerol. In 2013 the vintage was comprised of 89% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec and coming in 14.2%abv. Likened by Robert Parker to a great vintage of Petrus “…mulberry, black cherry, licorice, truffle and unctuous, thick, juicy fruit all present in this full-bodied masterpiece. The tannins are still present. The wine has purity and savory presence and is remarkable. The finish goes on for well past a minute. This wine would probably benefit from 5-8 years of bottle age and last 40-50 years. 100pts”

This is considered the peak of this little patch of California raking in a whopping 100 points from Wine Advocate. This is definitely something worth hunting down…

HdV – Napa Meets Burgundy

HdV – Napa Meets Burgundy

When it comes to Pinot Noir there are few sites as synonymous with it as Romanée-Conti and the Napa Valley. With these two regions come a bevy of famous names; De Villaine and Hyde are definitely in the upper echelons. Linked through marriage and a mutual love of Burgundian wines, collaboration was unavoidable.

Aubert de Villaine needs little introduction, as one of Burgundy’s most recognized figures due to his directorship of Domaine Romanée-Conti, one of the world’s most sought after wines. His focus for many decades has been perfecting the relationship between man and the ecology of viticultural and enological practises.

Aubert de Villaine of Domaine Romanée-Contee and HdV

Larry Hyde is the 6th generation of one of California’s oldest agricultural families, their winemaking roots date back to the 1800’s. He founded the the Hyde vineyard in Carneros 1979. He is partly responsible for the obsession with terroir and the sustainable management of soil.

Larry Hyde of Hyde Family Estates and HdV

Between these two, deftly assisted by a cohort of family and some of the best wine minds of the world,  they have created a unique vision of Terroir. Combining the histories of California and Burgundy they focus not just on what the land and climate have to offer the ecosystem but man’s imprint as well. This human component is the guiding structure they used to lay out the winery and select the parcels of the Hyde Vineyard where the grapes are picked. Every element is taken into account from the row direction through to the amount of compaction on the soil and its effect on the micro-biology. They also believe in low intervention and sustainable farming looking to create something for generations to come.

In the winery, Stéphane Vivier brings an international esteem to wine. Stéphane has worked everywhere from Pommard, Meursault through to New Zealand and Sonoma. The purpose built winery is tucked in next to the Napa River. Super gentle handling and minimal intervention are the key elements in producing these wines which are true to their terroir. Meticulously sorted and using gravity rather than pumping is all there to preserve the the characteristics of each block.

Aubert de Villaine and Larry Hyde in the winery. (PRNewsFoto/Wilson Daniels)

The final key point in this collaboration is Pamela F. de Villaine, the cousin of Larry Hyde and the wife of Aubert de Villaine. The wine from this partnership is bottled under the historic coat of arms of the De la Guerra family which Pamela and Larry are both descendants of. They feel this historic link really ties the partnership’s focus on tradition, family and their unique philosophy to winemaking.

Hyde VIneyard in Napa, California

Flowers – Wine at the Extremes

Flowers – Wine at the Extremes

Flowers sits grandly on top of the coastal ridges that border the Sonoma coast. The balance between the extreme height, maritime weather and a constantly shifting geography means there is nothing stationary about this producer!

Flowers Vineyard, Camp Meeting Ridge planted in 1992 touched with morning fog

Flowers’ initial plantings in 1991 were some of the original plantings in this extreme location. Only two miles (3.22km,) away from the Pacific Ocean and varying in elevation from 350m to 571.5m, this is a unique slice of coast.  This is particularly relevant to Sea View Ridge and Camp Meeting Ridge. All of these sites originated as sea floor was pushed up with seismic activity. The original marine sedimentary rock was transformed into schist, shale, sandstone, greywacke and greenstone through the addition of heat and pressure. These ancient rocks and the weathered coastal soil play a huge part in building the flavour of the wines, limiting the vigour of the vine and in producing bright fruit notes with very distinctive minerality.

Schist, shale, sandstone, graywacke and greenstone are found in the soils throughout Flower’s vineyards.

The other benefit of these coastal sites is the sea fog and maritime breeze. These dual cooling elements really come into play when dealing with the summer heat California is famous for. This cooling effect means that the grapes have a longer ripening period. The hallmark of this is the fully ripened fruit bringing lively acidity and fresh, complex palate notes.

These extreme elements really work together to produce wine that sings of it’s location. Perched in amongst these coastal pine covered ranges, both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are present. The boney, mineral laden soil and these crisp climatic conditions lead to low, concentrated yields. Both varieties are rendered with aromatics and the kiss of the coastal environment.

Eultimately, Californian wines really give you a true impression of the area where they a grown. “A true sense of place.”

Map of the Flower’s Vineyards; Camp Ridge to the Bottom and Sea View Ridge to the top.

Regional Focus; California

California has been producing wine for over 200 years. Largely driven by Zinfandel, Cabernet and Chardonnay this state is also home to a diverse array of varieties and terroirs spread over more than 100 unique AVA’s (American Viticultural Area).

If California was a country, it would be the fourth largest producer of wine in the world. The history of wine in this American state goes back over 200 years, though it is still young in comparison to Europe for the new world. Grapes originally came to California via Mexico by the way of the Franciscan Padres as they built a series of missions along El Camino Real (US 101). This surge increased with the gold rush in 1849. The influx of European settlers scouring the land for gold eventually looked to the Mediterranean climate to bring in more consistent incomes. This, tied in with the veritable cornucopia of climatic sub-regions, has allowed for grapes of many different varieties to flourish.

The major sub-regions are; Sonoma, Napa, Lake & Mendocino, Bay Area, Monterey & Benito, San Luis, Santa Barbara, Southern California, Central Valley and the Sierra Foothills.

The majority of early plantings took place in Sonoma and Napa, and both now boast over 150 years of wine history, meaning they are littered with stunning stone cellars and commendable architecture.

California climatically resembles the Mediterranean, meaning there is a large diurnal differentiation between day and night temperatures, and the majority of planted regions are either exposed to a marine element or at least some form of evening cool. With this being taken into account, grapes with a higher acidity level (Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc etc.) are found closer to the coast and the hardier varieties, (Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel etc.) are found up in the hills.

To learn more about this diverse and stunning wine region, click here.


Fog rolls over the Camp Meeting Ridge Vineyard at Flowers Winery in Sonoma

Welcome sign for Napa Valley – highlighting the wine of the region.




Domaine Bertagna – The Bare Facts

Domaine Bertagna;

Owns 28 ha of land.

One of the key Growers in Vougeot, with impressive holdings allied to Grand Cru’s, including two monopoles.

Owned by Eva Reh & Mark Siddle.

Total Land Holdings in Burgundy; Chambertin 0.2ha, Clos Saint-Denis 0.5ha, Clos de Vougeot 0.3ha, Vougeot Clos de la Perriere (Monopole) 2ha, Les Petits Vougeots 2.5ha, Les Cras 1.2ha, Clos Bertagna (monopole) 0.3ha, Chambolle-Musigny Les Plantes 0.2ha, Vosne-Romanee Les Beaux Monts Bas 1ha, Nuits-Saint-Georges Les Murgers 1ha, Hautes Cotes de Nuits 16ha, Bourgogne (rouge) 2ha.

Domaine Bertagna in Vougeot

Villages wines receive 25% new oak.
1er Cru wines receive 50% new oak.

Grand Cru wines receive 100% new oak.

Typically the winery avoids racking, opting for a more reductive style of wine making, looking for strength and aging potential and showcasing their terroirs in each cuvee.

The Reh family has owned this estate since 1982 with considerable renovations taking place since this time, including the launch of a country house hotel with twelve guest rooms.

This Domaine’s label is often considered to be understated, but these wines are mouth filling, strong on spice and character.

The winery famously produces Chardonnay from their Les Cras plot within Vougeot, a rare white wine in this Grand Cru vineyard.

Chateau de Clos du Vougeot overlooks the Grand Cru vineyards of the Clos du Vougeot

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