- Discovering the Joys of New Zealand Wine

Newsletter for March, 2005

St. Patrick's Day has come and gone and, fortunately, we did not encounter any green-dyed wine from New Zealand. As usual, we did find a few items to share with you: two pioneering winemakers and the NZ Sauvignon Blanc seminar at the DC International Wine & Food Festival, the results of a recent wine competition, and a comment or two.

Media Watch

Congratulations go out to Dog Point Vineyard for its 2004 Sauvignon Blanc which scored 91 points from the Wine Spectator and earned a "Smart Buy" designation in the recent April 30, 2005 edition. Readers of the KiwiWineries Newsletter will hopefully remember that we featured Dog Point Vineyard as a future star in our May, 2004 issue and highlighted the 2004 Sauvignon Blanc in January, 2005. Look to KiwiWineries for the early scoop while the wines are still available on the shelves. Also, the KiwiWineries Newsletter still goes for the amazingly low price of "free"!
The April 30 issue of the Wine Spectator also had a column touting the Pinot Noir from Central Otago. While the rising star of New Zealand Pinot Noir is no surprise to the KiwiWineries readership, the Spectator column is re-affirmation from an iconic wine journal in direct contrast to that bizarre diatribe in the January Bon Appetit.

Winemakers at the DC International Wine & Food Festival

This month saw a successful event as throngs of people descended on the DC Convention Center for the annual Wine & Food Festival. {Admittedly, some of the men in attendance were gazing wistfully down 7th Street to the MCI Arena where the ACC basketball tournament was in full swing.} The New Zealand pavilion had a solid line-up of wines on display: Brancott, Stoneleigh, Whitehaven, Seifried, Allen Scott, Thornbury, Omaka Springs, Nobilo, Morton, Spy Valley and Palliser. There were some forty wines in all with the 2004 Sauvignon Blanc being the common denominator.
Amongst the exhibitors at the New Zealand pavilion were the owners of two wine estates which were pioneers in the modern era. While most of the large NZ wine companies have their origins with Croatian immigrants in the Auckland area in the early 1900's, the majority of the wineries were established during the wine boom of the past thirty years. Seifried and Morton Estate were two of the earliest entries in this era.

Seifried Estate - Hermann & Agnes Seifried

Herman Seifried, Austrian-born and German-trained, came to New Zealand by way of South Africa. He arrived in 1971 as a recruit for a short-lived project to produce fruit wines. About the same time that giant Montana Brancott planted their first vine in Marlborough, Hermann and his wife, Agnes, began planting vinifera grapes in Nelson at a time when conventional wisdom said that wouldn't be successful Winning a competition medal from the first vintage in 1976 quickly dispelled that myth.
Since those early years, Seifried Estate has grown to be a mid-sized producer and remains the dominant winery in Nelson. It also remains a family operation of Hermann and Agnes along with their son and daughter. Seifried Estate produces wines in a range of varieties and labels. Seifried is the premium label and Winemakers Collection is their "reserve" designation. At the expo, the Seifrieds were pouring their o4 Sauvignon Blanc, 03 Riesling, 03 Unoaked Chardonnay, 02 Pinot Noir, 02 Malbec/Merlot/Cabernet blend, and "Sweet Agnes" Late-Harvest Riesling.

Seifried wines can be found at Cleveland Park Wines on Connecticut Av NW

Morton Estate - John Coney

Morton Estate was founded by Morton Brown in 1979 in the Bay of Plenty region with its first vintage in 1983. Following some ownership and partnering ventures in the early '90's, the winery was purchased by John Coney in 1995. While the winery-sales room remains at the original location, vineyard and crushing operations are centered in Hawke's Bay and Marlborough as Morton Estate has grown to become one of the largest mid-sized producers in New Zealand.
Morton has a very extensive range of wines. There are two lower-tier brands called Mill Road and Nikau Point. The Morton Estate brand is divided into the mid-level White Label, single-vineyard Gray Label, and the premium range Black Label. Since its earliest days, Morton has enjoyed critical acclaim for its wines, with the Black Label Chardonnay becoming legendary in New Zealand. Two of the star winemakers from Morton have gone on to start their own highly-regarded wineries - John Hancock of Trinity Hill and Steve Bird of Thornbury. After a brief absence, Morton Estate is re-establishing itself in the US market as it works it way over the hurdles of the importation and distribution system.

New Zealand Seminar at the DC International Wine & Food Festival

This year's seminar featured Sauvignon Blanc and was by presented by Michael Franz, wine columnist for The Washington Post. Between the popularity of the subject and the presenter, the seminar appeared to be a sell-out.
The seminar's initial focus was on the qualities of quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc - bright, crisp citrus fruit, herbal notes, solid structure, and a pure, clean finish. The wines tasted were the Highfield Estate, Lake Chalice and Pheasant Grove 2004 vintages from the core Marlborough area of the Wairau Valley. {Note: Pheasant Grove is a label used by Morworth Estate out of Canterbury with vineyards in Marlborough; the bottle was labeled as "Rapaura", a section adjacent to the Wairau River.} Also tasted was the Villa Maria Clifford Bay SB from the Awatere Valley. Still classified as Marlborough, Awatere is the next valley to the south.
Next, two wines were tasted from other regions - Martinborough Vineyard from Martinborough on the North Island and Alan McCorkindale from Canterbury, a short day's drive south of Marlborough. The flavor profiles of these wines highlighted the climatic differences between Marlborough and other regions. Lastly, two wines were tasted from Marlborough to highlight differences in winemaking technique. These were Mount Riley Seventeen Valley 2003 and Cloudy Bay Te Koko 2002. Both of these wines feature the use of wild yeast fermentation, malo-lactic fermentation, and aging in French oak.
Following the presentation, the attendees were treated to a classic wine-food pairing. Raw oysters from Old Ebbitt Grill in DC matched up with several more NZ Sauvignon Blancs. A natural match since NZ SB's routinely take home top honors and the majority of medals from Old Ebbitt's annual Oyster Riot. A tip of the hat to the New Zealand Winegrowers for putting that all together.

New Zealand Wine Society - Royal Easter Wine Show

The New Zealand Wine Society held their annual Royal Easter Wine Show in February.

These were the Trophy Winners:

Riesling: Sacred Hill Marlborough Riesling 2004
Gewurztraminer:Johanneshof Marlborough Gewurztraminer 2004
Sauvignon Blanc:Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Pinot Gris:Bladen Marlborough Pinot Gris 2004
Chardonnay:Villa Maria Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2003
Pinot Noir: Olssens Slapjack Creek Pinot Noir 2003
Merlot (and blends):Villa Maria Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002
Cabernet(and blends):Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2002
Syrah: Trinity Hill Shepherds Croft Shiraz 2003
Other Varietal (Red or White)Blue Rock Cabernet Franc 2003
Methode Champenoise: Paradox Marlborough Methode Traditionnelle NV
Sweet Wine:Villa Maria Noble Riesling Botrytis Selection 2004
Export Wine:Matua Valley Shingle Peak Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2004
Wine Maker of the Year Alastair Maling MW, Villa Maria

Best of Show:

Olssens Slapjack Creek Pinot Noir 2003

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