How come nobody ever talks about New Zealand being an upside down boot?

Okay, so maybe it’s a small boot with a leg warmer, but it’s got it going on.

Thanks to Jasper Hammink of Vinopedia, the new free price comparison engine for wine. He read this post, then wrote:

I saw your blog today, hilarious to see that New Zealand indeed looks like a boot. I superimposed the map of Italy onto the map of NZ and with a bit of rotation they are really quite similar: Vinopeida Map. Feel free to use the picture if you like.

I like… In fact, I love…

Everybody talks about Italy being the shape of a boot, but poor little New Zealand is down under, which means that it’s really right side up for them… with their own boot.

I have to thank you Mills Reef, for originally taking me (virtually) to New Zealand all those years ago, and discovering this. I brought up my image of their islands at the time. I was the first to mention it to them.  (I guess I live in a very different world.)

My dear friends at San Francisco Wine Exchange had winemaker Tim Preston coming to the US, and I was the person who set up Tim in one American city after the other during his stay with media lunches and dinners. Tim was a hit. How could he not be? He’s about the loveliest person on the planet, and he makes solidly structure wines. Find a Mills Reef and buy it. You won’t be disappointed, is all I can say, as validated by so many wine writers around the US at the time.

New and Fabulous Down Unders

This wine blog is now opening up the world for me in a major way. Before this blog, I have to admit that I was pretty California-centric, because those were my primary wine experiences. Honestly, I had to learn all that I could here, before I could become a world explorer. We all need some point of reference, and Napa and Sonoma ain’t all that bad, to be very honest with you. I learned what I had to. Then, the recession hit, being open to imports happened, and I’ve been off and running ever since.

Flavors and wines that are all great buys, and I’m having a ball exploring these wines. The ones below have been tasted over a period of time, because I couldn’t bear to open them all in one sitting, and then dump what was left over down the drain. This is why you’ll find my notes aren’t consistently presented, but are more stream-of-consciousness-up-to-the-minute, as I’ve felt to report on each one in a candid way.

These wines below were delivered to me by Jane Cleary from Country Vintners. She had the Zeepaard samples delivered to me earlier, and turned it right around with this new list.

2008 Longview Red Bucket Shiraz Cabernet (Adelaide Hills) RRP $13

Get ready for Girl Scout Mint Chocolate cookies. Blackberry fruit wrapped in flavors of Eucalyptus, this wine is called Shiraz Cabernet, with the blend being 76% Shiraz and 24% Cab. I love the back label… It’s ingenious. It lists a ton of adjectives, keeping any dinner party going with things like:

and rich
and mouth filling
and complex
and structured
and aromatic

The list goes on, but I won’t. Buy the wine and enjoy the ride. What is in the bottle is also all over the label. Dribble a few drops from within, and you’ve got a perfect party going on.

2009 Longview Red Bucket Semillon Sauvignon Blanc (Adelaide Hills) RRP $13

COLOR is gorgeous and crystal clear.

NOSE: This isn’t the prettiest of wine descriptions; however, it’s become very interesting to me that some Sauvignon Blancs with Semillon can be somewhere between the litter box and a skunk trail… And, if I smelled either in real life instead of a wine’s aroma, I’d be totally turned off… But, in a wine glass? I find myself evaluating how many wine claws I’m smelling. I used to think about in five claws, but now I have a Polydactyly cat, and know that it can be a cat with six or seven toes. I called him Big Foot, and he’s a little heavy handed and clumsy with this many toes, and I’d say the same for a Sauvignon Blanc at its most extreme feline aromas. Fortunately, this wine is perfectly balanced and has a pleasant nose that only hinted at my stream-of-consciousness ramblings, with a claw factor of three and a half.

PALATE: Lemony lime. Not tropical, definitely cool climate flavors. Stainless steel helps to preserve all the varietal character, and pleasant flavors. A great apéritif wine with gorgeous cheeses of full body, would make this wine a great food and wine hit at any gathering.

FINISH: Fresh and clean with lemon meringue pie lingering. Very yummy.

2009 Lawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough NZ) RRP $17

I love Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. The meow factor from this one his one’s definitely a four, on the scale of one to five (barring ploydactyls). Bright and fresh, I didn’t need to enjoy this one with food. It became my afternoon sipper, until it was gone a few days later. It’s a great value wine, and would please your guests as an apéritif during your summer garden parties.

FINISH: Yes, I definitely did…

2008 Lawson’s Dry Hills Gewürztraminer (Marlborough NZ) RRP $19

This one, as a Gewürtz, shocked me, but only briefly and for good reason. I’ve never tasted a New Zealand Gewürtztraminer. I’m too European centric with this variety, and expected a flowery, off dry wine. Instead, I adjusted my palate, and began to appreciate the dry, yet slightly aromatic, wine. This one would pair really well with a gooey brie, as it’s acidity would make for a good complement. I enjoyed it, as if I had tasted Gewürtz for the very first time, ever.

2009 Ironberry Chardonnay Viognier (Western Australia) RRP $10

COLOR: Light to medium straw.

NOSE: The bouquet opens with pure lemon citrus, starfuit and floral notes

PALATE:  With the above aromas, add cantaloupe and passion flower that develops. Bright palate features ruby grapefruit and white nectarine flavors with citrusy Myer lemon.

FINISH: A touch of bay leaf at the finish.

2007 Longview “Devil’s Elbow” Cabernet Sauvignon (Adelaide Hills) RRP $22.50

Rich, beautiful fruit, this one had the nose of an opulent wine, and the fruit to back it up. It made me hunger for tri-tips and Jose delivered. We both found this wine to be a celestial, despite its name.

2007 Longview “Yakka” Shiraz (Adelaide Hills) RRP $22.50

If you see this one, pick it up. I died and went to Shiraz heaven. It’s got all the right stuff that almost drips down your chin.

2008 Neudorf “Moutere” Chardonnay (Nelson NZ) RRP $48

This one was so gorgeous that I regretted not having it at a dinner party. I knew it was very special, long before I came back to this blog posting to see its price. Rich, beautiful fruit filled my mouth with layers upon layers of flavors. This is a very opulent wine, to be shared in the greatest of moments with very special friends who will appreciate its splendor.

2008 Neudorf “Moutere” Pinot Noir (Nelson NZ) RRP $48

Artisan Pinot Noir from the talents of winemaker John Kavanugh, from Nelson, New Zealand. The grapes for this vintage were hand harvested from low yielding vines. This means be prepared for big flavors; although, the flavors of the grapes were still delicate. I knew immediately that French oak was involved, because it was the second flavor for me, right after sweet Bing cherries. Unfiltered, unfined, and only 680 cases were produced… An eclectic wine worthy of the price.

2008 Neudorf “Tom’s Block” Pinot Noir (Nelson NZ) RRP $28

Very similar in style to the “Moutere,” with big flavors. Toast, again, is very present.

2009 Pikes “White Mullet” (Clare Valley) RRP $14

An interesting white blended wine: 70% Riesling, 11% Viognier, 10% Chenin Blanc, 9% Sauvignon Blanc

Lime aromas up front, added notes of honeysuckle and dried apricot with trailing white smoke at the close. I loved this one… Maybe because it was such a variety of flavors… Layers upon layers…

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On June 15 I read on line, “On June 18, Robert Mondavi’s birthday, friends and fans from around the globe will gather to celebrate his passion and vision by raising a glass and sharing the stories that created his legacy.” When I wrote what’s below on June 12, I had forgotten that June 18 is Robert Mondavi’s birthday. I scheduled this for June 18, so that it would run through Father’s Day Weekend… He means that much to me… Little did I know that this was going to be a worldwide day to celebrate the legend. This blog celebrates him though his living legacy… His children Tim, and more specifically Michael, who is carrying on in his father’s footstep, as another father and son team. I wrote: The father figure who’s most impressed me, during my 18 years in the wine business, is Robert Mondavi. I had the privilege of working with Mr. Mondavi at Robert Mondavi Winery (RMW). Then, Robert was in his 80s, but don’t let that number fool you. I’d see him darting across the winery like white lightening. He was that agile. It wasn’t until years later that I heard of his health becoming fragile. At the winery, while I was educating guests about wine, son Tim would pull up with his car, headed for the wine cellar. I’d point him out, and he’d come over and say a bright smiling, “Hello,” and then be off to work. I remember how electric he would be to guests. [Today, Tim Mondavi owns Continuum Estate.] At internal events, son Michael would appear as head of the winery, to personally greet the winery’s employees. Michael would greet us all, until the last of us arrived… Always the ambassador, just like his father, standing tall and stately. The kids (Michael and Tim) had appointed jobs. I never saw the grand kids, but one of my colleague/friends Molly married one; and I remember thinking to myself, what a gifted life she’s now going to live. It couldn’t have happened to a sweeter person. Their family was growing, and life for us all was moving on. The day that Robert Mondavi passed away I knew that I was going to miss that father figure. The imprint that fathers share during their lives with us, lives on… in our hearts and minds forever. Fathers (mostly) do the best they can, given their own circumstances… And so, on the third Sunday each June, we take the day to share a little extra love with our dads. I made my husband a father on father’s day on June 15, 1980. Before that happened, he used to chase me around on Mother’s Day, saying, “Come here. Let me make you a mother.” I got the last laugh, and a lovely laugh that one turned out to be. And so, I’m now looking at the next generation of Mondavis… Tim is off living his winemaking dreams, and Michael is building his own empire with wine as a producer, importers with Folio Fine Wine Partners. It’s interesting to note that Micheal seems to have his father’s energy for growing a business. In 2004, Michael established his business, and today there are approximately 50 employees at his company, with his son Rob as a founding partner. Now, even though I’m not working for the Mondavi family anymore, I’m still on their list as their samples arrive on my doorstep. Each package ties me back to Robert, one of California’s greatest wine proponents. Robert’s in the same category as André Tchelistcheff, another one of the wine industry’s iconic figures. Folio has brands from around the world, from places like Argentina, Austria, Italy, New Zealand, Spain, as well as many brands from the US. Michael’s living the international life that his father put before him, and enjoying many of the relationships which his father began. This Father’s Day, I’m raising my Italian glass to the entire Mondavi family. Opening act, starting with this Venetian gem…

  • 2009 Masi’s Masianco Pinot Grigio (RSP $18.00)

This is the estate’s exclusive blend of 75% Pinot Grigio, 25% Verduzzo [Great Wine Century Club addition for me]. NOSE: Bright citrusy nose, lemons, star fruit, just bright and refreshing without even tasting. PALATE: Summer lemonade without the sugar, crisp without the ice, refreshing as all get out. FINISH: Puckered so much from all the lemon that I wanted someone to kiss on the spot, and not the cat sleeping in my office. Grape seed oil on the back end. [Positive puckering, by the way, not from an overly acidic wine. This wine is in perfect balance.] OVERALL: I loved this one, because I was actually able to taste the Verduzzo over the Pinot Grigio. I’ve had enough PG to know it’s flavors well, so the over-riding Verduzzo just introduced itself to me. Having now just tasted Verduzzo for the first time, I have a very clear idea of its flavors. It’s markedly different from a PG, but adds so much vitality to a Pinot Grigio, that it’s a gorgeous summer wine. FOOD & WINE: This wine will work really well with dishes that have a cream or cheese sauce. Also, get ready for serving this one with a final cheeses course. It will cleanse your guests palates, while being really well complemented by a cheese selection. It has simple flavors, so select cheese that are a bit more complicated. (Yin Yang) Segueing into…

  • 2006 Nipozzano Riserva ~ Chianti Rufina Marchesi de’Frescobaldi ($21.00)

This beautiful wine is the most famous wine from the Frescobaldi estate. Defining the appellation, it’s a classic Chianti Rufina, comprised mostly of Sangiovese, with small amounts of Malvasia Nera, Colorino, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Aged for 24 months in oak, this wine’s color is garnet with edges of ruby around the rim… NOSE: Brimming with red fruit, just so inviting. PALATE: Black fruit and currants that are big an opulent, dripping with flavor, almost to the point of having to wipe your chin from its drippingly unctuous flavors. SERVE WITH: Hearty red dishes. I’ve got a beef stew recipe that I loved with this one. Grand finale…

  • 2007 LaVite Lucente, Toscana, Indicazione Geografica Tipica (SRP: $25.00)

While at the winery, I occasionally tasted Mondavi’s Luce wine, because of the relationship that existed during those days. It was gorgeous wine. The tradition continues with Michael, with Lucente emerging as the perfect reflection of Luce. This wine expresses its unique terroir, with exceptional varieties being crafted into wine. It’s a blend of Sangiovese and Merlot, with that kick of Cabernet Sauvignon to place it into the Super Tuscan category. This wine is going to be enjoyed by my Jose today, as his Father’s Day wine. Our kids will raise a glass to this exceptional father… Thanks, Michael for sharing. Here’s to all fathers, everywhere… My you have a very happy Father’s Day, too.

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