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Recent Sips of New Zealand Pinot

I keep dabbling in New Zealand Pinot Noir, and although the wines can be very good, there are none that have sent me into such a state of nirvana that I have been willing to switch from my California and Oregon favorites. Here are a few exports available in the California marketplace that you should sample and judge for yourself.


2010 Over The Edge Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $11, screw cap. Imported by Meadowbank Estates, Alexandria, VA. · Moderate reddish-purple color in the glass. Weighed down by oak trappings, this wine still presents good value. Aromas of black cherries, plum sauce and oak spice and smoke. Rustic and earthy as Martinborough Pinots can be, with a medium bodied core of darker fruits including flavors of blackberry and cassis. Very smooth on the palate, leaving a finish with oak in its wake. Decent.

2010 Cairnbrae Marlborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $19., screw cap. Imported by Station Imports, Colorado Springs, CO. Planted in 1980, Cairnbrae started out as a contract grower, but by 1992 began producing Sauvignon Blanc under their own Cairnbrae label. Purchased by Sacred Hill in 2001, Christie Brown was brought on as Winemaker. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Complex nose displaying aromas of strawberries, raspberries, cherries, and savory spices. A light and pleasant drink, offering a tasty black cherry and ripe strawberry core with a hint of sandalwood and herbal oak. Lively acidity and mild dusty tannins add to the appeal. Very Good.

2010 Felton Road Block 3 Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $69, screw cap. Imported by Wilson Daniels, St. Helena, CA. · Darkly colored in the glass. Brooding aromas of black fruits, brier, black tea, cardamom spice and leather. Reserved but interesting dark stone fruit and berry flavors with a hint of citrus in the background. A wine of character, tasting mysterious and intriguing but very young and only hinting at its ultimate potential. Silky smooth on the palate with marvelous structure and acid interplay. One of Central Otago’s benchmark wines.

2008 Tarras Vineyards Central Otago New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.5% alc., $25, screw cap. Imported by USA Wine West, Sausalito, CA. An estate wine from The Steppes Vineyard. · Moderate ruby color in the glass. Deep aromas of dark berries, wine cellar and smoky oak. California in style, with copious dark berry and cherry flavor supported by moderately firm tannins, finishing with an undertone of oak on the fruit-driven finish. Displaying to much oak influence for me at this stage. Good.

2008 Escarpment Martinborough New Zealand Pinot Noir

13.5% alc., $35. Imported by Meadowbank Estates, Alexandria, VA. The vineyard at Escarpment is planted on alluvial gravel terraces at the foot of the Aorangi Mountains. Vinified by Larry McKenna, known in New Zealand as the “Prince of Pinot.” · Moderate reddish-purple hue in the glass. Nice array of spicy red and black fruits on the expressive nose. Full-bodied and very ripe core of dark red and black fruits with complimentary oak vanillin and spice in the background, displaying a creamy mouth feel, and exhibiting a modest persistence on the finish. Very good (-).

2008 Mountford Estate Waipara New Zealand Pinot Noir

14.0% alc., $40. Imported by Infinity Imports, Los Angeles, CA. Crafted by blind winemaker CP Lin. · Moderately light reddish-purple color in the glass. Aromas of black cherries, strawberries, sandalwood, spice and toasty oak. A bit rustic and closed, showing flavors of black cherries wrapped in supple tannins, underpinnings of tea, tar and oak, and slipping off the palate at the finish with persistent aromatic interest. Should improve over the next few years in the cellar. Very good.

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