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Some Initial New Zealand Wine Reviews

As you know, Ruth and I are currently tooling around New Zealand recuperating from our hectic San Francisco lives. This trip is a vacation first and foremost, but how could we go to New Zealand without doing a little wine tasting while we were there? Yesterday we spent a long day visiting with many wineries in the Central Otago region, many of which I will write about here in the coming days. We've also been eating out and tasting wine wherever we go, so I've also got a list of somewhat random individual wines which I've got tasting notes for that I'll share here.

2004 Muddy Water Pinot Noir, Waipara
Medium ruby in the glass this wine smells of roasted soybeans, seaweed, and red berries. In the mouth it has a nice weight on the palate with a savory umami character that expresses dried cranberry fruit but lacks the resonant depth and complexity that (could easily) make it a fantastic wine, instead of the very good one that it is. 8.5/9

2005 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Light green-gold in the glass this wine has a nose of gooseberries and starfruit, with just a hint of flintiness. In the mouth it is very round and full with good acids and pure bright fruit flavors of apples, gooseberry, and lychee that last through the crisp refreshing finish. More fruity than complex, but hard not to enjoy. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $16. Where to Buy?

2005 Cable Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough
Nearly colorless with a pale green cast to it, this wine has a very mineral and herbal nose with a slight bit of green fruit showing through the bright wet stone aromas. In the mouth it is steely with acidity with flavors of fresh herbs and cut green grass along with a very light and tart green apple and gooseberry fruit that plays second fiddle to the herbal qualities of the wine. The wine is mostly experienced in the front of the mouth and becomes less engaging through the finish. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $18. Where to Buy?

2005 Mt Rosa Pinot Gris, Gibbston Valley, Central Otago
Pale green-gold in the glass, this wine has a very floral nose of jasmine and other white flowers. In the mouth it is juicy with apple flavors and lime notes. The acid balance is excellent, and the flavors pure -- making for a dynamic and pleasing wine that does justice to the varietal. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.

2006 Torr Riesling, Central Otago
Near colorless, this wine has an extremely floral nose with strong linalool (think Juicyfruit gum) aromas. In the mouth it continues to be very floral delivering white flowers and bubblegum flavors on the front of the palate, buoyed by nice acidity, and a zingy citrus note on the finish, but lacks the personality of some other New Zealand Rieslings I've had the occasion to try this week. Score: 8.5. Cost: $??.

2006 Amisfield "Saignee" Rose of Pinot Noir, Central Otago
A perfect pink right off the rose bush, this wine has a juicy nose of watermelon and alpine strawberry aromas. In the mouth it is bouncy with good acidity and thankfully bone-dry. It has a nice weight on the tongue and crisp primary flavors of alpine strawberry and a touch of citrus. What's not to like? Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $14.

2004 Surveyor Thomson Pinot Noir, Cromwell Basin, Central Otago
Light blood red in color, this wine has a lovely earthy nose with additional aromas of cranberry and raspberry fruit. In the mouth it has excellent acidity and good texture with primary flavors of pomegranate and cranberry with a light grapeyness that fades to be replaced with dried herbs on the finish. Sealed (gasp!) with a cork, apparently because the owner lives part time in Hong Kong and couldn't sell his wines there easily with screwcaps. Go figure. Score: 9. Cost: $45.

2003 Nevis Bluff Pinot Noir, Gibbston Valley, Central Otago
Medium garnet in the glass, this wine has a light, floral nose with softer aromas of red fruits. In the mouth it has some very mice fruit flavors of dried cherries, cranberry, and raspberry, held up by decent acids and lasting through a reasonable finish. Lacking in a depth that would provide more profundity, this wine however has no objectionable qualities as a fine example of the form. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $??.

2005 Amisfield Pinot Noir, Central Otago
Medium to dark garnet in color, this wine has a nearly savory nose of soy aromas mixed with raspberry and mineral qualities. When it first hits the tongue it delivers on the promise of the interesting nose, with a nice balance of earthiness and raspberry and cranberry flavors that are supported by good acids and fine grained, subtle tannins. Despite good flavors however, the wine feels just slightly flat as it passes the palate, and lacks some texture, as if it has been over-filtered or just over-worked before it got to the bottle. Those criticisms cannot deny, however, that this is a darn good wine, especially for a difficult year. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $33. Where to Buy?

2001 Stonecroft "Ruhanui" Red Wine, Hawkes Bay
Medium ruby in the glass this wine has a nose of cherry, pencil lead, and damp earth aromas. In the mouth it proves to be medium bodied with nice acidity and displays cherry fruit in a bright claret style with hints of leather and damp earth adding some complex undertones. The tannins are very light, to the point of being non-existent, and over the course of an hour or two the wine showed more and more signs of oxidation, leading me to believe that it is likely at its peak at the moment, and probably won't improve much with more age. So if you've got any bottles of this Cabernet, Syrah, and Merlot blend, enjoy it now while it's in good shape. Score: 9. Cost: $40.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud