Pair with Food: The Most Aggressive (good) Viognier I’ve Ever Tasted

The Back Story:

I was fairly bummed about missing the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla this year. I decided to pass the time in the days leading up to the event by directing hundreds of guilt-tripping tweets towards the bloggers who I knew were going.

Actually, I’m not quite that mean-spirited.

I did tweet a couple times to wish some of my blogger friends the best of times at the conference, in my own snarky way of course. One of the Washington State wineries, Desert Wind, noticed one of my tweets and offered to send me a sample of the wines they would be tasting at the event.

Who am I to turn down free wine?

The bottles arrived less than a week after I tweeted. I’ll definitely give Desert Wind props for that… I got 2 bottles from Desert Wind Winery and 2 bottles from Duck Pond Cellars, another Fries family project with vineyards in both Oregon and Washington. I was in a white wine mood (hey, big surprise there), so I decided to pop open a standard favorite of mine, the Viognier. The first experience was… unrewarding, I would say, but it clued us in to a food pairing that I decided to try the next night. Once that came around…? Oh man, was it good.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very pale straw color with the slightest green tinge and a very clear luminosity. It appears to have a fairly full body.

The nose of the wine is very fruity with primarily tropical and citrus scents. Notes of pineapple, mango, and tangerine round out a slightly unusual Viognier nose. The alcohol doesn’t hardly come through at all.

The mouth feel of the wine is extraordinarily crisp and active, with a palpable acidity that registers in your mouth and throat immediately.

The flavor of the wine is, admittedly, nothing special on its own. It’s primarily fruit-forward, though the flavors themselves are fairly meek. Tropical and citrus round out the palate, though it’s hard to taste through the potent structure (alcohol at 14.5%). Even though the perceived acidity is high, it’s not imbalanced at all, as the pH is 3.45. It’s not bitter or unpleasant, just overwhelming where the flavor is concerned. The wine truly shined, however, when paired with Chicken Tikka Masala, a traditional Indian dish consisting of chicken tikka (chunks) cooked in masala, a tomato-based orange sauce seasoned with turmeric and curry.

As you can guess, the chicken is spicy, which is just what the wine needed. The spice softens the flavor, evoking a beautiful peach and mango flavor with a clean, moderately long finish. The wine also wasn’t half bad with buttered naan, garlic goat cheese, and juniper-berry-cured prosciutto either.

For the Casual Drinker:

You don’t want to attempt this wine without a spicy, rich food to counter it. It’s unforgiving on its own, and unless you absolutely crave the taste of acid and alcohol, you won’t get much of an experience from it. Break it out for your exotic white-meat or veggie fare, your spicy Asian dishes, maybe even Mexican if the chiles are kicking. Definitely don’t expect it to deliver nuance to a tame meal… it’ll simply overwhelm it.

The Conclusion:

Not an everyday drinker, but that’s not a problem. As long as the food pairing is right, this will be a rich, rewarding experience, especially at a bargain price of $15.00. 6/10.

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Desert Wind Viognier

Producer: Desert Wind Winery

Region: Columbia Valley, Washington State, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Viognier

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: 1 g/L

Alcohol: 14.5 %

pH: 3.45

Price: $15.00

Purchased at: received as a gift, but available for purchase from the winery here

note: this wine was received as a gift from the winery as an industry sample.

And Now For Something Slightly Different… St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc

The Back Story:

A while back, when I was just beginning to get into blogging and social media, I had the good fortune to have an afternoon off when Rick Bakas was hosting a Tweetup and wine tasting in Raleigh. For those of you who don’t know Rick, he’s a heavy hitter in the social media front, one who demonstrates his abilities through his actions rather than styling himself as a “guru” or “ninja” or “expert.” Most recently, he’s been directing social media for St. Supery, a winery located in Napa. You can follow his efforts on their Twitter account, Facebook, and blog.

Along with tasting several of St. Supery’s wines, including the incredible high-end Elu blend, I got to chat with the man himself for a good portion of the event. I and a few other Raleigh social media / wine tweeps (@lisasullivan from Media Two Interactive and @jeffreylcohen of NC Wine TV also joined me later at a 5:00 Fridays cocktail tweetup hosted by Dirt & Noise‘s @ilinaP) got to pick his brain on the industry, on marketing in social media, and a wealth of other topics. We also did a fair share of shooting the breeze, chatting about sports, food, and travel. Rick even offered his camera to Jeff for an impromptu NC Wine TV interview!

Basically, if St. Supery makes their way out to your city, I highly suggest you make the effort to get out and participate. Good wine and good people always makes for a successful tweetup.

As for the wine, though I dearly loved the Elu, I couldn’t afford to take it home with me that day. Because of my love for Sauvignon Blanc, however, that wasn’t much of an issue. St. Supery was tasting one that day as well, their 2008 vintage, and it was good.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very pale yellow with a green tint. It appears to be fairly viscous.

The nose of the wine is very crisp and tropical, with notes of bright peach, grapefruit, and limes. The nose is slightly subdued for a Sauvignon Blanc but extremely appealing. At 13.3%, the alcohol makes only a slight, cool appearance.

The mouth feel of the wine is delightfully representative of the varietal. While the pH is slightly high for a Sauvignon Blanc (and for St Supery’s fare… their 2007 and 2009 are both at 3.28 pH compared to 3.39 for this one, the 2008), the dry, crisp texture is still present. The dryness is jaw-clenching, with a very active, tangy acidity and a slightly creamy texture.

The flavor of the wine is a bit more nuanced than the typical Sauvignon Blanc. The attack features peach and grapefruit, two congruous flavors that duel for supremacy on the palate. There’s a bit of grass and herbs, a nod to the classic style, but a delightfully long lemon-lime finish is accompanied by a soft perceived sweetness to shake up the palate a bit. I mentioned to someone that the Sauvignon Blanc had an unexpectedly fresh and nuanced flavor, and they remarked rather dismissively that they probably blended it to achieve this. Nope. This one is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

For the Casual Drinker:

If you’ve had a Sauvignon Blanc, you basically know what to expect from this. It’s aggressive, like Sauvignon Blancs are wont to be, though this one adds some depth to the typical grassygrapefruitherb cluster of flavors this grape is known for. Sip it and enjoy, as the finish is where the wine really demonstrates its unique profile. Bone dry, by the way, at practically no residual sugar. Trust me, it doesn’t need it.

The Conclusion:

It’s certainly going to be a higher-end Sauvignon Blanc at $23.00, meaning you’ll be paying more for this bottle than two of most others, so this isn’t going to be an everyday sipper. If you really want a treat in this varietal, though, I highly recommend it. 8/10.

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc

Producer: St. Supery

Region: Napa Valley, California, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: <.02%

Alcohol: 13.3%

pH: 3.39

Price: $23

Purchased at: Harris Teeter in Raleigh, available online direct from the winery here

Visiting Tavel, or Living the Dream as Mr. Drink Pink

The Back Story:

Exhibit A: The Rosé I ordered (first of 2 glasses) at Chateau O'Brien in 95 degree heat

So, according to Dezel from My Vine Spot, I am Mr. Drink Pink. It’s not surprising given that, to the amusement of everyone I do wine tours with, if we’re sitting outside, I usually go for the Rosé. It’s the best of both worlds, I tell you!

Considering this, if I were planning a wine tour, where would I go? There is, of course, Champagne, the most legendary of sparkling regions, the only French region allowed to create Rosé by blending red and white grapes. Then again, I’m rather fond of continuing to have money in my bank account.

Languedoc is a recently trendy area that has found favor in the New World due to it’s producers’ willingness to eschew AOC traditions in favor of American-friendly and single-varietal wines. While there’s a ton of mass-produced schlock to wade through (Languedoc produces more wine than the entire United States), the good stuff is worth finding. Kind of like California, if you simplify it, really. Ehm… I can get California from California without crossing an ocean to get it. Let’s move on.

Nope… my friends (and frienemies), my choice for Mr. Drink Pink’s holiday getaway is none other than the Rhone region of Tavel. A Rosé-only AOC, Tavel is where my heart belongs. I just didn’t know it until now. Classic big red grapes are turned into luscious, delicate palate pleasers in this region, and the designation as a pink region means that everything about the grapes is traditionally geared towards these wines.

Because flying there would be a bit of a hassle, and because my passport is currently out of commission, I’ll do the next best thing. The solution? Popping the cork on a Château de Ségriès 2008 Tavel, n’est pas?

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a beautiful, pure, deep red, almost like cranberry juice. It doesn’t appear to be terribly full-bodied.

The nose of the wine is overwhelmingly fruity, with a slightly cool alcohol scent. Notes of citrus, strawberries, and ripe apple round out a fantastically summery scent.

The mouth feel of the wine is very crisp, with a pleasantly high acidity. It’s a bit hefty, owing to the Syrah influence and extensive skin contact, but it’s well-balanced.

The flavor of the wine is a bit simple but still delicious. Rich apple cider dominates, with strawberries and oranges coming through on the mid-palate. The finish is fairly long with a tart apple flavor.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is going to be a bit more aggressive than your typical Rosé. That said, it’s still too dry and delicate to handle the really hefty meals. I paired it with a bacon and onion pizza, and the salt and spice managed to slightly overwhelm the flavor. Regardless, it has a delicious, well-balanced fruit flavor, which is good for sipping on its own.

The Conclusion:

This is a drink now affair, offering a consistent experience from vintage to vintage. It’s a bit rare but not terribly difficult to get a hold of, and the 09s are apparently drinking very well as well. Essentially, it’s about as good as you’re going to get for Rosé under $20, and there’s plenty of good stuff out there. 7/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Tavel (Rosé)

Producer: Château de Ségriès

Region: Tavel, Rhone, France

Varietal(s): Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: unknown

Alcohol: 14%

pH: unknown

Price: $18

Purchased at: Chapel Hill Wine Company

No, Seriously, North Carolina Wine Pt. 2: RayLen Vineyards

Though I would love to flesh out a detailed post on RayLen Vineyards this week, I feel like I have a lot more to learn about the winery and its owners. Instead, I’d like to highlight some of the wines that I tasted and hammer home the word of the day: “potential.” This winery is poised for some fantastic things, and it’s only a matter of time before these guys start getting national recognition.

Let’s start with the whites.

Fine, let’s.

2009 Chardonnay (naked): Very good acidity and dry flavors on this wine. Apple, pear, and a bit of tropical fruit make it a fairly conventional but wholly enjoyable Chardonnay that’s well worth its $13 price tag. 6/10

2008 Chardonnay (oaked): Very, very buttery. I underlined buttery, that’s how much butter there is. Absolutely beautiful, clear butterscotch flavor, very smooth. The oak is fairly obvious but not overwhelming. I honestly think winemakers in Virginia and North Carolina understand oak better than California right now. $14 gets you a serious winner. 7/10

2008 SMV Chardonnay (oaked): Grown in a more distant vineyard at an elevation of 1200-1500 feet, this Chardonnay offers a slightly different oak as well. A decent creamy texture, softer than the on-site Chardonnay, accompanies a buttery, toasty flavor. Definitely a different flavor, still very worth it at $15, though I prefer the other barrel Chardonnay. 6/10

2008 Yadkin Gold: A blend of Riesling, Viognier, and Pinot Grigio. A very subdued tropical nose and palate. Slightly sweet at .81% residual sugar, and it drinks beautifully at a bargain-level price tag of $13. 6/10

And now the Reds?

Sure, why not.

2007 Shiraz: Consider this the single biggest surprise of the trip. I did not like it at first, probably because I was a) not expecting much of anything from it and b) it’s not exactly a typical Shiraz. My second taste of it, though, I was convinced. This wine went down very smooth, with a beautiful blackberry flavor accompanied by an interesting mix of spices and herbs. This is definitely a red meat pairing waiting to happen. Oh, and it’s only $14. 7/10

2007 Cabernet Franc: From what I can tell, 2007 was a good year in a lot of places, both New World and Old (there’s a breaking statement for you). The difference between the 2006 and 2007 Cab Franc at RayLen is staggering… the 2007 is much, much smoother, with a beautiful coffee and black cherry flavor and a fantastic structure. For $14, this is a serious bargain. 7/10

2007 Category 5: A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, this wine packs a serious punch. Though the structure is just a tad harsh, the oak is just enough to tame the wine while not overwhelming a very good, bright cherry flavor. It’s $18, which is a bit more than their other basic reds, but still very reasonable. 6/10

NV Pale Red: A blush wine blended with about 2% Concord to give it a slightly sweet, grape-y flavor on top of the bright red fruits the rest of the blend provides. 2.78% residual sugar makes for a very interesting and not at all overwhelming off-dry red wine, and it’s only $10. 6/10

2006 Eagle’s Select: This wine, right here, is the mother of all reds at RayLen. A Meritage blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, with 18 months in oak, this takes all the best aspects of their various grapes and really showcases the winemaker’s skill. Black cherry, mint, and spice all provide a beautiful flavor accompanied by incredibly nuanced tannins. This wine is ready to drink now, but it could lay down for years, and I’d really be interested to see what it would do. Best of all, this finely crafted wine is only $25. 8/10

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon: Remember when I said the word of the day is “potential”? That’s exactly the case with this wine. While it is a delicious specimen now, with red fruits, cherry, slight spice, and a hint of tobacco, I feel like laying it down for 5 to 10 years would soften it into a truly sublime drinking experience. This wine is actually a pretty good metaphor for the rest of the winery… they’re on the cusp of great things. This might turn out to be a serious bargain down the road if purchased now, as it’s only $16. 6/10

And the sparkling?

Right, right.

NV Sparkling Wine: So, funny story… RayLen isn’t actually equipped to create sparkling wines. They have to send their product to Biltmore Estate in the far west of North Carolina for secondary fermentation. It’s definitely a worthy enterprise, though, because this actually surprised me. It’s very dry and crisp, with apple and lemon flavors. Though the flavor is fairly plain, it’s not at all disappointing. I would go so far as to say it’s almost worth the $24 price tag. Actually, considering the dreck that you would get charged $10 to $15 for at Food Lion , I’d say this is comparatively worth the cost. 6/10

No, Seriously, North Carolina Wine Pt.1: Westbend Vineyards

I just realized that it has been almost a month since I’ve focused a piece on North Carolina wine. That is entirely unacceptable. Luckily, I went on a wine tour this weekend, hitting two of the hottest vineyards in the state, and I’ve got the pictures and tasting notes to prove it.

I might have the tasting notes, but they've got the medals

You might remember the Westbend Vineyards Riesling from an earlier review on my blog (you can check it here). There, I quote a mini-raving by Robert Parker about Westbend’s wines:

One of the South’s best kept wine secrets is Westbend Vineyards in Lewisville, North Carolina. Westbend produces two excellent Chardonnay cuvées; a tasty, rich Seyval, a good Sauvignon, and a surprisingly spicy, herbal, cassis and chocolate scented and flavored Cabernet Sauvignon. As fine as these wines are, I am surprised they are not better known outside of North Carolina.

Well, I finally got to try the rest of their wines. Want to know what I thought of them? First, a bit more about the vineyard.

Westbend Vineyards began its life as a hobbyist’s farm back in 1972. Originally designating his land a weekend getaway for experimenting with new crops, Jack Kroustalis decided to go against the grain and plant vinifera. He started with the standard French varietals and French/American hybrids, found some early success, and rolled with it from there.

Oh, and the original 150 year-old homestead still stands on one of the vineyards, and they’re currently restoring it to use for events. You’ll recognize it immediately from their labels, which have featured artwork of the homestead pretty much every year since their first official vintage back in 1988.

Recently, they’ve been revamping the vineyard, which was a sprawling mix of various varietals. Old growths of vines that had fallen out of favor were torn out and replaced to homogenize the sections of the vineyard. You can see the results in the picture below, with thick, old vines sharing space with grow tubes.

old and new growth side by side, a sign of changing for the better

The vineyard overall has been growing steadily ever since that first vintage. They’re now up to 300 oak barrels, a mix of American, French, and Hungarian, in addition to their sizable stainless-steel fermentation tanks, recently retrofitted with cooling jackets. They also brought in a winemaker from Long Island, Mark Terry, to take the winery in a new direction. I have to say, based on what I tasted today, that was one savvy business decision.

We got to chat with Mark for awhile, discussing some of his experiments, future plans, and past decisions. I especially liked learning his thought process behind ideas such as fermenting Chambourcin in all three kinds of oak and blending them together. He’s got a bit of a mad scientist kind of mentality about his wines, which is big help when you’re trying to make your winery stand out.

But about those wines…

note: all vintages are what were poured in the tasting room as of June 19th

Let’s start with the reds, and begin with my least favorite wine of theirs, which is something like being the least warm spot on the sun.

Pinot Noir: Yes, a Pinot Noir, that finicky, cruel, flighty varietal, grown in North Carolina. And you know what? It’s on par with many Pinot Noirs I’ve had. Chocolate, coffee, and nutty aromas and flavors lead to a medium chalky finish accompanied by espresso. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, the acidity maybe a tad high but the tannins are pleasantly chalky. 5/10

Chambourcin: One of the most blueberry-heavy wines I’ve experienced in awhile, this is yet another great example of how well Chambourcin does in North Carolina. A dusty, earthy flavor accompanies blackfruits and blackberries on a decent finish. 7/10

Cabernet Sauvignon (’06): Beautiful nose of coffee, slight chocolate flavor, bright cherries, and the oak is nuanced and surprisingly tasty. Bordeaux varietals do very, very well in the Yadkin Valley, and this one is no exception. 7/10

Cabernet Franc: A blend of 85% Cab Franc, 10% Chambourcin, and 5% Merlot. Tobacco on the nose, which is light enough to not overwhelm my senses. Black fruits, raspberry, and heavy cinnamon flavors, and a medium finish with a very stark black pepper flavor, which I actually enjoyed. Beautifully full mouth feel. 7/10

Vintner’s Signature: 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Merlot. A very interesting aroma of raisins, mocha, and cedar. An equally interesting array of flavors: woody, cloves, red fruits, leather… with a velvety mouth feel and a good finish. All I can say is this wine is unusual, and I rather like it. 7/10

“Les Soeurs” Cabernet Sauvignon (’07): A pungent, woody nose of smoke, sawdust, and cigar box. Flavors of espresso, cedar, and ripe black cherry combine with extremely fine, powdery tannins to create a beautifully complex experience. The finish is long and woody. 8/10

So what about the whites?

Viognier: Nose of hot house strawberries, oddly enough. Flavor is pear and minerals. Rather simple, but very pleasant, with a brilliant acidity. 7/10

Barrel Fermented Chardonnay: Heavy nose and flavor of oak, though it pairs fairly well with the coconut flavor. A little overdone, but still enjoyable and smooth. 6/10

Chardonnay: I scribbled in the margins “surprisingly full-bodied.” That it was… that it was. Citrusy and tropical, with pineapple really standing out on the nose. Bright flavor of lemon-lime that matches a crisp acidity and perceived sweetness rather well. 6/10

Watching Chardonnay ferment: more or less exciting than watching paint dry?

Sauvignon Blanc: Rather acidic, with a flavor that’s more nuanced than aggressive. Notes of lemon-lime and melon really match the acidity well, and there’s an herbal overtone that feels right at home with the Sauv Blanc experience. 7/10

First in Flight (NV): Based on the blend, 68% Seyval Blanc, 30% Chardonnay, and 2% Riesling, and the lack of vintage, my initial reaction was lacking in anticipation. Boy, was I wrong. Beautiful pear on the nose, with lemon-lime (seeing a pattern in the whites yet?) matching a light sweetness and strong acidity, and a beautifully clear tart granny smith apple on the finish. 7/10

Do they have good dessert wines?

Hell yes, they do.

Lilly B: A citrusy, floral nose with orange peel and marmalade accompanying a honeyed scent. Very pleasantly sweet, not at all syrupy, with apricot and honey really standing out in the flavors and an explosively active acidity providing a serious backbone to a deliciously pungent wine. 7/10

Lillmark Blanc de Noir: Sparkling wine with a beautiful peach-orange color and a very active carbonation. Absolutely dazzling flavor of sour apple candy. I’ve rarely tasted a flavor as pure and aggressive as this one. We tried it on a whim, and 5 minutes later I was spending $35 on a bottle. Totally, completely worth every penny. 8/10

note:: you can purchase all of these wines at their current vintage on their website at http://www.westbendvineyards.com/

More Fine Wine from the Great State of Texas

The Back Story:

You might remember the expansive piece called the Texas-Virginia Wine Summit that I co-wrote with Ben Simons from Vinotology some odd months ago (if not, here’s a refresher). In the trade, I ended up getting 4 bottles of Texas wine, 2 from Alamosa Cellars and 2 from Pheasant Ridge. I indulged in one offering from each during our experiment, saving two for a rainy day.

Well, it poured while I was in Virginia. The Alamosa wine I opened, which I forgot to save the label from, was a remarkable trip through Texas terroir, a Spanish blend exhibiting almost no fruit whatsoever, instead providing a leafy, seedy experience of black tea, coffee, and chocolate. The other bottle from Pheasant Ridge was a Bordeaux blend, and as Ben so aptly stated in a Tweet, Pheasant Ridge is doing good things with Bordeaux fruit.

I didn’t pair this wine with food, but I did enjoy it while re-experiencing several of my old favorite songs. I decided to post one to continue my unofficial Music Week. Like this wine, the song is best experienced with eyes closed. Sipping the wine while just letting the music wash over me was a sublime experience.

(also, I recommend closing your eyes because the music video is kind of hokey)

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a beautiful spectrum of red and age. While the depth of the wine is almost a pure red, the swirl reveals shades of rust and cola. It’s a very interesting depth with a low viscosity.

The nose of the wine consists of blackberry and oak. As it opens up in the glass, it begins to develop a light cola and chocolate scent. After a good hour of airing out, it developed a very pleasant black licorice scent. There’s a complexity here I did not expect from the first sip.

The flavor of the wine initially consists of blackberry and oak, just like the nose. It’s surprisingly nuanced, with a higher-than-expected acidity that actually balanced very, very well with the flavor. As the wine opens up, darker fruits and seedier flavors of cola and coffee began to make an appearance. The tannins are a bit light but chalky. This wine is surprisingly complex for only 7 years of age.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is a nuanced, atypical wine and beautiful representative of Texas terroir. That being said, I recommend decanting this guy for at least an hour. You’ll definitely appreciate how much the mouth feel improves, and the “aged” character definitely needs some encouragement to present itself. If you want a unique example of what new regions in the New World are doing, I highly recommend this wine. As an added bonus, you’ll blow people’s minds when you tell them about the fantastic Bordeaux blend you had from Texas.

The Conclusion:

This wine might be hard to get a hold of, but at $15 you have absolutely no reason to pass on this beast of a Bordeaux blend. 8/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Proprietor’s Reserve

Producer: Pheasant Ridge

Region: Texas, US

Varietal(s): 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc

Vintage: 2003

Residual Sugar: unknown

Alcohol: 13.8%

pH: unknown

Price: $15

For a second look from a local palate, check out Vinotology’s review. He introduced me to this wine, and I have to say it’s a damn good thing he did.

Getting my Summer Addiction Fix: More Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

The Back Story:

I like to think I’ve had a decent amount of wines in my day. I’ve had wine from 5 continents, almost 50 varietals, and I have in stock several wines from regions and varietals I haven’t tried before. So why, why WHY the hell do I keep drinking Sauvignon Blancs? Not just any Sauvignon Blanc, either, but New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. Not just New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, but Marlborough, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

To feed my addiction, I had my local wine shop, Hillsborough Wine Company, special order me the rest of the Sauvignon Blancs produced by Barker’s Marque, the producers of which have been fairly dedicated to seeking out mentions of their product online. Thus, earlier this week, I picked up the Barker’s Marque 2009 Arona and 3 Brooms. I’ve already blogged twice about the ranga.ranga, so I didn’t need to order that one.

You’ve had a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, so you know what to expect, right? If not, the ranga.ranga post can serve as a reminder. Basically, grapefruit, puckering acidity, citrus, crisp flavor, clear color, a touch of herbs and grassiness. Residual sugar is typically 2 to 4 grams per liter, strictly in the dry, dry, DRY range. That combined with an acidity somewhere around the 3.30 pH mark makes it really feel like biting into a grapefruit.

The 2009 Barker’s Marque Arona adds 6% Riesling to a base of 94% Sauvignon Blanc to shoot all sorts of holes in that perception. I can honestly say I’ve never had a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough that tasted quite like this. Quite like what? Well…

The Results:

Arona Sauvignon Blanc pouredThe appearance of the wine is a very pale straw. It’s not quite as clear as the ranga.ranga was but it’s definitely got the Sauvignon Blanc clarity.

The nose of the wine couples citrusy and tropical notes with a very cool alcohol scent. Lime, sage, and passion-fruit leap forward from the glass, pungent and ripe.

The mouth feel of the wine is fantastically smooth. The alcohol (13%) gives it a very light, delicate feel, which combines with the crisp acidity (3.30 pH) for a very active, tangy sensation. It just feels alive.

The flavor of the wine is where things get interesting. You know that typical Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc flavor? Yeah, forget about it. This wine has a hint of that citrusy grapefruit and grass, but the real show here is some soft, sweet, ripe tropical goodness. Rich flavors of nectarine and passionfruit dominate the palate, aided by a comparably potent sweetness (5.3 g/l residual sugar). The flavor is wonderfully juicy, like tropical fruit nectar. The finish brings us back to the terroir, with lime and sage lasting and lingering.

As the wine develops in the glass, coming closer to room temperature, the tropical fruits open up on the nose and become even more pungent on the palate. This is a very, very active wine.

For the Casual Drinker:

For those of you turned off by the aggressiveness of Sauvignon Blancs, especially New Zealand’s, you’ll want to give this guy a try. It’s remarkably tame compared to its local compatriots, though it still has a decent zing to it. The flavors are much less overwhelmingly acidic, providing a soft tropical base and a pleasant sweetness. Because the sweetness has increased, the pairing options differ from the typical exotic fare that a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc would match. You could handle a white meat or seafood entrée with a bit of spice, though the structure isn’t quite there for Asian cuisine.

The Conclusion:

There are many, many Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs out there. Most of them are very, very similar to each other. If you want to try something different, the Arona is a good place to start. It’s only $13, and it’s a bargain at that price. 8/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Arona

Producer: Barker’s Marque

Varietal(s): 94% Sauvignon Blanc, 6% Riesling

Vintage: 2009

Residual Sugar: 5.3 g/l

Alcohol: 13%

pH: 3.30

note:: After I initially failed to list the vital stats on the wine I reviewed on Monday (i.e. what the wine was actually called), I revised my format to add this final section. Inspiration hails from Drink Nectar and Vinotology. This section will also keep me from being lazy about researching my wines. This stuff’s important, y’know?

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