The Spy Valley rose shows once again that the New Zealand winery is dedicated to quality and value
The Wine Curmudgeon has long praised New Zealand’s Spy Valley, a producer that combines quality with value. Its wines don’t pant and sniff for scores, and almost all of them are interesting and varietally correct. So imagine my excitement when I found the Spy Valley rose on a Dallas store shelf.
I was not disappointed. The Spy Valley rose ($13, purchased, 13%) was everything I hoped it would be. This is a top-notch rose at a more than fair price. Dare I say it’s my new favorite pink?
In this, it has the body and style that’s missing from many more expensive roses – a complexity and roundness that is a hallmark of Spy Valley wines. But it’s also fresh and crisp, with wonderful point noir berry aroma and flavor (plus a little tropical something or other lurking in the background). This wine shows how rose should be made – not as a way to use up leftover grapes to stuff in a fancy bottle, but to make delicious rose.
Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2018 Cheap Wine of the Year. Drink this chilled with any sort of Labor Day activity, be it sitting on the porch, burgers at a barbecue, or visiting with friends.
New Zealand’s Fire Road sauvignon blanc is more than a one-note, grapefruit flavored white wine
The problem with most inexpensive sauvignon blanc is that only has one flavor – overwhelming citrus. This is particularly true of New Zealand sauvignon blanc, which pioneered the style. Pick up a bottle in the grocery store, be it Monkey Bay, Oyster Bay, Starborough, or whatever, and there is usually only one flavor – grapefruit. And that’s where Fire Road sauvignon blanc comes in.
The Fire Road sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13%) is more than a typical citrusy New Zealand sauvignon blanc. The citrus is noticeable, but it’s not just grapefruit — maybe a little lime, too. Plus there’s a bit of sweet tropical fruit in the middle to balance the citrus, and even a note of herbs to add more oomph than one expects at this price.
In this, it demonstrates that sauvignon blanc can be complex and interesting, and especially for around $10. This is something that many in the Winestream Media don’t want to believe; in their view, sauvignon blanc has always taken a back seat to chardonnay. Nuts to that.
Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.
• Marchesi di Grésy Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($18, purchased, 14.5%): Impeccably made white wine with top quality fruit and citrus and white pepper flavors. But this doesn’t answer the question why anyone would want to buy a heavy Italian sauvignon blanc made to taste like California chardonnay. Imported by Marchesi de Gresy USA.
• Tangent Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($8/375-ml can, sample, 13.5%): The question is not whether this is a well-made California white wine, because it is, with lemongrass and some citrus in a fresh and crisp style. The question? Why would I want to pay the equivalent of $16 a bottle for canned wine?
• Tommasi Poggio al Tufo Sangiovese Cabernet 2013 ($15, purchased, 13%): A professionally made, if boring, Italian red blend that aims at the so called American palate: More ripe and with less acidity, plus softer tannins than typical Italian sangiovese. A fine example of the International style if you like that sort of thing. Imported by Vintus LLC.
• Satellite Sauvignon Blanc 2016 ($12, purchased, 12.5%): Surprisingly ordinary New Zealand white, given that it’s a second label from Spy Valley, one of the best sauvignon blanc producers in the world. It’s not bad or off, just very grocery store in approach – mostly fruit forward grapefruit and a little minerality and not much else. Imported by Broadbent Selections.
The Matua Valley sauvingon blanc is grocery store wine with a decided difference — quality and value
One of the most frustrating things about the grocery store Great Wall of Wine is that there isn’t any way to tell quality – almost never an employee to ask and little information other than the foolishness on the back label.
This matters because all of us have to buy wine in a grocery store at one time or another, and some of us do it even more often than that. Which is where the Matua Valley sauvignon blanc comes in.
The Matua Valley sauvignon blanc ($11, sample, 13%) is a Big Wine product that shows what can be done when more effort is put into making the wine than into forming a focus group. At first, it seems like a typical supermarket New Zealand sauvingon blanc with lots of grapefruit in the front. But take another sip, and you can taste the difference – a flash of of tropical fruit in the middle, which is a hallmark of quality sauvignon blancs, plus some minerality in the back. There’s even a hint of structure, something missing from most grocery store wine .
That’s why it’s more interesting than the Monkey Bays of the world, even though the cost is about the same. Pair this with almost any grilled or roast chicken dinner, as well as shrimp marinated in garlic, olive oil, and parsley.
The Spy Valley is annually one of the world’s best sauvignon blancs
The most important thing to know about this vintage of the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc? It cost $16, and I’m writing an entire post about it. How often does that happen on the blog?
But the Spy Valley ($16, purchased, 13%) is no ordinary sauvignon blanc. It’s always among the best in the world, not just in quality and value, but in taking the New Zealand style and adding depth and complexity. This is much, much more than grapefruit first, last, and only, but a wine made for people who want wine, and not just something to drink.
The 2016 vintage of the Spy Valley sauvignon blanc has the grapefruit, of course, as well as a hint of tropical fruit and a minerality that doesn’t seem to have been there in previous vintages. In addition, it’s a very young wine and should get softer and rounder, with more layers of flavor, as it ages over the next couple of years. I’d also suggest letting it breathe for at least 20 minutes; that should help with its youth that it has a screwcap.
Highly recommended. Drink this chilled on its own or with almost anything fish or chicken that is grilled or roasted. I do it with a shrimp boil, and it’s always spot on.
The Crowded House sauvignon blanc shows how New Zealand producers can combine quality and value
New Zealand changed the way we bought and enjoyed sauvignon blanc, and the Crowded House sauvignon blanc is another in a long line of wines that shows how that happened.
Before New Zealand, sauvingon blanc was often cheap and boring, or interesting but either difficult to find or too expensive to be worthwhile. The exceptions, like white Bordeaux and Sancerre from France, were almost geeky at a time when there weren’t a lot of wine geeks.
The New Zealand approach, starting 10 or 15 years ago, focused on affordable quality and an almost grapefruit-like flavor. The latter was especially unique, since traditional sauvignon blanc barely bothered with fruit and was more about minerality. In this, the Kiwi approach was taken to all sorts of extremes.
The Crowded House sauvignon blanc ($12, sample, 13%) is a step up from most grocery store sauvignon blancs, which are mostly about the grapefruit. Here, the citrus is a little more restrained and is complemented by a nice touch of minerality on the back. A dollop of tropical fruit in the middle would have been welcome, but the wine is still enjoyable without it.
Serve the Crowded House sauvignon blanc chilled and on its own for some early spring porch sipping if the weather cooperates, or with grilled seafood or almost any fish or chicken prepared with garlic, olive oil, and parsley.
Who knew this turkey would lend itself to five dinners and five wines?
What do with a 20-pound turkey? Use it to for five dinners paired with five wines
This year, the Wine Curmudgeon’s Thanksgiving turkey weighed 20 pounds. My old pal Jim Serroka, who shares holiday cooking duties with me, wanted lots of turkey for leftovers. Needless to say, we got them – as well as another post in the blog’s wine and food pairings series: One entree that can be turned into five dinners with five wines.
The goal here was to pair quality cheap wine with the leftovers as simply as possible – no wine geek for advice, no examining the turkey’s entrails for wines to drink. My wine and food pairings:
• The Thanksgiving turkey. Roasted with lots of herbs and vegetables, and stuffed with the Kleinpeter family’s traditional chicken cornbread dressing. I picked three wines; two were disappointing, proving that even I can over-think wine and food pairings. But the third was an old pal, the $16 Clos de Gilroy grenache from Bonny Doon. How winemaker Randall Graham gets cherryish fruit, a little earthiness, some white pepper, and a delightful freshness from California grenache is beyond my understanding, but I’m glad he does.
• Turkey rice cake. One of my great cooking discoveries was that rice freezes. Make eight cups in the rice cooker, divide it into 2- or 3-cup packages, freeze, and thaw when necessary. This was chopped leftover turkey, some of the roasted vegetables, and an egg mixed with rice; basically the same thing I did with noodles for the roast chicken post. The wine was a sample, the $25 Markham merlot – dependable and high quality and what California merlot is supposed to taste like – lighter and more approachable than cabernet sauvignon, with dark fruit and subtler tannins. And it didn’t overwhelm the rice cakes.
• Turkey sausage okra gumbo. I’ve been making this with leftover Thanksgiving turkey since I moved to Dallas, so long ago the city had two newspapers. It’s more or less the classic recipe – make the roux, add chopped onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic, stir, add the stock, stir, add the okra, let it simmer, and finish with the sausage and turkey. And no tomatoes – absolutely, positively no tomatoes. The wine was an $8 Rivarey Crianza, a tempranillo from the Rioja region of Spain. It was simple and fruity, but with enough structure and backbone for the dark, smoky gumbo.
• Baked turkey Reubens. This is a Siegel family tradition; my Dad made these when I was a kid using Pepperidge Farm brown and serve rolls and leftover Thanksgiving turkey. It’s sliced turkey breast, quality Swiss cheese, canned and drained sauerkraut, and my Dad’s thousand island dressing (his secret ingredient was lime juice). Make the sandwich, wrap in foil, and bake until crusty. And what better wine than rose? The Ned, a $12 New Zealand pink wine, did the trick, and it will be even better in six months. This was a 2016, and had only been in the bottle for six or eight weeks.
• Turkey torte. This sort of baked Spanish-style omelette is usually made with potatoes, but turkey (with sauteed onions and peppers) works well, too. I drank a bottle of cava, a $10 Spanish sparkler called – believe it or not – Lady of Spain. The wine has been inconsistent, but this bottle was very cava-like, with tight bubbles and lemon fruit. And, of course, Spanish wine with a Spanish dish, one of the ways to make pairings work with less trouble.