Archive for ‘New Zealand’

March 14, 2019

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc, 2017

Knot, knotty, knotted.  Any tighter and this could winch up the Titanic.  Think SB in a straight-jacket.  Slick in its near perfection of that green, hay, gooseberry Sauv Blanc predominant down under Kiwi style, and with the Decanter scores to prove it.  Sure they have, I don’t know, perfected the classic New Zealand Sauv Bl; but is it just really good Sauv Bl or a true pleasure to drink?  In our household the jury is out on that.


There was a time when NZ was cutting edge for their forward, acidic and deeply complex Sauv Blanc.  I really couldn’t get enough.  Nowadays, it’s as though they’re just making the same thing over and over; highs and lows of a repetitive theme.  Halloween 12 anyone?  Some of us have gone back to the muted, floral notes of Sancerre.  Others are reveling in the newbie upstarts; try the gray label Haywire for starters.


Price: A rather hefty $35 at BC Liquor before taxes.


Market Liquidity: Good (but predictably good).

December 18, 2017

Nautilus Gruner Veltliner, 2015

A bottle of Nautilus in BC.  Will wonders never cease?


Is it their straightforward and nearly savoury Sauv Blanc?  No.  Is it their charming Chardonnay?  Not a chance.  Is it perhaps their pitch perfect Pinot?  As if.  Is it on the rare chance their hard to find sparkling?  You make me laugh.  No, it’s their Gruner.


But do you know what?  Nautilus makes a lot of good wine and this is no exception.  I’m not sure I prefer it to the Culmina, which is about five dollars less, but it’s a really lively, sharp and tangy refreshing white that deserves some attention.  Apple blossoms, apple skin, tart on the finish, with a bit of a bite.  Extremely food friendly.  Seafood starter anyone?


Price: $34.50 at Marquis.


Market Liquidity: A lesser wine from an accomplished vineyard.

April 14, 2016

Nichol Pinot Gris, 2014 & Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, 2013

For the past few weeks we’ve been drinking wine we like, rather than new bottles, hence the lack of reviews.


Bubbles at lunch

Look at this, bubbles at lunch…


For a special occasion last weekend we popped some bubbles including Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, a “base model” in BC which is dry and appealing with a butterscotch note at the end that, although pales to say, a Perrier-Jouët, is nevertheless delectable.  It used to be easy to find, under $60, at BC Liquor, but has for whatever reason disappeared.  It was for a while my go-to special occasion champers.


We bought a bottle of an Italian red, the Verso Rosso Salenta, which was our favorite value red a while back, review here.  What a bomb.  Thank god I wasn’t corking it for guests.  Hugely disappointing; it had that prune juice funk that leads one to believe it had been stored in a too hot container or left to sit on a loading bay long before it ever got unloaded into a temperature controlled environment.  VRS, yah burnt.


Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches on homemade bread

Bacon, Lettuce & Tomato Sandwiches on homemade bread


We finished up some of our case lots from Blue Mountain.  Last March I gave, well, a rather savage review of their “regular” Chardonnay.  See my disappointment and roundabout way of calling it crap, here.  Wait a minute: A year in the “cellar” had transformed this forgettable plonk completely; peach and lemon notes on the palate, opening to reveal an intriguing filbert/maraschino pop that left us no option but to drink it pronto.  So, note to self: Order by the case, sock it away for a rainy day.


Nautilus Sauvignon Blanc, 2013


It’s been a few years since we drank Nautilus.  It was gifted on a weekend lately and, for better or worse, we opened it with some foodie BLTs on home-made bread.  It was a killer.  If you think of the “severity” of SB on a ten point scale, with a lot of Sancerre hovering under 3.5, and most NZ SB, like, say Brancott, at an 8.5 or higher, the Nautilus hovers around 7; it has some restraint that’s often missing down under.  Bracing but very food friendly.


Price: $28.50 before taxes at Everything Wine.


Market Liquidity: You pay for the refinement.


Halibut in parchment

Halibut & spring vegetables in parchment packets


On an evening of spectacular fresh halibut steamed with baby vegetables in parchment, we opened a Nichol Pinot Gris.  (This is not the more expensive, harder to source, “two barrels” PG.  But, that said, let’s go apples and apples and hold it up to, say, the eloquent and much loved Blue Mountain base model, to which iy doesn’t stand a ghost of a chance against.)  Anyone surfing the blog will know we like our PG, particularly the variety of West Coast PG.  The colour of  PG in BC, covers a wide swath on the Pantone scale.  As for Pinot Gris and its myriad hues, I’ll leave that to another blogger, with an interesting take, and a reference to a vintner making seven different types of PG (!) in almost as many colours: Link here.



While we’ve “oohed” and “ahhed” about many Nichols in the past—witness us fawning over the Cab Franc here and praising the value of the Nine Mile Red here, (but finding no love for a Gewurtz here,)—this was a tad rough; even if drinking PG is nothing more than the amusement of having a pink hue in your glass, you’re better off with Kettle Valley.  Still, it drank well with fish.

Nichol Pinot Gris, 2014

Price: $22 or thereabouts.


Market Liquidity: Competition in the marketplace shames this everyday white.



December 24, 2015

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir, 2013

This poor sucker of a bottle sat on the counter half finished for a week. We couldn’t even bear to put it in a braise. Finally someone finished it off, like a merciful death. Bla. And more bla. It is the epitome of shopping at BC Liquor: Shelf after shelf of boring wine, mediocre wine, plonk, wine that is as generic as post-it notes, as rote as Coke slogans, as exciting as another Hot Tub Time Machine reboot. Wine that hints at the varietal. I don’t know how BC Liquor does it, but they do, and the wine industry loves BC, factory farming uneventful whites and forgettable reds until the cows come home. This isn’t about Stoneleigh in particular, even though this less than stellar bottle is one to re-gift for sure, but just the tipping point on the boredom, repetitiveness and complete lack of creativity and focus you’ll find on the BCL wine shelves. Witness twenty minutes at Pete’s in Seattle and pretty much everything wrong with BCL is captured in an aisle…

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir, 2013

If there is a good metaphor, it’s Vancouver’s thriving craft beer culture, and the snail’s pace it’s taking to get those great bottles onto the shelves. And the pathetic attitude of our “pro-business” government to give a damn.


Price: Less than $20 but when it’s this lacklustre who cares.


Market Liquidity: There is a large and eager market. Apparently.

November 7, 2013

Stoneleigh Marlborough Latitude Sauvignon Blanc, 2012

002Too many NZ Sauv Blancs and you see stars.  Take a break, open a fresh bottle, and it’s like Nirvana.  The good ones can transport you.  I remember having a basic Brancott at the Royal Opera in Covent Garden and it was if all the penguin suits and establishment elites melted away and James Cameron himself had lifted me to a lush green planet.  The only thing missing was castaway Mary Anne serving me a coconut cream pie.  (How did she ever make the dough?  Did the Professor have a butter churner, a grain silo and an oven rigged up?  I digress.)


The Latitude (the Lexus to Stoneleigh’s Toyota Sauv Bl) does not disappoint.  It’s like a distillation of everything NZ has brought to the table with SB and nothing weak or dispassionate about it.  I read a review that it wasn’t grassy but I couldn’t disagree more.  There was a green, pungent, haylike quality, lemon, guava, a hint of bitterness on the tongue washed away in a sweeter finish.  Gorgeous.  No complaints.


Price: $22 at BC Liquor


Market Liquidity: As invigorating as a brisk walk on a cool fall morning.

May 28, 2013

Astrolabe Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

001Refreshing, invigorating, herbaceous, most of what you want in a NZ SB but quite a few dollars more than the $15-18 crowd and without the Cloudy Bay pizazz that warrants the extra bucks (close your eyes and you might take it for Brancott).  Sorry for the short review but this was short on what we were looking for.  If price is no matter, buy a case.


Price: $23.99 at Everything Wine


Market Liquidity: Not the belle of the ball.

June 5, 2012

People’s Sauvignon Blanc, 2010

A tart green grassy mouthful but slightly brash.  A tad reminiscent of Taveners Sour Lemon Drops.  Lingers on the tongue with what seemed a hard undertone (compared to, say, the softness of a gewurtz).


With dinner (fresh halibut baked in a parchment packet with zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallots and wine alongside sautéed criminis and fingerling potatoes) it was much more palatable, had a refinement completely missing as an aperitif, less zing, and in a good way.


Overall, superb value if just an inch too forward.


Price: $15.99 at BC Liquor


Market Liquidity: HS honour list but no scholarship.

April 10, 2012

Ned Waihopai Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, 2011

This was the only wine we had on hand for a last minute dinner of scrambled eggs and sautéed kale.  Although I’d never recommend an SB with eggs it worked (oddly) really well, surprisingly well, due in no small part to the fruit.  Gismondi reviewed this as having a bit more fruit than the last vintage but I would review it as being too fruit forward, a lot of apple, tropical fruit notes and some sweet berries (wine writers write gooseberry but I doubt I could readily identify a gooseberry…).  In fact, for my taste, it is missing some of that green herbaceous twang which is a hallmark of NZ SBs.  It’s still excellent value and at the price great to have on hand (you never know when you’ll need a bottle!) but I would be more inclined at the under $20 mark to go with the Map Maker or Brancott.

Price: $15.99 at BC Liquor

Market Liquidity: Makes a nice change.

March 23, 2012

Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir, 2010

In a word, crawful.  Harsh.  Decanted, aerated, still a total wreck of a pinot.  You can buy it everywhere so there must be a huge market for a wafer thin red with a chalky undertone and a virtually nonexistent nose.  Thank goodness there was no finish.  Enormously mediocre.  And $22 friggin’ bucks to boot.

In a few more words: There is a series of JC Penny ads with Ellen DeGeneres on TV just now and on one of them, in a Roman market, she goes through the hassle of returning something without a receipt.  The point is that JCP is very generous on its return policy and that when something doesn’t work out or isn’t right or is unsatisfactory or doesn’t live up to expectations you can return it.  Too bad I didn’t buy this bottle at JCP…

Price: $21.99 (!!) at BC Liquor.

Market Liquidity: Shurely shome mishtake?

December 2, 2011

Staete Landt Map Maker Sauvignon Blanc 2010

From the text on the label you might think it’s a South African white, but it is in fact just one more astonishing sauv bl from Marlborough.  Is there anything more bracing than a NZ sauv bl?  Can the region do no wrong?  [Insert several tongue-drooping emoticons.]

There is a gorgeous nose, deeply fragrant, with flavours of straw, green, some floral notes, very generous finish, beautifully complementary to vegetarian mains and fish.  We finished it in a flash.  Anything negative?  We found it a touch too acid.  For the price?  Sensational.  New Zealand comes through once again.

Price: $19.99 at Everything Wine; $18.99 with the case discount.

Market Liquidity: This swell sells for the price of a barely drinkable bottom of the barrel BC white; you do the math.