Walla Walla Meets Wairau: The Expressive Single Vineyard Wines of Hillersden

Hillersden is located in the Upper Wairau Valley in Marlborough, New Zealand. The estate takes its name from the now long forgotten settler’s town of Hillersden, which was one of the country’s largest sheep stations. Owned today by the Forlong family, the winery is known for being the first family owned, single estate, wine label in the Upper Wairau Valley. Passionately committed to sustainability, solar energy, irrigation technologies, innovation in frost management and repurposing vineyard waste for productivity are just a few of the many methods and approaches they utilize in creating a fully sustainable vineyard. The entire family is dedicated to the honoring the rich history of the land and “creating a new legacy and home for the modern wine lover”. The 3 sons now each have a role in managing the estate, from creating the label art to marketing and vineyard and farm guidance.

I had the pleasure of a guided tasting with their passionate and friendly winemaker, Adam Kubrock. Adam began his wine journey crafting single vineyard Syrah and red wines in Walla Walla, Washington State. Enamored with the cool climate winegrowing in Marlborough, he spent the past 6 years at Indevin, New Zealand Wineries and Mahi “learning the heart and soul of Marlborough wine”.

Winemaker Adam Kubrock.

Hillersden Single Vineyard Legacy Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015

Winemaking: Fermented in stainless steel, aged on light lees.

Tasting Notes: Light on its feet with sweet apple, peach and honeysuckle flavours balanced by bright acidity and an herbaceous streak. Fun, perky fizz carries thru to the clean mineral finish. Refreshing and light, a fun change of pace from Prosecco or Cava.
13% Alcohol
$18 [average price]

Hillersden Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Wairau Valley Marlborough 2016

Winemaking: Fermented in stainless steel, aged on fine lees to give the wine a refined texture to compliment the exuberant flavours. The wine was blended from 4 different vineyard parcels each contributing their own character.

Tasting Notes: Radiating with aromas of lemon, yellow apple, lime and grass. Apple, apricot, lemon and herbs are given a quick shake of white pepper, accenting the crisp, refreshing finish. A gorgeous balance of intense fruit and savoury elements.
13% Alcohol
$15 [average price]

Hillersden Single Vineyard Riesling Wairau Valley Marlborough 2015

Winemaking: Sheep chew the leaves to open the grapes up to the sun, grapes were picked young as they were not looking for the bell pepper flavours. Fermented in stainless steel.

Tasting Notes: Subtle petrol notes are ensconced with bright citrus, apple and honeysuckle flavours. The zippy, flinty mineral driven finish completes the refreshing character. Light, lively and changeable, it will disappear from your glass rather swiftly.
12% Alcohol
$15 [average price]

Hillersden Single Vineyard Pinot Gris Wairau Valley Marlborough 2016

Winemaking: Fermented in stainless steel, aged on light lees to build a refined texture and full palate.

Tasting Notes: Juicy and fresh, with vivid apple, pear and nectarine flavours. Cinnamon and ginger dusted pear linger tantalizingly between each summery sip.
13.5% Alcohol
$15[average price]

Hillersden Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Marlborough 2014

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from high elevation terraced vineyards, wild fermented and aged just shy of 10 months in 25% new oak. Only 300 cases produced.

Tasting Notes: Light and elegant, with layers of blackberry, plum, cherry and raspberry spread across a floral core, accompanied by bright acidity and silky tannins. Traces of earth and baking spice linger on the fruit and floral finish.
13.5% Alcohol
$21 [average price]

 

 

Media event hosted by New Zealand Wine.

 

 

Eat Drink and be Merry: The Dreaming Tree Trio

Winery: Dreaming Tree Wines is the creation of legendary musician Dave Matthews along with New Zealand winemaker Sean McKenzie. The duo is passionate about crafting accessible wines that express “the unique characters and rich flavours” of California’s wine country. The portfolio currently consists of 6 wines, all sourced from various sustainably farmed vineyards in California.

A Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing winery, they strive for sustainability in all facets of wine production, including sustainable methods in the vineyard, bottles that are a quarter pound lighter and manufactured with clean-burning natural gas, 100% recycled paper labels, along with natural corks sourced from sustainable farms. The winery also utilizes solar energy, having the largest solar footprint in the US wine industry.

Philosophy: To make “wines for people to drink. I don’t make wines for people to put in their cellar.”

The Dreaming Tree Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2016

“We think this wine hits all the right notes. No matter what your journey may be. This is the perfect wine to share along the way.” – Sean McKenzie

Winemaking: Aged for 3 months in stainless steel tanks, bottled immediately in order to maintain the youthful characteristics of the fruit.

Tasting Notes: Pale gold in colour with bright, fresh aromas of melon, grass, clean minerals and citrus. Juicy, summer cantaloupe and honeydew flavours meld with pineapple and a hint of pink grapefruit. Tingly acidity and clean minerals shine on the citrus zest finish. A fantastic summer sip.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: A great sipping wine that also pairs well with classic fish and chips, fresh shellfish and spicy Mexican dishes.

100% Sauvignon Blanc
13.4% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree Pinot Noir 2015

“This is something I feel good about inviting someone over to share with me. It’s something I can be proud of. It’s creation.” – Dave Matthews

Winemaking: 70% of the grapes were sourced from Central Coast AVA. Aged in oak barrels for 10 months.

Tasting Notes: Transparent bright garnet in colour with inviting aromas of cherry, strawberry, vanilla, white pepper and toasted oak. Tasting similar to the aromas with ripe cherry and strawberry dusted with crushed pink peppercorn. Silky tannins and an engaging savoury streak fuse with vanilla, cherry, spice and traces of oak on the lengthy finish. Easy drinking and well balanced with food friendly acidity, wonderful on its own or with a wide variety of dishes. [It was fantastic with gnocchi covered with rich fontina/parmesan sauce and roasted broccoli.]

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Roast chicken or pork, grilled fish, mushroom risotto.

100% Pinot Noir
13.8% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

The Dreaming Tree ‘Crush’ Red Blend 2014

“I swallowed it before I put the glass down.” – Dave Matthews

Winemaking: 79% of grapes were sourced from North Coast AVA. Wines were periodically racked [siphoning the wine off the lees or sediment] to clarify and to develop the smooth tannin structure. After aging for 16 months in oak, the individual varieties were blended.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with aromas of cranberry, raspberry, black pepper, vanilla and toasted oak. Velvety tannins along with hints of vanilla and leather accent cherry, raspberry and plum jam flavours. Crushed black peppercorn, toasted oak and a trace of rich black cherry comprise the plush finish. Full bodied with ripe fruit and silky smooth, don’t be surprised how swiftly your glass will empty.

Pairing Suggestions from the Winery: Barbecue, vegetarian stuffed poblano peppers, Vietnamese pork sandwiches.

64% Merlot, 20% Petite Sirah, 13% Zinfandel, 3% Other
13.7% Alcohol
$13 [average price]

Samples submitted for review purpose.

Exploring the Diverse, Vibrant Personalities of New Zealand Pinot Noir

I was delighted to attend the Made in New Zealand Pinot Noir Seminar held at Pier A Harbor House in NYC last month. The seminar was an extension of Pinot Noir NZ 2017 held in Wellington New Zealand. The 3 day event, as described by The Drinks Business Magazine: “New Zealand’s entire wine industry gathered alongside a host of international sommeliers, buyers and writers to debate all things Pinot, letting their hair down in the process, in true Kiwi fashion. It was the sixth time that the Pinot Noir NZ event had been held, hosted every four years, with 115 New Zealand wineries showcased this year representing seven regions.”

From left to right, Joe Czerwinski, Brett Feore and Michael Henley.

Hosted by New Zealand Wine, the NYC event was under the direction of David Strada, the marketing manager for New Zealand Wines USA. The distinguished panel of presenters were Joe Czerwinski, managing editor of Wine Enthusiast, Brett Feore, sommelier and wine director at the New Zealand influenced Muskat Room in NYC, Laura Williamson, Master Sommelier and wine director at Mandarin Oriental in NYC, and Michael Henley, CEO of Trinity Hill Wines.

With such an esteemed panel, the tasting was an engaging, informative journey through the different personalities of New Zealand Pinot Noir. Here are my impressions from the seminar:

Wine regions of New Zealand. Courtesy of New Zealand Wine.

  • There is a wide range of style and diversity within New Zealand Pinot Noir. There are 10 growing regions, each displaying distinctive, regional character ranging from fresh and bright, graceful and subtle, to bold and tannic. For example, the hillside areas in Marlborough are known to have red fruits, fresh acidity, good structure and tannic backbone. Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir, with its cool climate, along with water and wind issues, tend to the more savory and earth side, with spice and supple tannins.
  • The average vine age is 15 years. Pinot Noir is a relatively new adventure in New Zealand winemaking. As Joe Czerwinski stated, “While there is a maturity being seen in both the wines and winemakers, winemakers are still figuring things out”.
  • Committed to protecting the land, nearly 100% of wines produced are certified sustainable, with many also being certified organic and biodynamic.
  • The majority of wineries take their name from the dominant feature of the land that they cultivate.
  • As seen also with many Italian winemakers, there is a drive to move away from oak to allow the fruit to come thru. Wine with oak aging generally has a low percentage of new oak.
  • Alcohol levels have to be within .5 % of what is stated on the label. For those of us familiar with the fun “11%-14%” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ alcohol level commonly seen on Italian and French labels, the accuracy is striking.

All of the wines below are 100% Pinot Noir. Prices listed are the average online cost.

Trinity Hill Pinot Noir Hawke’s Bay 2015

Winemaking Notes: No new oak was used in order to let the fruit express itself; the structure comes from the abundant fruit, not oak.

Tasting Notes: Bright aromas of cherry, raspberry, wild flowers and clean minerals. Fresh and fruity with a streak of granite minerality, silky tannins compliment the fruity, dry finish. Accessible and fun, fantastic on its own or a great companion at the table.
13% Alcohol
$15

Te Kairanga ‘John Martin’ Pinot Noir Martinborough 2015 Continue reading

Hob Nob Vineyards Pinot Noir 2013

hobnob

Winery: Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits and Les Vins Georges Dubœuf developed Hob Nob in 2007 with a goal of producing New World style wines that are “approachable, yet stylish and sophisticated”. Deutsch Family was founded in 1981 by Bill Deutsch and has grown over the years with a portfolio of over 170 international brands, including giants such as Yellow Tail and Josh Cellars. Winemaker Georges Dubœuf is one of the largest and most famous wine merchants in France, and is viewed as “single handedly popularizing the annual Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon”.

Motto: “At the center of it all.”

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from vineyards in the Languedoc region of southern France. “Part of the wine” was aged in oak for 8 weeks.

Tasting Notes: Garnet with brick edges in colour, with aromas of flowers, black pepper, black cherry and a hint of oak. Tasting very similar to the aromas with black pepper dusted cherry, floral nuances and a trace of leather. Finishing soft and plush with black cherry, vanilla and oak. A bit generic, and uninteresting, but overall innocuous and easy drinking for the $8 price.

100% Pinot Noir
Pays d’Oc IGP
France
Produced & Bottled by Hob Nob Vineyards
13% Alcohol
$8
Enjoy now

Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rosé 2014

Estate: Pascal Jolivet is regarded as “one of the most dynamic domaines in France’s Loire Valley”. Founded in 1987, the estate consists of 120 acres of vineyards that extend across the appellations of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Pascal Jolivet is committed to natural winemaking in both the vineyard and cellar processes.

Philosophy: “To let nature take its course as much as possible.”

Winemaking: Grapes were sourced from “different terroirs throughout the appellation including estate vineyards in the villages of Bué, Verdigny and St Gemme”. Fermented using native, wild yeasts.

Tasting Notes: Amber-coral in colour with aromas of rhubarb, herbs and chalk minerals. Red currant, rhubarb, and strawberry flavours are supported by a food friendly acidity. Red grapefruit and clean minerals comprise the refreshing, dry finish. Charming and direct, an amiable companion to a wide array of dishes.

100% Pinot Noir
Sancerre
France
Estate Bottled
12.5% Alcohol
$26 [1.5L]
Enjoy now

Rated 88 points by Wine Spectator