Perhaps I was getting too lazy and missed all of the good things going on in New Zealand wine growing regions. Yes, I’ve tasted many of the country’s top wines over the last two decades, but I did not absorb what I do now. This year is different. I was in New Zealand as a guest international judge in the Marlborough Wine Show; from second I arrived in Auckland and then onto Blenheim, the itinerary would be nonstop.
When did Grenache/Garnacha become such a big deal? In the youthful days (the early to mid- 1970’s) of my wine career, I remember drinking Ridge wines with then winemaker and now winemaker/CEO Paul Draper at the winery on Monte Bello Road, sipping Grenache in cool mixed red blends. I always found those wines compelling and fun, but what did Grenache contribute to those wines? Was it just a part of the bigger picture? Could this grape stand alone and be successful and also play nicely in a mix with other varietals?
When I was in my 20’s and had just gotten a taste for wines, I thought, “Wow!” This is fun! I also had the perfect forum to launch my wine-loving career. My family owned and operated Ashbury Market, which was a mere two blocks from the infamous Haight-Ashbury corner. What a place to begin what would become a lifetime of tasting wines. Continue reading Rating Wines: Is it Art or Science?
Domaine Romanee Conti. Chateau Grillet. Santa Margarita Ranch. Okay, so maybe the last one does not ring a bell, but it should! Nestled in the southernmost reaches of Paso Robles lies a single vineyard AVA – Santa Margarita Ranch. The Margarita Vineyard that inhabits this AVA stands out as the only vineyard located within its own namesake region. This unique vineyard and AVA is the home of Ancient Peaks winery.
Why should you know about Ancient Peaks? Well, besides the fact that it produces elegant and complex wines, there is a history to the place. First farmed by the Franciscan missionaries in the 1780s, the land took a progressive turn when the Robert Mondavi family saw great potential and planted vines in the region in 1999. Eventually, he sold the land back to the owners and as of now, three families own this winery, vineyard and AVA, which gives them complete control over producing wines distinctive to this unique pocket of California. They are entrepreneurs, ranchers and wine-lovers.
Talented ukulele player, animal and nature lover, winery proprietor, and accomplished actor, Sam Neill is a super cool guy. His winery in Central Otago, New Zealand, is called Two Paddocks, and these small production wines made by rock star winemaker Dean Shaw are top-notch examples of what can be achieved in this most southernly wine region in the world. I met Sam and Dean in New Zealand earlier this year, and while I was already a fan of Sam’s acting career, I immediately became a raving fan of the Two Paddocks wines.