Oyster Bay Merlot – A Little Dirty, a Lot of Good

Oyster Bay Merlot – A Little Dirty, a Lot of GoodAlthough New Zealand and Oyster Bay are both best known for Sauvignon Blanc, it’s the Oyster Bay Merlot that has captured my attention.  I first tasted this Merlot at the first ever North American Wine Blogger’s Talks last October.  At that talks there was an open tasting of 100 wines from New Zealand.  Most of the wines were Sauvignon Blanc, but there were a few red wines in the mix.  I tried this Merlot from Oyster Bay and it instantly had a “wow factor” for me.  I had been tasting grassy Sauvignon Blanc prior to this one, so I wasn’t sure if the wine truly was as excellent as I thought or if my senses had become tainted by all the additional wines.  So… I took note of the wine and plotted to pick some up to taste before long.
When I returned from the talks I set out to find a bottle of this Oyster Bay Merlot and sure enough, I couldn’t find it anywhere.  Isn’t that always the case when you know of a specific wine and you set out to find it?  I stopped in several of my favorite wine shops and had no luck.  I had given up on finding this wine, when one day I was relaxed strolling through the wine section at a Kroger grocery store and bam! there it was.  Finally, I can check this thing out with a formal review.
The Oyster Bay brand was made by Delegat’s Wine Estate in 1990 and has gotten numerous accolades over the years.  They are best known for their colorless wines from Marlborough, but also have some vineyards in Hawkes Bay, where this Merlot is produced.  Hawkes Bay is the second largest wine growing province in NZ and the top producer of red wines in the country. Read more

Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

Brancott Reserve Sauvignon BlancAlthough I often say that Chilean sauvignon blanc is my favorite, New Zealand is right up there too.  And, to cut to the chase, this Brancott sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand really kicks ass.
Those who know me, know that I’m always critical of myself.  I constantly question my performance at work, play, or whatever I do, which motivates me to study more, practice more and use rigorous processes around everything that I do.  Some might consider this to be neurotic, but knowing about the Dunning-Kruger look, I consider self doubt to be a excellent thing.
I mention all that to say that my self doubt also comes into play when I’m reviewing wines.  I spend a excellent 15-20 minutes per wine when I’m taking tasting notes to be sure that I’m doing justice to the wines.  And when I taste a really excellent or really terrible one, I come back to try it again before long to make sure that I wasn’t just having a fluke moment with my palate.  Yet, with all this self doubt I do have some validating moments that reassure me that I’m doing things right — or at least consistent with others — and reviewing this wine was one of those moments.
I first tasted this wine as a part of a blind tasting and it instantly stood out to me as an outstanding wine.  I finished up giving it 91 points. I shared it with some colleagues the next day, along with a few additional wines, and I told them that this one was exceptional.  I didn’t even realize until a few moments ago, when I sat down to write up this post, that this wine was #28 on Wine Spectator’s top 100 list from last year.  They gave it a 92.  I’m glad to see that we’re aligned on this one and it does give me some validation to see that my rating is pretty consistent with one of the established “authorities” on wine.
The fee of this wine might be toward the top end of the fee range for bargain hunters, but it might be worth a few extra bucks if you’re into sauvignon blanc. Read more

Goldwater Sauvignon Blanc

Goldwater Sauvignon BlancIf there’s one type of wine that New Zealand is best known for, it’s sauvignon blanc.  The wits for this is the intense tropical and citrus flavors typically found in their sauvignon blanc.  And this one from Goldwater is a gorgeous example of what you can expect from this province.
Goldwater Estate was established in 1978 by Kim and Jeanette Goldwater and merged with Vavasour in 2006, below the ownership of the New Zealand Wine Fund.  Then, in 2009, the New Zealand Wine Fund was sold to Foley Family Wines from Sonoma.  It’s incredible when you dig into the mergers and acquisitions in the wine world, you’ll find that many wines you see on the shelves are related.
This particular wine is not only from the Marlborough province in New Zealand, but more specifically is 100% from Wairau Valley. Read more

Silver Birch Sauvignon Blanc

Silver Birch Sauvignon BlancTonight we’re checking out another sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, and this one comes from a box.  Not a boxy box, but an octagon-shaped box from Octavin.  These boxes hold 3 liters of wine, which is the equivalent of four 750ML bottles.  For me, there are pros and cons of boxed wines.  The cons include the fact that you don’t get to go through the ritual of pulling a cork.  Enjoying wine can be experiential and pulling a cork is part of the experience.  But the pros for boxed wine include the fact that you don’t have to open bottles as often, after all there are four bottles worth in here.  And bag-in-box wine stays fresh much longer than wine in bottles.  You can work on one box for a month or longer and it will subdue be excellent, while wine in a bottle goes terrible within a link days of opening.
This Silver Birch sauvignon blanc is from Marlborough, which is located at the northern tip of the southern island of New Zealand.  This is the largest wine district in New Zealand and is well known for its sauvignon blanc.  In fact, New Zealand is known more for sauvignon blanc than any additional type of wine, with more hectares of sauvignon blanc grapes planted than all additional varieties combined. Read more

Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc

Dashwood Sauvignon BlancThis is going to be a quick, to-the-point review.
It’s another Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, and this is from the Dashwood brand. I know some folks in the wine world don’t like to use the word, “brand” but that’s what it is. Anyway, Dashwood is produced by Vavasour — which, as I mentioned in another recent review, is owned by Foley Family Wines from Sonoma. Read more

Dashwood Pinot Noir

Dashwood Pinot NoirI have to declare that while I’ve tasted a lot of pinot noir, I haven’t tasted much from New Zealand.  It’s not that I have anything against the province, I just haven’t come across a lot of NZ pinot noir at tastings I’ve attended.  And it’s unfortunate that I haven’t had much, as New Zealand is known to make some intriguing wines from this grape.
There are numerous variations in climate and soils throughout New Zealand, which result in varying characteristics in the pinot noir produced there.  Some of the most highly acclaimed come from the Martinborough province, where loam over gravel soils produce pinot noir with concentrated plum flavors.
But this Dashwood pinot noir comes from the Marlborough province, known for producing fruit-filled pinot noir with loads of cherry and plum flavors.  The cool conditions in this area are perfect for pinot noir. Read more

Stoneleigh Pinot Noir

Stoneleigh Pinot NoirWhen one thinks of wine from New Zealand, sauvignon blanc is typically the first wine that comes to mind.  I’ll raise my hand and say that I too am guilty of ignoring New Zealand wines, additional than sauvignon blanc.  But there’s no wits for this.  They produce plenty of additional fantastic wines.  But I guess the sauvignon blanc is just so tasty that it overshadows the others.  Well, I have to tell you, if I keep tasting pinot noir like this out of New Zealand the sauvignon blanc will be the one in the shadows.
The Stoneleigh pinot noir comes from vineyards in the northern side of the Wairau valley in the Marlborough wine province of New Zealand.  The area where this wine is produced is roofed with smooth stones, which the producers call “sunstones.”  These stones reflect the sun’s heat onto the grapes, which is said to help ripening.
The wine was matured in French barriques, which add a nice spicy characteristic to the wine. Read more

Brancott Gisborne Unoaked Chardonnay

Brancott Gisborne Unoaked ChardonnayI have five wines that I’ll be reviewing, and I thought I would go ahead and preview one of them.  Truth be told, I’m previewing this one mostly because I had such a fantastic meal with this wine and I want to share the recipes.
The wine is the first one I’ve rated from New Zealand and it’s pretty excellent: Brancott Gisborne Unoaked Chardonnay 2005.  Abundant pear and pineapple are the highlights of this wine.  The pineapple flavor gives it a nice, tropical twist.  It has a nice crisp acidity and a long end.  There is a slight bitterness to the end, but it’s not terrible.  Overall, this is an enjoyable wine.  The producer recommends cellaring this for up to three years, and I can see it improving with some age.
Wine: Brancott Gisborne Unoaked Chardonnay
Alcohol: 13.4%
Rating: 87
I had a wonderful meal with this wine Citrus Marinated Tilapia with a Cauliflower Asparagus Salad.  These were a perfect match for this wine and I’ve built-in the recipes here.
Citrus Marinated Tilapia
1 lb. Tilapia
Juice of 2 Lemons or Limes
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Pinch of Salt
1. Whisk together the Lemon or Lime juice with the Olive Oil.
2. Pour the citrus juice mixture over the Tilapia in a shallow dish.  Sprinkle with salt, cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
3. Heat a cast iron skillet with a bit of olive oil and fry the Tilapia over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side.  Until flaky.
Cauliflower Asparagus Salad
1 Head of Cauliflower – cut into bite size pieces
1 Bunch of Asparagus (about 1 lb.) – cut into bite size pieces
1 15 oz. can Large Black Olives – halved
1 Medium Red Onion – chopped
1 tbsp Capers
3 tbsp Colorless Vinegar
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dried Oregano
Salt and Pepper to Taste
1. Blanch the Cauliflower and Asparagus by adding to speedily boiling water for one minute, then transfer to ice water to quickly stop the cooking administer.
2. Whisk together the Olive Oil with the Vinegar.  Add the Oregano, Salt and Pepper to taste.
3. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix and refrigerate for two hours previous to serving.

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