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After Zin, Comes New Zealand Vin

October 30, 2008

Unfortunately, my sweet suite at the Wine Bloggers Conference at the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa was going to charge me to get on line so I poured myself a glass of Mauritson’s Rockpile 2006 Zin (which I liked even better than the reserve–not as “fruity” but more cherry and better structure and balance and depth), grabbed my MacBook Pro and some crackers, and wandered back into the lobby which had quieted down significantly save for the music blasting “Brick House” from the bar. I used the code from my Wine Bloggers Conference Welcome packet and got right on.

I didn’t stay on for long, certainly not long enough to get a post written or an email sent, as I struck up a conversation with three gentlemen with some open wine bottles across the lobby, and quickly found myself on their couch with a sample of a New Zealand Pinot Noir in my glass–something completely different than the zins in the sweet suite or the Aussie shiraz I spent the summer drinking!

I found myself in the presence of David Strada, New Zealand wine guy, who had organized a wine tasting of New Zealand wines which went on while I was in the sweet zin sweet snacking on cheese and crackers. Next thing I knew, I was in the presence of a roomful of New Zealand wines, with permission to swoop up any that interested me–but I had to do it quick!

I didn’t even try to think–I just walked past all those tempting whites and headed for the pinot noirs–after sampling what was on the table in the lobby, I had to try more!

I grabbed pinot noirs by Wild Earth, Forrest Estate, and Wooleston, plus a syrah by…(oh, no I don’t remember now! Trinity Hill maybe?)

“Good choices!” said David. “We have a nice selection of wines on the table, a selection from the different wine growing regions of New Zealand–the Wild Earth from Otago, Forrest Estate from Marlborough, and Wooleston from Nelson. Did you know that? How did you choose them?”

“Well, I liked the label on the Wild Earth,” I admitted.

Award Winning Wild Earth Pinot Noir

Award Winning Wild Earth Pinot

“Yes, Americans do like that one,” he said with a smile.

“And I wanted to try a New Zealand shiraz to compare with the Australian ones I’ve been drinking lately… and these two pinots were half full!”

Now of course many would advise to choose the ones the least full, with the suspicion that those were the “best” or certainly the most popular, but since I was bringing the wine to a table of “tasters” I thought it best to be sure I had enough!

I have to admit that even though my laptop sat right there on the table next to us, I neglected to take a single note. Instead, I relaxed and swam in the wines and the conversation. We tasted and talked until the bottles had to get put away by 2am, and our informal yet informative tasting yielded much more than I might have experienced had I been there earlier–David organized and orchestrated the tasting, and I was invited to a tasting of New Zealand wines next Monday Nov. 3 in Beverly Hills.

However, I must say that one of the most memorable wines to my nose from the entire weekend was the Forrest Estate from Marborough–the scent of violets were stunning that night, although they have receded significantly by tonight, as I finish the tail end of the open bottle in a glass filled with and filling me with a soft red spicy delicacy as I write. I think I remember David saying that these grapes grew on a slope high on a ridge with the fog from the sea tempering the heat of the day.

One of my favorite labels of the weekend goes to the Wild Earth, American that I am, and a card carrying green with an Environmental Studies degree from UC Santa Cruz…I enjoyed that pinot noir a great deal that night–in fact, it was my favorite–lots of well balanced fruit: strawberries and raspberries, yum yum yum. The fruit was still clearly apparent when I finished off that bottle last night, as well as spice. Not surprisingly, David told me Wild Earth’s pinot noir had won major awards: it was named the top pinot in the world, and top red wine in the world, out of a field of 10,000 wines! How’s that for dumb luck on my part?

What else to say? There is so much, so much that I learned talking with David that I’d love to share. And I will, next week, after I taste more New Zealand wines.

Back home, I feel fortunate for an amazing night, for making new friends, and for experiencing these lovely wines, both there that night and back home with old friends. Because that’s what it’s really about, isn’t it? Sharing the love with friends?

Can you hear me sigh? What could be better than tasting Sonoma wines like the Dry Creek zins and like tomorrow portends with a vineyard hike and lots of Sonoma wines? How about tasting in NEW ZEALAND??  One day, my friends, one day.

Tomorrow at the Wine Bloggers Conference,  I will rejoice in being here, and seeing what my day with Sonoma wines brings.

BTW, I also tasted (the less impressive, somewhat bland)  Huai Pinot from Marlborough ($29). The yummy Wild Earth from Otago retails at $32, the Wooleston from warm Nelson ($29) , the 2005 Forrest Estate from Marlborough is a steal at $22.

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