Tuesday, September 16, 2014



OCTOBER 4-5 AND 11-12

21 Boutique Wineries Open Cellar Doors

for Behind-the-Scenes Look at Winemaking

 ** Loyal readers know of my deep-set admiration and respect for the hard-working folks tending vines in the Lake Chelan AVA. You have no further to look then the article I wrote last summer about my visit there ( http://thechefandthegrape.com/wordpress/lake-chelan-ava-washington-state/) . Of course, no visit to Lake Chelan would be complete without the small vital excursion north to Veranda Beach! ( http://thechefandthegrape.com/wordpress/veranda-beach-cellars-washington-state/). And so when my friends in Chelan told me about their upcoming "Crush Festival", I knew I had to spread the word to the people I knew would enjoy a weekend there: You! **

LAKE CHELAN, WA (August 13, 2014) — The Lake Chelan Wine Valley will kick off the month of October with two weekends of wine tasting, grape stomping and fall fun. The annual Crush festival will take place on October 4-5 and October 11-12 and will allow guests to experience harvest and the winemaking process firsthand.
Throughout both event weekends, local wineries will open up for live concerts, barbecues and more. Visitors can taste wine, meet winemakers and even have the chance to stomp grapes.
Besides wine tasting, guests can enjoy some of the wonderful recreation Lake Chelan has to offer in the fall, including golf, boating, mountain biking and hiking. Small-town charm abounds in Downtown Chelan and Manson, with shopping and dining options for every taste.

About Lake Chelan Wine Valley: Lake Chelan Wine Valley is a thriving community of 21 wineries that are attracting attention from winemakers, grape growers and wine enthusiasts. The Valley was recognized as an AVA in the Federal Register in April 2009. Located in the heart of Washington’s Cascade Mountains, Lake Chelan is a scenic destination three hours east of Seattle, situated on a pristine 50.5-mile lake. Throughout the year, Lake Chelan visitors tour vineyards, meet the winemakers, taste award-winning wines and dine at many winery restaurants – the perfect wine-lovers destination. Some of the varieties that flourish in the Valley include Syrah, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Viognier. Learn more at www.lakechelanwinevalley.com.

# # #

As always you can find more recipes, free wine reviews and my notes
on premium distillates and cigars:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Thursday, July 10, 2014

the simply sensational Summerhill sparkling blanc-de-noirs


IMG_6007Champagne: beverage of the ultra-elite, the glittering nectar that deities of real estate and rap music use to wash away their troubles. Most highly regarded region for the production of said effervescent treat.
For now.
Winemakers the world over are starting to challenge the “Goliath of Bubbly”: Spain has their dry Cava, Italy the floralMuscato and stonefruit Prosecco and, more recently, the New World has also joined the fray. Meet Eric von Krosigk,über winemaker atSummerhill Pyramid Winery. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Eric for years and call him friend, having sat on panel-discussions with him as well as sharing meals and family time together. Knowing Eric has developed my appreciation for the intricate art that is winemaking and the arduous labor that is vineyard management.
Eric von Krosigk, winemaker
Eric von Krosigk, winemaker
It is these two skills, along with a myriad of other tools that a winemaker gathers over years upon decades of dedication, which can result in true understanding of the land. And it is only through this fundamental empathy with their soil, their vines, that winemakers can ever hope to craft truly expressive wines; wines that speak emphatically and passionately about where they come from.
Or, so I’ve been told by those who know far more then I do.
And so when Ezra Cipes, CEO of Summerhill(http://www.summerhill.bc.ca/Story/Biographies/Ezra-Cipes) , sent me a few of the new releases from the winery, it was with no small amount of zeal that I started digging into the box. Like my 3-year old at Christmas: paper flew, cardboard tore, and the treasure that had been locked within was soon perched on the kitchen counter gleaming in the summer sunlight.
And, of course, it was the sparkling wine that first caught my eye… This is the sparkling producer that has my attention these days; their recent accomplishments nothing short of tremendous:
“Sparkling Wine of the Year” 2014 All Canadian Wine Championships
Gold Medal, Top 10 Sparkling Wines of competition - 2013 Effervescents du Monde
Gold Medal – 2012 World Wine Awards, Chicago, Illinois
“Best International Bottle Fermented Sparkling Wine” – IWSC, London, England, December 2009
Serious wine-making. And yet not so serious that these fine folks can’t crack a smile more often then not; their love for the land directing the course of business. This is the heartbeat of bio-dynamic viticulture in the Okanagan and, as such, the Cipes family treat their terroir like the living, breathing organism it truly is… fields are doted over, natural ecosystems restored, and bio-diversity has been recovered. To some people this is the most progressive style of farming or viticulture that we know of. Others, myself included, refer to this instead as ancestral farming for, coming from a lineage of Irish farmers, this is in fact what my grandparents taught me in their garden and through the stalls of our local Farmer’s Market many decades ago.
Call it what you want “the proof is in the pudding” and from the moment I opened this bottle of Blanc de Noirs I knew I was in for a treat:

2008 Summerhill Blanc de NoirsIMG_5839

100% organic Pinot Noir, hand-made


$35 approx.
… almond/Macadamia nut dusty mineral driven aromas make the mouth water and are followed quickly by notes of baked Golden Delicious apples, ripe Anjou pear and alluring cherry blossoms in springtime. The mousse is world-class; fine pearled bubbles carrying flavors that mimic the fruit of the bouquet brilliantly yet driving home that utterly Burgundian sense of precise minerality. Exemplary balance, this is a wine that shines with craftsmanship… truly a food wine, it will find it home as easily with the Boursin and fresh basil thin-crust pizza I made my girls for lunch as it did with the recipe that follows – but was an utter delight to savor on its own, needing nothing more then a great vista as company. Excellent structure and long length on the palate, this threat to French Greatness will age gracefully for years and, based on previous wines from this producer, with stunning results. Enjoy 2014-2020+
My daughter, age 2, with Ezra's daughter at the winery
My daughter, age 2, with Ezra’s daughter at the winery. #Inspiration
This wine inspired me.
I followed in the footsteps of yesteryear, and went grocery shopping just for dinner that night: no massive Costco shop, no bulk section, no “buy 5 and get the 6th free”. I went looking for what was best right then, for dinner that night. Lucky for me, I have champions of  #Fresh #Local #Seasonal at my butcher http://www.hopcottmeats.ca/

Double-smoked Swiss Farmer’s sausage roast local chicken,

wild rice and quinoa pilaf, BC chèvre finished leeks,

fireweed honey and seasalt glazed carrots

this may be the easiest chicken recipe, ever:
2 pieces double-smoked Swiss Farmer sausage, thinly sliced
1.5 lbs chicken thighs (bone-in always has more flavor) or about 6-7 pieces
1 Tbsp dry Italian herbs
1. saute the sausage in a pan on the stove; medium heat only as you want to draw out the fat or render
2. pat the chicken dry with paper towel, dust with dry herbs
3. saute on medium skin side down until the skin turns golden brown
4. turn over in the pan and place in the oven, 300F for 12 minutes+ or internal temp read 165F
rich creamy goodness, this is almost a condiment for the protein!
2 leeks, julienne (about 3 full cups)
2 cups milk
1/2 cup chevre (goat’s cheese; can sub Boursin as well)
1 Tbsp butter
*sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. wilt the leeks in the butter on medium or medium low heat; the key is to cook them gently and not brown them
2. when the leeks start to soften, add the milk and continue to cook on medium until the milk is almost evaporated (takes about 30-40 minutes)
3. add the goat’s cheese, stir to smoothness, season to taste
Simple food really, but rich concentrated flavors: the cheese balances the poultry, the clean carrot balances the richness of the smoked sausage and all the meal needed was the crisp, vibrant sparkling wine to pull everything into focus. This meal was a breeze as well, taking only about 10 minutes to prep and 45 minutes to cook: total time from start to finish was just under an hour.
Eating well, and drinking well, doesn’t have to be complicated but it does take effort. In this Golden Age of wine, when there are more choices then ever before, it’s difficult even for people who work in the wine industry to keep on top of it all. My suggestion, humbly, is not to choose wines at all:
Choose wineries you respect.IMG_5836
Choose winemakers you admire.
I don’t love everything that my local butcher does; sometimes I think they over-season the marinated chicken or make the Thai chili jerky too spicy… but I respect them and I know that by supporting them with my purchasing power I am enabling a company people I admire. And I’m doing something good because of how they work with the land, the environment, their community. And I love the food!
Why would choosing wine be any different?
Many thanks to Hopcott’s meats where I purchased the fresh sausage and locally sourced chicken (http://www.hopcottmeats.ca/and to Ezra Cipes at Summerhill Pyramid Winery  (http://www.summerhill.bc.ca/) for the generous sample bottles.
As always you can find more recipes, free wine reviews and my notes
on premium distillates and cigars:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Trump Winery 2014 release, Charlottesville, Virginia


Eric Trump in the vineyards
Eric Trump in the vineyards
Imagine my surprise when Donald Trump's son sends me a half case of wine. No - not the start of a joke, a true story...
On the other side of the continent there's a 30-something fellow by the name of Eric and he's the new owner of Trump winery in Charlottesville, Virginia (formerly Kluge winery estates). He also happens to be Donald Trump's son and a force to be reckoned with in the real estate market and now the wine industry as recognized by his "Rising Star" award at the Wine Enthusiast 2013 Wine Star Awards ( http://www.wineenthusiast.com/ )
Eric has a talent for sniffing out great deals; he's grown the Trump interest in  golf resorts from 3 to 11 total properties in a decade and is actively working on more deals. It looks like that talent covers finding undervalued wineries as well since the company took over the winery for a fraction of its true value. When socialite Patricia Kluge put the mansion, for instance, on the market in 2009 is was for the jaw-dropping price of $100 million dollars.
The Trumps picked it up for about $6.5 million.
Gives the word "trump" a heck of a lot of context, doesn't it?
But does all of this money acumen translate at all to wine? You know me; I eschew corporate greatness when it comes to wine as I feel, in almost all circumstances, it is the diametric opposite to greatness in the grape. Grapes/wine crave a personal touch. Vines are like any living thing and crave light, food and love... a daunting list for most Big Business.
exemplary Trump sparkling blanc-de-blanc
exemplary Trump sparkling blanc-de-blanc
And yet now I sit and eat my humble pie for Eric Trump is presiding over billions of dollars of real estate and still manages to provide exactly what his vines require. Take special note of the team he has assembled: Katell Griaud who oversees the still wine program with an impressive two, yes two, master's degrees in winemaking from prestigious Universite de Bordeaux and Jonathan Wheeler who has been with the estate since 2006 and oversees the stunning sparkling selection. Jonathan has honed his skills throughout Marlborough, Monterey, Sonoma and the Finger Lakes but it is his complete empathy with this site that is perhaps his greatest strength.
But enough about the Trumps, what about the wines? Truly the sparkling wine was the star for me, and I'm no easy sell. These are not only brilliantly crafted but also incredibly (for the vine age) articulate expressions of their terroir. I am well impressed and the highest praise I can give is that I understand, now, how it is that they beat the formidable Gloria Ferrer in two American blind tastings last year and why Wine Enthusiast bestowed upon them the highest rating ever given to a Virginia still or sparkling wine.
Please enjoy the reviews and check the sparkling wine section for my "How-To" recipe on creating a Provençal meal that is simply sinful with the Blanc-de-Blanc or the sparkling rosé!

2013 Rosé

90 points, Excellent Value

blend of 21% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc
vine age: 8 years
production: 605 cases
... keen mineral precision, well-concentrated savory berry and wild scrub-brush tones; this wine is exemplary in its execution. Enough acid to make the lips pucker a smidge with enough ripeness to the fruit to allow the senses to perceive residual sugar, of which there is none. Truly  crafted for the heat of summer, this wine is both refreshing and substantial. I cracked it open on a muggy, steamy July evening towards the end of dinner and needed nothing more than good company as the pairing. If I had to pair it with food I would choose Parmegiano-Reggiano risotto with seared venison flank steak and sweet pea emulsion... a novel pairing for rosé to be certain, yet the acid in the wine will love the creamy texture rice, the bright red berry tones is perfect for venison and the peas will bring out the light notes of herb/undergrowth that the young vines are struggling to express.

2013 Sauvignon Blanc2013 Trump Sauv Blanc virginia

89 points, Very Good Value

vine age: 7 years
production: 950 cases
... a lean wine, this drinks more like Sancerre then New Zealand: all minerality with hints of lemon zest and the background of little summer flowers. Vine age certainly comes into play here, with the secondary and tertiary aromas/flavors being very juvenile at present but speaking with the promise for greatness. This is a natural for anyone who loves fresh fish: pike or pickerel from the Prairies, shark from either coast, halibut for those with a budget or cod for those without... the fresher the better and just a dab of butter to season. Be wary though: this wine needs to be served chilled; anything above 16C/60F and the acids will present themselves as being unbalanced.

2013 Chardonnay

89+ points, Very Good Value

vine age: 8 years
production: 2350 cases
... reminding me of Petite Chablis, this is New World crafts(wo)manship to be certain. Brilliantly articulate, it expresses clean minerality, warm straw, ripe lemon zest and subtle savory herb nuances on the nose. On the palate the lean yet balanced acid offers that same expressions and is lacking only in vine age to further the concentration. Absolutely perfect for grilled/roast chicken this made me think of a Provençal dish I made just the other day: Meaux mustard, roasted garlic and fresh dill grilled chicken. Grilled baguette. Salad of bitter greens, grilled sweet peppers, steamed green beans, olives, capers and tomato. It was a simple meal but the intensity of the flavors was washed clean, and complimented, by the utter freshness and piercing minerality of this lovely Chardonnay
IMG_5986As much as Provençe is a place, to me it is even more importantly a state of mind: freshlocalseasonal. Lucky for me, living in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, I have a growing season that almost stretches year round. Here I was in June with a bounty of fresh veggies and as I had a mate in France I decided to bring some of that ideology to my own picnic table.
Local lettuces, ripe tomatoes, fresh sweet peppers and peppery little radishes... the only thing not local here was the olives. This salad is Niçoise-styled, meaning that to a traditionalist it may not fit all the criteria but contains many of the key ingredients. What I like to do is treat each of those ingredients separately to enhance their natural flavors:
...steam the new potatoes, toss with great olive oil
...grill the sweet peppers, just salt and pepper
...marinate the tomatoes in vinegar and fresh herbs for 10 minutes
...steam the green beans and drizzle with balsamic reduction
IMG_5988But one of the true keys is in that Lyonnaise marinade that is brilliant with poultry but also works a charm on pan-seared oysters: roasted garlic, Meaux mustard, olive oil, cracked pepper and fresh herbs *(can be dill, parsley, rosemary, thyme). I let the chicken marinate like that for the entire afternoon then grill it until the skin is "cracklin' crisp" and the internal temperature is 180F which took me about 15-20 minutes for bone-in thighs on my 400F gas barbeque.
Grilled chicken, fresh baguette, Niçoise salad and a couple of bottles of beautiful wine. What else could one want? But yes - I did have the company of my beautiful family as well, and so, I had it all.

2009 Sparkling Rosé

90+ points, Excellent Value

blend: 92% Chardonnay, 8% Pinot Noir
vine age: 8 years
production: 2000 cases
... 100% estate fruit and it shows; this is an incredibly concentrated and nuanced wine for such a young vineyard. The aromas are rich with tones of red currant, cranberry, raspberry and that ever-present Trump Winery tight/lean/focused minerality. Mouth-watering vivid currant acid is enriched by a creamy, persistent mousse and the synergy of fruit just ripe enough to give the impression of sweetness. Delightfully dry though, this is the perfect foil for prawns, king crab, grilled scallops and most anything from the sea. Consider this your new sushi wine!

2008 Sparkling Blanc-de-Blanc

91+ points, Excellent Value

vine age: 7 years
production: 8,000 cases
... Delighted by this consummately professional methode Traditionale sparkling Chardonnay: classic creamy fine mousse, concentrated mineral aromas blending in harmony with straw/nougat/almond and Anjou pear tones. The brisk palate captures concise minerality again yet carries a richness from ripe fruit that brings dry acid to brilliant balance. A gem; exceptional value! I served this with the 2013 Chardonnay for our Provençal themed meal and it truly over-delivered on quality!

2012 Meritage

88 points

vine age: 8 years
blend: 45% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Petit Verdot
production: 2,758 cases
... heavily spiced red fruit tones leap from the glass in this ultra-traditional Bordeaux styled blend; cinnamon stewed plums, red currant jelly, raspberry tart... simply massive aromas with a sugary background that is not altogether unpleasant. The medium+ red currant acid presents itself as well integrated and the medium+ fine tannin give credible weight to the wine. To me, the fruit is a tad too ripe and overpowers the gentle secondary aromas/flavors that are emerging: wild herbs, sous-bois or undergrowth are hidden behind those bold fruit tones and more than a hint of alcohol though it is a (relatively) modest 13.8%. Enjoy now, and slightly chilled (not over 18C/70F), as this young wine will not develop appreciably in bottle. For the Bordeaux enthusiasts in the audience this is, to me, more like Haut-Medoc without the pencil shavings/graphite mineral edge. A fine effort from a young vineyard.

Many thanks to Hopcott’s meats where I purchased the excellent locally sourced chicken ( http://www.hopcottmeats.ca/)  and to Kerry Woolard at Trump Winery  http://trumpwinery.com/) for the generous sample bottles.
As always you can find more recipes, free wine reviews and my notes
on premium distillates and cigars:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Friday, June 13, 2014

Grilled Ribeye meets CabSauv

The passion at Hopcott’s meats ( http://www.hopcottmeats.ca/ ) is nothing short of inspirational: this is what ribeye steak is supposed to be! And yet I hear time and time again from people that $15 on a steak is “just silly” and spending an extra $1/lb for free range/antibiotic free ground beef is “wasting money”. Well I’m pretty sure that a lot of the reasons we should all be investing in local butchers is not getting out there and so I knew I had to write an article on:

Why should you spend the money?

You and I both know that some grocery store in your neighborhood is selling striploin steaks this week: 4 for $12 or something similar. Great deal right? Who doesn’t like getting more for less? But then there’s the crux: are you really getting more?
On the one hand you’ve got bargain steaks at your grocer: cheap, probably not trimmed very well but you and I can handle that… probably more gristle/sinew/tendon then we would like as well, but we’re willing to swallow that *(pun intended). But what about the nutritional value? When you consume grass-fed beef, you increase your:
  • Better Saturated Fat Profile
  • Better Polyunsaturated Fat Profile
  • More Antioxidants
What is your family's health worth?
What is your family’s health worth?
I take a look at the world around me and it doesn’t take a scientist to tell me that fresh beef from my own town is going to be better for me then something frozen for 6 months, then thawed, from Uruguay or Texas. I like the fact that when I walk into Hopcott’s, I can shake hands with the people that raised the cattle that is going on my table. I let my daughter eat beef jerky and pepperoni. Why? Because I know the people that make it, fresh every week. No additives. No preservatives… like when I was a kid growing up on the Prairies.
And so when people ask me how I can pay $10 or more for a single steak I just shake my head. When was the last time you bought a steak at a restaurant?? You know you aren’t getting any decent steak for $10 anywhere and if you go upscale? Try Las Vegas my friends – $60 and $80 steaks are the norm there. Now go back to Hopcott’s and ask them how much ribeye you get for $80 and start smiling!
But how do I, a chef with over 25 years’ experience, cook a steak like this? There are some basic rules that I, and most quality chefs, follow.
1. let the meat come to room temperature before grilling; this allows the muscle to relax and creates a more tender steak
2. ensure your grill is HOT; you want to sear the outside of the steak as quickly as possible to keep those lovely juices inside the steak and not on the bottom of your grill. 500C minimum for searing
3. cook your steak less than you think you need to, then let it rest longer than you think it needs; never forget residual heat in the steak will continue to cook it… I bring mine just to medium-rare, rest for 5 to 10 minutes, then serve and they are usually just a shade under medium
Now when I was prepping for this article I actually starting second guessing myself and so asked my friend, Mike Lindsay, who is Hopcott’s head butcher his thoughts on the subject. This is a guy who has a profound respect for beef; hard not to when you actually visit the animals as they’re growing up and look them in the eyes. This was the man I needed to show me a new trick or two when it comes to the barbeque. His thoughts on grilling great ribeyes??
“A little olive oil, some salt… maybe a pinch of pepper. Maybe.”
IMG_5811Bravo my friend – couldn’t have said it any better myself. Oh sure, you can fancy it up by finishing the steak with a little compound butter *(infused) such as roasted garlic, French thyme or my favorite Boursin infused butter… damn, it’s better than hollandaise! But  when you’ve got great components, try letting them speak for themselves.
This dinner we had to celebrate the sunshine had virtually no seasonings at all: the steak is just olive oil/salt/pepper, the beets are au naturel, the potatoes just a hint of butter, the carrots a light fireweed honey glaze and the salad is just lemon and olive oil. All of this is from Hopcott’s, because you know they have a fantastic produce selection now as well, and all from within 30 miles or so of my house.  Such concentration of flavors! All that was left for me was to choose the wine and I had a couple of beauties I’ld been saving for just such an occasion: a bottle each of Argentinian and Napa Cab-Sauv. They complement the steak in different ways and are both excellent values in any market.

Tomero Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012IMG_5806

by Bodega VistAlba (http://blendsinc.com/tomero)

90+ points, Excellent Value

… young, this CabSauv is a babe in the woods and will seriously benefit from another 2-3 years in the cellar. That being said, it was a treat that I knew was going to pair brilliantly with grilled ribeye steak. The thing to remember with Argentinian Cabs, personally, is that they are truly designed to go with food, and this is a perfect example. Ultra-ripe dark currant, black raspberry and dark floral aromas swirl through the glass *(think irises and dark roses). When you take your first sip, razor sharp full acid seems to bite at your lips creating a brilliant frame for full, finely-textured tannin and a symbiotic balance for the richness of slightly fatty grilled meat. This is a classic interpretation of what Bordeaux’s (arguably) greatest varietal can do in the South American land of cowboys, steaks and bold wine. Drink now, or hold for a decade plus, this wine can be enjoyed 2014-2025.

Louis M Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010IMG_5802


91 points, Excellent Value

… I never expected this; that I would one day be singing the praises of a mega-producer like Martini. But I must give credit where it’s due and these professionals have crafted an incredibly reasonably priced introduction into “What Is Napa”. From the opening bouquet of warm blackberry/currant compote, wild scrub-brush on the hillside, savory herbs and graphite minerality every aspect to the wine quietly declares its craftsmanship. Medium+ dark raspberry acids are far too well balanced for the good of the consumer who, when testing the wine to judge its quality, quickly finds that he or she has savored half the bottle before dinner is even cooked and guests have arrived. Ultra fine tannin feel chalky, full of dimension, and needing to be chewed a little – making the prospect of grilled meat seem a necessity rather then indulgence. Make no mistake about it, this is one of the great values in California Cab today… full of life, feel free to cellar some if you must though it seems a shame as it’s truly come into it’s own. Enjoy 2014-2019+
Maybe you’re close enough to Pitt Meadows to stop off at Hopcott’s and say hello. They’re mighty friendly folks and you’ll be glad you did. But if you aren’t then maybe you’ll take a moment and Google “local butchers”… these small businesspeople are in the business of providing the very best quality for you that is possible. Not the cheapest food, the best food. And really, aren’t you and your family worth that?
 Many thanks to Hopcott’s meats for the fine victuals, to Patagonia Imports ( www.PatagoniaImports.com ) for the Tomero and to my friend Peter Marshall at Gallo Imports ( http://gallo.com/wine/Canada/Canada.html ) for the fine bottle of Martini Cab.
As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Portfolio Review: Mud House, New Zealand

When I called Nadine Worley, one half of the winemaking powerhouse from Mud House wines of New Zealand, I knew that I was in for a treat: Nadine has the kind of innate knowledge of her vineyards that only comes from incredible passion blended equally with tremendous work ethos. Nadine's respect for her little patch(es) of Marlborough and Waipara is self-evident in her wines and I was excited to have a few minutes to dig through the many layers of her hard-won knowledge.

KRISTOF:   Nadine, thank you so much for taking the time for us today.

  NADINE:   A pleasure.

KRISTOF:   Nadine, let me get right down to it: I've had some time to go through the samples you were kind enough to provide... I hope you take this the right way, but I have to tell you how stunned I was at the complexity of your wines! Every time I moved up a notch, no matter the varietal, I was rewarded with a marked increase in complexity, integration, concentration... 

   NADINE:   Well there's a reason why some of the finest wines in New Zealand rarely leave New Zealand~! Our locals really have come to love the work that we do and, while exports are incredibly important, some wines are made in such small quantities that some markets that rarely see them. 

KRISTOF: - but the range of flavors!

   NADINE:   -thanks Kristof, that's what we're striving for. We at Mud House are really excited about this great range of flavors and aromas that New Zealand terroir wants to express: from lush tropical notes to green peppers to grapefruit. For us it's that trinity of balance, dimension and flavor that we're only just getting to because we're starting to truly know the sites.

KRISTOF:   The expression from the sites is brilliant and that brings me to my next question: with this vast diversity in flavors, how does a global brand such as Mud House work with the difference in palate between Europe, Asia, North America...

   NADINE:   -not an easy task, for certain. But what makes it easier for us is that our markets are really telling us what they want; in Australia for example they love the young fruit flavors/more of a Spanish style . Whereas in the North American market we definitely need more concentration in the wines even if only due to the length of time the wines need for travelling, crossing customs, and then finally reaching the consumer.

KRISTOF: So lead me through it then; explain it to me like I'm 5 years old: what, to you, are the biggest differences between the Mud House labels when it comes to "Woolshed", "Homeblock" and "The Mound".

   NADINE:   Well when we're talking about "Woolshed" we're talking about such a work in progress; this is truly a case of knowing the individual blocks and what they want to showcase. And that takes time, no way around it. When we get down to brass tacks and are finally tasting the wine from the blocks, we do it blind so that there's no prejudice. And if the acid is high? We showcase it! Because that's the wine that "Woolshed" wants to make that year.

2012 Marlborough Sauvignon-Blanc
89+ pointsvery good value

  • visual:   clear; pale straw core to watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; fully intense youthful aromas of cantaloupe and honeydew melons, guava, precise minerality, long green grass in the background
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ grapefruit acid, medium- body, medium+ alcohol (13% ABV), medium+ youthful flavors much in-line with the nose; starting with a refreshing burst of grapefruit and melon, clean lines of minerality and just a hint of exotic fruit in the background. Good balance, good structure and medium- length
  • conclusion:  a refreshing Summer wine meant to be consumed young. Enjoy 2013-2016 for best results
  • FOOD PAIRING:   given this wine's precocious nature, I would pair it off food with a bit more fat to it. Consider Thai green curry seafood bowl with BC Spot Prawns and wild salmon, steamed local gai-lan and Shiitake mushroom, toasted coconut jasmine rice, pickled mango

2012 "The Woolshed Estate" Marlborough Sauvignon-Blanc
92+/93 pointsEXCELLENT VALUE

  • visual:   clear; pale lemon-straw core with watery rim, gold highlights
  • nose:   clean; fully intense and youthful aromas of lush Summer flower-gardens, ripe apricots, strawberry-papaya, guava, warm grass and underneath it all: a very keen minerality smacking of Burgundian-style precision
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ to full yellow grapefruit acid, medium- body, medium+ alcohol (13.5% ABV), medium+ intense and youthful flavors that are perfectly in-line with the aromas; the minerality takes center-stage here! Grassy notes play well with stonefruit, grapefruit-dominated citrus. Excellent balance and structure with long length that continues to develop for 20 seconds and longer
  • conclusion:  Stunning example of varietal. Will cellar easily for several years, but, will not develop appreciably... enjoy 2013-2018
  • FOOD PAIRING:  I've said before that Sauv-Blanc does well with seafood, but in this instance the natural grapefruit-dominated palate makes me think of seasalt barbequed duck with smoked garlic aioli, Swiss-style potato rosti, charred sweet pepper and corn succotash with garden-fresh Italian parsley... 
KRISTOF: "Homeblock"

   NADINE:   That's a vineyard that I feel still needs some vine-age to really develop the phenolics; this is wonderful gravel soil with enough clay to it that Pinot Gris is showing beautifully on it already.

2012 South Island Pinot Gris
89 pointsvery good value
  • visual:   clear; ultra pale core with watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium- youthful aromas of waxy Anjou pear and Golden apple, warm hay and spicy/peppery background
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ to full grapefruit acid, medium- body, medium alcohol (well integrated 13.5%), medium concentration of youthful flavors that are in-line with the aromas; a clean line of minerality is enhanced by the orchard-fruit tones and a peppery finish. Very good to excellent balance, very good structure, medium- to short length.
  • conclusion:   an excellent introduction to NZ expression of varietal, enjoy young 2013-2016
  • FOOD PAIRING:   these crisp tones will sing next to fattier birds; consider crispy-skin duck breast on caramelized onion potato rosti, hazelnut sauteed Brussel sprouts, apricot compote... the hazelnuts will emphasize the freshness in the wine through contrast, the natural sweetness in the apricots bring the spicy palate into greater alignment

2012 "The Home Block Vineyard" Pinot Gris

(Waipara Valley)
  • visual:   clear; pale straw core to watery rim, light silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium+ intense youthful aromas starting with a burst of ultra-precise minerality, warm/ripe pear, a myriad of little white and yellow summer flowers and at the end a touch of dried apricot
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium white grapefruit acid, medium body, medium+ alcohol (14% ABV), medium intense and youthful flavors much in-line with the aromas; the palate starts with an ultra-crisp and clean minerality that carries through the strong structure of Southern Hemisphere citrus tones (orange pith, grapefruit, lemon and limes and more limes) finishing with a light touch of Thai chili. Excellent balance and structure, medium length
  • conclusion:  an absolutely professional example of what small-lot production can bring out of southern Pinot Gris; enjoy 2013-2016 and possibly beyond but will not develop further
  • FOOD PAIRING:   if ever there was a natural of south-east Asian salads, this is it~! Green papaya salad with grilled Spot-prawns and baby octopus, mango emulsion, toasted peanut... the wine has depth and layers! Just beware of pairing with too spicy of food as it may pull that balanced 14% alcohol out of balance
KRISTOF: and "The Mound"

   NADINE:   Well that's the heartache for us; it's just such a hard sell for us still to showcase single vineyard Riesling from New Zealand... when people think about great Riesling, they aren't thinking about us yet.

KRISTOF: A pity... I've enjoyed some top-tier Riesling from around the world and yours is certainly one of them.

   NADINE:   Thanks Kristof.

2012 Waipara Valley Riesling
88 points, good value

  • visual:   clear; pale straw core, watery rim
  • nose:   clean; medium- intense youthful aromas of smokey minerals and crushed seashells, ripe stonefruit in the background
  • palate:   clean; dry, medium+ to fully intense yellow grapefruit acid, medium- body, medium- alcohol (12.5%), medium+ intense youthful flavors; the yellow grapefruit is like a big deliciously-mouth-watering bomb that goes off! Huge citrus flavors with a small supporting cast of the auxiliary stonefruit/minerality, and the end of the palate is all grapefruit again. Very good to excellent balance, good structure, short length
  • conclusion:  great for the mid-afternoon glass on the patio! Enjoy it whilst it's young 2013-2015
  • FOOD PAIRING:   "panini in the park": fresh arugula panini with mustard and rosemary fire-grilled chicken, red pepper pesto and fresh mozzarella (bocconcini)

2012 "The Mound Vineyard" Waipara Valley Riesling
92+/93 points, EXCELLENT VALUE
  • visual:   clear; ultra pale silver/straw core, watery rim, silver highlights
  • nose:   clean; medium+ youthful bouquet of smokey minerals, warm hay, mango jam, young pineapple, grapefruit skins
  • palate:   clean; off-dry, fully intense yellow/pink grapefruit acids, medium- body, medium+ alcohol (12% ABV), medium+ concentration of youthful flavors perfectly in-line with the nose; bright citrus and cranberry flavors dance on a palate glued together with a fine mesh of tight minerality... exotic fruit notes create a subtle backdrop. Excellent balance and structure, long length that develops appreciably for 20 seconds and longer
  • conclusion:   as I am a newcomer to New Zealand Riesling, it's only a guess, but I would hazard that this has a long life ahead of it: enjoy 2013-2023 
  • FOOD PAIRING:   so dense with flavors and layers, I would enjoy this much like I would a fine German Riesling... sous-vide pork tenderloin, coriander-coconut marinade, dried apricot-Challah stuffing, sweet potato pave, spicy mango relish, fresh steamed Collard greens

KRISTOF: On to a happier topic: tell me about some of the regions outside of New Zealand that are most exciting for you personally right now?

   NADINE:   Well in some of our more structured tastings *(industry events) we're getting the opportunity to sample some brilliant work from Chile: really superb expressions of Sauv Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah, Cab Sauv...

KRISTOF: One of my favorite regions as well! But now what about within New Zealand; what's the place and what's the grape that's really tugging at your heart?

   NADINE:   That's easy: Central Otago Pinot Noir. I've absolutely been blown away by the flavors; the complexity and texture that are being achieved there right now when the vines get a bit of age to them and we the winemakers come to a better understanding of the sites.

KRISTOF: And so if Pinot Noir is the grape that you're most attached to these days, what's the oddest you've seen in New Zealand?

   NADINE:   Ha! Gruner-Vetliner is top of the list... 

KRISTOF: -and yet they're growing some brilliant Gruner in Australia as well these days.

   NADINE:   True, small quantities but excellent quality.

KRISTOF: So we're living in the greatest age of wine-making the world has possibly ever seen. So many boundaries broken, so many traditions shattered... New Zealand is renown as the land of Sauv Blanc, and now Pinot Noir - both cool climate grapes. Is it possible that we could see a cool climate Bordeaux style blend coming from these inspired winemakers?

   NADINE:   Definitely. Without a doubt. The area around Hawkes Bay... 5 years ago people would have thought it was madness but, now? Climates are changing, the world is changing, and we're seeing that something like that is possible.

KRISTOF: So much possibility... Nadine, there are going to be a few young winemakers who read this. Any words of wisdom?

   NADINE:   I don't know how much wisdom I have, but: just treat the vines with respect. Soil health/biodiversity... it's really about not putting into the soil what you don't want want to take out, and that doesn't need a certificate, just common sense. That, and while you're out in the world and learning - make sure you keep those good principles you're fortunate enough to see in action.

KRISTOF: And a last question, a bit more personal: If you could have anything right now, anything in the world, what would it be?

    NADINE:   I love what I do, where I do it, and the madly brilliant people I get to work with.


    NADINE:   One day, it will be me on a little plot of land. I'll have Pinot Noir, a bit of Chardonnay... and it will be decades of getting to an intimate knowledge of my vines until I can name every single one of them.

KRISTOF: Beautiful vision you have Miss Worley. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us.

    NADINE:    My pleasure Kristof. Please come and visit.

And that was the end of my whirlwind adventure through New Zealand terroir with Mud House and Nadine Worley... I set out with the clear intention of understanding what Mud House was "bringing to the table" with their single-vineyard offerings: more concentration? Better balance? Structure? Really, was it worth the extra $10 or $15 to upgrade? I got more of an education than I was expecting. For in this winery, and in these winemakers, I've found small-town values in the big city. Here is a place where the land isn't just respected, it's the beginning, the middle and the end of the story. Here is a place where winemakers hope that this year they will understand what their vines are trying to say - just a little better then the year before. Nothing is perfect; perfection is a dream of vanity. But... these entry level wines are full of concentration and balance, which makes them anything but entry-level. And the single vineyard wines? As lovingly crafted and articulate about the soil as could be hoped for by any maestro. The wines alone would be reason enough to admire Mud House vineyards, but, I find it is the genuinely humble and talented artisans who work there that have won my respect.

Many thanks to Mud House wines for the samples and to the irrepressible Peter Sheehan for all his work in coordinating and facilitating this article. For further reading on Mud House, I invite you to read my first article on their work: the SWAN Pinot Noir http://astudentofwine.blogspot.ca/2013/07/mud-house-single-vineyard-pint-noir.html

As always, I look forward to your thoughts, comments and questions. Here, or:
on Twitter @AStudentofWine