Friday, July 15, 2011

The First Semi-Final

It's been a week since I orchestrated a taste-off to coincide with the Women's World Cup. As the matches on the soccer pitch are reaching their final stages, I guess I'd best get on with my little World Cup of White Wine. The final four teams competing in Germany have been determined and, not so surprisingly, the four nations still battling on the field don't exactly match the four fighting it out in our wine glasses.

The semi-finalists in Germany are Japan, Sweden, France and the US. Two of those countries - Japan and Sweden - didn't even make it to my competition as their efforts on the soccer pitch far outstrip their prowess with white wines. The French filles may have pulled off a squeaker of a win in Germany, but they didn't quite measure up as successfully in our little taste taste. That leaves the US as the only country to win both on the field and in the wine glass - and, just as they had to win a second chance tasting in these pages, the American gals barely got past Brazil in overtime on the field. But it's now time that the US steps up to take on New Zealand in my little World Cup.

United States
New Zealand

Seeing as we're now contesting the semi-finals, I grabbed wines that feature varietals that each of the two countries may well be best known for. I'm not familiar with either of the wineries; so, the tasting was bound to be interesting.

864. 2007 Milbrandt Vineyards - The Estates - Evergreen Chardonnay (Columbia Valley - Washington)

865. 2008 ARA - Composite Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough - New Zealand)

If memory serves, I think I picked up the Kiwi wine at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival - where New Zealand was one of the featured regions. I think the wine can be purchased in Vancouver normally though as I've noticed the distinctive label in various stores in the past. As for the Washington wine, I likely picked that up while South of the border as I don't tend to buy many American wines at home.

The ARA Savvy is one of the resulting wines from an adventurous project in the Marlborough region of New Zealand's South island. I'm not going to go into any detail at this time, but I'll mention that this was a region-specific project that was started on acreage many felt could never be used successfully for grape production due to a perennial danger of frost. An interesting report on the winery can be found in Tom Cannavan's article at the Wine-pages site. Suffice it to say that I'm going to be on the look out for another one of their wines to try.

Washington State's Milbrandt Wineyards has some history to its story as well. The family had been farming in Oregon and Washington for decades when they decided to start planting their farmland with grapes in 1997. They've been selling their grapes to dozens of wineries - including some of their Riesling grapes to Chateau Ste. Michelle's for its Eroica (one of my favourite Rieslings) - but decided to open their own winery in 2005. Milbrandt has three label ranges and The Estates is their middle tier, sourcing fruit from only their own vineyards.

Interesting pedigrees for both wineries; however, there was no difficulty in picking a "winner" in this match. For me, the Sauv Blanc was a full head and shoulders above the Chard. Picking a Kiwi Sav Blanc always has a potential of drinking huge, green acids, but this one was far more restrained. I liked it a lot. On the other hand, the Chardy just didn't do it for me as much. Maybe in a different circumstance or against another Chardonnay, but not this time.

I'd say it was a 2-0 win for the Kiwis and they're on to the final. The American gals may have played their way to the final on the soccer pitch, but they didn't quite pull it off here. Now to pick the second finalist.

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