Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar & Kiwi Savvy

We treated ourselves to some seared tuna for dinner tonight as we plopped down in front of the TV for the Oscars. Given the high-ended hijinxs of the red carpet (and our dinner choice), I figured it only made sense to treat ourselves to a well regarded Kiwi wine. Considering that our last bottle was a classic vintage 2005 Cru Classée Bordeaux, we kinda needed to make that 180° turn and go to a refreshing white - while keeping up with a nice level of sophistication.

I'm not sure that we saw more than one or two of any of the nominated movies this year. I think I've probably spent too much time at wine tastings or in front of the computer blogging to head out to the movies. Accordingly, I wouldn't have much riding on any of the winners. But, if nothing else, I'd have a good response on the red carpet if anyone asked, "What are you drinking?"

1071. 2007 Staete Landt Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough - New Zealand)

This boutique Kiwi winery has some intriguing stories to tell - starting with its name, Staete Landt, which came from the original name that Abel Tasman gave to the lands when he first discovered New Zealand in 1642. "Staete Landt" meant the lands of the state (the Dutch Republic) upon who's behest Tasman was exploring. Touching upon both their Dutch heritage and their ties to New Zealand, winery founders and owners, Ruud Maasdam and Dorien Vermass, thought Staete Landt was a perfect combination of their past and future.

The winery is located in New Zealand's "Golden Mile" - a strip of land located on old riverbed soils in the Marlborough subregion of Rapaura. It's a relatively small area with a unique microclimate that proves agreeable to the growing of premium grapes. Some of the oldest and most famous Marlborough vineyards are planted in this area. Indeed, some of the original Marlborough Sauv Blancs that helped create the buzz heralding the emergence of the Kiwis on the international wine scene originated from this region.

That being said, Staete Landt itself is a relatively new enterprise, its first vintage having been produced in 2000. Interestingly, they decided to tackle the premium end of the spectrum right from the start, however, and they've adopted a boutique "approach of producing single vineyard estate grown wines only." They've identified 24 different parcels of soil profiles in their vineyard, with each one of those parcels providing a "distinct favour and textual component" to the wines. Their website provides that the Sauv Blanc is planted in 6 different blocks, thereby providing six distinct flavour profiles that can be used as components for a layered and flavourful wine.

To add to the complexity of the wine, the fruit from each parcel was handled differently in the winery. Each bottle contains a combination of hand-picked, whole-bunch-pressed, machine harvested, natural, indigenous and/or cultured yeasts, early harvest fruit together with some later harvest grapes, some ageing on the yeast lees, some with a bit of ageing in old French oak barriques - all in all a complicated and involved process to try and reach the best end result that they can.

I don't tend to drink a lot of New Zealand Sauv Blanc as I often find it to be a little too one-dimensional and predictable - you know, the well-discussed grassy, gooseberry, cat's pee with bracing acidity. Well, all the dedication and varied approaches going into this Staete Landt takes the wine to a different level. One that I enjoyed a lot. This was no subtle French Sancerre (perhaps the original home for stars of the Sauv Blanc persuasion) - there was no mistaking the wine as a Kiwi Sauv Blanc but it had extra dimensions, particularly a bit of sweeter tropical fruit, on the palate that just aren't normally evident to me with Sauv Blanc.

I discovered Staete Landt at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival when New Zealand was one of the featured regions at the festival. That's where I picked up this bottle. Looks like I might need to keep an eye open for it on the everyday local shelves.

Now, as for getting out to see a movie...

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