Join us for a trip through New Zealand and Australia with 8 different wines from the region.
Australia, the land of surfing, kangaroos, and Christmas barbie (barbeque) and New Zealand, known for its wool and sailing prowess as two time winners of the America’s Cup, are also home to some of the world’s best vineyards. Despite the friendly rivalry between these two southern hemisphere countries they can both boast of an increasingly more prominent role in producing some of the world’s finest wines.
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The one and only, NZ Sauvignon Blanc has been, and continues to be, among the fastest growing wines in the US market. This is primarily based on its combination of value mixed with characteristics of some of the world’s luxury Sauvignon Blancs like those found in Bordeaux and Sancerre. That being said, it has suffered from oversaturation, with many examples doubling down on ripe, uncharacteristically one-dimensional version of the grape. Babich is a true throwback, focusing on delicate aromas and clean, bright flavors. The wine offers aromas of gooseberry, grapefruit, and mango cut with hop-like herbal notes. The palate is light bodied with high acidity, mixing juicy citrus and stone fruits with clean minerality. This is unequivocally a grilled seafood wine but would also find success with light charcuterie.
Made from fruit sourced in South Australia, unoaked and fruit forward in style. Though not entirely sourced from here, the ‘Third Generation’ brings much of its crop from this region. The wine pours a medium gold color with white hues, offering aromas of vanilla, honeycrisp apple, pineapple, and fresh-cut herbs. The palate is medium-bodied with medium acid laced among ripe pear, kiwi, and green apple notes. This would go with a plethora of seafood dishes, from sushi to seared snapper.
One of the pervading unsung gems in the world of Pinot Noir, New Zealand is responsible for some of the most delicate and nuanced current examples of the variety. Largely planted to the cooler regions on the South Island, Pinot planted in this region benefits from largely temperate weather mixed with ample sun exposure and the protection the Southern Alps provide from winds that blow in form the West. The Orchard Lane is a style-specific version of NZ Pinot, and displays typical characteristics. The wine pours a delicate pale ruby hue with pink hues, offering aromas of bing cherry, rhubarb, potting soil, and spice box. The palate displays a medium-minus body with medium plus acidity, blending fresh juicy red fruits with a balanced astringent medley of cedar and cinnamon. This is an extremely delicate red, and is a prime candidate for salmon-based dishes.
Though not quite as famous as it’s counterparts in McLaren Vale or Barossa Valley, Langhorne Creek has merit all its own when it comes to style-appropriate Australian Shiraz. The oppressively hot and dry climate suits Shiraz well with its hardy nature and high amount of anthocyanin (The compound that gives red wine a purple tint when exposed to sun). Heartland’s example displays all of the quintessential notes of AU shiraz sans the sky-high ABV. The wine pours a medium purple with ruby hues, and offers a medley of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis cut with pronounced earthiness, peppercorn, and bramble. The palate is medium-plus bodied with medium acidity. A plethora of blackberry jam is accented by notes of cinnamon and black pepper. You could certainly pair this with steak, but it might be more advisable to go with venison in this instance.
We have served warm climate NZ Pinot Gris at the bar before, but this is the first time we have had Marlborough Pinot Gris in some time. Huia’s example displays an Old World hands-off approach, using native yeasts and no fining prior to bottling. This wine pours a light gold, with aromas of white blossoms and brown pear, which leads into a delicate palate of peach, mandarin orange, and spice box. This is an exquisitely aromatic and delicate wine that would work best with a medley of spiced nuts and cheeses.
While GSM’s can be found in every imaginable appellation at this point, Australia, in my humble opinion, is on the shortlist of regions you should look out for. Everything points to success, especially when in one of the cooler regions, as that is necessary to bring structure to what can otherwise be a flabby, over extracted mess. Tellurian’s example might be slightly lighter-bodied than you would expect, but it is a style-appropriate example of what the region can offer. This blend of Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre pours a medium ruby with plum hues, and offers aromas of various red fruits grounded by earth and herbal notes. The palate is medium-bodied, with medium acid accenting plum, tart cherry and strawberry. This is very much the requisite BBQ wine on the list.
There are not many names in viticulture more synonymous with larger-than-life, hedonistic wines than Mollydooker. Famous for their “Marquis Fruit Weight” measurement (mindset?) system, Mollydooker is famous for their massive ABV reds, which often translate into decadent, delicious wines named after various Avatars (The Boxer, The Blue-Eyed Boy, Carnival of Love, etc.). ‘The Scooter’ is no exception, offering a massive rendition of Merlot while incorporating the style-appropriate characteristics found in cooler climates. This wine pours a medium ruby with purple hues, and offers aromas of blackberry, plum, and herbs de Provence. The palate is full-bodied with a surprising amount of structure, balancing fresh tea leaf and black pepper against a medley of blue and black fruits. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Merlot has become my new favorite steak wine, so that is what I would go with here.
Seeing that this is an Australia-focused month, it would not be right that we did not visit what is largely considered to be its preeminent growing region. Barossa Valley displays a Mediterranean climate, which lends itself to high-quality new world-style Syrah production. This wine reflects the up and coming Shiraz vineyards of the Barossa, rather than the battle hardened old vines that make up the core of our other cuvées. But like all Torbreck wines, Woodcutter’s Shiraz receives the very best viticultural and winemaking treatment. Fruit is sourced from hand-harvested and hand-tended, low-yielding vines, then open fermented and gently basket pressed before ageing on fine lees for 12 months in large format seasoned barrels and foudres. Although this wine is constantly praised for its succulence and richness, there is also a complexity and texture.
Located 1250 miles southeast of Australia across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand is comprised of two main landmasses (North Island and South Island) and numerous small islands. The latitude and position of the islands and their distance from any land mass provide moderate to cool but variable maritime climate. The central ranges of mountains that run through the length of both main islands generate marked contrasts between higher rainfall, cloudy, windward west and the milder, sunnier, leeward side.
Most of the vineyards in the North Island are located on the eastern side of the mountains where there’s a drier, sunnier climate. The South Island possesses about two thirds of the vineyard area, with the Marlborough area alone growing 52% of the country’s vines.
Sauvignon Blanc, the country’s best-known variety, makes up nearly 40 percent of New Zealand’s 60,000 acres of producing vineyards, as well as 78 percent of its exports to the United States. Practically all of the best Sauvignons come from Marlborough, a region on the northeastern tip of the South Island. The vast majority of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is fermented in stainless steel tanks at very cool temperatures, which preserves maximum vibrancy and highlights freshness. However, a growing number of estates are making small lots of Sauvignon fermented at least partially in oak barrels, some of which are new. Although styles vary according to vintner preferences and vineyard location, Marlborough Sauvignons tend to be especially crisp, aromatic and food-friendly, with baseline flavors of tart lime and grapefruit, along with grass, fresh herbs and crushed stone. Some wines have tropical guava and passion fruit character, and riper versions can feature peach and apricot.
Recently New Zealand Pinot Noir is grabbing a lot of attention. It’s the second most widely planted variety in New Zealand, with 11,000 acres currently in production. In general, New Zealand Pinot Noirs have more affinity with the wines of Burgundy than those of California. Cooler growing conditions impart bright acidity and taut tannins, and the wines show a wide range of lively fruit flavors, including berries, plum and cherry, with the better versions often featuring intense spiciness as well as crushed stone and mineral accents. Nearly all of the top bottlings come from three regions: Central Otago, in the southern third of the South Island; Marlborough; and Martinborough, near the southern tip of the North Island. Red wines other than Pinot Noir deliver mixed results. The most promising variety is Syrah, which, along with Cabernet and Merlot, does best in Hawkes Bay.
Australia produces an amazingly diverse range of wines, from mass-market wines to dessert-style nectars that wow you with their richness and refinement. Recent export figures place Australia as the fourth largest exporter of wine, selling to more than 100 countries around the world. With more than 2,000 wineries spread across a landmass that’s nearly the size of the United States.
A wide range of climatic conditions, from the cool highlands of Tasmania to the hot and arid Murray Valley provides many opportunities for producing distinctive wines from premium European cultivars. Viticulture is concentrated principally in the southeastern portion of the continent, with some vineyards located in the southwest and the island state of Tasmania.
South Australia produces about 50 percent of Australia’s wine. The area includes both high-profile appellations and vast interior vineyards that make more anonymous bottlings. The warm region of Barossa Valley typically makes rich, dark, full-bodied Shiraz and is gaining a reputation for Grenache as well. Nearby Eden Valley is a bit cooler and is one of the best spots for Riesling. Clare Valley, a charming string of hills north of Barossa, also makes some of the very best Riesling, along with delicious Shiraz, and McLaren Vale, to the south, produces distinctive Grenache and Shiraz. Coonawarra, where Cabernet does particularly well, is the best known of the cluster of cooler regions near the border with Victoria that includes Padthaway and Wrattonbully.
Victoria, with 15 percent of Australia’s vineyards, contains some of the coolest appellations in the country. Located near Melbourne, the regions of Yarra Valley, Macedon and Mornington Peninsula make some high-profile Chardonnays and, increasingly, Pinot Noirs. Central Victoria, closer to the hot interior of Australia, does better with Shiraz. The other prime zone for Australian wine is Western Australia. Although it makes only 4 percent of Australia’s wine, several of the country’s best Chardonnays come from the coastal region of Margaret River. The vineyards of New South Wales, including Hunter Valley, owe much of their popularity to their proximity to Sydney. The wines generally do not compare favorably to those of South Australia, Victoria or Western Australia. The southern island of Tasmania is gaining a reputation for Pinot Noir and sparkling wine.
Have you ever had something described to as “greater than the sum of its parts”? I’m not sure if there’s a wine I’ve tried that better embodies that than the ‘Protocolo’. This is a blend of Macabeo (Primary grape in Cava) and Airen (Grape used primarily for brandy); which are grapes with an inherently “cheap” reputation. However, combined they are a lovely, floral, and tropical white with no end of porch-pounding potential. The pale straw colors give way to a nose filled with aromas of banana, peach, and slightly herbal notes. The palate has a surprising weight while still maintaining balanced acidity. The banana and peach notes carry through with slight aloe notes on the back end.
Generally speaking, white wines are overlooked in the grand scheme of Spanish wine in the United States market. Even within this decreased scope, Verdejo is niche, finding virtually all of its acreage in Rueda. This is Spain’s answer, among many, to Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet/Melon de Bourgogne, and Gruner Veltliner. It is often characterized by bright notes of lime and other citrus essence cut with ripe, spicy fennel notes. This rendition by famed vintner Marques de Riscal is very style-appropriate, with aromas of lime, orange peel, peach, and ripe crunchy vegetal notes. The palate is light bodied with racy acidity, combining the aforementioned citrus with fennel, aniseed, and fresh cut grass. Probably the best analogy I have seen for Verdejo is that it is the “lime” to your fish taco dish. This is to say that if your dish is benefitted by the presence of lime, it will benefit from the presence of Verdejo.
Monastrell…. what is that again? It’s one of the many aliases of our favorite blending grape: Mourvèdre! While Mourvèdre grown in other Old Word regions like France (Bandol anyone?) tend to be decidedly meaty and savory, Monastrell grown within the comparatively warm region of Alicante blends these meaty aspects with decadent fruit. Even odder is the demonstrably lighter style that the ‘Mo’ demonstrates, more reminiscent of certain crus of Beaujolais. Aged exclusively in steel to soften Monastrell’s inherently fierce tannins and other phenolic compounds, this pours a purple with violet hues. The nose offers some of the meatiness, smoke, and graphite you would expect while supplemented by additional aromas of violets and blueberries. The palate yields a full body, juicy acidity and fine-grained tannins enveloping blue fruits, white pepper, and concentrated floral components. Try this with a rich pork tenderloin or even braised lamb.
An appellation typically known for whites; this Cabernet Sauvignon displays atypical New World characteristics. It pours a medium ruby with purple hues, offering aromas of cherry, plum, cassis, vanilla, and cedar box. The palate is medium-plus, with balanced acidity and soft, woody tannins complementing macerated red fruits. While an eligible steak wine, this is likely better served with something that benefits from its new world flair, such as short ribs or lamb.
Albarino on the Platinum List? What gives? First off, ouch; second off, what if I told you Albarino can be as complex and structured as any other heralded Old-World white? Enter the ‘Vicius’ Albarino. This avant-garde take on this traditionally lean grape utilizes oak-aging to draw out tertiary notes from the grape. The nose offers bready, yeasty notes supplemented by apricot and salinity. The palate is slick and oily, substituting the typical acidity for increased tertiary notes of wood, snow pea, and citrus. This is an off-the-wall, but delicious white that would be suitable with richer sea food.
We are all likely familiar with the Rioja DOCa, but we are all going to get very familiar with its primary competition. Ribera del Duero represents the muscular yin to Rioja’s yang, offering rich, extracted, and structured reds more influenced by New World winemaking practices. For a fresher, young example, the ‘Hito’ displays all of these characteristics in stride. Unlike other notable preparations of Tempranillo, this example substitutes aromas of strawberry and leather for rich cherry, fig, and tobacco aromas. The palate is full-bodied, with fresh acidity and supple tannins accented rich globs of red fruit, earth and baking spice. This wine screams tri-tip (prepared CA-style) and demands to be at your next BBQ.
One of the most commercially and critically acclaimed estates in all of Spain, Marques de Riscal is responsible for saturating the market with some of the most consistently high-quality Rioja available. This is done in spite of massive production, with the RR in particular accounting for upwards of 300,00 cases per year. 2015 was a particularly hot and dry year in Rioja, yielding higher than normal alcohol levels and wines with particular ripeness and velvety tannins. Pouring a rich ruby color with garnet streaks, this wine offers dried cherry, strawberry, dried tobacco, and leather on the nose. The palate is full-bodied, with fresh acidity and supple, velvety tannins. The red fruits are concentrated and spicy, accented by hints of vanilla and black pepper. This a textbook example of Rioja and would go exceptionally well with ham or roasted pork dishes.
Continuing along our tour of Ribera, we come to a richer, aged example. The ‘Seleccion Especial’ contains mostly Tempranillo in addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, and Petit Verdot. Following a rigorous oak program in a combination of French and American oak, the wine pours a rich, opaque ruby with purple hues. Muddled blue and black fruits dominate the nose while being accented by streaks of vanilla, iron, bramble, and anise. The palate is very full-bodied, with bracing acidity and chewy, lengthy tannins. This is all to balance the massive plethora of fresh blue fruits and vanilla. This wine has amazing length and can be enjoyed now or allowed to develop for an additional two to three years in the cellar.
Argentina is first and foremost known for its love of Malbec and its status as its leading global producer. So it only makes sense that if the mountainous, valley-laden terroir of Argentina is amenable to Malbec, then other Bordeaux varieties would thrive there all the same; including Cabernet Sauvignon. The grapes used in the Black Cabra label come from some of the most commercially and critically successful vineyards in Mendoza; responsible for brands such as Tapiz and Zolo. Following an extended cold-soak maceration to extract the rich shades of ruby popular in Argentinian reds, the juice is aged in French oak for 8 months, resulting in an approachable, style-appropriate version of Argentina Cabernet. The wine pours a rich ruby color with purple hues and minor rim variation; offering aromas of dark red and blue fruits accented by granite and black pepper. The palate is full-bodied with well-integrated tannins, offering crunchy dark cherry and blue fruit notes supplemented by cassis and vanilla. There will be a number of steak wines on this list, so alternatives are needed. Think a rich, spicy beef stew that plays well with the fruitiness and structure of this wine.
Though Bordeaux is most prominently known for its producers listed under the 1855 Classification such as the first growths of Château Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Haut-Brion, there are a plethora of lower-designated producers making wines that demonstrate some of the key features of Bordeaux-based wines at a significantly-friendlier price point; with Mission ‘St. Vincent’ among them. This a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon sourced primarily from Entre-Deux-Mers, an area of Bordeaux primarily known for dry whites and a universal focus on all Bordeaux varieties. This blend is aged in a combination of stainless steel and oak to maintain acid and freshness. This wine pours a medium ruby with purple hues, offering notes of fresh, acidic red and blue fruits laced with toasty wood and vanilla. The palate is full-bodied with appropriate overall structure, offering a mixture of red and blue fruits, herbaceousness, and slight hints of spice.
When we think of Australia, we think of Shiraz; and when we think of Shiraz, we think of dry, hot, sunny regions like Barossa that yield massively fruity and powerful wines respected the world over (Think Grange, Carnival of Love, etc.). Lesser known are the ‘cold-climate’ regions of Australia, particularly when it comes to red varieties. Victoria contains acclaimed sub-regions known for Australia’s lesser known wine gems, like the Muscat a Petit Grains-based dessert wines of Rutherglen. Shiraz, however, has a small, but respected place here as cold-climate variations are created. Mount Langi Ghiran specializes in these unique iterations of Australian Shiraz, and the ‘Billi Billi’ is no exception. This wine pours a garnet hue; lighter in contrast to its counterparts in Barossa, offering aromas of cherry, black plum, and blackberry accented by notes of violet and black pepper. The palate offers medium, but well-integrated tannins accented with lip-smacking acidity; all enveloping a core of blue and black fruits. Pair this with braised meats in order to create a dichotomy of controlled and hedonistic richness.
The result of Rich Salvestrin’s vision for an accessible, but overachieving California red, ‘The Cult’ is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petite Sirah sourced from Lodi. The deep ruby color offers aromas of black cherry, vanilla, cigar smoke, and bittersweet chocolate. Globs of milk chocolate and raspberry make up the palate, with sweet tannins and a lengthy, complex finish rounding the experience out. This is a versatile food wine that could easily go with a multitude of cuisines.
Does the name of this winery look familiar? It should! We featured Chateau Nozieres’ base Cahors on the Gold Club back in June and it was a smash hit! As such, we decided to feature one of their premier products on the Platinum list, and wow, is this a stunner! As a quick recap, Cahors is the original champion of Malbec, with its ‘black wines’ dating back to the 16th century. All Cahors must be at least 85% Malbec, with Merlot and Tannat being the only legal options for blending. The ‘Ambroise de L’Her’ is 90% Malbec and 10% Merlot, and goes through 14 months of aging in French Oak. The nose is INTENSE, with crunchy black fruits cut with coffee, hints of vanilla and herbs. This wine is immensely structured, offering dense tannins and bright acidity around a core of plum and blackberry. If there is any wine that could be singled out on this list as ‘steak-friendly’, it is undoubtedly this. Pair with a ribeye and enjoy!
If you have ever asked Brian about Zin, you have likely heard him drone on about how it differs drastically from area to area; wishing the whole way he would stop talking. Some point during these monologues, you have likely heard that Napa-sourced Zin’s are generally more structured in comparison to its various counterparts; which is true! Oakville is quickly becoming a favorite, with Michael Pozzan’s version being an excellent style-appropriate example. This Zin sees an impressive 18 months in a combination of French and American Oak, yielding a decadent, dark ruby hue. The nose offers plush raspberry, hints of stone fruit, and pungent black peppercorn. The palate is very full-bodied, with supple, sweet tannins and toasty oak accenting reduced raspberry, juicy cherry, and milk chocolate. I’ll say it once, I’ll say it again: Zin and BBQ is beautiful, and this pairing will serve you well!
For the first time since last year, we have a bonafide ‘old vine’ blend in SWB! This is a blend from winemaker Katie Carter of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouschet, and Carignan sourced from some of the most respected appellations in CA for all of these varieties. This blend is aged 15 months in a combination of Hungarian and American oak. This pours an inviting blend of ruby and purple, offering aromas of boysenberry, raspberry, black-tea and spicy mesquite. The palate is predictably rich and full-bodied, with Petite Sirah’s quintessentially dusty tannins showing through, along with macerated raspberry, black pepper, and bramble. This is an upscale, juiced version of the ‘old vine’ style, and shows its increased nuance and care in spades.
J. Lohr?!? Hear us out! This is a restaurant-only offering from Paso Robles giant J. Lohr, but one that goes much beyond its reputation as grocery wine producer. This blend takes everything unique to Paso and recklessly turns it up to 11, offering a wine deserving of its namesake. This blend of Cabernet, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Malbec is aged for 18 months in a combination of French and American Oak. The look is decadently ruby, completely opaque in quality. The nose offers a combination of fruitcake, bright cherry, and vanilla supplemented by subtle spice. The palate is rich, creamy, and full-bodied with velvety tannins and balanced acidity. There is a decadent core of mocha, vanilla, and fruit that deftly rides the line between acceptable and overkill, offering one of the most decadent reds I have seen here in my time at Steve’s. Food pairings? You need something ridiculously decadent to stand up to this; think braised short ribs.
...the natural path to go down might be lighter-bodied Pinot Noirs and Gamays, or grill-friendly, rich reds like Zinfandel or Rhone-Blends. These are tried and true options, but there is a new wave of organic and biodynamic reds made from traditionally-rich varietals that check both the light-bodied and grill-friendly boxes. In order to expose people to some fun products, Steve’s is currently featuring two organic/biodynamic reds to pair with your next BBQ or day on the porch!
The first of these is Mother Rock’s 2016 Force Celeste, a blend of Pinotage, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan and Mourvedre sourced from the Swartland appellation of South Africa. This wine is made via spontaneous fermentation before being aged in concrete for 9 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. The first thing you notice is the intense, cloudy ruby tint of the wine. This aesthetic richness is subverted by the nose, which is moderately intense, with notes of bright, tart cherry and strawberry with subtle hints of soil, flint, and game. On the palate, this wine is bone dry, with medium tannin and medium plus acid. This acidity, paired with a modest 11.5% abv, makes for a bright, tart, and refreshing wine with notes of fresh cherry, five spice, cinnamon, and subtle minerality. The liveliness of this wine paired with its spice notes makes it a prime pairing candidate for rich BBQ, meat-based or otherwise!
The second wine, Azienda Agricola COS’s 2018 Nero di Lupo comes to us from the Terre Siciliene IGP (Sicily). This wine is 100% Nero D’Avola and also goes through spontaneous fermentation using native yeasts before being aged in concrete prior to bottling; an unorthodox method for a grape that is traditionally produced in a rich, ripe style. This does not have the untouched look of the Mother Rock, as the wine is unfiltered, but not unfined, The nose is moderately intense, with dark red fruits like black cherry being mixed with tertiary notes of spice and violets. The palate has medium plus tannin and acidity; retaining the dark red fruit and spice while adding subtle notes of game and leather. This wine is tailor-made for foods roasted on an open flame, whether it’s pork, vegetable kabobs, or even pizza.
For a limited time, we are extending our traditional club member discount of 15% on these wines to everyone! These are two delicious, and well-crafted wines that will reward an adventurous palate and those truly committed to the potential of a perfect food/wine pairing.
Stop by and pick up a bottle or two before they are gone.