Neudorf Nelson Chardonnay 2007

The second time I flew home from New Zealand this year, I was fortunate in that I was on a nonstop flight back home to California – no stops in Fiji this time! – which meant I was able to grab a few bottles at the airport. The Auckland wine shop isn’t half bad, but the prices are nothing special and they tend not to have particularly interesting wines, but of course compared to Los Angeles it’s a godsend; last time I flew out of LAX, I think I remember seeing Robert Mondavi Coastal Chardonnay for a whopping $25 a bottle. Ouch!As mentioned previously, I was fortunate enough to stop by Neudorf winery last January, where an overwhelmed tasting staff dealing with too many customers towards the end of a day on a holiday weekend graciously put up with my wanting to taste but not buy (due to lack of luggage space on the way back home from vacation). Looking at Neudorf’s Web site I now see that there’s a fancy version of this wine that Bob Campbell and Jancis Robinson really really liked – and of course what I have is “the cheap one,” the less-fancy one relegated to airport wine shops (but apparently not exported to the USA). Operating on the principle that only the very best wineries put out less expensive wines that are worthy of the same name the fancier ones have, let’s see what this wine is like…An absolutely beautifully soft goldish-green in the glass, I’m grateful that they’ve bottled under screwcap so that it made it home safely without turning that awful oxidized golden color. The nose is very, very Burgundian, with a sort of reduced burnt-match smell that’s reminiscent of just a small amount of sulfur. Frankly, it’s mouth-watering. The overall effect is of roasted nuts and straw, with no particular buttered-popcorn notes that would ordinarily mess with California wines at this price point.The entry of the wine is smooth, lush, and full at first, before being briefly – very briefly – overwhelmed by racy acidity that screams New Zealand to me. Quickly, though, it quiets back down into an resolved dance back and forth between the ripe fruit and the supporting acidity, finishing on a lengthy descent through well-grounded notes of roast hazelnuts and fresh stone fruits. It’s all perfect for a summer’s day, somewhat less oppressive than a Meursault with a real sense of lightness and finesse. Finally, I should say that if there’s any wine this reminds me of, it would almost be a riesling from Burgundy (if such a thing existed, of course): the light delicacy of the aromatics is a wonderful match for the acidity and heft of the wine.Really delicious, great value, and beautifully packaged, it’s a bummer this wine doesn’t seem to be easily available locally. If the less fancy wine is this good, I’d love to know what the “really good” one tastes like.Neudorf
Price: NZ $30
Closure: Stelvin

Neudorf Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Although I was fortunate enough to visit Neudorf last January, I completely neglected to write anything about my visit there. However, I did find a bottle of their wine (the only one in the entire shop!) upon returning to San Diego, and here it is:The nose is intensely tropically fruity and reminds me of pineapple more than anything else; it’s exuberant and nine-tenths of the way to a Mai Tai. However, the simplicity of the nose is deceiving: once you get some of this in your mouth, it goes in unexpected directions. First of all, the texture of this wine is unusual for sauvignon blanc (at least to me, New World kid that I am). It’s vaguely reminiscent of, I don’t know, Mexican fresas con crema, which is basically a light whipped cream dessert; this wine seems to me to have similar light-yet-creamy characteristics, a lovely balance between fruit and cream. Going back to the nose for a minute, the wine seems to have more in common with gewürztraminer than sauv blanc; it seems to be slighlty floral, tending towards roses, with some black pepper sneaking in at the side. Very, very curious.The mid-palate to finish of the wine return to relative normalcy; it does in fact wind up at the somewhat stereotypical gooseberry note you’d expect from a NZ sauv blanc. However, what’s exceptional is that it doesn’t dissolve into a shrill hoot of acidity; instead, it somehow maintains its composure and sneaks out on a soft ebb of sweet cream.This is really, really good stuff.As for visiting the winery itself, well, I don’t regret it, but I also was nonplussed by the experience. Obviously, Neudorf do great business; their parking lot was entirely full with Land Rovers and other Toorak tractor-esque metal, leaving little choice for many but to park on the grass. Once inside, the entire tasting room experience was one of those uncomfortable commerce-oriented experiences designed mostly to sell you product; although tasting room staff were friendly and knowledgeable, they turned decidedly cool when I declined to purchase anything opting instead to put $5 in the charity box they kept on hand for “gold coin donations” to their favorite charity for anyone who dared not buy wine on the premises. If there’s anything I truly despise at a tasting room, it’s being hounded to buy wine, no matter how good it is. Yes, Neudorf, your wine is amazing, but do you have to make us feel so little for not buying any on-site? It’s not always easy for international visitors to get wine home; some of us have to wait until we get home before hunting down some locally.That being said, I’m glad I did, and I’ll buy it again – I’m just bummed at the lingering bad taste your tasting room experience left behind.Oh, and would you please export your Pinot? It was amazing. kthxbye!Neudorf
Price: $16
Closure: Stelvin

Seifried Nelson Riesling Ice Wine 2006

Saw this on the supermarket shelf the other day and it piqued my interest, both because it’s a dessert wine made of Riesling and it’s (ostensibly) an ice wine too. The Seifried website says this wine is made “in the style” of an ice wine, and that the grapes are pressed frozen (whether on the vine or not – the site isn’t specific).
Although this wine is under screwcap, I swear there’s a slightly corky flavour on the nose that hasn’t blown off with swirling. It’s the same slightly musty note one sometimes observes in aged Rieslings and Semillons – quite attractive actually, but unexpected in this wine. It’s otherwise a lovely, if subtle, nose of intense, musky florals and sweet candied fruit. The palate is strikingly sweet from the very first moments of the entry onwards, and shows a flavour profile approaching delicate marmalade. Good complexity and, in spite of the level of sweetness, quite a linear structure, owing to well balanced acidity. So, it’s a sweet wine, to be sipped rather than gulped, but it’s not broad or sloppy in the least. The after palate tapers off gently, towards a delicate finish of good length.
I enjoyed this wine very much, and would probably choose to serve it with a dessert of equal intensity, perhaps with both in small quantities. A big experience in miniature, as it were.
Seifried EstatePrice: $NZ25 (375ml)Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007