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New Zealand wines for the holidays

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COLUMN WRITTEN BY PHILLIP SILVERSTONE

I’m not typically a traditionalist. I am essentially an eclecticist. However, there are certain exceptions to the rule.
I’m not very adventurous with food. Anything that arrives on my plate with eyes or tentacles or looks like it used to play in my back garden is swiftly returned to the chef and replaced with less obvious incarnations of its former self or a salad. I am far more courageous with wine and let myself drift into areas that are unknown and unfamiliar to my palate but every so often I need my comfy blanket and that brings me to a region of the world that I embrace like an old aunt in a moth-ball-perfumed fur coat who pinched my cheeks and said: “How are you my lovely boy.”
Sadly, I don’t have any of those over perfumed old aunties around any longer so my substitute aunt is the Sauvignon Blanc from Malborough, New Zealand. It doesn’t pinch my cheek, ruffle my hair or tell me how tall I’ve grown, but it expresses just as much love to my palate. And yes, there are many fine wine producers in the northern region of New Zealand’s South Island who make brilliant nectar from this grapefruit tasting elixir but two offer the best examples at very appealing prices. And, I can’t think of better wines to wrap in gift paper or to pour with the holiday meal or just to sit back on a wintry evening and quaff while pausing your brain for a relaxing intermission from life.
Take for example, Giesen Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand) SLO code 541239 $12.39. For centuries, the Giesen family, formerly of Germany, have been involved in the culinary and wine trades, as sommeliers, restaurateurs and other related careers. As youths, the boys had a hobby vineyard that first ignited their interest in grapes. The Giesens say this wine’s aroma is fresh and vibrant with a base of rich tropical fruit but dominated especially, when young, by fresh lime and lemongrass aromas as well as a fresh herb note. I find it simply irresistible with a very pronounced grapefruit flavor that is the most refreshing taste from a wine that I have ever experienced.

Phillip Silverstone is shown with Maggie Lidz, right, curator of the "Costumes of Downton Abbey" exhibition now on display at Winterthur in Delaware. Lidz is Silverstone's guest on this week's show on TuneIn Radio.  Photo by Liz  Farrell/Winterthur

Phillip Silverstone is shown with Maggie Lidz, right, curator of the “Costumes of Downton Abbey” exhibition now on display at Winterthur in Delaware. Lidz is Silverstone’s guest on this week’s show on TuneIn Radio.
Photo by Liz Farrell/Winterthur

My earliest love for this grape variety, from this region, was introduced to my glass by Nobilo who have consistently produced the most amazing Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs from Marlborough. And despite strong competition from the likes of Giesen, I still return to them as I don’t want the wines to consider me a fair weather friend. Nobilo offers two distinct labels. The everyday drinker in their regional collection and a more complex wine which is sold under their Icon label.
Nobilo Regional Collection 2014 Sauvignon Blanc ($13) is a smashing drink with notes of herbs and the expected smell of cut grass. The flavor is a blend of grapefruit, passion fruit and a hint of pineapple. The taste is quite pronounced so I recommend it as an apéritif.
The 2014 Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc ($22) is produced from fruit harvested in 4 vineyards including fruit from Nobilo’s four finest Sauvignon Blanc vineyards including Bedford Estate — Upper Wairau Valley where old vines planted in 1995 result in very low yields, providing ripe tropical and guava fruit. To me, the flavor of this Sauvignon Blanc is similar to the regional bottling but it has more structure and complexity and depth. It’s ideal for the more seasoned Sauvignon Blanc drinker but my money still goes on the regional version. But you most definitely should sample this wine for true perfection of the grape from this region.
The 2013 Icon Pinot Noir ($22) is going to be your Chanukah or Christmas meal wine, if you have meat or pork on the table (respectively, I hasten to add). One hundred percent Marlborough fruit from Nobilo’s three finest estate vineyards. Pinot Noir is my red wine of choice — the perfumes of red berries and oak with a touch of spice are textbook Pinot Noir for this drinker. The taste has dark berries with an oakiness that is thankfully not over bearing. And my usual pairing with Pinot Noir is lamb, the quintessential food and wine pairing if ever there was one.
Fruit cake anyone?
If you happen to be in the Cherry Hill, N.J. area in the coming days go to Bed, Bath and Beyond (Wegman’s shopping centre on Route 70) who have acquired some imported food items at that particular branch and treat yourself to the most palatable fruit cake ever baked, it’s called a Dundee cake and it is my absolutely favorite seasonal cake and rarely found outside the British Isles. Cheers!
Phillip Silverstone’s column appears each week in this newspaper. “Time Out With Phillip Silverstone” is a weekly two-hour podcast heard exclusively on TuneIn radio anytime and anywhere worldwide either on the free TuneIn app for all smart phones and tablets (Search: Phillip Silverstone) or online on Tunein at: http://bit.ly/1gY2Ht4. “Follow” the show for weekly updates. You can also LIKE Phillip on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Phillipsilverstone and follow him on Twitter: @wining

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