Friday, July 14, 2017

Villa Maria Wine Tasting with Winemaker Helen Morrison

Warning that we're breaking out of the Italian shell today and virtually traveling to a country that has long been on my bucket list, New Zealand. I recently attending a virtual tasting hosted by Snooth with guest appearance by Helen Morrison, the winemaker at Villa Maria. Experience the tasting yourself at the Villa Maria virtual tasting with Snooth.

If it wasn't such a long journey from Boston I've would've already made my way there and probably have visited the Villa Maria winery by now, but for now I'll settle with drinking their wines here in the states. Villa Maria wines were some of the first I've ever tried from New Zealand and was the reason why I fell in love with sauvignon blanc from New Zealand. To this day they're still my favorite sauvignon blancs. 

Sir George Fistonich started the company in 1961by leasing five acres of land from his father and growing vines on one of those acres. He still takes part in the operations today. Through the years the winery has been recognized for a multitude of awards, but George prides himself and the winery by making sure the focus is on quality and the rest will follow.Here are some pretty neat facts on the timeline of Villa Maria's history:
  • 1962 – first vintage
  • 1970's – started hiring staff
  • 1988 – began exporting
  • 1995 – became a member of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ)
  • 2000 – the winery in Marlborough opened
  • 2001 – the winery became 100% dedicated to screw caps
  • 2005 – the winery and vineyards opened in Auckland
  • 2009 – George Fistonich received a knighthood recognizing his contribution to the New Zealand wine industry
    George Fistonich owner of Villa Maria
    George Fistonich in the beginning years of Villa Maria
Villa Maria has 4 vineyards located in Auckland, Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne and they're all either located on the ocean or close by. Regardless of the difference in climates there is an aim to create balance between the ripeness of the grapes, acidity and aromatic flavor profiles.
 
The following wines are those I sampled and enjoyed them all for different reasons, plus some great values. If you haven't tried wines from New Zealand Villa Maria is a perfect place to start.
Wines of Villa Maria New Zealand
2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc
This wine hails from Marlborough on the northeastern tip of the island. Crisp mornings are followed by sunny, warm days with moderate rainfall. The Private Bin tier is the most widely distributed and most recognized. The wine is produced by blended vineyards. It demonstrates a classic New Zealand sauvignon blanc with fresh fruit, citrus, grassiness with some herbs. ABV 13%. SRP $13.

2015 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc
This wine is slightly carbonated with fine bubbles. The wine is full of lime and grapefruit with softer acidity. ABV 12.5%. SRP $15

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Bay Rose'
Produced in Hawkes Bay this wine is predominately made from merlot and actually a touch of the Italian grape hailing from Piedmont, arneis, which adds softness, richness and stone fruit. This wine displays juicy strawberries and cherries with soft acidity and a creamy texture. ABV 12.5%. SRP $14.

2015 Villa Maria Taylor's Pass Chardonnay
A fan favorite of the night this single vineyard wine comes from a cold subregion in Marlborough and from stony parts of the vineyard. In the wine you taste that minerality, citrus and creamy toastiness from the wine aging in new french barriques. ABV 13.5%. SRP $45. 

2014 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir
Produced from Marlbough vineyards the pinot noir grape is the most widely planted after sauvignon blanc. A pretty soft wine demonstrating dried herbs, fresh acidity with cherries and raspberries with a touch of spice and smokiness from the oak. ABV 13.5%. SRP $26

2013 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot-Cabernet
Produced in Hawkes Bay this area is much warmer than Marlborough. It consists of 70% merlot and 30% cabernet sauvignon. Sometimes malbec and cabernet franc is added in small percentages depending on the vintage. This was considered a great vintage for them with George claiming it's the vintage of the century. The wine goes through about 18-20 months of maturation time. ABV 13.5%. SRP $20

*Wines were provided as samples, but opinions are all my own.  Most pictures copyright of Villa Maria.