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Jay Labrador

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WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jay Labrador » Sat May 13, 2006 12:50 am

Two of Manila's top New World Pinot importers organized a blind tasting to establish bragging rights for the best Pinots in Manila, with Premium Wine Exchange bringing the 6 Californians and Zen Asia bringing in the 6 NZ wines.

There were some problems with the logistics as there weren't enough glasses at the venue for all 12 wines to be poured together so we had to taste in 2 flights of 6 each. All were served blind with only the importers knowing the identities of the wines. There were 10 of us asked to judge the event.

First flight:

#1 Medicinal nose, good fruit and flavor but a little hot on the finish. Good balance.

#2 Good fruit again with some grip. Long finish. Better than #1.

#3 Closed. Very dry. Seems a bit underripe. Nothing on the front palate but a good finish. Lots of acid.

#4 Earthy nose and berries, too. Spicy. Excellent balance. Lots of fruit here. Some candy also showing. Best so far.

#5 Earthy again but not as much as #4. Good weight. Very ripe with sweet strawberry character.

#6 Chewy, very young. Dark, tannic. Not ready but great potential here.

I ranked them from best to worst: 6,4,5,2,1,3

The group's ranking: 2,4,5,3,1,6

The wines were revealed as: #1 Felton Road '03 (NZ), #2 Babcock '03 (CA), #3 Te Kairanga '02 (NZ), #4 Costa de Oro '02 (CA), #5 Neudorf Moutere '03 (NZ), #6 Archery Summit '01 (CA)

Apparently I was the only one who liked the Archery Summit.

After a break we proceeded with flight 2:

#1 Sweet strawberry and cherry. Nicely judged oak. Good.

#2 Candy nose, earthy taste. Quite dry. Lacks fruit.

#3 Earthy nose. Very ripe fruit. Quite sweet. Good.

#4 Vegetal nose, vegetal taste. Green and unpleasant. The chef seated beside me said it smelled like old mushrooms.

#5 Some earthiness in the nose. Nicely balance, harmonious wine. A touch of heat but overall quite nice.

#6 Closed nose. Sweet and spicy. Good fruit. Some grip in the finish.

My ranking from best to worst: 3, 6, 5, 1, 2, 4

The group's ranking from best to worst: 5, 6, 3, 1, 2, 4

The wines were revealed as: #1 Dog Point '04 (NZ), #2 Spy Valley '03 (NZ), #3 Summerland '04 (CA), #4 Chehalem Ridgecrest '02 (CA), #5 Wither Hills '03 (NZ), #6 Saintbury Reserve '02 (CA)

There was some discussion as to whether the Chehalem was a bad bottle. A new one was opened and while it was not as vegetal as the first bottle, there was still the unmistakable scent and taste of green-ness. The Chehalem would still have ranked as everyone's least favorite even with the new bottle.

While each importer got a top wine in each flight, there were invevitably some excuses about not really showing the best wines they had yadda yadda yadda. So the judges proposed another show down this time with the best Pinots in their portfolios. This is scheduled next week and I believe will include some Beaux Freres, and single vineyard wines from Neudorf and Felton Road plus some from Oz and a Burgundy to keep things interesting.
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Sue Courtney

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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Sue Courtney » Sat May 13, 2006 3:48 am

Gee, I'd like to do that tasting. Only someone would have to carry the Californian wines here in their luggage. What would you say the main differences between the NZ and the Calif pinots were?
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Craig Camp » Sat May 13, 2006 11:11 am

I think you will find the Chehalem, Archery Summit and the upcoming Beaux Freres are from Oregon, not California.
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Jay Labrador

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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jay Labrador » Sat May 13, 2006 11:56 am

Thanks for the correction. You are right, of course.
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jay Labrador » Sat May 13, 2006 12:16 pm

That's a very good question and I wish I had a good answer. The styles were all over the place so it's really hard to generalize about this. The NZ wines were mostly lighter and, this surprised me, seemed hotter or more alcoholic. Maybe the heavier US wines balanced the alcohol better.
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Importer shoot-out!

by Jenise » Sat May 13, 2006 1:28 pm

What an interesting tasting, Jay, an importer shoot-out. Love blind tastings--it's so interesting that your first choice in the first flight was the group's least favorite, and yet you agreed on 2nd and 3rd. Always surprising--and fun--that some wines are such polar opposites. Do you know which Archery Summit you had? They make a few different wines, one of which is an ultra-rich, ultra-oaky deviant designed just for Parker points. I think that one's the Nuthouse, but I'm not sure.

Thanks for posting--it's a fun read.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Importer shoot-out!

by Jay Labrador » Sat May 13, 2006 10:51 pm

Thanks for your comments. I didn't note down which Archery Summit it was although looking at the importer's price list it was probably the Premier Cuvee; being in the general price range of the wines we had.

Blind tasting keeps you honest and removes yor prejudices. I came to the tasting expecting the NZ wines would win hands down so I was surprised at some of the results.
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jay Labrador » Sat May 13, 2006 10:53 pm

One more difference I forgot to note was the price. On average, the US wines were nearly twice the price of the NZ wines!
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michael dietrich

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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by michael dietrich » Sun May 14, 2006 2:59 am

I am going to New Zealand in June and we are bringing along 2 cases of Oregon Pinots so We can sit down with people in Martinborough, Marlborough, and Nelson and taste them side by side with New Zealand wines. I also plan to add a couple of California ones as wel. Most of the Oregon wines wil be between $15 and #35 retail here. It should be very interesting. I will be curious to see how they all show.
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jenise » Sun May 14, 2006 12:46 pm

Michael, have you been warned about New Zealand Customs' rather stern view of wine importation?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Randy Buckner

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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Randy Buckner » Sun May 14, 2006 1:17 pm

I attend IPNC yearly. It is a good way to compare PN from Australia, Canada, Chile, France, New Zealand, and CA/OR. For my palate, I almost always prefer OR PN. Occasionally a Burg will blow me away, but it is rare. Some people do not like these kinds of tastings. I do -- they are very informative for me.
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jenise » Sun May 14, 2006 1:37 pm

I didn't know you went to IPNC every year! Been twice myself--it's a marvelous event. Do they still sell tickets on a lottery basis? I've been told by others that it's easier to get in than it used to be (early 90's reference).
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Randy Buckner » Sun May 14, 2006 2:19 pm

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michael dietrich

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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by michael dietrich » Mon May 15, 2006 11:16 am

So far everyone I have talked to has not mentioned any possible problem. I have talked to people from the wine grower's and nummerous winery people.
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Jenise » Mon May 15, 2006 12:53 pm

Michael, Sue might be able to fill you in more. All I can tell you is that when I and my husband were travelling Australia on a personal vacation, we ended up having to tack on a quick business trip to NZ, so off we went with the five cases of wine we'd accumulated. It took some talking to get the NZ guys to let our wine in and not charge us punitive duty (we had to explain our change in plans, show them our tickets, promise not to open our Oz wine, etc.). Apparently they're well known for being protective of the local industry.

Might be less of an issue for someone coming from the States vs. Australia, though.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Sue Courtney

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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by Sue Courtney » Mon May 15, 2006 4:37 pm

Michael,
You need to look at this the link Alcohol and Tobacco allowance. The limit is the equivalent of six bottles of wine but you say 'we' so I assume there is more than one of you, which will allow six bottles per person. When I have been travelling and bought back 12 bottles of wine, I have explained "Well I don't have any other duty free, I don't have any spirits and I don't have any cigarettes".
If you follow the link to charges, it says "If the total amount owing is less than $50 for any goods imported in excess of the allowances for alcohol and/or accompanied goods, no revenue collection will be made. This revenue waiver does not apply to tobacco products."
Just make sure you declare it - and also any food you might be bringing in. There are penalties for non-declaration.
Cheers,
Sue
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Re: WTN: Pinots from California vs NZ

by JC (NC) » Mon May 15, 2006 6:18 pm

It's been awhile since I last tasted Archery Summit Pinot Noir (possible the Arcus) but my impression was that very good fruit was ruined by being overoaked. You may have liked it because you have more of a tolerance for oakiness or because you felt it would integrate in time (you mentioned tannic but with great potential). I was not impressed with the Felton Road I tried in April and apparently the tasters at this event were not either.

To anyone importing wines for a taste comparison--remember also that travel unsettles the wine and it may need a week or more to recover from travel shock.
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Jay Labrador

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Felton Road

by Jay Labrador » Mon May 15, 2006 10:28 pm

Thanks for your comments. I really thought the Felton Road would do better. I've had the Block 5 before and liked it a lot. I guess the quality doesn't translate to the regular bottling.

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