WINE & SPIRITS
VINTNERS NEAR AND FAR ARE PRODUCING SURPRISING TREASURES
As a critic—and a drinker, of course—I'm always on the search for off-the-beaten-path wines. Exciting new regions entice me to give their wines a chance. Lately I've struck liquid gold in Central Otago in New Zealand, the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia and the Golan Heights in Israel, among other places. So, I offer now a few seasonal tips from my most recent globe-trotting.
If Burgundy breaks the bank, try these amazing pinot noirs
It's been more than a year since the film Sideways began wreaking havoc on the merlot market, ushering pinot passion across the land. Many of the best American pinot noirs come from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Since production is limited, with the increased demand came soaring prices. Still, there are great Willamette Valley bottles to be found for under $20. For restrained fruitiness and finesse, try the 2005 Evesham Wood.
Or head further afield, to New Zealand, for that pinot noir fix. Central Otago, in the country's South Island, has a continental climate that's particularly conducive to growing this finicky grape. The area is known for producing outstanding pinots in a Burgundian style. A great place to begin is with 2004 Felton Road Pinot Noir Central Otago Block 5, a luscious wine with red berry flavors that's often compared with Grand Cru Burgundy (a relative deal at about $40 a bottle).
Meanwhile, up north in New Zealand's renowned Marlborough district, the region's top winery, Cloudy Bay—best known for its sauvignon blanc—is now making full-bodied pinots that compete with the world's finest. They feature dark red fruit, silky tannins and a modest price tag of $30 a bottle. Accompanied by viticulturist Sioban Harnett, I recently tasted the 2004, a heady wine blended from seven distinct Burgundy clones.