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Let's Talk Wine: A Light and Easy Wine Worth Celebrating

Seacoast Online

Fosters.com, JoAnn Actis-Grande - May 3, 2018 

"Tomorrow, May 4, is International Sauvignon Blanc Day! Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine grape produced all over the world and rising in popularity as more and more wine lovers enjoy wines that are lower in alcohol and easy to drink.

The Sauvignon Blanc grape prefers living in cooler climates where they bud late, but ripen faster than other grapes. The wine is usually dry, always refreshing, and produces a variety of styles, textures, and flavors - depending on where it’s grown. The majority of Sauvignon Blanc comes from France, in the famous Bordeaux and Loire Valley. Lately California and New Zealand have been taking the lead in planting new vineyards. Other popular regions are Italy, Chile and South Africa.

In Bordeaux, Sauvignon Blanc is a fresh, light and elegant wine. Here, the grape is often blended with Semillon, another French white wine grape, producing outstanding Sauternes – one of the finest sweet wines in the world. The Loire, especially in the center of the valley, is where the Sauvignon grape originated and shows some of its best qualities with Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. The area’s limestone, clay and flint soil conditions add a unique taste to the wine.

California’s Sauvignon Blanc stands out with many of their grapes growing in warmer parts of the state, especially in the Napa Valley. Fortunately, the fog and high temperature fluctuations cool down the vineyards enough to sustain the vines. The wines tend to have a herbaceous and often grassy quality.

In New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc is the most widely planted grape. The first vines were planted in the early ’70s in the Marlborough region. In just a short time, with its vibrant fruit flavors and high acid levels, the wine became a number one seller for the country and put New Zealand on the map as a world-class growing region. Over in Italy, Sauvignon Blanc shines in the Northeastern part of the country in Friuli, Alto Adige and Collio. The Sauvignon Blanc wines from these areas display excellent fruit and varietal characteristics.

Sauvignon has distinctive aromas of grapefruit, gooseberries and herbs. The flavors of passion fruit, melon, guava, and white peach, along with great acidity and minerality make Sauvignon Blanc the ideal choice to pair with creamy cheeses, salads, shellfish, poultry, and it’s the perfect porch wine." 

Mt. Beautiful's 2016 Sauvignon Blanc was one of four Sauv Blancx featured in this article! 

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Wine and Dine: Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir with Spinach and Arugula Salad

Cindy Rynning, Grape Experiences - March 23, 2018

Wine and Dine: Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir with Spinach and Arugula Salad

When days become longer and winds have lost their bitter chill, I anticipate the spring season in all its glory. Trust me, I’m ready to ditch that down coat and don a light-weight jacket! (I’m in Chicago, you know!) I’m also primed to switch my food and wine pairings. Hearty soups and stews, sauce-laden casseroles, or rich pasta dishes with a glass or two of bold, red wine are perfect choices for snowy days or cold nights. But now? I’m making the transition to food and wines that herald a new season. You?

One of my cookbooks, The Vineyard Cookbook by Barbara Scott-Goodman (click the image at the end of this article to purchase), offers a bounty of recipes that are just as flavorful as they are a snap to create. I found a wonderful recipe for Spinach and Arugula Salad with Warm Mushrooms, Olives, and Pancetta that appeared to be a tasty change from the lasagna the family enjoyed a few nights before. I wasn’t disappointed (and neither were my guests).

Mouthwatering flavors offering layers of texture in every bite. The blend of pancetta, mushrooms, garlic, olives, lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, and greens prompted more than a few “Ahhhhh!” moments from the crowd…as did the wine. I chose a delicious Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015 ($15) (sent as a sample) from the vineyards of Mt. Beautiful in North Canterbury, New Zealand. Somehow, I knew that the delectable flavors of both the salad and the wine wouldn’t eclipse the other, that they would be complementary. I was right.

Generous aromas of luscious red fruit, blueberries, blackberries, violets, and vanilla were a dazzling entry. On the palate, I discovered elegant and sophisticated notes of zesty spice, red and black fruit, and a touch of earth, all framed with bright acidity and gentle tannic structure. The lingering finish was incredibly satisfying. Aged for ten months in French oak barrels, the Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015 is from a vintage year that, by all accounts, was sterling in New Zealand.

A food and wine pairing to help transition your palate from one season to another? This duo may be exactly what you’re looking for!

Spinach and Arugula Salad with Warm Mushrooms, Olives, and Pancetta:

Ingredients

6 slices of Pancetta, about 1/8 inch thick or 4 slices of thick-cut bacon
7 tablespoons olive oil
1/2lb shitake mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
1/2lb domestic or cremini mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Nicoise olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
4 cups spinach or baby spinach, stemmed, rinsed, and patted dry
2 cups trimmed arugula, rinsed and dried
freshly ground black pepper
Step 1: In a skillet or saute pan, fry the pancetta or bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels, cut into small pieces, and set aside.

Step 2: Wipe out the pan with paper towels. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the garlic, olives, lemon juice, and vinegar. Simmer for 5 minutes to blend the flavors.

Step 3: Meanwhile, toss the spinach and arugula with the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large bowl. Season to taste with pepper. Add the warm mushroom mixture and the bacon to the greens and toss until well blended. Serve at once from the bowl or arrange on individual plates.

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Caverhill Farm - Our Sheep go for a Dip!

Caverhill Farm Sheep Dip
Our vineyard and winery crews are ramping up for harvest, but on our Caverhill Farm (960 hectares) Hamish our Farm Manager, and his team are taking our Corriedale sheep in for a "dip." The fungicide / insecticide solution the sheep are showered in helps protect them against infestation by flies and parasites. It's a vital step taken to protect the sheep and their wool prior to shearing.

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Harvest 2018 is on the Horizon!

The 2018 harvest sits on the horizon, maybe only a month away. Our winery and vineyard teams are readying themselves for what is the most important event of the year both inside the winery and out in the vineyard. 

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Earlier this month our Vineyard Manager, Garrick Guy, shared this photo that shows veraison happening in our Pinot Noir vineyard blocks. Veraison is a French term that means the grapes are changing color, and this indicates the onset of ripening.  

As the grapes ripen, the risk of animals eating them (and thus destroying the crop) increases drastically. In some countries, such as South Africa, it’s the baboons you have to watch out for. In Tuscany, it’s the wild boar. But all across the world, birds are unanimously a threat to vineyard crops.  

We mitigate damage made by birds a couple of  different ways. In addition to having dedicated team members tirelessly ride quad bikes up and down the rows of vines, honking their horns to scare off birds, we also employ the use of technology.  Last year we invested in a powerful vineyard netting machine, which can cover four rows of vines at a time. This proved to not only be a huge time saver, but also great insurance in preserving our crop from the threat of birds.  

Turns out that the net doesn’t keep ALL the critters out, as indicated by the photo below. 

 Jackrabbit Mt. Beautiful Vineyard

It seems hardly feasible that this image was caught to begin with. Here's a statement from our Vineyard Manager about this frolicking furry fellow: "One of the guys managed to take this photo of a sneaky critter hiding under the nets keeping guard.” 

In closing, here’s a photo of our Pinot Noir posted by Erin, our Business Development and Operations Manager, with this caption: "Not long now......?”

 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir in the Vineyard

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Michael Cooper's 2018 Buyers' Guide

Michael Cooper reviewed several Mt. Beautiful vintages which were included in his 2018 Buyers’ Guide:

2015 Chardonnay: 4 Stars, -V
Estate-grown at Cheviot, north of Waipara, the 2015 vintage (4*) was handled in an even split of tanks and seasoned French oak casks. Pale lemon/green, it has a creamy bouquet, leading into a mouthfilling, softly textured wine with vibrant, ripe stone-fruit flavours to the fore, hints of biscuity oak adding complexity, balanced acidity and a slightly buttery finish. Drink now or cellar. Drink 2017 – 2012.

2015 Pinot Gris: 4 Stars, -V
The 2015 vintage (4*) was estate-grown at Cheviot and handled in tanks (90 per cent) and old oak casks (10 per cent). Light lemon/green, it is sturdy (14.5 per cent alcohol), fleshy and rounded, with generous, ripe, peachy, slightly spicy flavours and a fully dry, creamy-smooth finish. Drink 2017 – 2019.

2015 Pinot Noir: 3+ stars, -V
Maturing gracefully, the 2015 vintage (4*) was estate-grown at Cheviot, north of Waipara, and matured for a year in French oak barriques. Full-coloured, it is sturdy, with good weight and strong, ripe cherry, plum and spice flavours, slightly nutty and savoury. Developing good complexity, it should be at its best mid-2018+. Drink 2016 – 2022.

2016 Riesling: 4 stars, -V
Estate-grown at Cheviot, the racy 2016 vintage (4*) is a pale lemon/green, highly scented wine, light to medium-bodied, with strong, lively lemon/apple flavours, a minerally streak, and a gently sweet (13 grams/litre of residual sugar), crisp finish. Drink now or cellar. Drink 2017 – 2025.

2016 Sauvignon Blanc: 4 Stars, -V
Estate-grown at Cheviot, north of Waipara, the light lemon/green 2016 vintage (4.5*) is a sturdy, weighty wine, with excellent vigour and concentration of ripe passionfruit/lime flavours, finely balanced, dry, crisp and long. Drink now or cellar. Fine value. Drink 2017 – 2019.

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Weekend Wine Notes: 15 Sauv Blancs

Bigger Than Your Head, Fredric Koeppel

A passel of sauvignon blanc wines today, most from California, but one from New York, a pair from Chile and one from New Zealand are included. With three exceptions, these are from vintage 2016. Prices range from about $14 to $50, and a number of real bargains can be found. As is typical with the Weekend Wine Notes, I eschew most technical, historical, geological/geographical and personnel data for the sake of quick and incisive reviews, ripped, as it were, from the pages of my notebooks and designed to pique your interest and stimulate the palate. Enjoy! And always consume in moderation.

Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. 14.1% alc. Pale gold; lime zest and green bean, grapefruit and pea-shoot, gooseberry and roasted fennel, with penetrating notes of iodine and seashell; a pert, tart and sassy sauvignon blanc that tickles the palate with an herbal edge and bright acidity; a bracing, saline finish. Rich with nuance and not exaggerated. Excellent. About $16, a Great Bargain.

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Selected as Editor's Pick in Wine Spectator Magazine!

Wine Spectator, MaryAnn Worobiec, January / February, 2018 

"This stunning property with 184 acres of vineyards is located in a remote corner of New Zealand's South Island. North Canterbury might not be a familiar winegrowing region yet, but there's lots of potential, as demonstrated by Mt. Beautiful's distinctive wines. Founder David Teece is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business, and is one of the most widely cited economic and business scholars in the world. He picked this spot in his home country to plant vineyards in part because he wants to tell the new and exciting story of an emerging wine region. His project benefits from the experience of CEO Robert Watkins and viticulturist Fin Grieve.-M.W."

Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir North Canterbury 2015
91 | $28 | 2,780 cases made
Comprising a mix of 13 different Pinot Noir clones, half of them Burgundy clones, this wine reveals its complexity on the finish.

Mt. Beautiful Riesling North Canterbury 2016
90 | $22 | 665 cases made
Shows great intensity, with crisp acidity and fresh citrus flavors. The wine is a blend of grapes from two distinct blocks of the vineyard, higher-elevation sites sheltered by a pine forest.

Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury 2016
89 | $16 | 12,100 cases made
North Canterbury Sauvignon Blancs are less aggressive than their Marlborough counterparts, showcasing melon flavors and suppler texture. 

Mt. Beautiful Chardonnay North Canterbury 2015
88 | $22 | 1,100 cases made
Notable for its plump, creamy texture, this wine blends grapes that were both tank- and barrel-fermented, finding excellent balance.

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Five Excellent Reviews in Restaurant Wine - Ronn Wiegand

In Ronn Wiegand's latest Issue #175-177 of Restaurant Wine, he shares five excellent reviews of Mt. Beautiful's wines. 

5 Stars
2016 Sauvignon Blanc (Medium Priced Category)                
A crisp, complex Sauvignon of exceptional quality and value. (Screw cap closure.) It is full bodied and crisp, with elegant pineapple, lemon grass, lime, toast, and guava aromas/flavors, fine balance, and a long, crisp finish. Top value. Aged 9 months in both oak barrels (partly new) and stainless steel tanks. 12,000 cases. 14% [2018-2019] 

2015 Chardonnay (4+ Stars) and 2015 Pinot Gris (5 Stars) – (High Priced Category)
Both wines have screw cap closures, and both are excellent wines. The Chardonnay is crisp, full bodied, finely flavored (white peach, pear, lime, honey, candied lemon, vanilla, oak), balanced, and long on the finish. Aged 9 months in both oak barrels and stainless steel tanks. 1,100 cases. 14.5% F The Pinot Gris is exceptional: elegant in flavor, supple in texure, and medium rich; a wine with excellent depth and balance, and a long finish, tasting of apple, lime, lemon grass, pear, guava, and honey. Great value. Fermented in both oak barrels and stainless steel tanks.

5 Stars 
2016 Rose (Medium Priced Category) 
An exceptional dry rose. Screw cap. Light reddish pink in color. Fragrant and distinct in aroma and flavor (cherry, raspberry, lime, rose petal), it is full bodied, well balanced, and long on the finish. Great value. 100% Pinot Noir. Partly barrel fermented. 

5 Stars
2015 Pinot Noir (High Priced Category) 
Screw cap. An outstanding Pinot Noir in an elegant, velvety style. It is full bodied, very supple in texture, ripe and complex in flavor (red currant, cherry, white pepper, rose petal, toast), and well balanced, with a very long finish. 7 day cold soak. Aged 10 months in French oak barrels, 25% new..”

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Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir - Seth's Bargain Wine of the Week!

Seth Buckley, Musings By the Glass, January 16, 2018 (photos: Seth Buckley) 

Honolulu based wine blogger, Seth Buckley, who we met at the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference selected our Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir as his bargain wine of the week. Keep reading to see his suggested pairings and full "musings" including a little history on New Zealand as a winegrowing region. 

Pairing: 
Classic Pinot Noir pairings include salmon, duck and mushrooms. A local Hawaiian twist on these classics include furikake salmon, Cantonese roast duck and a sautéed Japanese mushroom medley.

My Musings:
This wine was a beautiful, luminous ruby red color and possessed fruit aromas of cherry, cranberry and blackberry with orange blossom, subtle earth and baking spice. On the palate, the wine wonderfully balanced fruit, earth and mineral elements, with soft tannins that provided structure and a long, lingering finish. An absolutely stunning and tremendously enjoyable wine.

Mt. Beautiful Winery is wonkish heaven. It’s founder, David Teece, is [obviously] an oenophile, but he doubles as a professor of Global Business and Economics at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and has authored over 30 books. For me, trained in global business law and economics, I have discovered a new vinous exemplar. Hail to the geeks.

Mt. Beautiful also makes it easy to feel good about yourself while sipping your refreshing inebriating beverage. Committed to sustainable farming methods, holistic vineyard management and alternative bottle closure methods (which bottle closure lore I explored in this post), Mt. Beautiful ensures that its practices assist in safeguarding the picturesque landscape famous to New Zealand. The world needs more wineries like Mt. Beautiful (and regions like New Zealand) that wholeheartedly embrace and emphasize the importance of sustainable viticultural practices.

In Honolulu, procure as many bottles as you are physically able to carry from Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquors.

Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud

While Côte-d'Or remains the gold standard, one of the most exciting New World regions for Pinot Noir, in my experience, lies on the outskirts of the Antarctic, in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Bibles and grapevines were traveling companions to New Zealand, brought in the suitcases of Anglican missionaries in the early Nineteenth Century. Where there are missionaries, there is wine. Early local wines were a cheap proletarian drink that possessed few ardent admirers. Inebriation sufficient; craft not necessary. The fledgling industry was later disrupted by the Prohibition movement at the end of World War I, when temperance advocates denounced the inexpensive intoxicant as “vile Australian wine” and “Dally plonk,” pejoratively referring to the winemakers’ Croatian descent. Racism, patriotism, and temperance bundled into a short, succinct phrase. Well played, temperance movement.

Fortunately, the industry survived its early challenges, and has matured to become, in my opinion, one of the preeminent value wine regions in the world. With a re-focused strategy on quality rather than quantity, it is no longer difficult to procure well-crafted, high-quality vino in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Zealand, home to the southernmost vineyards in the world, is breathtaking in its natural beauty. Dense tropical and temperate forests, majestic mountain ranges, imposing volcanoes, and a craggy coastline constantly battered by the Pacific Ocean produce endless picturesque landscapes. It is naturally divided into two regions, the North and South Islands, each unique in culture, climate, and winemaking.

The South Island is a cool, maritime climate that benefits from extended, sunny summer days due to cloud dissipation and the earth’s axial tilt. Obliquity lends a helping hand. The Southern Alps, the tallest mountain range in the Southern Hemisphere, cause a rain shadow effect that shelters the vineyards from the prevailing westerlies generated in the Pacific Ocean. Vineyards find a weathered safe harbor in the east. On the downside, water is scarce and irrigation essential.

Midway along the eastern coast of the South Island is the capital city of Christchurch and the rolling, breezy plains of Canterbury, the home of Mt. Beautiful Winery. Canterbury’s vineyards are planted primarily in shallow, stony alluvial topsoil consisting of sand, limestone, schist and loam, overlaying deep free-draining glacial gravels from Jurassic periods long ago. These soils possess low-to-moderate fertility and absorb heat during the day that is slowly released throughout the chilly nights. Vine roots’ rocky heat regulators. Here the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive, alongside elegant and expressive Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

In a country where sheep residents outnumber their human counterparts 10 to 1, there is plenty of open range for farming and viniculture. Kiwis have made the most of it. Their wines are brilliant, expressive and unique. At every opportunity, I would unequivocally recommend exploring these wine regions and varietals. You will not be disappointed! And you can confidently commence exploration at Mt. Beautiful Winery ..."

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Two Great Blog Posts by Stacy Briscoe of Briscoe Bites

Stacy Briscoe, Briscoe Bites - January 8, 2018 (photo: Briscoe Bites) 

SF based food and wine blogger, Stacy Briscoe, included Mt. Beautiful's 2015 Pinot Noir in her post "The Pinot Noir Style Spectrum," and also wrote an informative stand alone review on our 2015 Pinot Noir you can read here! 

"New Zealand’s winemaking history dates back to the colonial days, when the British first settled on the tiny island. But it wasn’t until the 1960s and into the 1970s that New Zealand became a presence on the winemaking map. At this time there was an influx of New Zealanders traveling abroad to Europe, experiencing the wines and vines of that continent, and bringing home with them the knowledge and the passion to put their own “kiwi” twist on the Old World’s drink.

Though the New Zealand wine industry is quite tiny, producing less than 1% of the world’s wine, it is home to 11 different wine regions. And while the country’s “claim to wine fame” may be Sauvignon Blanc (indeed, nearly 70% of New Zealand’s vines are planted to the white grape, totaling about 200,000 tons harvested each year), there are certain regions where other grapes — like Pinot Noir — can claim a small kingdom.

The southern island’s coastal Canterbury/North Canterbury is one such region. Protected by the Southern Alps, rainfall is limited and sunshine is abundant. Though day temperatures can get quite hot, especially in the summers, the cooling breezes from the ocean provide a diurnal shift, allowing for even ripening — even for the picky Pinot grape.

When it comes to soil types, the terrain is quite diverse. Pinot Noir seems to thrive best near the Waipara Valley which combines gravel and limestone clay soils along the hillsides framing the Waipara River. This terroir reduces the vigor of the vines, producing low yields of intense fruit.

About the Wine: The Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Noir is made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes harvested from the estate’s southern-most vineyard which, according to the winery, has the highest elevation, allowing for extra warmth and less frost exposure.

All fruit was hand-picked, de-stemmed, and left to cold soak for seven days. Individual blocks were fermented separately with twice daily punch downs. The grapes were then pressed and juices transferred to oak barrels. The wine aged in 100% French oak barrels (25% new), undergoing secondary, malolactic fermentation while in barrel. The wine was racked once and fined with egg whites before bottling. 14% ABV

Flavor Profile: Open this bottle of Mt. Beautiful and breathe in aromas of dank wetness, dark fruits, muddy soils, wet rubber, and bits and pieces of woody herbs — a bit like a forbidden tropical forest. The Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Noir is a dusty light rouge on the pour, settling into the glass just a shade darker — more like a maroon jewel. Initial aromas are of the dank funkiness of an oak barrel cave, along with scents of rosewater perfume, and a delicate acidity. Swirl, and the Pinot Noir opens up to some green herbal notes like eucalyptus, basil and spearmint along with fruit scents of bright fresh cherries.

On the palate, the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Noir is smooth like butter until about a quarter of the way when embedded spices begin to prickle the tongue. Tannins come forward about a half way through, but stay toward the back, as hazy as staring toward the horizon — creating that line, that backbone, that point of reference, but never disturbing the elements surrounding it.

Dominant flavors are of red cherries, orange blossoms, blood orange, and dull baking spices like nutmeg and, towards the finish, perhaps a bit of white pepper. With its fairly light tannins and amplifying acidity, this light to medium bodied red wine finishes on a lingering note. Indeed there’s a prickle and tickle of spices along the tongue that will have you yearning for another sip.

Food Pairing: I paired the Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Noir with a grilled salmon on top of a persimmon salad. One thing I will note here is that the wine opened up as the evening progressed, revealing fuller, plusher fruits that further hazed that tannic line. A sip of wine at this point was like taking a bit into a cherry bursting with juices — thin skin and all. This means that the silky, oily texture of the salmon filet absolutely complemented this Pinot Noir.

What I liked about the salad portion of this pairing was that the earthy sweetness of the persimmons brought out the funky earth elements in the wine. The salad greens highlighted that little spice kick at the end, in a most enticing way."

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Decanter: New Zealand Chardonnay Panel Tasting Results

Rebecca Gibb MW, Decanter - January 4, 2018 

Mt. Beautiful received a rating of "91 Points and Highly Recommended" for our 2016 Chardonnay in Decanter's New Zealand Chardonnay panel tasting. We found what the reviewers had to say about the tasting particularly interesting, as it relates to the general region where our wines are grown - Canterbury!  

"Nelson and Canterbury were the pick of the regions; elsewhere our panel would like to have seen more of the fruit and less of the winemaking," reports Amy Wislocki

2016 Mt. Beautiful Chardonnay   |   91 Points, Highly Recommended 
"Lovely fruit concentration on the nose leads to a lingering palate full of stone fruit and
moreish complexity. Good crispness and it will evolve with time, despite the touch of heat on the finish. Drink 2018-2021 Alc 14.5%"

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92 Points - 2016 Mt. Beautiful Chardonnay

TheShout, Cameron Douglas - December 5, 2017 

Here's a review on our 2016 Mt. Beautiful Chardonnay written by New Zealand based wine writer, Cameron Douglas in The Shout. 

92 POINTS 

"Attractive and familiar Chardonnay bouquet with a mix of white-fleshed fruits and citrus layered between a mineral and oak core. Youthful, fresh and plush. On the palate – youthful with vibrant ripe acidity showing off the citrus then white peach and minerality. Balanced use of oak adding just a hint of woodiness and decent layer of complexity; lengthy finish and very well made. Best drinking 2018 through 2025."

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Wine on Demand? Rating Bottles from Blue Apron, Hello Fresh & Caviar

Bloomberg, Elin McCoy - November 13, 2017 

As consumers get more and more used to expecting top-tier food delivered promptly to their doorsteps, why not wine, too?

The U.S. is now deep in the throes of a food home-delivery mania that goes way beyond a pepperoni pizza arriving at your door in 30 minutes. I’m talking about the billions-of-dollars-a-year meal-kit business as well as the dozens of restaurant takeout apps aiming to appeal to millions of busy, busy people.

What’s been missing—until recently—is wine on demand, delivered with both.

The cooking-kit company pioneering wine is Blue Apron, which added bottles to its mix two years ago, partly because customers asked for it and partly to woo them back when they dropped out. Poor retention was one of the reasons for the company’s lackluster June initial public offering.

Berlin-based Hello Fresh, which has a presence in 10 countries, launched its wine plan in the U.S. in May. It priced its IPO in November.

The Dom Pérignon delivery app.Source: Dom Pérignon
Expect more meal-kit companies to pile on. All-organic Sun Basket says vino offerings are part of its future strategy. Martha Stewart’s meal kit, Martha & Marley Spoon, is cross-promoting with Martha’s new wine website for bottles to go with the $160 complete Thanksgiving feast box. (Preview: the 2015 Pretium malbec from Cahors, made by Georges Vigoureux, in the Thanksgiving pack is terrific.)

Adding wine to your restaurant takeout order, on the other hand, is very much in the early stages, largely because of current alcohol regulations, which vary from state to state.

Are They Any Good?

But let’s start with meal kit wines: How are they?

If you’ve never signed up for a meal-kit system, here’s what you get: a weekly box packed with premeasured and chopped fresh ingredients, recipe cards, and step-by-step instructions for two to three dinners, as well as suggested wine pairings.

So Blue Apron and Hello Fresh were well-primed for the next step—providing actual bottles. Both programs are structured like wine clubs: You receive a box of six wines designed to go with the month’s recipes for a set price.

After tasting selections from both, I’d rate Blue Apron’s house wines as the clear winners. They’re way more sophisticated in taste and packaging.

Made by some of the West Coast’s star winemakers, such as Napa’s Steve Matthiasson and Helen Keplinger (in conjunction with Blue Apron’s own winemaker), exclusively to complement the company’s recipes, they’re bottled in California. Blue Apron holds a winery license, so the bottles can be legally shipped to 32 states, including New York.

Wines offered by home delivery service Hello Fresh.Source: Hello Fresh
I’m also a huge fan of their cute, 500 ml bottles, the equivalent of two-thirds of a standard one—perfect for two when you have reports to review after dinner.

Cost? A reasonable $65.99, including shipping, plus tax, for six bottles, or about $11 each. All come with pairing info and flavor profiles. Labels carry a convenient flavor symbol—a yellow diamond stands for crisp and minerally—that matches the one on appropriate meal recipes.

Of the dozen I sampled, the best were the tangy Mt. Beautiful pinot noir from New Zealand and spicy, fruity Medel pinot noir from Oregon, plus zingy Uvaggio Vermentino, savory, delicious white blends from Matthiasson, Vermillion, and De Sante L’Atelier, and a bright, minerally chardonnay labeled Le P’tit Paysan. (Note: You can also purchase these without buying a meal kit.)

Hello Fresh’s wine model is slightly different; it partners with online bargain retailer Lot 18, which buys from winemakers around the world, bottling the wines at its California winery. A Lot 18 buyer works with the Hello Fresh culinary team, hunting down reds and whites that are highly versatile to match with Hello Fresh recipes.

Monthly cost is $89.00 for six regular 750 ml bottles, about $15 each including shipping.

All those I tasted were pleasant, well-made entry-level wines with two standouts, the rich, lush Lustra Pinot Blanc from Monterey County and easy-to-like Voilà pinot noir.

The next meal-kit wine player will surely be giant Amazon.

As Bloomberg reported, the internet behemoth has already filed a trademark application for prepared food kits, after purchasing Whole Foods Market Inc., with 470 stores in dozens of states and a stellar, sommelier-headed wine program. Among the latest bottles on its shelves is a white made for it by star Italian winery in Piemonte, G.D. Vajra.

Meal Delivery, Plus Vino

But meal-kit companies aren’t the only businesses pushing to get wine pairings to your door. Apps for restaurant takeout are adding wine to go—at least where they can. San Francisco-based TryCaviar.com, now in 21 cities, is signing up top spots as fast as possible. You can order private-label Greek wines from San Francisco fast-casual spot Souvla, for example, but, sadly, because of New York State liquor regulations that bar restaurants from retailing wine, none of the stellar bottles on the list are at New York’s Charlie Bird. At least not yet.

In fact, getting wine delivered to your home or apartment as fast as possible has become yet another craving of the instant-gratification crowd. After all, you may suddenly need a special bottle while watching Netflix and chilling.

Half a dozen apps promise to bring you wines in less than an hour; in the U.K., Booze-Up claims it will get to you in 15 minutes, but the selections of spirits and wine are pretty ordinary. Minibar lists 387 wines and delivers in 60 minutes or less. Most wines are obvious inexpensive picks, such as Ménage à Trois red, but there are some top labels such as Domaine Drouhin pinot noir from Oregon and Grgich Hills Cabernet from Napa. The Liquor Cabinet delivers only spirits and cocktail makings.

Far better to turn to a luxury wine company. In partnership with delivery company Thirstie, Dom Pérignon launched one-hour delivery of rare vintages in New York and Miami this summer, and just last week it expanded to San Francisco and Palo Alto. If you’re craving the 2006 DP or the 1998 P2, just go todomperignon.com on your phone, get out your credit card, make a few clicks, and set out some glasses.

Now if only it offered caviar to go, too.

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Mt. Beautiful's U.S. Running Team Nails The Half!

South Pacific Pacers Team Photo Mt Beautiful Winery

The U.S. is our largest export market, where we also have a dedicated staff focused on growing Mt. Beautiful’s distribution across the country, as well as its brand awareness.

Naturally our team in New Zealand has firsthand and immediate interaction with the core of our brand (vineyards, winery and farms). The U.S. team relies on communication from our New Zealand teammates, to keep us informed on what’s going on.

Although the U.S. team can’t participate in the spontaneous staff BBQs known to happen from time to time in the vineyard or an afternoon quad outing, they come up with their own ways to build camaraderie and have fun. A few examples include lunching at a local account to show support, the occasional SF Bay outing on Mt. Beautiful’s owner’s yacht, or the annual sales and marketing retreat, which last year was held in scenic Lake Tahoe!

With a “work hard play hard” culture encouraged in both countries by CEO Robert Watkins, it was a win when Mt. Beautiful’s Marketing Manager, Suzanna Mannion, pitched the idea of forming a Mt. Beautiful U.S. running team for the Headlsburg Half Marathon slated for October 2017.

Sadly, due to the devastating wildfires that took Sonoma and Napa counties by storm, the Healdsburg Half Marathon was canceled. That didn’t stop the U.S. running team ("South Pacific Pacers") from getting together and cashing in on the months of running conditioning they endured.

Instead of letting their training go to waste, they quickly registered for another Bay Area half marathon in Redwood City. While this running event didn’t end in an epic wine party that the Healdsburg Half Marathon promised, they still celebrated their accomplishment over lunch and enjoyed some Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc post run in the parking lot.

South Pacific Pacers Running Team on Curb

In 2018 they are looking to reform the U.S. running team (and add team members), while showing support for the wine country located in their own "back yard." If you're angling to run the 2018 Healdsburg Half Marathon, click HERE to send an email to Suzanna.

hburg half a

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Polish Comfort Food & Sauvignon Blanc

Wine & Wonder, Robin Shreeves - October 22, 2017 

I spent last weekend laughing my ass off with three wonderful friends - Cheri, Lisa and Dina. I met them at summer camp when I was in high school, more than just a couple of years ago at this point. Now, we get together at least once a year to eat good food, drink good wine, enjoy the outdoors, and play card games that leave us in tears of laughter till late at night.

My friends all grew up in the Poconos where a large Polish population lives. Dishes like homemade pierogies and haluski were common in their homes (but definitely in mine). They decided to put these foods on the menu for one of our weekend meals. And I decided to do what I do best in these situations. I brought the wine.

Research led me to choosing Sauvignon Blanc, based on a recommendation from DeliPair. Put a link to a recipe in the website's search bar, and it suggests a wine based on the ingredients. The website suggested a Sauv Blanc from either Chile or New Zealand to complement the cabbage, butter, and spices in the food.

I had a bottle of Mt. Beautiful 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand sitting on my wine rack so I added that to the other wines I chose to take for the weekend, and off I went. 

Lisa was mid-dumpling making when I arrived, and the kitchen smelled like a delicious time was about to be had. The dumplings were added to butter-sauteed cabbage for the haluski. She also made panache - potatoes and cheese spread between two thin layers of dough, baked in the oven and then spread with butter while still hot. Cheri brought homemade pierogies - more cheese, potatoes, and butter. Jalapeno cheddar kielbasa rounded out the dinner.

So what we had - besides a whole lot of yum - was something very rich, very buttery, and very fatty. Enter a crisp, lemony, acidic Sauvignon Blanc to cut through the heaviness and balance it all out. The pairing worked.

The Mt. Beautiful 2016 Sauvignon Blanc is bright with the aroma of grass, flowers and stone, with minerality, lemon, and some melon on the palate and a mouth-watering acidity. Depending on where you purchase it, this bottle falls into the $15-$18 range.

The winery, which is located in the Canterbury region on the South Island - where a lot of wonderful Sauvignon Blanc comes from - has a commitment to sustainability that I really appreciate.

Sustainable farming methods are a core value behind Mt. Beautiful's success; the vineyards and winery are certified-sustainable. In the vineyard, the team uses minimal input—they tread very carefully, using things like motorbikes to pull the mowers and harvesting by hand. Lush ground cover acts as host plants for parasitic wasps that naturally keep pests under control. Flowers and other plants attract beneficial insects in and around the grapevine rows. Additionally, after these helpful plants have flowered and served their purpose, their organic matter adds nutrients to the soil.

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Wine, Etc... Don't Be Afraid of Picking Wine for Holiday Parties

Capital Gazette, Wine, Etc ... Patrick Darr and Tom Marquardt 

October 18, 2017 

Please to be featured in this article! 

"There was a time when Halloween was for kids. Now it's also for adults who want to be kids. With many kids thankfully long gone from the nest and thus unable to witness the debauchery, adults don absurd costumes and party. When else can fear and death be so celebrated?

We've been to our share of Halloween parties and frankly they scare us. All these otherwise normal people dressed in expensive goblin garb or outfitted with bed sheets and face paint is enough to make us duck under the covers. But, after a few drinks, even the guy with the bloody axe seems to be hilarious.

If you are attending one of these feral soirees, why not complete the package with a scary wine? ... 

We recently tasted two current wines from Mt. Beautiful Winery from the North Canterbury region on the South Island of New Zealand. The Mt. Beautiful Rose 2016 ($15) is made from 100 percent pinot noir grapes and exhibits a luscious mouth filling cherry, strawberry, and watermelon nose and flavors.

We also enjoyed the Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 2015 ($26) that displayed bright cherry and cranberry elements with just a hint of elegant oak. A great package! Both of these wines are worthy of consideration."

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