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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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Pour Heavier, Richer White Wines as Fall Settles In

The Times-Tribune, Dave Falcheck

Even as the weather cools and the air gets a bite to it, we don’t need to abandon white wines just yet.

Now is the time to reach for heavier, richer and spicier white wines as the leaves start to drop.

White grapes that originate in Rhône — such as the trinity of marsanne, roussanne and viognier — tend to make richer wines whose texture comes from the grape rather than oak aging.

Blindfold 2015 California White Wine offers a kitchen-sink blend of fall-ready grapes — chardonnay, roussanne, viognier, grenache blanc, marsanne and chenin blanc — and offers a viscous mouthful of baked apple and spice with a round texture and ripe finish. The wine shows a bit of creaminess and sweet oak from aging. $32.

A perennial favorite of mine is Priest Ranch Grenache Blanc. Made from a grape that is a mutation of the red grenache, Priest Ranch Napa Valley 2016 Grenache Blanc is a complete package with smells of starfruit, a rich texture and tropical notes. Yet, it manages to pull off a clean finish that crackles like dried leaves. Sadly, there are only a few of these left in the Pennsylvania system in an older vintage. $12. 1/2

I tried going back to Rhône for a deal but came up empty-handed. Cave de Tain Première Note Marsanne is dry and unfocused, with elementary tree fruit character and acidic finish for an anonymous, dry white wine. $12.

You would do better with another selection, such as a blend or Côte du Rhône Villages Blanc to try these grapes at the source.

Fall is the best time to enjoy a style of wine I usually avoid: oaky chardonnay. Substitute your pumpkin spice with oak spice in a wine such as Mt. Beautiful North Canterbury 2015 Chardonnay, which is fermented and aged in oak but in way that doesn’t result in a woody wine. The fruit in this New Zealand wine is so loaded with apple and nectarine character that it stands up to the buttery notes and oak spice. It almost tastes like a mulled wine. Even when it is cold, it tastes warm. $15.

Other suggestions for fall favorites include the off-dry Vouvray, made with fall-friendly grape chenin blanc. German wines that lean sweeter, such as riesling or sylvaner, are great this time of year by themselves.

DAVID FALCHEK, executive director of the American Wine Society, reviews wines each week. Link to article here. 

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Filtering Our Riesling

Here is a photo of our filtration equipment, shared by our Assistant Winemaker Ben Weaver, while filtering our Riesling wine. Filtration is one of two common treatments, the other being fining, that can help finish or polish a wine just before bottling. These processes also have the potential of changing the phenolics in the wine. Our Winemaker and Assistant Winemaker make the call on which course of action they'll take which each wine. 

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New Zealand Wines Shine in the Shade of Mt. Beautiful

North Winds Wine Travel, Hilarie Larson

"New Zealand wine shines in the shade of Mount Beautiful"

​New Zealand is the epitome of ‘New World’ wine; innovative, eager, fresh and adventurous. Blazing new trails is nothing new in the world’s most southerly wine region.

The famous Southern Alps provide a much needed rain shadow for the vineyards of Mount Beautiful Winery in North Canterbury, New Zealand. photo courtesy of New Zealand Winegrowers www.nzwine.com

​‘Noble grapes’ (vitis vinefera) made their first appearance almost 100 years ago, in 1819, thanks to Church of England missionary Rev. Samuel Marsden, who planted vines on the North Island. The first wines, however, were created by James Busby, known as the ‘Father of Australian Wines’, thanks to his importation of vine cuttings from France and Spain. When he was posted to New Zealand in 1833, he brought a selection of the vines and produced his first vintage in 1836.

For decades, New Zealand’s most prevalent variety was an American grape, Isabella, that produced mostly sweet and fortified wines for local consumption. By the 1960’s and 70’s, vineyards began to expand to cooler regions and these obscure varieties were replaced with higher quality vinifera. One of the biggest influences occurred in the 1980’s, thanks to a young, government viticulturist by the name of Dr. Richard Smart. His bold, new ideas centered around ‘canopy management’ (the canopy being the leaves of the vine) and how it could be utilized to balance the growth of the plant and control yields. These ‘modern’ techniques are now commonly implemented around the wine-world.

Vineyard site selection became more important and many growers were drawn to the Southern Island with its cooler climate. New Zealand wines began to rise in quality and quantity, making export, especially of their trademark Sauvignon Blanc, a reality.

New Zealand, the world's most southerly wine grown region, hosts award winning vineyards on both the north and south islands. 

​Today, vines are planted in 9 growing regions on both the North and South Islands. While officially in a temperate climate zone, the entire region is subject to huge maritime influences. The oceans moderate the temperatures, but also bring moisture, humidity and winds like the strong, westerly ‘Roaring 40’s’.

For this reason, the majority of the vineyards on the South Islands are planted on the gentle, undulating, western slopes of the Southern Alps, a chain of 18 high mountain peaks that form the ‘spine’ of the island. The mountains shield the vines from extreme winds, giving the area a long, dry growing season with plentiful sun.

The region of Canterbury/North Canterbury has been acclaimed by Decanter Magazine, as‘ the center of the finest Pinot Noir in the Southern hemisphere.’ yet it is still unknown by many wine lovers. Thanks to Mt. Beautiful Winery, that is all about to change.

David Teece, owner and founder of Mount Beautiful Winery, spent years searching for the perfect expression of New Zealand's many unique terroirs. photo courtesy of

​In the early 2000s, New Zealand native and renowned economic scholar David Teece, went in search of an ‘off the radar’, unique spot where he could start a vineyard and return to his family farming roots. In true, pioneering spirit, he finally located four farms in North Canterbury. The land was a mix of soft slopes and steep hills, with gullies and flats and a myriad of soil types. The farms lay in the shadow of Mount Beautiful.

Vines, an array of 30 different clones matched to the individual terroir, were planted in 2003 through 2005. Sauvignon Blanc is the most prolific and planted in the cooler, northern blocks, while Pinot Gris enjoys the warmer, north facing hills of silt and clay. The first variety to be bottled was Riesling, also planted in the higher elevations and sheltered by neighboring pine forests. Chardonnay joined the portfolio in 2013, but it’s the Pinot Noir, nestled in the warmer, southern sections, that really embody what Mt Beautiful is all about..

At a recent event, I had a chance to sample some of the latest vintages and enjoy a few perfect food pairings.

2016 Mt Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc
Not your typical ‘grassy, kiwi’ New Zealand take, but a more sophisticated and elegant, Bordeaux style. A small portion was barrel fermented, lending a nice balance between soft mango and ripe, tropical nuances and the slightly zesty kumquat notes on the finish. The pairing was a blueberry, nectarine and cream cheese galette, which accentuated the fruit character of the wine.

2015 Mt Beautiful Pinot Gris
Classic stone fruit aromas of peach and pear met with fresh cut hay and white florals that lingered through to the surprisingly full finish. Seeded whole-wheat crackers topped with chèvre and apricot preserves were a pitch perfect pairing.

2015 Mt Beautiful Pinot Noir
More Old World than New, with raspberry and dark strawberry notes, tinged with fresh thyme, fresh forest floor and light toast notes. Very easy to drink as an ‘apéro’ wine but food friendly, too. Paired nicely with Sweet Peppers stuffed with a herbed cream cheese.

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Mt. Beautiful: Beautiful Wines from Mt. Beautiful

Napa Valley Register and Please the Palate, Allison Levine

"I was sitting in an outdoor patio in Healdsburg on a classically beautiful early afternoon. The sun was shining, a nice breeze was blowing and I ordered oysters. With the briny, delicate oysters, a natural pairing is a crisp, acidic sauvignon blanc.

Although I was in Sonoma, I found myself sipping a sauvignon blanc from Mt. Beautiful from North Canterbury in New Zealand. While it is not uncommon to find New Zealand wines throughout the U.S., there is a connection between Mt. Beautiful in New Zealand and California.

David Teece, founder of Mt. Beautiful, is a New Zealand native who lives in Berkeley, California. Raised in Lower Moutere along the Tasman Bay on the South Island of New Zealand, Teece’s father started a trucking company that transported items from outlying farms to the cities. His father also purchased a fallow quarter-acre lot next to their home, which Teece and his brother cultivated crops.

Growing up in the outdoors and working with nature are normal activities in New Zealand. But Teece left to study economics and geology at University of Canterbury. He pursued a career in academics and today is the Tusher Professor in Global Business at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, as well as the director of the Tusher Center for Intellectual Capital. Writing more than 30 books and 200 scholarly papers and co-editor of the Palgrave Encyclopedia of Strategic Management, Teece is considered one of the world’s most cited scholars in business and economics.

Settled and living in Berkeley, Teece’s love for the outdoors and enjoyment of risky endeavors led him to look for a location in New Zealand to plant grapes. Consulting with his friend Ron Sutherland, a geologist and vineyard consultant, Teece wanted to grow grapes in New Zealand where no one had done it before. Sutherland explored the northern part of the South Island, which includes the Marlborough and Waipara regions. Ultimately, he found a place that no one had yet planted, North Canterbury.

Canterbury is a region in the middle of the South Island with Christchurch as the main city. Famous as a location used in filming “The Lord of the Rings,” vineyards were first established on the Canterbury Plains in 1978. Waipara Valley in Northern Canterbury, 40 minutes north of Christchurch, was first planted in the 1980s. Mt. Beautiful is even farther north of Waipara, on the northern tip of the North Canterbury wine region, approximately an hour and a half north of Christchurch.

Ron Sutherland had located an awesome site that consisted of four farms and Teece purchased the property in 2003. This area of North Canterbury had not been planted to grapes yet but he and Teece saw something special. They named the wines Mt. Beautiful after the series of mountains of the same name that are along the coastal range to the east.

The vineyard sits below the mountains that protect it from the winds from the Pacific Ocean. It has a cool maritime climate with hot summers with Nor West winds and cooler winters. The property is home to a variety of microclimates with 23 different soil profiles, including silt loam, clay, mudstone and alluvia gravel. With these characteristics, Teece achieves his goal to produce distinctive wines.

Today, there are approximately 180 acres planted to vines and Mt. Beautiful produces riesling (planted in 2005), sauvignon blanc (planted in 2004-2006), pinot gris (planted 2005-2006), chardonnay (planted 2006-2011), rosé of pinot noire and pinot noir (planted 2004-2013).

— Mt. Beautiful 2015 Riesling, North Canterbury – Riesling was the first wine that Mt. Beautiful produced and it is a gorgeous wine. On the nose, there are aromas of grapefruit, stone fruit and white flowers, as well as a flinty note. And on the palate, the wine has citrus, apple and mineral notes with bright acidity. There is a bit of residual sugar in this wine and yet the acidity balances it out. This is a perfect wine to pair with a spicy dish.

— Mt. Beautiful 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, North Canterbury – Not all New Zealand sauvignon blanc tastes like a green grass herb garden and this is one of those. A small portion of the juice is fermented in new and used barrels and is aged on the lees for nine months. The resulting wine showcases tropical flavors and floral aromatics and is bright and crisp with a creamy mid-palate. This wine is a beautiful match for shellfish, especially oysters.

— Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Gris, North Canterbury – The pinot gris is a blend of some grapes picked early for good acidity and some grapes picked later for concentration. The resulting wine has intense floral, tropical fruit and pear aromas and intense acidity and minerality on the finish. The wine has a lovely mouthfeel and can be enjoyed with grilled salmon or chicken.

Mt. Beautiful 2015 Chardonnay, North Canterbury – A well-balanced wine, this chardonnay is picked in three batches according to ripeness. Part of the juice is barrel fermented which goes through partial malolactic fermentation and part is fermented in stainless steel and then the wine is aged for nine months on the lees. The resulting wine has aromas of stone fruits and apple that continue onto the palate. There is also a hint of roasted almonds and brioche on the palate, as well as a touch of flintiness. The creamy texture with elegant acidity make this a wine to also enjoy with salmon and chicken.

— Mt. Beautiful 2016 Rosé, North Canterbury – The rose is made from pinot noir that was pressed off after a short period of skin contact and then fermented. A bright pink color, the wine has notes of red berries and on the palate is crisp and fresh with notes of grapefruit, bright acidity and minerality.

— Mt. Beautiful 2015 Pinot Noir, North Canterbury – On the nose, the pinot noir has classic notes of raspberry, cherry, red currant and violet. On the palate, it is a smooth wine with notes of black cherry and white pepper. The pinot noir is a medium-bodied wine with intense acidity that makes it ideal to enjoy with salmon, lamb, duck or pork."

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92 Points! 2015 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir!

2015 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir 
92 points, Editor's Choice - Christina Pickard, Wine Enthusiast

"This Pinot, from the cool climes of the unsung region of North Canterbury, is downright sultry. This shows a dense nose of blue fruit, cherry, chocolate, baking spice and violets, while the palate slinks with tart cherry and earth, hugged by elegant, fine grained tannins and a long, chocolatey finish. Drink now–2022. Mt. Beautiful USA. Editors’ Choice. —C.P." 

View Wine Enthusiast's December 2017 Buying Guide here

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Las Vegas and Southern California's Food & Beverage Professional's Magazine

 Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional's Magazine,  Bob Barnes

"Mt. Beautiful Wines from New Zealand

Appreciation for New Zealand wine continues to increase, and for good reason, as the region’s maritime climate provides vineyards with extended sunshine hours and cool night sea breezes provide a long, slow ripening period resulting in flavor growth. A worthy example is the wines of Mt. Beautiful, a North
Canterbury winery located on the South Island of New Zealand. 100% estate grown and certified sustainable, production is focused on Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir but also smaller quantities of Pinot Gris, Riesling, Chardonnay and Rose are produced.

The Sauvignon Blanc pushes the boundaries of the typical New Zealand flavor profile, highlighting tropical flavors, toning down the grassiness with a crisp finish with bright minerality.

The Pinot Gris combines stone fruit, apples, juicy ripe pears, and a touch of floral honey with a persistent finish. The Chardonnay features aromatics of ripe apple, stone fruits, and nectarines, and has a creamy texture that makes it easy to drink, with underlying notes of
buttered brioche.

Unlike some Rieslings, Mt. Beautiful’s is not overly sweet, and has dry flavors of honeysuckle, lime and wintersweet flower and finishes with a lingering acidity. The Pinot Noir, the personal favorite of owner David Teece, begins with fragrances of black cherries and violets followed by a palate of ripe bramble
fruit and subtle tannins.

The traditionally made Rosé is produced from Pinot Noir juice that was pressed off after a period of light contact and fermented in barrel and tank. The 2016 vintage boasts floral notes and intense sweet red berry aromas, and a creamy and dry palate with hints of watermelon and pink grapefruit."

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Beautiful Wines From Mt. Beautiful New Zealand

Food Wine Travel Chix, Linda Milks

Exploring wines from around the world is always a delight, and on a pleasant Sunday afternoon the Wine Review Council sat down to see what the North Canterbury region on the South Island of New Zealand had to offer. Mt. Beautiful Winery lies at the foot of its namesake, Mt. Beautiful, part of the coastal range to the east that protects the vineyards from ocean winds. (By the way, a bit of trivia is that about 90% of New Zealand wines have screw caps.)

Wine Review Council
Each member of our wine council brings a pairing for one of the wines we sample. Often we find different pairings work just as well if not better than the one we chose. Three of the wines stood out to us which will be what I want to share with you.

Our favorite wine of the afternoon was the Pinot Gris ($18.99). Pinot Gris isn’t a favorite varietal of mine, but this one was delicious. The first thing I noticed was the floral fragrance of jasmine. A sip fills your palate with a lush roundness of ripe pears, apples, and stone fruit. One of the things I liked the most was the long finish with a minerality to it. Our group paired it with Nut & Fruit Crisps topped with Chevre and Apricot Compote. This was a perfect pairing that complemented the stone fruit and creaminess of the wine.

Our second choice was the 2016 Sauvignon Blanc ($15.99). This wine is composed of clones from California and a fourth of the clones are from Bordeaux. The Bordeaux clones lift up the flavor and lessen the cut grass typical of Sauvignon Blanc. Again, our noses picked up floral aromatics with flavors of tropical fruits like melon, guava, and honeydew. The Sauvignon Blanc is creamy on the mid-palate and has a crispness at the end. We noticed more grassiness as the wine opened up. The Sauvignon Blanc was paired with a Nectarine and Blueberry Cream Galette, another good pairing that complemented the fruit and creaminess of this good wine.

The third wine that we enjoyed was the 2015 Pinot Noir ($24.99). Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varietals, so I was excited to try one from this New Zealand region. Violets and blackberries greet your nose. My palate picked up cherry and blackberries as well as earth. I find in Pinot Noir the terroir (composed of climate, soil, and terrain) is one of the most telling and interesting aspects of the varietal, and this one had its own special earthiness. Our group paired a crostini topped with bacon, fig jam, and cream cheese. Another delicious pairing.

Wine Line Up: 
Once I have had the opportunity to taste some unusual and delicious wines, I want more information about the wines. To learn more about the winery and its history as well as more of their wines, go to Mt. Beautiful’s website at http://mtbeautiful.co.nz/.

To find these wines online for purchase in the United States, I went to http://www.finewinehouse.com/.

Happy drinking of some beautiful wines from down under

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Mt. Beautiful Sauv Blanc at Robert Irvine's Public House

Drink This of Vegas Seven, Bob Barnes

A Few Sips From the Beverage Program at Robert Irvine’s Public House

Last May, celebrity chef Robert Irvine drew attention to his announcement of plans for a dining concept at the Tropicana when he rappelled 22 stories down the side of the resort. Now, a year later, the Food Network TV star and host of the syndicated talk show The Robert Irvine Show opens his first Las Vegas restaurant, Robert Irvine’s Public House, on July 27.

The 275-seat space, situated on the northern side of Tropicana’s casino floor, offers a varied beverage program. As the eatery’s motto is “There is no greater happiness than a full pint and a full plate,” it should come as no surprise that beer is a star, with 32 taps and 30 cans and bottles offered. The selection includes brews that are not the usual suspects on the Strip, such as Prairie BOMB Imperial Stout, Evil Twin Old Fashioned Lemonade IPA, Unibroue La Fin du Monde and Mikkeller Beer Geek Dessert. Local beers are not left out, with the likes of Able Baker Brewing IPA and Chris Kael Impale’d Ale, as well as Tenaya Creek 702 Pale Ale, Hauling Oats Oatmeal Stout and Bonanza Brown Ale.

More than a dozen signature cocktails are available, and as Patrón is Irvine’s spirit of choice, you’ll likely be enjoying El Karma—Patrón Reposado, Mixwell Mojave Grapefruit Soda, lime wedges, grapefruit peel and chili aleppo salt. The restaurant also has a namesake cocktail, the P.H.T. (Public House Tonic), a concoction with Plymouth Gin, Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic, a cucumber strip, lemon and lime wheels and fresh mint. Irvine emphasizes that all of the libations are made with fresh fruit and vegetables. Several cocktails use beet or carrot vodka from Boardroom Spirits—“a line of vodkas, gin, Scotch and bourbon—and we’ll be using all of them,” he says. Irvine is a partner in the company.

Oenophiles have options of red, white and sparkling, with an emphasis on California and Pacific Northwest wineries, along with selections from Italy, New Zealand and France. Brand highlights include Eroica Riesling, Whispering Angel Rosé, Argyle Pinot Noir, Stags’ Leap Artemis Cabernet and Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc.

“We have something for everyone and a lot of drinks you won’t find anywhere else,” Irvine says. “I want people to get out of their comfort zones and try something different. And you’ll be able to enjoy a good drink and a good meal and not have to spend your mortgage.” 

Read the entire article here.

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Bigger Than Your Head: Wine of the Day No. 277

Bigger Than Your Head, Frederic Koeppel, July 2017 

"No kissy-face little princess of complacency, here’s a pinot gris from New Zealand that will make you take it and yourself seriously. It’s also quite delicious. The Mt. Beautiful Pinot Gris 2015, North Canterbury, fermented and aged in a combination of old oak barrels and stainless steel tanks, producing a pale pale gold wine that deftly balances an appealing almost lush, talc-like texture with the litheness and fleet crispness of bright acidity. 

Aromas of heather and hay, roasted lemon and lemon balm, lime peel and grapefruit get a big assist from burgeoning notes of damp flint and limestone, with an ineffable wafting of lilac and graphite. On the palate, structure is the main event, fashioned along the lines of bracing salinity and seashell-chalk-limestone minerality; while squaring your shoulders for that admittedly supple onslaught — and this is a shatteringly dry wine — enjoy the tasty and attractive flavors of fresh apples and spiced pears, all aimed toward a finish of cloves, steel and grapefruit rind. 

The slight tension between texture and structure keeps the wine lively and exciting. 14.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to ’21 with grilled fish, seafood risotto or, a favorite at our house, cod stew with leeks, potatoes and chorizo. Production was 1,450 cases. Excellent. About $19."

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Laying the Groundwork for the 2018 Vintage

It seems like just yesterday that the vineyard was covered in lush green vines as far as the eye could see. Now, it lies dormant in the middle of New Zealand's winter. We have however begun one of the most arduous, careful and resultantly most expensive activities that takes place in the vineyard each year. It lays the groundwork for the next vintage's success ... and that activity is pruning! 

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Best Roses for the Summer Boating Season

Linda Kissam, FoodandWineTravelChix.com, July 2017

Ahoy Matey’s! The summer boating season is officially underway.  What will you be sipping on those easy breezy nautical moments this year?

Rosé wine and food pairings are a natural for the warm summer months – especially when served aboard a boat. Sail, power, or canoe … all offer a perfect setting for a refreshing glass of Rosé.

Rosé wine has made a stunning comeback in the past few years. And why shouldn’t it? Rosés are seductively fun, drinkable wines that are versatile enough to go with a light deck lunch to a knock-out main salon dinner combo. There are enough styles out there to please everyone.

Many Rosés possess excellent flavor profiles.  The best ones are drier and crisper than one might expect – which allows for a full display of flavors and aromas. But there is a place for a wide range of flavors and style, all of which are explored in this article.  Remember, in the end, if YOU like it, it is a winner.

The aromas and flavor of Rosés are primarily influenced by the particular grape varieties used to produce the wine but also the method of production also plays an important part. To make most Rosé wines, red grapes are lightly crushed and left to macerate with their red skins for a little while (anywhere from a few hours to a few days), after which the juice is strained out from the solid stuff (called “must”) and fermented in tanks. A true Rosé is made from red grapes, not a mix of red and white grapes, although there are Rosés offered that have been blended with white grapes to help “punch up” color and taste or present a new style into the market.

Drinking is believing. The world of Rosé wines is made up of flowers and fruits expressing natural freshness. Don’t expect a Rosé wine to present with the strength and the power of red wines, you’ll be disappointed. Do expect summer in a glass; red flowers and fruits. Think watermelon, roses, red currants, and raspberry. On occasion you may pick up lilac, Jolly-Rodger and bubble gum notes.

Pairing Tips

Which foods pair best with Rosés? Rosés are made for warm summer evenings, patio dining, friends and memories. Serve dishes that fit with that kind of setting and you’re on the right road.

Do not pair Rosé wine with foods that will drown out its delicate flavor. So stay clear of: tomato sauces, red meat dishes, butter, heavy creams, eggs, and overpowering aromatic spices.

Light pasta dishes – like linguine with olive oil, garlic, and mussels – make a wonderful choice for roses. Some stuffed pastas work – like a vegetable-stuffed cannelloni, or a ricotta stuffed ravioli. The trick is that if cheese is used, is should be extremely light, mild and neutral in flavor, almost whipped in texture, or otherwise an easily paired, not-pungent cheese.

Seafood dishes that focus on the minimal preparation to let the seafood flavors shine – lobster tail, lightly grilled crab cakes, and shrimp cocktails will complement a well-structured Rosé.

Summer salads of course are also an excellent option – just steer clear of bitter greens like kale that will quickly smoother your Rosé glass with all the wrong flavors. Instead think of water-filled vegetables and fruit like iceberg lettuce, chard, bok choy, clementines, pomegranate kernels, watermelon slices, apple slices, and strawberries.

Summer foods, like tomato salads, olives, and vegetables right off the grill come to mind.  Rosés love impetuous flavors: salty, a little spicy, summer herbs like basil and oregano, and, of course, garlic.  Prosciutto and melon? Perfect. Toasts with tapenade? Even better. Pork sausages right off the grill are terrific with Rosés, grilled vegetables such as peppers, zucchini and eggplant, seasoned with handfuls of basil and sprinkled with good olive oil.

Lastly cheeses.  Many cheeses can be challenging to wines, usually overwhelming their character, but rosés hold up very well to a number of cheeses, especially those of Spain. Try a tangy and earthy Roncal or Idiazabal, a Zamorano or Majorero sheep’s cheese, and finally try one of the many Cabrales blue cheeses now available in the US.

It is now up to you to learn what goes best with Rosés. Keep in mind that Rosés are enjoyed year around, especially by Mediterranean food enthusiasts. They are at their best when served chilled. However, when too cold they lose their delicate aromas and flavors. If served too warm, the residual sugar in many Rosés produce an unpleasant, cloying sensation and the overt fruitiness of the wine can create the sensation of drinking warm punch.

At a recent tasting aboard my Grand Banks boat, I found the following to be amongst the best Rosé wine picks for the summer boating season – for a variety of reasons.  Each has its own place in my on-board bar.   Enjoy!

Rosé Tasting

Comparing domestic and international sparkling, still, blended, single varietal, lo-cal and can.

Mt Beautiful Rosé 2016. $20. New Zealand: I am a big fan of this winery.  This wine is traditionally made from Pinot Noir juice pressed off after light contact and fermented in barrel and tank. Summer floral notes, a hint of herbaceousness and penetrating red berry aromas on the nose. Dry on the palate with good acidity. Juicy watermelon and pink grapefruit notes make this medium bodied wine a winner. Ranked second in the tasting, but a case could easily be made for first place." 

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Arepas with Venezuelan Chicken Salad

By Nicole Ruiz Hudson, Wine Spectator, June 29, 2017

8And20 Arepas062717 1600

"Stuff these simple, satisfying cornmeal cakes with a creamy chicken and apple salad, topped with cheese and avocado, and complemented by a Portuguese white.

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a treat for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

I have a soft spot for arepas.

My parents are both Venezuelan, so I grew up eating the cornmeal cakes common in Venezuela and Colombia. They’re a staple consumed at all hours of the day, whether at home, from street vendors, or at restaurants. Basically, they’re used like bread: served simply with a little cheese or butter, used to make sandwiches, or as an accompaniment for a sit-down family meal.

They're also remarkably easy to make. Arepas are made from a precooked white cornmeal called masarepa. (Note: Masarepa is not interchangeable with other types of cornmeal; masarepa is cooked before it is milled, yielding a finer, more flourlike consistency than regular cornmeal, which is milled raw.) And because they're corn-based, arepas are also gluten free.

Masarepa can be a little difficult to find in many parts of the country, but it's easily purchased online (P.A.N. and Goya are common brands). Simply mix it with water and salt to make a quick arepa dough, which can then be deep-fried or cooked on the stove and finished in the oven, as I’ve done here.

A popular Venezuelan sandwich is the reina pepiada, an arepa stuffed with chicken salad and avocado. The sandwich's name is a tribute to a former Miss World from Venezuela, and it loosely translates as “curvy queen.”

Every home or restaurant might have their own take on this chicken salad. My family’s version takes quite a long time to make, which means it’s not all that feasible for a weeknight. For this rendition, I tried to streamline it as much as possible while still retaining the flavor. To start with, I used a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken to keep things easy. If you’re making it from scratch, the traditional version uses poached chicken, but feel free to use any leftover chicken you have on hand.

Other common additions include boiled potatoes, onions, celery, lemon or lime juice, and red peppers—add any of the above and more, as you like. It’s also common to top the sandwiches with queso blanco (literally “white cheese”), or one of several other Venezuelan fresh cheeses. Alternatives include Mexican cotija, queso fresco, or even mozzarella or feta.

The arepas have a dense texture, and the chicken salad is creamy, but it also has a bright piquancy. A fresh white wine with some body seemed in order, so we opted to try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a Portuguese white blend from the Douro.

The Sauvignon Blanc offered plenty of bright citrus and tropical fruit notes, as well as some green pepper; it was juicy and refreshing and made a really solid match, but might have worked even better if the salad had included herbs, green chiles or peppers. The Douro blend had more rounded fruit notes of melon and ripe citrus. It was refreshing too, but also showed more minerality and textural complexity, which ultimately made it the favorite."

Pair with a well-rounded white blend like Casa Ferreirinha Douro White Planalto Reserva 2015 (88 points, $15) from Portugal, or try a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc like Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc North Canterbury 2015 (89, $16).

Click here for this recipe!

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