New Zealand Wine at the New Convention Center

I went to the New Zealand Wine Festival yesterday, and it was my first time inside the new Vancouver Convention Center. You know, the one downtown, next to the sailing ship convention center, under construction for as long as I’ve lived in Vancouver.

The only way to describe it is a cross between a modern concert hall and an overgrown airline terminal. Acres of window glass converge with miles of metal wedges against a mosaic of natural wood and hillsides of flora. Something for everybody. Inside,
There are so many sloping lines they make the escalators confusing. Looking up in the lobby it’s like an Escher painting on a piece of Ikea furniture.

In the forest like corridors, the views are jaw dropping. The New Zealand thing was on the Northeast side so we had to walk the length of the building to jump on another escalator. On the third level, facing north, the tasting was held in a large woody room and foyer that had a private deck. From there, we could see from Burnaby Mountain to beyond Stanley Park, as well as fields of yellow flowers and green grass. Under the fields we could see a ballroom with a bandstand. Very cool. Then, noting the aroma of petrol wafting from the float plan dock, we went in search of Riesling.

But first, sauvignon blanc, New Zealand’s signature grape. Although there is a long wine tradition there, this is the wine that put New Zealand on the map years ago. So, although I was also keen to get to the pinot noir, we had to start with the 2008 SBs. Anticipating fresh zestiness after a long walk, I was surprised at what we found.

Starting with the Wither Hills, Marlborough, I noted jalapeño on the nose. You get that sometimes, I told my friend. Then, we tried the Paddy Borthwick, Wairapapa, and I thought, whoa jalapeño! I like Mexican food as much as any gringa, but this was ridiculous. Richmond Plains, Nelson Sauvignon Blanc – jalapeño inside and out. Even the Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, a gooseberry bomb in the past, now tasted like chili rellenos. WTF?

Turns out, 2008 was a terrible year in New Zealand. Late rains forced many wineries to pick early to avoid a devastating mold situation. Under ripe fruit means vegetal flavors in the wine, hence jalapeño. I’m sad that peppery flavors overwhelmed the fruit in these white wines, but I’m just relieved it was due to weather vagaries and not climate change.

Among the Sauvignon Blancs I tasted that seem to have escaped the jalapeño effect were: the Mount Riley Sparkling SB, Marlborough, a foamy number with the Sauvignon Blanc tartness. The Staedt Landt, Marlbourgh, has far less pepper and more gooseberry. And the Te Mania of Nelson tasted fresh and normal. Those were just the ones I tried, so there were probably more fully ripened SB’s in the room. I just wanted to move along.

We jumped to pinot noir and had a polar opposite experience: better than expected. Why? They were 2007s. One the best pinots was the Staete Landt 2007 Marlborough. Rich and spicy with vibrant fruit – awesome. Only $40 in specialty stores.

Auntsfield had two delicious pinot noirs. The Hawk Hill 2007 from Marlborough had spicy red fruit and seemed very terrior driven. Auntsfield’s Heritage Pinot Noir 2005, Marlborough was deliciously smoky with baked strawberries and raspberry and long in the finish. Both impressive, even at $33 and $50 respectively, if and when they are available in BC.

The Amisfield 2007 Central Otago Pinot Noir had more depth of flavor than anything in the room. A Christmas candy nose led to more sweet red fruit and a full well-oaked mouth. The finish – earthy red fruit and vanilla – was memorable. It reminded me of a pinot from the Russian River that would similarly command $55. Here, BCLS has 77 bottles in Vancouver, with 40 at the 39th and Cambie store. Yum.

The New Zealand Wine Festival is a cool, well-run event that I’ve been attending for the past three years, and would recommend the evening public tasting to anyone keen on kiwi wines.
Finally, yea, yea, yea to the Red Wings! May you fly high this weekend!

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Mari Kane

Mari is a writer, blogger and WordPress consultant, living in Vancouver, BC, the most wine-soaked town north of the 49th Parallel. She also blogs about WordPress web design at Blogsite Follow her on Twitter or Google Plus.

One thought on “New Zealand Wine at the New Convention Center

  • May 30, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Although I am not a follower of the fine points of the grape, I do enjoy your newsletter and I can really notice how your writing has become more polished over the years. Escher meets Ikea … Brilliant and knock down funny with assembly required!

    I am a little bothered by your self-description as “Wine Slut”. Slut means easy and available, and hints at a total lack of discrimination. I see you as adventurous, seeking out the new but refined, with a focus on quality rather than quantity.

    Mari, you are not a “Wine Slut” . . . . you are a “Wine Cougar”!

    Much Love,


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