Tasting Group: New Zealand Pinot Noir



By Kori ~ February 2nd, 2011.

Since we live in Washington State and often drink wines from Washington State, we want to make sure that we continue to hone our knowledge of the entire world of wine and maintain well-rounded palates in order to make us even more objective when we evaluate wines from Washington State. Therefore, we are thoroughly enjoying our Wine Peeps Tasting Group which includes what we think is an excellent peer group of knowledgeable wine lovers to taste, share, and learn more about wine together. Unlike our monthly wine tasting dinners in which the guests rotate, this tasting group includes people who are committed to getting together once a month which we believe benefits all of us. In addition to trying varieties and regions that we do not taste frequently, the other main difference between this group and our wine tasting dinners is that each group member brings a bottle consistent with the month’s theme so no one knows all the wines in the blind tasting.

Last week, our tasting group met and explored Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Pinot Noir is a finicky grape that will not grow just anywhere. New Zealand is one of the few places in the world where it does remarkably well. Pinot Noir is the number two most planted variety in New Zealand, after the country’s flagship Sauvignon Blanc. The country’s temperate, maritime climate provides ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir. In my opinion, New Zealand Pinot Noir has found its niche in style somewhere between the elegance of Burgundy and the sometimes-intense herbal and gamey notes of Oregon Pinot Noir.

We tasted eight bottles of New Zealand Pinot Noir, and the consensus favorite was the 2006 Isabel Pinot Noir from the Marlborough region. In fact, four of the top five wines in our consensus rankings were from Marlborough. In 2005, we took a trip to the Marlborough region of New Zealand to visit some of the wineries that we had come to love as well as observe New Zealand winemaking up close. It was a fabulous trip and an educational and rewarding wine experience. We found some of the most beautiful wine country and nicest people in the world.

If you’ve never had a New Zealand Pinot Noir or are looking for a more economical alternative to Burgundy or Oregon Pinot Noir, I encourage you to give New Zealand Pinot Noir a try.

From 1st to last in the group consensus rankings:

2006 Isabel Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Light to medium ruby red in color. Very aromatic with raspberry, cranberry, earth, smoke, and barnyard on the nose and palate. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity and fine silky tannins. Well-balanced and long, smooth finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $24.99; Available elsewhere, $19 to $43

2007 Kim Crawford Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Medium ruby red with slight browning around the edges. Nice nose with red fruit and dusty aromas with a hint of smoke and barnyard notes. Bright red fruits and smoke come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with fresh acidity and smooth tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Fred Meyer (Seattle, Washington), $18; Available elsewhere, $16 to $20

2006 Walnut Block Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Light ruby red in color with a slight browning around the edges. Nose is a bit tight at first and then opens up with red fruits and perfume. Flavors of raspberry, cranberry, and spice. Medium-bodied with crisp acidity, medium tannins, and a long finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Garagiste (Seattle, Washington), $30; Available elsewhere, $20 to $35

2008 Peregrine Pinot Noir (Central Otago, New Zealand): Light ruby red. Aromatic with nice bright red fruits, spice, and smoke on the nose. Raspberry, cranberry, and spice also come through on the palate. Medium-bodied and lively with medium tannins and a long, slightly bitter, finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $19 to $27

2007 Whitehaven Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Medium ruby red in color. Aromatic with cherry, raspberry, spice, earth, and a bit of funk on the nose and palate. Medium-bodied and lively with soft tannins and a long, slightly bitter, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: QFC (Seattle, Washington), $18; Available elsewhere, $15 to $27

2007 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection Calvert Vineyard Pinot Noir (Central Otago, New Zealand): Medium ruby red. Barnyard, earth, dark cherry, and raspberry aromas lead to flavors of red fruit, plum, and earth. Light to medium-bodied with soft tannins and a medium finish. A bit thin and plain.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Available from various retailers, $43

2008 Neudorf Tom’s Block Pinot Noir (Nelson, New Zealand): Light ruby red. Aromatic with smoke and barnyard notes on the nose. Smoked meat, beef jerky, and earth come through on the palate. Medium-bodied and lively with soft tannins and a long finish. A bit funky with some effervescence on the back end.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Wine World (Seattle, Washington), $24.99; Available elsewhere, $21 to $32

2008 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Angel Flower Pinot Noir (Canterbury, New Zealand): Light ruby red with an unfiltered haze. Aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, licorice, and a hint of dirty diaper. Flavors of red fruits, earth, and oak. Light-bodied with tart acidity, medium tannins, and a long, slightly hot, finish.
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)
Where to buy: Full Pull Wines (Seattle, Washington), $65; Available elsewhere, $66 to $67


Filed under: Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, New Zealand Wine, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Tasting Group, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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