Villa Maria Estate: New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and Much More



By Kori ~ November 2nd, 2011.

Founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria Estate is New Zealand’s 4th largest winery yet remains family-owned. Villa Maria has two wineries, one located in Auckland and one located in New Zealand’s famous winegrowing region of Marlborough. They source grapes from all of New Zealand’s main winegrowing regions. Villa Maria produces between 800,000 and 1 million cases per year and exports about half of it. Their key export markets include the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Ste. Michelle Wine Estates imports Villa Maria in the United States.

Villa Maria was the first winery in New Zealand to declare itself a “cork-free zone” and now seals all of their wines with screwcaps. Today, about 90 percent of all New Zealand wines are sealed with screwcaps.

“Sir George Fistonich has been called the ‘Robert Mondavi of the New Zealand wine industry’.” –Winemaker Nick Picone speaking about Villa Maria’s founder

In 2005, we had the pleasure to visit Villa Maria Estate on a trip through the Marlborough region of New Zealand. 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 ever get the chance, I highly encourage you to visit New Zealand.

Recently, I had the pleasure to attend a Villa Maria tasting and lunch with winemaker Nick Picone when he was visiting Seattle. Nick has been with Villa Maria for 15 years, starting as a cellar hand and working his way up in the company. He is now the senior winemaker at the Auckland winery. During the lunch, we tasted three wines each from three different tiers of Villa Maria wines, Private Bin (entry-level), Cellar Selection (mid-range), and Reserve (high-end). As you will see from my notes below, I found all nine wines to be very good. I have long been a fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, the country’s flagship wine. The crisp acidity and refreshing citrus, especially grapefruit, flavors are particularly appealing to my palate. I thought all three of Villa Maria’s Sauvignon Blancs were excellent, with my favorite being the 2009 Reserve.

Private Bin

2010 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand): Greenish straw yellow. Very aromatic with lime, grapefruit, and grass on the nose. More grapefruit, lime, and grass on the palate. Dry and light-bodied with tart acidity. Well-balanced with a long, refreshing finish. [Represents 40% of Villa Maria’s total production.]
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $14.99

2008 Villa Maria Private Bin Unoaked Chardonnay (Hawkes Bay, New Zealand): Greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with pear and peach on the nose. More stone fruit, minerality, and some toastiness come through on the palate. Dry and light to medium-bodied with crisp acidity, and a long finish. Clean and fresh.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $14.99

2009 Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Gris (East Coast, New Zealand): Pale, straw yellow. Aromatic with apple, pear, and floral notes on both the nose and palate. Dry and light-bodied with lively acidity, and a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $14.99

Cellar Selection

2009 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand): Pale, greenish yellow. Beautiful nose with grapefruit, lime, grass, and melon aromas. More grapefruit, lime, and grass comes through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with racy acidity. Well-balanced with a long, lingering finish. Very refreshing and food-friendly.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $19.99

2009 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Riesling (Marlborough, New Zealand): Pale, greenish straw yellow. Aromatic with lime, white peach, and orange peel on the nose. Lime, lemon, orange peel, and a touch of minerality come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with crisp acidity and a long, refreshing finish. Food-friendly. Residual Sugar: 0.81%
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $19.99

2006 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Medium ruby red in color. Nice nose with cherry, plum, and spice aromas. Fruit-forward with red cherry, spice, and a hint of smoke on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity, smooth tannins, and a long finish. Gets better with food.
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $29.99

Reserve

2009 Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand): Pale, straw yellow. Gorgeous nose with grapefruit, pineapple, and passion fruit aromas. More tropical fruits, grapefruit, and grass come through on the palate. Dry and medium-bodied with racy acidity. Well-balanced with a long, refreshing finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $29.99

2007 Villa Maria Reserve Pinot Noir (Marlborough, New Zealand): Medium-deep ruby red in color. Aromatic with cherry, spice, earth, and minerality on the nose. Red and black cherry, spice, smoke, and floral notes come through on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity and medium, smooth tannins. Well-balanced and food-friendly with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $39.99

2007 Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot (Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand): 69% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, and 2% Malbec. Deep, dark purplish red. Nice nose with fresh mint, cherry, raspberry, and blackberry aromas. Red and black fruits, mint, and a hint of coffee come through on the palate. Full-bodied with crisp acidity and medium to high tannins. Well-balanced with a long finish.
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
QPR: 3 bangs for your buck (out of 5)
Suggested Retail: $39.99


Filed under: Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, New Zealand Wine, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, White Wine, Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

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