Villa Maria Estate: The Beth’s Smart Sip Trifecta!

Villa Maria
On Wednesday November 15, 2017, I helped facilitate the latest Twitter tasting with Villa Maria Estate, and I could not be more pleased with the selections that the winery sent to me to taste and review. Time and time again, Villa Maria fulfills at a price point that all wine lovers can enjoy. Thus, I am declaring these three wines Beth’s Smart Sips, wines that over deliver with regard to quality versus price. Below are my thoughts. As always, your palate may vary.

2017 Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $14 (sample)
It is always exciting to taste this flagship offering from Villa Maria and this year’s vintage is no exception. Herbal notes lead to an abundance of citrus and tropical fruits on the palate. Mouthwatering acidity makes this the perfect aperitif wine. Pair this with light appetizers, salads, shellfish, and cheeses like chèvre, fromage blanc, and gruyère.

2016 Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Chardonnay, East Coast, $15 (sample)
My first taste of Villa Maria Chardonnay did not disappoint. Its balance of citrus and stone fruits and a kiss of toasty oak are gently cradled on the palate by a medium-bodied, luscious mouthfeel. For white wine lovers, this is the go-to wine for brie, charcuterie, salmon, poultry, and pork.

2016 Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $18 (sample)
Can you say cherry, spice, and everything nice? This Pinot Noir is oh, so approachable with its bright, red berry fruits and delicate tannins. This wine has it all: drinkability, softness, and food-friendly acidity that will be the ideal red wine accompaniment to casseroles, coq au vin, duck, roasted pork or turkey, and sausage stuffing.

Find your favorite Villa Maria wines at this link and stock up!

Happy Holidays!
Beth

It’s Villa Maria time!

Villa Maria

I realized today as I was preparing to write this post that I have not participated in a Villa Maria tasting since June 2016. Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls sometimes and that is why.

However, I am thrilled to be back with my Villa Maria family and friends to co-host this month’s First Sip of Fall on Wednesday, November 15 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time/5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Twitter. This time, we will be tasting the following new releases just in time for the holidays:

2017 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14
2016 Private Bin Chardonnay, East Coast, $15
2016 Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $18

It is especially exciting to be one of the first people to taste a 2017 vintage wine, a perennial favorite of mine, the sauvignon blanc. This will also be my first time tasting a chardonnay from New Zealand. The fact that it is from Villa Maria is icing on the cake.

Regular readers of my website know that my affinity for Villa Maria dates back to May 2012, when I first became acquainted with the wines. Every year since, 2013 through now, I have participated in these tastings because I believe in the brand. Founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria is still family owned. In 2017, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and the fourth most admired in the world.

Villa Maria wines are accessible, affordable, and approachable. I am enamored with the winemaking style and the lower alcohol of the wines, which, in my opinion, makes them more enjoyable alone or with food. With Villa Maria, you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. They are proof positive that delicious wines do not have to be expensive.

I hope you will join my friends and me on Twitter on November 15. To participate, be sure to include the hashtags #FirstSipNZ, #OpenAnotherWorld, and #VillaMaria in your tweets and posts. Follow Villa Maria’s winemakers, Helen Morrison at @Helen_Wine, Kathrin Jakowiec at @Kat_Halbtrocken, moderator Janet Fouts at @JFouts, as well as me, @travelwinechick, to virtually enjoy this first sip of fall.

Cheers!
Beth

 

 

 

Beth’s Smart Sip: 2016 Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

crowdedhouse

It has been a while since I published what I would call a Beth’s Smart Sip, a wine whose quality exceeds its price point, but I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to taste the 2016 Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand (SRP $12.95, sample provided by Nonni Strategic Marketing, LLC), and share my thoughts with readers over at Snooth. Grab this wine by the case before summer is over.

*CLICK HERE TO READ*

Villa Maria’s First Sip of Summer

The Villa Maria Logo (photo courtesy of Villa Maria)
The Villa Maria Logo (photo courtesy of Villa Maria)

As some of you know, I am a relatively new wine geek after a pivotal wine moment in 2008 that led me to taste and learn more about wine, eventually landing me in Napa, California with a new career in the wine business. This website and many virtual tastings, including five with Villa Maria (@villamaria_wine in NZ and @villamaria_usa in the US), were instrumental in my journey to where I am today.

On May 22, 2012, I described my first tasting experience with a wine from New Zealand, the 2011 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin. Four years and four website posts later, I am still a fan of Villa Maria wines because they are delicious and accessible. I have had the opportunity to taste and review many recent vintages from Villa Maria including: 2012 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc and the 2011 Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir, 2014 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin and 2013 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, 2015 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin (which just received 90 points from Wine Spectator!) and 2014 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, and 2014 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin and 2013 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection.

Villa Maria's Sauvignon Blanc Label ((photo courtesy of Villa Maria)
Villa Maria’s Sauvignon Blanc Label ((photo courtesy of Villa Maria)

Therefore, you can imagine how thrilled I was to find out that I will be participating in Villa Maria’s First Sip of Summer (Twitter hashtag #FirstSipNZ) on Wednesday, June 15 at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time/8:00 p.m. Eastern Time.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the brand, Villa Maria was founded in 1961 by George Fistonich. The winery is New Zealand’s most awarded winery over the course of the past 50+ years, including being named one of the World’s 50 Great Wine Producers by Wine Spectator, New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year twice by International Wine & Spirits Challenge UK, and New World Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. George Fistonich has been recognized as one of the most prominent figures in the wine industry by Wine International Magazine UK and earned the title of Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merits (making him an official knight, that’s Sir George Fistonich to you and me), for his commitment to winemaking. (Source: https://www.smwe.com/estates/details/villa_maria_new_zealand). Once a one-man operation, Villa Maria, known for its adoption of 100% screw-cap closures in 2000 and sustainable winemaking practices, now produces wine in Auckland and Marlborough, employs more than 250 staff, and exports its wines to more than 60 countries. Villa Maria’s current winemaking team includes chief winemaker Nick Picone (@PiconeNick) and Marlborough winemaker Helen Morrison (@helen_wine), who will be participating on June 15.

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin (photo courtesy of Villa Maria)
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin (photo courtesy of Villa Maria)

During the tasting, we will be the first to taste the 2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $14.99), available in the United States around August, and the 2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc (SRP $14.99), available now in the following markets: CA, FL, IL, MA, NY, and TX. What I’ve discovered through the years is that the Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc has consistently proven itself to be a great example of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a great value, perfect for everyday drinking and summer parties. I am especially intrigued by the bubbly Sauvignon Blanc as it will be my first. It’s made in the frizzante style similar to Moscato d’Asti and Vinho Verde, which means that while it is less effervescent than Champagne, spumante, and other sparkling wines, but it still shows fine, refreshing bubbles. The combination of light effervescence and the zingy acidity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc should prove to be a fantastic and affordable alternative to traditional method sparkling wines.

Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc (photo courtesy of Villa Maria)
Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc (photo courtesy of Villa Maria)

In addition to tasting and sharing these new wines, participants during the June 15 tasting will have a chance to win some nice prizes, like a Bamboo Picnic Wine Table, GoVino Shatterproof Wine Glasses, a picnic blanket, and copies of The Winemaker: George Fistonich and the Villa Maria Story. There will also be a chance to win a trip to New Zealand and a visit to Villa Maria (entries will be accepted between June 1 and August 31, 2016). I hope you will make your plans now to join the Villa Maria team, some fabulous wine writers, and me for a delightful evening of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc.

Villa Maria’s First Sip of Summer
Twitter hashtag #FirstSipNZ
Wednesday, June 15
5:00 p.m. Pacific Time/8:00 p.m. Eastern Time

To find Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc in your area, visit this link for where to purchase.

See you online for #FirstSipNZ!
Beth
@travelwinechick

Beth’s Smart Sip: Villa Maria Private Bin and Cellar Selection Pinot Noir

The pair of Villa Maria Pinot Noirs
The pair of Villa Maria Pinot Noirs

In 2012, 2013, 2014, and earlier this year, I have shared with you the history and success of Villa Maria Estate, which is also detailed at this link. It is no surprise that the quality of these wines continues to impress at great price points. Therefore, when I was asked to participate in my fifth Villa Maria Twitter tasting, “First Sip of Fall,” on November 4, 2015, I had to say yes.

For those unfamiliar with the different offerings, the Private Bin line is described as “approachable, consistent, and excellent value,” while the Cellar Selection line is “intensely flavored, elegant, food-friendly wine.” The Twitter tastings allow participants to taste in the comfort of their own homes, while interacting online with Marlborough winemaker, Josh Hammond, and the moderators. During this tasting, we had the opportunity to taste the Private Bin and Cellar Selection Pinot Noirs.

2014 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin, Marlborough, New Zealand
2014 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin, Marlborough, New Zealand

2014 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Private Bin, Marlborough, New Zealand (sample, SRP $14.99)
The grapes for this pinot noir are hand and machine harvested. The fermentation process includes both cultured and native yeasts. The wine is aged in both stainless and used, more neutral French oak barrels for 10 months, which allows the fruit to take center stage. This pinot noir is young and delightful, with aromas and flavors of cherry, cranberry, cinnamon, and warm baking spices. The mouthfeel is soft, the tannins fine, and the acidity lively.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 13.5%
pH: 3.63
Total Acidity: 5.7 g/l
Residual Sugar: 0.4 g/l

2013 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand
2013 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand

2013 Villa Maria Pinot Noir Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand (sample, SRP $19.99)
The production process for this pinot noir is similar to the 2014, such as the use of different yeast types and spending 10 months in more neutral French oak barrels. However, the wine is post macerated for an additional 3-5 days to soften the tannins, then pressed, and none of it is aged in stainless steel. Because of these treatment variances, this pinot noir is the darker, older sibling of the 2014. Both the color and the mouthfeel are richer. On the palate, the red berry flavors are more intense and concentrated, and enhanced by a bit of smokiness, spice, and a mature balance of tannin and acid.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
Alcohol: 13.5%
pH: 3.69
Total Acidity: 5.6 g/l
Residual Sugar: None

During the tasting, I wrote something like, “Villa Maria feels like family,” because we frequently get together online, like a virtual family reunion. Therefore, it’s not surprising that I’ve chosen both the Villa Maria Private Bin and Cellar Selection Pinot Noirs for this edition of Beth’s Smart Sip, two great choices for the holidays that are both pleasing to the palate and the wallet.

Happy sipping!
Beth

Villa Maria Estate, we meet again!

My pair of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc wines
My pair of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc wines

It’s rare that I write something prior to a Twitter virtual wine tasting, but as my schedule would have it, I am quite busy these next three weeks and I wanted to take advantage of a rare free evening to taste wine. I know, the sacrifices I make for you, my readers.

The virtual tasting for these wines will take place at 5:00pm Pacific Time Wednesday, June 24, 2015 via Twitter. I hope you will follow me, @travelwinechick, Alastair Maling (@alastairmaling), Elizabeth Schneider (@normalwine), @villamaria_wine, and winemaker Josh Hammond @hammond_josh. The hashtag is #NZSauvBlanc.

Villa Maria Estate wines and I are familiar friends, going back to at least 2012 when I tasted the 2011 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin. In 2013, I was again invited to taste the 2012 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Sauvignon Blanc and the 2011 Villa Maria Estate Reserve Bin Pinot Noir. The third time was a charm in 2014, with the opportunity to taste the 2014 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin and 2013 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection. Now it’s my fourth year, so we might be more like family than just friends.

I feel confident in telling you that Villa Maria Estate wines are consistently good and are a great value, coming in at under $20 USD each. It’s also cool to be one of the first people every year to taste the current year’s vintage, since harvest in New Zealand just took place.  In fact, I heard that the 2015 I have to share with you may not be the final product, so that’s even more fun. In last year’s post, I shared with you a bit about Villa Maria’s history and awards, so let’s taste!

Side-by-side tasting of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc
Side-by-side tasting of Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

2015 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin, Marlborough, New Zealand
This Sauvignon Blanc is pale straw in color, clear, and crisp. It possesses a trifecta of qualities – herbal, herbaceous, and citrusy – accompanied by tropical nuance. I’m particularly fond of the tangy grapefruit and lime coupled with melon and passionfruit. This wine is very young, very green, with regard to herbaceousness and fruit, and I mean that in a good way. By the way, Villa Maria, you had me at zesty acidity. I could drink this all day. In fact, I may just do that.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 13.0%
pH: 3.30
Total Acidity: 7.0 g/l
Residual Sugar: 4.0 g/l

2014 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand
This wine is also pale straw in color, but has a richer mouthfeel and texture due to extended time spent on lees. Tropical fruits such as melon and especially passionfruit dominate the nose and palate, while citrus and herbs play a supporting role. I find that this wine shows a little more elegance and restraint, with a nice balance of acidity and roundness, and quite a long finish. Allow this wine to warm up to exhibit layers of flavor. I will drink this all day, too. So there.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 13%
pH: 3.25
Total Acidity: 6.8 g/l
Residual Sugar: 3.3 g/l

I hope after reading my reviews and those of others, you will consider adding Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc to your shopping list. In addition, please enter the sweepstakes to Win a Trip to NZ!

Happy sipping!
Beth

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this wine free from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Villa Maria as part of their First to Sip Twitter Tasting. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed are entirely my own.

 

#NZSAVVY with Villa Maria Estate

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Unfortunately, I was unable to participate live in the Villa Maria Estate #NZSAVVY virtual tasting on Wednesday, June 18 due to a chiropractor’s appointment. Therefore, tonight, Friday, June 20, I decided to taste these wines. This is not the first time I have tried Villa Maria’s wines before. I reviewed samples in both 2012 and 2013 and was honored to taste these new vintages.

Villa Maria, founded in 1961 by George Fistonich, is known as New Zealand’s most awarded winery.

  • Named one of the World’s 50 Great Wine Producers (Wine Spectator)
  • Twice named as New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year(International Wine & Spirits Challenge UK)
  • George Fistonich named as one of the most prominent figures in the wine industry (Wine International Magazine UK)
  • George Fistonich awarded the title of Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merits, for his commitment to winemaking.
  • New World Winery of the Year (Wine Enthusiast Magazine)

(Source: http://www.smwe.com/estates/details/villa_maria_new_zealand)

2014 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin, Marlborough, New Zealand, SRP $14.99
I was excited to try my first 2014 vintage wine. This Sauvignon Blanc was light straw in color and light bodied, with loads of lime and grapefruit on the nose and palate, and good acidity with a medium finish. It was more herbaceous than the 2013 reviewed below. As it warmed up, the passionfruit flavor came to life. This wine was lively, zesty, and very easy to drink.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 12.5%
pH: 3.20
Total Acidity: 7.4 g/l
Residual Sugar: 4.5 g/l

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc
Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand, SRP $19.99
This wine was also light straw in color, but with a fuller body than the 2014. The first adjective that came to mind when I tasted this wine was tangy. Passionfruit and melon are much more dominant than citrus and the mouthfeel is richer due to time spent on lees after fermentation. The lingering acidity on the long finish was impressive. I found this wine to be very bright on the palate and very approachable.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 13%
pH: 3.25
Total Acidity: 7.4 g/l
Residual Sugar: 3.6 g/l

I am a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc, especially as a summer wine, and it’s that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Villa Maria is imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates so the wines should be fairly easy to find and they are affordable. You can begin your search here.

Cheers!
Beth