I am excited to initiate my new wine blog with my interview with Dave Edmonds, the senior winemaker for the celebrated Nobilo Wines in Marlborough, New Zealand. Dave was in Tulsa for a tasting at Parkhill’s South where I tasted the 2011 vintage Sauvignon Blancs, and have had the pleasure to enjoy more than a taste since. At that time, I thought Maggie’s Wine was just around the corner. Now it’s months later, but my interview with Dave remains timely. After the interview, you’ll find a few personal tasting notes. In the video below, Dave and the Nobilo chef grill-up some tuna and talk Pinot Noir grown in the land where the sun rises first. (If you have time, check out the tabs under my banner. You’ll find a lot of information on many topics, with more to come.)
I had to get my head around how the vintage year works ‘down under,’ when grapes ripen and vintages are released. In Napa and Sonoma, we see sparkling wine grapes harvested beginning in September with the non-sparkling harvest taking place in late September through October in the average year. Not so ‘down under’ as you will see below. Dave talks about Wairau Valley where harvest begins for Nobilo, lying closer to the northern tip of Marlborough with Awatere Valley slightly southeast and cooler.
Marlborough, as you can see from the map above is at the eastern corner of the South Island. When the first plantings of commercial wine grapes were set in the region, Marlborough was the most southerly of New Zealand’s vineyards. Not so today. The climate is mostly sunshine, moderate temperatures and fairly dry – the perfect recipe for opulent Sauvignon Blanc juice, reviving that grape’s last raspy breaths before dying a stodgy, but once-great Graves memory (okay, Graves isn’t dead, and it is more than a memory, but expensive, not as approachable and yes…did I mention expensive, and without the charm of ‘Kiwi’ Sauvignon Blanc).
Sauvignon Blanc is a particularly companionable food wine. Nobilo Sauvignon Blancs have received major awards and annually high rankings for the pristine quality of their fruit, all a measure of Dave Edmond’s winemaking skills. He understands his terroir,the grapes, the vines, and has the vision and palate to produce what can only classified as notable New Zealand SBs. You’ll read about his Pinot Noir below.
So, on to the interview. I took copious notes, but please understand that some of Dave’s responses maybe be slightly paraphrased. Everything in brackets [ ] are my comments.
MAGGIE: I understand that Marlborough is the sunniest locale in New Zealand [2400 hours of sunshine]. Tell me what makes the Marlborough climate so prime for growing the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
DAVE EDMONDS: I think the high UV status, getting more UV hitting the skins may be what sets Marlborough apart from the rest. In November we start to get the northwest winds, with water-filled airflow from Australia and Tasman. All that water drops out over our land mass, and it gets quite hot in the summer months [January - February, daytime temps range from 75°F to 86°F]. Nighttime temps stay steady in the summer at about 10°C [53°F], keeping acid levels attractive and allowing the grape’s tropical intensity to develop.
The undulating, glaciated valleys of Awatere, with it’s stony ridges, silty hollows, and cool southerly breeze, gives the fruit the characteristic gooseberry [tart and sassy] flavors with a pineapple lushness. The distinct minerality with just the right degree of citrus in our Awatere fruit makes our Icon Sauvignon Blanc a standout.
MAGGIE: When does harvest start in Marlborough?
DAVE: Grapes for our Regional Sauvignon Blanc kicks off the harvest, beginning in Marlborough the last week of March. We move through the Wairu Valley into the Southern valleys with the fruit ripening progressively the further south we go. By the time we get over the hills to Awatere Valley, the second largest growing area in Marlborough, we can pick at optimum stage, finishing the Icon harvest the end of April in most years.
The first three weeks of April, we’ve harvested 1,000 hectoliters owned by Nobilo and another 1,000 hectoliters from contract growers. We use a 50/50 mix [about 70.5 tons].
Pinot Noir is picked in May. [The 2012 vintage was a bit different and the timeline above may have changed for that year].
MAGGIE: How will the 2012 vintage Sauvignon Blancs be different from 2011?
DAVE EDMONDS : The last ten years have been similar in style and quality. The 2012s are slightly different, an overall cooler summer, but of fantastic quality.
MAGGIE: What is the shelf life of the 2011′s in the store now? [updated - you might find the 2011's but most certainly the 2012]
DAVE EDMONDS : Our 2011 Regional Collection should be enjoyed for another 2-1/3 to three years. The Icon is tight with that flinty minerality that can easily go another 3 years.
MAGGIE: The traditional Sauvignon Blanc bottle is the high-hipped Bordeaux-Graves-styled bottle. Is there a reason Nobilo bottled the Icon Sauvignon Blanc in the Burgundy-styled bottle?
DAVE: It wasn’t a conscious decision to choose a bottle related to Burgundian wines. We wanted a clean, fresh style to accompany our move to screw caps. Our label is clear and concise. A different bottle-style sent the message that we produce two stylistically-different Sauvignon Blancs.
MAGGIE: I see you graduated Christchurch’s Lincoln University. Was your degree in Enology?
DAVE: My degree was in horticultural science, very focused on enology and viticulture.
MAGGIE: You worked in California for a short time. Was it in the wine industry?
DAVE: I worked the second vintage at DeLoach in 1996.
MAGGIE: Personally, when you are not drinking New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir, what wine do you drink with a great steak?
DAVE: I love very ripe Cabernet with steak – Australian reds, but I look forward to fishing for Blue Cod. Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with Blue Cod is a real treat. Blue Cod is a different species, a small fish with a beautiful texture and flavor. The further south, the cooler the water and the better the Blue Cod.
If you have a trip to New Zealand on the horizon, Ocean Magazine asked Dave to select ten “great seaside” restaurants from “coast to coast” for The America’s Cup visitors. Tuck it away for future reference. This a man who knows good food.
I haven’t been to New Zealand, but I think Marlborough must have the world’s most perfect climate. Bright sunshine, moderate temperatures, the sparkling western Pacific ocean on all sides – the freshest of seafood year-round, and people who speak the only language I know (unfortunately). Does it get any better?
My tasting notes below (prices are approximate):
Nobilo Icon Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($22): A nicely full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc, sophisticated mix of herbaceousness, pineapple, guava, pink grapefruit with a lush mouthfeel and a lingering finish. Delicious.
Nobilo Regional Sauvignon Blanc 2012 ($18): Sweet tropical, fruit forward flavors on the palate, a zesty and balanced acidity and that nice burst of the tropics in the nose at the finish – a crisp, light and delightful mouthful.
Nobilo Icon Pinot Noir 2010 (probably sold out everywhere, but at one time was on the shelf at $22 – One of Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines 2012): This beautiful Pinot Noir is a mouthful of cherries, plums, vanilla, cedar and spice – the product of a measure of whole-berry maceration and a perfect growing season – perfect days, perfect nights. According to Wine Spectator, if you have this wine in your collection, you have another 6 years of drinking enjoyment. If you look online, you just might find it.
The Pinot Noirs are difficult to find in my area. I’ll leave them for another time or until I make a jaunt to Florida.
Dave Edmonds is quite the cook. Check out his scones ‘kiwi style.’ He serves them to each new harvest crew, coming from around the world – makes him one popular guy. In the video below, watch as Dave talks about the Icon Pinot Noir while a Nobilo chef prepares char-grilled tuna filets with smokey bacon to pair with the New Zealand classic.