Leeuwin Estate Art Series Riesling

There is a reason why Riesling is cultishly discussed amongst sommeliers and wine enthusiasts. Tremendous structure and complexity, wonderful expressions of fruit, and flexibility in pairing. This wine has it all.

An Art Series wine deserves an artsy background…

Producer: Leeuwin Estate

Region: Margaret River, Australia

Grape(s): Riesling

Tasting Notes: Granny Smith Apple, Kaffir Lime, Minerals, Lemon Citrus Zest, Floral

Pairings: Soft cows cheese, sushi/sashimi/nigiri, babaganoush, seared scallops, Vietnamese cuisine

Price (approximately): $16

Buy: Fujioka’s Wine Times


My Musings:

While most may characterize Riesling as a sweet wine, there are plenty of specimens on the dry side of the spectrum that are crisp, mineral- and citrus-driven delights. This wine is a perfect example at a bargain price. 

Margaret River, a coastal region located south of Perth in western Australia, is unequivocally one of my favorite wine regions of Australia. Comprised primarily of small botique wineries and breweries, it can be difficult to procure wines from this appellation outside of Australia, but a diligent search is well-rewarded with tremendous, intensely-flavored wines. Margaret River enjoys extraordinary growing conditions, with a maritime climate providing consistent temperatures throughout the ripening season and a dry growing season. Known for Cabernet Sauvignon, it also produces Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. It is hard to find a more enjoyable region to drink and to visit than Margaret River.  A perfect place for wine and surfing — is there a better combination?! I feel a vacation coming on ...

This wine was dry with floral notes, kaffir lime, and lemon zest bursting from the glass. On the palate, the lemon-lime parade continues and is accompanied by fruit (Granny Smith apple, melon) and a heavy dose of minerality. Strikingly balanced with tremendous focus and clarity. Very expressive wine from its alluring bouquet to the bright acidity and long, dry finish. This is definitely one of my favorite Rieslings in this price range. Truly enjoyable.

As if there isn’t sufficient reason already, this wine comes ready for any environment with a screw cap that won’t have you searching for a bottle opener. As stated in my previous bottle-closure musings, screw caps can deliver the same great tasting wine in many cases while keeping a few extra bucks in your pocket. I’ll take that deal anytime.

In Honolulu, pick up a bottle at Fujioka's Wine Times. Be sure to purchase more than one bottle; you will definitely need it! 


2014 Mt. Beautiful Pinot Noir

Year: 2014

Producer: Mt. Beautiful Winery

Region: North Canterbury, New Zealand

Grape(s): Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.5%

Price (approximately): $19.99

Pairing: Classic Pinot Noir pairings include salmon, duck and mushrooms. A local Hawaiian twist on these classics include furikake salmon, Cantonese roast duck and a sautéed Japanese mushroom medley.

My Musings:

This wine was a beautiful, luminous ruby red color and possessed fruit aromas of cherry, cranberry and blackberry with orange blossom, subtle earth and baking spice. On the palate, the wine wonderfully balanced fruit, earth and mineral elements, with soft tannins that provided structure and a long, lingering finish. An absolutely stunning and tremendously enjoyable wine. 

Mt. Beautiful Winery is wonkish heaven. It’s founder, David Teece, is [obviously] an oenophile, but he doubles as a professor of Global Business and Economics at the University of California Berkeley’s Haas School of Business and has authored over 30 books. For me, trained in global business law and economics, I have discovered a new vinous exemplar. Hail to the geeks. 

Mt. Beautiful also makes it easy to feel good about yourself while sipping your refreshing inebriating beverage. Committed to sustainable farming methods, holistic vineyard management and alternative bottle closure methods (which bottle closure lore I explored in this post), Mt. Beautiful ensures that its practices assist in safeguarding the picturesque landscape famous to New Zealand. The world needs more wineries like Mt. Beautiful (and regions like New Zealand) that wholeheartedly embrace and emphasize the importance of sustainable viticultural practices.

In Honolulu, procure as many bottles as you are physically able to carry from Tamura’s Fine Wine and Liquors.  

Aotearoa: The Land of the Long White Cloud

While Côte-d'Or remains the gold standard, one of the most exciting New World regions for Pinot Noir, in my experience, lies on the outskirts of the Antarctic, in the Land of the Long White Cloud. 

Bibles and grapevines were traveling companions to New Zealand, brought in the suitcases of Anglican missionaries in the early Nineteenth Century. Where there are missionaries, there is wine. Early local wines were a cheap proletarian drink that possessed few ardent admirers. Inebriation sufficient; craft not necessary. The fledgling industry was later disrupted by the Prohibition movement at the end of World War I, when temperance advocates denounced the inexpensive intoxicant as “vile Australian wine” and “Dally plonk,” pejoratively referring to the winemakers’ Croatian descent. Racism, patriotism, and temperance bundled into a short, succinct phrase. Well played, temperance movement.

Fortunately, the industry survived its early challenges, and has matured to become, in my opinion, one of the preeminent value wine regions in the world. With a re-focused strategy on quality rather than quantity, it is no longer difficult to procure well-crafted, high-quality vino in the Southern Hemisphere.

New Zealand, home to the southernmost vineyards in the world, is breathtaking in its natural beauty. Dense tropical and temperate forests, majestic mountain ranges, imposing volcanoes, and a craggy coastline constantly battered by the Pacific Ocean produce endless picturesque landscapes. It is naturally divided into two regions, the North and South Islands, each unique in culture, climate, and winemaking.

The South Island is a cool, maritime climate that benefits from extended, sunny summer days due to cloud dissipation and the earth’s axial tilt. Obliquity lends a helping hand. The Southern Alps, the tallest mountain range in the Southern Hemisphere, cause a rain shadow effect that shelters the vineyards from the prevailing westerlies generated in the Pacific Ocean. Vineyards find a weathered safe harbor in the east. On the downside, water is scarce and irrigation essential.

Midway along the eastern coast of the South Island is the capital city of Christchurch and the rolling, breezy plains of Canterbury, the home of Mt. Beautiful Winery. Canterbury’s vineyards are planted primarily in shallow, stony alluvial topsoil consisting of sand, limestone, schist and loam, overlaying deep free-draining glacial gravels from Jurassic periods long ago. These soils possess low-to-moderate fertility and absorb heat during the day that is slowly released throughout the chilly nights. Vine roots’ rocky heat regulators. Here the Burgundian varietals of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive, alongside elegant and expressive Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc.

In a country where sheep residents outnumber their human counterparts 10 to 1, there is plenty of open range for farming and viniculture. Kiwis have made the most of it. Their wines are brilliant, expressive and unique. At every opportunity, I would unequivocally recommend exploring these wine regions and varietals. You will not be disappointed! And you can confidently commence exploration at Mt. Beautiful Winery ...


2016 Kirkland Signature Ti Point Sauvignon Blanc

Year: 2016

Producer: Kirkland Signature

Region: Marlborough, New Zealand

Grape(s): Sauvignon Blanc

Alcohol: 12.5%

Price (approximately): $7

My Musings:

On the nose, the wine expressed subtle floral elements with grass, bell pepper and citrus (grapefruit and lemon peel). The palate enjoyed ripe citrus and bell pepper, with grapefruit becoming more pronounced as the wine warmed. Overall, the wine was light-to-medium bodied, very well-balanced, and did not contain the overbearingly bracing acidity that can be present in New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs.

The Ti Point Sauvignon Blanc is a fine expression of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, and at $7, the price is unmatched. It is as close to pilfering as one could hope to (legally) achieve. Buy, drink, enjoy. Repeat as needed.

Check out my full Costco Corner New Zealand post here!


2014 Peter Yealands Pinot Noir

Year: 2014

Producer: Yealands Estate Winery

Region: Marlborough, New Zealand

Grape(s): Pinot Noir

Alcohol: 14.0%

Price (approximately): $17

My Musings:

The wine is a beautiful, bright ruby red color and possesses smokey aromas of red cherry, plum, and raspberry with subtle cedar and spice. On the palate, the wine really brings the fruit, with fresh red fruit flavors, subtle earth and floral elements, soft tannins and long, lingering finish.

At $17, this is an extraordinary value for a Pinot Noir that has great depth and complexity, ageing potential, and provides a classic example of New Zealand Pinot Noir. I reckon you should secure a few bottles on your next Costco trip.

Check out my full Costco Corner New Zealand post here!


2015 Yalumba Organic Viognier

Year: 2015

Producer: Yalumba Winery

Region: South Australia, Australia

Grape(s): Viognier

Alcohol: 14.1%

Price (approximately): $16

My Musings:

One word: apricot.

The wine is pale straw with green hues. The aromas are strong with ripe stone fruit (apricot and peach), with floral accents of jasmine and honeysuckle. Creamy, rich flavors of (you guessed it) apricot nectar coat the palate, accented by bright citrus flavors and subtle spice on the finish. Tremendously well-balanced with terrific acidity.

Simply a fabulous wine. One of my favorite weekday white wines, and the organic harvesting helps those who suffer easily from headaches. This wine is perfect for summer sipping or taking to the BYOB restaurant.

Speaking of BYOB ... try this wine with shrimp Pad Thai (Thai Issan in Honolulu has great Pad Thai, but be sure to stay within a reasonable spice range to avoid overpowering the wine), fried rice (build your own fried rice at The Rice Place!), or Moroccan vegetarian couscous (Kan Zaman if you are dining in Honolulu). Of course, with such great ripe stone fruit and balanced citrus, you can simply sit back and enjoy on its own.


2013 d'Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz

Year: 2013

Producer: d'Arenberg

Region: McLaren Vale, Australia

Grape(s): Shiraz

Alcohol: 14.4%

Price (approximately): $18

Winemaker's Notes:

Classic McLaren Vale Shiraz in every sense. Laden with dark fruits, old spices and woody notes on the nose and backed up with thick licorice, blackberry, plum and graphite-like characters on the palate. Striking fruit concentration paired with a bold and chewy, yet integrated tannin structure. Brutish in many respects but somehow manages to remain incredibly balanced. A wine to please even the most cantankerous wine aficionado.