Stay Connected
What We're Drinking


Château de Brézé has a long and storied history, first being mentioned in texts in 1068, lauded by King René of Anjou in the 15th century and served at all the royal courts. In 1957, when the AOC of Saumur Champigny was established, the owner of Château de Brézé refused to be part of the appellation, saying that his estate's vineyards were the best and deserved an appellation all their own. And he was probably right. Unfortunately, the wines from those exceptional vineyards were terrible. Lucky for us, the winery sold in 2009 to Le Comte de Colbert, who recruited Arnaud Lambert from nearby Domaine de Saint Just to make the wine. He changed the vineyards over to organic farming and began producing truly stellar wines worthy of their source. The 2012 Château de Brézé Clos David is all estate-grown Chenin Blanc raised in stainless steel to preserve freshness. It has the slightly-oxidized note of a great White Burgundy and a lovely richness that allows it to pair with a variety of foods.

Recent Videos

Tasting with Oliver Krug

Upcoming Events

We host regular weekly and Saturday wine tastings in each K&L location.

For the complete calendar, including lineups and additional details related to our events, visit our K&L Local Events on or follow us on Facebook.  


Visit our events page on Facebook or the K&L Spirits Journal for more information.

>>Upcoming Special Events, Dinners, and Tastings

See all K&L Local Events


Entries in Riesling (14)


{Terra Ignota} New Wines Direct from Pyramid Valley Vineyards, NZ

While we have been working with the wonderful wines of Pyramid Valley Vineyards for quite some time now, a new direct purchase deal means we can now offer these magnificent staff favorites for an even better price! Pyramid Valley is the labor of love for Mike and Claudia Weersing. Orignally from the Bay Area and with family still in Pescadero, Mike and Claudia have been working hard, living and producing wines in New Zealand since 1996. Mike originally made wine at the esteemed Neudorf Estate in Nelson before he and Claudia bought the property in North Canterbury. The Pyramid Valley Vineyard wines are defined by Organic and Biodynamic viticulture, a very non-invasive winemaking style and have an intense focus on integrity, sense of place and reflection of vintage.

The very steep Angel Flower Block with Lion's Tooth Block in the background

The wines are divided into a “Growers Collection” and “Home Vineyard” single block ranges. The Growers Collection is made up of single vineyard bottlings sourced from growers with whom Mike and Claudia work very closely. The selected vineyards are farmed Biodynamically and to their own very strict quality standards. Many of the wines represent very unique and quirky varietals not commonly seen in New Zealand such as Savagnin Rose, Semillon, Pinot Blanc and Cabernet Franc. They also make great Riesling and obviously a selection of Pinot Noirs from different regions and sub-regions of NZ.

The "Home Block" wines are from Mike and Claudia's tiny estate in North Canterbury. Vines are planted in very high density with minute spacing to make sure yields are concentrated. Most blocks are on steep slopes making the farming, which is meticulous and all by hand, a very laborious job. The vineyards have been organic and biodynamic since inception. Each individual block is named after the wildflowers that thrive there. These single block wines are microcosms of each section of this unique estate. The wines show remarkable nuances of flavor and texture due to slight differences in orientation, soil and aspect.

Minimal intervention wine making is often referred to as a "hands-off" style, however I might argue that Pyramid Valley employ an intensely "hands-on" style of production. The difference being that these are very “green thumbed” hands. Everything is done by hand, (and foot, the grapes are foot trodden for gentle extraction) down to hand de-stemming each bunch of Pinot Noir. The wines are truly lovingly crafted pieces of natural artistry.

Pyramid Valley Team Hand De-stemming Home Block Pinot Noir

Below are detailed notes notes on the various wines we have from Pyramid Valley. I really encourge you to check out these wines. They are something very special and represent the absolute pinnacle of artisinal winemaking.

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Angel Flower" Pinot Noir, North Canterbury, New Zealand $49.99

An enchanting wine, very floral nose of dried rose petals and lavender. Bright high-toned red fruits on the nose lead to slightly richer sappier dark red fruits on the palate. This wine has compelling energy and vibrancy. Crisp acidity and grainy tannins mean this wine will hold in the cellar. This is definitely more a Burgundy drinker’s wine than a modern fruit forward style. The wine has great texture and an authentic sense of place. This is a very interesting bottle that deserves some reflection and consideration if it is to be fully appreciated.

James Suckling 95 points and featured in his Top Ten Wines of the World for 2012. “Aromas of roses and sweet plums with strawberry. Full body, with super fine tannins and beautiful fruit. Silky and fine with such beauty. This is insane with a rust and iron character. Fascinating. Drink or hold.

Winery Notes: "1.1 tonnes per acre from this north-facing parcel; ten year old vines. Denser, shallower soils, still clay-limestone: 20% clay, 3-7% active lime. Biodynamic from before planting. Late April pick, entirely hand destemmed, 25% foot crushed. Ambient soak of 5-7 days, warm vineyard yeast fermentation (33C), 27-28 day cuvaison. Natural, spring malolactic. Ten months on original lees, in French barriques, 15% new, then held a further six months in tank. Bottled unfined and unfiltered, in September 2011. Alcohol 13.7%. Production: 180 cases.  Good deep ruby. Flowers, red fruits, and bags of spice on the forward bouquet. Lush but crisp, with very fresh fruit, and all that spice. Very long and elegant palate.

Soil Profile of Earth Smoke Block



2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Earth Smoke" Pinot Noir, North CanterburyNew Zealand $49.99

The Earth Smoke is very slightly my preferred bottling from the Home Vineyard offerings. I love the depth and intrigue this wine brings to the table. The fruit, especially aromatically, is more reserved than the Angel Flower block; however the wine has awesome layers of detail and interest. Dense earthy tones and the rich limestone soil show through in this wine. The whole thing is more guarded and veiled yet within that subtlety there is ample finesse and character. A really soulful bottling that will truly engage Burgundy drinkers and shows the complexity and subtly that New Zealand Pinot can have.

James Suckling 94 points: “A fabulous nose of dried strawberries, plums and hints of smoke and bacon. Full body, with beautiful tannins and acidity. Super intense and beautiful. Long and gorgeous. No new oak. Better in 2016.”

Winery Notes: "1.4 tonnes per acre from our east-facing home block; ten year old vines. Deep, well structured, clay-limestone soils: 30% clay, 12-15% active lime. Also biodynamic from inception. Late April pick, hand destemmed, 25% foot crushed. Ambient soak of 5-7 days, warm vineyard yeast fermentation (33C), 27-28 day cuvaison. Natural, spring malolactic. Ten months on original lees, in French barriques, 15% new, then held a further six months in tank.  Bottled unfined and unfiltered, in September 2011. Alcohol 13.2%. Production: 250 cases.  Similar robe to the Angel Flower, perhaps a bit deeper. Very engaging and complex nose of soil, wild fruits, and spiced orange peel. Real power and lovely texture in the mouth, and again wilder and more earthy than the Angel Flower.

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Calvert" Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand $34.99

The Calvert vineyard is shared between three of NZ’s leading Pinot Noir producers: Pyramid Valley, Craggy Range and Felton Rd. The vineyard is farmed Biodynamically (by Felton Rd) and each partner gets an equal split of the fruit to craft the way they wish. Pyramid Valley’s philosophy is based around as little intervention as possible to let the site speak for itself. This wine shows classic Central Otago power and muscle without compromising balance and elegance of texture. I found the wine to be quite black fruited but with raspberry high-toned notes peaking through. The wine has compact layers of flavor that I suspect come from its schist soil origins. It really unfolds in the glass showing spice and sweet crushed herbs with more air. The wine finishes with remarkably fresh acidity despite the dark fruit succulence and ripe tannin structure. This is great wine especially for those seeking to try some New Zealand Pinot whilst transitioning from more dense California styles.

Stephen Tanzer 92 points: “Good medium-deep red.  Knockout nose combines raspberry, smoke, spices and loamy soil tones.  Fat, sweet, sexy and rich, but with ripe, harmonious acidity giving shape to the red berry and underbrush flavors.  Velvety in the middle and nicely sappy on the long, sweet finish, which features thoroughly ripe, smooth tannins.  A liquid confection.”

Winery Notes: "A sufficient, but small-berried harvest from this beautiful Bannockburn site. Managed biodynamically by the consistently brilliant team at Felton Road. Soils of schist and quartz sand. Fruit is all hand picked, 75% destemmed, thus 25% whole cluster, transferred by gravity to tank. Ambient soak of 3-5 days, warm indigenous yeast fermentation, 27-28 day cuvaison. Natural, spring malolactic. Fourteen months on original lees in French barriques (25% new); bottled unfined and unfiltered on the winter Solstice, June 2010. Alcohol 14.3%, pH 3.71. Production: 450 cases.  Lifted and luscious at the same time, with a broad spectrum of fruit and plant aromatics: from pomegranate through redcurrant jelly and fresh plum to raspberry; beyond juniper berry to crushed thyme to bramble to bark. Also a teriyaki/root beer note like an umami version of the spice we so often see from this site. Broad and enveloping, yet with ripe and bracing and infiltrating tannin. Finishes with a long and lovely interplay between structure and succulence."

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Cowley Vineyard" Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand $29.99

This Pyramid Valley Growers Collection bottling comes from one of my favorite sites within the region of Marlborough. The Cowley vineyard is nestled into the hills rising away to the south of the Wairau plains that make up most of Marlborough’s wine country. Here on the north facing slopes the soils turn from alluvial gravel to mixes of clay and decomposed bed rock, glacial deposits and volcanic uplift. The site produces complex pinot of real depth and character. The 2009 bottling has quite a rich dark fruit edge that illustrates the ripeness of the vintage. A seductive silky wine showing crushed plums, and red berries mingling with some freshly ground spices. Very drinkable and crowd pleasing in style, whilst retaining that authentic vibrancy that Pyramid Valley wines have in abundance.

Stephen Tanzer 91 points: “Slightly hazy medium red. Musky aromas of raspberry, coffee and smoke. Lush, silky and sweet, with velvety plum and earth flavors spreading out to saturate the palate. Seamless pinot with excellent depth and sweet tannins.”

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Lion's Tooth" Chardonnay, North Canterbury, New Zealand $39.99

Fantastic Chardonnay. This wine has a real drive and energy. It shows rich orchard fruits, poached pears and some depth given from a lovely grain or barley character which I can only assume is from a healthy dose of sur lie ageing. This is quite a rich wine but a bright acidity keeps all that texture and power taught, linear and focused. Treat this wine like a good white Burgundy and it will reward you in kind. This really shows the potential of New Zealand to produce top class Chardonnay.

Winery Notes: "20hl/ha from this steeply inclined, east facing home block. Gorgeous soils, with nut and crumb structure and great mineral fertility: 30% clay, 15-20% active lime. Again, biodynamic from inception. Early May pick, whole bunch pressed; no settling, no SO2. Vineyard yeast ferment of 15 months, in used French oak, primarily 450-500L puncheons. Natural, spring malolactic. Eleven months on lees in barrel, then transferred to a variable capacity tank for a further 9 months; bottled unfined and unfiltered in December 2011. Alcohol 14.5%. Production: 100 cases. More golden yet, still bright and brilliant. More complex, fermentative aromas: less fruit and leaf and flower than the Field of Fire, rather popcorn, brioche, grilled nuts.”

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Howell Family" Cabernet Franc, Hawke’s Bay New Zealand $28.99

Phenomenal Cab Franc. This wine draws the perfect line between the more lean and herbal Cab Francs of the Loire and the bigger and more dense California versions that are out there. It has plenty of green tobacco and freshly crushed herb varietal character but also rich, concentrated dark red fruit and spice. Some fine oak nuances round out the wine which has great length and balance on the palate. This wine comes from a very interesting sub-region of Hawke's Bay know as the Red Metals Triangle for its red, iron-rich gravelly soils. These complex soils produce low, concentrated yields and impart a fascinating mineral tinge to the wine produced here. There is so much complexity and intrigue here all cloaked beneath a rich and crowd pleasing style. Yum!

Robert Parker 91+ points: “Medium-deep ruby-purple in color, the 2009 Howell Family Vineyard Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Franc is a little closed, offering delicate to moderately pronounced notes of red currants and red cherries over nuances of black pepper, moss covered tree bark and game. Ripe and rich in the medium bodied mouth, it has medium-firm silky tannins, crisp acidity and a long savory finish. Drink it 2012 to 2017+. Mike and Claudia Weersing continue to work nature’s magic on their wines. The results are truly unique wines that can only come from these creative hands working out of this pretty patch just inland from the Waipara. Even more exciting is that the quality straight across the estate and growers labels just gets better and more consistent each year from this relatively new operation.”

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Twin Valleys" Savagnin Rose, Marlborough, New Zealand $19.99

When I learnt Pyramid Valley had a Savgagnin Rose they wanted us to taste I had absolutely no idea what to expect…Savagnin Rose? Turns out that this is a most fascinating floral, aromatic and richly textured wine. One of the most interesting wines I have tasted this year. The wine definatley shows its relation to Gewurztraminer in those 

Winery Notes: "We were thrilled when Peter and Anne Reed called us about their small parcel of this extremely rare variety. Savagnin Rose is the non-musqué progenitor of Gewurztraminer: it is less gaudily aromatic, and retains fresher acidity. We prize its delicately spicy, floral nature, as well as its bold structure and elegant strength. 4.1 tonnes/acre from this lifted Fareham Lane block, in a corner of Marlborough we believe produces exceptional aromatic wines. Whole bunch pressed, no settling, no fining agents. Indigenous fermentation of 15 months, in 500L puncheons, 5% new. Bottled on the spring equinox, September 2011. Alcohol 13.9%, pH 3.52, TA 4.3 g/l, RS 25g/l. Production 410 cases. Brilliant gold. Very delicate and subtly perfumed, with brown, yellow and ochre spice turmeric, curry, sumac, saffron and equally fine floral notes, especially rose. Still some light leesy fermentative notes, from a very long gestation in barrel. Juicy and freshly sweet, like a Golden Queen peach. Feels lush and bright simultaneously, as ripe acid and girdling phenolics lend focus and drive to the luscious finish. Really like a perfect, yellow, tree-ripened fruit a mirabelle, say, or an Anjou pear.

2010 Pyramid Valley Vineyards "Kerner Estate" Pinot Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand $18.99

An excellent growing season yielded small, clean berries from Pyramid Valley's Kerner Estate Vineyard for this 2010 Pinot Blanc. The grapes were hand-harvested and whole-cluster pressed and fermented on native yeast in old French oak puncheons. From the winery: "Pale yellow gold. Leesy/biscuity fermentative notes, with a lemon custard sort of high-tone comfort; also a subtle, blossomy sweetness, like alyssum. Really quite elegant and understated: after the complex boisterousness of the 2009, this marks a return to delicacy and ethereal grace. Light and bright and lively, despite its adamant phenolic structure and intensity of flavour. Perhaps the most poised and complete wine we’ve seen from this lovely block."

James Suckling 90 points: "This Pinot Blanc shows lovely floral and melon character with full body, good acidity and a clean finish. Balanced and chalky."

Pyramid Valley Vineyards under snow

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Rose Vineyard" Riesling, Marlborough $21.99

Robert Parker 90 points: “The 2009 Rose Vineyard Marlborough Riesling gives a chalky, mineral nose with some straw and lime leaf plus a little citrus zest and freshly made bread dough. Made to a relatively dry style, it has a medium body and lively acidity cutting through the elegant fruit, finishing long and steely. Approachable now, it should drink well to 2016+”

Thanks so much for reading and I hope you enjoy the wines!


Ryan Woodhouse, NZ / Aussie Specialist


 Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!


{Terra Ignota}: New Zealand Beyond Sauvignon Blanc


Image courtesy of

By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L NZ & Aussie Wine Specialist


As a huge fan of New Zealand wine it’s hard to argue against the success of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but for the next few paragraphs that’s what I’m going to do!

Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. Consumers all around the world know what to expect -- grassy, citrusy, gooseberried Sauv Blanc -- and buy based on familiarity and trust. The successful bonding of regional and a varietal has allowed product to flow into huge markets far and wide. “Marlborough Sauv Blanc” rolls off the tongue like “Napa Cab”. Even the complete wine novice shopping in a mainstream grocery chain would be hard pressed not to find a Kiwi Sauv Blanc consistent with this aroma and flavor profile. It has become “the” NZ wine.

However there are several problems with this phenomenon that have a negative impact on the position of NZ wines in the marketplace. To start, many consumers think they understand everything about NZ wine in general because they are familiar with this narrowly defined, mass marketed, homogenus style of grassy, gooseberried Sauvignon Blanc. Although this feeling of confidence and familiarity has driven millions of people to spend their hard earned cash on New Zealand wine, it has also worked against promoting the diversity of NZ wines, stunting the growth and success of other varietals and regions in this complex wine growing nation. A win for the big guys, a loss for the little guys, and in the end, a loss for the consumer as well.

Even Marlborough’s own attempts to break free from this stylistic stereotype have been hampered because many people aren't aware quality wines of many styles and different varietals can be produced there. When faced with a New Zealand Syrah, for example, customers are confused. “They make Syrah down there?” they ask, as if the very idea contradicted nature! It shocks me how many people - not just consumers but industry professionals too - have balked at the idea of trying something from New Zealand that is not Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Another factor to consider is what if people have experienced this dominant flavor profile and don’t like it? What then? Do they abandon NZ wine? In my experience, Yes, often they do. I have received push back from many people who have been put off New Zealand wine, period, by the over the top, pungent, astringent, grassiness of the "Motherwine". The dominance of Marlborough SB is so complete some people who are not fans of this dominant flavor profile have often abandon the country as a whole, based on the assumption that all wine from New Zealand will display the same aroma and flavor characteristics regardless of the varietal, sub-region, or vinification methods. It makes no sense, and yet it happens time and time again. The Sauv Blanc grape and the perception of its “classic” flavor profile is so entrenched in the minds of consumers that anything different is often seen as alien and undesirable.

If you are a mega winery churning out millions of cases of generic Malborough SB, this is the ideal scenario. But what about the many small producers in the region trying to make distinctive wines that represent their special piece of terroir? Do they have to conform to the dominant flavor blueprint, or take a (in many cases, significant) risk going out on a limb and creating a brave new flavor of their own?

Furthermore, what if you’re a small winery in, let’s say, Hawkes Bay on the north island specializing in Syrah? The fame of Marlborough SB and the association it has with a specific varietal and style of wine is not doing you any favors in today's marketplace. I’m convinced it is actually a negative factor that makes your perfectly delicious Syrah seem like some kind of freakish abnormality in the eyes of the average consumer.

View Larger Map

So, what to do? In my opinion, the idea of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc must be deconstructed for the consumer. The region of Marlborough is not one homogenous zone that supplies an ocean of tart, grassy, gooseberry zingyness. Marlborough (as you can see in the map above) is in fact a large and very topographically diverse area made up of numerous distinctly different sub-regions. Not only does the climate vary between these regions, but so to do the soils, aspects and most importantly predominant flavors.

Drawing the most basic distinction of Wairau Valley Vs. Awatere Valley could help people understand why Marlborough SB actually has much diversity to give. Awatere, being much more influenced by the Ocean and generally cooler throughout the growing season, has a tendency to produce more herbal, “greener” aromatics and flavors. Wairau Valley is more protected by geographical features and has a considerably warmer (relatively) growing climate. This means that wines from this locale often exhibit riper, fuller, more citrus and tropical notes. Other sub-regional distinctions exist especially now with plantings spreading back into the interior tributary valleys and up on to the elevated slopes surrounding the valley floors.

To illustrate my point, the Burgundy AOC has a similar area of land under vine (25,000 hectares to Marlborough’s 24,000.) Within Burgundy there are some 300 delineated villages. There are also hundreds of individual vineyards that are recognized with their own 1er Cru status. Even within those vineyards more distinctions drawn on soil, aspect and the resulting flavor and quality. Burgundy is an area and a category that absolutley defines itself by very small unique terroirs or climats. So to think of Marlborough, with it's similar area under vine and diverse micro-climates, as one homogenous area that produces the same flavor profile is ludicrous.

Unfortunatley millions of dollars and a couple decades have been spent branding it this way. While Burgundy, on the other hand, has had many centuries to define and delineate its diversity.

Vineyards in the Awatere Valley

Moving on, the distinctly grassy, vegetal, green, even bell pepper like favor compounds that have become so fundamentally associated with Marlborough SB are not necessarily the typical expression of this terroir. I have discussed with many people over the last few years about how this flavor profile has as much to do with agricultural practices as it does Marlborough's terroir.

New Zealand’s wine industry has its roots in relatively modern agriculture. When Marlborough was planted en-masse in the early 80s, the prevailing crop growing mentality prevailed, “how much fruit can we produce from this acreage?” These vast swathes of over cropped vineyards resulted in much under-ripe, dilute, green, vegetal wine. There is no blame or finger pointing here; this was just the natural progression of an agriculture driven, rather than viticulture focused, industry.

Where the blame falls I feel is with the people and critics that accepted and marketed this as Marlborough’s definitive flavor. Popularized through homogenized mass production, little thought was given to subtlety or diversity as the wave of success swelled around the globe. What was actually pretty poor viticulture became known as the flavor of New Zealand. Sure it was fresh, bright, and zesty, but ultimately it is limited in its depth and finesse.

Though this flavor profile is still at large, thankfully viticulture practices in general have improved and styles have emerged that are distinctive, more restrained, balanced (and thanks to some expert growers and winemakers) rich, complex and textural. People in “the know” experiment with, native yeast, extended lees contact, the use of oak, splashes of Semillion etc. These artisanal touches and commitment to quality has brought us some dynamic wines and ensured the vitality and success of Marlborough’s real producers reigns on.

Just ask me next time you feel like a Kiwi SB I’ll be more than happy to introduce you to some with interest and authenticity. Here are a couple to start with:

2011 Te Whare Ra (TWR) Sauvignon Blanc $18.99

2010 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc $22.99

2011 Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc $17.99

NZ Pinot Noir

Now that we have discussed Marlborough specifically, what about those winemakers outside of the Marlborough SB bubble? Thanks in part to global trends, New Zealand has been able to take advantage of its moderately cool climate and climb aboard the Pinot train. While not as spectacular as the SB explosion, Pinot plantings have gone up dramatically in the last couple decades and producers have enjoyed great success with this fickle beauty. Central Otago has perhaps made the most of the global Pinot Noir resurgence after a false start by Martinborough. Marlborough also produces great Pinot and already has a familiar name in wine production. However now we are seeing concerted efforts by regions such as Nelson, Waipara, North Canterbury, Waiarapa, Waitaki etc to promote their own brand of NZ Pinot. In general I would say that NZ Pinot is consistently balanced and very good value for money when compared with domestic (US) competition. The different regions mentioned above have huge variety as far as styles and flavor profiles. It seems this time around NZ has seen the merit in promoting regional diversity and complexity over looking for one dominant style. The fickle, variable nature of the variety perhaps demands this approach.

However, again I believe there is a caveat to this success. I speak frequently with people about sub-regional intricacies and the need for producers and representatives alike, to focus on educating consumers about the complexity and infinite variables that make New Zealand’s wines so enthralling. For example Central Otago has huge ranges of geological and climactic variance. From the Cromwell Basin, to Bendigo, to Lake Wanaka, Gibston Valley and Waitaki, all Central Otago Pinot producing areas, all have very different qualites.

Mist hanging in the Gibston Valley, Central OtagoThis is not about dividing regions, this is about inspiring people to seek unique distinctions in wine. Diversity and complexity is what I think keeps wine lovers interested. NZ Pinot is definitely something worthy of exploring, so I plead with people to keep an open mind and relish the subtleties that define these growing areas. The possibilities are somewhat endless and for a person that thrives on interesting wines rather than big point scores, this is why New Zealand wines are so exciting to me. New Zealand is so complex in its regional and varietal diversity; I think this story of intricate micro-climate specialty is a compelling one that must be told.

Other NZ Varietals, Regions, and Styles

To stretch the comprehension of NZ wine even further, let us revisit our hypothetical winery trying to sell our non-Marlborough Syrah. Wines such as these are dependent on two things: people’s inquisitive nature to seek new things and the wines own quality to make an impact. Hawke's Bay is home to NZ’s longest operating winery Mission Estate (established in 1851) and has a fantastic viticultural history. Hawke's Bay also has a unique set of qualities that I think make it a truly world class place to make wine. Being on the east coast of the north island, shielded from most of the prevailing westerly weather systems, the area typically enjoys a great sunny warm climate. Being right on the ocean also moderates any extremes of temperature. The region has diverse soils ranging from limestone, to volcanic, to deep alluvial gravels. Perhaps the most exciting sub-region here is the Gimblett Gravels. This is an ancient riverbed where vines have been planted in soils consisting of 90% pebbles that extend 20-30 feet down. The very stony soil stresses the vines producing ultra concentrated fruit while the gentle radiated heat from the stones allow perfect elongated ripening (think La Crau in Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Graves in Bordeaux).

I think the Syrah grown here is perhaps some of the best in the world. When done right, a perfect balance between classic peppery, meaty, smokey Rhone characteristics, and bright, berries, violets and succulent fruit driven styles of the modern era can be achieved. Bordeaux varietal blends from this area are also world beaters as highlighted in a tasting where dozens of the world’s top wine professionals, some Masters of Wine, tasted them blind against Bordeaux’s 1st growths. Mission Estate’s top wine, the Jewelstone was only undone by Haut-Brion and Ch. Mouton, beating out Ch. Latour, Ch. Lafite and many other prestigious wines at 20+ times its price point, yes 20+!

Craggy Range's Gimblett Gravels Vineyard

Other exceptional wines from this area include Craggy Range’s “Sohia”, a right bank Bordeaux style blend and the Craggy Range’s “Le Sol” a Syrah of stunning depth, opulence and polished texture. Sacred Hill also makes a range of wines from this area including the Helmsman Bordeaux style blend and Deerstalkers Syrah. Near by are the epic wines of Te Mata Estate including the Coleraine, Awatea and Bullnose, all incredible wines of pedigree and excellence. 

So here on the Gimblett Gravels is a unique, world-class terroir that has absolutely nothing in common with NZ’s most famous export. This is only one example; New Zealand is also excelling in producing stunning Riesling and other aromatic white varietals. I recently tasted a Spatlese style Riesling made at Fromm Winery in Marlborough that I think rivals any German offering. With Riesling’s popularity growing around the globe this is an exciting prospect for New Zealand’s producers. New Zealand Chardonnay is also something I am always trying to turn people on to. Many of them strike a perfect balance between the fruit purity and richness of California Chard but without the overwhelming oak and buttery character and often with Burgundian texture, brightness and minerality. Try Neudorf’s Moutere bottling or Te Whare Ra’s excellent Marlborough Chard and Sacred Hill’s world class Rifleman’s Vineyard release.

Also, what about areas such as Gisborne or Northland. These wine regions have pretty much no representation in the US market yet both produce compelling wines with distinctive flavor profiles. The possibilities and variables of these beguiling isles are literally endless.

I guess my concluding point (finally) is that those of us who care (or are even remotely interested) have to work hard to spread the word about New Zealand’s diversity. To let others know that all of its regions have something to offer and need to be treated as distinct entities. No one grape or flavor can define New Zealand and in fact it is very harmful to try and do so. No single success story can support a whole nation of wine growers. Neither can this narrative excite the broad support of eclectic wine drinkers. So thanks all you Marlborough SB giants for putting NZ on the map, now please sit back and let the real inner beauty shine through.

Our first and fantastic venture into NZ Direct Imports: Te Whare RaIf I didn’t bore you too much with this rant and you're interested in learning more about or tasting more New Zealand wines please send me an email and I will be in touch.



Ryan Woodhouse

NZ & Aussie Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City



Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!



{Terra Ignota} Pyramid Valley Vineyard Wines In Stock!

We now have a large range of these spectacular wines in stock

By: Ryan Woodhouse | K&L NZ & Aussie Wine Specialist

On very rare occasions do we find wines that truly inspire—the magic moment we all chase in a simple beverage made from crushed grapes. For this to happen I believe three things have to be in harmony: fruit, structure and terroir. I found these things intricately aligned in the wines of Pyramid Valley. Based in North Canterbury on the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, the wines made by Mike and Claudia Weersing are truly world class.

Pyramid Valley's Home Vineyard in North Canterbury under a blanket of snowTheir “Home Vineyard” is one of the most carefully cultivated sites anywhere, farmed using biodynamic principles and a whole lot of Claudia’s “blood, sweat and tears.” Beyond their estate they have also forged relationships with growers and small vineyards all over New Zealand. They choose sites of distinction and convert everything to the same stringent biodynamic principles they apply at home. The resulting wines are nothing short of spectacular, perfectly illustrating New Zealand’s plethora of microclimates and diverse terroirs. The winemaking at Pyramid Valley parallels the profound attention to detail in the field: They work with all wild yeasts, tread the grapes by foot and ferment in tiny clay vessels, with an unwavering focus on quality and authenticity.

We have just received a huge range of their spectacular wines into stock, in stores and online:

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyard “Angel Flower” Pinot Noir, North Canterbury ($59.99)

Opulently aromatic: soft berry fruits, exotic spice, hints of warm earth. On the palate: supple, elegant andenergetic. Fine polished tannins and relatively light extraction. The exuberance and depth of this wine suggests its longevity will belie its attractive, graceful structure.

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards “Earth Smoke” Pinot Noir, North Canterbury ($59.99)

A powerful and brooding Pinot with darker black cherry, bramble fruit and charcoal, plus ground nutmeg and
clove and an intense, earthy or leaf-litter component. The tannins are more prominent, which perfectly matches the heavier palate weight. Cellaring will no doubt bring reward.

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection “Cowley Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Marlborough ($29.99)

The Cowley Vineyard is in the hills and has a more complex soil composition than much of Marlborough, including clay, glacial deposits and granitic stone. This Pinot is dramatically floral, with crushed red berries and hints of anise. The palate is vibrant and concentrated, with spice and rich depth. A touch more forward in style.

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection “Calvert Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Central Otago ($39.99)

From a Vineyard shared between some giants of NZ Pinot Noir. (Craggy Range, Felton Road and Pyramid Valley) All farmed Biodynamically. This is the warmest region PV work with and it is reflected in this wines powerful fruit core of Blackberries and dark cherry. Rich and unctuous on the palate, yet retaining freshness and drive. Some dark earthiness and ripe silky tannin. Probably the best cross-over wine for California Pinot drinkers interested in trying Pyramid Valleys offerings.

2007 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection “Howell Family” Cabernet Franc, Hawkes Bay ($35.99)

From the Bridge Pa district of Hawkes Bay, known for its iron- and mineral-rich red loam soils that impart a distinctive complexity into the wines. The winemaker’s notes are perfect here, “hugely perfumed fruit, violets and a tapenade-like mix of olive, black pepper and herbs, especially thyme. Black fruits turn redder with air: blackberry morphing to raspberry.”

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Rose Vineyard" Riesling, Marlborough ($21.99)

Intense mineral and lime zest aromatics with a hint of dry grass or straw. A really vivacious palate with tons of citrus notes, some mulling spice, bright floral notes of orange blossom. A lovely weight in the mouth, rich and persistent on the finish.

2007 Pyramid Valley Vineyards Growers Collection "Kerner Estate" Pinot Blanc, Marlborough ($21.99)

Rich citrus preserve, sweet orange marmalade. Some roasted grains and lees character on the nose give an interesting savory component to an other wise fruit laden bouquet. On the palate this wine is beautifully viscous and mouth filling. A very fleshed out wine that has evolved fantastically in the bottle. All this richness is perfectly balanced by a brisk acidity and long lingering savory minerality on the finish. Very food friendly.

2009 Pyramid Valley Vineyard "Field Of Fire" Chardonnay, North Canterbury

A beautiful bright Chardonnay dominated by perfectly ripe orchard fruits and again those toasted grain notes I get from so many of the PV wines, I think it must be from the good healthy lees contact. A rich and engaging multidimensional wine with excellent fruit, a subtle touch of oak and limestone character running throughout the tail. Excellent depth and persistence.



Ryan Woodhouse

NZ & Aussie Wine Specialist

K&L Wine Merchants - Redwood City



Terra Ignota is Latin for "Unknown Land". It was the name for the South Pacific region during intial mapping and exploration of Australia and New Zealand. As we are going to be exploring new and exciting wines from this region, we think this is a fitting title for our blog series on wines from this part of the world. Stay tuned for more!