Exploring food and wine pairing with Stoneleigh Pinot Noir
The Stoneleigh vineyards are located in the village of Rapaura in the region of Marlborough which is situated towards the northeast tip of the South Island and is New Zealand’s largest wine-making region. If you do a little research about Stoneleigh Winery you quickly learn that it is all about the “stones”. The vineyards are studded with “sunstones” which take the light from the sun and reflect it upward toward the vines and the grapes. These stones are from an ancient riverbed that existed long ago where the vineyards are today. Marlborough is known for having a dry climate and for producing the white wine Sauvignon Blanc, but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are steadily gaining ground. In the 1970′s it was Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough that started convincing people around the world that New Zealand could produce wines of quality and intrigue. The combination of hot sunny days and cool nights is the friendly contrast of temperatures that lead some to argue that there is no Sauvignon Blanc anywhere in the world like that of Marlborough. Enough SB, let’s talk Pinot!
2010 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir Marlborough, New Zealand $13
Nose: Really fresh and bright red fruits, we’re talking cranberry, strawberry, red raspberry, and pomegranate. There’s a good amount of cinnamon on the nose and a little potpourri of dried rose petals and crushed violets. If that wasn’t enough there is a subtle, yet very distinct aroma of rubber tire.
Palate: First impressions on the palate begin with an explosion of sour red fruit and the acidity is medium-high. There are some smooth, chalky tannins that are quite lovely. The mid-palate is a bit hollow and the finish is a little thin and not quite as long as I would have liked.
Overall Impression: I really liked the bouquet of aromas on this wine. Even though the mid-palate and the finish are a little weak there is some nice sour fruit red upfront. This Pinot is easy drinking and a pretty solid food wine. Fans of Bogle, Hahn, Cline, Castle Rock, and Parker Station should check this out for something different. This wine is ready to drink now or could be put away for the next 3-5 years.
The folks over at Nova Marketing were kind enough to send me a sample of the wine and I thought that rather than just critique it in the cold, sterile context that most wines are reviewed, let’s test drive this baby the way real people enjoy their wine – with food! So I decided to stop by one of my favorite restaurants, Napa Valley Grille, and see how the wine stacks up with some of their cuisine.
Little Gem Wedge Salad - This is one of my favorite salads of the year, so crisp and tasty! This wine really complimented the smokey bacon, rich blue cheese vinaigrette, and crispy sweet fried shallots in the salad. Definitely a successful pairing!
Fish Tacos – While I love the Fish Tacos at Napa Valley Grille, the sourness of the pickled onions and the sweet & spicy chipotle honey totally overpowered the wine. A crisp Riesling or an ice-cold lager would have been a better pairing.
Duck Confit Flatbread – This flatbread was a home run all on it’s own. Riding the razors edge of “flavor balance” the sautéed fennel, caramelized onions, salty duck confit, smoked mozzarella, and fresh asian pears all worked wonderfully together. In other words, the flavor dwarfs known as “salty”, “smokey”, “sweet”, “savory”, and “spicy” were somehow held in check. The wine stood up surprisingly well against all of this and believe it or not the sweetness of the pear did not overpower the wine as I would have suspected. This was the pairing of the evening.