An Overview of Crown Range Cellar from New Zealand
05 Thursday Jan 2017
I just tasted through a selection of the Crown Range Cellar wines. All are good to very good, and they all speak clearly of their varieties and origins. Their only downfalls are their current US SRPs, which are very ambitious. As they are not yet imported, perhaps some adjustments may come along.
Grant P Taylor 2015 Pinot Noir Central Otago 13.5% $125
This is brilliant Kiwi Pinot Noir. Stuffed with ripe boysenberries and tart cranberries, it runs through the full range of red and black fruits from the time you crack the capsule until you pour the last dribble. It is quintessential Pinot Noir with its elegant, caressing tannins and lovely acidic lift that pulls at the back edges of the palate. Its long on the finish with tastes of savory and sweet spices and the vaguest notion of toastiness accompanying Damson plum and raspberry purée. Svelte and well-proportioned with layers of flavors, this is hard to resist now but will reward those with both more patience and cellar storage than the bulk of us.
The Stolen Heart 2014 Merlot Malbec Gimblett Gravels 13.5% $40
Bold and heady on the nose with aromas of dried rose petals, cut cigar, charcoal bricks, black currants and beef jerky, this youngster can easily be decanted for half a day with little to only subtle aroma changes. That makes it a good keeper for several days if you don’t get around to finishing the bottle. It has a meaty and intense palate with firm structure of chewy tannins and bright acidity that drag all the lusty combinations of masculine flavors into a lingering finish. This chunky red with black flecking at its core is made for hearty meals. If upfront and ballsy isn’t your style, stash it in the back of your cellar and bring it out in five or so years. It has the architecture and grace to age beautifully.
China Girl 2015 Pinot Noir Central Otago 14.0% $52
This deeply-colored, mulberry-red wine smells, tastes and feels like Central Otago Pinot Noir. Alas, its price tag is very Otago, too, but, high quality deserves to command top prices. It’s super youthful and juicy with a concerted concentration of Marasca cherries and fresh mulberries. Some licorice and light sweet spice weave into the medium-plus finish. With suave, graceful tannins, lifting acidity and lip-smacking flavors, it’s hard to poke holes here. This is serious juice. If anything, it’s just too young. Give it another six months to a year for greater flavor complexity to develop, then crack the screwcap. Not only is this a good drinker, it has a fascinating story to go along with your every sip. Its name is a tribute to Chinese miners who arrived in Central Otago during the Bendigo gold rush that kicked off in 1869.
Drink: Late 2017-2022
Crown Range Cellar 2015 Late Harvest Riesling Dolce Vita 9.0% $32.00 (375 ml)
Pale gold in color, this wine smells of cantaloupe, mirabelle plums, drying apricots and honey. The mid-weight palate tastes the same and transforms the flavors for the medium finish into nougat, pancake syrup and ginger candy. Delightfully balanced, the vivacoius acidity brings a pleasant pucker to the palate as the finish fades. This is delicately sweet and serves as well as an apéritif as a closing curtain to a nice meal. Loaded with bewitching charm and pristine clean primary fruit, this is one of those sweet wines that will make everyone wonder why they don’t drink more of them.
Drowsy Fish 2015 Pinot Gris Central Otago 12.5% $37.50
This wine is Pinot Gris inside and out with its flavors of bruised apples, hint of grandma’s perfume and traces of dusty attic corners. It’s beautifully ample and plush on the palate with very discreet but correctly balancing acidity. The finish lingers with layers of honeyed flavors that show this is no typical Pinot Gris. When served at cellar temperature, slate, fireplace smoke, savory spice, toast and baked apples emerge. All of these are seductive and rich flavors, but the surprise on the tail end is the stream of minerality that focuses the wine more finely than the medium acidity. Decant this wine! While it’s perfectly fine straight out of the spigot, with several hours of air, it transforms like Cindarella.
Drowsy Fish 2015 Riesling Waipara 12.5% $37.50
This crystal-clear, pale lemon pulp-colored wine is light and spritely with pit-fruit aromas of peach and nectarine. It starts out a bit candied with tastes of tinned fruit cocktail, but it evolves quickly into a more nuanced palate. From start to finish, there’s a smooch of sweetness that tantalizes with its tastes of wildflower honey and flan. Medium in body, there’s just enough refreshing acidity and serious flavor substance to consider stashing some bottles away for the next few years. There’s terrific purity, river rocks-like minerality and lots of enticement to keep going back to the glass.
Drowsy Fish 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Nelson 13.0% $19.99
Woowee! This is a seriously pungent, gooseberry-filled lip-smacker. The nose is fervently bright and fresh, but the palate isn’t so aggressively acidic that you worry you should visit your dentist in the morning. Rather, there’s a terrific balance of exuberant citrus flavors (pomelo and key lime) and high-toned green notes (freshly mown grass and fennel fronds). While there’s plenty of moreishness on the attack with gobs of yellow plums, donut peaches and crushed anise seed, the finish registers über-zesty and dry. There’s none of that occasionally noticeable residual sugar here. In fact, there’s enough vigorous structure to make this medium-bodied, curvaceous and glycerol-enhanced wine better on the table rather than by the poolside.
Drink: 2017-early 2018