BY: Robert Whitley
While tasting a stunning bevy of sauvignon blancs with Alex Giesen, one of the three Giesen brothers, more than a year ago, it occurred to me that while a bit of a discovery, the Giesen wines were certainly no surprise.
The brothers had planted their vineyards in New Zealand’s Marlborough district, at the northern tip of the South Island, near Christchurch, which is New Zealand’s sweet spot for sauvignon blanc. This is the land of Cloudy Bay and Villa Maria, the sauvignons that put New Zealand on the map in the uber-competitive world of fine wine.
More recently I had the opportunity to taste a presentation of Giesen wines by Theo Giesen, another of the brothers, and the experience proved to be a revelation.
To be sure, there was an impeccably made sauvignon, Giesen’s 2012 The Fuder, Matthews Lane sauvignon blanc ($40) from a single vineyard. This was a layered, creamy, complex sauvignon crafted in a unique style through the unusual practice of aging in 1000 liter barrels.
Two other Giesen wines — 2012 The Fuder Clayvin chardonnay ($40) and 2012 The Fuder Clayvin pinot noir ($55) — surprisingly stole the show, however. First of all, Marlborough’s reputation has been built on sauvignon. The finest New Zealand pinot would be found in Central Otago and the finest chardonnay on the North Island outside of Auckland, specifically the Kumeu River wines made by Master of Wine Michael Brajkovich.
The Clayvin Vineyard chardonnay reminded me of a top-notch Chassagne Montrachet, exhibiting that rare combination of richness and firm spine that is typically only found in France’s Burgundy region. Theo Giesen’s considers the purchase of the Clayvin vineyard to be one of his family’s most important business decisions.
Giesen’s Clayvin chardonnay is every bit the equal of Kumeu River’s finest and Leeuwin Estate’s Artist Series from the Margaret River region of Western Australia, which are the two finest chardonnays from this part of the world, in my humble opinion. Giesen’s 2012 The Fuder Clayvin pinot was every bit the monumental wine as the chardonnay.
“You can now see why we bought the Clayvin vineyard,” Theo explained in a serious understatement.
These two Giesen wines can stand with Burgundian-style wine anytime, anywhere. I can only hope that next year brings brother No. 3 my way. That would be Marcel, the winemaker who crafts the remarkable Giesen wines.
Wines are rated on a 100-point scale. Wines are chosen for review because they represent outstanding quality or value, and the scores are simply a measure of this reviewer’s enthusiasm for the recommended wine.
Dry Creek Vineyard 2013 Zinfandel, Heritage Vines, Sonoma County ($20) — Dry Creek Vineyard has long been among the most value driven of Sonoma County’s premier wine producers. The wines are impeccably made from exceptional vineyard sources and sold at fair prices. The Heritage Vines zinfandel is a stunner at the price. It shows lovely red fruits with notes of spice and earth, is well-balanced and shows excellent length in the mouth, with a persistent finish. Rating: 92.
Banfi 2013 Centine Bianco, Toscana, Italy ($11) — This lovely white from Tuscany is an unusual blend (for Tuscany) of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and chardonnay, the latter grape lending body and weight that take what would otherwise be a light quaffer into another realm. Clean, crisp and fresh, Centine Bianco shows notes of citrus, pear and apple, with a touch of spice and a roundness on the palate that makes it go down easy, especially at the price. Rating: 88.
Sonoma-Cutrer 2012 Pinot Noir, Founders Reserve, Russian River Valley ($65) — The Founders Reserve is a departure in style from previous Sonoma-Cutrer pinots, which have exhibited exceptional elegance and finesse. The Founders is hardly an oaf, but it is a powerhouse packed with layered dark fruits, particularly an intense black raspberry aroma that sets the tone. On the palate this wine is rich and dense, with excellent weight and structure, including a fair amount of tannin on the back end that will surely prolong the life of this bad boy. Rating: 94.
Kuleto Estate 2012 ‘Frog Prince,’ Napa Valley ($35) — The Kuleto Estate is tucked into the hills east of the Silverado Trail, where there is plenty of daytime sunshine and ripeness is never an issue. The Frog Prince is for all intents and purposes a red Bordeaux-style blend except for a splash of Syrah that keeps it from being a true meritage. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot do all the heavy lifting for this wine, which exhibits impressive depth and layered complexity, with rich, ripe black-fruited aromas complemented by hints of cedar and vanillin. Given what most Napa Valley red meritage blends would cost, Frog Prince is an out and out steal at the price. Rating: 92.
Black Kite 2012 Pinot Noir, Kite’s Rest, Anderson Valley ($48) — This is a delicious though somewhat delicate pinot from Black Kite’s estate vineyard. In this vintage the Kite’s Rest block has delivered a floral wine with pretty red-fruited aromas and hints of forest floor and spice. Ready to drink now, but likely more ready in another year or two. Rating: 91.
Follow Robert on Twitter at @wineguru. To find out more about Robert Whitley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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