One-Man Band Becomes Global Brand
Villa Maria is one of the premier wineries in New Zealand and has amassed an exceptional number of honors for its wine, efforts in sustainability and business practices. Its growth parallels the success story of New Zealand wine.
The winery was begun in 1961 by George Fistonich when he leased five acres of land from his father. Throughout the 1960s it was a one-man show, with support from George’s wife Gail. From those humble beginnings the winery has grown to an enterprise that now exports to more than 50 countries worldwide.
A Focus On Sustainability
Villa Maria has about 500 sheep that control grass growth and provide natural fertilizer and about 70% of wine bottle packaging is made from recycled material. During a recent virtual tasting hosted by Snooth, we were able to taste through six Villa Maria current releases.
A Sparkling Surprise
We first opened the 2017 Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc. This is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and made specifically for the US market. It was a perfect arrival wine. Like all Villa Maria wines, it has a screw closure. The bubbles are pleasantly spritzy. There is a kiss of sweetness. It’s a new wine and our group was enthusiastic about it. SRP is $15.
We don’t normally associate rosé with New Zealand, but perhaps we should. The 2017 Private Bin Rosé is from Hawkes Bay, the country’s top region for reds. It is a Merlot blend and salmon pink in the glass. The alcohol is a light 12%, making it a perfect mate for a wide variety of foods.
Taylors Pass: A Range Of Quality
Taylors Pass sits on the northern bank of the Awatere River. The vineyard is warm, sheltered from the cool breezes that flow down the valley from the mountains. The soils are a patchwork of different types, each eliciting different flavors from the grapes. In Taylors Pass the people must be very happy, based on the wines we sipped.
While the majority of our tasting party favored the Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, I was blown away by the 2016 Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc. It has complexity and herbal notes that make it a standout among Sauvignon Blancs. This is enhanced by four to six weeks on the lees. SRP is $26 and a good value at that.
The 2015 Taylors Pass Pinot Noir was the highlight of the tasting for me. This single vineyard Pinot spends 14 months in French oak (25% new) which yields oak notes that mingle pleasantly with cocoa and wild cherry flavors. The retail price is $42 and it is a nice value compared to a Willamette Valley or Russian River Valley Pinot of similar quality.
We’ve enjoyed a fair bit of Villa Maria wines over the years. Our latest tasting confirms our impressions – Villa Maria has a wide lineup of wines that are delicious and represent great values.
Full disclosure: This wine was received as a marketing sample.