By Rick Riozza

Here in the desert, hitting the mid-July point probably means we have easily another three months or so of hot weather. We wine columnists have tried to do our best by working the white wine trail by raising awareness of the world’s most refreshing quaffs that have included Chablis, Sancerre, Soave, the irrepressible Prosecco, and many others to keep us cool and revitalized.

Well—no need to stop now, so let’s try the new 2014s that are hitting our markets at this very season. Promptly, some of you wine folk are pondering how can 2014 wines make it to the market so fast—considering harvest time, winemaking, bottling and distribution. Ding Ding Ding, the answer is: Wine produced in the Southern Hemisphere has a six-month head-start.

As your friendly neighborhood wine steward at Haggen Market in Rancho Mirage, I see firsthand the popularity of New Zealand’s Kim Crawford wine. Often, wine customers will enter into my “wine library” and ask for some advice on some vino selections. And then there are those with a definite agenda in mind, “Can you show me where the Kim Crawford is?”


“Oh yes—Kimmy Crawford—right this way”, is my usual response. Now I don’t know if winemaker Kim Crawford likes to be called “Kimmy” or whether he has ever used that name, but I like saying it because it kinda gives things a personal slant—maybe? For in the impersonal world of wine distribution, the largest New Zealand wine brand in the U.S. is Constellation brands’ Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc which exports over a million cases a year!!

With our very wine savvy desert dwellers, it’s a no-brainer why this Sauv blanc is so popular: We’ve the heat, Kim Crawford the quench. With the crack of the cap, Kim Crawford 2014 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, around $16, starts with crisp grapefruit and finishes with mown grass. It’s elegant, clean, clear, crisp and lemony in taste bursts with notes of tropical melon, pineapple and passion fruit. The mouth-watering acidity and zesty finish make it a perfect complement to asparagus, fresh oysters, seafood and summer salads.

Fans of this wine claim –it’s the best of both worlds: the herbal quality of the New Zealand variety yet with citrus notes like the California style. Refreshing yet complex with a light feel and a smooth finish. It’s not too racy or brazen but moderately round with fruit sweetness; so it fills in for a pinot grigio but has more in the nose and on the palate.

The first-ever Kim Crawford wine made in 1996 was an un-oaked Chardonnay. Now, everyone in town is producing one. I’m actually enjoying a chilled glass of the Kim Crawford’s 2014 Unoaked Chardonnay, around $14, right now as I write. So here goes my on-the-spot review of this wine: (slurp-slurp) Well—if one were to taste this “blind”, young or old, a new excited wine lover or an old wine curmudgeon, everyone would agree that this is a pure true expression of the Chardonnay grape. I have to tell you, it is amazing how the New Zealand weather and terroir simply produce the cleanest wines.

(Slurp-slurp) With no oak to hide behind, it’s a crisp wine that is like chomping on fresh Chardonnay grapes. And quite frankly—this is the stuff I really enjoy when the temperatures outside are out-of-sight! You would think that it was “Kimmy’s” Sauv Blanc that you’re enjoying at the foretaste, but comfortably measured, the Chardonnay charms become evident with the classic apple and pear combo.

There is the welcomed clash of New Zealand fresh citrus and stone fruit flavors that keep this wine refreshing and bright. Tropical fruit nuances also travel in and out of the quaff. Who would not wish to be relishing this wine in the summertime?

Even most ABC aficionados (those anything but Chardonnay fans) will cringe half of their face and admit that this wine has its stimulating moments. And for you wine-nerds, note that even though it’s made in steel, it spends 5 months on-the-lees (residual yeasts) with secondary malolactic fermentation giving it a touch of nuttiness and a generous mouth-feel. It’s the bridge wine between Sauv blanc and a Cal Chard that you can sip all day—and then pair with seafood, white meats, and grilled chicken thereafter.

Lastly, is coverage of the Kim Crawford 2014 Pinot Gris, around $16. The fun aspect of this wine—right out-of-the-gate, is that everyone clamors “What’s the difference between pinot grigio and pinot gris!?”

Heritage-wise, there’s no difference—it’s the same grape! Linguistically, one is written/spoken in Italian, the other in French (thus the “Gree” pronunciation with no “s” sound). But geographically, Pinot Gris savors differently. In Italy, it is easy-drinking with delicate aromatics of stone fruit and floral and a light touch of herb. In Alsace, there is a richness and texture to the profile. Oregon and New Zealand plays with both styles and goes on further.

The Kim Crawford 2014 Pinot Gris is one of the most delicious gris I’ve had all year. It’s well-balanced with ripe fruit flavors of pears, Braeburn apple, melon, and honeysuckle, with hints of spice and orange and a bright clean finish. For you vino lovers, it’s another wine to indeed fall in love with! It’s enjoyable on its own, and I can see it on the table with antipasti, fresh seafood, and our favorite South-East Asian cuisine.

Kim Crawford’s slogan is, “Our aim is to craft wines that are vibrant, fruit driven and generous.” They’ve got that right. Cheers!

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