Had a visit today from Gillett Johnson, one of the owners and COO of Barker's Marque Winery, which is located in Marlborough, New Zealand. This happened to be a last minute kind of request from my rep who was out working with him for the day, and I went into this blind, as a favor. But, lo-and-behold, I was saved by the fact that I have two of the wines on my wine lists, so who looked like a hero? This guy! The thing for my rep, though, was that the lists these wines appear on are in another state so he was unaware and of course getting no credit for the sales.
We tasted through the wines and had a good chat about the winery, the owners, and the specifics of the region of production. I guess the prominent point of distinction here is that the winery sources all of its fruit from one contiguous vineyard site located in the Awatere Valley part of Marlborough. This is about a mile from the ocean, and while I have not visited, I can only imagine a beautiful spot with sea-breezes, and fresh air. I am sure they get their fair share of foul weather, but the surrounding mountains offer some steady protection from the heavy elements.
The winery is owned by husband and wife partners Simon and Vanessa Barker. He is the winemaker and she is the viticulturalist (in charge of the vineyards). Each is long-standing in their fields and have worked considerable engagements with other wineries prior to starting their own. Simon has worked wineries around the globe, while Vanessa spent 20 years working for Villa Maria, one of New Zealand's most well-known wineries.
The vineyard they own and work is in a dry riverbed called the Blind River, and is primarily a sand/gravel riverbed type soil; except for one part the juts up the slope slightly away from the river bed. Here the soil turns more clay, and this area is the source of the Three Brooms selection. The vineyard (and thus the wines) are certified under Sustainable Wine Growing New Zealand, which means that the vineyard, winery and bottling are all certified sustainable. Their backyard is the vineyard, and their children play in the vineyard, so it only makes sense that they would want to keep things as clean and environmentally pure as possible. Plus it makes better wine.
So, beautiful location, earth friendly endeavor and practices, but is the wine any good? I tasted three offerings: Arona, Ranga. Ranga., and Three Brooms - all Sauvignon Blanc and all 2015. My brief notes are to the right, but my easy and quick read is that these wines all fall within a typical and good range for N.Z. Sauvignon, and will satisfy any guest/customer looking for a clean and refreshing Sauvignon for the summer weather.
The wines are also fairly priced across the board...
See the Barker's Mark website here for more information and to read about the Awatere Valley, the best location for Marlborough SBs (in my experience).
Trade Community - in CT from Winebow, easy choices for wine lists, especially BTG.
Community at Large - as stated the prices are very reasonable for the quality - buy at will and drink with abandon.
Barker's Mark Arona Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ, 2015 Very clean nose, with mellow but present grapefruit and edamame pea character - something I find in a lot of S. Hemisphere SBs. Not a bad thing, just a little vegetal, and OK if in check, but annoying if too heavy. Here it is somewhat subdued. On the palate the wine is clean and refreshing without being biting; I like that style - just clean and juicy but not tearing the skin off the back of you neck with acid. Finishes clean and a bit juicy. Great BTG selection and retails for about $13.
Barker's Mark Ranga.Ranga. Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ, 2015 When something is given two names in Maori, then that is a sign of respect and admiration. Here the wine has two names, and it is justified. Still with the subtle pea and citrus on the nose, but the palate fleshes out well, and there is a length to the wine that is quite pleasant and adds to the enjoyment. Here you pay a couple of extra dollars, but the wine is worth it. About $14, at retail.
Barker's Marque Three Brooms Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ, 2015 Here things take a little more serious route. The pea thing is all but a back drop, and the lush grapefruit and citrus aromatics really drive the nose. They are not explosive, just pure and present. The palate is dry, crisp and lengthy with juicy refreshing citrus notes. Certainly the easiest to pound down a bottle of, this is a must have for pool-side or the beach. Delicious and highly recommended. About $16, at retail.
So this first question to address might be, what is Chianti Rufina?
Chianti Rufina is a small sub-zone in the northeast part of the greater Chianti district, and is a area that has always been associated with Florence. I was fortunate enough to visit this area about 8 years ago courtesy of Marchesi de’ Frescobaldi and their Nipozzano estate. I remember two distinguishing things about the area - first, it was quite small, and second, was very hilly - being tucked into the foothills of the Apennines and all. The vineyards are basically tucked into the twisting hills outside the limits of Florence by about 30 minutes. The other thing about this area is that there is a fairly short list of wineries. Once you go beyond Selvapiana and Nipozzano, there are literally only a handful of other producers. Nonetheless, the region makes outstanding fan-favorite wines, that showcase beautiful fruit and great style.
Chianti Rufina is the quiet corner in the NE part of the greater Chianti "super-Zone"
A 25 year drinks industry expert, Brian has worked on just about every side of the beverage business, specializing in wine & spirits education, staff training, creative consulting, and of course service. He lives and works in Connecticut, where the number of working Somm's is limited, but he hopes through the effort of this site and its related events, that will change.