Offer available through Monday, 6/5/2023, or as inventory lasts.
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Hi everyone –
WHAM!!! And just like that, it’s summertime in Minnesota!
The heat. The dreaded mosquitoes. The dew point (don’t forget … humidity doesn’t matter because it’s temperature dependent, the same way weight is gravity-dependent for accuracy. See how much you learn here?).
And to flip it to the positives … soccer, grilling, pool parties, time at the cabin, canoeing down Minnehaha Creek … all the good!
For this week’s wines we return to an old favorite, a trio of spectacular wines that continue to over-deliver in a huge way. I LOVE THESE WINES and have for going on 17 years when I helped kick them off in the state of Minnesota.
As you’ll read below, it’s a trio from the same property and the same winemaker, giving you three completely different expressions of the same grape.
Much of what you’ll read below I wrote last year during the offer on the same three wines.
I remember well the morning I wrote it … it was a one of those fantastic caffeine-fueled creative sessions where the muse got tapped and the words flowed. I’m very proud of it, and there is no way I could re-write it better, so here it is …
New Zealand map credit: Amitchell125, CC BY-SA 4.0
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
What you might not know about New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
There is no doubt that New Zealand is the source for the most interesting Sauvignon Blancs in the world. That’s a controversial statement, for as you know I dearly love a great Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume, and there are amazing Sauvignons coming from Bordeaux, South Africa, Chile, and certain producers in California.
But nothing can match a great New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Here’s what you may not know. Most Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc (and Marlborough is far and away the most popular region for the grape) comes from one clone of Sauvignon Blanc grown on one soil type. There is a region within Marlborough called Wairau, where 85% of the wines of Marlborough are from (but not the wines that I’m about to talk about).
If you find many New Zealand Sauvignons have a ‘sameness’ this explains it.
As a result, it’s hard to find diversity in the category even though quality tends to be above grade across the board.
Evolution of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc: 1990s to today (the short version)
New Zealand wines were off the radar for anyone outside of New Zealand and Australia until one important moment: when wine critic Robert Parker said something to the effect of (if I remember right): “Anyone in the world who is curious about Sauvignon Blanc has to experience what may be the best in the world: Cloudy Bay from Marlborough, New Zealand.”
That was it. Game on.
Suddenly, everyone wanted the wine. Suddenly, Cloudy Bay was allocated. (The winery has since been sold and is now owned by LVMH, and Cloudy Bay is pretty easy to find … I saw it at Costco recently.) Suddenly, wine consumers were clamoring for Sauvignon Blanc.
I remember in the late 1990’s when I was working with Surdyk’s in Minneapolis as a wine consultant, and one of my main selling points on a particular wine was “they’re next door to Cloudy Bay,” and therefore we sold a shit ton of that wine.
So what was Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc in the 1990’s like? Grassy, grapefruit-packed, aggressive as could be, and unlike anything else out there.
Since that time, New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs have calmed down a lot. A dirty little secret in the wine biz is that the biggest brands are actually sweet wines, but the sugar is hidden by cold temperatures and acidity. Drink some Kim Crawford at room temp and you’ll taste the truth.
Anyway, onward to this week’s selections, which all come from this one beautiful, sustainably and organically farmed, family owned and operated vineyard, located in Awatere (where there is a range of soil types, clones, and microclimates) …
What you have here: three expressions from one single vineyard, made by a family, not a factory
The vineyard is called Barker’s Marque. The husband and wife team (Winemaker Simon Barker and Viticulturist Vanessa Barker) live at the vineyard with their three sons. They are founding members of the AMW (Appellation Marlborough Wine), which is a group of 30 vintners who lead the charge on quality and authenticity of Marlborough wines. They care for the vineyard knowing their boys are running through the fields: no herbicides or pesticides, sustainable farming, with a multi-generational outlook and plan.
I’ve enjoyed these wines since 2006, when I was part of the team that launched them in the Minnesota market. I’ve had each of the wines every vintage since, and have never been disappointed or bored by them. Honestly, this is a cornerstone set of wines for Angela and myself.
Since the launch in Minnesota, they changed distributors a few times. One of those distributors (who can barely tie their shoes much less sell wine) almost tanked the brands. Luckily, they got picked up by one of our best locally-owned wholesalers and are back on stable footing.
Don’t let the torn up Arona label throw you … that was my fault, pulling it out of the rack too fast.
A note on the vintages on this offer
Look carefully and you’ll see. The Ranga Ranga is 2022, while the Arona and Three Brooms are 2021s. This is intentional.
We had option on selling the 2022’s of Arona and Three Brooms, for the ‘freshest vintage’ is in stock in the importer’s warehouse. But we passed on them and intentionally sought out 2021.
First, knowing the styles of Arona and Three Brooms, we knew they were wound up tight last year and needed some time to flesh out. That time is now. An extra year in the bottle has increased the quality of these wines and they are now firing on all cylinders.
Second, when they move to 2022 there is a significant price increase (roughly 20% on each), so to give you the best quality PLUS lower pricing we sought out the 2021 vintage for those two wines.
Ranga Ranga, on the other hand, always shows best as young as possible and the 2022 vintage is the current release.
Ranga Ranga Sauvignon Blanc 2022
This is the old school style. If you want to taste what made Robert Parker so excited in the early days, this is it. It’s the only New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc I’ve found that is unapologetic about bringing this aggressive, herbal, sharp, lively style of wine. We love this. We pour it regularly in our Intro to Wine class to showcase what acidic concentration can do to flavor. It’s crushable on the patio and don’t even get me started on having it with grilled shellfish.
TASTING NOTE, JUNE 2023: This wine continues a decade-plus streak of being spot on old-style New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. On top of the green pepper, pink grapefruit, and passion fruit, Angela nailed it with “lime zest and celery salt!”
Sorry about the torn label. My bad. Your bottles will be prettier, I promise.
Arona Sauvignon Blanc
On the other end of the spectrum is Arona. Now don’t forget: all three of these wines are all from the same property and the same winemaker. The Arona style is all about passionfruit, guava, papaya, and mango. It is stunning, and totally different from the Ranga Ranga. It’s the kind of Sauvignon Blanc we serve to people that say they are “so done with New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.” Oh yeah, try this on for size … and we are batting 1000 with that challenge.
Seriously, not a single person has ever tasted it and not said “Damn, dude!” (or some variation thereof).
Food pairings? Angela and I are lately into great salads as a meal. We start with a bed of spinach and butter leaf, add thin sliced fennel and watermelon radish, often a touch of feta cheese and maybe some sunflower seeds, occasionally some sweet corn or black beans, a touch of fruit (apple, pear, strawberry, whatever is around) then a drizzle of vinegar and oil or (our favorite) Annie’s Organic Green Goddess dressing. That bowl of healthy goodness, with this wine, is unreal.
TASTING NOTE, JUNE 2023: It’s all about orchard fruit on this beauty. Apricots, limes, lemons, green apples, and a touch of pomegranate. It is so wonderfully complete that it’s hard to put words to it. The acids are SOLID but not as smacking (i.e. pepper) as the Ranga Ranga. The cruelest thing you could possibly do to an ego-driven $50+ Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc is to serve this next to it. It would crush the Napa wine and still be 50%+ cheaper.
I’m going to steal one of the greatest wine descriptions that I’ve ever heard, from our good friend and wine expert Marcus. On this wine: “It’s like the best of Marlborough and the best of Sancerre had a love child.”
And he’s right. They harvest the grapes for this wine two weeks later, use a French yeast strain on the cold fermentation, and stir the lees (battonage) making for a wine that keeps the acidity intact but rounds out the flavor in the finish … in other words the exact type of winemaking you find in the upper Loire Valley.
It’s stunning! This is currently, in my opinion, the most complete and balanced Sauvignon Blanc on the market.
Stylistically, it’s totally different from the other two but very much a little bit of both.
TASTING NOTE June, 2023: This wine is spicy smelling! Seriously, a bit hit of fresh chopped jalapeños, along with a load of citric goodness. We love to do a simple combination of cilantro, jalapeño, lime zest, and lime juice and put it on just about everything but especially shrimp. We tried that with this wine and WOWZA that may have been the food-wine combo of the year.
Three Brooms is singularly incredible wine.
This week’s buying advice is simple and easy: buy all of them. And buy a bunch of them. Stock up for the summer. At these prices, give it to neighbors and friends. If you’re having a wedding or a party, welcome to your wine.
Are these wines super limited? No.
Will they be available all summer long? Yes, but at higher prices than what you can get here. And you can only find them if a store has the guts to carry all three wines, which most don’t. (Wine buyers, especially those with little experience, fall into the “I like this one best” trap while failing to realize they have three perfect wines in front of them.)
The prices on this offer are a big time discount. Stock up, trust me.
Sommelier and founder/owner of Twin Cities Wine Education
Offer is open starting NOW until Monday at 6:00pm central, or as inventory lasts.