No Spitting Allowed: Staying on the Beaten Path

Drink reviews with honest verdicts

White wines from New Zealand and California are among the most popular and reliably good New World wines — particularly chardonnays and sauvignon blancs. Here are some examples that might titillate your palate without putting their hands too deeply into your wallet.


2011 Stony Bay East Coast New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Very crisp, but not the piano wire that many Kiwi sauvignons run through our palate. Clean lime and kiwi fruit flavors. Some chalk and minerality in the finish. Very pleasant and fresh, but not complex.

Verdict:I’d much rather take this to the table with spicy Asian foods than the standard riesling.  ($13)


2011 Craggy Range "Te Muna" Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc

Not that one is "better" than the other, but I prefer most Martinborough sauvignons from the North Island than I do most of the Marlborough ones from the South Island. This one shows why — it has the most beautiful and intense fruity, juicy aromas and tastes, yet it is dry. The fruit is a mixture of standard kiwi blended with waves of tropical fruits and peach flavors. Complex, spicy, dry savoriness around the edges. Just lovely.

Verdict:If heaven ever decides to have an official white wine, this will be one of my nominees. ($22)


2010 Morro Bay "Split Oak Estates" California Chardonnay

Not a very winey wine. The structure is there, but it’s light on fruit flavors. It’s a "sur lie" wine, which means that it rested on its lees for increased complexity, but it seems in this case it made the wine less complex rather than more. Of course, it is a very affordable wine, and it will serve as an acceptable companion with food.

Verdict: If you’re going to play with music, turn off the "mute" button. ($9)


2010 Landmark "Overlook" Sonoma County Chardonnay

Lovely yet pleasantly aggressive green varietal aromas. Lots of peaches, melons, very ripe kiwi flavors. It’s not sweet, yet the texture is languid and full-bodied like peach juice. It has good tin-can minerality in the finish and is well-balanced.

Verdict: Maybe Yum! Brands should buy this. ($25)


2011 Craggy Range "Kidnappers Vineyard" Hawkes Bay Chardonnay

This chardonnay is also complex, yet less complicated than its California cousin. Light on the nose and palate, fragrant, juicy, clean crisp in the finish with lingering apple flavors.

Verdict: Smell this glass and tell me if any other white grape variety makes wine that has more-appealing, vinous, green fruits aromas. ($22)