2013 Mills Reef, Elspeth Syrah, $54
Winery info: Mills Reef was established in 1989 by the Preston family in Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island. They are known for their Bordeaux-style reds and Syrahs. “Elspeth” is their top tier, named for the winemaker’s grandmother and produced only in exceptional vintages.
Winemakers: Tim Preston and Paul Dawick
Grapes: 100% Syrah
Vineyard: Their flagship Mere Road (84%) and Trust Block (16%) vineyards in the coveted Gimblett Gravels district of Hawkes Bay. The site is a former riverbed, with deep, gravelly soil covered with silt and loamy sand, left behind when the Ngaruroro River changed course after floods in 1867. The climate here is relatively dry and warm, perfect for growing Bordeaux varietals and Syrah.
Flavor Profile: 2013 was an exceptional vintage in the region. This Syrah is dark and complex, with flavors of boysenberry and peppery spice and an underlying a stony minerality.
Availability: They made only 2000 bottles but it should be available for a while longer.
Drinkability: Now, perhaps with a quick decanting, through 2023
Food Pairing: Gamier meats such as venison, or with lamb or hearty mushroom and lentil dishes.
2014 Isole e Olena, Collezione Privata Chardonnay, $39.75
Winery info: This estate in the heart of the Chianti Classico region was created by the De Marchi family in the 1950s when they purchased two adjoining wineries, Isole and Olena, both of which dated back hundreds of years. It has some of the most prized vineyards in the region and over the past 25 years they have replanted many of them, after extensive soil mapping and research on clonal selection, planting density, and vineyard management techniques.
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay. It was originally planted to blend with Trebbiano and Malvasia, but fourth generation proprietor Paolo De Marchi discovered that the fruit showed beautifully on its own. It is blended from five Burgundy clones and barrel fermented in one third new French oak. The wine undergoes partial malolactic fermentation.
Flavor Profile: A deep, golden Chardonnay with subtle notes of oak and toasted almonds, and rich, ripe flavors perfectly balanced by its inherent minerality. It has a lovely, mouth-filling texture and a long, savory finish.
Availability: There is a small amount left with the distributor.
Drinkability: Now through 2022
Food Pairing: Seafood, such as scallops, prawns, or lobster, or with veal or poultry in cream sauce, or mushroom-based dishes.