Paul Einbund is the wine director of the Slanted Door restaurant group. He's also worked as the sommelier at Frances, Coi and more. Look for him here every Tuesday. Follow him on Twitter @pauleinbund.
I was recently in Denver for an immersion class in the wines of New Zealand. The wineries had initially gotten together to send a group of sommeliers to New Zealand for the weekend, but when that didn't work out, they decided to bring New Zealand to us—in Denver! The obvious choice. What I learned on this trip is that the people are great, the food and music are fun and that the wines can be very good but still have a long way to go. Kiwi invasion you ask? Don't trade in your Burgundies just yet, but the winemakers of New Zealand are working hard to make some good stuff.
Here are the wines that I think are great right now.
Kumeu River Chardonnay 2007 ($20) is one of the first great wines from New Zealand. This wine is like white Burgundy but softer and ready to drink on release.
Felton Road Pinot Noir 2008 ($40) consistently has a velvety texture and tastes very bright and fruity. The wines are just fun to drink.
Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($25) tastes like the classic SB from New Zealand only thicker, more substance and less shock value, which is a good thing.
Seresin MOMO Pinot Noir 2008 ($20) is as serious as wine gets down there, this one with raspberry and spice … so nice.
Pegasus Bay Riesling 2008 ($25) In an atypical move, I'm endorsing a Riesling that is neither from Germany nor Austria. The NZ import is a simpler version of the great German trocken (dry) style of Riesling. Despite having high alcohol, I still enjoy drinking it.
Best place to buy these wines? JJ Buckley in Oakland has the best NZ selection around. Ask for Chuck.