Back in June, we had "Sauvginon Blanc Day" and I tasted the 2010 Stoneleigh from Marlborough, which unfortunately had been attacked by the acid monster, leaving not much in it's wake. Still, Stoneleigh is a terrific producer and I have had previous wines from them that were very good.
Enter the 2009 Stoneleigh Marlborough pinot noir, a deliciously tart and spicy example of a New Zealand pinot noir, made in a style that's really starting to make waves over here in the States. New Zealand pinot noirs differ from California and Oregon by having a combination of higher acid and lighter-weight fruit. In a lot of the better made wines, the acid fairly pops on your tongue, and that coupled with flavors like rhubarb, baking spice, and ripe red cherry can create wonderfully complex wines.
This New Zealand pinot noir pours a nice pale ruby color, creating an air of understated elegance. That seems appropriate considering the subject, itself a grape that can manifest as understated, elegant wine..But only in the best case scenario. The notes below should help us understand whether the Stoneleigh falls into that category or not.
Aromatically the 2009 Stoneleigh pinot has a good undertone of earth mixed with sour red cherries and a hint of green stems. I also detected a very interesting secondary aroma, ripe wild raspberry, the little tart ones you find in a forest for a few weeks out of each year. Popping them into your mouth immediately elicits a sigh of pleasure and a wide smile.
Per my usual routine, an hour of open time was allotted to this pinot noir in order to let it breathe a bit and (hopefully) gain some complexity. The image I like to use when explaining why a wine needs breathing time is that of a flower. Imagine a flower that's closed up, you're not going to see or smell anything beautiful. Now when that flower opens up, we can revel in it's beauty, aromatically and visually. Add in the taste component and substitute wine for flower to get my point.
With that in mind, the Stoneleigh pinot noir had a light, delicate mouthfeel. The acidity of the pinot noir grape was there, but it was more subtle than I expected. Perhaps this can be attributed to the neutral French Oak regimen used by the winemaker. Flavors of raspberry and strawberry mixed with silky smooth tannin to create a wonderful sense of balance. Baking spices tried gamely to hold up the finish, and they almost succeeded, almost.
The biggest knock on this 2009 Stoneleigh was the relative lack of finish, it's like the wine just disappeared off a cliff while I was enjoying the strawberry and cherry flavors. A touch of baking spice cried out desperately to be saved but was dragged down and out before it had a chance to make any impact. Interestingly I didn't detect a lot of heat from the 14.0% alcohol, something very pleasing.
The 2009 Stoneleigh pinot noir is good wine, not great, but quite nice. At around $15, you get a pinot that's balanced and food friendly. Try pairing it with duck or veal, and lamb would work too. Pizza works with almost any red wine, this is a darn good pizza wine to share with friend. Like the 2010 Stoneleigh sauvignon blanc, this is a wine that does bat above it's price level. I gave it a B+ and a BUY recommendation. Well worth the $15 to get a sense of what New Zealand pinot noir is doing these days.
This was a media sample for review purposes.