One of my annual New Year's resolutions is to cook more at home (not that I've been sticking to that very well), and I was trying out a new recipe for maple-glazed salmon. Falling back on a classic match for salmon, Pinot Noir, I went for the sweet, ripe fruit of a New World version. New Zealand is rivaling Oregon right now as my favorite source for Pinots at $25 and under, although in this case, I was willing to spend $43 last fall at a Manhattan retailer based on this wine's reputation.
Along with the expected Sauvignon Blanc, Craggy Range is making some really exciting single-vineyard reds from appellations across New Zealand, including a Syrah and a Merlot-based blend from Hawkes Bay. Where it really excels is with Pinot Noir from its Te Muna Road Vineyard, in the stony soils of the Martinborough Terrace. The grapes are hand-picked and fermented with indigenous yeasts, then the wine is aged more than a year in French oak.
The wild cherry and berry fruit just burst out of the glass. At first a big mouthful of velvety fruit, kept elegant by the acidity, the wine soon began showing notes of that classic Pinot forest-floor nose and revealed layers of earthiness, spice and an almost meaty, salt-tinged, minerally finish. That savoriness married well with the fish, thyme and mustard in the vinaigrette, while the bright fruit balanced the sweetness of the maple glaze, complementing it without being too similar. 92 points, non-blind.
Craggy Range Pinot Noir Martinborough Te Muna Road Vineyard 2006 (91, $45, 1,725 cases imported)