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Bottle Rockets: Kim Crawford Winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst, New Zealand Wines Star at Abacus Wine Dinner


cantaloupe, tomato-crab salad, arugula and red chile salt

smoked duck breast, purple hull pea hummus, coffee-bing cherry sauce

roasted chicken, gnocchi, sorrel, peach caramel

a packed house, with chef aaron studenmaier, left, explaining the menu

pastry chef abbey renager's fallen chocolate soufflé with sour cherry port sauce and star anise ice cream

abacus' donna tanner and constellation brands' todd ruback coordinated the wine dinner

Kim Crawford wines have come a long way from the winery’s early days as a virtual vineyard, and chief winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst, 32, wants everyone to know that New Zealand’s popular wine producer offers more than a world-famous Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough,  on New Zealand’s North island.

“Marlborough isn’t a ‘one trick pony,'” Walkenhorst told me and Constellation Brands’ Todd Ruback as we tasted through a half dozen Kim Crawford wines prior to a Kim Crawford wine dinner at Abacus earlier this week.

“We’re growing Gruner Veltliner and Syrah and a beautiful Pinot Noir that’s fruit-forward and soft. New Zealand Pinot Noir has a lot of room to grow, too. Every vintage, the Pinots seem to get better.”

Walkenhorst, who has been with the Kim Crawford winery for seven years and head winemaker since the 2011 harvest, admits that Americans expect New Zealand wines to be full of soft tannins, bright acuity and big, juicy fruit.

“Some wine makers are looking to oak and trying to incorporate interesting textures,” and making wines that are more Old World in style, with muted fruit and more minerality. “But our style is not going to change,” he told me.

Walkernhorst and I popped open a bottle of 2004 Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and were impressed with how well the screwtop enclosure had preserved the wine. While the fruit had softened, flinty minerality and notes of lime and lime zest were accentuated, nicely integrated with an unexpected creamy texture and still-lively acidity.

“It’s lost a bit of fruit,” Walkenhorst noted, “but there are still vibrant aromatics and acidity. I’m impressed.”

Aside from Marlborough, Kim Crawford has been spreading out to other areas of New Zealand. Their 2007 Small Parcels “Rise and Shine Creek” Pinot Noir from Central Otago — an exceptional Pinot Noir growing area (it’s New Zealand’s answer to Oregon and California’s Central Coast)– is everything you’d want in a New World Pinot: ripe red cherries, plush tannins, ample acidity and a long, full finish.

Abacus chefs Aaron Studenmaier and Abbey Renager thoughtfully paired four Kim Crawford wines for a sold-out dinner later that evening. If you haven’t been to an Abacus wine dinner in a while, you owe yourself the treat. What’s not to like about talking food and wine with Kent Rathbun, a worldly winemaker, and Abacus event coordinator Donna Tanner?

 

 

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