This is still a work in progress as I upload tasting notes and wine labels from as far as 1999... Check back once in a while to get the updates.

February 29, 2008

Newton Vineyards tasting

Dinner at Conrad Hotel tasting wines from Newton Vineyards, with Dr. Su Hua Newton.

2004 Newton Red Label Chardonnay - this was easy to drink and nothing to write home about, but who's complaining given the price tag?

2005 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay - much more complex than the Red Label. It was at this point that Dr. Newton explained that the winery is bio-dynamic, meaning that there is no use of chemicals and only natural ingredients. They clean the winery with more frequency and without the use of chemicals, use only wild yeasts, and no SO2 is used in bottling. I asked her whether she practices bio-dynamic farming the way some others - such as Mme Leroy in Burgundy - where harvests are done according to the lunar cycle. Her reply was "no" and again made a comment about this notion of bio-dynamic farming being another one of "I think, you think, I think, you think, I think"... more about this later.

To combat diseases such as phylloxera and Pierce's, young wines are planted between rows of old vines so that the young vines can lend a hand. Again, no sulfur is used in the vineyards to combat mildew. The solution is to blow-dry the clusters - an expensive and laborious process.

2005 Newton Red Label Claret - made in classic claret style from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. The Red Label wines are the only wines which are filtered. I found this wine easy to drink, but uninteresting as filtration essentially rids the wine of character, a fact Dr. Newton readily acknowledges.

1999 Newton Unfiltered Merlot - clearly drinking very well this evening, having 3 more years of bottle age than the 2002. Tannins were softer.  Too bad the 1999 isn't on sale here...

2002 Newton Unfiltered Merlot - this comes from a stellar vintage in California, and it has a lot more aging potential. However, it is still too young and at 15% alcohol, packs a big wallop. 

2002 Newton The Puzzle - this is a wine made in only great vintages, and as such it wasn't made in 2003 but re-appeared in 2004. This is made from the winery's top parcels, and the blend changes each time to create the optimal wine - hence the name. While I thought this was a good effort - big nose of sweet, wild strawberries emerged after rigorous swirling of the glass - it was still a bit too young. Needs another few years of bottle age.

Full post on the dinner is here.

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