The White Wine We Discovered (After We Discovered REM)


When the first wave of cool weather arrives, not only do homemade breads and soups start to find their way back into our home, but the alcohol selections change, too. We drink light beers or hefeweizens over the summer, which work well after mowing the lawn or working in the garden, but once fall arrives, we’re drinking amber beers or darker lagers. When it comes to wine, instead of matching our wine strictly to food, we tend to match it to the season. Spring and summer are for white wine and fall and winter are for red.

This week, we are saying goodbye to our favorite discovery of the summer: New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs from the Marlborough region. One of the more immature reasons we love the wine so much is that we get the same feeling we had in high school when we were listening to R.E.M. before our friends realized it was cool. We feel like we discovered Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs, now they’ve hit it big, and the fact we drank them first, means we had something to do with it. Even though we’re dumb to get that feeling, we weren’t drinking them first, and we had nothing to do with it.

We need to back up to the summer of 2014 when we were traveling through rural Ohio and stopped at Malabar Farm Restaurant for dinner. Malabar Farm is part of the property that is now a state park but was once the home of Pulitzer Prize winning author, farmer and conservationist, Louis Bromfield. At the start of dinner, we asked for a white wine recommendation and the waiter hooked us up with a Sauvignon Blanc. We were suspicious, since it wasn’t from California, but was from New Zealand. The only wines we knew from New Zealand were Malbecs.

After we left, I remembered the wine as the most distinctive, interesting white wine I’d ever had and it was from a region of New Zealand called Marlborough, which I willed myself to remember by associating it in my mind with the Marlboro Man.

I tried to find New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs when we returned from our trip and didn’t have any success. A year later, we were in a restaurant, and I ordered our old standby, a dry, California Sauvignon Blanc. When I got the wine, though, I couldn’t believe it. It tasted exactly like the wine we’d had at Malabar Farm Restaurant the year earlier. The closest I can come to describing the taste of the wine is that it has a hint of hot pepper to it. It’s a dry, white wine with peppery heat.

In one of my most exciting culinary moments, I asked our server to bring out the wine that she’d served so I could see the label. Sure enough, I’d done it—I’d identified a wine without knowing what it was. In fact, I identified it despite the restaurant having it mislabeled on their menu. I showed the server the mistake from the menu and pointed out that the wine was mislabeled, thinking I’d get lots of respect and some sort of food hero points, but I mostly seemed to annoy the server for wasting her time. All she said was, “I’ll say something about changing it the next time we reprint the menu.”

Oh well. On the bright side, this past summer, the Marlborough Sauvignon Blancs started popping up everywhere. In the local liquor store, in the grocery store aisle, at my mother-in-law’s house! And, they made lots of appearances on our back patio on hot summer days. Now the weather has turned cooler, and I’ve opened my last bottle of white wine and will get ready for a winter of red wine, cognac, card games, the slow cooker and a knitting project, for which I will sometimes have to tear out a row of stitches if a second glass of red wine has been poured.


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