F.Scott Fitzgerald once remarked that there are no second acts in American lives. If you’re a winemaker from New Zealand, though, you get to play by a different set of rules.
Kim Crawford founded his eponymous winery in 1996 along with his wife, Erica. The New Zealand wine scene at the time was dominated by four mammoth companies, and Crawford’s first vintage produced a mere 4,000 cases---not enough to make him a blip on anyone’s radar screen. His success was meteoric. By 2003 he had sold his operation for nearly $50 million to Vincor, the Canadian wine giant, and Kim Crawford was on its way to becoming the best-selling Kiwi wine in America.
Crawford’s flavor profile became the trademark of New Zealand wine in the marketplace: bright, fresh Chardonnay made without the use of oak, and Sauvignon Blanc with brilliant, mouthwatering acidity. There were other trademark issues as well. Kim stayed on for five years to help cement the winery’s success, and endured a non-compete clause for the next five. At the end of the decade he was free to start his own business once again, provided that his new winery made no reference to the history and accolades of Kim Crawford.
The new venture is Loveblock, situated in the hills above Marlborough’s Atawere Valley. The Crawfords planted and cultivated the vines themselves, and farm the vineyard both organically and sustainably. They have come full circle and returned to their original scale of production.
Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc ($21) lacks the acidity we have come to expect from that grape variety in New Zealand, but possesses a rich mouth feel that allows it to pair equally with poultry, veal and pork a well as seafood. The Pinot Gris ($21) is richer still, displaying flavors of apricots and peaches in a clean, balanced texture. The deeply colored Pinot Noir ($31) is perhaps the best of the three, offering succulent flavors of black cherries and dark berries framed by good acidity and a pleasant earthiness.
How does Loveblock compare to the original Kim Crawford? These are definitely wines of character rather than charm. They may lack crowd appeal, but the Crawfords don’t need a crowd this time around.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits (Lyons Press, 2012); his second book, Moonshine Nation, has just been released by Lyons Press. For more information, go to amazon.com