It was another exciting wine day here in Ottawa with a fantastic Kim Crawford tasting event, which turned participants into winemakers! Kim Crawford wines have been around for 20 years and the brand has practically become a household name. Especially in my household. Just look at some of my previous posts and you will get a sense of how I often I drink it. Kim Crawford comes up in no less than six WWM posts to date, including this post on chardonnay or this one mentioning the KC Pansy! rosé.
I still remember the first time I tried Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc…
The year was 2011. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were at Play and we had brought a bottle of Kim with us (did you know Play’s corkage fee is only $20?). We were sitting at the bar, and the bartender served us our wine in these huge wine glasses that really allowed you to get your nose in there. The first time I smelled it…WOW. The aromas wafting out of the glass were so powerful and amazing, I just couldn’t stop inhaling it. There was just so much going on there: passion fruit, white peach, pineapple, gooseberry, lime, pink grapefruit, herbaciousness, freshly cut grass, canned peas, minerality…I could go on and on. It was like a party for my nose and I couldn’t get enough. I think I must have smelled my wine for a good five minutes. It really made an impression on me!
And that’s the thing about Kim Crawford wines: they tend to make an impression.
Now that my flashback is out of the way, here are some Kim Crawford fun facts:
- Let me clear up a common misconception: Kim Crawford is a man. He was, as you may have surmised, the original Kim Crawford winemaker.
- In 2003, he sold the brand to Canadian company Vincor, which in turn was bought up by Constellation Brands in 2006 for $1.3 billion. As a result, Mr. Crawford has given up the legal rights to associate his name with any wine products.
- The Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc is actually a blend of different sauvignon blanc grapes from across the Marlborough region. Kim Crawford (the wine brand) owns many different vineyards in this part of the South Island of New Zealand. Each of these is divided into individual blocks with varying microclimates, topography and soil types. Each of these blocks provides sauvignon blanc grapes that are harvested and fermented separately, making for 240 different wines to choose from when making the iconic Kim Crawford blend.
At the event, we were given the unique opportunity to play winemaker. Our host, current KC winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst, started by going through the main Marlborough subregions. We learned a bit about their climate, topography and soil (all important factors in any agricultural venture) and how these contribute to the sauvignon blanc wines produced there. The great thing was that as we went through each subregion, we were able to taste its resulting wine and really see how the distinct aspects of the land made for such different wines, even though they were all Marlborough sauvignon blancs! For example, Blind River is a very dry region where the vines are planted on the slopes of its hilly landscape, which shelter the vines from cold Antarctic winds. This makes for a sauv blanc with grapefruit, gooseberry, mineral and fresh herb flavours. On the other hand, the Lower Wairau, where Kim Crawford got its start, has incredibly rich silty soil which results in rich, powerful wines with guava, kiwi and elderflower notes. When tasting the wines from these two regions, it was clear that they were sauvignon blancs, yet they were so completely different.
The tricky thing about making wine is trying to keep it consistent from vintage to vintage, especially when the weather conditions are anything but. But having access to such a broad spread of sauvignon blanc wines means Anthony can play chemist to create the telltale Kim blend every year. From the 240 wines at his disposal, he chooses only the best, narrowing it down to about 120 before starting the trial and error process of finding the perfect blend. Maybe a bit of wine A for its acidity, a bit of wine X for its rich texture, a splash of wine AH for passion fruit, a dash of wine BX for its citrus components, etc.
And then it was our turn to try our hand at this winemaking magic. We were given samples of six subregional wines, a pipette, an empty glass and a piece of paper to track our measurements, and then challenged to come up with our very own sauvignon blanc blend. And let me tell you – being a winemaker is not easy! I tried a ton of different vinous combinations, and while my final blend came out better than some of the subregional wines on their own, it certainly fell flat compared to the oh-so-distinctive Kim Crawford. And I was waaaaaaaaaaaay off the Kim Crawford Spitfire sauvignon blanc, which was also provided to compare to our own blend, but mainly just to make us feel bad about our winemaking skills. This small-parcel KC is a blend of only three wines (vs. the regular Kim Crawford which combines the 6 pictured above in a very specific ratio) and is like the epitome of Marlborough sauvignon blanc: lots of passion fruit, lime and acidity – i.e. the perfect seafood wine. It is—obviously—delicious.
I would like to thank Constellation Brands, winemaker Anthony Walkenhorst, and Natalie MacLean for organizing this fabulous event. It was really nice to spend some time getting to know Anthony and his vision for Kim Crawford wines, learning about Marlborough and its subregions, and tasting how they contribute to making one of my favourite wines. And I cannot forget to thank our venue, the Courtyard Restaurant, for providing such a beautiful backdrop and lunch menu for this tasting (the KC pinot noir paired perfectly with the roast chicken in the curried tomato and butter sauce – YUM).
Do you remember the first time you had the Kim Crawford sauvignon blanc as clearly as I do? Have you tried any of the other KC varietals? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
And as always, happy wining!