Villa Maria: Crafting Great Wine in Middle Earth

Of all the fictional worlds I cannot image one I would rather experience more than middle earth. Imagine walking through the Shire or over the majestic mountains to reach the large valley that houses Helm’s Deep, trekking through the Fangorn Forest to visit Treebeard or even better the eternally serene beauty of Rivendell. Of course, Middle Earth comes with plenty of danger too, there is Isengard and the dreaded Mount Doom (aka Mount Ruapehu) located north-west of the Black Lands in Mordor.

“Middle-earth may have been a figment of author J.R.R Tolkien’s imagination but New Zealand – the youngest country on earth – bears an uncanny resemblance.”

Can you imagine a wine created in this beautiful complex world?

villa maria bilbo baggens house via radiotimes

Though Middle Earth is a place of fiction the beauty Peter Jackson used to bring Tolkien’s fictitious world to the big screen showcased his home country of New Zealand. Today New Zealand is known not only for its epic beauty, wonderful people and great tourism, it is also a country of industry, with one of its glorious exports being wine. I have not had the privilege to try a lot of New Zealand wine but each wine I have tried has been very good. Moreover, the two wines I enjoyed from Villa Maria in a recent virtual wine tasting on Twitter featuring Helen Morrison, Senior Marlborough Winemaker Villa Maria, Josh Hammond, Marlborough Winemaker Villa Maria, Nanette Eaton, wine expert WineHarlots and Janet Fouts, moderator, did not disappoint. First, I will share the wines* with you then a bit about Villa Maria Winery.


IMG_0462Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough 2014 Pinot Noir: I was immediately struck by the beauty of the wine in the glass pouring a soft ruby with violet highlights; layered of aromas and flavors including sweet cherry cola, raspberries, violets, herbal tea, touch of spice and savory herbal notes with a soft citrus finish; delicate on the palate yet powerful in flavor, round on the palate with mouth-coating acidity and delicate tannins. Aged in a mixture of stainless steel tanks and seasoned French barriques for 10 months allowing for both the expression of the fruit with the complexity of earthiness. 13.5% alcohol. SRP $17.

IMG_0461Villa Maria Cellar Selection 2013 Cellar Selection: This wine poured a soft ruby with more pronounced violet highlights; notes of persistent savory herbs, with cherry, black raspberry, mushrooms and spice notes; this wine offers bolder earthiness and spice than the Private Bin; rich and round on the palate with well-structured acidity and integrated tannins. Aged 10 months is new and seasoned French oak barriques; 13.5% alcohol. SRP $25.

Both of these Villa Maria Pinot Noirs were lovely, high quality wines perfect for weeknight enjoyment. They were light, delicate and expressive of the nuances sought in a Pinot Noir. They will pair with many casual meals, I enjoyed them with left over pork and pasta. Additional serving suggestions include poultry, seafood, and simply a glass for sipping.  It is amazing to me to find two Pinot Noirs all the way from New Zealand of such high quality at such low prices. Makes me wonder why so many US Pinot Noirs are so expensive. These wines are definitely worth seeking out and buying.

More about Villa Maria:

Villa Maria logoIn 1961 at just 21 years old George Fistonich leased 5 acres of land from his father in Auckland and planted 1 acre of vines. In 1962 he harvested his first grapes and crafted the first Villa Maria wine. Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s George, with the support of his wife, crafted dry red and white wines from grapes he had sourced all over Auckland. Today, Villa Maria employees more than 250 permanent staff, has vineyards in Auckland, Marlborough, Hawkes Bay and Gisborne, and exports wine to 50 countries throughout the world. Villa Maria was the first wine company in New Zealand to declare the winery a “cork-free zone,” selling all wines from 2001 vintage onwards with a screwcap to ensure quality in every bottle.

Villa Maria Marlborough via
Villa Maria Marlborough via

Villa Maria stands as an icon of superior quality and innovations in New Zealand winemaking.

Villa Maria Auckland Winery via
Villa Maria Auckland Winery via

Villa Maria sees sustainability as part of the long term commitment to the wine industry. Therefore, they are always seeking new ways to embed sustainable principles into their winery. As a family business, their desire to leave something for future generations is ever present in their business practices. Villa Maria has been a part of the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand since its inception in 1995, they were the first major New Zealand winery to achieve BioGro certification for both their winery and bottling facilities in Auckland, and in 2010 they began measuring all carbon emissions from the growing of grapes, winemaking and bottling, as well as emissions from their vehicles, freight, air travel, packaging and manufacturing in order to minimize these numbers to their lowest possible measurement.

villa Maria vineyard Gisborne

Villa Maria has a large portfolio of wines; they even produce one of my favorite Italian white wines, Arneis! Visit the Villa Maria web site to see their entire portfolio of wines, learn more about the winery and see where to find their wines near you.

*I received these wines free from Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and Villa Maria as part of their “First Sips of Fall” Twitter tasting. I was not required to write a positive review and the opinions I have expressed, as usual, are entirely my own.

My Song Selection: These two Villa Maria Pinot Noir were crafted of quality; they were smooth, and palate pleasing with refined fruit and delicate earthiness combined into two lovely wines. They had everything I can imagine of a Middle Earth wine. Even better, they are crafted with care and stewardship in mind for generations to come. Wines that are proudly New Zealand!

Get your own bottles of Villa Maria Private Bin 2014 and Cellar Selection 2013 Pinot Noirs and let me know what song you pair with them. Cheers!

11 responses to “Villa Maria: Crafting Great Wine in Middle Earth”

  1. Actually Middle Earth does exist (sort of) in the southern part of the North Island, when you land in Wellington, the Capital of Kiwi Land, the terminal is a Hobbit Hole (house or whatever). It is an “event” landing there due to the winds, so be prepared.

    Villa Maria is a very reliable producer of quality wines, glad that you enjoyed them. When will you review some wines from the West Island?

    • Sounds fantastic! I have never been to NZ but certainly have it on my bucket list. My husband was there 2 decades ago on business, he is dying to return. Unfortunately I have had very little NZ wines but I have enjoyed each one I have tried! I will keep my eyes and ears open for West Island wines!

  2. Why hasn’t some vineyard come out with a Lord of the Rings themed line of wines? After reading this it seems a very obvious idea! Mordor Malbec, Rohan Riesling, Eye of Sauron Zinfandel…the possibilities are endless!

  3. Mike and I spent so many Christmas Eve’s in the movie theater watching the LOR series. It was our “tradition.” I need to get to New Zealand, because the scenery is so amazing. I have read all the books, (a few times) There is no other world like Middle Earth.

    • As you can guess I too am a huge Tolkien fan. I love anything Hobbit & LOR! Whenever we are scanning tv & come across any of these movies we will stop everything else & watch till it ends, 10 mins or 2 hours can’t get enough!

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