Villa Maria: Pursuing Something Special

It’s not uncommon to hear about bands who are an overnight success decades in the making. Years spent on the road from dive bar to dive bar in cities all over the world, barely making ends meet, then finally a recorded song makes it to the right DJ or record executive at the right time and the band explodes. The same could be said for Villa Maria. Founder and owner George Fistonich began Villa Maria in 1961, with the help of his wife Gail, by leasing five acres from his father and planting one acre of vines. Fifty-six years later Villa Maria is one of New Zealand’s most awarded wineries.

George Fistonich is an icon in the New Zealand wine industry, an industry he helped forge from the root stock up. In the late 1960’s Villa Maria established a wine club with the purpose of educating consumers on wine and food pairings. In the early 1980’s, Villa Maria instigated an incentive on grape growing that offered bonuses for quality over quantity. They began exporting their wines in 1988. In 2001, they lead the charge to become 100% cork free, opting instead for screw caps. Finally, as a reward for all his efforts, George Fistonich received the country’s first knighthood for his service to the New Zealand Wine Industry. Furthermore, Villa Maria has received numerous global awards and recognition for their wines and wine production.

What is the secret of their success?

“George Fistonich believes that the secret to Villa Maria’s success does not lie in chasing awards but rather focusing on making superior quality wine that consumers can readily enjoy. Get this right and the awards naturally follow.”

As a family owned winery, Villa Maria sees sustainability as part of the journey of producing wine. They have been a member of Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand since it began in 1995. They are the first major New Zealand winery to achieve BioGro organic certification for their winery and bottling facilities in Auckland. This allows them to track the organic certification process from grape to bottle. Finally, in 2010, they began measuring their carbon emissions from grape growing through the entire process to vehicles, freight, air travel, and manufacturing of packaging in order to gain insight to the size of their foot print and ways to diminish it.

I had the pleasure to taste the following six wines with Villa Maria winemaker Helen Morrison and Snooth’s co-founder and chief taster Mark Angelillo. If you’d like to view that tasting yourself please click here. The following wines I received as media samples for the tasting. Each of these wines can be located in the US and the world by clicking here or you can buy all six from Snooth in a discounted bundle by clicking here.  Here are my thoughts on each wine.

2016 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough New Zealand ($13): Pale lemon; pronounced vibrant aromas of ripe stone fruit, fresh picked white flowers, grapefruit, lemongrass, savory fresh herbs; fresh and clean on palate with pronounced bright acidity causing the mouth to pucker in an endlessly long tart citrus finish; everything you want from a NZ Sauvignon Blanc.

2016 Villa Maria Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc New Zealand ($15): Pale lemon; medium+ aromas of grapefruit, lemon zest, fresh herbs, and white floral notes; fabulous fizz on the palate, effervescent, refreshing, delightful, medium+ acidity, a fun wine that is perfect to sip on the beach or by the pool, a frizzante Sauvignon Blanc? Yes please!

2016 Villa Maria Rosé Hawkes Bay New Zealand ($14): Crafted of predominately Merlot; pale pink with sock-eyed salmon hues; medium+ aromas of ripe strawberries, raspberry cream, watermelon, candied violets; a touch off-dry upon entry but quickly tart citrus takes over palate, medium acidity, juicy, refreshing and pleasing.

2015 Villa Maria Chardonnay Taylor’s Pass Vineyard Marlborough New Zealand ($45): Medium lemon with gold hues; Pronounced aromas of ripe stone fruit, apples, lemon zest, buttered brioche and nutmeg; creamy mouth-feel resulting from 9 months lees aging, bright and elegant, medium+ acidity, although oak treatment is apparent on the nose it is more integrated on the palate, restrained and lively with great texture; a really elegant wine.

2015 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir Marlborough New Zealand ($26): Medium- delicate aromas of red cherries, currants, and cranberries, fresh picked violets, dusty earth, wild white mushrooms, sweet baking spice; medium acidity, medium- tannins, fresh and clean with bright fruit flavors and a vein of minerality, a lovely Pinot Noir.

2013 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay New Zealand ($20): 60% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc; medium ruby; medium aromas of plums, red cherries, black berries, currants, dried rose petals and herbs, sweet baking spices, vanilla, fresh tobacco, black pepper; medium acidity and tannins, balanced full body wine with juicy fruit entry and dusty earth, medium finish.

Enjoying Villa Maria wines is like being transported to another world. Villa Maria would like to actually transport you to their world for a multi-sensory New Zealand wine and food experience. They are currently hosting a contest to WIN a trip for TWO to New Zealand. To learn more and enter the contest click here. Contest runs through September 30, 2017. Good Luck!

2 comments

  1. Nice piece, and love this brand! I attended a Villa Maria “Night with a Knight” event in Chicago last fall, with plenty of wine tastings and a special appearance by Sir George. I was smitten with the Bubbly Sauvignon Blanc… perhaps because there were fried seafood bites to go with it. 🙂

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