| Booze |

Four zesty New Zealand sauvignon blancs to sip while you wait for summer

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While the arrival of summer is mere weeks away, it's been too damned cold here to think about any of the best springtime wines, never mind all the fantastic rosé that's piling up on liquor and wine shop shelves around town. But while it's still chilly outside, in our hearts and minds we're already packing up picnic baskets, jumping on our cruiser bikes, and heading to the park with our friends and a few bottles of our go-to, easy-drinking, pre-summertime wine: New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

Inexpensive NZ sauv blanc gets written off as mass-produced swill (thanks, Monkey Bay!), but none of these wines will conjure up any such unfortunate imagery. Universally fresh, juicy and infinitely drinkable, all four of these bottles typify the very best examples of the sauvignon blanc production in that region. Even though the prices are a bit higher than what you might be used to paying, now's not the time to be stingy. If you want to experience all this savory sauvignon blanc goodness, you're gonna have to cough up a few extra bucks. Don't worry, though: After the first sip, you'll soon realize the payoff.

Cloudy Bay Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($18): A luscious mouthful of tropical fruit awaits, along with the typically vibrant lemon-lime blast of acidity you have (or will) come to know and love about sauvignon blancs from this part of the world. Tasting of bright, sun-ripened gooseberries (kind of a tart and grape-y flavor), this lovely wine would make an ideal companion for grilled swordfish steaks topped with olive tapenade.

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 ($14): Yeah, we were skeptical, too. After all, this is one of the more ubiquitous New Zealand whites found on restaurant lists around town, making us fear that perhaps the brand had become a bit too well-known (read: boring) for its own good. Desperate as we were for a little Kiwi-sauv blanc love though, we recently caved and ordered a glass, only to be delighted at the positively invigorating burst of tangerine and honeydew melon that greeted our palates.

Sineann New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc 2009 ($20): You might recognize the name Sineann as a winery known for its cult-y bottlings of Oregon pinot noir. But what you might not know is that a few years back, Sineann winemaker Peter Rosback had a hankering to try his hand at making a New Zealand-style sauvignon blanc. In New Zealand. The result of his little experiment? A harmonious mash-up of clean, lean acidity, succulent mango, and fleshy pear flavors. All in one gloriously delicious glass of vino.

Craggy Range 'Te Muna Road' 2010 ($20): Has your mouth ever watered, just thinking about a wine? It will once you've tasted this. If you're a fan of classic, Loire Valley sauv blanc, then you'll certainly find yourself enamored of the limestone-soaked nose and lemon-curd flavors you'll discover here. A little bit of French oak goes a long way toward giving this wine a creamier mouthfeel than most 100 percent stainless-steel fermented sauvignon blanc.

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