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My Mixed Case -- Sam Neill

January - February 2005

In My Mixed Case, we ask a well-known wine aficionado: If you were headed to a secluded spot – a desert island, if you will – and could only bring along 12 bottles of wine, which bottles would you select?

When producer-director-actor Sam Neill isn't traveling the world making films, he prefers to be “tied to the soil,” and heads home to the New Zealand wine country, where Swirl asked him to tell us what would be in his Mixed Case.

“I'm very fond of Petaluma Riesling from Australia. I admire [winemaker] Brian Croser. He's a great man and produces wonderful wines. It was Petaluma Riesling that brought me back to Riesling, which for me is the greatest of whites.

Having said that, I'd have to make an exception for white Burgundies, which are the greatest of all. I'd bring a great Meursalt and a great Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru, but I don't know which producers. I got into white Burgundies in the 80's in London , when they were still affordable! I could buy great wines in my local shop on the Edgeware Road.

I'd have to bring a good Malborough Sauvignon Blanc. On a desert island it would be refreshing if you put it in the surf for a while! Cloudy Bay is always a safe bet. Their Sauvignon Blanc inspired all of New Zealand , in that we realized it was possible to make an innovative but absolutely top class world wine here.

My own wine is what I always drink to celebrate a big event. Our two best are the two single vineyard Pinot Noirs. One is called Two Paddocks, The Last Chance and the other one is Two Paddocks, First Paddock which is our original vineyard. They are very different Pinots, but both outstanding in my view. I'd certainly have them on a desert island, just to remind me to keep the fire going because I can't wait to get home.

I'd bring a Cakebread Chardonnay, because I had a very romantic weekend in Napa . We called into Cakebread and I just love the unassuming quality of the winery.

From Australia, Stonier Reserve Pinot Noir is always reliable. I think there are wonderful red wines made in Australia: famous ones like Hill of Grace Shiraz, and some overrated ones like Grange. But for me Pinot Noir is always it. The thing about Pinot Noir is that it's a very fickle little grape, and there are very few places you can grow it successfully. I've never had one from North America that has done it for me.

I'm very fond of Alsatian Gewürztraminer. I think it's one of the great underrated wines. Some of them are really outstanding and so reasonably priced, and one would be terrific at mid-day on a desert island.

A sentimental one: My father's last great meal was at a Michelin-starred restaurant called Lucas-Carton in Paris. Their specialty was duck, cooked to a 2,000 year old Roman recipe in lavender honey. They served it with a Banyuls, a port-like wine from a rather obscure French region near the Spanish border. Shortly after that visit to Paris, my father's health declined and he died. Banyuls is an unusual wine to have with duck, but such an extraordinary combination! For that, and because we drank it at the beginning of my father's exit, I'd probably take a bottle along.

I'm not big on Champagne , but I'd take along a bottle of Cristal to pop for when the boat comes to the rescue.”

Sam Neill was raised in New Zealand, and first gained fame with roles in Australian movies including My Brilliant Career and Dead Calm. His repertoire includes international blockbusters (Jurassic Park) and critical favorites (The Piano, A Cry in the Dark). Look for him next in Little Fish with Cate Blanchett. Neill's not-so-secret passion is his Two Paddocks Winery, which produces standup Pinot Noirs, and a Riesling for good measure. 

© Copyright 2005, Swirl Wine News, January/February 2005. Posted with the permission of the publisher.

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