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This weekend, Carrie and I hosted a birthday dinner party for her mom, Kay, who turned 50. Again. (I’m sorry, but Y&H refuses to bow to the winky emoticon school of coy exchanges.) Part of my role for the evening was to find wines to pair with the four courses we had planned.

Aside from the Tavel rosé and Argentinian malbec, I also purchased a 2008 bottle of sauvignon blanc from Yealands, a New Zealand winery that has taken a rocky piece of land in Marlborough and transformed it, through brilliance and sheer chutzpah, into a model operation of sustainability. Yealands’ wines have been earning their share of praise, too.

This sauv blanc would be perfect, I thought, with Carrie’s spicy pumpkin soup. Unfortunately, we weren’t done with the Tavel until the salad course, which followed the soup. No matter, the sauv blanc’s crisp, grapefruit notes paired well with the salad’s figs, candied pecans, red pears, and even the bitter notes of frisee and radicchio.

Nope, the pairing wasn’t the problem. It was one of the aromas in the wine that troubled us. We could smell it on the nose and taste it on the palate, but we couldn’t name it. It was sort of herbal and sort of spicy. The words, galangal and lemongrass, keep coming to mind, but I knew they weren’t quite right.

So this morning, I started searching the wine blogs, looking up writers who had also grappled with the strange aroma of Yealands sauv blanc.

As you’d expect, all sorts of colorful words have been applied to this bottle: nettles, asparagus, wet stone, grass, and tomato leaf. The last descriptor caught my attention for a second, but it wasn’t until I tripped upon this description that I felt someone had captured the essence of the Yealands bottle.

It was right in the middle of Bob Campbell‘s brief review: green capsicum.

Carrie agreed. It was the spicy, unmistakable green pungency of chili peppers that had flavored that wine. Check it out for yourself.