Joelle Thomson's online wine guide

Category: Hawke’s Bay (page 1 of 6)

Taste The Terraces with winemaker Gordon Russell…

The Terraces tasting… Thursday 7 September, Regional Wines, Wellington

It’s 23 years and counting since I first met Hawke’s Bay winemaker Gordon Russell at a tasting at Wellington’s biggest independent wine store, Regional Wines & Spirits, and next month he’s back – to taste more wines from a wider range of grapes and a long string of very good vintages.

The pinnacle of the tasting is The Terraces, which is a blend of red grapes; the exact proportions and identities of which have changed over the past two and a half decades.

Since its inaugural release in 1991, Esk Valley’s The Terraces has been made in only 13 vintages, and with the release of the 2015, this is the first time in history that three consecutive vintages of The Terraces have been bottled. Come and taste all three of those vintages together, as winemaker Gordon Russell takes us on a journey through his wines, starting with a hand picked selection of the core Esk Valley range, travelling via the hillside vineyard at this small winery up to The Terraces.

Here’s the full line-up that we will be tasting on Thursday 7 September at Regional Wines & Spirits in Wellington:

2017 Esk Valley Verdelho
2016 Esk Valley Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay
2015 Esk Valley Gimblett Gravels Syrah
2014 Esk Valley Winemaker’s Reserve Syrah
2010 Esk Valley The Hillside
2013 Esk Valley The Terraces
2014 Esk Valley The Terraces
2015 Esk Valley The Terraces
2016 Esk Valley Late Harvest Chenin Blanc

Bookings are open now and essential for this tasting, phone 04 385 6952.

Vineyard tales with Lauren Swift

Lauren Swift is the winemaker at Ash Ridge in the Bridge Pa Triangle, Hawke’s Bay, and she’s in Wellington today to taste her new wines with writers here.

The winery she works for is owned by Chris Wilcox (who runs the vineyard in a hands-on fashion) and Sonia, his wife. He is an ex banker who dreamt about having his own winery and bought 9 hectares of land in 2000, which was planted in grapes in four stages from 2005 onwards. In 2007, he retired from corporate life, moved his family to the Bay and made his first wine, a Syrah, in 2007. Initially, the contract winemaker was Trinity Hill.

Winemaker Lauren Swift began at the end of 2012 and has since grown production by about eight fold from 1500 cases to 8000-9000 cases. The estate vineyard is planted in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and a little Viognier – used to co-ferment with the Syrah.

The Ash Ridge wines

There are three tiers of wine made at Ash Ridge. The estate range  includes a barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Rose, Chardonnay, Merlot and Syrah, all priced at $20; the premium range (which often includes one off wines that Swift likes to experiment with) and includes Malbec, Viognier, Chardonnay and Syrah, all priced at $30, and the reserve wines, which include Chardonnay at $40 and a Syrah at $50.

The closures… everything is sealed with a screw cap

Cork was used to seal the reserve wines in the past (Diam) and Swift does not think it added anything to the wines but she prefers the screw caps – “much prefer them”.

The wine tasting…

Body to burn Chardonnay

2016 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay $40, 12.5% ABV

Chardonnay clones 15 and 95 were used to make this wine from grapes grown on the Ash Ridge estate at Bridge Pa, Hawke’s Bay. This is a succulent wine with high acid, balanced by a full body, soft mid palate lactic tones and ripe grapefruit, peach and nectarine fruit flavours with a  long finish. Lots of lees stirring, 25% new oak, no fining but the wine has been filtered.

Fruit is the hero Syrah

2015 Ash Ridge Reserve Hawke’s Bay Syrah, $50, % ABV

Two clones of Syrah are grown at Ash Ridge estate vineyard and this wine is a near 50/50 blend of both – the Chave clone and MS (mass selection).  It was bottled unfined and unfiltered.

The wine included 25% whole bunches in the fermentation. It’s ruby in colour and overtly peppery in aroma with juicy, bright, intense deep black fruit flavours; 30 per cent new oak was used but the fruit is the hero on the long finish.

Fortifed Syrah…

The 2016 Ash Ridge Ruby Syrah is 20% alcohol and is fermented on skins with 90 grams residual sugar in the wine when it’s fortified. It’s barrel aged for 12 months and sells for $25 at the cellar door.

Hot new Syrahs – Doppio, $150 for two-pack

Doppio is a new wine range from Ash Ridge in Hawke’s Bay was to conceived by winemaker Lauren Swift pin point differences in two Syrah clones – MS and Chave.

“It’s not so we can say one is better, although we all have our preferences,” says Swift.

The two new wines were made from the same vineyard site from which Swift had noticed big differences in the taste of the wines made from each clone. “The Chave clone behaves extremely differently and is always balanced with very little done to it. We spur prune it and have a very open canopy and hardly fruit thin at all whereas with the MS you need to fruit thin a lot – the bunches are huge, it grows a lot of leaf that you’ve got to remove and we trim it two to three times a season whereas the Chave we only trim once when it gets to the top of the posts.”

MS is the clone that is most widely used in Hawke’s Bay.

The wines were aged in barrel for nearly two years and bottled a year prior to release. They are available only in two-packs directly from the winery and were bottled straight from barrel with a smidgeon of SO2. Just 280 two-packs were produced. See website below for further details.

2014 Doppio MS 13% ABV

Bigger bunches of grapes provide big red and black fruit flavours in this full bodied, fleshy and succulent Syrah, which has been the crowd favourite, to date.

2014 Doppio Chave 13% ABV

Thicker skins and smaller bunches are characteristic of the Chave clone, which results in a wine with darker fruit flavours, more mocha and chocolate notes, a fuller body and longer finish. The brix are typically 21 at harvest.

Find out more at:

Wines of the week… Hawke’s Bay Pinot Noir

Sileni tasting at Regional Wines & Spirits, 5 July 2017

Who would have thought that Hawke’s Bay would make Pinot Noir than North Canterbury?
The leading producer of Pinot in Hawke’s Bay is Sileni Estates, which makes up about 50% of the crush of this variety in the Bay each year.

There are 5 wines in the range and today we are tasting four because the Parkhill Pinot has sold out, such is its success.

Sileni Estate winery is in the Bridge Pa Triangle, a warmer area and home to later ripening varieties such as Merlot

Most of the winery’s Pinot vineyards are slightly inland and 100 metres up in altitude, which reduces temperature significantly. It’s a short drive but a long way to these vineyards at Mangatahi and Crownthorpe Terraces.

Winemaker Cairn predicts that most future growth in Hawke’s Bay is going to be in the cooler climate inland areas, as far as land availability goes.

The Hawke’s Bay Pinots

Top buying – 2016 Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir $18

I try to avoid the words ‘easy drinking’ because it can sound patronising, but it’s really true of this lively, fruity, spicy, light bodied red, which is made in high volume and drinks deliciously well now. It’s finish lingers longer than its price might suggest. A great value Pinot putting Hawke’s Bay best foot forward under $20.
Approximately 80% of the grapes in this wine come from Mangatahi inland in Hawke’s Bay with the 20% balance from Te Awanga.

2016 Sileni Plateau Pinot Noir $32

A big step up in style with medium ruby colour, medium body and deeper red fruit flavours, a longer finish and hints of smoky aroma from minimum oak maturation with a smidgeon of new oak adding body and interesting savoury notes to the finish.

2016 Sileni Parkhill Pinot Noir $32

Line priced with the Plateau Pinot Noir, this wine is made from the Parkhill Vineyard; a north west facing, clay based vineyard at Te Awanga. Lovely drink-me-now wine with medium body and finish.

2015 Sileni Springstone Pinot Noir $35

Bigger, bolder but still very PInotesque in style – pale ruby colour, dry, high acid and red cherry flavours with firm body from the 15% whole bunches included in the ferment and no new oak. The whole bunches provide body and length and this wine drinks well, but can evolve well for another 4 to 5 years.

2014 Sileni EV Pinot Noir $70

This wine’s name “EV” stands for Exceptional Vintage and this is a blend from the best batches of Pinot in the winery (selected by the trio of winemakers at Sileni) with approximately 25% new oak for 9 months, which is relatively low for a New Zealand winery – and welcome too, in my view, because it allows the fruit to shine. Very pinotesque indeed – delicious.

Try it.

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