Unison Vineyard Marie's Vineyard Reserve Merlot 2006

If you’re in the Hawkes Bay area, I strongly recommend a visit to Unison Vineyard. We dropped in and were greeted by the effusive and extremely passionate viticulturalist, who gave us a sensational tasting and lots of information about each wine, the vineyard, and the region generally. Oh, also they make a lovely olive oil (from Estate fruit) and a delicious Balsamic vinegar. This wine is their straight Merlot, priced reasonably and intended to be consumed sooner rather than later. Garnet colour, looking a bit older, perhaps, than one might expect from a 2006 vintage wine. Attractive, though. The nose is fabulous — a lifted, multifaceted flavour profile that passes through herbal, medicinal notes, dark fruits and some oak quite seamlessly. Overall, quite savoury and tight. The entry is subtle, and the wine builds intensity as the palate progresses. The middle palate is again quite savoury, with lots of dark fruit and more herbal flavours, and a sweet edge to keep things relatively easygoing. Medium weight palate with a nicely textured, rustic mouthfeel (somewhat Italianate, perhaps). Oak is reasonably prominent, and perhaps a little coarse in its sappiness, but never overwhelms the wine. The after palate starts to drop slightly in intensity before drying, slightly rustic tannins kick in to carry the wine off with good length. This is a very drinkable wine that will, I imagine, go very well with Italian food. A nice expression of Merlot that will please lovers of the more savoury side of this variety. Good value too.Unison VineyardPrice: $NZ24Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Unison Vineyard Syrah 2006

This wine sits alongside the Unison blends (regular and Selection) that form the core of the Unison Vineyard range. All Gimblett Gravels Estate fruit. A deep, perfumed nose that shows as much rich dark berry fruit as it does floral pot pourri and black pepper. There are also violety, raw meat and vanilla edges to the wine that create an overall impression of depth and complexity of flavour. The palate’s entry has good impact, and rich berry flavours begin from the very tip of the tongue onwards. This is a generous, full bodied wine that has a focus on ripe fruit without becoming vulgar or one-dimensional. There’s also a bit of toasty oak in there but it’s very much a support act. Acidity isn’t especially attention-grabbing but provides firmness and structure, and a focussed line. Mouthfeel is sophisticated, mostly silky smooth, with slightly chunky tannins as the finish takes hold. Length is quite impressive in its quality (deep fruit just keeps on singing) and persistence. An excellent Syrah that is rich yet balanced. If I had more bottles of this, I’d probably wait a year or two before retasting, as it’s quite evidently a youthful wine that may benefit from time in bottle.Unison VineyardPrice: $NZ35Closure: DiamDate tasted: December 2007

Trinity Hill Syrah 2006

Second in a lineup of Gimblett Gravels Syrahs. I was a little underwhelmed by the previous example (from Craggy Range).
Youthful purple colour, good clarity, a lovely wine to look at.
On the nose, identifiably regional notes of black pepper and pot pourri, but also a prominent strand of clean, attractive bright berry fruit and some undergrowth. Good complexity and interest. Also some nice vanilla oak, in a supporting role.
On entry, the wine feels a little dilute and lacking in immediacy of impact. The middle palate is where things become quite expressive. Medium bodied, fresh flavours that echo those on the nose, with good balance between all the elements. The mouthfeel is very clean, not especially textural, but appropriate given the freshness of the flavour profile. The after palate shows good continuity from the middle, and attractively persistent flavour. Chalky tannins finish off the wine nicely.
This wine is a tasty, drinkable expression of Syrah and stood up extremely well to a rather spicy pasta dish.
Trinity HillPrice: $NZ29Closure: DiamDate tasted: December 2007

Craggy Range Block 14 Syrah 2006

I bought a few Gimblett Gravels Syrahs to taste so that I can better understand the style being produced there as well as how individual producers are approaching things. This one is from Craggy Range, which gets my vote for most grand tasting facility in Hawkes Bay, at least that I’m aware of.
Nice sparkling purple-red colour, good density.
A really striking nose of black pepper and dried flowers, a bit like sharp pot pourri. Lots of impact, and quite characterful, but the more I sniffed it, the more I realised that it’s a wine that exists almost entirely at this high toned, spicily aromatic end of the spectrum, with little fruit weight of the regular berry kind. With some time in glass, a bit of red berry fruit emerged, but it really does remain in the background.
The palate is a virtual rerun of the nose. The same pepper and dried flowers dominate the flavour profile. The wine is of light to medium weight, very linear, with firm and yet delicately structured acidity. Despite the acidity’s presence, it adds very little to the texture of the wine, and the tannins are quite laid back. Again, there are some berry flavours but they are an undercurrent more than anything else. Fairly good length on the finish.
Whilst it’s a wine with impact, it’s also quite one-dimensional and didn’t go with a dinner of lamb (NZ’s finest!) especially well. The food seemed to clash with the wine’s flavours and reduce rather than add to complexity. Possibly needs some time in bottle to settle down, as I expected much more from this wine, given its reputation. Would be interested in retasting in a few months.
Craggy RangePrice: $NZ38Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Merlot 2005

As the name indicates, a single vineyard wine from the Gimblett Gravels sub-region of Hawkes Bay. Mostly Merlot, with some Cabernet Franc too.Intense, slightly jammy but interesting red fruit flavours on the nose, supported by powdery vanilla oak and a distinctive clean salt water note (odd but attractive). Not hugely complex, and quite oaky, but nice nonetheless. The wine’s middle palate is disappointing in that it shows a good deal of fruit flavour, but also a prominence of oak that, for me, is detrimental to the wine’s balance. The oak continues to dominate the wine’s flavour profile as it progresses through the after palate and finish. Tannins are fine and puckeringly prominent.At the moment, this wine is way too oak-driven for my taste, and I’m not sure there’s the depth of fruit flavour to outlast the development of the oak-derived flavours in the bottle. It’s a shame because the fruit itself appears to be of good (if not outstanding) quality and interest. I’d like to see wine from this area done in a more restrained, fruit-driven style.Craggy RangePrice: $NZ29Closure: CorkDate tasted: December 2007