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

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2005

Had a lovely, professional experience at the Te Mata cellar door, and was able to taste a sampling of their range, if not perhaps some of the “heavy hitters” (ie Coleraine). Ended up purchasing a few, of which this was one.
Varietally dusty Cabernet nose, but not dominatingly so, as the primary note is of fleshy dark berry fruits, with some oak in support. The entry is one of those that widens immediately to a generous middle palate — instant gratification, if you will. The wine is medium to full bodied, and quite fruit driven. The fruit is of high quality and satisfying depth, never even hinting at simple, confected flavours. Instead, it’s masses of dark, juicy fruit, perhaps on the less structured end of the spectrum as Cabernets go, but certainly not flabby. The palate is quite linear until the end, where it spikes in a gorgeous lift of red fruits, before fading away on a blanket of fine tannins.
What an excellent wine this is. If you’re looking for a “drink now” Cabernet that is full of flavour and not an ounce industrial, give it a go.
Te Mata EstatePrice: $NZ35Closure: CorkDate 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

Clearview Enigma 2004

The second wine to be served with lunch at Clearview. This time, a Merlot-dominant Bordeaux blend.Quite vegetal aromas: stalk, brambles, etc. With some time, super blackcurrent fruit leapt from the glass along with some vanilla oak. Still, a flavour profile suggesting perhaps marginal ripeness and/or a strong expression Merlot’s more “green” varietal character.The wine’s entry establishes a much more fruit-driven flavour profile than suggested on the nose, with ripe dark fruit, pepper and spice, plus edges of leafiness. Still, it’s a more elegant, savoury wine as opposed to a fruit-driven one. The middle palate fills the mouth well, showing good intensity of flavour. Very fine tannins help the flavour to adhere to the tongue and linger impressively. The wine improved with food, with the fruit flavours moving further forward in the wine’s balance. Definitely one to have with dinner as opposed to alone, where its angularity might become tiring after a few glasses.Clearview EstatePrice: $NZ40Closure: CorkDate tasted: December 2007

Clearview Reserve Chardonnay 2006

Clearview’s restaurant is a pretty popular place, judging by the crowd we saw at lunch today. I can confirm the food and setting are both excellent. But how are the wines? We tried two with lunch, of which this was the first. Really nutty, yeasty aromas initially dominate the nose, with nectarine and melon-like fruit emerging with some vigorous swirling. There are also sweet butterscotch aromas and toastiness. All in all, this wine seems pretty heavily worked, but also complex and interesting.In the mouth, this is a little lighter than one might expect from the nose. Initially, the oak is quite dominant, but that’s ok because it’s super tasty and the winemaking creates a wide spectrum of flavours. Acidity is lively through the palate, and well integrated. The malo-derived flavours are quite prominent. As the wine warmed up, some fruit weight became evident, and to my taste the balance of the wine improved markedly. So I wouldn’t serve this straight from the fridge if you want to taste all that’s in there. A lengthy finish rounds the wine off nicely.Despite the style, it’s a food friendly wine that accompanied our meal well.Clearview EstatePrice: $NZ35Closure: 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

Te Mata Estate Woodthorpe Vineyard Chardonnay 2006

This is a single vineyard wine from the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand. According to the label, it’s gone through the gamut of winemaking tricks, including lees contact and malolactic fermentation. The nose immediately establishes the flavour profile of this wine’s fruit. It’s very much in the nectarine spectrum, quite ripe and with good complexity. There’s some spicy oak influence too, but it sits on the edges. The wine’s entry has good impact and spreads flavour quickly to the middle palate, where more of the same delicious fruit is evident. There’s some nuttiness, though I can’t detect the creaminess that might indicate lees stirring. There’s also a subtle butterscotch richness from the malo, but it’s very much a supporting note here, the fruit taking centre stage. Really good intensity of flavour, with a driving line that helps the fruit to sing. There’s a fair amount of acidity and this keeps the wine both focussed and fresh, although it also means there’s considerable astringency on the palate. The wine’s after palate continues on for some time, and the finish is of decent length, with echoes of the fruit seeming to stick to the back of the tongue. There are subtle phenolics that add some texture to the finish also.Really nice wine, this one. I think what impresses me most is the restraint of the winemaking combined with the intensity of the fruit flavour. Nice things to have, especially when it comes to Chardonnay. Good value too.Te Mata EstatePrice: $NZ23Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Ata Rangi Célèbre 2005

Ata Ranga is well-known for its Pinot Noir, so I was curious to give this blend of Martinborough and Hawkes Bay Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot a go. I have no idea why it’s called Célèbre.
The nose is very expressive and shows a seductive blend of violets, raw meat, dark berry fruits, spice (clove-like) and a good whack of oak. There’s good intensity here, and the balance is impressive (though perhaps with the oak showing too much after some time in glass). The palate again shows good balance and a focused line. The entry is immediately flavoursome and leads to a medium/full bodied middle palate showing intense, deliciously savoury dark fruits and mouthwatering astringency. The finish is especially lovely, and showcases very fine, chocolate-like tannins, framed by caramel/vanilla oak and quite prominent sappiness.
This is an elegant wine, full of flavour and tightly structured. It lacks the complexity of the very best wines, but is seductive and balanced. I asked myself whether there was an element of underripeness, but if there is, for my taste it is question of style rather than fault. It went well with our dinner of beef and roasted vegetables, the fruit having no issues matching the intense beefy flavour of the lovely New Zealand meat.
Ata RangiPrice: $NZ32Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007

Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

I’m in New Zealand at the moment for a bit of a camping holiday, but roughing it doesn’t quite extend to doing without wine. In fact, I’m hoping to fit in some winery visits while I’m here, as well as taste lots of Kiwi wines of course. Tasting notes may be somewhat briefer than usual during my trip.
We got in yesterday and weren’t up for anything especially challenging, so chose this Hawkes Bay regional blend to have with dinner. A curious, unfamiliar aroma of dusty vanilla custard was initially dominant on the nose, fading to a supporting element with some time in glass. Alongside this (presumably) oak-derived note sits lovely, somewhat savoury red fruit, very easygoing without falling into a confected, industrial flavour spectrum. The wine’s entry is lively, ushering in a medium bodied palate that echoes the sweet/savoury fruit seen on the nose. On the palate, the fruit edges a little further towards facile sweetness, but there’s still a delicious savouriness to the flavour profile. There’s lively acidity all through the palate, which is well integrated and creates a feeling of sophistication in the mouth. The finish is practically tannin-free but of satisfactory length.
There’s no notable complexity of flavour, but for a quaffing wine, this is a really tasty drop that doesn’t confuse  “easy drinking” with simple fruit sweetness.
Villa MariaPrice: $NZ15Closure: StelvinDate tasted: December 2007