What’s in the glass tonight August 4th – Merlot

Church Road McDonald Series Merlot 2013

Church Road McDonald Series Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$

14.5% alc. Deep carmine colour.

From the celebrated 2013 vintage in the Bay. Tasted over two nights.

First impression: complex and leafy on the nose, odd for a good year, brusqueness and drying tannin on palate, but with potential to age, the shortness on palate perhaps indicating the wine has stalled, with another 2-3 years needed to kick on to a stage when it will begin drinking really well.

Second look after a day open: dark fruits, roses, cedar and vanilla. Soft and aromatic. Unctuous and delicious in the mouth with rich flavours of dark plums, dark red roses, and tobacco to match bouquet. Balanced. Drying tannins offset by fresh acidity, and enveloped by the typical varietal softness of Merlot.

Highly Recommended  90 points

What’s in the glass tonight December 8th – Syrah


Church Road Syrah Hawkes Bay 2014 – $

Inky carmine colour. 13.5% alc.

Michael Cooper rated this wine his best red buy for 2017. He wrote of it, “sturdy, richly flavoured, sharply priced red is not to be missed.  ‘Serious’ but highly approachable, it is mouthfilling, with an array of blackcurrant, plum, spice and nut flavours, hints of black pepper and licorice, and excellent concentration, ripeness and complexity”.

I have to agree. This wine has a beautiful nose, layered, fruity and savoury in equal parts. Softness, with plums and white pepper, vanilla and chocolate. Lots going on, and ‘serious’.

The wine tasted soft and robust, with dense rich fruit, mid-weighted with medium tannin and spice. Well-built, mouth-filling and long, with unctuous umami components and a white pepper finish. The best CR base-level Syrah yet. Superb.

Highly Recommended – 92 points

What’s in the glass tonight October 31st – Syrah


Church Road Syrah Hawkes Bay 2013 – $

From the superlative 2013 HB vintage. Inky crimson colour. 13% alc.

Lots of wood on the nose, intense vanilla, and sweet oak. Perfumed soap and violets! Spice, dark cherries and plums. Pencil shavings. Confected deliriousness. Perfect cool-climate ripeness. So much going on!

Soft and fruit-driven on palate. Sweet oak and vanilla. Not so balanced due to so much wood evident, but so expressive. So much character! Medium tannins, verging on chewy, and drying. White pepper, chocolate, nutmeg and herbs towards the finish. Long. I have slight questions about ripeness but that is quibbling. This is sooo terrifically good for a base tier Syrah. Buy up!

93 points

What’s in the glass tonight June 11th – Cabernet Sauvignon

CR McDonald Cab Sav 2009

From the Cellar: Church Road McDonald Series Cabernet Sauvignon Hawkes Bay 2009 – $$

Dark garnet claret.  13.5% alc.

Warm dense black fruit, with secondary aroma characters emerging from the mix. Red rose florals, oak and vanilla notes. This wine expresses brooding power.

There is great power and structure on the palate. It is tannic and weighty, and not too joined up yet. Flavours of licorice and cassis as you would expect. I am used to the richness that Merlot would have given to a blend, so on it’s own the Cabernet is somewhat angular, flinty and biscuit-y, with a drying finish. Is there enough body to balance the power? Just.

The structure helped the wine hang together better and soften markedly the next day, when it drank very well, and I drained the bottle to the last. I could have held this for another eight years… 90 points.


What’s in the glass tonight March 11th – Chardonnay

CR McDonald Chardonnay 2015

Church Road McDonald Series Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2015 – $

13.5%  Pale gold  $$

Premium fruit, whole-bunch pressed and wild fermented.

Layered, funky, old-world nose, with nutty and crusty bread aromas. A little reductive, which appeals to me.

Weighty ripe stonefruit in the mouth up front; then there is the soft mouthfeel in the mid-palate from the malo treatment, laying off then to the texture and bitterness of toasty oak. A raspy stoic finish.

I liked it very much. A bit more acidity would make this champion.

VG 4

What’s in the glass tonight November 8th – Merlot Cab Malbec

Church Road Merlot Cab Malbec 2013

Church Road Merlot Cabernet Malbec Hawkes Bay 2013 – $

Another value red ’13 that I haven’t yet had the chance to taste. Their ’13 Chardonnays were fab, and their ‘14’s even better. This should be better than ok.

Deep, dark carmine colour. 14.5% alc – a hot one for a New Zealand wine.

On the nose, soft gentle aromas of fallen red orchard stonefruit. Vanilla and jam. A touch of matchbox and graphite pencil. A complex nose for its age.

Melodious sweet ripe fruit to first taste, with flavours of black plums, and soft on the mid-palate. Medium-weighted tannins towards the rear. Cocoa and again, matchbox, at the death.

A good BBQ wine for the early summer evening Wellington chill. A bit too soft for me, I prefer a greater cabernet component for more tannins.

BTG 3+



Church Road Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2014 – $

I have to say the CR 14 is the best yet – a really fine wine.

Great Chardy colour. Elegant nose. Robust golden stone fruit flavours. Evocative Oak burr on the mid palate.

A fantastic wine for the price. I love it.

VG 4

BTW the tasting glass pictured was lifted from from a fresh ‘n free box of 6 glasses I was given when I bought the Negociants bundle. A nice glass for sure, but better suited to more aromatic floral wines like Pinot Noir, Syrah, Riesling and S.Blanc I think.

What’s in the glass tonight April 22nd

Church Road HB Chardonnay 2014

Church Road Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2014 – $

This is the latest release of a high volume wine with pretentions to be ‘fine’. It often succeeds.

CR does what it implies on the label: presenting a refined wine for a low price. It sets the benchmark below which I no longer wish to stoop. The 2014 vintage in the Bay has been described as ‘fine’, also.

This edition is 13.5% alc. Pale gold colour. Light bouquet of late summer summer stonefruit, & refined. Apricots, peaches, lemon. The nose is what lifts this wine above the bargain-bin bottles.

It is also balanced in the mouth. Notes of stonefruit and lemon. It is linear and stony. Easy drinking, dependable and elegant for the $. You can’t do better for this price.

BTG 3+

Straight to the Pool Room – December 2014

Pool Room Dec 2014

I got paid, and Santa came early, so these Christmas presents to myself will be finding a place under the tree in my cellar:

Church Road Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$ – drink 2017-2018. A wine critic that I admire stated this is the best CR standard Chardonnay he has seen. I’ve been drinking a lot of it already this year and agree. Very elegant. Put it down to the great 2013 vintage. And put it down I will!

Esk Vallet Merlot Cabernet Malbec Gimblett Gravels HB 2013 – $$ – drink 2018-2021. This wine scored the category trophy for  Merlot Cabernet blends at the prestigious Air New Zealand Wine Awards 2014. The wine has also received media attention from other wine reviewers I follow. I have been keeping an eye out for discounts, and saw these bottles on special at my local supermarket for Christmas, so into the cellar they go!

i append the report of the Chairman of Judges of the Awards. Interesting reading:


Chair of Judges Report

This year we have achieved more than 98% of entries that were both grown and made sustainably. This is important because sustainability means delivering excellent wine to consumers in a way that enables the natural environment, the businesses and the communities involved, to thrive.

The Awards attracted a total 1551 entries, which is 12% up on the 2013 competition. 7% of entries were awarded Gold medals, and 48% of all entries received awards.

I stated last year that 2013 was a very good grapegrowing season across the country, and very clearly the effects of this vintage continue to be seen in this year’s results, particularly with the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. 2014 had some challenges in many regions, but the quality of the best wines is still as good as ever, showing the signs of well managed vineyards and good winemaking.

Sauvignon Blanc wines from 2014 have some excellent examples, with the best showing complexity of fruit characters and an absence of green flavours. The 2013 vintage wines still shine with another year of bottle age, retaining the weight, texture, length and balance that marked them from the beginning. Once again, the best examples show a balance between very ripe and slightly edgy mineral characters which give these wines both depth and vibrancy.

Chardonnay is very strong indeed, particularly from 2013, but the success of some older vintage wines certainly shows the ageing capability of this superior grape variety. Among the best wines are a wide range of styles and regions, and show what can be achieved with Chardonnay when the grapes are ripened correctly for the region concerned, and the use of oak is carefully balanced with the other components of the wine.

Pinot Gris has enjoyed a significant lift in quality compared to previous years, and is clearly a variety on the rise in New Zealand. The best wines have rich, luscious characters that do not rely solely on sugar to give texture and length.

In the dry styles the best Riesling wines show elegance and purity with beautiful aromatic, minerality and flavour persistence. The medium wines were generally outstanding with great fruit aromas, flavours and acidity balanced carefully by sugar sweetness.

Gewürztraminer was a variable class with some great pungent fruit aromas and palate richness among the best wines, but with too many examples lacking in fruit weight and texture.

It was very encouraging to see such good examples of Albariño, Arneis and Grüner Veltliner in the other white varieties section as the number of wines exhibited has risen and the competition has become keener.

The Sparkling Wine category had a very large number of entries, and the standard was very high. The Gold Medal wines show the complexity and finesse that is required for recognition at this level.

Pinot Noir is once more the most successful varietal class in the competition with 27 Gold Medals. This is an outstanding group of red wines, particularly from the 2013 vintage but also in the more aged categories. There is diversity of style ranging from strongly coloured, robust wines with richness and tannin, through to more fresh, elegant and silky wines. The best wines exhibit layered complexity and palate length, always with tannin and acid in harmony with the fruit and oak characteristics.

With the class of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and their Blends, the 2013 vintage is certainly showing its quality. The Cabernet Sauvignon component seems to shine through in particular with ripe cassis fruit, rich tannins and flavour complexity, but also with the Merlot and Malbec having a significant impact on the blends.

Syrah provided a quality class of wine displaying a diversity of styles from fresh, vibrant peppery and herbal to full-bodied rich and ripe black fruit styles with significant oak impact and earthy tannins.

It should be noted that the judges are now being much more critical of oak characters that are too dominant and out of balance with the other components of the wine.

The Sweet White Wine class this year was wonderful, with a number of varieties showing beautifully ripe concentrated fruit characters, often augmented with botrytis cinerea noble rot, and made into a diverse range of styles.

The prestigious reputation of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards is particularly due to the quality of the judging panels. We have a very high standard of local judges with a great deal of both local and overseas judging experience. The associate judges are also of a very high standard, and make an important contribution to the judging process, particularly at discussion time.

What’s in the glass tonight at Waikuku Lodge July 19th


From the Cellar: Church Road Cuvé Syrah 2004 – $$

I took this auction bottle with me when I went with L and the kids to stay at the DOC hut Waikuku Lodge with a bunch of friends and their children. We spend the weekend cooking, eating, walking, playing pooh-sticks with homemade toy boats, playing board games, reading and keeping the fire going to keep the winter chill at bay.

The wine was a tawny dark magenta, browning around the rim. It had a rich and involving bouquet overlaid with blackberries and violets, leather, Port Royal tobacco, and white pepper.

Peppery spics continued in the mouth. Developed secondary tawny flavours added complexity and layers. The fruit has receded somewhat, and the wine’s body feels correspondingly thinner. Pleasant notes of licorice and vanilla. The wine opened up well in the glass overtime and became absolutely delicious. Opened at the right time in the right place. 4+