What’s in the glass tonight July 4th – Viognier


Elephant Hill Viognier 2016

Elephant Hill Viognier Te Awanga Hawkes Bay 2016 – $$

13.5% alc. Pale gold colour.

Nose of spice, licorice allsorts, and ripe luscious golden stonefruit and melon. Cheery and fine.

Sweet and dense in the mouth, rich fruit. Long luscious honeyed finish. Flavours of pear and navel orange. Peppery and gritty in character and texture.

Recommended 88 points

 

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Hawkes Bay Holiday Wines


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L and I and the fam had a week’s break in Havelock North in the heart of Hawkes Bay wine country. In between swimming, tennis-playing, cycling, and tractor-riding to the Cape Kidnappers gannet colony, we enjoyed the sun and views and a few local wines…

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Clearview Estate Winery Te Awanga Sauvignon Blanc Hawkes Bay 2015 -13% straw

Sweet tropical nose, mild grass and acidity, clover Restrained acidity in mouth sweet ripe flavours luscious fine mouthfeel finishes sweet and lively. Main impression is sweetness. 89 points

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Rod McDonald Wines Te Awanga Estate Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2015 – 13.5% pale brilliant gold Clear and crisp nose. Lemon. Peach.  Iinear. Minerally. Salty. Spicyfg Lean. Simple.  Linear, Citrus. Refreshing. Long. 90 points

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Elephant Hill Le Phant Te Awanga 2014 – A Merlot-predominant blend with 26% Syrah and 13% Cab Sav. Perfumed and smoky,  blackcurrants, brown paper, sweet on the nose. Evocative. I keep returning to sniff.  Sweet and grippy, the wine opens up to show supple tannins, dark plums and berries, vanilla, smoky oak, & spicy finish, really moreish and very good. A very distinctive blend. 95 points

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Spencer Hill Estate Latitude 41 Moutere Chardonnay Nelson 2015 – 12.5% pale gold. A variation from the Hawkes Bay theme… Oaky vanilla, buttery & rich. A developed golden stone fruit bouquet. Full of flavour on attack. Great line of citrus balanced with ripe fruit. Creamy Complexity on palate that is very appealing. 92 points

What’s in the glass tonight January 7th – Syrah


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Elephant Hill Syrah Te Awanga Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$

Deep dark carmine. 13.5% alc.

A big, rich and expressive aroma. Plums, savoury with vanilla and white pepper, balsa wood and spice, and a hint of funk.

The flavours show sweet on entry, with rich dark fruit through themed-palate and supple tannins with just enough grip to balance the floral nose, and heat and length at the finish.

This is such a good wine I can really see the kinship this grape has with Pinot Noir. A heady nose paired with a feminine quality on the palate. Sophisticated, delicate fruit with a good core of weight.

Highly Recommended  – 93 points

What’s in the glass tonight December 30th – Merlot Malbec


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Elephant Hill Merlot Malbec Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$$

From grapes off Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle vineyards, taasted and bought at the Te Awanga winery. Inky scarlet colour. 13.5% alc.

While 2013 was good for ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014 was a good year for Merlot.

This wine showed an expressive bold hit of perfume, soft fruit, plums and vanilla. A gorgeous nose; savoury and smoky.

Rich ripe fruit on the front of the palate, plenty of fruit weight through the middle, supple tannins and a pleasant brusqueness at the finish. Mouthcoating and long.

Highly Recommended – 94 points

Straight to the Pool Room – December 2016


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Produttori del Babaresco Nebbiolo Montestefano 2007 – $$$+ – drink 2017-2022. Plucked from the MS wine ballot after the Produttori del Barbaresco horizontal tasting. Delicious. One of the world’s great wine styles.

Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah Te Awanga HB 2013 – $$$$ – drink 2018-2028. Not tasted, but if judged by both the 2013 Syrah and Reserve Syrahs out of Elephant Hill this will be a Stunnah.

Esk Valley Heipipi The Terraces Merlot Malbec Franc Bay View HB 2013 – $$$$ – drink 2018-2028. Tasted at the Winery. Fantastic. A longsleeper, this.

Hawkes Bay Winery Visits


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The Terraces, Esk Valley, Hawkes Bay

Coming back from our Lake Waikaraemoana tramping trip, and passing through Hawkes Bay, I was super-fortunate to have the time and space to visit a number of my very favourite NZ wine producers with my lovely L.

Esk Valley

Esk Valley was first up. Esk Valley is situated beside the coast at Bay View north of Napier. Behind the winery were the famous Terraces, facing north and the sea, first terraced and planted by owner Robert Bird with hybrid wines in the 1940s. Low yields and high production costs saw those pulled out and the hillside planted in pines.

Pine tree cones make poor wine so when George Fistonich of Villa Maria bought the property in 1989, the pines were in turn pulled out, and plantings of cabernets, merlot and malbec vines were dug in. Cabernet Savignon proved hard to ripen consistently at this cool coastal location, so those vines were pulled out in the mid-90’s and replaced with more Merlot and Malbec vines.

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L and I tasted through a range of their standard wines – Savvy, Chardy, Rose, Pinot Gris, Syrah – then we paid a $10 fee to try the Terraces 2014 blend in a separate room. This was presaged by tastings of the standard 2015 Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec blend (a go-to red of mine), then the $60 Winemakers Reserve of the same blend (delicious, complex, aromatic). The Terraces was powerful and refined, with a wonderful aroma. Enough for me to invest in a bottle.

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Eponymous elephant at Elephant Hill

Elephant Hill

A lot of money has been spent establishing Elephant Hill, starting with situating a very impressive bronze elephant before a huge copper-clad winery. The tasting room is one of NZ’s finest, with a high-cuisine kitchen attached, and a sunny terrace out from.

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We tasted through their wines, before settling down to a nice Chardonnay and Gris with a cheese platter. And I bought a bottle of their top rated syrah, the Airavata from 2013.

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I like their wine so much, that later in town I had another glass of their delicious standard Syrah at the stylish café Bistronomy while L had her feet pedicured after the big hike…

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Buck House, Te Mata Estate

Te Mata Estate

The next day we went out for a bike ride, intending to head from Clive up to the top of Te Mata Peak. We were running a bit short of time, and were waylaid by the tasting room at Te Mata Estate instead.

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I didn’t need much persuading: anyone who reads my blog knows I really rate these guys work. We tried the latest Cape Crest Sauvignon Blanc, Elston Chardonnay, Gamay Noir, Bullnose Syrah, and Awatea red blend. We couldn’t carry anything on our bikes, so we left with our bank accounts intact.

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Clearview

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Our time riding was short due to a lunch date at the famous Clearview Estate vineyard café. It was packed. We settled in, ordered our starters and our mains, before heading to the tasting room. We tried their large range of wines, and listened to a very funny and engaged hostess shared information and gags in equal measure. I was even treated to a taste of their $150 Basket Press red blend. For lunch I had to have a glass of their Semillon (quite rare to see a NZ version for sale by the glass), and then their Malbec to go with my steak. Both were yum.

I am so privileged.

What’s in the glass tonight April 8th – Chardonnay


Elephant Hill Chardonnay 2014

Elephant Hill Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$

Brilliant pale gold colour. 13.5% alc.

A refined nose, styled European. Rich, mealy vanilla butterscotch + peach aromas. Some minerality.

To taste; strong peach and apricot flavours, bold and packed with fruit. Dense and chewy.  A tension between voluptousness and ‘steely’. Great cut-thru of citrus. An acid finish, long and involving. A very fine wine. I am going to buy this again, and soon.

95 points

Straight to the Pool Room – August 2015


Pool Room Aug 2015

My purchases from the recent Elephant Hill Reserves Release tasting:

Elephant Hill Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – $$$ – Drink 2018-2021

Elephant Hill Syrah 2014 – $$ – Drink 2018-2024

Elephant Hill Syrah Reserve 2013 – $$$ – Drink 2018-2023

 

 

Elephant Hill Tasting – Aug 2015


Elephant Hill tasting

M shouted me to this tasting at Regional Wines and Spirits hosted by Richard Sherriff. I tried this producer’s Syrah after a Taupo Cycle Challenge a couple of years back and I was really impressed at what they were doing. So I was well pleased to be invited along!

Elephant Hill is owned by the Weiss family. It is a boutique producer of sustainably-produced hand-crafted wines, located on the Te Awanga coast of Hawkes Bay. It produces about 20,000 cases PA at present. I am told it also boasts a fine restaurant, which features dishes well-paired to the wines. The site is named for a life-size teak sculpture of an elephant the owners brought back from a trip to the sub-continent. As you do.

Elephant Hill has three vineyards – Te Awanga with coastal shingle and clay, Gimblett Gravels with inland stony gravels, and Bridge Pa Triangle with inland alluvial and red metal soils.

The wines were poured in advance, non-blind. They were presented by winemaker Steve Skinner and Marketing Manager Vince Labat.

E H Viognier Te Awanga 2014 – No malo, small barrel ferment, short time on lees. 13.5%. Steve admitted that they (EH) liked a cooler climate style of wine. The Viognier grapes were planted in 2007, the estate’s oldest vines. It is a fickle grape to grow, with ripening being problematic. Apparently M. Chapoutier has said, “Making Viognier is an act of Charity”.  EH fight to keep the alcohols from going over the top, and maintaining lovely aromatics. I saw good fruit aromas here – mandarin, passionfruit, nectarines. There was ginger spice and mandarin in the mouth, dry, with a citrus burst and some salinity. It’s an easy Viognier, not oily. I liked it. 3+

E H Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Te Awanga 2014 – They say Reserve designation refers to more time spent in the vineyard and winery. A simple wine picked at optimal ripeness. Fermented in old oak puncheons, wild yeasts, with lees complexity.  Herbaceous nose with some tomato stalk character. Food friendly. In a Sancerre style. To taste – a strong line of citrus, refreshing green apples, lean and elegant. Others remarked about liveliness and saltiness (the end rows are only 25m from the ocean…). I thought this was great. 4

E H Chardonnay 2014 – Burgundian whole bunch pressed. Fermented 11 months in 25% new oak barrels, wild yeasts, on lees, no malo treatment.  The vintage was slightly warmer than 2013. I saw a very fine nose. There was richness and delicacy, biscuity notes, vanilla and golden fruit. It was delicious to taste too – open and fine and with a light touch. Very good. 4+

E H Chardonnay Reserve Te Awanga 2013 – From vines planted in 2003. Exceptional vintage. Wild fermented in oak, more lees complexity, no malo treatment. I noted a hint of apparent reductive character, but this blew off as I swirled. My notes said: powerful, rich, beautiful Chardonnay. Luscious viscous richness. Elegance. A 12 yr wine. Fantastic. 5

E H Syrah 2014 – Syrah is Elephant Hill’s flagship variety. Here it is a blend of grapes from the Te Awanga, Gimblett and Bridge Pa sites. Very ripe fruit, soft and sweet on nose. Still young, tastes young. Remarkable 32.5g dry extract. Taste is reminiscent of the E Guigal CdR 2010s I have been drinking. A very exciting Syrah. Will look fantastic in a few years, very good now. 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2013 – Here the blend of grapes from the Te Awanga and Gimblett Gravels sites, with 1% Viognier co-fermented. This glass was poured three hours before the tasting.  A big black carmine colour, it shows vanilla, elegance, density of fruit on the nose. Still a baby, but made to last. To taste, tannic and rich, rich black plums, held together refined and closed. Very Good 4+

E H Syrah Reserve 2009 – This was a treat. An older bottle. Made from EL Chave clone grapes. Almost meaty character, overlaid with gorgeous fruit flavours, almost feminine. Silky tannic structure, elegance in the glass. Just superb. 5

E H Merlot Malbec 2013 – A young wine from young vines (2011). Trophy Champion NZ Red Wine at the Int. Wine Challenge. Eminently drinkable. Soft, perfumed, dark fruits. Approachable tannins. Sweetness on palate, coming from low cropping 4

E H Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2013 – A blend of 64% Merlot, 35% Cabernet and 1% Malbec. Rich, tannic, mouthfilling and mouthcoating. Dense. Will be really worth watching as it ages. I didn’t pay too much attention to this wine as I was still reeling from the Syrahs and Chardonnays…still, 4+

What a great tasting. I was very impressed with the breadth and quality of the wines we were offered. I already have a ’13 Syrah in the Pool Room, and am keen to supplement it with a brace of these…

What’s in the glass tonight January 25th


Elephant Hill Chardonnay 2013

Elephant Hill Chardonnay Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$$

A single vineyard wine from the Awanga Vineyard in the Hawkes Bay. Hand-everything-ed. I loved loved this producer’s Syrah.

Pale gold and leggy. 13.5%.

Fragrant nose of vanilla and golden summer stonefruit.

A strong citrusy style of Chardonnay. Fresh, almost ripping acidity. Flavours of early apricots. Mealy, but dominant impression is lean on the mid-palate. Good complexity at the finish and very long.

Quite delicious. VG 4