Church Road McDonald Series Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$
14.5% alc. Deep carmine colour.
From the celebrated 2013 vintage in the Bay. Tasted over two nights.
First impression: complex and leafy on the nose, odd for a good year, brusqueness and drying tannin on palate, but with potential to age, the shortness on palate perhaps indicating the wine has stalled, with another 2-3 years needed to kick on to a stage when it will begin drinking really well.
Second look after a day open: dark fruits, roses, cedar and vanilla. Soft and aromatic. Unctuous and delicious in the mouth with rich flavours of dark plums, dark red roses, and tobacco to match bouquet. Balanced. Drying tannins offset by fresh acidity, and enveloped by the typical varietal softness of Merlot.
Highly Recommended 90 points
Ata Rangi Celebre Martinborough 2014 – $$$
This is a long-time favourite local red for me. A bright red blend of 55% Merlot, 35% Syrah, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc fruit grown on the Martinborough Terrace, and matured in 20% new oak.
Deep plum purple colour. 13% alc.
Soft, round and opulent on the nose. A savoury character up front, then opens to reveals oak, plums, and spice.
Sweetness on entry, fine-grained tannins in the mid-palate, and fresh acidity on the finish. Fruit flavours are restrained, not as ripe as the ’13, and slightly leafy.
A fine, expressive wine.
Recommended 89 points
Abbey Cellars Rapture Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013 – $$
Dark plum red colour. 14% alc.
A layered and chunky nose, soft ripe sweet black fruit, big on vanilla, and a bit funky. The funkiness got stronger as the wine got air.
Full and soft to drink. Medium tannins. A structural feel in the mouth, a soapy and spicy finish. I could feel the alcohol heat.
The wine then alarmingly wilted in the glass after time, and unpleasantly. I have rarely seen this. It either lacks the extract or fruit weight to sustain itself in contact with air, or it had been poorly stored. A very odd wine to work out – it opened so promising, and then fell over almost completely. A real shame.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Organic Merlot Hawkes Bay 2014 – $$
This wine was awarded a gold medal at the recent 2016 Bragato Wine Awards. Geoff Kelly highly praised the previous vintage, which I never managed to hunt down to taste, so when this appeared in the shops I defo wanted to give it a go.
The fruit was sourced from the certified organic Joseph Soler vineyard in Hawkes Bay.
Inky scarlet colour. 13% alc.
Soft taut savoury dark fruit on the nose. Dense, with cedar and boxwood and cardboard. Smells sweet with vanilla.
Soft fruit in the mouth. Ripe enough. Good fruit weight and depth. Fine tannins. Enough acid to keep things interesting. Other thoughts – warmth, elegance, studied ripeness. I suspect not as ripe as the lauded ’13.
Far too young now, this will look really good from another 3-4 years in bottle, benefitting from the time for the flavours to develop and marry up together. Ideally wait until 2024 and appreciate its class.
From the Cellar: CJ Pask Gimblett Road Merlot Hawkes Bay 2008 – $$
Browning dark magenta. 14% alc.
This took a day to open up in the bottle once the stelvin was cracked.
On bouquet – soft and lush, spicy and savoury. Matchbox and cardboard. Licorice.
In the mouth – rich fruit, backing off a touch now, but not as tertiary as I might have expected. I saw prune, fig and dark chocolate flavours. Dusty tannins. Long finish. Bags of character.
From the Cellar: Ascension Vineyard The Benediction Merlot Hawkes Bay 2010 – $$$
A long while back I took L along as my date for the first time to my firms Christmas function. We flew up to Auckland and took a chartered bus ride up to Matakana. It was a great day, hot and sunny. We had a look around the local market before heading out to Ascension Vineyard for a winery tour and lunch. On the way there we took part in a wine quiz. My team won (of course 🙂 ). My prize was the selection of this bottle from the vineyard’s cellar door…
…which I opened up at the RSC Lodge on Swiss National Day (the club has had resident Swiss instructors every season since the mid-50’s).
13.5% alc. Deep crimson. This wine started life inside 70 yr-old two-inch thick Totara fermentation vats.
Tertiary on the nose. Soft black plum, Cedar. Vanilla. Wood. Great structure and grainy tannins. Dark chocolate and a spicy finish. Very long. Just fabulous.
A real shame but this producer went out of business last year or the year before. The wine business is a tough one…
Brancott Estate Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013 – $
An award winner. Inky magenta. 14.5%. Dense fruit-filled nose of dark stonefruit and choc.
Rich and concentrated in the glass. Lots of fruit, fine tannins. Silky, quite sweet. Nice length.
Great red wine for the price.
Hawkhurst Estate Vineyard Reserve Merlot Malbec Hawkes Bay 2007 – $$
Wow, I saw this 2007 sitting on the shelf at a local convenience store. I thought, what’s this doing here? It’s a bit old I thought…’07 was a good year for reds in the Bay…Bio-dynamic producer…I wonder what it tastes like…?
I bought a bottle. The label was that kind of label that is a bit old-skool. Almost anti-design, with odd typeface choices and justification, and the colours, and gold trim. I’ve seen this wine around a few times, but have never been tempted to buy. It was often priced cheap-ish, and kinda looked cheap too. But maybe it’s like those old European wines that have old-fashioned labels, and are hiding a magical taste behind a boring exterior? Let’s see…
12.5%. The wine looked quite light-coloured in the glass. Rhone-like. Tawny. It displayed an old nose too. Again Rhone-like. This is looking up! I thought.
Then I drank some. Soft, stalky and thin in the mouth. Oxidised. Unwelcome tertiary characters. There was some beauty to be seen, but the bottle was way past its best. Badly cellared? I tipped it down the sink. Ho-hum.
Sileni Cellar Selection Syrah Hawkes Bay 2013 – $
Sileni wines have had a bit of a run at ours recently. There was this syrah, and a merlot earlier, and L regularly buys their Cabernet Franc Rose, which is too sweet for me to cope with.
12.5% alc. Deep plum colour. Attractive soft and fruity nose, quite fragrant , with blossom scents and vanilla and cedar.
Ripe blackberry fruit flavours.. A medium-bodied, straightforward Syrah. Hot on the finish. Mid length. I score it a bit higher for its nose. It had enough guts to hold up well the next day, and the mild pepper note in the wine complemented the spice in our beef satay dinner.
Sileni Cellar Selection Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013 – $
A bottle bought to throw in the casserole.Some of it. I drank the rest. Soft and ripe black plum flavours is all I can recall, but that is generally the case for Merlot. Held not as much inherent interest for me as the Sileni Syrah, but still, well made and good quaffing value.
Mudhouse Merlot Hawkes Bay 2013
My folks left this behind when they came to stay with us after Christmas.
Dark carmine colour. 13.5% alcohol.
Correct varietal bouquet. Plums etc.
To drink there were lots of soft ripe dark fruits and spicy fruit cake. Black plums, black currants. Medium weight. Fine tannins. Smooth, but with enough grip to keep things structured and interesting for me. I am not a huge fan of Merlot. It’s often bit too soft and lush for me, I prefer either an grippy edge to my reds, or florality. But this was a good drop.