Geoff Kelly Wine Reviews
Independent reviews of some local and imported wines available in New Zealand, including earlier vintages.

Winemakers Warren Gibson and John Hancock from Trinity Hill are celebrating their release of the seventh vintage of their prestige red,  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage.  Previous releases have been  2002,  2004,  2006,  2007,  2009,  and 2010.  There will be a 2014 and a 2015.  This release coincides with the wonderful 2013 vintage in Hawkes Bay,  and elsewhere.  The "Homage" is to the late Gerard Jaboulet,  and the enthusiasm and passion he brought to promulgating the syrah credo around the world,  back when Jaboulet's La Chapelle Hermitage was the greatest syrah in the world,  and the grape less well known than it is now.  Trinity Hill have 12 clones of syrah in  cultivation,  but prefer the original Limmer clone,  believed (though the evidence is circumstantial) to be of the same age and provenance as some of the founding Australian imports from Hermitage / the Northern Rhone Valley,  in the mid-1800s.  Their oldest syrah vines are now 20 years.

Warren in particular has been the length of the country,  nearly,  presenting the wine in mini-verticals of the 2009,  2010 and 2013 Homages.  They are introduced by the same three vintages of their top bordeaux / Hawkes Bay blend,  The Gimblett.  These six wines were preceded by three commercial  wines,  one white,  one rosé,  one red.

Warren mentioned that the structure of Trinity Hill is now a little different,  with 70% of the shareholding now (Dec. 2014) held by California-domiciled American interests associated with Charles Banks,  a name formerly linked with the Napa Valley icon (or trophy) wine Screaming Eagle.  There is little change on the domestic front,  however,  and the goal is still to provide highly individual wines at a competitive price.  Trinity Hill still pursues an inquisitive approach to trialling new varieties,  but the number now actively grown has shrunk from 20 to 16.  An interesting one among them is touriga nacional,  which they have yet to commit to making a red table wine from.  As the 'cabernet of Portugal',  this could be interesting in Hawkes Bay's best years.  The company has 40 ha all told on the Gimblett Gravels.  

While Trinity Hills is best known for its prestige Syrah Homage,  made only in near-perfect years,  the unsung champion of their range is their very good cabernet / merlot or Bordeaux / Hawkes Bay blend,  known as The Gimblett.  This wine has quietly grown in both aspirations and achievements over the years,  but it is still priced on a par with their mainstream varietals.  It can simply be said that the best years of The Gimblett match the top Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends at twice the price,  and more.  It is arguably the great bargain / best value wine among the top-flight red wines of Hawkes Bay.  


Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Pinot Gris
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
2014  Trinity Hill Marsanne / Viognier
2015  Trinity Hill Rosé
 Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2013  Trinity Hill Cabernets / Merlot The Gimblett
2009  Trinity Hill Cabernets / Merlot The Gimblett
2010  Trinity Hill Merlot / Cabernets The Gimblett
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2013  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage
2010  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage
2009  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
2013  Trinity Hill Tempranillo
From the Cellar. Older wines.

All other white wines, blends, etc.
2014  Trinity Hill Marsanne / Viognier   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  juice cold-settled,  BF and MLF in older oak,  then 16 months on lees in 500-litre puncheons to add body,  texture and minerality;  RS <1 g/L;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Lemonstraw.  Bouquet is lightly aromatic,  clearly grapey / juicy,  with a mealy undertone from barrel fermentation in older (but arguably still too new) oak adding to the aromatics.  Closer examination of the bouquet suggests white nectarine fruit,  suggestions of lisbon lemon florals and mock orange blossom,  and maybe pale apricot,  the latter reflecting the viognier component.  Palate is medium to full body,  the oak more noticeable again now,  all improving with air.  At this early stage the wine communicates much better the second day,  rather than freshly opened.  Finish is dry or very close to it,  I thought 2 g/L or so.  It is in fact bone dry,  so both the fruit richness and the use of malolactic fermentation are adding to the perceived fruit on palate,  which is in fact terrific.  The winemakers consciously build some tannin grip into the wine,  to make it a little more European in style and food-friendly.  Cellar 2 – 4 years,  only.  Note this interesting wine is made as a food-oriented dry white of body and substance,  and is not to be judged as a varietal wine.  GK 11/15

2015  Trinity Hill Rosé   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;  totally red grapes,  taken off skins quickly;  PN > 50%,  montepulciano c.25%,  some CS,  ME,  Ma,  CF;  made as a white wine in s/s,  with MLF;  4.1 g/L RS;  www.trinityhillwines.com ]
Palest loud pink,  the strange colour being a function of this winery (also) pushing the bizarre New Zealand idea that young rosé is better without appropriate bottle age.  Accordingly their goal is to sell it all by the end of the summer following vintage.  But in fact this wine has the potential to be serious rosé,  being made totally from red grapes,  and interesting ones at that.  Thus everybody would get much more joy out of the wine if it were not released for a full 12 months after vintage.  Thus … as now released it smells raw and hard,  but very clean.  Palate shows fair body,  but again feels angular verging on unpleasantly raw,  finishing slightly off-dry.  It is intended as a food-friendly wine to exactly match the Marsanne / Viognier,  but fails in this goal due to the premature release.  It is a sad commentary on the level of wine familiarity in this country,  still,  that nobody says anything.  If you want to know what 'dry' food-friendly rosé should taste like,  at the right point in its maturity,  check out Guigal's Tavel,  never released before it is a year old,  and usually several years old by the time it reaches New Zealand.  Meanwhile,  cellar this Trinity Hill wine for 1 – 3 years,  to enjoy it a good deal more – once it has mellowed.  I'm sure it would score a good deal higher,  if it were offered 18 months after vintage,  rather than the current 6.  GK 11/15

Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2013  Trinity Hill Cabernets / Merlot The Gimblett   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $35   [ screwcap;  CS 40%,  Me 30,  CF 29,  PV 1,  hand-picked from 17-year old vines planted at 3,125 vines / ha and cropped @ 6 t/ha = 2.4 t/ac;  cuvaison c.28 days,  cultured-yeast;  MLF in tank;  18 months in French oak c.30% new;  RS  0.4 g/L;  not sterile-filtered;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  almost indistinguishable from 2013 Homage,  fractionally fresher.  The sweetness and harmony of the cassis-laden cabernets fraction of this wine is a joy to smell,  merging seamlessly with rich plummy merlot fruit and subtle oak.  Palate is near-perfect complex young claret,  all potential,  cassis again,  fine-grained tannins,  potentially cedary oak.  Like Homage,  this wine is softer and more forward than the matching 2013 Villa Maria Cabernet / Merlot Reserve,  and so will be enjoyable earlier.  A lovely ripe wine,  surely the greatest The Gimblett yet,  to cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 11/15

2009  Trinity Hill Cabernets / Merlot The Gimblett   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ supercritical Diam 'cork';  Me 38,  CS 37,  CF 15,  PV 8,  Ma 2;  hand-picked;  the grapes de-stemmed,  average vine age 13 years;  c.28 days cuvaison;  18 months in 'predominantly' French oak 35% new;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  a little development showing.  The intensity of brambly cassis on bouquet here is a delight,  the bouquet being totally of classed growth Medoc calibre.  Fruit on palate is phenomenal,  but the wine is more tannic than the 2013.  It may be even richer than the 2013,  so has the substance to cellar and  harmonise beautifully for many years to come.  The complexity and even florality on bouquet of this wine gives no hint that 2009 was a hot year in Hawkes Bay.  It will form an admirable running-mate in 2009 / 2010 Bordeaux tastings.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 11/15

2010  Trinity Hill Merlot / Cabernets The Gimblett   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ supercritical Diam 'cork';  Me 60,  CS 17,  CF 16,  PV 4,  Ma 3;  hand-picked;  the grapes de-stemmed,  average vine age 14 years;  c.28 days cuvaison;  18 months in 'predominantly' French oak 35% new;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  lighter than the 2009 and 2013 Gimbletts,  deeper than the 2010 Homage.  Bouquet is clean and pure,  but a little smaller in scale than the 2009 and 2013 The Gimblett.  Cassis is the dominant note with red and black plum,  fragrant oak,  and a suggestion of brown tobacco.  Palate is fractionally shorter and harder than the other wines,  a suggestion of stems in the cassis which interacts negatively with new oak to give a hardness now.  This firmness makes the wine seem shorter,  but checking closely,  I think it is as rich as 2010 Homage,  just fractionally less ripe.  It has the body to mellow beautifully in cellar.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/15

Syrah = Shiraz
2013  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage   19 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels 85%,  Roy's Hill 15%,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $130   [ cork 50mm;  Sy 98.7%,  fermented on skins only of Vi 1.3%,  hand-picked from on average c.11-year old vines planted at c.3,000 vines / ha and cropped @ 5 t/ha = 2 t/ac;  no cold-soak,  cuvaison averaged 28 days (though one batch 56 days) with 30% whole bunches retained (this approach only in the ripest years),  mostly cultured-yeast;  MLF started in tank and completed in barrel;  12 months in French oak c.53% new;  RS 0.23 g/L;  sterile-filtered;  production 556 x 9-L cases;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  the deepest of the Trinity wines,  wonderfully promising.  Bouquet is little short of sensational,  showing a lifted quality combining florality,  aromatic cassisy berry,  freshly-cracked black pepper spice,  varietal grapeyness and subtle potentially cedary oak which is top-flight,  by any international standards.  It is quite different from the great 2013 Villa Maria Syrah Reserve,  yet both are wonderfully valid syrah statements.  Palate is saturated with flavour,  and full-bodied by Northern Rhone standards.  By the sometimes bizarre standards of Australian wine evaluation,  where florals are not seen,  and size is so important,  this wine might be seen as medium-bodied.  Length of flavour is remarkable,  given the youth and (in a sense,  at this stage) awkwardness of the palate.  This Homage differs from its predecessors in displaying a more apparent whole-bunch component.  This will marry in over the next five years,  and make the wine even more Northern Rhone / Hermitage (or perhaps more accurately,  Cote Rotie) in style.  The whole-bunch character might be at a desirable maximum,  though.  With its balanced more European-level alcohol,  this is yet another wine to illustrate the glorious physiological maturity a number of the top Hawkes Bay reds achieved in the temperate 2013 vintage.  Simply buy as much of this wine as you can afford,  and don't touch it for five years at least.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 11/15

2009  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  hand-picked at about 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac) mainly from the Limmer clone,  also some vines propagated from Jaboulet's la Chapelle vineyard on the hill of Hermitage,  vine ages 1994 and 2001;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  shortish cuvaison;  MLF commenced in tank,  completed in barrel,  c.15 months in French oak mostly new,  some lees stirring,  not a lot of racking;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  markedly lighter than 2009 The Gimblett.  Bouquet is more regular Northern Rhone syrah,  showing clear dianthus-family florals on cassisy berry browning slightly now,  plus rather a lot of oak.  A black pepper lift is apparent,  too.  In mouth the wine might be in an awkward phase,  an interaction between berry tannin and oak producing a slight hardness.  There is great fruit richness,  length of flavour,  and potential smoothness,  but the oak continues a little prominent right now.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/15

2010  Trinity Hills Syrah Homage   18 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $ –    [ cork;  Sy 100% hand-picked at about 2.5 t/ha (1 t/ac),  mostly Limmer clone,  some vines propagated from Jaboulet's la Chapelle vineyard on the hill of Hermitage,  vine ages 1994 and 2001;  the grapes de-stemmed,  lightly crushed to leave whole berries;  shortish cuvaison;  MLF commenced in tank,  completed in barrel,  c.15 months in French oak mostly new,  some lees stirring,  not a lot of racking;  this wine is the largest volume yet made of Homage,  nearly 600 cases;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  between the 2009 and the 2013 in hue and depth.  Bouquet shows more florals than the 2009,  and more black pepper,  which you would expect in the cooler year,  with similarly cassisy berry and fragrant oak.  Palate has great purity of flavour,  cassis,  some plums,  quite oaky,  acid slightly apparent,  still hard and youthful.  It is not quite as rich a wine as the 2009,  in some ways being closer to the 2013,  but firmer and more aromatic.  This wine cries out for comparison with Northern Rhone 'originals'.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/15

All other red wines, blends etc
2013  Trinity Hill Tempranillo   16 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $32   [ screwcap;  Te 100%,  hand-picked;  the grapes de-stemmed but not crushed,  fermentation in s/s,  curtailed cuvaison;  elevation for 15 months in mostly French oak,  some new,  some American,  some held in s/s for freshness;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper than 2013 The Gimblett or Homage.  This is really an awkward wine,  for me.  It continues to be marked at gold medal level by Australasian wine judges and winewriters who do not taste much beyond local shores,  but the whole style of the wine is alien to classical tempranillo.  The grape has an identity crisis.  Over many years (the earliest in my cellar 1952) the style of good tempranillo-based wine has been closer to pinot noir than any other grape,  in its classic Spanish locations,  Rioja notably.  But at some stage a misguided English winewriter said tempranillo was the 'cabernet of Spain',  and as is so often the case,  all the other winewriters have followed like sheep,  and repeated this view,  for decades now.  When quizzed,  winemaker Warren Gibson observes there are some tempranillos in Spain just as dark,  if not more so,  and he feels 'it is what it is',  and 'that's how it comes out in New Zealand'.  Happily,  there is no other grape (now) acting as a teinturier in the wine.  So … it is big,  soft,  ample  and blackberry / dark plummy,  juicy,  with very vanillin oak noticeable.  You can't object to American oak in tempranillo,  since it is traditional in Spain.  But there the good ones don't smell like plums and custard,  as this does.  So I can't warm to the wine,  it falling into the big,  round soft Oz supermarket shiraz bracket for me.  All very difficult.  Cellar 5 – 12 years,  maybe to fine down.  GK 11/15