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


During the second half of 2004,  the leading regional Hawkes Bay newspaper Hawkes Bay Today ran a series of articles about candidate wines for the title:  "Hawkes Bay's Top Red".  These were prepared by Deputy Editor Paul Taggart.  The wines selected were arrived at somewhat informally in consultation with local wine makers.  The wines were to be Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends from leading producers of that style,  the main criterion for inclusion being easy retail availability at the time, for the average person on the street in Hawkes Bay.  It is therefore worth noting at the outset that some wineries were not represented by their best recent offerings.

Because of great local interest in these articles, towards the end of the series Hawkes Bay wine consultant Clive Holland organised two semi-public,  formal,  blind tastings of the 18 candidate wines,  plus two Bordeaux.  They were held at the Eastern Institute of Technology's sensory laboratory.   About 90 people participated in these superbly organised reviews.  Participants were asked to nominate their top five wines.  

A careful (but not last-gasp statistical) weighted analysis of those ratings later provided the following popular ranking:  2002  Sacred Hill Brokenstone Merlot,  184 points;  2000  Alpha Domus The Aviator,  159;   2002  Esk Valley The Terraces Malbec / Merlot / Cabernet Franc, 151 points;    2002 Craggy Range Sophia,   97;  2002  Clearview Enigma,  96;   2001 Unison Selection, 87;   2002 Trinity Hill The Gimblett Homage,  87;   2002 Brookfields Cabernet / Merlot Gold Label Reserve,  81;  2000 Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Reserve,  71;  2000  Te Awa Cabernet Sauvignon Zone 10,  66;  1999 Pask Declaration Reserve, 51;  2000 Sileni Merlot EV,  48;   2000 Te Mata Coleraine, 44;   2001 Matariki Quintology,  44;  1998  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Joseph Soler,  38;  2000 Kingsley Estate Merlot, 33;   2000 Red Metal The Merlot,  32;  2000 Montana Tom,  32.

The articles in Hawkes Bay Today concluded with the results from Taggart's jury tasting:  top wine  2000 Te Mata Coleraine,  second 2002 Brookfields Cabernet / Merlot Gold Label Reserve.

In contrast to the above group results,  the reviews in the present report are my view alone,  uninfluenced by the above results which appeared some time after my writing.  My notes combine first impressions gained at the public tasting,   and more careful evaluation later,  alone.  The wines therefore benefitted from being seen both freshly poured, and aired.


2000  Alpha Domus The Aviator
2002  Brookfields Cabernet / Merlot Gold Label Reserve
2002  Clearview Enigma
2002  Craggy Range Sophia
2002  Esk Valley The Terraces
2000  Kingsley Estate Merlot
2001  Matariki Quintology
2000  Montana Tom
2000  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Reserve
1999  Pask Declaration
2002  Pask Declaration Reserve
  2000  Ch Petit Figeac
2000  Red Metal The Merlot
2002  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone
2000  Sileni Merlot EV
2000  Te Awa Cabernet Sauvignon Zone 10
2000  Te Mata Coleraine
2000  Ch du Tertre
2002  Trinity Hills The Gimblett Homage
2001  Unison Selection
1998  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Joseph Soler

2002  Sacred Hill Merlot Brokenstone   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ Me 92%,  Ma 5,  CF 3;  French oak 75% new, 12 months,  plus 6 months  in 2-year;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the best colours.  Does need decanting,  but breathes to a wonderful rich violets and cassis bouquet in which varietal fruit dominates oak beautifully.  This is clearly good classed Bordeaux quality.  Palate is succulent with cassisy and darkly plummy fruit,  and fine oak now appears adding to the good structure.  Incredibly,  the suggestions of violets continues on the palate,  and the concentration of fruit is superb,  without being heavy.  This is one of the greatest Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux Blends made thus far in New Zealand.  It was one of the top two wines amongst tasters generally,  with a number of winemakers voting it their top wine.  Cellar to 20 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Alpha Domus The Aviator   18 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ CS 40%  Me 30, CF 20,  Ma 10;  French oak,  90% new,  24 months;  www.alphadomus.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This was the favourite wine on the night,  its combination of vibrant cassis and cedary oak making it very Medoc,  even Pauillac,  in style.  The volume of bouquet at this stage is ahead of the Brokenstone or Coleraine,  partly due to the oak.  On palate there is great fruit / oak complexity augmented by a little brett,  demonstrating what nonsense it is for wine technocrats to damn wines for academic levels of this complexity factor.  As the wine lingers in mouth, the ratio of fruit to oak moves a little in favour of oak,  so this will not be quite such a longterm cellar prospect as the top two wines.  But in the next 10 years it will be marvellous.  Cellar 10–15 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Te Mata Coleraine    18 ½  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $70   [ CS 52%;  Me 29;  CF 19;  French oak,  70% new,  20 months;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  The Medoc styling on this bouquet is tremendous,  the oak already showing some cedar,  on rich cassisy and brambly berry.  Palate is rich,  the cassisy cabernets dominating at the moment,  but there is plummy fruit below.  The ratio of fruit to oak is better than the more popular Aviator,  and hence Coleraine may be the better longterm cellar prospect.  Cellar to 15 years.  GK 10/04

2002  Trinity Hills The Gimblett Homage   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $100   [ Me 50%,  CS 35,  Sy 15;  new French oak 26 months;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  This is the dark horse in the contest,  being a little understated at this stage.  With more air and time,  beautifully ripe cassis and darkest plums emerge,  plus tobacco complexities and quiet oaking.  Palate is exquisitely pure,  total cassis and plum,  utterly Bordeaux in styling and weight.  Where has the oak disappeared to ?  On the specs,  it should dominate,  but here,  like the Guigal Grands Crus,  it is almost invisible.  Dry extract must be outstanding,  to do that.  The percentage of totally compatible syrah in this wine is a pointer to making Hawkes Bay Blends distinctive on the world stage (for our syrah is at the cassisy and French end of the flavour spectrum,  not the blowsy boysenberry Australian end).  Cellar to 20 years.  May well score higher in a couple of years.  GK 10/04

2002  Pask Declaration Reserve   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $50   [ CS dominant,  Me,  Ma approx thirds;  partial BF for CS;  20 months in French and US oak,  100% new;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Ruby, carmine and velvet.  This wine was not  part of the 18 in the comparison,  but cropped up later in the evening.  In style it hints at McLaren Vale,  softly berried,  lush,  and rich.  Palate is vibrant black and red currants and other berryfruits,  velvety,  sweetly oaky,  new world more than Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux in style,  perhaps due to the percentage of American oak.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 10/04

2002  Esk Valley The Terraces   18  ()
Esk Valley,  Hawkes Bay,   New Zealand:  14.7%;  $120   [ Ma 44%,  Me 32,  CF 24;  new French oak 15 months;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Like the Brokenstone,  this was one of the densest colours in the tasting,  but in this case due to the rich pigments of malbec.  Bouquet is out on a limb in this bracket,  showing not only a pennyroyal mint hinting at euc,  but also a blueberry-like fruit fragrance in the rich plummy cassis.  Palate is very concentrated,  lush but not flabby,  the very different blueberry flavours of malbec dominating.  There is a slightly monolithic quality to the splendid plumminess in this wine,  when compared with the more floral,  fragrant and complex Brokenstone.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 10/04

2001  Unison Selection   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,   New Zealand::  13.5%;  $45   [ Me,  CS,  Sy in %  order;  50/50 French and US oak,  50% new,  20 months;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  youthful.  This is a very restrained bouquet,  smelling austere but not light,  showing cassis and plums in a reserved Medoc style.  Palate is intriguing, intensely cassisy with the syrah reinforcing the cabernet I suspect,  so at this stage the merlot barely gets a look-in.  Compared with some,  this wine is reserved and slightly acid,  but like the 1966 Bordeaux,  I suspect it will cellar very well.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Te Awa Cabernet Sauvignon Zone 10   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ CS 100%;  French oak,  50% new,  18 months;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet.  Another one of these complicated bouquets where fruit is not the first impression,  like the Kingsley Merlot.  Instead one first notices the nutmeggy oak,  and the complex,  evolved (and bretty) wine smells,  which are hard to characterise.  On palate there is rich cassis and dry plum in a chestnutty way,  already well-integrated and winey,  and much more sweetly fruited than first impressions would convey.  Quite close to the du Tertre is style,  but crisper.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Kingsley Estate Merlot   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ Me 86%,  Ma 14;  French oak 33% new,  20 months;  www.kingsley.co.nz ]
Older ruby and velvet.  A different bouquet here,  with suggestions of Australian euc'y characters in nutmeggy oak.  Berryfruit is not the first impression,  which can be distracting.   Palate is a much more gracious affair,  with soft and supple merlot plumminess carrying the bouquet aromatics effortlessly,  so the wine finishes attractively on fruit (in contrast to the bouquet).  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Ngatarawa Merlot / Cabernet Alwyn Reserve   17 ½  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $45   [ Me 60%,  CS 40;  50/50 French and US oak,  18 months;  www.ngatarawa.co.nz ]
Good ruby,  some velvet.  This is more clearly a New Zealand cabernet / merlot blend,  showing cassis,  oak and just a hint of stalk on bouquet.  Palate is reasonably rich,  plenty of berry,  fragrant oak,  not as integrated yet as some,  and the leafy suggestion is slightly worrying  –  I had not picked this up previously (10/02).  Nonetheless,  an attractive and clearly Bordeaux-styled wine,  just a little lighter than the top ones.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04

1998  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Joseph Soler   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $95   [ CS 100%;   French and US oak,  21 months;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Dense older ruby and velvet,  as befits its age.   Bouquet on this wine is a bit massive and Australian in style,  with oak as well as ripe fruits all tending leathery and hot-climate.  Palate is wonderfully ripe for New Zealand straight cabernet, very rich on well integrated plummy fruit,  again leathery and oaky.  This should cellar for another 10 years at least,  but perhaps drying on the leather.  GK 10/04  GK 10/04

2002  Craggy Range Sophia   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ Me 61%,  CF 23,  Ma 14,  CS 2;  French oak,  12 months in new,  8 in older;  www.craggyrange.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  dense.   A very ripe and opulent lifted bouquet,  in a relatively hot-climate 'brown' style where berry definition is lost.  Initially it reminded me of Metala from the 1960s (when it was a flagship wine).  Palate is massively rich with cassisy and plummy elements,  very oaky,  a bit aggressive on VA through both bouquet and palate,  all too over-ripe for finesse.  This showing of the wine does not seem as volatile as the previous,  however  (7/04).   Cellar 10 – 15 years on concentration.  GK 10/04

2000  Ch du Tertre   17 ½  ()
Margaux 5th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $100   [ CS 85%,  Me 10,  CF 5;  French oak 30% new,  18 months ]
Older again than the Kingsley,  ruby and velvet.  Bouquet is rich and very ripe, almost leathery in a plummy way,  not suggesting the given cabernet dominance very much,  or the new oak claimed.  It reminds very much of another sturdy Margaux,  Ch Siran.  Palate is browner and more integrated than the kiwis,  seemingly older (unusually),  with foursquare plummy flavours showing overtones of chestnuts and brett,  very ripe velvety tannins,  but robust rather than fine.  It does show the kind of palate weight we need,  though,  if our wines are to achieve top-shelf rating.  Cellar 15 – 20 years.  GK 10/04

2002  Brookfields Cabernet / Merlot Gold Label Reserve   17  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle & Tuki Tuki,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $57   [ CS 85%,  Me 10,  Ma 5;  French oak,  18 months;  www.brookfieldsvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby and some velvet,  older.  A clear stalky component is evident in the bouquet of this wine,  but the berry-rich palate redeems it quite well.  Fruit concentration is good,  oak is subtle,  and the wine is fragrant in the manner of a high-cabernet St Emilion.  This should evolve into a fragrant Bordeaux-styled red,  but not of an optimal year.  Cellar 5 – 10.  GK 10/04

1999  Pask Declaration   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ CS 48%;  Ma 39,  Me 13;  70% French and 30 US oak,  20 months;  www.cjpaskwinery.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  some velvet,  in appearance one of the oldest in the tasting.  Bouquet is the most distinctive of the wines too,  and not totally charming.  The overwhelming impression is of smokey salami.  Palate shows good plummy fruit complexed by this savoury oak (and some brett),  and good fruit length.  Its meaty style would make it good with (e.g.) a venison casserole,  but in a blind line-up of comparable reds,  it looked a little eccentric.  Later editions have been more conforming.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Sileni Merlot EV   17  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $95   [ Me 100%;   French 75% and 25 US oak,  35% new,  12 months;  www.sileni.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  one of the oldest in the tasting.  A curious malty bouquet showing stewed red currant and red plum suggestions,  and lacking merlot florals and finesse.  Perhaps there is some similarity to a hot year in St Emilion,  however.  Palate is one-dimensional,  sweet red fruits,  carefully oaked,  succulent and rich but lacking complexity and interest.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04

2001  Matariki Quintology   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $36   [ CS 54%,  Me 21,  CF 9,  Ma 8,  Sy 8;  French and some US oak,  38% new,  24 months;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  A fragrant but also slightly stalky and peppery bouquet, not as ripe as many,  in a minor Bordeaux style.  Palate shows fair fruit length,  berries more red than darker,  attractive oaking belying the time in oak,  but a slightly stalky and acid finish.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04

2002  Clearview Enigma   16 ½  ()
Te Awanga,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $40   [ Me 57%,  Ma 15,  CS 14,  CF 14;  www.clearviewestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  Initially poured,  tending reductive,  masking good plummy fruit.  Palate is rich in fruit,  with a complex flavour in it reminiscent of malt whisky,  very oaky,  quite Australian in style.  Can one taste the sea in this wine ?  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04

2000  Montana Tom   16 ½  ()
Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $135   [ Me 55%,  CS 40,  Ma 5;  French oak,  73% new,  18 months;  www.montanawines.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  one of the oldest in the tasting.  First impressions are disconcertingly of eucalyptus,  in this all-New Zealand and France tasting.  Beyond that is fragrant berry skewed into a mulberry and plummy Australian style.  Flavours likewise are off-target for a Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blend,  showing over-ripe and strange banana passionfruit estery qualities in the  berry and plum,  all in an oaky and tannic setting.  Rich,  ripe,  but not elegant.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 10/04  GK 10/04

2000  Red Metal The Merlot   16  ()
Ngatarawa Triangle,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $90   [ Me 100%;  French oak  75%,  Us 25,  35% new,  12 months;  www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little fresher than the Sileni EV.  Bouquet in this wine is modest,  with browning red currant,  tobacco, and bretty fruit lacking the florals sought in merlot.  Palate is already somewhat curtailed by brett,  with cardboardy suggestions detracting from fair fruit weight.  Short term cellar,  5 – 8 years or so.  GK 10/04

2000  Ch Petit Figeac   16  ()
St Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $110   [ Me 60%,  CS 40;  French oak,  18 months ]
Ruby and velvet.  A fragrant bouquet,  showing a jonquils-related fragrance similar to some Rhone under-ripe syrahs  –  a bit unexpected.  Palate is richer than the bouquet suggests,  and more clearly akin to Bordeaux,  with long red currant and red plum flavours,  but a leafy quality persisting all the way through.  If the wine were less rich,  it would seem acid,  but the fruit concentration is pretty good.  1979 Ch Figeac was like this.  Too eccentric a style to be a useful foil in a Hawkes Bay blends tasting.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 10/04