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


The Gimblett Gravels Winegrowers Association presented another of their excellent district reviews,  on 2 December 2004.  At least 75 wines were displayed.  These notes deal with most of the reds:  the Hawkes Bay Blends,  and the syrahs.   Pre-eminent among them is the exciting but expensive 2002 Trinity Hill Syrah Homage,  arguably the greatest syrah so far made in New Zealand.  2002 reds dominate,  but the more aromatic slightly cooler season 2003s are worth checking too.  

The wines reviewed may be classed as in the Index below.  The reviews,  however,  are interleaved into one sequence,  to indicate one view of the relative levels of achievement.  These reviews were first published at www.regionalwines.co.nz

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and related blends
Pinot Gris
Sweet / Sticky
All other white wines, blends, etc.
Cabernet, Merlot, and related blends
2002  Newton Forrest Cornerstone Merlot
2003  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels
2002  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels
2002  Kingsley Estate Cabernet / Malbec
2002  Kingsley Estate Merlot / Malbec
2003  [ Capricorn Estates ] Red Rock Gravel Pit Red Merlot / Cabernets
2002  Sacred Hill  Merlot Brokenstone
2002  Squawking Magpie Cabernet / Merlot  Gimblett Gravels
2003  Squawking Magpie Chatterer Red
2002  Squawking Magpie Merlot / Cabernet The Nest
2002  Squawking Magpie The Cabernets
2002  Trinity Hill Merlot Gimblett Road
2002  Unison
2002  Unison Selection
  2002  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2002  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
2002  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve
2002  Villa Maria Merlot Two Vineyards Cellar Selection
Cabernet / Shiraz
Pinot Noir
Syrah = Shiraz
2003  Chapoutier Saint-Joseph les Granits
2003  Craggy Range Syrah Block 14
2002  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol
2000  Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert
2000  Matariki Syrah Reserve
2002  Mills Reef Syrah Elspeth
2002  Mission Syrah Jewelstone
1999  Mission Syrah Jewelstone
2003  [ Capricorn Estates ] Red Rock Syrah The UnderArm
2002  Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers
2000  Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Vielles Vignes
2002  Te Awa Syrah
2002  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Road
2002  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage
2002  Unison Syrah
2000  J. Vidal-Fleury Cote Rotie
2002  Vidal Syrah Soler
Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre & related blends
All other red wines, blends etc
From the Cellar. Older wines.

2002  Villa Maria Merlot Reserve   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  Me 85%,  Ma 10,  CS 5;  hand-harvested,  hand-plunged open-top fermenters,  extended cuvaison;  c. 18 months in new French oak;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deeper and fresher than the Kingsley Cabernet / Malbec.  If anyone ever doubted that fine merlot can be floral and smell of violets,  they should take a sniff of the glorious bouquet on this wine.   I admit there is a little pennyroyal and oak backup.  On palate the wine is fabulously rich,  total bottled black Doris plums,  wonderful velvety tannins,  a hint of desiccated coconut,  quite remarkable.  Dry extract on this wine must be over 30 g/L.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Sacred Hill  Merlot Brokenstone   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ Me 92, Ma 6, CF 2;  French oak 20 months;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  deep.  On this occasion,  undecanted and unaerated,  the reductive note previously commented on dampened the wine down,  initially.  In this state,  it does not score so highly.  Later,  breathed,  it reveals a 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.  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.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Kingsley Estate Cabernet / Malbec   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ CS 71%,  Ma 15,  Me 14;  www.kingsley.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not the deepest of the set.  This is a stunning bouquet,  standing out in this bracket of cabernet / merlot and related wines from the Gimblett Gravels.  In its beautiful violets florals,  aromatic cassis and dark red berries,  plus potentially cedary subtle oak,  it is much the closest to classed Bordeaux in style.  Palate is aromatic,  intensely cabernet,  not as weighty as some nor as alcoholic as others,  just gorgeous crisp flavoursome fruit of great potential complexity.  Marvellous wine, though not as rich as the Villa Merlot or the Unison Selection.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Trinity Hill Syrah Homage   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $100   [ Sy 98%,  Vi 2,  cropped 1 tonne / acre;  MLF in tank,  17 months in new French oak,  neither fined nor filtered;  www.trinityhillwines.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  more youthful and a little denser than the Sacred Hill.  The volume of bouquet on this wine is astonishing,  with a modern fragrant and toasty component (as if from some barrel-ferment)  laid over the top of deeply cassisy and plummy fruit.  At this stage,  the fragrant oak makes it hard to be sure if the elusive floral component of great syrah is there or not,  but I suspect yes – time will tell.  Palate is sensational,  showing a concentration of strictly varietal fruit to match the best wines in the field,  yet with much finer oaking than some.  Flavours are cassis,  darkest plum,  and sweet black pepper,  spiced with new fragrant oak.  It is the most varietally aromatic wine in the set,  which makes me fairly sure that florals will emerge.  Palate and mouthfeel are classical great northern Rhone of marvellous weight and definition.  It is a little softer than a comparable Rhone would be,  and presumably will not cellar as long as such a wine,  but in every other respect this is great world-class syrah.  It is the finest syrah so far made in New Zealand,  and makes a nonsense of those who say syrah is not exciting in this country.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Sacred Hill Syrah Deerstalkers   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ 18 months French oak;  no info at the user-unfriendly website;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not as youthful as some of the 02s.  This is a superb syrah bouquet, pretty much in a classical northern Rhone style,  taken up as far as one can go before losing floral and varietal subtlety.  Some might say,  a little past that,  with a hint of sur-maturité.  There are still dark roses though,  in a deep rich cassis and blackest plums bouquet which is attractively balanced to oak.  Palate is succulent,  more clearly a bit over-ripe and fat,  the oak seeming more prominent than the Trinity Homage,  but with black pepper still tasteable.  What a fragrant and aromatic Hermitage-like wine this will be,  once it loses some puppyfat.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Mission Syrah Jewelstone   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ crop 2 tonnes / acre;  MLF in barrel,  15 months in French oak 50% new;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Initially opened,  the wine is youthful,  tending oaky and seeming a little closed,  but also very cassisy and Medoc-like.  Breathed,  the cassisy berry expands to embrace fresh-cracked black peppercorns,  and dark bottled plums,  with the oak now blending with an almost floral / aromatic component.  Palate is crisply berry and fragrant oak,  showing lovely varietal character in a Rhone weight and alcohol (which is lighter than the predominance of richer,  softer wines in the set),  and thus reminiscent of the 1999 of this label.  Few Crozes-Hermitages are this good,  and really this is Hermitage in style.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

1999  Mission Syrah Jewelstone   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ 15 months French oak;  no archival info @ website;  www.missionestate.co.nz ]
Older ruby,  some velvet.  In the blind tasting led by Alastair Mailing MW,  I confidently identified this as a Rhone syrah,  Hermitage probably,  1999 possibly.  It now shows all the attributes one would expect from fine Northern Rhone syrah:  carnations and violets florals,  beautiful cassisy berry going savoury and gamey as it develops,  some herbes de Provence,  a delightful touch of brett complexity adding a hint of venison,  and perfect ripeness,  not over-ripe.  This wine has been exciting since release (for example a review in the predecessor to these notes 10/03,  likewise 18.5),  but its European styling has not attracted the praise it deserves in New Zealand,  over-influenced as we are by the excesses of Australian shiraz.  Still a few bottles at the winery.  Attractively maturing now,  a preview of where fine New Zealand syrah will be going,  great with food,  or cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Unison Syrah   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $36   [ nearly two years in wood;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  denser than the Homage.  First opened,  the wine is a little oaky,  but it breathes to intense cassis,  with some hints of darkest rose florals.  Palate brings in darkest plums,  beautiful berryfruit length,  slightly chocolatey flavours from the oak,  yet despite the bouquet oak is not prominent in the flavour.  Perhaps there is a barrel ferment component in this wine too.  Length of flavour and balance are excellent,  and it is great to have the flavours of such ripeness at 13.5% rather than the worrying near-standard 14% or more in most of these wines.  This wine too is wonderfully northern Rhone in style.  Like the other '02 syrahs,  the Unison is a little soft for long cellaring.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Unison Selection   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $42   [ Me,  CS,  less Sy;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  between the Villa Merlot and the Kingsley Cabernet / Malbec in colour.  Initially opened,  this wine is minutely reductive,  and needs splashy decanting.  It then becomes another wine with a remarkably Bordeaux-like bouquet,  showing some violets,  intense cassis,  and potentially cedary oak. Palate is clearly aromatic,  in flavour also between  the cabernet-dominant Kingsley and the Villa Merlot,  with great concentration and length.  This is a great example of the emerging Hawkes Bay Blend class of wines,  building on the Bordeaux model via addition of syrah.  Cellar 15 – 20 years.  GK 12/04

2003  Craggy Range Syrah Block 14   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $35   [ NB pre-release provisional score on newly-bottled wine;  hand-picked,  classical triage on sorting table;  8 – 10 day cold soak,  wild yeast,  20 – 30 day cuvaison,  MLF in barrel,  all French oak 35% new,  not fined or filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby, carmine and velvet,  not as concentrated as the top '02s.  This wine cheats a bit,  for in addition to its carnation florals from the cooler,  more aromatic '03 vintage,  there is very fragrant oak adding a balsam-like aromatic lift to the sweet cassis,  black pepper and rich berry.  It is clearly beautiful varietal syrah.  Fragrant slightly resiny oak carries through to the palate,  but it is more flavour than phenolics,  and melds happily with the intensely aromatic berry.  This is another outstanding example of Gimblett Gravels syrah,  showing all the advantages of a slightly cooler vintage relative to the sometimes over-ripe 02s.  In 2003,  very little fruit met the firm's requirements for this label,  and the wine will be scarce.  There will be no '03 le Sol at all.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Newton Forrest Cornerstone Merlot   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ Me 90%,  CS 7,  Ma 3;  www.forrest.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  not quite as dense as the Villa wine.  Here is another merlot to check the marvellous bouquet of violets these wines can show,  when ripened in a climate that is not too hot.  New Zealand (and Hawkes Bay in particular) has a wonderful climatic advantage with respect to merlot,  matched only by Chile in the southern hemisphere.  Below the florals is perfect purity,  and great plummy rather than cassisy berry.  Palate is rich,  soft,  full,  beautiful merlot,  and showing a subtlety of oak handling not always thus far apparent in the Cornerstone wines.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Craggy Range Syrah Le Sol   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  15.4%;  $70   [ Sy 100%;  8 – 10 day cold soak,  MLF in barrel,  17 months in French oak 55% new;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  First impressions (in a blind tasting) are of a massive wine,  much too oaky and much too spirity for finesse,  a wine designed for Australians / Americans.  Compared against the top wines more carefully,  there is definite sur-maturité,  with loss of the floral and black pepper-spicy characters which make good syrah great.  Palate however is incredibly dense and rich,  darkest cassis,  blackest plum,  darkest chocolate,  yet all relatively fresh and attractive – the biggest wine in the set.  The liqueur-like spirity finish detracts,  making the wine awkward with food.  I have discussed over-ripeness in this wine previously,  but those archives are not currently available.  It was good to see it again in somebody else's blind tasting,  and put one's views to the test.  Cellar 10 – 20 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Villa Maria Merlot Two Vineyards Cellar Selection   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $25   [ screwcap;  Me 96%,  Ma 4,  French oak 18 months;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  virtually as dense as the Reserve Merlot.  This wine too shows a clearcut merlot floral and violets lift to its berry-rich bouquet.  There is a precision of merlot varietal character here which Australia can scarcely ever manage,  which should give us a great marketing advantage with these accessible wines.  Palate is soft and generous,  richly showing bottled black Doris,  not as complexed with oak as the Reserve wine,  and thus appearing faintly buttery (+ve).  Fine pure merlot at a good price.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  VALUE  GK 12/04

2002  Vidal Syrah Soler   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.8%;  $30   [ screwcap;  no info @ website;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  A voluminous bouquet different from most of the syrah wines,  in that there is a clear blueberry note in the cassis and dark plum.  It is almost as if there were a Californian interloper in the tasting,  with more than a touch of zin.  Palate is very rich,  tremendous berryfruit,  a little oaky,  the flavours  of cassis and blueberry going right through the wine to a succulent finish,  so rich it seems sweet.  This however is fruit sweetness from richness,  not residual.  Fair to say this illustrates an over-ripe wine,  where floral and pepper-aromatic qualities of syrah are being lost.  Pretty delicious,  though.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.1%;  $26   [ Me 85%,  Ma 9,  CS 6;  mostly hand-picked;  35 days cuvaison,  must aeration (delestage),  MLF in barrel,  15 months in French oak 45% new,  not filtered;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest.  A rich bouquet,  but looking a little oaky in this gathering,  drowning out any floral notes.  Below is good dark plum and cassisy berry,  all very clean.  Palate is rich,  clearly merlot,  more aromatic than most of the Gimblett merlots,  on the ratio of oak.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2003  [ Capricorn Estates ] Red Rock Syrah The UnderArm   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $25   [ screwcap;  hand-picked;  5 days cold soak,  wild yeast,  MLF in barrel,  14 months in French oak 40% new;  www.capricornwines.co.nz ]
Ruby, carmine and velvet.  In some ways this is the most clearcut syrah of all,  because of the lighter oaking.  Bouquet shows dark florals of reddest roses,  ripe cassis,  black Doris plums,  and great purity,  on modern but not too excessive alcohol.  Palate fills these smells out beautifully,  to give ripe syrah in a soft,  pure,  peppercorn-y style.  Good wine at a great price,  which will cellar for 8 – 12 years.  VALUE  GK 12/04

2002  Trinity Hill Syrah Gimblett Road   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $30   [ long cuvaison,  MLF in tank,  17 months in French and US oak,  neither fined or filtered;  www.trinityhillwines.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet shows good berry,  but with a smoky oak-derived note too.  Fruit character is in the  cassis-dominated berry style hard to tell from cabernet / merlot in a blind tasting.   Palate sustains both berryfruit and the smoky part of the oak,  to give a long,  rich,  slightly coffee'd flavour which is pretty good syrah by any standards.  Only when one later puts it alongside the Homage,  does one see how much finer,  purer and silkier the latter is.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2003  Chapoutier Saint-Joseph les Granits   17 ½  ()
Saint-Joseph,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13.5%;  $80   [ 100% de-stemmed;  extended cuvaison > 30 days in concrete,  100%  in barrels new or recent for 12 – 14 months;  www.chapoutier.com ]
Ruby.  Initially opened,  a little reductive,  needing a splashy decant.  Breathes to a pure understated syrah bouquet from a cooler climate than the Gimblett Gravels in 2002,  some violets / florals,  good cassis,  some black pepper,  subtle oak – a pleasing presentation of varietal character.  Palate assembles all these components into a neat medium-weight wine,  markedly lighter than the average of the Gimblett wines,  close to the '02 Mission in style,  but lighter,  firmer,  and older oak.  Cellar 8 – 12 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Vidal Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $40   [ screwcap;  Me 50%,  CS 46,  Ma 4;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet, but lighter than some.  This is another wine with a pennyroyal lift to the soft plummy bouquet,  but it is also noticeably oaky and thus lacks the floral magic and complexity of the better wines.  Fruit weight is good,  soft and plummy,  extended on oak,  more straightforward than the higher-pointed wines.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Trinity Hill Merlot Gimblett Road   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ Me 87%,  CF 13;  www.trinityhillwines.com ]
Good ruby.  Thoughts of crus bourgeois arise with the bouquet of this wine too,  amidst its slightly stalky plums and berries and subtle oak.  Palate has a cassis lift in the plum,  quite good richness and Bordeaux balance,  and has that slightly cool,  faintly leafy,  but very drinkable quality Bordeaux often shows.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 12/04

2000  J. Vidal-Fleury Cote Rotie   17 ½  ()
Cote Rotie,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $80   [ understood to be 15% Vi ]
Lightish ruby.  A wonderful bouquet which in the blind tasting has to be classic Cote Rotie,  sublimely floral,  pure carnations and wall-flowers,  some white pepper,  cassis below.  Palate is not up to the intensity of the bouquet,  as is so often the case,  intense florals presaging slight under-ripeness of palate,  as in many New Zealand pinot noirs.  Actual berry weight is pleasing,  but it is all a little stalky and acid.  Such wines can be great with food,  and in that context work like pinot noir.

A key point for New Zealand is,  this wine is reputed to have 15% viognier in it.  Our winemakers are being very timid about viognier,  and reluctant to go beyond the 2 – 4% they are trying now.  I would urge a higher percentage.  This wine is said to illustrate why one would not have 15% viognier.  The assumptions are erroneous:  it is not the viognier causing the stalkiness in this wine,  but the sub-optimal ripeness of the syrah.  2000 is only an average year in Cote Rotie.  This was a great wine to include in the blind review,  for it illustrates one end of the diversity of styles syrah can legitimately express,  and which we in New Zealand need to strive to emulate.  At the moment we are still too much influenced by the over-ripe,  one-dimensional wines of Australia.  The Vidal-Fleury will cellar better than one might suppose,  say 5 – 10 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Mills Reef Syrah Elspeth   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $40   [ no winemaking info @ website;  www.millsreef.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet,  as fine a colour as any.  Right from the first sniff,  this big rich wine is massively oaky,  and gives the impression of being designed as a show pony,  or for those brought up on all-too-often-unsubtle Australian shiraz.  As such,  it is first-rate,  with great fruit and a cassis freshness which the Aussies find hard to achieve,  plus very fragrant oak including some vanillin American.  By European standards however,  it is brash and clumsy,  a wine designed to seduce new world commentators and wine judges habituated to excess oak.  Such unsubtle wines are not versatile or even good with food.  There is no denying the quality of the fruit,  however,  and one can only regret that a subtler approach to elevage is not taken with this wine.  It should mellow in cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Squawking Magpie Merlot / Cabernet The Nest   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $37   [ Me 53%,  CS 48;  www.squawkingmagpie.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some velvet.  This is a distinctive wine,  with a phenolic quality in the smell of the oak which takes one straight back to the New Zealand McWilliams Cabernet Sauvignons of the 70s.   Berry is in the backseat,  on bouquet.  Palate is quite rich however,  much richer than those McWilliams wines (which were becoming attenuated by that stage),  showing cassis and plum with fair ripeness.  Oaking is boisterous though – making one reflect on the growing sophistication and subtlety of the top wines in the set.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Kingsley Estate Merlot / Malbec   17  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $39   [ Me 67%,  Ma 19,  CF 7,  CS 7;  www.kingsley.co.nz ]
Ruby with some carmine and velvet,   lighter than the top wines.  Bouquet is sweet and fragrant,  in a lighter style reminiscent of a traditional St Emilion wine,  some florals even maybe violets,  and ripe berryfruits.  Palate is lesser,  a slightly leafy / stalky quality in the fragrance,  and the whole wine lighter.  Attractively balanced,  and subtly oaked,  as such.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Te Awa Syrah   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $30   [ 3 weeks cuvaison,  MLF in barrel,  14 months in French oak 20% new;  www.teawafarm.co.nz ]
Ruby,  a little carmine and velvet.  Needs vigorous decanting,  and even then,  initially a modest bouquet tending reductive,  with a dank wet-wool suggestion,  on unfocussed berry which has some pinotage suggestions amidst the fruit.  Palate is much better,  good cassisy berry richness,  some farmyard complexities,  balanced oak.  This may blossom in bottle 5 – 10 years,  but scored on the current impression.  GK 12/04

2002  Vidal Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $45   [ screwcap;  CS 96%,  Ma 4;  www.vidal.co.nz ]
Ruby, carmine and velvet.  A big bouquet,  with lots of fragrant berry but even more fragrant new oak making the wine seem a bit varnishy,  reminiscent of the Mills Reef style for serious reds.  Flavour is rich and ripe cassis and dark plum,  but the oak is well and truly out of proportion.  Pity.  Cellar 10 – 15 years,  to mellow into a more Australian style.  GK 12/04

2000  Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitage Domaine de Thalabert   16 ½  ()
Crozes-Hermitage,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $40   [ no winemaking detail @ website;  www.jaboulet.com ]
Lightish older ruby.  A step down in the wines at this point,  to fruit not ripe enough to achieve the charm of cassis.  There are some leafy herbes de Provence notes,  some gamey / savoury and lightly bretty suggestions,  and pleasant but indeterminate red fruits on bouquet.  Palate is more modest,  just straightforward savoury European / northern Rhone dinner wine,  more noticeably bretty.  2000 was not a great year in Crozes-Hermitage.  Cellar 5 – 8 years.  GK 12/04

2003  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $26   [ Me 87%,  CF 8,  Ma 5;  hand-picked;  delestage = aeration of the must,  MLF in barrel,  15 months in French oak 50% new;  no info @ website;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet is lifted by VA,  to show plenty of ripe berry and plenty of oak,  but it also plains the wine down.  VA is more apparent on palate,  exaggerating the oak,  and pushing the plummy berry to the background.  Clumsy.  Much as I dislike reductive characters in wine,  the firm's excessive enthusiasm for the delestage approach in 2003 has taken several wines too far down the oxidative path.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Unison   16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $36   [ Me > CS > Sy;  www.unisonvineyard.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  A lesser bouquet,  very youthful,  with some retained fermentation odours on berry and plummy fruit.  Palate is more clearly reductive,  cassisy,  austere,  needing a little more oxygen in the system.  Fruit richness is quite good,  thought the finish is short,  slightly metallic.  Cellar 5 – 10,  perhaps to emerge a little more.  GK 12/04

2003  [ Capricorn Estates ] Red Rock Gravel Pit Red Merlot / Cabernets    16 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $20   [ screwcap;   Me 62%,  CF 22,  Ma 9,  CF 7;  hand-picked;  MLF in barrel,  16 months in French oak 30% new;  www.capricornwines.co.nz ]
Dense ruby,  carmine and velvet.  Bouquet on this wine is rich,  but somewhat stewed and porty,  and despite some VA,  is lacking the vivacity of many of the others.  Flavours are rich and concentrated,  but also monolithic and oaky,  tending  Australian in style.  May just be in an ugly duckling stage,  but is fairly dull right now.  Cellar 10 – 15 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Squawking Magpie Cabernet / Merlot  Gimblett Gravels   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $37   [ CS 80%,  Me 20;  www.squawkingmagpie.co.nz ]
Good ruby.  A clean and fragrant but oaky bouquet,  with clear cassis but also the fragrance of leafiness.  Palate has good cassis fruit richness,  fragrant oak in excess,  but again it is leafy / stalky and the acid is a little high.  Looking a bit old-fashioned New Zealand.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 12/04

2000  Matariki Syrah Reserve   16  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $40   [ 15 months in French and US oak 39% new;  www.matarikiwines.co.nz ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet.  In the blind tasting,  this was the most Australian and shiraz-styled bouquet,  showing both eucalyptus suggestions and hints of boysenberries.  Palate confirms the boysenberry flavours,  with a leathery component as if a trace of oxidation,  some American vanillin oak,  in a straightforward oaky wine which is a bit flat and old-fashioned.  Nonetheless,  will cellar for 8 – 12 years.  GK 12/04

2002  Squawking Magpie The Cabernets   15 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $37   [ CS 70%,  Me 20,  CF 10;  www.squawkingmagpie.co.nz ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet.  Another clean and fragrant wine,  but in the oaky cassis is a cool thread reminiscent of red capsicums and pale (cigarette) tobacco.  Palate confirms,  even though the concentration of cassis and red plum is good,  the flavours are stalky and under-ripe. Those flavours aren't helped by excess oak.  Cellar 5 – 10 years,  but to retain the cool qualities.  GK 12/04

2003  Squawking Magpie Chatterer Red   15  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $23   [ CS 50%,  CF 40,  Me 10;  www.squawkingmagpie.co.nz ]
Ruby.  Clean and fragrant red currant aromas,  with a distinct peppery note on bouquet.  Flavour is similar,  fresh,  oaked to the max for the light fruit,  but reasonably harmonious.  More a QDR,  but will mellow somewhat in its aromatic cool climate style,  over 3 – 5 years.  GK 12/04

2000  Tardieu-Laurent Cornas Vielles Vignes   13 ½  ()
Cornas,  Northern Rhone Valley,  France:  13%;  $140
Older ruby.  This is a wine totally in two parts.  The bouquet is remarkable,  initially carnations,  jasmine,  roses and violets,  on what seems fair cassisy berry,  subtly oaked,  in style with the Cote Rotie.  As soon as one puts it in mouth,  however,  the awful fustiness of the bacterial spoilage called 'mousey' invades the tongue,  and spreads right over it.  A problematic wine,  therefore.  Drinkable when first opened,  but with an hour's air,  becomes unpleasant.  Will get worse,  so no point in cellaring it.  GK 12/04