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


One of the truisms of the wine world is that a winemaker cannot consistently make better wine than he or she has tasted,  and not only tasted,  but is also familiar with and understands.  We have seen this illustrated repeatedly over the last four decades in New Zealand,  where until recently few wine-people were regularly tasting the benchmark exemplars of each winestyle,  as they are made in the classic wine districts of the world.  One consequence of this in a young wine country is that wine style,  for the first decade or two,  can therefore be wildly unpredictable.  In New Zealand,  this phenomenon became acutely evident in 1974,  with the first release of Montana's Cabernet Sauvignon,  and remained so for decades,  notwithstanding the focus based on European experience which John Buck was able to bring to the bordeaux-styled 1982 and 1983 Te Mata Coleraine and Awatea.  Then it was the turn for pinot noir,  and the phenomenon is now emerging as an issue in assessing syrah,  as discussed in some detail on this site,  6 Nov. 2006.  And even after 40 years in the longer-established Cabernet / Merlot wine-class,  latterly more commonly Merlot ±  Cabernet,  there is still a surprising divergence of view amongst producers as to what is acceptable / marketable,  relative to an optimal level of ripeness / complexity.

It is exciting,  therefore,  to learn of a young American now resident in California mostly,  but also Hawkes Bay,  who is exceedingly familiar with the red wine styles of both the USA and France.  He has decided that neither of these places is where he will create his dream red wine.  Instead,  he has chosen Hawkes Bay as his location to create a world-class Bordeaux-styled red.  In this,  he reinforces the viewpoint recently expressed in Decanter (Nov.,  2006),  where in an article entitled:  "The Claret Lovers Guide to New World Cabernet",  Steven Spurrier states:  For me,  New Zealand,  particularly Hawke's Bay,  remains with Napa the natural home of the claret lover.  And in Hawkes Bay,  Mark Blake is the man putting this into practice right now.  We will be hearing a lot more of him.

In 2000 he secured 10 ha (25 ac) of land on the Gimblett Gravels,  till then part of the Irongate Vineyard (well-known from Babich Chardonnay of that name).  Since then he has assembled a youthful winemaking and viticulture team,  and is in the process of re-configuring the vineyard.  First significant release of the premium Blake Family Vineyard wine will be from the 2005 vintage,  though there may be a small quantity of an evolutionary 2004.  Meanwhile,  what is in effect the venture's second wine has been released under the name Alluviale,  the first being the 2003 vintage.  

To introduce some interested parties to his approach,  Mark Blake recently opened all his red wines to date,  along with some gold medal wines from the 2006 Air New Zealand judging just completed,  and a mouth-watering selection of French labels spanning both banks,  both cabernet and merlot dominant.  The Blake Family Vineyard itself is being planted with merlot dominant,  so right bank wines were more represented.  Along with one or two wines I also had samples of to hand,  altogether some 21 'claret' styles were available for the blind tasting I set up after Mark's presentation.  

The results were impressive,  in terms of the speed with which this new proprietor is moving towards his goals.  Suffice to say the wines are full of interest.  Philosophically they seem to resolve and optimise all that is best about the contrasting Bordeaux and Californian approaches to winestyle.  He summed up his aspirations for his wine by saying he wanted:  "florals on the nose,  and minerality on the palate".  I can only rejoice about this,  for all too often I find a blank wall of incomprehension,  when I advocate the importance of the floral component in not only pinot noir,  but also syrah and merlot / cabernet winestyles.  This should mean the Blake Family Vineyard wines will not be pursuing the over-ripe blackberry ice-cream / fruit bomb / populist approach to red wine,  which is becoming so commonplace with more commercial wine companies.  The wines are written up below.


2004  [ Blake Family Vineyard ] Alluviale
2005  [ Blake Family Vineyard ] Alluviale
2003  [ Blake Family Vineyard ] Alluviale
2003  Andrew Will Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Vineyard
1989  Ch Angelus
2004  Blake Family Vineyard
2005  Blake Family Vineyard assembled tank sample
2003  Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection
1982  Ch la Conseillante
2004  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels
2004  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia
  2004  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Reserve
2004  Hatton Estate Cabernet / Merlot / Franc
2003  Ch Lynch-Bages
2003  Ch Pavie
2004  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman
2002  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman
2003  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Coleraine
2002  Trinity Hill Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Gimblett Road
2003  Ch Troplong-Mondot
2004  Villa Maria Merlot Hawkes Bay Reserve

2002  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman   19 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $45   [ cork;  DFB;  hand-picked;  MLF and 20 months in new French oak;  cepage lacking on website;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some residual carmine,  a remarkable colour,  more youthful than the 2004,  or the 2003 Andrew Will.  Bouquet on this wine is now simply sensational,  displaying a combination of violets florals,  cassisy berry and potentially cedary oak which puts it in the top echelon of either Hawkes Bay blends,  or Bordeaux blends sensu stricto.  Palate is similar,  the violets florals liquefied through gorgeous dense cassis and black plums,  rich,  beautifully balanced,  long and satisfying.  This 2002 Sacred Hill Helmsman is one of the greatest ‘claret’ styles ever made New Zealand (in the post-Prohibition era),  and deserves to be in the cellar of all who love Hawkes Bay / Bordeaux blends.   A pre-release sample was reviewed favourably on this site May 2004.  It will cellar 5 – 20 + years.  GK 11/06

2005  Blake Family Vineyard assembled tank sample   19 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.9%;  $ –    [ cork;  Me 40%,  CS 30,  CF 30   @ c. 1.25 kg / vine,  4300 vines / ha;  French oak;  the score should be in square brackets [ 19 + ] to indicate the sample is not the final ‘as bottled’ wine;  www.bfvwine.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  a glorious colour,  deeper,  denser and more velvety than the 2005 Alluviale,  in fact,  the deepest colour of the set.  Bouquet is deeply and darkly floral,  subtle and sensuous.  Below the florals the depth of fruit is sensational,  pure cassis and darkest plums,  plus some toasty new oak.  On palate,  the concentration of florals and fruit is a joy to behold,  the flavour more implicit than explicit,  but the richness and dry extract already palpable on tongue.  If this builds the bouquet in bottle that the ‘05 Alluviale already shows,  and with the finesse of its oak,  this will be a great wine.  It will be more in a St Emilion style than a Medoc one.  It is much richer than the 2005 Alluviale,  yet shows no sign of sur maturité.  There is a compelling climatic contrast between the near-perfection this winestyle displays,  versus the elephantine Caymus.  The two wines illustrate just how marvellous the Hawkes Bay climate is for Bordeaux / Hawkes Bay blends.  Cellar 5 – 20 +  years.  GK 11/06

2004  Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels   19  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ cork;  Me 87%,  Ma 3,  CS 5,  CF 5,  hand-harvested @ c 3 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  17 months in French oak 50% new;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest.  Bouquet is wonderfully ripe and rich,  with violets and dark rose florals nearly as voluminous as Sophia,  on round ripe plummy fruit.  Palate is velvety plums,  great length and depth,  not quite the sparkle the extra new oak gives Sophia,  but seemingly softer and richer and more varietal as a consequence.  A few years ago,  the thought of such a pinpoint varietal merlot being available on the New Zealand market in the $20 range was unthinkable.  Marvellous wine,  to cellar 5 – 15 years.  The red wine buy of the year,  in my view.  GK 11/06

2004  Craggy Range Merlot Sophia   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $50   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 92%,  CF 7,  CS 1,  hand-harvested @ 2.5 t/ac;  100% de-stemmed;  20 months in 70% new French oak;  www.craggyrange.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  one of the deepest,  deeper,  denser and not quite as fresh as the 2005 Alluviale.  Initially opened,  the bouquet shows a little oak aggressiveness,  but like the Alluviale,  decanted it quickly clears.  The style of bouquet is close to ’05 Alluviale,  but darker,  denser,  not quite as floral,  yet the same deep violets are there.  Palate is considerably richer,  and the wine is more oaky too,  but the precision of the merlot fruit is breathtaking.  If the Alluviale is more beautiful,  this is more powerful,  and will cellar longer,  5 – 20 + years.  For absolute definition of merlot varietal character,  however,  2004 Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels is the wine.  GK 11/06

2005  [ Blake Family Vineyard ] Alluviale   18 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $27   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 43%,  CS 43,  CF 14;  French oak;  second wine of Blake Family Vineyard;  www.alluviale.com ]
Ruby,  carmine and velvet,  about halfway in depth,  a great colour.  Initially opened,  the oak shows a little,  but decanted,  the bouquet emphasises merlot,  superb violets,  dark roses florals and dark cassis,  magnificent.  Below is dark plums-in-the-sun fruit.  Palate is gorgeous,  perfect physiological maturity of the fruit,  great depth of cassis and bottled dark plums berry,  subtle oak.  This is a beautifully pure,  precisely varietal,  remarkable merlot / cabernet,  of similar quality to the 2004 Craggy Range Merlot Gimblett Gravels I was praising extravagantly only six months ago.  Little did I think a challenger to that wine (in that price bracket) would be along so soon.  If this is an harbinger of what The Blake Family Vineyard management plans to achieve in New Zealand,  there will be a need to get on the mailing list early.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

1989  Ch Angelus   18 ½ +  ()
St Emilion,  Bordeaux,  France:  13.5%;  $400   [ cork;  Me 50%,  CF 45,  CS 5;  price a wine-searcher.com indication;  Advocate 96,  Spectator 94;  www.chateau-angelus.com ]
Ruby and garnet,  maturing.  Bouquet is glorious,  an opulent amalgam of browning cassis and dark roses florals,  rich pipe tobacco,  dark bottled plums and cedar,  all complexed by gorgeous savoury roast beef suggestions – indicating a little brett.  Palate is a velvety melding of all these elements into the magic that is mature Bordeaux.  A magnificent food wine,  but not one to open for modern winemakers.  Fully mature,  drying a little to the finish (on the brett, no doubt),  but will hold happily over the next 5 – 10 years.  GK 11/06

2004  Esk Valley Merlot / Malbec / Cabernet Reserve   18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14.5%;  $52   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 52%,  Ma 22,  CS 26,  hand-picked from 12 & 14 year-old vines;  www.eskvalley.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in richness.  Bouquet shows contrary thoughts,  the alcohol spirity and distracting,  implying over-ripe,  whereas the actual berry characters include a cooler cassis and almost leafy (+ve) note,  making this one of the closest to a Bordeaux styling amongst the gold-medal wines.  Oak is in balance,  and aromatics include a light pennyroyal note,  like the Andrew Will.  In fact,  the palate,  mouthfeel and entire style of the wine is remarkably close to the Washington wine,  with a clear cassis component through the plummy fruit,  and lingering fresh richness which shows no hint of the cool (e.g. leafy) characters implied on bouquet.  It is richer than the 2004 and 2005 Alluviale,  but not quite as neat as the two 2004 Craggy Merlots.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 11/06

2003  Andrew Will Red Mountain Ciel du Cheval Vineyard   18 ½  ()
Columbia Valley,  Washington,  U.S.A.:  14.5%;  $90   [ cork;  Me 42%,  CF 36,  CS 16,  PV 6,  c. 17 years average age;  c. 21 months in 35% new French oak;  one leading Oregon wine merchant comments:  [among] Washington State’s great vineyards, one name that consistently appears near the top of any list is [ Andrew Will’s ] Ciel du Cheval Vineyard in the Red Mountain AVA. Famed for the elegance and complexity of the wines it produces …;  Advocate 94;  www.andrewwill.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  midway in depth.  Stylistically,  bouquet on this wine is more best New Zealand Merlot / Cabernet than Bordeaux,  showing great freshness and cassisy aromatics,  and a clear hint of pennyroyal.  It is one of those unusual wines where palate is much more convincing than bouquet,  with a big burst of flavour like biting a blackboy peach,  the suggestion of mint in the aromatics marrying into plummy fruit,  attractive potentially cedary oak,  and a good ratio of berry to oak.  In mouth the Bordeaux affinity grows,  however,  with a lingering cassisy finish.  This rich wine should cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 11/06

2004  [ Blake Family Vineyard ] Alluviale    18 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $27   [ cork;  DFB;  Me 65%,  CS 30,  CF 5;  19 months in French oak 90% new;  second wine of Blake Family Vineyard;  www.alluviale.com ]
Ruby,  some carmine and velvet,  in the middle for depth.  Bouquet for this Alluviale shows a little more oak relative to the fruit,  when compared with the 2005,  but there is still very attractive floral,  plummy and rich berry.  Palate brings up the violets component of the bouquet,  and the interplay of cassis and dark plums with the oak.  This is not as rich as the $50 wines,  but it is still gold-medal merlot / cabernet,  in the New Zealand context,  and delightful.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

2003  Ch Pavie   18 +  ()
St Emilion Premier Grand Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $370   [ cork;  Me 60%,  CF 30,  CS 10;  average age vines 40 + years;  cuvaison up to 5 weeks,  18 – 22 months in new oak;  Advocate 98,  Spectator 96;  www.chateaupavie.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  rich alongside the Lynch-Bages,  but not unduly deep,  above midway.  Bouquet is old-world,  ripe and rich and a hint of brett,  with deep plummy fruit which is lifted by trace VA,  but not so over-ripe as to lose some floral depths and Bordeaux typicity.  Palate is not quite so rewarding at this stage,  the alcohol showing now,  the berry including some blackberry sur maturité on the dark plum – a step towards the Caymus.  But in contrast to that wine,  it tastes like Bordeaux,  in an unsubtle over-ripe way,  with dark tobacco complexities,  potentially cedary oak (though with some trendy chocolate component too),  and good length.  As a first taste of this vintage of Pavie,  it does not seem at all as deviant or contentious as the Parker / Robinson debate suggested.  Cellar 5 – 20 + years,  for it is rich.  GK 11/06

2004  Blake Family Vineyard   18  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.8%;  $ –    [ cork;  Me 53%,  CF 47  @ c. 1.25 kg / vine,  4300 vines / ha;  French oak;  www.bfvwine.com ]
Good ruby,  midway,  a little lighter than the 2004 Alluviale.  Bouquet is fresh and fragrant,  trace VA,  in a classic cabernet / merlot style showing some violets and roses florals,  clear cassis,  and good brambly and dark plum berry.  Like the Lynch Bages,  there is just the faintest hint of leafiness,  in a positive Bordeaux-complexities sense.  Palate seems a little leaner than the ’04 Alluviale,  almost certainly a misinterpretation consequent on the longer time in new oak.  This too is an attractive wine,  but it is more an oakier version of the 2004 Alluviale than a preview of the magnificent 2005 Blake Family Vineyard.  Cellar 5 – 15 + years.  GK 11/06

2003  Ch Lynch-Bages   18  ()
Pauillac 5th Growth,  Bordeaux,  France:  13%;  $130   [ cork;  CS 73%,  Me 15, CF 10, PV 2,  planted @ 9000 vines / ha;  15 months in 60% new French oak;  Advocate 89,  Spectator 92;  www.lynchbages.com ]
Good ruby,  below midway in depth.  Initially opened,  there is quite a barrel-char toasty note,  in the modern style,  but this breathes away with decanting / air.  The nett impression is fragrant classic Bordeaux,  beautiful cassis with suggestions of violets and dark rose florals,  and underpinning oak.  Palate has that delightful poise and freshness fine claret shows,  and the faintest leafy / stalky complexity in cassis and plum and cedar,  all now harmonising delightfully.  Noteworthy that this wine has no greater palate weight than the 2004 Alluviale,  yet it is a well-regarded fifth growth.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

2003  [ Blake Family Vineyard ] Alluviale   17 ½ +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13%;  $27   [ cork;  DFB;  CS 50%,  Me 33%,  CF 17;  22 months in French oak 85% new;  second wine of Blake Family Vineyard;  www.alluviale.com ]
Good ruby,  some velvet,  above midway.  A fragrant cabernet / merlot totally in a Bordeaux style,  very pure,  but smaller in scale than some of the wines in the set.  Palate follows pro rata,  suggestions of florals,  clear cassis and dark plums,  reasonably subtle potentially cedary oak,  all sitting lightly on the tongue,  refreshing as Jancis Robinson would say.  Aftertaste is essence of merlot /  cabernet.  The similarity of this wine to the Andrew Wills of the same year is uncanny,  perhaps a little lighter and oakier,  yet alongside the Troplong Mondot it shows more finesse.  Wonderful !  Cellar 5 – 12 years.  GK 11/06

2002  Trinity Hill Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot Gimblett Road   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $33   [ cork;  DFB;  CS 62%,  Me 28,  CF 10,  hand-picked,  100% de-stemmed;  22 months in 40% new oak,  ‘predominantly’ French;  % Spectator 81;  www.trinityhill.com ]
Ruby,  some velvet,  midway in depth.  This is a clear example of the Bordeaux style,  in a slightly leafy and cigarette tobacco presentation,  on cassis and dark plum.  Palate is even more Bordeaux-like,  the cassis more apparent,  the plums reasonably dark with a hint of barrel char adding a touch of chocolate,  the finish refreshing in the sense of Bordeaux,  though a warm-climate taster might say:  tending acid.  (Spectator thought it actively green,  reflecting a Californian view of the cabernet / merlot style – and one we would be wise to view with some disdain in New Zealand,  given our remarkably Bordeaux-like climate in Hawkes Bay.  I would expect a very different review in Decanter,  for example.)  Altogether an interesting wine,  matching the Troplong Mondot reasonably well,  though obviously more cabernet-dominant.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

2004  Hatton Estate Cabernet / Merlot / Franc   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $57   [ cork;  DFB;  CS 72%,  Me 15,  CF 13,  hand-picked,  cropped at c. 2 t/ac;  French oak;  www.hattonestate.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  below midway in depth.  This is more a wine in the show-pony style,  with a lot of spicy new oak seducing the taster,  exacerbated by a touch of VA.  Behind these distractions is cassisy berry.  In mouth there is less fruit weight than hoped,  though it is richer than the 2003 Coleraine,  oak is noticeable,  and total acid is fresher than ideal.  This lacks the harmony of a good Hawkes Bay blend,  but should mellow in cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

2004  Villa Maria Merlot Hawkes Bay Reserve   17 ½  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $41   [ screwcap;  DFB;  Me 100% cropped at 1.75-2.25kg / vine,  hand-picked;  22 months in French oak 80% new;  www.villamaria.co.nz ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine,  midway in depth.  Big ripe to over-ripe fruit is evident on the bouquet of this wine,  too ripe for merlot florals and finesse,  more dark bottled plums,  and even some blackberry.  These characters suggest sur maturité by best Hawkes Bay blend or Bordeaux blend standards.  Palate likewise has plenty of fruit and mouthfeel,  but it is a little stewed,  the oak and alcohol still not married up,  the whole thing inclining towards the populist blackberry ice-cream style,  with a touch of chocolate.  This approach should be reserved for supermarket wines,  in my view.  As I have discussed recently for syrah in New Zealand (6 Nov. '06),  and the conclusions are implicit for the 'claret' winestyle too,  we have in Hawkes Bay a climate uniquely suited to emulating the complex and at-best-floral French bordeaux model for cabernet / merlot wines.  It therefore seems a matter for regret to be making a clumsier ‘Reserve’ wine than that model,  to serve a populist market.  The 2002 of this label has more finesse,  and is the one to hunt down for the cellar.  Cellar 5 – 15 years.  GK 11/06

2003  Ch Troplong-Mondot   17 ½  ()
St Emilion Grand Cru,  Bordeaux,  France:  14%;  $120   [ cork;  Me 80%,  CF 10,  CS 10;  average age vines 50 years;  up to 5 weeks cuvaison depending on vintage,  then up to 24 months in new oak;  Advocate 92,  Spectator 91 ]
Ruby and velvet,  not as rich as the Pavie,  below midway.  Bouquet on this wine is darkly fruity in a nearly raisiny way,  with plenty of toasty oak,  quite modern.  Palate does not yet fulfill the promise of bouquet,  for though the berry and fruit are reasonable,  the tannins are hard,  and the flavours (including a chocolate note from the oak) relatively short and phenolic,  almost stalky.   This seems a hot-year wine,  as if full physiological maturity in the berry was curtailed by water stress,  leaving some under-ripe tannins.  Still recognisably Bordeaux though,  and should develop into a pleasing bottle as it loses tannin.  Cellar 5 – 20 years.  GK 11/06

1982  Ch la Conseillante   17 +  ()
Pomerol,  Bordeaux,  France:  12.5%;  $500   [ cork;  Me 45%,  CF 45,  Ma 10;  average age vines c 30 years (then);  up to 24 months in French oak;  alcohol nominal;  Advocate 95,  Spectator 92;  price a wine-searcher.com indication;  www.la-conseillante.com ]
Garnet and ruby,  old for age.  Bouquet is fragrant but tending phenolic even to smell,  with a  carbolic edge to tobacco and browning plummy fading fruit,  plus a savoury / brett complexity.  Palate still carries good but very mature fruit,  and some of the sweetness of the year,  but the oak is somewhat coarse, and the whole wine has a pruney and leafy quality to it which is not convincing.  All told,  a little disappointing,  possibly subliminally corked considering the overseas reviews,  but the characters not really suggesting that.  Fully mature,  and needing drinking,  if this bottle is a guide.  GK 11/06

2003  Te Mata Cabernet / Merlot Coleraine   16 ½ +  ()
Havelock Hills,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  13.5%;  $65   [ cork;  CS 50%,  Me 50,  hand-picked;  c. 19 months in French oak;  www.temata.co.nz ]
Ruby,  one of the lightest.  Bouquet is clear cabernet / merlot,  some cassis,  quite a lot of fragrant new oak,  relatively light.  Palate shows cassis and plum,  all slightly acid and stalky,  oak continuing noticeable for the weight of fruit,  much lighter than the Troplong Mondot,  but related to it in style.  Now that Te Mata’s Coleraine and Awatea are differentiated in the winery on perceived quality rather than provenance,  2003 may have been a year to forgo Coleraine altogether,  bottling only Awatea.  Cellar 5 – 10 years.  GK 11/06

2003  Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon Special Selection   16 ½  ()
Rutherford,  California,  U.S.A:  14.5%;  $230   [ cork;  DFB;  CS 100%;  Advocate 94,  Spectator 93;  www.caymus.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  some carmine,  the second deepest.  In this company,  the bouquet is heavy,  more raisiny than cassis,  sweet and dense,  a suggestion of port.  There is an aromatic lift on bouquet which,  if the wine were Australian,  one would say is faintly euc'y.  Not impossible in Rutherford,  either.  Palate is immensely big extractive sweet berry,  tending dull / massive in a hot-climate and raw ox-liver style,  but more subtly oaked than many Barossa Valley wines,  for example.  Interesting,  but exactly the opposite of the ‘refreshing’ concept mentioned for the 2003 Alluviale or 2002 Trinity Hill.  It characterises the hot-climate winelover’s take on desirable cabernet characters,  so different from the subtle floral complexity of Bordeaux.  Cellar 10 – 25 years.  GK 11/06

2004  Sacred Hill Cabernet / Merlot Helmsman   16 +  ()
Gimblett Gravels,  Hawkes Bay,  New Zealand:  14%;  $60   [ screwcap;  DFB;  hand-picked;  the top level of Sacred Hill reds;  18 months in French oak;  www.sacredhill.com ]
Ruby and velvet,  older than the  2002.  Bouquet is rich and plummy,  but has a dull quality to it suggesting subliminal sulphur,  or similar.  Palate likewise seems rich,  but has a 'black' flavour and a dull edge to the dark plummy fruit,  with a slightly bitter / metallic finish.  Uneasy about this wine,  which suggests low-level entrained sulphides,  but it may mellow out in cellar,  if not blossom,  over 5 – 15 years.  Screwcap closure is likely to be unforgiving to a wine with these characters,  however.  For now,  the focus for this label remains on the magnificent '02.  GK 11/06