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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Wine Writers of New Zealand trip to Hawke's Bay.

Back in November, I was lucky to join a group of the Wine Writers of New Zealand (WWNZ) organisation on a sponsored trip to Hawke's Bay. This was a three-day trip involving hosted tastings at many local wineries.
We covered Te Mata, Elephant Hill, Black Barn, Mission, Ash Ridge, Trinity Hill, Ngatararawa, Alpha Domus, Paritua, Sacred Hill, Pask, Collaboration, Squawking Magpie, Monowai, and finally Vidal.
Whew. It was great. It was fun.  It was exhausting.
Here's my notes on Ash Ridge and Monowai

Day Two
Friday 13 November
Ash Ridge Wines
Reasonably bright-eyed and (almost) bushy-tailed, the group reassembled in the Masonic Hotel’s Emporium eatery and bar, early on Friday morning for the journey out to Ash Ridge Wines, courtesy of our EIT driving crew and their trusty 12-seater coach.
Former forex dealer Chris Wilcock and his wife Sonya (ex-Invercargill) transplanted their family back to New Zealand after 15 years of living overseas, to establish Ash Ridge. Chris has completed a certificate in wine, specialising in viticulture, and is now working on a post-graduate diploma in winemaking. They purchased bare land on the Heretaunga plains Bridge Pa Triangle area in 2000, planting vines in 2005 and now producing Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Syrah and some Bordeaux varieties. They make around 7,000 cases per year.
Taking a punt on a bright new graduate from EIT, Chris engaged Lauren Swift as winemaker in late 2012.  To verify his good choice, Lauren went on to win a trophy with her 2013 Ash Ridge Estate Merlot, just 3 months out of college.  In 2014 they built their own winery onsite, and following another great vintage in Hawke’s Bay Lauren won Hawke’s Bay Young Winemaker of the Year.
Although Ash Ridge boasts a cellar door and café, the tasting was held in the brand new winery. Chris gave us a brief history of the venture and then introduced us to Lauren as we sampled a line-up of their premium wines.

Estate Chardonnay 2014
Aromas of citrus blossom, melon, spicy oak and blond tobacco. In the mouth, it’s light, bright and soft with hints of lemon curd and oak.

Vintners Reserve Chardonnay  2014
Quite shy on the nose, again with blond tobacco. The palate is elegant and restrained with crisp minerality.

Estate Syrah 2014
Lovely ripe and jammy aromas of black cherry and roast beef.
On the palate it’s young and ripe, with firm tannins, cassis, black olive, tobacco, and a dry finish.

Premium Estate Syrah  2014
Aromas of black pepper, tar and pot pourri. In the mouth it’s a young strapping wine with savoury notes, cherry, black olive, firm tannins and a dry lengthy finish.
Vintners Reserve Syrah  2014
Funky aromas, plus vegemite, black pepper and black cherry. Flavours of black pepper, vegemite, black olive and black currant jam. Dry, firm tannic finish.

Doppio MS clone 2014
Aromas of spicy oak and pot pourri. The palate is dark and dense and dry, with black olive and plum.
Doppio Chave  clone 2014
Nose of black currant jam, tomato & herb pizza sauce, black cherry. The palate is savoury with firm tannin. Big flavoured and dark, with cherry, black olive, and a firmly dry finish.
Premium Estate Malbec 2014
Smells of dark berry fruit and spiced plum. In the mouth it’s cherry, chocolate, cassis, and savoury with medium dry tannins.
Barrel Ferment Reserve Malbec 2015
Smells toasty, with black berry fruit. Flavours of toast, dark fruit, anise and liquorice with a dry lengthy finish.

Day Three
Saturday 14 November

Monowai Estate
Winemaking couple Emma Lowe and her Chilean partner Marcelo Nunez own Monowai Estate and winery on the northern banks of the Ngaruroro River in the Crownthorpe district. Emma was schooled in Hamilton then studied wine making in Adelaide, Australia and California. It was when she was working Chile that she met the man who would become her vineyard manager and husband, Marcelo Nunez.
The wines are produced from their own 22 hectare vineyard in the higher altitude Crownthorpe district. Cool climate varieties are the focus at Monowai, with Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot grown onsite in the free-draining stony river terraces. Almost all their production is exported, with a tiny amount sold within NZ.
With blues skies and warm sunshine beckoning us from inside the chilly winery tasting space, we decided to move the tasting table and chairs out into the winery courtyard and bask in the Hawke’s Bay sun while Emma led us through her wines.

Pinot Gris 2015
Fruity aromas of Nashi Pear, with a lovely clean palate and  fruity, unctuous texture. Medium sweet style at 6 g/l of residual sugar, with a lively complementary acid balance
Chardonnay 2014
Aromas of herbs, peach and a whiff of toast, this is a  60/40 blend of barrel aged and stainless steel Chardonnay.  The palate is medium style with stone fruit and a crisp citrus zing.

Rose  2015
On the nose, it’s all strawberries and plum. The flavour profile is off-dry and rich, with cherry, red berry fruit, and a soft medium sweet finish.

Pinot Noir  2015
Aromas of tamarillo and smoky, toast open up on the palate with mild tannins in a
soft, light and easy drinking style with flavours of tamarillo, spice and dark cherry.