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Wine of the Week for week ending 20 Jul 2008
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Ti Point One Merlot 2005
Matakana, New Zealand

A few weeks ago I visited Matakana and was taken around some of the vineyards by Alistair Noakes*. He is the vineyard manager for Ti Point Vineyard, Coxhead Creek Vineyard and Te Kie Vineyard, the latter being where The Gabion wine is grown. It was a great day and so nice to be able to visit some of the vineyards that are not on the open-to-the-public wine trail route.

My visit had been organised by Tracy Haslam, winemaker for all three vineyards and the catalyst for Ti Point Vineyard. Tracy fell in love with Bordeaux styled wines when on her big OE. On returning home she thought it would be great to convert part of the family land at Ti Point to vineyard and her mother, Jan, and grandmother, Nan, agreed. It was her dream that the three generations of women would tend the vines and that she would make the wine. They were all involved in the planting of the vineyard and Tracy embarked on a wine making course in Hawkes Bay. Following that she was also able to do vintages in Europe and the USA. What she didn't factor in was falling in love and settling in Hawkes Bay. With three vineyards to look after it became clear a full-time vineyard manager was needed. Alistair took over that role in 2006.

We ate Nan's gorgeous pikelets at Ti Point outside Jan's new focus, her boutique guest accommodation called Ti Point Retreat . Sited on the top of a ridge it has magnificent views of Omaha Bay and Whangateau Harbour on the southern side and the vineyard on the north-facing side, where we were sitting.

With jam-covered pikelets and coffee, the wine tasting was forgotten, although tastings of the Coxhead Creek wines and the Gabion followed at those particular vineyards. So Tracy sent me the Ti Point Vineyard wines and Neil sneaked them into a tasting last weekend.

Well, what a surprise it was to find out the delicious full-bodied Merlot I was enjoying so much was not from the 'Merlot capital of New Zealand', ie. Hawkes Bay, but from the Matakana. It was Ti Point One 2005, 100% Merlot, and totally fulfilled all the promise of the region's early wines and showed what can be made in exceptional years.

Ti Point One 2005 is a deep garnet red with a black depth to the core. The complex aromatics that exude aromas of liquorice, cedary oak, vanilla, smoke, mocha, anise-like spices and concentrated black cherries make this wine extremely inviting, even before it has been tasted. In the palate there is lovely bright fruit with complex oak spice, a beautiful plush yet fine tannin structure that has just enough grip and a gorgeously long savoury finish with hints of tobacco balancing the fruit sweetness with a hint of violet to the finish. Black cherries, purple plums, milky chocolate, anthracite and cedar make this a gorgeous winter wine, it lights the fire and keeps it burning. It has 13.5% alcohol and is sealed with a DIAM cork.

Once I found out what it was, to check I wasn't being overawed by the delicious juiciness and fine structure of the wine, I opened two wines that were made at the same winery, but from Hawkes Bay fruit and with a different winemaker calling the shots. They were the rather sumptuous Sacred Hill Helmsman Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005 and the Sacred Hill Brokenstone Merlot 2005. With these two glamour wines along side the Ti Point, there was no doubt that the Matakana wine fully justifies its Wine of the Week status.

In a blind tasting with the two Sacred Hill wines, the Ti Point One 2005 is very savoury, structured, creamy, chocolatey and luscious. Ti Point One wins on affordability too because it has a target retail price of NZ$38 compared to both Sacred Hills at $64.

Tracy regards 2005 as one of the best Ti Point seasons especially with little crop loss over flowering and a hot dry summer with long hang time. The grapes were hand picked into 400-kg bins and transported to the Sacred Hill winery in Hawkes Bay where they were de-stemmed but not crushed, prior to being fermented as 80% whole berries. The small batches were hand-plunged to ensure good extraction during ferment, transferred to a traditional basket press then aged, with minimal handling, in new French oak.

The wine is distributed nationwide by Glengarry's, so should be reasonably available. You can also buy in person or online from The Vintry in Matakana, which doubles as Ti Point's cellar door.

For a food match, it is a delicous accompaniment to a mini roast of lamb.

*Check out the rest of my trip with Alistair on my blog and the reviews of Coxhead Creek and The Gabion wines.
Coxhead Creek Vantage Point- May 19th 2008
Discovering a Gabion - May 18th 2008.

© Sue Courtney
13 Jul 2008

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