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edited by Sue Courtney
e-mail address: winetaster@clear.net.nz

Wine of the Week for week ending 3 May 2009
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Dolbel Estate Chardonnay 2007
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

This week's Wine of the Week is from what could be considered a new Hawkes Bay producer. It's from Dolbel Estate, a name that the back label on the bottle says 'proudly celebrates the family name and legacy as early settlers of Hawkes Bay'.

The website www.dolbelestate.co.nz gives a little more information to that legacy by telling us that Richard Dolbel arrived in Hawkes Bay, from Jersey, in 1855. Ten years later he bought farming land on the banks of the Tutaekuri River near Puketapu. That land, in Springfield Road (I drove along this road in February, without even knowing), is still owned by Richard Dolbel's descendants today. Grapes were planted in 1988 on the lower river flats and sold to the likes of Church Road, who helped develop the vineyard, as well as Craggy Range and Oyster Bay. The family produced some wine for drinking and sharing with friends from 1994 then, in late 2006, after realising their vineyard could make wines of consistent quality, the first Dolbel Estate wines were released for sale.

So, no, this Hawkes Bay producer is far from new - it's just been flying under the radar.

The Dolbel Estate Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 (14% alc., $22), tasted September last year, is a warm, rich style with barrel fermentation adding oak interest but not quite quelling savvie's grassy disposition. There's stonefruit on the mid palate and it becomes quite savoury, from the yeast lees aging, on the finish. I rated it 4 stars.

Now I've discovered Dolbel Estate Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 and it's an immediately appealing toasty style with butterscotch and stonefruit aromas and a ripe creamy palate full of concentrated stonefruit and yellow melon with creamy oak and a touch of spice. Some lovely savoury nuances come through, there's a gorgeous toastiness and a long lingering savoury, mealy finish where the barrel-ferment characters kick in. It's well balanced and more-ish with and without food and I think it has benefited from the six months extra time in the bottle since receiving the wine and getting around to tasting it. Right now I rate it 4.5 stars.

Dolbel Estate Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2007 has 14% alcohol by volume and is sealed with a screwcap. Tony Pritchard, who worked with the grapes off the vineyard when he was winemaker at Church Road, makes the wines. He used a cool ferment in Alliers oak barrels (57% new) with some allowed to uptake wild yeasts for the fermentation. A third of the barrels also had acid-softening malolactic fermentation. All of this had added to the finished wine's mouthfilling complexity. This is a good wine options wine, as it distinctively shows the rich stonefruit and ripeness of Hawkes Bay.

We matched this to a lazy Sunday night dinner of roast chicken with gravy served with roast potato, kumara and pumpkin and sauteed courgette and baby green beans with sage. The juicy moist chicken, even the outside pieces that had been liberally garnished with dried herbs, and the slightly oversalted gravy, was a very good match.

© Sue Courtney
27 Apr 2009


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E-mail me: winetaster@clear.net.nz