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Wine of the Week for week ending 22 Nov 2009
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Church Road Tom Chardonnay 2006
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

When I arrived at the First Glass tasting last Wednesday night, I said to Kingsley Wood (who is possibly the country's most devoted Chardonnay fan) than I had tasted a simply amazing Chardonnay that day. I had been to a luncheon put on by Pernod Ricard for the release of their new Montana Showcase Series wines that included Sauvignon Gris, Arneis and Viognier; a prestige bottling of Marlborough Deutz Cuvée, their top Church Road red called TOM and the brand new Tom Chardonnay 2006 from Hawkes Bay.

I thought I had something new to tell him, but it turned out he had already tasted the wine some days before when Pernod Ricard's fine wine man, Phil Bothwell, had taken a sample of the wine to the shop for him to try. Now he had bottles to sell and it seems my praise of the wine came at the perfect time.

"Sue Courtney tasted this at lunch today and says it may be the greatest New Zealand Chardonnay she has ever tried," he said and emulated that statement in his newsletter. Well, my comments certainly helped his sales.

I'm not sure if it is the "greatest" New Zealand Chardonnay I have ever tried, but it certainly rates right up there as the glass I enjoyed was utterly sublime. But I'd love to taste this alongside some others, most notably Kumeu River Mate's 2006, Sacred Hill Rifleman's 2006 (this was so incredibly delicious on Christmas Day last year) and Neudorf Moutere 2006.

Served in a massive Burgundian-styled glass, the aromas had me salivating and the taste lived up to the expectation that the aroma prepared the palate for.

It seemed moderately deep gold in colour in the moody lighting of the restaurant but winemaker Chris Scott, who I had the good fortune to be sitting beside, said yes, that was so.

The wine seduces with its fragrant, mealy barrel-ferment scent infused with heavenly toffee / butterscotch nuances. "I could keep smelling it," I wrote. In the mouth this is one powerful Chardonnay with flavours that are brimming with sizzled butter, hints of butterscotch, grilled peach, figs, nuts and nougat with a perceived sweetness that is underlain by a beautifully balanced savouriness held together by the seamless texture and finishing with a slightly salty tang.

Remember how good the Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2006 was? It was also acclaimed Champion Wine of the Show at the NZ International in 2008. Well this, of course, is better. Chris explained that 2006 was an amazing Chardonnay vintage with fruit picked in pristine condition. There were two components in the potential Reserve blend that were just too good to 'blend away', so he put these components to one side until it could be decided what to do with it. These are the components that are now bottled as Tom.

The French oak regime is 45% new with the balance one-year-old oak. Oak aging was for 14 months then the two components were blended and stored in tank on light lees until earlier this year (just before vintage) when it was bottled.

Such a powerful wine can stand up to powerful food and Clooney restaurant delivered with veal sweetbreads, lobster tail and truffle butter.

Church Road Tom Chardonnay 2006 costs about $70 a bottle. Check out your fine wine retailer - quickly - or

© Sue Courtney
16 Nov 2009

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