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edited by Sue Courtney

The Hawkes Bay Charity Wine Auction 2003
held on 1 June 2003
© Sue Courtney
26th July 2003

The Auction Painting
Surveying Hawkes Bay by Jochen Schmidt

While charity auctions may be on the downturn in the US (LA Times, July 2003), the Hawkes Bay Charity Wine Auction held in Hawkes Bay Wine Country in June is still attracting the bidders. So much so that it turned a record result with the 2003 auction. It was a brave move by the organisers to move the auction from the Hawke's Bay Festival weekend in February and although there were fewer people in attendance at the pre-auction tasting and at the auction itself, there were actually more people actually bidding. A change to Webb's Auctioneers, who promoted the auction internationally as well as locally, may well have had something to do with this.

Perhaps it is the charity, the Cranford Hospice and its caring of terminally-ill loved ones that has seen the auction raise in excess of $1,000,000 during the last 10 years. But in reality it is probably the quality and rarity of the wines that are up for auction, along with the deserving Cranford Hospice that the winemakers fully support, that has turned the Hawkes Bay Charity Wine Auction into one of the country's best charity wine events.

Bidders have a unique opportunity to purchase some exceptional wines from some of the Bay's best producers, in barrel lots. The fact that this year the wines were mostly from the excellent 2002 vintage, was an added attraction. There were also a few special wine lots enhanced by artworks and of course the feature artwork, 'Surveying Hawkes Bay' by local artist Jochen Schmidt that bought some spirited bidding by local art collectors.

While the auction itself had its exciting moments on some highly sought after lots, for me the most exciting part of the day was the pre-auction tasting, the chance to taste the wines that would later go under the hammer.

There were certainly some delicious tasting wines in the catalogue and there is no doubt that Hawkes Bay 'Bordeaux-style' reds on the whole are the best in the country, but emerging wine styles such as Hawkes Bay Syrah are also rather exciting. The auction gives the chance for winemakers to play around and make their own special auction cuvées - rare wine that will never be seen in commercial quantities.

Here's some notes on wines that I tasted, together with the prices that the wines went for under the hammer. Many of the wines will remain in barrel for weeks to months before bottling and the successful bidders are given the opportunity by some producers to have the wines bottled in bottle sizes of their choice. Along with the unique auction labelling, it further enhances the value of the wine in years to come.

On barrel lots I've made the conversion to the approximate 750ml bottle price with the 12% buyers premium added to the total - then you will really see what a bargain some of these wines are. The arithmetic is my own so please feel free to contact me with corrections.
56.25 litre = 1/4 barrique = 75 x 750ml bottles
112.5 litres = 1/2 barrique = 150 bottles
225 litres = 1 barrique = 300 bottles


Lot 1. Black Barn Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
A unique wine for the auction and the first single variety wine from this producer. Deep boysenberry colour, dark savoury fruits like baking berries, concentrated cassis and brambleberries, meaty oak, nutmeg and menthol. Will stay in oak for a few more months before bottling.
56.25 litres. $2200. ($32.85/bottle)

Lot 2. Crab Farm Pukera Malbec/Merlot 2002
A 50/50 blend
A deep inky blackberry red wine with extremely floral aromatics. Ripe and juicy cherry and plum fruit, violets, cedary oak, firm grainy tannins the characteristic merlot traits of leather and cigar box. A 'pretty' wine in a non-derogatory way.
56.25 litres. $1500. ($22.40/bottle)

Lot 3. Lucknow Estate Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2001
A single vineyard wine crafted specially for the auction.
Medium depth red black with cherry, plum, cigar box and smoky on the nose. Quite fine and seamless, a seemingly light style tasted immediately after the massive Craggy Range (see lot 4) but full in body with lovely cigar box, chocolate and cherry fruit, sweet ripe tannins and smoky wild berries on the finish with hints of fruit cake spice. Lingers well.
56.25 litres. $1650. ($24.64/bottle)

Lot 4. Craggy Range 2001 'The Quarry' 2001
A blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the stoniest part of the Gimblett Gravels.
Big, black and dense in colour with leathery, salty, iodine-like aromas. Black, tarry and leathery to the palate with immense tannins that mask somewhat the concentrated berry fruits at first but they emerge on the long, velvety, creamy, cedary, berry filled finish that is savoury rather than sweet. A wine that is definitely made for the long haul.
6 x 1.5 litre Magnums in a unique display case (pictured) crafted by designer David Trubridge.

Lot 5. Church Road Winery Chardonnay 2002
Spicy oak, creamy, mealy and buttery with butterscotch and lemon on the finish. A wine that I can see developing some lovely honeyed oak complexity.
112.5 litres. $3850. ($ /bottle)

Lot 6. Mission Estate Gimblett Road Syrah 2001
A unique blending from barrels destined for the Jewelstone Syrah.
Lots of fine black and white pepper, lovely fine silky tannins, floral-like with rose hips, delicate spice and purple fruits. A lovely, harmonious, seamless wine with quite a dollop of cedary oak that is very well integrated and a concentrated, peppery, red berry finish.
56.25 litres. $1800. ($26.88/bottle)

Lot 7. Ngatarawa Wines Auction Merlot 2002
86% Merlot / 15% Cabernet special auction blend.
Aromatic with fresh red plums and mint on the nose and upfront, lifted, minty flavours in the mouth. There's spicy cedary oak with plum and cassis and firm sweet tannins. A marmite leathery nuance lingers on the finish.
225 litres. $8000.

Lot 8. Clearview Estate Winery 'Enigma' 2002
A blend of Merlot, Malbec, Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon from Clearview's best blocks of fruit.
An aromatic wine with a lovely concentration, depth and flavour of fruit. Winemaking complexities combine in a sweet-fruited vinous delight. Succulent, even at this stage with a delicious liquorice complexity on the finish. Very long in flavour. I rated this simply 'excellent'.
56.25 litres. $3800. ($56.75/bottle)

Lot 9. Askerne Vineyard Barrel Fermented Semillon 2002
Nutty, spicy aromas, grassy, yeasty and fairly oaky with ripe nectarine and apricot flavours on the finish.
56.25 litres. $1225 ($18.30/bottle)

Lot 10. Vidal Estate HB Syrah Barrel Selection Syrah 2002
A special auction selection matured in a half barrique (also see lot 36).
Plums, spice, leather and berry delight biscuits on the nose. Dry and savoury with lots of oak structure in the mouth together with spicy red fruits and hints of tar and liquorice. A big wine in an opulent style though pretty tight at the moment. Lovely red fruits, spice and liquorice linger on the hot spicy-spicy-spicy finish.
56.25 litres. $3500. ($52.26/bottle)

Lot 11. Sileni Estates Sileni 'The Triangle' Merlot 2002
A secret blend of 3 varieties for the auction, but there is obviously some Syrah in there.
Leathery upfront character with a touch of pepper in this aromatic, meaty, dense wine that is structurally complex. Savoury traits on the finish.
56.25 litres. $2000. ($29.87/bottle)

Lot 12. Brookfields Hillside Syrah 2002
From a barrel especially selected for its complexity.
Deep boysenberry red. Creamy aromas, lots of lactic influence, pepper and leather, very ripe red fruits, lots of pepper, creamy fruit-filled finish, ripe and sweet with smoky spicy oak and firm meaty tannins. Terrific length.
56.25 litres. $4000. ($57.74/bottle)

Lot 13. Church Road Winery Bordeaux Selection 2002
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 20% Malbec blended exclusively for the auction by members of the Church Road Wine Club.
Medium depth red black with cedary, leather and cassis aromas, this full-bodied red is dark and savoury with dense concentrated plum and cassis fruit, marmite oak and thick, velvety tannins. There's a lovely aromatic lift and an elegant of spicy oak on the finish.
112.5 litres. $3400. ($25.39/bottle)

Lot 14. Alpha Domus AD Pinot Noir 2002
Selected clones of Pinot Noir make up this special auction blend.
Spicy, brambly aromas, burnt cherry, cranberry, tamarillo fruit, savoury, spicy and stalky oak - terrific example of a Hawkes Bay Pinot noir, quite lush and musky on the finish. Savoury and gamey nuances emerge and linger well. A good wine.
56.25 litres. $2000. ($29.87/bottle)

Lot 15. CJ Pask Winery Barrique Selected Merlot 2002
A barrel of the best merlot specially selected for the auction.
There's a huge dense colour in this big intense concentrated wine that has so much going on. There's chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate - chocolate-coated cherries, chocolate raisins and chocolatey oak. It's intense rich and meaty with cedar and cigar box and a lovely aromatic lift to the finish. The tannins are huge but they enhance the complexity and long finish of this excellent wine.
56.25 litres. $4000. ($57.74/bottle)

Lot 16. Black Barn Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 lot 1)
56.25 litres. $2000. ($29.87/bottle)

Lot 17. Sileni Estates Merlot 2002
A special blend for the auction.
Juicy, ripe red fruit, creamy, spicy, vanillin oak, very drinkable indeed. Plummy fruits linger.
56.25 litres. $2400. ($35.84/bottle)

Lot 18. Mission Estate Chardonnay 2002
A delicious, creamy chardonnay with beautifully ripe stone fruit concentration and classy French oak. Barrel fermentation and malolactic fermentation add to the complexity of the wine.
56.25 litres. $1550. ($23.15/bottle)

Lot 19. Corbans Barrique Selection Cabernet Franc Merlot Malbec 2002
48% Cabernet France, 42% Merlot and 8% Malbec blended specifically for the auction.
Lovely aromatics with the classic 'pencil shavings' of Cabernet Franc, it's dusky, smoky and a little chocolatey. Complex fruit characters combine with spicy creamy oak then smoke and cigar box characters linger on the succulent, spicy, velvety-textured finish. It's drinking well now and should develop well.
112.5 litres. $2000. ($14.93/bottle)

Lot 20. Craggy Range Sophia 2001
A blend of low cropping Merlot and Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels.
6 x 1.5 litre Magnums presented in a display case designed by fashion designer, Karen Walker.

Lot 21. Artists Work
Surveying Hawke's Bay by Jochen Schmidt

Lot 22. Crossroads Winery Talisman Vertical: 1994 - 1999 vintages
Wine tasted: 'Talisman' 1999
Dark, savoury, leathery aromas. Complex fruit flavours with menthol, spice and meaty oak. Lovely fine tannins. This wine is developing well into the bottle and the components are rather harmonious. A multi-layered wine with lots of flavours coming through to keep the palate guessing. Sweet fruits, with cassis predominant, linger on the smoky finish.
6 x 750ml bottles. $650.

Lot 23. Esk Valley Estate Ginblett Gravels Malbec 2002
Deep blackberry impenetrable red - it looks like a big Aussie Shiraz. Spicy, meaty, leathery and aromatic with a big black fruit core, a beautiful creamy velvety texture, it's a meaty wine with Syrah-like aromatics combining with deep purple black fruits, violets, creamy oak and marmite-like leathery yeasts. Good integration of components with a sweet fruit finish and lingering velvety chocolate. Yummo!
56.25 litres. $2800. ($57.49/bottle)

Lot 24. Church Road Winery Chardonnay 2002 (See lot 5)
112.5 litres. $3850. ($28.75/bottle)

Lot 25. Gunn Estate Winemakers Single Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2002
Rich mealy, savoury, spicy oak. Sweet spicy peach and nectarine on the palate build up and linger well. A lovely wine, built to last.
56.25 litres. $1800. ($26.88/bottle)

Lot 26. Kim Crawford 'Tané' 1999
95% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot
Minty notes on the nose, sweet vanillin oak, mocha, spice and chocolate. Could almost be Australian it is so ripe, sweet and minty. There's a multitude of fruit combining with classy cedary oak with firm integrated tannins providing a solid backbone.
1 x 9 litre bottle. $1100.

Lot 27. Te Awa Farm Cuvée Unique 2002
A blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Merlot, 25% malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc crafted specially for the auction.
Ripe plummy and blackberry fruit, huge integrated tannins, velvety, meaty and aromatic. Violets, chocolate raisins and peppery spice at first in the dense, ripe-fruited wine, then liquorice nuances with cigar box and chocolate cherry lingering at the end, which is soft and round. Very very good.
225 litres. $8000. ($29.87/bottle)

Lot 28. Riverside Wines Stirling Reserve Chardonnay 2000
Spicy, spicy, mealy showing good development. Buttery texture, spicy honeyed peaches, quite savoury in its mealiness and a long savoury buttery finish.
56.25 litres. $1800. ($26.88/bottle)

Lot 29. Trinity Hill Winery 'The Gimblett' 2002
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Syrah, 30% Merlot from the Gimblett Gravels with 18 months in new French oak.
A deep blackberry coloured wine of impenetrable depth with inviting aromatics on the nose. Dark and savoury with sweet leather, cherries, plums and red currants - there's lots of fruit interest on velvety tannins with cigar box and cedary oak and a nuance of peppery, fruitcake spices. It' s juicy and succulent.
56.25 litres. $4000. ($57.74/bottle)

Lot 30. Akarangi Wines Cabernet Merlot 2002
56.25 litres. $1550. ($23.15/bottle)

Lot 31. Askerne Vineyard Semillon Barrel Fermented 2002 (see lot 9)
56.25 litres. $1000. ($14.94/bottle)

Lot 32. Sileni Estates Merlot 2002 (See lot 17)
56.25 litres. $2100. ($31.36/bottle)

Lot 33. Kemblefield Auction Selection Malbec 2002
Aromatic with violets and vanillin oak on the nose. Sweet and opulent with just the merest hint of mint. Meaty and leathery with bright blueberry / cherry fruits and a sultry muskiness. Lovely aromatics throughout. Firm succulent tannins and cigar box nuances linger on the creamy oak and brambly fruit finish.
112.5 litres. $4100. ($30.61/bottle)

Lot 34. Wishart Estate Winery Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet 2000
24 x 750ml bottles. $700.

Lot 35. Sacred Hill Rifleman's Terrace Cuvée Selection 2002
Very wound up in its spicy oak and mealy yeasty influences right now. Thick textured, savoury and spicy. Built to last. Very very long in its winey stonefruit flavours. 112.5 litres. $5200. ($38.83/bottle)

Lot 36. Vidal Estate HB Syrah Barrel Selection 2002 (see lot 10)
56.25 litres. $2700. ($40.32/bottle)

Lot 37. Moana Park Auction Reserve 2002
60% Cabernet Franc with Malbec and Syrah
Aromatic, chocolaty, sweet curranty fruit, briars, brambles, cedary oak, graphite pencils, hints of tar, spicy fruit cake spices and a dark, savoury cedary finish. Every time I taste the Moana Park wines I am impressed.
56.25 litres. $2500. ($37.33/bottle)

Lot 38. Mission Estate Chardonnay 2002 (see lot 18)
112.5 litres. $2700. ($20.16/bottle)

Lot 39. Sileni Estates Triangle Blend 2002 (see lot 11)
56.25 litres. $2100. ($31.36/bottle)

Lot 40. Stonecroft Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Special 2001
Med bodied, very elegant cassis, spicy, lots of spicy oak, leathery nuances, war, firm tannins, velvety, minty and a concentrated fruit finish. There' lingering tar, leather, black liquorice and rosehips. A terrific Cabernet but this lot is rather enhanced by the beautiful sculpture representing elements of the vineyard, by Jill McAulay (pictured).
56.25 litres. $3200. ($47.79/bottle and the artwork is free!)

Lot 41. Te Mata Estate Winery Petit Verdot 2002
Deep blackberry in colour with fragrant cigar box aromas, this is a delightfully sweet-fruited wine with spice, musk, rose petals, violets and savoury, spicy oak. It seems delicate and subtle at first but there is underlying power that crescendos to a long finish that linger well with aromatic smoky oak. The first Petit Verdot in the auction, this is a late ripening variety that hangs on the vines and ripens well in the Hawkes Bay autumn. 56.25 litres. $4200. ($62.72/bottle)

Lot 42. Gunn Estate Winemakers Single Barrel Selection Chardonnay 2002 (see lot 25)
56.25 litres. $1900. ($28.37/bottle)

Lot 43. Corbans Barrique Selection 2002 (see lot 19)
112.5 litres. $1500. ($11.20/bottle)

Lot 44. Church Road Winery Bordeaux Selection 2002
56.25 litres. $1750. ($26.13/bottle)

Lot 45. Matariki Winery
Matariki Quintology 2000
Already bottled wine rather than a barrel selection, this is a big, rich, leathery wine with some definite Bretty characters on the nose. Spicy, red fruits, complex but to my palate there is an over-riding though not overly objectionable bretty yeasty character that dominates.
Matariki Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2000
A big dark wine with concentrated cassis, spice and cedary oak with dark chocolate and a spicy richness. A rich leathery character again but with a sweet succulent savoury finish. Personally I like this better than the Quintology.
1 x magnum of each wine. $ 425


The auction raised a record $128,500 and with the 12% buyers premium that was added to the hammer price being donated to the Charity, the actual total raised was just under $144,000.

Ii would have bid on the following wines if I was rich and frivolous . . .
Clearview Enigma
Esk Valley Malbec
Vidal Syrah

And if I had known what a bargain the Corbans was going to be, I definitely would have bidded on that.

Auction Day in Hawkes Bay is a great day and I recommend any serious wine lover to take a look at some of the bargains on the day and think ahead to next year …..

With post-auction dinners on at several wineries, successful bidders and their followers can party on well into the night. As for me, I'm going to be more serious about the whole thing and perhaps even bid for some myself, next year. If Queens Birthday is going to be the standard weekend for the event, make Hawkes Bay your winter get-away for the long weekend.

© Sue Courtney
26 July 2003

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