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Wine Reviews - Cabernet 'dominant' Wines
by Sue Courtney
24 Aug 2016

Although some of these tasting notes may be found elsewhere on this site, this page brings together most of my Cabernet dominant (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc) notes, listed alphabetically by Producer. Click here for rating systems and abbreviations.

[2014] [2013] [2012] [2011] [2010] [2009] [2008] [2007] [2006] [2005] [2004] [2003] [2002] [2001 and older vintages] [index]

2014 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road McDonald Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (sc) Shiny boysenberry red. Concentrated dark fruit and smoky French oak on the nose. The bright acidity as expected from Cabernet Sauvignon is prominent but balanced by the deep-set blackcurrant / blueberry fruit with blackcurrant leaf, tobacco leaf, dark chocolate, cake spice and firm tannins all building to a full plush creamy finish with hints of fruit cake. Finishing very dry, it begs for a food, but there’s a lusciousness that accrues in the mouth as the aftertaste lingers. 14.5% alc. $24.99. 1Jun2016.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels 'The Gimblett' 2014 (sc) Red fruits characterise the nose and fine tannins accentuate the palate of this magnificent, stellar, dark-hued wine that has firm but ripe tannins, hints of cigar box, a nuance of mint in the intriguing medley of herbs and succulent berry fruits including cassis, redcurrants and plum. Straight up and down deliciousness, it seems smooth and already quite forward but has the underlying concentration and complexity and all the indicators of longevity. Wonderful comparison of the two vintages (tasted along the '13) – the tannin structure especially. Pre release tasting 18May2016.

2013 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Grand Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013 (sc) Inky purple red. Liquid black forest chocolate, cedar and dried herbs including a sprig of dried mint fill the bouquet of this 56/44 classic Bordeaux varieties blend. Firm in the palate with fairly grippy tannins underlying sappy cedary oak and fleshy ripe fruit. A rich, intense wine with a dry finish and a chocolatey allure, and while it's still developing the potential is so incredibly there so you would be doing yourself a favour by laying several bottles of this fantastic wine in your cellar and opening one (or two) every couple of years. Gold NZIWS 2015. 14.5% alc. $36.99. 9Mar2016.

Church Road McDonald Series Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (sc) Saturated purple black. Opulent aromas of brambles, plums, vanilla, mint and cedar and a spicy brightness to the plush, concentrated, full bodied flavours. A rich, rounded, sweet-fruited, mouthfilling wine with great tannin structure over a creamy backbone with wonderful red fruit vibrancy, underlying cedar and leather. It seems amazingly approachable but it has the legs to cellar magnificently. 14.5% $26.99. 1Oct2014.
The inky purple black, crimson-edged hue announces a wine of considerable structure and depth. The concentrated bouquet emanates opulent aromas of bramble berries and creamy cedar and it is lavishly full-bodied in the savoury palate with massive tannins at this stage of its life. It’s a mouth-coating wine with plum and boysenberry fruit, spicy cedar, hints of leather in the background and a long, creamy finish with an alluring touch of chocolate. 14.5% alc. $23.99. 25Feb2015.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 (sc) Deep dark crimson red with a varietally expressive bouquet of cassis and cedar that puts you right in the ‘Bordeaux varieties’ zone. Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, which is quite rare in Hawkes Bay these days, it is rich and weighty to the taste with masses of fine textured tannins, ripe dark fruit, Cabernet's classic herbal edge, a touch of leather, lashings of cedar and a prickle of acidity at the end. A stellar red that is heading towards monumental, this powerful dry wine would be best cellared to let it eke out its magnificent potential. 13.5% alc. $46.99. 8Jul2015.
Inky purple black with savoury cedary oak, leather and dark red fruits filling the bouquet. This is a stellar wine with wonderfully ripe blackcurrant fruit over a savoury cedary backbone with hints of brine, spice and leather and beautifully fine presence and flow because although the tannins initially seem like they need resolving by the time the wine has traversed the palate the tannins are silky and harmonious. Champion Cabernet Easter Show 2015. 13.5% alc. $42.99. 6Apr2016.

Mission Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013 (c) Saturated purple red. Varnishy oak on the nose. Rich, ripe, sweet and juicy in the palate with blackcurrants, plums, chocolate and leather and a long succulent finish. Very soft, easy and approachable already but the firm structure and well-balanced acid spine means it will gracefully age in the bottle. From such a fantastic year, a year that Mission Estate says was 'the best for them since 1983'. 14% alc. $19.99. 8Apr2015.
Vibrant purple black. On the nose a touch of cigar box infuses creamy oak and blackcurrant jam. Dry, firm, svelte and structured in the palate with brushed leather tannins and a touch of spice. Juicy blackcurrant and plum fruit exude from the deep core and savoury oak embellishes the long creamy finish. 14% alc. $19.99. 2Mar2016.

Saint Clair Premium Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2013 (sc) Dense dark purple red. Chocolatey oak on the nose is tinged with vanilla and mint, these traits carrying through to the firmly structured palate that has a juicy succulence and fruit ripeness that makes it so drinkable. The fruit is classic cassis with plums and cherries and a there's a lovely spicy brightness to the long creamy finish. 13% alc. $19.99. 28Jan2015.
This shiny blackberry red-hued ‘Bordeaux’ blend of 38% Cabernet, 33% Merlot, 29% Malbec matured partially in American oak has a deep concentrated brambly aroma with the creamy oak in support of it. It tastes full-bodied, creamy and spicy with a red and blue fruit concentration, sweet oak, and woody herbs. I get a kind of get an earthy / graphite / coal-like depth, the tannins are rounded and smooth and the finish is long juicy and sweet with the most subtle suggestion of mint. Great interaction and balance of the blend components make it seem like one, and it is absolutely outstanding value. 13% alc. $15.99. 18Mar2015.

Te Mata Coleraine 2013 – Hawkes Bay (c) A blend of 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 14% Cabernet Franc and decanted before tasting, this colour is shiny purple with crimson edges and impenetrably inky in hue. The nose is sweet spicy cedar with a creamy oak veneer and the taste is powerful and heady with firm but sensual rounded tannins. There is mouthfilling concentration to the opulent fruit flavours that include at the very least plums, blackcurrants and boysenberries with a supporting harmonious chorus of spices, liquorice and cedar. From a magnificent red wine vintage in Hawkes Bay, this iconic wine is destined to become legendary, a word that will echo around the table when the wine is opened in is 21st year. 13.5% alc. $87.99. 4Mar2015.

Te Mata Awatea 2013 – Hawkes Bay (c) Youthful deep black red in colour with a scent that is smoky and savoury with a touch of menthol and an earthy intrigue, these traits carrying through to the pillowy textured palate that is cloaked in velvety tannins. With sweet plum and blackcurrant fruit, sappy oak, cigar box, chocolate box and leather, this rich juicy wine could be quite monumental with a little time – there is easily 15 years ahead of it – but right at the moment it finishes quite grippy and needs to be laid down for a while. A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 26Nov2014.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels 'The Gimblett' 2013 (sc) Inky blackberry red in hue with an attractive bouquet of cassis, plums, vanilla and violets and firm and full in the palate. Made from a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet France and 1% Petite Verdot, this is a complex, fascinating wine with bright fruit, mouthfilling texture, magnetic tannins, herbal nuances and a long savoury finish. The youthful acidity will see this wine develop nicely over the years. 13.5% alc. $28.99. 18May2016.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2013 (sc) Inky blackberry red. Intriguing chocolate chicory notes on the creamy yet savoury oak nose. In contrast to the Merlot tasted before it, this is fine and flowing in the palate. It tastes dark and savoury with abundant wood / oak notes and plum and cassis fruit. The fruit is bright, the oak is fine and classy, the tannins are silky, the wine is elegant and the finish is long and lingering. 13.5% alc. $44.99. 19Nov2014.

2012 Vintage [top] [index]

Crossroads Winemakers Collection Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2012 (sc) Dark red black. Seductively fragrant with subtle nuances of cedar, marzipan, fruit cake cherries and cassis. Medium to full bodied with fine tannins, red fruits, smoky oak and a infusion of fruit cake spices. Smooth and harmonious with just a little grip detectable and a seductive lingering finish that is stylishly dry. 14% alc. $35.99. 27Nov2013.

Hyperion ‘Titania’ Matakana Cabernet Franc 2012 (D) Deep blackberry red, impenetrable in its hue. The bouquet offers up smoky oak with concentrated berry fruit welling up from the depth, a succulent savouriness with cigar box and leather, perhaps a smidgen of mint chocolate — the aroma becoming more and more vibrant with every swirl and sniff. Firmly structured in the palate with velvet cloak tannins that have a fine grippy edge. Foremost savoury until the fruit takes over — fruit reminiscent of blackcurrant, black Doris plum, black cherry and later blueberry and violet, with lift and brightness to the finish where nuances detected on the bouquet come forth as the flavours lingers, where the lasting textural impression is surprising silky. This was a sample left with me by John Crone who dropped by unexpectedly. The wine had been opened two days. 13% alc. 8Aug2016.

Te Mata Estate Awatea 2012 (c) The fragrant bouquet of this deep coloured Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend has beguiling violet-like nuances, hints of liquorice, redcurrant, cherry and plum fruit and smoky cedary oak. On first tasting it seems similar to the smoky, cigar box flavours of the estate wine but you quickly realise this has so much more power and depth. It's full and rounded with concentrated red fruits, hints of violets, a touch of spice, creamy oak, firm tannins, well balanced acidity, a slightly herbal undercurrent accented with mint and excellent length. 13% alc. $29.99. 14May2014.

2011 Vintage [top] [index]

Saint Clair Hawkes Bay Premium Cabernet Merlot 2011 (sc) Rich crimson berry red. The sweet scent of cherries and chocolatey oak, a little dusty nuance too. Fine tannins, plums and currant fruit, dark chocolate and a savoury finish with underlying freshness. Balanced all the way through, 12.5% alc. $21.50 27Apr2013.

Te Mata Awatea 2011 (c) Deep red with crimson flashes, this has a beautiful, fresh, inviting violet, cassis, cherry, and cedar bouquet and it tastes concentrated and powerful with a fresh acid spine to balance the almost opulent, juicy ripe fruit With a touch of cigar box, a hint of leather, a smidgen of chocolate, a suggestion of anise and great presence and persistence, all the hallmarks of a great wine are there. 43% CS, 42% Merlot, 12% CF and 3% PV. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 13Mar2013.

Te Mata Coleraine 2011 - Hawkes Bay (c) Inky black red with purple flushes to the edges, there's a concentration to the Bdx-character scent and upfront fleshiness to the intriguingly spicy flavours. Fresh and young, with harmonious cedar and cigar box characters, anise herb-like nuances, juicy currant, cherry and purple plum fruit, violets and a dusty savouriness. With tannins that are firm yet fine, this promises to evolve into a majestic wine with time. Opened and double decanted on the morning of the tasting, this is a wine that Nicholas says will be slow to unfold and unwind. Fantastic cellaring proposition. 72% CS, 22% Merlot, 6% CF. 13% alc. $79.99. 13Mar2013.
Boysenberry red in hue, concentrated in appearance and also in aroma and taste. My first impression from the ultra-savoury, smoky, leathery, almost tarry scent was Bordeaux and the taste kept me on the same path. It's tight as tight can be with fine grippy tannins, underlying dried herbs, a profound concentration of leather, smoke and cedar with fruit a little shy although dried blackcurrants do come to mind. Made from a blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc, this Hawkes Bay icon could be cellared for 20 years – or more. Decant or pour into a big glass for drinking right now to realise its full potential.
13% alc. $79.99. 5Nov2014.

Waimea Nelson Trev's Red 2011 (sc) Boysenberry red in hue with juicy red berries infusing the sweet vanilla/cedar oak scent. Bright, fresh and juicy in the palate in a medium-bodied style, there are hints of rose petal, cherry and pepper with a smoky savoury undercurrent to the juicy finish. An excellent crowd pleaser wine, it is made from 61% Cabernet Franc, 34% Syrah and 5% Viognier. 14% alc. $25.00. 2Feb2013.
Rich dark red with a rustic, meaty, vanillin oak and cherry aroma. The taste is fruit yet savoury with juicy red and black berries, a touch of spice and creamy oak fashioned together in an uncomplicated style. 14% alc. $25.00. 4Apr2013.

2010 Vintage [top] [index]

Alpha Domus AD The Aviator Hawkes Bay 2010 (sc) Concentrated black red with a ruby glow to the edges. Savoury and smoky on first smelling yet a seductiveness to the fragrance too – briar rose, rose hip, a nuance of vanilla rippling with boysenberry jus. A powerful wine, made for the long haul if the firm powerful tannins are anything to go by. A wine that begs for something to cut through the tannins at this stage of its life but the caress that it leaves behind is quite seductive at the same time. Red fruits spring to mind – redcurrants, cherries and the richness of boysenberry too and the juicy full-bodied finish is long and creamy with a dark chocolate and leather notes coming through. Overall the whole impression is concentration and finesse. 40% Cab Sauv, 24% Cab Franc, 26% Merlot, 10% Malbec. 14% alc. $72. 28May2013.

Babich Irongate Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot Franc 2010 (sc) Dark purple. It smells concentrated and deep with sweet spices that infuse into the creamy oak scent. In the palate the oak is quite forward and the tannins initially unresolved but then simply dissolve into this full-bodied concentrated number. It's deep, meaty and savoury with plums, juicy blueberries, allspice and herbs and a long savoury finish that's lifted by the spices. A big juicy wine with excellent cellaring potential. 13% alc. $35.00.5Feb2013.

Babich Patriarch Hawkes Bay 2010 (c) Inky black red. Savoury barnyard characters on the nose with horse saddle and sweat. A suggestion of tar and gunsmoke too. Thankfully the fruit dominates the flavour at first, but then a herbaceous character takes over. There's a touch of mint I can detect together with liquorice, chocolate and red berries. Firm thick textured tannins, long powerful finish with great length and underlying acidity firmly committing this wine to the cellar right now. Dark and brooding at this stage of its life. 64% Cabernet, 23% Merlot 23%, 13% Malbec. 13% alc. $60. 28May2013.

Man O’ War Vineyards Warspite 2010 - Ponui Island, Auckland (sc) Rich black red in hue and while restrained on the nose the taste of this gorgeous wine is juicy and profound. It has some age that really becomes it and the velvety tannins have a silky edge. A Bordeaux blend of 62% Cabernet Franc, 23% Merlot and 15% Malbec, it is a lovely smooth mouthful with chocolate raisins, cedar and pencil shavings also coming to mind. Ready to go. A perfect winter dinner wine. 14.5% alc. $42.99. 16Jul2014.

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay (sc) Dark red coloured with alluring vanillin oak infusing the ripe berry fruit bouquet, this full-bodied, juicy red has a fine tannin structure that is harmonious rather than imposing. A touch of Cabernet Franc brings out floral notes and while the oak is a little more obvious in the palate it will settle with some cellaring. A terrific vintage and it shows. 14% alc. $42.99. 28Aug2013.
Dark red with purple edges, a minty inflection to the concentrated plummy, earthy, savoury scent and spice is the first impression in the palate. Overall it is earthy and savoury with a tarry depth, fine tannins, plum and blackberry fruit, smoky cedar and a lick of leather on the lingering finish. Would really benefit from a few more years in the cellar. 14% alc. $39.99. 26Mar2014.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2010 (sc) Dark purple with a green pepper undercurrent to the earthy leathery scent. It has a slight floral lift and a smoky, meaty / bovine character too. Lifted in the palate with crushed red fruits, fruits of the forest, spices of orange pomander and some vinous sweetness coming through on the finish. Soft and floaty across the palate with a little slipperiness to the texture and tannins that are silky and fine. Excellent with steak, mushrooms and salad. 13.5% alc. $24.95. 5Feb2013.

Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot 2010 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Ruby red in colour with a savoury, earthy aroma, some Brett influence here I think, dusty brambles too, this initially seems light to medium-boded with a silky tannin structure. It's a little herbal, a little savoury, a little smoky, a little earthy with a touch of liquorice, juicy plums, wild blackberries and summer pudding (bready), becoming increasing more complex on the finish. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 11Jul2012.

Passage Rock Reserve Waiheke Island Cabernet Merlot 2010 (sc) Glossy blackberry red coloured with a concentrated aroma of nutty oak with a hint of chocolate, tar, spice and leather. Even more concentrated in the palate, this sumptuous red is full of juicy cassis, plums and chocolatey oak with fine-textured firmly structured tannins. A substantial wine in the context of the tasting and and we think it's very nice. 14% alc. $38.99. 30Nov2011.
Purple red, but not as intense in depth as prev. wine. Lovely vinosity on the nose with integrated fruit and oak. On first tasting this seems like a lovely medium bodied wine that just flows yet there are bountiful tannins that surge and ebb. With red fruits, vanillin oak, a smoky finish and a long savoury aftertaste, this is a very good wine from a terrific vintage. Still evolving with a long life head of it. 14.5% alc. $40.99. 20Jun2012.

Passage Rock Waiheke Island Sisters 2010 (sc) A blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 17% Syrah and 13% Malbec with one year in small oak barrels, this is deep dark ruby with an attractive chocolate-infused red berry aromas with nuances of herbs, leather, vanilla and cake spice. The palate is chock with juicy dark berry fruit, cedar, rosemary, thyme and violet a firm meaty depth and a spicy flourish to the finish. Succulent and more-ish. 14% alc. $22.00.9Apr2012.

Te Mata Awatea 2010 (c) Dark purple red with a bouquet of concentrated, cedar, cassis, rose hip nuances and a rich evocative scent like new suede, opening up in the glass to display more and more perfume with time. A youthful wine to the taste with mocha notes, cedary spice, blackberry, boysenberry and cherry fruit, fine tannins and a gorgeous vinosity that is rich, long and deep. 42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 12% Cabernet Franc, 6% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. 14Mar2012.
Rich red with a purple flush to the edges, this has a savoury and youthful cedary bouquet with the savouriness carrying through to the firm, dry palate that's underpinned with dried herbs, rose hips, concentrated plum and dark currant fruit, a suggestion of spice, a mouthcoating creaminess and plush velvety tannins. Great finish. Excellent wine. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 13Mar2013.

Te Mata Coleraine 2010 (c) Deep purple red. Beautifully scented with rose/violet florals coming through. Lovely lift and vibrancy to the flavours with dry tannins that have a silky coating that parts occasionally to reveal a velvet lining. This is a young wine, tight in its youth, with concentrated blackcurrant fruit, a creamy richness, lovely sweet savoury oak, herbs, cedar and a long fleshy finish. A baby with a fantastic cellaring proposition, it has many years to go. 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. Cork $69.99. 14Mar2012.
What a treat to taste this iconic Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc blend four years on from vintage. It's dark red in hue, the aroma emits floral notes together with pencil shavings, herbs, game and dark brambly fruit that carries through to deep, dark, concentrated, spicy, savoury palate. There's underlying French oak with game and leather, hints of blueberries and liquorice and lovely vinous sweetness to the silky but firm textured finish. A fleshy mouthful with many years ahead of it yet. 14% alc. $74.99. 14May2014.

Villa Maria Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2010 (sc) Purple red in colour, this is ripe and juicy on the nose, emanating a concentrated cake spice and dried fruit scent with a lovely savoury cedary complexity coming through. In the mouth the tannins are so svelte and velvety and the currant-like fruit is so ripe, it seems so drinkable already, but this is another wine that will reward cellaring, if that is what you want to do. 70/30 blend. 14% alc. $49.99. 14Nov2012.
Deep red black. Fragrant plums and cassis with a floral nuance to the woody/cedar/ polished oak bouquet. Concentrated and powerful in the palate with red fruit, leather and spicy cedar. It has firm but silk edged velvety edged tannins, a lovely vanillin oak sweetness and great depth of fruit. It's very stylish and although beautiful now it is a wonderful cellaring proposition too. 14% alc. $44.99. 2Oct2013.
Inky purple red with a deep, brooding cedary nose and harmonious in the savoury palate with a fine silky edge to the firm, velvety and slightly teeth-coating tannins. I detect a lovely creamy veneer to the red and black fruit and some underlying acidity that will ensure this wine will continue to develop in the bottle for many, many years. A blend of 70/30 Cabernet to Merlot, outstanding in its category. 14% alc. $44.99. 20Nov2013.

Waimea Nelson Trev's Red 2010 (sc) A blend of Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Malbec, this is deep red but translucent, not opaque, with a scent of subtle cherry infused into creamy vanillin oak - it smells soft and supple with a hint of chocolate coming through but such a contrast in the palate. It's big, it's rich, it's spicy, it's earthy, it's savoury with mocha, chicory and juicy bittersweet red fruits such as cherry and cranberry and an underpinning of plums and leather and intriguing peppery spice on the finish 13% alc. $25.00. 17Nov2011.

2009 Vintage [top] [index]

Abbey Cellars 'the Prophet Hawkes Bay Cabernet Blend 2009 (sc) Ruby hued, medium bodied depth, Initially restrained on the nose, then smoky, cedary, earthy and meaty with lovely berry perfume too becoming quite alluring as the wine opens up. . Smooth textured with finely structured tannins, dark plums, juicy red berries, liquorice, meaty nuances, integrated oak and a long rounded finish with a floral brightness as the wine lingers. Lovely wine with a powerful finish. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 28Apr2012.
Bright black red with ruby edges. There's a roasting beef with rosemary hint of nuance to the scent, like the well seasoned meat drippings that are going to become the jus. Concentrated blackberries and Black Doris plums too. Incredibly juicy from the outset with sweet fruit the upfront feature of this wine becoming more cherry like as the flavours progress, but all the while beautifully balanced by creamy oak with a savoury smoky allure to it and seductive velvety tannins. Generous and downright irresistible. There's good acidity underlying this wine too. 54% Cab Sauv, 22% Cab Franc, 15% Malbec, 9% Merlot. 13.5% alc. $20. 28May2013.

Church Road Mc Donald Series Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (sc) Blackberry red with a rich berry and cedar scent. It smells concentrated with hints of cigar box and leather and tastes concentrated and full-bodied with oak spice, red and black berries, creamy French oak, liquorice and leather with cigar box notes on the finish and a slightly herbal 'sous bois' undercurrent that complements this wine. Tannins are firm and still have some resolving to do so at this stage of its life it needs to be accompanied with tannin-cutting food. 14% alc. $32.99. 2Feb2013.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2009 (sc) Purple black, dense in appearance with a mellow aroma of creamy vanillin oak and chocolate biscuits carrying through to the opulent, ripe palate. Although the tannins are very dry, this is a deep, rich, harmonious wine with concentrated dark berry fruit, liquorice, oak and underlying acidity and spice bringing it all into balance. 14.5% alc. $35.99. 29Feb2012.

Greve Matakana Cabernet Franc Merlot Malbec 2009 (c) Rich ruby with a touch of black to the core of the hue. Fragrantly scented with cedar and vanillin oak nuances, red and black berries. Concentrated and intense to the taste with sweet ripe fruit filling the palate. There's blackberries, plums, red currants and some floral notes too the fruit beautifully balanced by a smoky, nuggetty oak backbone. A generous wine with velvety smooth mouthcoating tannins, lifted on the finish. Long, clean with a red jelly baby flourish. 13% alc. 28May2013.

Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Franc 2009(c) Intense and deep in colour – purple black with vivid edges. The bouquet is all violets, liquorice, blackberries varnish and leather and it's a big, rich, ripe juicy wine to the taste – there's prunes, liquorice, leather and even a touch of mint. Something comforting like childhood cough medicine which has yummy stuff in there to make it taste good. Sappy, full-bodied and juicy with a touch of chocolate raisins too and a plush, velvety structure. There's definitely lots going on. It has all the class and finesse to develop into a great Hawkes Bay red. 14% alc. $45. 14May2013.

Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (c) Vivid shiny purple-black with a dark fruit, violet, cedar and cake spice-infused aroma. From the concentrated appearance, the palate impression is intense and concentrated too. With blackcurrant, black plum, blackberry, chocolate box and smoke, this is serious wine with seriously dry tannins and a finish that's phenomenal – the flavours enriching as they linger. A seriously 'wow' wine that's will turn heads, but needs to be decanted right now. 14% alc. $53.99. 20Jul2011.
Dense purple red. Spicy oak aromas and deep, rich, concentrated flavours with tannins that are thick and plush and still have some resolving to do. Violets, liquorice, leather, smoky French oak and a lovely welling-up of vinous sweetness as the full-bodied flavours linger. Plums, cake spice and a lingering rose petal nuance too. The next day it is still quite brooding and leathery, it really needs to be nurtured in the cellar for a few more years. 14% alc. $55.00.1Sep2011.

Leveret Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2009 (sc) Although the colour is more translucent than opaque, this blend of 65% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Syrah smells glorious and smooth with mellow vanillin oak and concentrated cherry and plum fruit that carries through to the palate. With additional flavours of chocolate biscuits, savoury oak, chicory and dried herbs including a bright smidgen of mint, this is beautifully refined, smooth and polished in its flow. Five years in new and older French oak then further time in the bottle makes it mouthfilling and complete. Fabulous buy for a mature mellow wine. 13.5% alc. $22.99. 10Aug2016.

Man O War 'Ironclad' Waiheke Island 2009 (sc) Concentrated black red in hue with a sweet earth, savoury oak and chocolate biscuit aroma, this full-bodied dry red has concentrated red and black fruit characteristic of the Bordeaux varieties it is made from. Cedary, with some grip to the tannins and a rich, savoury finish that is persistent, expansive and long, it has a beguiling flourish of rose petal at the end . A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Ultra-impressive. 14.5% alc. $39.99. 15Feb2012.
Concentrated red black with a complex savoury aroma that offers up, salami, leather, currant and allspice. Fine yet firm teeth-coating tannins, pepper, allspice, dark currant fruit, cigar box and chocolate box, then dried rose on the finish A meaty wine with lots going on - the florals perhaps coming from the 34.4% Cabernet Franc that's blended with Merlot (31.4%), Malbec (22.4%), Petit Verdot (7%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (4.8%). 14.5% alc. $44.99. 5Sep2012.

Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (sc) Purple red - dense - almost like Syrah. The appealing bouquet has concentrated plums liquorice, smoky French oak and cassis. A little leathery in the concentrated, savoury palate with suede-like tannins and a creamy oak veneer, red and black fruit, liquorice, cigar box and spice with some lovely dried herb complexities coming through. Long, fine finish, lingers elegantly, loads of finesse. The next day the wine is luxurious and velvety, caressing every part of the mouth, and the depth and concentration is superb. 13.5% alc. $45.00. 1Sep2011.

Mills Reef Elspeth Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Merlot 2009 (sc) Dark burnished red with a suggestion of translucency to the hue, this full-boded red has a bouquet of dark chocolate infused with a smidgen of mint and earthy savoury flavours. Firm in the palate with smoke and cigar box nuances to the cedary oak flavours, deep set plum and blackcurrant fruit and plenty of tannin but it's not aggressive or grippy and the rounded finish is juicy, spicy and long. 14% alc. $41.99. 16May2012.
Dark red with moderate saturation. A little earthy on the nose with cassis perhaps, and smoky cedar – it emanates a true 'Bordeaux varieties' scent. Gentle to start with a spicy freshness, the flavours compound and broaden delightfully. Silky yet impressive in its stature. Savoury and dry - a class act that deserves respect. 14% alc. $41.99. 31Oct2012.

Mills Reef Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2009 (sc) Earthy and leathery smelling but in the mouth this is a big, rich, firm-tannined wine with creamy oak and lifted acidity brimming through the red fruit flavours, and a backbone of leather and smoky cedar 14% alc. $24.95. 17May2011.

Mudbrick Reserve Waiheke Island Cabernet Merlot 2009 (sc) Purple black, youthful and deep. Aromas of marmite on toast, blackcurrant and cedar. Spicy to the taste with underlying acidity adding brightness to the savoury, earthy, leathery flavours and while a little jammy on the finish, the tannins are firm and the wine is dry. Full-bodied in style. 14.2% alc. $44.99. 18May2011.

Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2009 (sc) Currants, spices, chocolate and florals are immediately triggered in this juicy, savoury, deep meaty wine with a plummy fruit intensity, an exciting flourish of brightness and rose petals emerging as the flavours linger. A generous wine with a dark red colour, soft tannins, creamy oak and warmth to the finish, it's a blend of 51% Cab Sauv, 25% Merlot, 22% Malbec and 2% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $19.99. 19Apr2013.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009 (sc) Deep black red – intense in colour. Smoky and savoury, perhaps a little leathery, with succulent red and black currants and floral nuances too - rose musk. Lovely red fruit profile - cherry and redcurrant with savoury oak, earth and chocolate, soft velvety tannins and a succulent, juicy finish. Very appealing. Certified organic. 5 stars. 13.5% alc. $22.99. 3Dec2010.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2009 (C) Dense dark ruby in colour with a lifted, aromatic bouquet of violet-like florals, red fruits and tantalising cedar. The brightness of the opulent blackcurrant fruit is intense with hints of liquorice and violets coming through together with chocolate box and cedar. And while the tannins are tight, they are coated with chocolate and sweet fruit that initially mask their power and make them seem supple and silky. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc (no Petit Verdot this year). 13.5% alc. $27.99. 9Mar2011.

Te Mata Coleraine 2009 (C) The colour is intense, deep purple ruby. The aroma of chocolate, rose petals and fruitcake is complex and intriguing. A huge wine, yet soft from the beginning, it's youthful with noticeable underlying acidity, liquorice, concentrated primary fruit, florals, leather and cedar. A monumental wine with powerful mouth-coating tannins but the huge whack of fruit somewhat tames their grippiness and makes them seem deceptively smooth. There's lovely oak spice coming through and the finish is savoury and long with a fruit sweetness lingering. Outstanding. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. $64.99. 9Mar2011.

2008 Vintage [top] [index]

Abbey Cellars Testament Barrel Selection Hawkes Bay 2008 (sc) Dark red with opulent aromas of blackberry pie and plum laced with cedar. Smoky and savoury in the palate with a cedary backbone, redcurrant and plum fruit, liquorice, homemade blackcurrant jelly. Fine, thick, velvety tannins yet rounded, approachable and juicy with richness and depth and a little touch of herbaceousness on the end. 13.5% alc. $24.95. 28Apr2012.

Hyperion the Titan Matakana Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (D) Earthy, savoury meaty aromas carry through to the palate of sweet cassis and blackberry fruits, dried mint, earth, tar and leather. Tannins are firm and slightly grippy tannins but there's vinous sweetness coming through to balance that earthy savouriness. A powerful wine that some people would compare to Bordeaux. 13% alc. $39.00.28Jul2011.

Karikari Estate Northland Hellhole 2008 (sc) Saturated red black. Quite savoury smelling, earthy, funky, perhaps a little rosemary, horse saddle, but the leathery savouriness is tempered by sweet creamy American oak and concentrated red and black fruits - cherries and redcurrants come to mind - and a spicy finish. The tannins are smooth and velvety and the overall impression is of a juicy wine with a sweet/savoury disposition. An intriguing blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Merlot and Pinotage, matched to juicy sirloin steak and chips, the steak brings out mocha tones. I liked this. 13% alc. $22.00.16May2011.

Matakana Estate Hawkes Bay Cabernet Franc Merlot 2008 (D) Dark red with a tinge of black. There's depth and intensity to the aroma of this rich savoury wine that has an earthy leathery undercurrent (marginal Brett) yet concentrated red fruit and floral nuances that I expect from Cabernet Franc. Add pencil shavings, nutmeg and meaty tannins, this is an excellent accompaniment to steak.13.5% alc. $29. 15Feb2011.

Messenger Cabernet Franc 2008 (c) From Stillwater in Auckland, this has a savoury smoky cedary bouquet - very typically Bordeaux-like. Firm but succulent and silky tannins, cherry and redcurrant fruit, rose petals, savoury smoky cedar and a lovely subtle hint of liquorice on the long, fine creamy but very dry finish. I liked the wine and it became more and more attractive with floral and cherries nuances infusing into the bouquet as the wine opened up. 14.5% alc. $110. 6Apr2012.

Mission Jewelstone Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (c) This is a dense, deep, concentrated, fine textured wine with a violet, blackcurrant character, earth, dried herb, cedary oak, hints of cigar leaf and a firm dry finish. A little restrained at this stage, it's a wine to evolve in the cellar and reward in 2-3 years time. A blend of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon and 14% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. Cork. $34.99. 26Aug2010.
Inky black red. On the nose there's concentrated blackcurrant, marmite, leather and cedar with a herbal edge to help pinpoint the variety. In the mouth it's medium to full-bodied with silky tannins, blackcurrant and plum fruit and spicy cedar. In the context of the wines tasted before it, it's elegant and dry. 14% alc. $35.99. 19Jan2011.
Very dark black red with a fragrant bouquet that's an interesting mix of bitter and sweet red fruits, chocolate and cherry. A dense, rich, smooth plummy red a suede-like texture and resolved tannins that make it seem quite rounded. Underlying acidity gives lift to the juicy finish yet there's an earthy depth as it lingers. 14% alc. $39.99. 6Jul2011.

Te Mata Awatea Hawkes Bay Cabernets Merlot 2008 (c) Deep crimson red. Youthful, intense, bright fruit aromas with plum, blackberry, cassis and warm spicy oak scents. The palate is tight and firm with grainy tannins, underlying acidity, herbal characters from the dominant Cabernet Sauvignon and a big dollop of lushness from the Petit Verdot with cake spice, cedar, fruit sweetness (blackboy peach, blackberry), winemaking savouriness and a good long finish. It softens and expands in the mouth and although recommended for cellaring now(and I;ve seen redcently the 1991, the 1998 and not the 2005), it will be approachable earlier than the Coleraine. A blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc and 7% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $29.99. 17Mar2010.
With its deep purplish red colour and rich vinous aroma it still seems very youthful with its firm velvety-edged tannin structure. Lovely sweet earthy flavours with leather and liquorice and concentrated ripe red fruit infusing into the spicy oak finish where floral violet-like nuances come through. Sensual mouth-coating tannins and vibrancy to the finish. 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Franc, 7% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $NA. 14Mar2012.

Te Mata Hawkes Bay Coleraine 2008 (c) Dark red black with crimson rims. Tight yet rich, concentrated, vinous berry scents. It looks young, smells young and tastes young with firm tannins, a dry savoury undercurrent, bramble-like fruit, hints of red and black liquorice, a herbal streak and a creamy underlay. A meaty wine, a beefy savoury wine, with hints of tobacco in the distance and concentrated plum and bramble fruit surging through the finish. A blend of 53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, and 19% Cabernet Franc, this is a wine that can be enjoyed now but Coleraine fans know that this will cellar well along with it predecessors. 13.5% alc. $59.99. 17Mar2010.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2008 (sc) Dense, shiny black red, this intensely concentrated blend smells and tastes plush, lush, creamy and spicy with mocha, chocolate, cassis and blueberry and a nice touch of acidity balancing the deep savouriness that wells up from within. 13.5% alc. $43.99. 30Mar2011.
Vibrant and intense blackberry red. Tight leathery aroma with chicory, tar, vanilla and blackberry shortcake. A massive wine with huge cellaring potential, it's so tight in the palate – it has acidity, bite and tannin and really needs more time. Finely structured with concentrated berries, currants, cake spices and a profound savoury depth, it has delicious vinous sweetness as it lingers. 13.5% alc. $44.99. 8Jun2011.
Purple black, concentrated and dense in appearance with a deep scented perfume that has a cedar intensity, violets, blackcurrant and a subtle nuance of milk chocolate too. A wine that's firm and structured with mouth-coating tannins, concentrated blackberry and raspberry fruit, a subtle suggestion of milk chocolate and a fine silky finish. Lovely harmony of savoury oak, creamy chocolate and fruit. Youthful and fresh with lovely mouthfeel and finesse. 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 19% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $NA. 14Mar2012.

2007 Vintage [top] [index]

Alpha Domus AD The Aviator 2007 (c) From the luxurious deep blackberry colour to the succulent taste, this wine performs from go to whoa. Right from the first sniff the aromas emanate the wine's class with French oak, cedar, cassis and a hint of dried herb and thyme. That classy oak carries through to the palate - lovely cedary French oak that adds savouriness and a subtle spiciness to the deep, concentrated blackberry, plum and cassis fruit with hints of red liquorice adding a flourish to the finish. All the wine the tannins play a harmonising supporting role - velvety tannins that wrap the flavours round the tongue. A luxurious wine that improves in the bottle and tasting two days later, as I write this note, could it be even better? It's creamy and smooth, the spiciness seems enhanced, the fruit is deep and concentrated and there's a touch of vanilla with cigar box and chocolate notes coming through too. And those tannins, so plush, yet fine, like silk-lined velvet. A blend of 36.4% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27.3 % Cabernet Franc, 22.7% Merlot and 13.6% Malbec matured in French oak, 75% new, for 17 months. 14% alc. $65. 21Jan2010.

Ascension Reserve Benediction Cabernet Franc 2007 (sc) Dark berry red colour of medium hue and depth. A hint of chocolate joins juicy berries and creamy oak on the nose. Smooth, ripe, juicy and creamy to the taste with fine tannins adding to the vinous appeal. The juiciness is reminiscent of red berries/ cherries over an earthy backbone pricked with bright acidity and a touch of pepper emerges on the savoury finish. A medium bodied wine, clean and easy going with lots of drink now appeal. 13% alc. $35. 13Jan2009.

Babich "The Patriarch" Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (D) Purple red in colour, this is concentrated, juicy and succulent with a deep earthy richness and a leafy finish. Quite fragrant, a little herbal and a little floral with pencil shavings and oak spice, of all the wines so far tonight this is most Bordeaux-like. A blend of 49% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Malbec and 22% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. Diam. $49.99. 26Aug2010.

Church Road Cuve Series Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (sc) Shiny black red - dense like the others. Fragrant cassis and creamy oak aromas with spicy oak foremost in the palate together with the typical leafy character that is Cab Sauv. A deep, rich wine with a firm tannin structure, quite dry yet creamy with concentrated richness and Bordeaux character. Juicy blackberry comes out when tasted with bread and colby cheese. 14% $27.99. 12Aug2009.
Inky black purple, shiny in appearance. Fragrant, almost floral aromas with blackcurrant fruit and classy oak and flavours that do not disappoint. Sweet fruit balances the savoury backbone with a touch of spice and a long succulent finish. A great vintage from a hot summer. this full-bodied wine spent 22 months in oak but it is beautifully balanced by the opulent blackcurrant and boysenberry fruit. 14% alc. Screwcap. $23.99. 26Aug2010.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2007 (c) Deep dark dense black red. Fragrant on the nose, perfumed with violets, plums and cassis that carry through to the full-bodied palate where ripe red berry fruit is to the fore together with creamy oak and chocolate on a bed of smooth, well structured tannins. A step up from the previous two wines, both very good in their own right, but this is an superb example of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot together. Stunning wine. 14.5% alc. $32.99. 12Aug2009.
Inky purple-black, very shiny. Aromas of cedar, vanilla, and cherry and flavours that brim with vanilla, cassis, cherry and plum. Dry, meaty and spicy with hints of chicory on a rose petal strewn velvet-covered bed. A big, big wine with a rounded, luscious, mouthfilling finish and quite outstanding on the night. 14.5% alc. $29.99. 11Aug2010.

Coopers Creek Single Vineyard Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2007 (sc) Shiny purple-black in colour with aromas of currant, cedar and leather, this seems like a young wine, even though already three years old. Still quite grippy and leaving the mouth a little dry, yet it has an aura of succulence about it with juicy red and black currant fruit, plums, dried herbs and a hint of liquorice. It's a very sophisticated and classy wine, but a wine for cellaring – it would be best decanted and enjoyed with food right now. 13% alc. $20.99 17Nov2010.

Coopers Creek Single Vineyard Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (sc) Deep purple-black-red in colour. Smoky, spicy and savoury smelling with rich berry scents, cedar and a touch of chicory. In the mouth this concentrated drop has a dark, smoky, earthy, dusty character with firm fine-textured tannins, savoury oak and succulent redcurrant fruit. Quite creamy with leather and liquorice in the background and a long dry finish. Lovely. Refined. 5 stars. 13.5% alc. 3Dec2010.
Dark red, Savoury on the nose with classic Bordeaux-like scents of cedar and leather, this is a deep, concentrated wine with lovely purity of red/black currant fruit and while still quite a firm tannic wine and looking like it will continue to develop, there's a sensual mellow character creeping in. Drinking beautifully now, to savour with a meal or a semi-soft to semi-hard cheese. 13.5% alc. $24.99. 20Mar2013.

Crossroads Talisman 2007 (sc) A blend of six 'unnamed' varieties, this is purple-black-red in colour, saturated and deep. The aroma of vanillin oak, cassis, cherry, tamarillo, tar and coal fires is fascinating. A big wine in the mouth - full-bodied and grunty with a firm tannin structure that is melted by the succulent red and black fruits resulting in a warm, rounded mouthfeel. There's a savoury undercurrent with hints of dried rosemary and thyme and fine textured smoky French oak coming through to linger on the finish with hints of chocolate and liquorice too. A wine from an excellent vintage, it offers medium to long term cellaring potential. 14% alc. $39.99. 29Jul2009.

Karikari Estate Northland Toa 2007 (c) The bouquet of this complex, layered full-bodied red offers up smoky French oak, herbs, cigar, leather and smoked meats. It initially tastes quit dry with firm tannins then an opulent succulence comes through with sweet spicy vanillin oak. Made from Cabernet Franc and Malbec with a dollop of Pinotage, the fruit seems to be in the blackcurrant spectrum with underlying tobacco and sweet leather. Long, dry and rich on the finish, an impressive wine. 13.5% alc. $40.00. 28Jul2011.

Hawks Nest Orchard Block 2007 (sc) This deep red coloured blend of 62% Cabernet Franc and 38% Malbec from Matakana is a medium-bodied red with spicy oak, soft tannins, smooth vinosity and cedary pencil shaving characters - it has the Bordeaux right bank floral-like notes and gravelly allure with cherries coming forth on the smoky finish. 13.1% alc. $25. 1Nov2009.

Man O' War Waiheke Island Ironclad Cabernets 2007 (c) Black red, opaque and shiny with a crimson edge to the hue. A deep, sumptuous, concentrated aroma that smells of oak barrels, savoury complexities and winey fruit scents. Deep, rich and savoury in flavour with leather, spice, tobacco, cigar, concentrated cherry, cassis and boysenberry, some floral violet-like notes evolving, beautiful oak complexity and mouth-coating, but not teeth-coating tannins. Concentrated and powerful with a finish that goes on, and on, and on with the fruit sweetness balanced perfectly by the savouriness. A blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc, 10% Malbec and 2% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $48. 28Oct2008.

Man O' War Waiheke Island Cabernet Franc Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep red, youthful, creamy and rich with bramble berry fruit and a savoury layer to the scent. Quite ripe tannins with a rugged, rustic, 'weather beaten' man character. Leather, tobacco at first, opening up as it evolves in the glass, with sweeter fruit notes hinting of cherry and a fragrant floral allure to the finish. A blend of 47% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, it shows its red Bordeaux grape character well. 14% alc. $28. 26Oct2008.
Deep dark purple-red colour, crimson edges and bright. A little 'stinky' on the nose with medicinal overtones. Quite oaky in palate, earthy and savoury with thick, plush, grainy tannins, vanilla and spice. At first it seems a bit one-dimensional, fruit is a little dark and dull and there is a stalky undercurrent but it definitely improves in the glass. It has all the hallmarks of being a keeper. Later the aroma is floral and creamy with spice-infused vanillin oak and the taste is sweet and pretty. Must be decanted for best results in its youth. 14% alc. $28. 13Jan2009.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2007 (sc) Deep red/black with youthful crimson edges, the smoky aroma is dark and brooding with a Shrewsberry biscuit sweetness adding brightness and lift. Mouthfilling with a creamy richness, ripe firm tannins, a solid backbone of cedary oak, currant, plums, a touch of liquorice and a long full finish, this is stunning and reminiscent of the trophy winning 2005. 14% alc. $18.99. 20Aug2008.
Youthful shiny, black red. A subdued slightly herbaceous, cedary aroma and a silky textured smooth taste. Slips down easily. Blackberry, blackcurrant, red currant and a touch of cherry on the finish - perhaps Cabernet-dominant, although the colour implies this is not a single variety. Smoky and savoury with an earthy depth, a hint of cigarbox and a floral lift to the finish with silky smooth tannins and a touch of chocolate that makes me think Merlot. A little bit grippy on the finish, reminding you have it has been there. Excellent. Definitely the better of the two wines. So easy to see why these wines are regularly awarded gold medal or five star reviews and I concur. Expands with fruit cake and a touch of liquorice. A gorgeous, creamy red that simply flows. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot. 14% alc. $24.95. 21Apr2009.
Bright blackberry red hue. A little peppery on the nose and in the palate - is there Syrah in here? No, it's a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot from Mere Road and Plateau Vineyards in the Gimblett Gravels subregion of Hawkes Bay and offers up ripe berry fruit, creamy oak, firm velvety tannins, red liquorice and spice. Rounded and utterly drinkable. These Reserve wines are value for money with flavours and depth above their price points. 14% alc. $24.95. 11Dec2009.
Black red, with fading edges. On the nose there's woodsmoke, menthol and a faint suggestion of berries. Soft, smooth, creamy with a herbal note mid palate and firm dry tannins on the long creamy finish. A blend of 65% Cabernet and 35% Merlot, this is more savoury than fruity and rather enjoyable. 14% alc. $19.99. 23Jun2010.

Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (sc) Deep, inky black red. A touch of barnyard meets creamy oak on the nose then in the palate the intensely concentrated red and black fruit balances those lovely savoury gamey characters with a hint of vanilla humming through the fine supporting oak and a very long finish that is full and dry. 14% alc. $41.99. 14Apr2010.

Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2007 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Purple red, looking extremely youthful for its age, an appealing bouquet of concentrated purple and black fruit with a fine smoky oak nuance, then in the palate remarkably fine silky tannins that are just so harmonious and pleasing. With sumptuous flavours of vanillin oak, concentrated fruit, a touch of cake spice and an earthy gamey undercurrent, it has a bit of age but doesn't show it. From the remarkable 2007 vintage in Hawkes Bay, it is still youthful and developing. 56% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Malbec, 21% Merlot. 5 star quality. 14% alc. $55.99. 4Apr2012.

Pask Declaration Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2007 (sc) Deep dark red. Smoky, creamy mellow oak on the nose with a hint of violets and concentrated in the palate where chocolate biscuits immediately come to mind. It's deep and meaty with sweetness to the oak and harmonious red and black fruits that are starting to mellow. Velvety and seductive as it flows across the palate with tannins that are still undeniably present. Dry and spicy with great presence and length, yet still with brightness at the end. Matured in new French and American oak for 28 months, it's a blend of 40% Cab Sauv, 38% Merlot and 22% Malbec. 14% alc. $43.99. 19Apr2013.

Ransom Dark Summit Matakana 2007 (c) Fruity, smoky, cigar box aromas carry through to the palate. Smells like a seriously Bordeaux-inspired red with subtle hints of violet, dark fruits reminiscent of blackcurrants, plums and cherries, firm tannins, cedar and a game meat veneer. A profound depth of fruit with juicy redcurrants on the powerful finish with hints of liquorice and a pleasing well-balanced underlying savouriness. 13% alc. $38.00. 28Jul2011.

Runner Duck Matakana Red 2007 (D) ($39) is a warm, soft wine with an impressive marriage of fruit and oak. Made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinotage, Malbec, Merlot and Petit Verdot, it's a dense dark red colour with a rich, warm glow. Fragrantly scented with red and black berries, cedar and smoke, it has a rich, ripe savoury flavour with deep, dark fruit reminiscent of berries and plums with fruitcake piece, herbs, creamy oak and vinous richness with well-balanced underlying acidity, fine textured tannins and a warm dry finish. 13.5% alc. $39.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernets Merlot 2007 - Hawkes Bay (c) Dark red with a youthful brightness and crimson tinged edges. Concentrated on the nose - there's currants and a Bordeaux character to the smoky, slightly leathery scent. The smokiness carries through to the full-bodied palate with ripe cassis-like fruit, mocha, chocolate, spice, currants, a firm backbone of rich dry tannins and sweet oak on the succulent finish. An impressive Hawkes Bay red that could challenge even the Coleraine. 14% alc. $36.99. 6May2009.
A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, this is deep dark red with a youthful brightness and crimson tinged edges. Concentrated on the nose - there's currants and a Bordeaux character to the cedary, smoky, slightly leathery scent. The smokiness carries through to the full-bodied palate with ripe cassis-like fruit, plum and purple fruit undertones, mocha, chocolate, spice, currants, a firm backbone of rich dry tannins and sweet oak on the succulent finish. A wine that is one of the best made under this label, and can be safely put away for several years in the cellar. 14% alc. $33.99. 5Aug2009.
Deep crimson red with intensity and brightness to the hue. On the nose there's brambles, cigar box, chocolate box cedar and leather and the palate is filled with . concentrated fruit, cake spice and perhaps a smidgen of pepper that is reflective of the cooler vintage. A four year old wine that doesn't look that old at all, the tannins are still firm, the palate is creamy and there's a lingering fruit sweetness. Underlying acidity is an indication (given the heritage of the label) that it will magnificently age. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot.. 14% alc. $N/A. 9Mar2011.

Te Mata Coleraine 2007 - Hawkes Bay (c) Deep purple red. Smoky, cedar, spice box and blueberry/plum/blackcurrant aroma. A beautiful succulent palate with a fineness to the thick textured velvety tannins. Concentrated red and blackcurrant fruit, a hint of cherry, dried herbs, tobacco, Bordeaux-like cigar box and cedary sweet oak with a spicy, vanillin influence and a long lasting finish. A sumptuous wine and one of the most forward Coleraines that I remember on release. 52% cabernet sauvignon, 14% cabernet franc and 34% merlot with 20 months in predominantly new French oak. 14% alc. $65.99. 4Mar2009.
Deep red black in colour with an aroma that hints of smoke, cedar, blackcurrant, leather and violets. Violets fill the finely textured palate together with concentrated fruit, cake spice and hints of anise. Fruit and savoury notes are very much in sync, there's a touch of acidity, the tannins are rounded and velvety and a succulence comes through on the mouthfilling finish. From a cooler vintage and expected to be one of the longest-lived Coleraines every seen. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. $N/A. 9Mar2011.

Twin Totara Waimauku Cabernet Franc Merlot 2007 (sc) Bright pinky red. Youthful cedar and cherry aromas with delicate hints of vanilla and woodsmoke - some - intriguing floral notes too. Bright in palate - cherry, blackberry and some blackcurrant - youthful with underlying acidity, fruitcake spies and a light touch of cedar,. Firms tannins that sit nicely in harmony with the fruit. Bright and fresh - a wine for keeping. 10 months French & American oak. $18.90. 20Jun2009.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2007 (sc) Very dense black red. Perfumed with cedary oak, floral and putty, this is amazingly fruit-driven in the palate with big but fine textured tannin -perfumed sweet blackcurrant and blackberry fruit - those putty notes too. Shows off the fruit quality of the vintage. 69% Cab Sauv, 29% Merlot and 2% Malbec and 3% Cab Franc with 20 months in French oak, 46% new. 14% alc. $49.99. 20May2009.

2006 Vintage [top] [index]

Craggy Range The Quarry 2006 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay (c) A touch of vanilla and cherry on the nose and more so in the palate - this is incredibly sweet and rounded for a New Zealand wine. Voluptuous and creamy-textured with a savoury, dried herb undercurrent and a touch of cigar and leather, the beautifully fine tannins coat the mouth and harmonise with the concentrated core of juicy red and black fruit, cedary oak spice, liquorice and violets. Deep and intense yet sweet and long, this is a profoundly good New Zealand wine and made from 95% Cabernet Sauvignon with 4% Merlot and 1% Malbec. 14.5% alc. $60.99. 27Aug2008.

Gladstone Auld Alliance 2006 (D) A blend of 55% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot and 20% Malbec from the Wairarapa, this is deeply coloured plummy red with crimson red edges. Sweet cherry scents with hints of chocolate and cedar emanate from the glass. The taste is full of juicy flavours with succulent red fruit, spicy oak, a creamy texture, a touch of red liquorice, a smidgen of dried herbs and a savoury richness to the finish with hints of musk and violet emerging on the lingering aftertaste. Matured in 90% French oak and 10% American oak barrels for 12 -14 months, this is drinking now yet shows potential to age. 14% alc. $29. 27May2008.

Maximus Mahurangi River Matakana Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2006 (c) Some bricking to the garnet hue. Bit of a classic 'New Zealand pong' to the nose - classic as it used to be in all the reds once upon a time. Yet still a complex mellow cedary character with fragrant dried herbs and cherry. Mellow, earthy and savoury to the taste with denseness to the structure, underlying acidity, wild blackberry and cigar box on the finish and after a while a hint of chocolate. A lighter style in the realm of New Zealand fuller bodied blended reds. Discounted from $38.99 to $11.99 (on end of line clearance). 11.5% alc. 28Jun2009.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2006 (sc) Dark deep red with a crimson glow, the complex earthy, savoury, leathery aromas are infused with sweet vanillin oak and red cherry fruit that carry through to the palate where it shows the typically leathery Bordeaux character well. There's great depth of red plummy fruits with a touch of cassis, smoky oak and firm tannins and a pleasing fruit sweetness lingering with cedar on the finish. 14% alc. $18.99. 13Feb2008.

Mills Reef Elspeth Trust Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (c) From the Gimblett Gravels subregion of Hawkes Bay, this 100% CS is impressive from the outset. Deep, youthful, purple red colour, intense and concentrated with a lovely winey sweetness to the cedary oak scent and a profound depth to the intense, pure flavour. It is rich, ripe and beautifully balanced with varietal flavours of cedar, smoke, tar, liquorice, blackcurrant and violet and softly powerful tannins, as they should be for such a young wine. Later cherry and cassis harmonise with the creamy vanillin French oak with a tarriness emerging from within and a touch of spice on the finish. 15months in new French oak. 19/20. 14% alc. $39.95. 17Aug2008.

Passage Rock Sisters Waiheke Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Merlot Cabernet Franc 2006 (sc) Deep, saturated dark berry red colour. Stewed cassis, savoury oak, a hint of chocolate and leather on the nose. A thick-textured gutsy wine - meaty and rich with a big oaky, cedar veneer, the cherry and cassis fruit sweetness is quite prominent, it has a smoky charcoal undercurrent and a long full spicy finish. A blend of 44% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Malbec, 21% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc makes for a very tasty and interesting wine. 14% alc. $21. 13Jan2009.

Te Awa Hawkes Bay Zone 10 Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (c) Deep dark purple red. A little meaty on the nose with wild game, some leathery funk and a plummy fruit sweetness. There's a depth and concentration of fruit with underlying mocha notes, savoury oak, dried mint, rosemary, delicate spices and a floral lift to the long characterful finish. There's a mellow character to the wine but the tannins are firm and proud. Already five years old but could go for years more. 13.5% alc. $38.00.1Sep2011.

Te Mata Awatea Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2006 The aroma on this deeply opaque, boysenberry red-coloured wine is simply amazing. It's fragrant and floral with violets, dried herbs, anise, smoke, and creamy oak and perfumed in the palate too. Smooth and creamy but with such depth and concentration, the savouriness balances the deep blackberry, blackcurrant and purple fruit sweetness with fine velvety tannins, a swathe of leather and smoky oak. An outstanding vintage of Awatea made from a blend of 38% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc and 11% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $32.99. Cork.12Mar2008.
A cedary wine, full of French oak, leather and hints of the fragrant little yeast, aka Brett. Game and savoury with a touch of liquorice and a floral perfume to the finish. "This is past the simple fruit we are used to in NZ," I am told. It just needs time to open up in the glass to reveal the complexity. Hmmm. Tasted 31Aug2008.
Dark red with just a hint of bricking to the hue. Cedary aroma of mellow oak aroma with hints of liquorice, polished leather and plum jam carries through to warm rich palate. Still showing varietal fruit with subtle bottle aged characters, there's a dark berry fruit concentration, blackcurrant, cedar, liquorice, sweet leather, fine suede tannins and a firm youthful grip. Drinking beautifully now. 38% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Cabernet Franc, 11% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $NA. 14Mar2012.

Te Mata Hawkes Bay Coleraine 2006 A deep black-cored red with a purple tinge, this deep, intense, brooding wine has an initial smoky, cedary, savoury aroma that soon reveals violets, cassis and lush vanillin oak. Firmly structured, dry and savoury with anise-like spices, ripe red currant fruit and a long and intense finish with a hint of creamy chocolate. The plush cabernet tannins are tight yet the overall impression is one of mellowness. Best to decant for drinking right now, even better to cellar for a couple of years before broaching the super long natural cork. The 25th vintage and a blend of 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $68.99. 5Aug2009.
Dark red with just the slightest suggestion of bricking. The wine is mellow and vinously sweet with smoky cedar, rose petals, cherries, currants, cake spice, firm dry tannins that till seem to be resolving, cigar box and secondary notes coming through and as the wine lingers there's a lovely flourish of spice and floral notes too. 49% Merlot, 43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $NA. 14Mar2012.

The Gabion Cabernet Franc Merlot 2006 - Charlotte's Block, Matakana (D) Translucent deep garnet red. The dominant Cabernet Franc aromatics exuded hints of violet, apricot, wild thyme and cigar box and while the palate is seemingly quite light for the blend, it's a very generous and drinkable medium-bodied wine and "slips down easily". French oak is nicely proportioned and not too heavy-handed, fruit is tending towards the cherry / red currant spectrum and there is grip and savouriness to the finish with a touch of smoke and a hint of tobacco. 13.6% alc. 17May2008.

Twin Totara Waimauku Cabernet Franc Merlot 2006 (c) A little lighter in style (than the 2005 tasted along side it) from a lighter year. Fruity aromas lead into an initial leathery, cedary palate with some Brett characters coming through. Lots of fruit - cherry/blackberry/blackcurrant - with a leafy leathery earthy character reminiscent of wines from St Emillion in Bordeaux and a more concentrated finish. 10 months French & American oak. $15. 20Jun2009.

Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2006 - Gimblett Gravels, hawkes Bay (sc) Deep, dense, black cherry red. Connotations of mint sauce and balsamic on the nose together with hints of leather and classy cedar, it is tight and grippy in the palate with a meaty, savoury backbone, classy French oak and tannins that add a layer of silky finesse. Seems there is a decent dollop of Merlot adding mid-palate roundness with red and black fruit and violet-like notes adding to its allure. Would benefit from decanting right now. 13.5% alc. $50.99. 27Aug2008.

2005 Vintage [top] [index]

Church Road Cuve Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (sc) Black red with crimson hues - still youthful in appearance.. A bit muted on those nose and brooding in the palate. It's plummy with underlying acidity and velvety tannins with moderate grip. Then the flavours emerge from behind the velvet curtain. Now the wine is deep fruited, rich and savoury with blackcurrants, plums and waves of well-integrated spicy French oak. 13% alc. $27. 8Oct2009.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 (D) With seductively fragrant smoky cedar on the nose and gorgeously balanced, rich, ripe and creamy flavours this deep, rich, full-boded red sings of its Cabernet character with its jam-packed blackcurrant fruit while Merlot adds softness, hints of chocolate and a plummy mid palate. Firmly structured, robust and fragrantly spicy, it's quite outstanding. Matured in French oak for 20 months. 13.5% alc. $31.99. 21Nov2007.
A deep, plummy almost blackcurrant red with concentrated winey, sweet-fruited, vinous scents that extol a good Cabernet. Later violets and hints of tobacco with the creaminess of the oak and a hint of chocolate joining the dried herbs, blueberry and leather - and that's just the scent. This is the kind of wine to pour into a big glass that you can cradle and swirl and bring up to your nose to let those aromas seduce you. Cabernet dominates the front palate with forward acidity and a little stalkiness but the wine is deep and meaty with a subtle mintiness, firm tannins and berry brightness on the finish. It's tighter on the palate than I remember and a long term cellaring prospect. $33.95. 14May2008.
Deep dark red, saturated and intense. A very perfumed, opulent wine with a cedary embossed flavour. Ripe and luscious, the CS really makes a statement in this wine with its blackcurrant purity and solid tannin structure while the Merlot adds the much needed softness and lushness - all the while that savoury, earthy undercurrent pulsating away. Would benefit even more with time. 18.5/20. 31Aug2008.

Clearview Hawkes Bay Cape Kidnappers Cabernet Merlot 2005 (sc) Bright blueberry jam red. Earthy, medicinal aromas. Savoury and dry to the taste with a little spice, pronounced acidity and a dark, smoky, charcoal and bitter oak finish. However the wine tastes much better with heavy decanting after which it shows rather luscious blackberry and plum fruit and a spicy, creamy oak finish with a savoury aftertaste. 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and 2% Malbec aged in French and American oak for 14 months. 13.5% alc. $22.00. 21Jul2007.

Coopers Creek SV Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2005 (sc) A deep crimson red with smoky toasted oak infusing into the red currant and black plum fruit with powerful tannins, leather, vanillin oak and underlying sweetness. A nuance of violet emerges with a touch of bitter chocolate on the long, succulent, savoury finish. A blend of 70% CS, 28% Merlot & 2% CF with 13 to 15 months in oak. 13% alc. $28. 13Oct2007.

Hatton Estate Tahi 2005 - Hawkes Bay (C) A massively coloured, shiny, purple-tinged black. On the nose at first it seems a little closed but blackberries emerge - concentrated ripe blackberries and brambles over creamy oak, mocha and chocolate biscuits. In the palate it's earthy and dense, young and infantile with rough edged velvety tannins, sweet oak, a purity of red and blackcurrant fruit and rose petals on the finish. It has some lovely complexities in its big, rich, chocolatey, grainy, grunty cloak with a voluptousness emerging with time 78% CS, 22% CF. 13.5% alc. $70.00 22Jul2007.

Hawk's Nest Orchard Block Matakana Red 2005 (D) Dark crimson red, ruby-hued, almost (but not quite) opaque, the nose is scented with the appealing fragrance we expect from these varieties, think violets and spice and hints of pencil box cedar. Finely textured with creamy cedar, spice, hints of mint, dusty blackberries and meaty tannins, the earthy depth of Malbec grapes takes the final bow and leaves a scent of cedar and violets in its wake. Absolutely delicious with Sumac rubbed backstrap of lamb. A blend of cabernet franc (60%) and malbec (40%), it had 15 months in French oak, 50% new. 13.2% alc. $35. 1Mar2007.

Hyperion 'Kronos' Matakana Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2005 (D) Deep red-black in colour with a ripe fruit aroma that hints of jelly baby and cherry - later the aroma becomes quite smoky and savoury with deli meat scents and creamy vanillin oak. Just on the medium side of full-bodied in its palate weight, it's silky textured with a savoury cedary 'Bordeaux' character, jelly baby sweetness, hints of liquorice, cinnamon, clove and allspice. Ripe, tending toward luscious on the finish with a dry cedary aftertaste, it is smoky, long and vinously satisfying with excellent length. 17/20. 13.5% alc. $29. 13% alc. $19.95. 24Jan2008.

Hyperion the Titan Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (D) Dark red, not quite opaque with lighter pink red rims. Strong, smoky barnyard nose mingles with savoury oak. Earthy, savoury, smoky and leathery to the taste with firm tannins, crisp berry acidity and biscuity oak. Has that visceral fascination of 'Durian'. Quite powerful, full-flavoured and long with excellent length but does leave a pin prickle sensation to the gums. The savoury leathery character gets stronger as it sits in the glass. 14% alc. $39. 13Jan2009.

John Forrest Collection Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Deep black red. Fragrant cassis and vanillin oak aromas. Warm textured concentrated, full-bodied flavours with dusty tannins, cedar, dried herbs, tobacco and cigar. The blackcurrant fruit is nicely integrated and underlying acidity makes an appearance on the finish. Nice to see another pure cabernet sauvignon - it shows how good this vareity can get when the conditions and winemaking are right. 14% alc. $70. 26Jul2007.

Karikari Silver Bay Northland Cabernet Merlot 2005 (D) Deep black red in colour, when first opened it is quite tarry and tannic with blackberry and blackcurrant on the nose and a dry, grippy palate. Give this wine some air and it opens up beautifully with a big, ripe red berry and creamy oak nose and tarry, savoury, meaty flavours with creamy oak and red fruits adding brightness and sweetness to the finish and violets lingering on the aftertaste. However it's still quite leathery with hints of farmyard, soy, mint and a salty, dried-rosemary herbal savouriness - a wine that will match well to roasted lamb. A medium to full-bodied red made to the Bordeaux recipe. Karikari Estate fruit from Northland. 12.5% alc. $19. 2Jun2007.

Karikari Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot /Cabernet Franc 2005 (D) A concentrated, opaque, purple-black colour. On the nose it's spicy and tarry with dark savoury oak, iodine and something reminiscent of mercurachrome. An interesting full-bodied, rounded palate with floral nuances, tar, spice and meaty tannins. It's dark, savoury, earthy, tarry and leathery with a dry finish that is just a little bitter on its own, but it works a treat with a roasted leg of lamb served with a redcurrant sauce. The gamey flavours of the meat and the sweetness compliment the wine. Later I find dark chocolate and berries building on the long, savoury, meaty finish. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc. Stainless steel fermented, matured in French and American oak for 11 months. 12.6% alc. $27. 22Jun2007.

Longridge Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (sc) Deep blllack red with crimson edges. Big, rich and juicy - full-boded with a smoky aroma and an earthy, savoury undercurrent to the dried berry and bramble flavours. The fruit has good focus, the tannins are thick and grippy and the finish is long and dry with hints of cigar on the lingering finish. A blend of 49% Merlot, 47% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4%, Malbec, matured in French & American oak, 20% new, for 10 months. 12.6% alc. $16.95. 21Jul2007.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 Quite fragrant, a little floral, a touch of cabernet franc, perhaps, and creamy oak scents emerge too. Abundant creamy oak in the palate together with cassis and 'just ripe' blackberries with slightly grainy tannins, firm acidity, an earthy depth and cigar box and spice on the finish - which is long, sweet and fruity. 14% alc. $39.95. 29Jan2007.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Cabernet Franc 2005 The French oak on the nose is more pronounced than in any of the others and there's a floral, berry nuance too. Very smooth in the palate, smooth and creamy with smoky oak and sweet cherry-like fruit integrating beautifully. In fact it does momentary imitations of an Aussie wine with the fruit sweetness, vanillin oak, hints of spice and a cherry chocolate finish, but then the Bordeaux-like character returns with a fleeting glimpse of preserving acidity to place it firmly in a cooler climate. Despite its initial smoothness, grainy tannins and cigar box notes linger. 14% alc. $39.95. 29Jan2007.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 Fragrant with delicately smoky oak and cassis - great varietal character on the nose. It's very tight in palate with grainy tannins, rich concentrated fruit, cedary oak and lots of tobacco. A sleeper - and it needs to stay asleep for a while longer. 14% alc. $39.95. 29Jan2007.

Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 (sc) Deep boysenberry-jam red with bright crimson purple edges, it smells ripe and appealing with red berries and chocolatey oak and tastes ripe and luscious with red and black berry and plummy fruit underpinned by firm acidity and hints of dried herbs nicely balanced with a touch of liquorice, and creamy oak building to a savoury, complex, mouthfilling finish. 14% alc. $18.99. 1Jun2007.
Deep red black with bright crimson edges, this luxuriously coloured red is appealing scented and full of tasty full-bodied flavours. Red fruits, vanilla, chocolate and sweet cedary oak fill the nose and lush red and black berry flavours are joined by liquorice and fruit cake spice with rose hips and a touch of chocolate. A wine of depth and concentration, it's absolutely delicious and puts some $40 reds to shame. 14% alc. $18.99. 6Jun2007.

Paritua Vineyards Stone Paddock Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 (sc) A deep, dark red coloured, rich, spicy red with vibrant blackberry and cassis-like fruit, creamy sweet vanillin oak, velvety tannins and just a hint of mint. Well proportioned acidity adds brightness and vibrancy while a hint of earthiness adds a savoury undercurrent. An inspired match to mint marinated lamb. 16 months in French oak. 10% Merlot in the blend. 13% alc. $23. 6Dec2007.

Sacred Hill Helmsman Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 (sc) Very deep dark blackcurrant red with purple/violet hues. On a first quick tasting it has obvious vanillin oak scents and bright cabernet fruit attack in the palate - it's big rich, ripe and Australian-like with its luscious cherry fruit and finely structured thick grainy tannins. A few days later from the same tightly closed bottle I was struck by the intensity of the thick chocolatey scent that is infused with sweet cherry, cassis and cedary oak. Lifted to the taste - the lift of cabernet fruit, dried herbs, tobacco and cedar with the merlot making its statement in the lush chocolate backbone and the plush velvety tannins. A rather sumptuous full bodied red that is a beautifully harmonious example of this classic red blend. 14% alc. $64. 6&10Jul2008.

Te Mata Awatea Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2005 (c) Very intense Cabernet Sauvignon / cassis character on the nose with a fine silky texture in the palate with just a little bit of grip at the end. The bright fruit flavours have a cherry infusion with smoke, tobacco, dried herbs, nutmeg, bay leaf, a touch of spice and some nice secondary characters coming through. There's a cedary complexity to the finish and a long, sultry, lingering aftertaste with a hint of liquorice. A blend of 43% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $NA. 17Mar2010.
Blackcurrant, plum, bramble and cedar on the nose and concentrated bramble flavours with a hint of liquorice. There's a freshness to the fruit and an underpinning with cedar, cigar box and sous bois. This is so youthful in appearance and so bright in its fruit flavours, I had to question if the right vintage had been poured. Of course after tasting the others (the 2007 & 2009), it is the fine, melt-in-the-mouth tannins and the silky structure that are the pointer to the bottle age. Outstanding right now, and should hold at this level for another 5-6 years. 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $N/A. 9Mar2011.

Te Mata Hawkes Bay Coleraine 2005 (c)Deep dark red in colour. Smoky cedar, red berries and florals on the nose and so smooth and silky textured in the palate with cake spice, hints of liquorice, concentrated plum and blackcurrant fruit, finishing dry with a graphite/cedar complexity and an opulently long aftertaste. From the beguiling fragrance to the beautifully harmonious flavours, this is a magnificent example of this highly rated icon wine - perhaps the best bottle of the 2005 I've ever tried. A blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 18% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $NA 17Mar2010.
Dark red black in colour and invitingly aromatic with chocolate box, cedar and a hint of leather. Outstanding intensity in the palate and, like the Awatea, the tannins are resolved, silky and smooth. Currants, cherry, hints of chocolate and raspberry leaf tea fill the palate with integrated cedar and an overall savoury, meaty, Bordeaux-like complexity. A higher proportion of Cabernet Franc fives a lovely floral lift both on the nose and in the palate. Deliciously enjoyable right now. 43% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $N/A. 9Mar2011.

Twin Totara Waimauku Cabernet Franc Merlot 2005 (c)Dark garnet. Rich fruit aromas - lightly floral, some bramble with a vanilla and cedar overlay. In the palate firm fine tannins with cherry/blackberry/blackcurrant fruit. Still quite fresh with a savoury cedary backbone and a hint of chocolate. Quite concentrated wine. From a good year in Kumeu. Drinking very well now. 10 months French & American oak. 14% alc. $15. 20Jun2009.

2004 Vintage [top] [index]

Babich The Patriarch Premium Red Wine Hawkes Bay 2004 (c) Deeply coloured, saturated purple-red with ruby-crimson edges. Rich and sweetly vinous aromas from a distance but so much more provocative when the wine is 'nosed' - smoky cedar, black cherry, black currant, dark black fruits, dried roses and violets - concentrated and voluptuous. Tight in the palate at first then releases its pleasures in generous waves of vinous delight. Concentrated and complex, deep and flirting, a treasure trove of flavour with a purity of concentrated, ripe red and black fruits mingling with vanilla, cedar, liquorice, mocha and dried herb nuances and a deep, shimmery, earthy undercurrent which becomes the focus on the long savoury finish. A blend of 39% Cabernet Franc, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 19% Malbec. WOTW. 14% alc. $59.95. 1Jun2008.

Brick Bay Matakana Cabernet Sauvignon Franc 2004 (c) A light coloured red made in a soft, approachable, medium-bodied style, rounded and smooth with hints of chocolate amongst the creamy cedar, red berry fruits, a touch of savouriness and dried herbs coming through on the finish. A blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon and 23% Cabernet Franc. Ready now. 13% alc. $19.50. 29Apr2007.

Brick Bay Matakana Pharos 2004 (c) . A rich, full-bodied wine with a deep crimson red colour, sappy French oak on the nose, quite rich, grippy tannins at first in the mouth but they quickly morph into a vinous silkiness with a soft nap to the edge. Smoky with hints of tobacco and crisp, juicy red fruits reminiscent of cherry, plum, redcurrants and even a hint of strawberry, all the while the gorgeous creamy oak plays a fine supporting role with an underlying savoury, cedary, Bordeaux-like complexity. A blend of 34% Cabernet Franc, 29% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Malbec with 12 months maturation in oak and a further 20 months in bottle before release. 13.5% alc. $29. 29Apr2007.

C J Pask Declaration Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2004 A stellar wine, robust, concentrated and hearty with beautifully ripe currant and plum fruit, fine tannins, chocolate, leather and cigar box. The tannins are big and succulent and the finish is long and spicy. A richly coloured main course wine, delicious already with lots of potential in the cellar. 14% alc. $52.95. 10May2006.

C J Pask Gimblett Road Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2004 (sc) Deep crimson red, concentrated, rich plummy fruit and creamy oak on the nose, it’s even bigger and more concentrated in the palate with finely structure velvety tannins, blackberry and black cherry fruit, a touch of liquorice and a spicy oak finish. Rich and powerful and deliciously drinkable with a touch of chocolate as it lingers. It's been matured in French and American oak which adds vanillin sweetness as well as complexity. 14% alc. $22.95. 7Jul2006.

Clearview Hawkes Bay Cabernet Franc 2004 Deep plummy red. Hints of chocolate and spicy oak on the perfumed nose with beautifully ripe, vanillin-soaked fruit that's a little reminiscent of blackcurrant and spiced cherries while a fragrant, floral, rose petal character infuses into the mix. There's an illusion of sweetness coming from the fruit and oak, the tannins are supple and the finish is long and savoury. 13.5% alc. $35. 30Mar2006.

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels The Quarry 2004 Inky black red with purple red rims, great extraction of colour. Smoky oak and berry fruit aromas and rich, full-bodied flavours of plums and cedary oak with succulent but firm meaty tannins, this powerful, flavoursome blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, with Merlot and Cabernet Franc, is a big, big wine crying out for more time. $61.99. 16Aug2006.

Cottage Block 'Ruahine' Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2004 Rich, deep plummy red coloured with aromas and flavours of cigar box, creamy vanilla-laced cedary oak, hints of chocolate, fruit cake spices and dark berry and currant-like fruit with firm, velvety-textured tannins. There's good acidity underpinning the wine and on the long, creamy finish the fruit comes forth in waves. Made from a blend of 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Francm this is a poor man's 'Tom'. 13% alc. $33.95. 21May2005.

Five Flax Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2004 (sc) Black-red-crimson with good depth of colour but the pongy nose smells of ammonia and cats pee. Very off-putting. DNPIM. Faulty bottle or faulty wine??? 13.5% alc. $11.95. 4Jun2005.

Hatton Estate Tahi 2004 - Hawkes Bay (C) Deep and lustrous in colour. Concentrated berry fruit and sappy French oak on the nose and sweet oak in the palate makes this a big, rich, juicy style on delivery with a liquoricey berry concentration, a dark, savoury, cedary undercurrent, fine grippy tannins and a long succulent finish with a velvety voluptuousness. The dry, grippy, beefy tannins are still immense and with its underlying acidity, this wine is still really too young to broach without decanting 72% CS, 15% M, 13% CF. 13.5% alc. $70.00 22Jul2007.

Hyperion Kronos 2004 - Matakana Deeply translucent with youthful black cherry hues. Smoky, cedary, fragrant aromas and dark smoky flavours with well-structured grainy tannins, plum and currant fruits, a touch of cherry, a hint of liquorice and a vanillin sweetness adding a lusciousness to the spicy oak finish. There's a crisp undercurrent and succulent, mouthfilling, lingering berry flavours. 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 10% Malbec. $29. 19Feb2006.

Hyperion the Titan 2004 - Matakana Deep translucent dark cherry red. Fragrant berry and rose petal aromas with smoky vanillin oak, lashings of varietal blackcurrant fruit, a touch of cherry chocolate, smoky herbs, smooth velvety tannins and a smoky, slightly charry finish with a hint of tobacco. Lovely concentration and richness, without overpowering. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. 13.5% alc. $39. 19Feb2006.

John Forrest Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay (sc) Deep black red with a purple red rim. Spicy French oak and concentrated cassis-like fruit on the nose, beautifully integrated succulent fine-grained tannins, concentrated black fruits, a lovely undercurrent of dried rosemary and mint, and a smoky meaty finish with lingering ripe Cabernet fruit. Deep, dark and thought-provoking. 14.3% alc. $49.95. 12Jul2006.

Karikari Estate Cabernet Merlot 2004 (sc) Startling in colour with its opaque crimson purple on a black core, and wild aromas of berries and cowpats on the nose which leads into an intense, earthy palate. A huge wine -full of sweet, ripe ,juicy blackberry fruit with opulent creamy oak and huge grippy though not overpowering tannins, and a bitey finish. the more I smell it, the more opulent fruity it gets. 13.4% alc. $23.90. 28Aug2005.

Kingsley Estate Gimblett Road Reserve 2004 (sc) Deep red, sweet cedary aromas with a hint of leather and quite lifted flavours of dark chocolate, leather, blackcurrant, plum, creamy oak, succulent tannins and a warm, rich finish. Very fragrant - musk, violet, cedar - and chocolate cedar on the aftertaste. Juicy and creamy. A blend of 45% Cab Sauv, 41% Merlot & 14% Malbec with 15 mths French oak. 13.5% alc. $32.95. 9Nov2005.

Mills Reef Elspeth Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2004 (c) Deep red black with crimson edges. It's full of fragrant creamy French oak and concentrated redcurrant and plum fruit on the nose and the full-bodied flavour is ripe, rich and creamy with blackcurrant and cherry fruit, smoky French oak and fine-grained velvety tannins. It's a ripe, lush style with a savoury, dried herb backbone and a dry, tight finish. Classy and complex with many layers. 14% alc. $39.95. 22Jun2007.

Mission Estate Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 (c) Deep pink red. Fragrantly scented with varietally correct blackcurrant aromas interlaced with cedar and sweet fruited, plum and blackcurrant fruit balanced by the savoury oak with a long vanillin oak aftertaste. Warm, lifted and lingering. 13.5% $21.95. 9Nov2005.

Monkey Bay Cabernet Merlot 2004 (sc) A thinner wine, with smoky oak, cigar box, soft tannins, and a stalky, green note to the finish. New Zealand wine but no sub-regions stated. 13% alc. $14.95. 10Oct2005.

Newton Forrest Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Malbec 2004 (sc) Deep plummy red with ruby edges. Alluringly aromatic with cedar, leather, concentrated berry fruit and a hint of violet while sweet biscuity oak and super ripe velvety textured tannins seduce the palate along with cherry and plum fruit, liquorice, allspice and a savoury meaty nuance. There's a touch of musk on the finish which is long, rich and creamy and lasts for ages. Super delicious stuff. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, 27% Malbec, 8% Cabernet Franc. 14% alc. $39.99. 6Sep2006.
Deep red and opaque, this opulent full-bodied Hawkes Bay red is full of smoke, musk, toasted nut and berry scents. The nut and berry nuances carry through to the cedary palate which still has seriously big tannins at this stage of its life together with spice, earth, leather, tobacco, red liquorice and loads of juicy cassis and black fruit with the Malbec adding intriguing floral nuances to the lasting finish. A 'big glass' wine to savour. 14% alc. $39.99. 5Dec2007.
Red black with pinky red edges hinting of some age. Vanilla and chocolate on the nose with cedar, cigar box and some leafy notes too. Medium to full-bodied in palate weight with spicy savoury oak and an earthy depth to the plum and cherry fruit with chocolate coming forth on the smoky finish. Well structured with silky tannins and lovely integration of components, this is an immensely drinkable smooth succulent wine. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc with maturation in both French and American oak. 14% alc. $40.99. 1Jul2009.

Obsidian Weeping Sands Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2004 (sc) Medium plummy red with aromas of brambles infused into creamy oak and concentrated berry fruit flavours supported by liquorice, cedar, cigar box and a touch of cherry on the juicy finish. The tannins are smooth, acidity carries the wine along and there's a touch of leather strap too. 13.5% alc. $22.99. 6Sep2006.

Passage Rock Waiheke Island Forte 2004 (sc) A blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc from Waiheke island - a great expression of NZ Cab, blended with Merlot and Cabernet Franc. Creamy oak, liquorice, ripe blackcurrant fruit and deliciously structured tannins lead to a long full finish. Waiheke has a reputation to uphold and this easily achieves that standard. 14% alc. $34. 30Aug2005.

Ransom Dark Summit 2004 (D) A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Malbec from Matakana, this is a rich, robust red that smells of vanillin oak and red berries while the palate is crammed with ripe berry fruits. There's a slightly earthy backbone and smooth succulent tannins that exude from the creamy texture. The vanilla from the oak comes through and there's underlying acidity while a little protrusive at the moment, bodes well for its cellaring potential. The lift of the Cabernet fruit is there and a hint of rose petal muskiness. Delicious with fillet steak rolled in olive oil and thyme leaves with salt, pepper and garlic and roasted until medium rare, potatoes sauteed with spring onions, mushroom, thyme and red wine, and pumpkin baked in cream which compliments the creamy American oak. 26Oct2006.

Saints Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2004 (sc) A citrus (orange) nuance and a ton of mocha on the nose, the citrussy notes continue through to the palate. Lifted and bright, fresh and juicy with rounded tannins that fill out the mid-palate and a chocolate/mocha note to the sweet earthy finish with violets on the lingering finish. There's good grip to the tannins. A blend of 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot and 5% Malbec. An interesting wine - a wine for coffee lovers. 13.5% alc. $16.95. 17Mar2006.

Te Mata Awatea Cabernet Merlot 2004 - Hawkes Bay Deep red-black garnet. With classic, cedary, Bordeaux-like aromas it smells tight and leathery at this stage with perhaps a touch of violet and hints of dried herbs. It's very tight, very structured in the palate with mellow cedar, an underlying juiciness to the cassis and blackberry fruit and a floral note to the finish with is impressively long and lingers with a vinous savouriness. Needs time to open up. 34% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, 13% Petit Verdot. 13.5% alc. $30. 15Feb2006.
A very enticing smelling wine with ripe fruit and creamy oak aromas while the palate is full of blackcurrant fruit with a firm acid spine but with huge, overpowering tannins, it needs decanting at this stage of its life. 11Jun2006.

Te Mata Coleraine Cabernet Merlot 2004 - Hawkes Bay Deep in colour, with a dark crimson red-black core. Fragrant and floral with violet and rose petal melding into the cedar and bramble berry scents - a beautiful fragrance, not opulent, just seductive. Beautifully rich and concentrated currant-like fruit with plum and cassis flushed with a touch of liquorice, hints of nutmeg-infused French oak and fine supple tannins. A powerful wine with a tight, dry, leathery finish with mellow cedary notes and rose petals lingering on the beautifully suave aftertaste. With fantastically cellaring potential, this is a very complex wine, deserving of its status as one of New Zealand's top reds. A blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Cabernet Franc , 45% Merlot, 14% alc. $59. 15Feb2006.

Te Mata Woodthorpe Cabernet Merlot 2004 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Deep red in colour with a leather and violet nuance to the biscuity aroma and ripe, juicy blackcurrant, blueberry and black cherry fruit, a touch of dark milk chocolate, velvety tannins and a long, savoury, smoky slightly tarry finish with the fruit lingering beautifully on the aftertaste. This is a very smart wine. 14% alc. $17.95 special. 2Nov2005.

Villa Maria Private Bin Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2004 (sc) Blackcurrant and plum fruit, savoury oak, leathery tannins and a juicy redcurrant finish. 14% alc. $16.95. 6Sep2005.

2003 Vintage [top] [index]

Borthwick Wairarapa Cabernet Merlot 2003 Densely coloured, pink rimmed, red black wine with lovely bright hues. Deep creamy oak aromas with a hint of choc over red berry fruit. Bright fruity flavours with fruit cake cherry and red fruit and blackcurrant on a creamy texture with smooth tannins, spicy oak and a lingering vanillin finish. A touch or chocolate emerges to linger and nicely balanced acidity adds flare to the finish. A frich, deep mouthfilling style driven by the cherry and plum fruit and the soft juicy tannins. 13% alc. $19.95. 1Feb2005.

Brookfields Ohiti Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 Medium to full black cherry hues. Leathery aromas with musty overtones hinting of cork taint but there is some impressive fruit in the wine with good depth and weight. It just is marred by a salty bitterness and a leathery metallic aftertaste. 13% alc. $18.1Feb2005.

Crossroads Collectors Edition Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2003 A youthful crimson red colour and a ripe, rich aroma full of plum and classic blackcurrant cabernet fruit. Good fruit concentration in the palate with red fruit, cherry, tar and a vanillin overlay to the earthy full-bodied finish. But there's also a touch of stalkiness with acidity giving a flare to the finish. 12% alc. $38. 28Aug2005.

Gladstone Auld Alliance 2003 Deep black cherry red, earthy, smoky, herbal, slightly floral aromas with hints of tar and berry, quite savoury flavours with firm tannins, leather, tar, cigar and a hint of marmite on toast. Good vinosity throughout. Sweet fruit takes over the finish with berry infused spicy vanillin oak lingering. A dry Bordeaux style made from a blend of 42% Cab Sauv, 33% Merlot and 25% Cab Franc. 13% alc. 20Jan2005.
Medium to full with red black hues quite fine on the rims. Rich full appealing aromas or blackcurrant, blackberry and spicy oak. A big meaty wine, quite intense and deep with savoury fruit, grainy tannins and leathery herbal notes to the finish, which detract a little, and just the merest suggestion of mint. 13% alc. 1Feb2005.

Hatton Estate Carson's Cabernet Merlot 2003 Unbelievably purple black in colour with bright crimson rims. Voluptuous flavours and although the tannins are massive, the rich fruit tames them beautifully. Intense and concentrated with cigar, leather, currants and aromatic spicy cedary oak and a fulfilling lingering dry finish with a hint of chocolate on the aftertaste. 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot matured in a combination of new and seasoned French and American oak for 12 months. $25. 25Mar2005.

Hatton Estate Carson's Cabernets 2003 Smelling like a bucket of wild blackberries, it's a full-bodied wine but seemingly lighter with its scents of rosehips over the fruit but firm and leathery in the palate. Cabernet Franc makes up 85% of the blend. $25. 25Mar2005.

Hatton Estate Gimblett Road Reserve Cabernet Merlot Franc 2003 Inky black in colour with youthful purple rims. Concentrated fruit, leather and creamy oak aromas and powerful vanillin oak flavours. Rich and succulent with fine rich tannins, ripe plum and berry fruit, leather, tar, a touch of mint and fruitcake on the lingering, full-boded, spicy finish. A big oaky wine with a long life ahead of it. 13.5% alc. $28.95. 19Oct2005.

Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2003 (sc) A light to medium weight, cherry hued summery style with mocha and berries on the nose. At first in the mouth it seemed a little spritzy, raspberry like moving then to more savoury fruit with tomato leaf herbal influences, soft tannins and lingering, slightly tart, tobacco like oak. 12% alc. $15.95. 1Feb2005.

Murdoch James Blue Rock Cabernet Franc 2003 Deep, vibrant boysenberry red with purple/violet edged rims and a rich, voluptuous aroma, reminiscent of a South Australian Shiraz with its slight pepperiness, liquorice and vanillin oak, but the flavours steer you in another direction. It's youthful, spicy and tarry with tobacco, leather, nutmeg, cedar, grunty tannins and a Bordeaux-like character to the finish where well-integrated cassis-like fruit is a highlight of the lingering aftertaste. Continuing on the impeccable form that the 2001 vintage set, this wine can only be described as excellent. 13.5% alc. $34.95.

Obsidian Weeping Sands Cabernet Merlot 2003 (sc) Deep red, quite bright and youthful. Smells smoky and robust and full of berries. A seemingly easy drinking full-bodied red with a creamy smooth palate, a touch of mocha and firm tannins, but it really needs food after the first glass. Great for BBQ or a more formal meal. 53% CS, 40% merlot, 7% Malbec. 12 mths in French oak, 50% new. 13.4% alc. $24. 10Nov2004.

Ransom Dark Summit 2003 - Matakana Deep, red black with a rich red garnet core. Beautifully fragrant and quite rich smelling with creamy oak and hints of violets then in the palate there is smoky, savoury oak, tobacco, concentrated blackcurrant fruit and an earthy richness with the Malbec component adding a lifted fragrance to the creamy, smoky finish. A big wine with well structured tannins still coming together, but drinking well, nevertheless. 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Malbec. 12.5% alc. $35. 19Feb2006.

Ransom Mahurangi Cabernets 2003 - Matakana Dark garnet red, almost opaque in the core. A medium bodied style with soft tannins and a lightly viscous palate, there's an easy drinking appeal to the summer berry fruit and an oiliness to the finish. 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc. 12% alc. $23. 19Feb2006.

Schubert Wairarapa Cabernet Merlot 2003 (c) Deep black red with a crimson hue. Smoky vanillin oak, fresh ripe blackberries and beef stock on the nose. Full-bodied and fine textured with flavours of blackberries, cassis, cherry jam, dried herbs, a suggestion of menthol and underlying tobacco - the fruit is lifted and the underlying acidity is in no way pointy - just smooth, rounded and totally delicious. Cedary oak lingers on the finish with chocolate and mocha making an appearance as well. 14.5% alc. $40.00. 21Jul2007.

Soljans Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec 2003 (sc) Ripe blackberries and cherry jam on the nose lead into a dry, earthy, grainy palate with a cardboard texture, but it fills out to be dark and savoury with black pepper, liquorice and an earthy, smokiness to the milky finish. Made from 'North Island' grapes, this is savoury rather than fruity and just a little one dimensional.. 12.5% alc. $18.95. 17Mar2006.

Squawking Magpie Gimblett Gravels The Cabernets 2003 Dark, dense and earthy with an oily texture and cow pats in the herb garden. Grainy tannins, currant-like fruit and a juicy succulence emerging as the wine opens up. Smoky, cigar box characters linger on the finish. 13% alc. $37.95. 19Oct2005.

Stonecroft Crofters VII 53% Young old vine Cabernet Sauvignon and 47% young vine Syrah. Medium weight in colour with aromas of dried roses and spice aroma. Light, dry and savoury, it seems quite tart at first but the finish is more weighty, rich and vinous with cherry and plum fruit, savoury oak and a peppery spiciness lingering. Best with food. Diam closure. $19. 24Feb2005.

Stony Batter Waiheke Island Roadworks Cabernets 2003 Fading colour but a good, intense nose. There's some development to the wine, apparent in its colour and flavour. The fruit is still primary, however, with spicy cedary oak, grainy tannins, good vinous complexity and mouthfeel, and a savoury aftertaste. Drinking well now. A blend of 88% Cab Franc, 10% CS and 2% Syrah. 12% alc. $35. 28Aug2005.

Te Mata Woodthorpe Cabernet Merlot 2003 32% Merlot, 28% Cab Sauv, 24% Cab Franc and 16% Petit Verdot. There's a slightly greenish tinge to the aroma and savoury, slightly earthy flavours with dry leathery tannins first up. Get past that to let the vinosity seduce the palate while sweet fruit and a musky, rose petal fragrance emerge. Liquorice and cigar linger on the finish. $13.5% alc. $22. 12Apr2005.

Te Mata Coleraine 2003 50% Cab Sauv and 50% Merlot. Good depth of colour with an inky red black core and nice gradation of colour to the rims. There's an attractive intensity to the aroma and flavour with huge tannins, hallmark cedary oak, a wonderful threshold of cassis, cherry and plum fruit and a bright finish with winemaking flavours - oak, earth, sweet leather and herbs taking over the finish. It has the concentration, the intensity, the depth of pure fruit, the savouriness, the silkiness of the tannins and the overall balance. Hold and start drinking in 2007. 13.5% alc. $59.95. 12Apr2005.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2003 (sc) Deep pinky-red. Youthful, spicy oak aromas and sweet fruit flavours with firm, dry, grainy tannins and savoury cedary oak, a touch of mint on the finish and an earthy aftertaste with sweet oak and ripe fruit lingering. Promises much on the nose but needs rare meat to cut through the tannins at this stage. 13.5% alc. $23.95. 4Jun2005.
At first it smells leathery and tight with dry tannins but swirl it to release the fragrant wild berry fruit and vanillin oak scents. In the palate there's plummy fruit, a touch of herb and sweet vanillin oak with a creaminess coming through as it lingers, but with the tight, grippy tannins it really needs the right food to cut through them. 13% alc. $23.95. 30Oct2005.

Villa Maria Single Vineyard Twyford Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (sc) A big wine, aromatic scented with red and blackcurrant fruit, a hint of leather, vanilla, spice, savoury oak and form tannins- quite intense and concentrated with lots of potential. $55.00. 6Sep2005.

2002 Vintage [top] [index]

Alpha Domus The Aviator 2002 - Hawkes Bay Almost inky. Savoury aromas and savoury flavours with juicy currants providing succulence. Well-structured with velvety tannins, and a deep richness. There's almost a saltiness too, perhaps just a hint of rosemary and a spicy aftertaste with a leathery component. I will enjoy this with roast lamb. 14% alc. $49.95. 4Jun2005.
Deep red-black in colour. Intense, concentrated aromas of ribena, leather and cigar box lead into a richly concentrated, powerful palate with a ton of sweet fruit, spicy red fruits, cedary oak, good acidity and a smoky leathery finish. A powerful, opulent wine with lot's going on and it could evolve well although there is an undertone of Brettanomyces that could mar its development. A blend of 38% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 18% Malbec. 14% alc. $49.95. 11Jun2006.

Brick Bay Pharos 2002 - Matakana Deep garnet red with flashes of black. Ripe fruit and creamy oak aromas with the sweetness of mint and the allure of cacao. A very appealing mouthfilling wine sweet vanillin oak and liquid black forest chocolate merging into juicy berry fruit with a deep earthy intrigue and cigar box on the long full finish. A robust, mouthfilling style with a core of succulently ripe crushed boysenberries and other berry fruit that is beautifully balanced to the cedary French oak. Lots of appeal. 42.5% Cab Sauv, 21% Malbec, 19.5% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc. 13.5% alc. $29. 1Feb2005.

Brookfields Gold Label Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2002 - Hawkes Bay Rather intriguing aromas of mocha, spice and cedary oak lead into a dense savoury wine with a fine tannin structure and good acidity. Waves of flavour bring surges of savoury fruit, spicy French oak, mocha and chocolate with leather on the finish and cigar box on the aftertaste. There's a hint of mint too. A thinking wine with lots going on. Impressive. 14% alc. $50. 1Feb2005.

Burrow Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2002 Grown by Paul Mitchell on his Rabbit Ridge Vineyard at Waimauku near Kumeu and made at the Matua Valley winery nearby. A deep inky crimson colour with cedary oak and heady fruit aromas on the nose, then in the palate spicy oak and voluminous amounts of berry fruit and currants supported by sweet creamy tannins. The finish is long and smooth and liquorice and black berry flavours linger. A very smart wine and proves that in the right conditions Auckland is absolutely superb. 12.5% alc. Cork. 31Mar2004.

Canadoro Martinborough Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Youthful red, fairly dense, strawberries and vanillin oak on the nose, savoury, a little mint, a touch of pepper on the l on berry-filled finish, there's plenty of potential in this wine but just a little youthful right now. 8Dec2003.

Castle Cliffs Marlborough Cabernet Merlot 2002 (sc) Sweet vanillin oak and cherry ripe on the nose. Grainy tannins, lots of mint, a bit of charcoal, sweet fruit - lots in there but somewhat disintegrated at the moment. Bright red fruits linger on the finish and the aftertaste is creamy and succulent. 13.5% alc. $18. 4Jun2005.

Crab Farm Hawkes Bay Cabernets 2002 (sc) Inky, black-red with crimson rims. Rich and succulent with creamy oak, firm tannins, berry fruit, spices and a fruit cake richness to the finish. Nicely structured with lots of appeal. 45% CS, 35% CF, 10% Merlot, 10% Malbec. 14% alc. $25. 4Jun2005.

Dunleavy Te Motu Cabernet Merlot 2002 - Waiheke Island (c) Quite saturated in colour with a black red core and still some crimson to the edges. Deep, sweet-fruited and chocolatey on the nose with some saddle overtones - quite complex and intriguing. A big wine in the mouth with a huge meaty tannin structure - it seems very young and still developing (despite its 6 years of age). Fruit is mulling away in the background - a mix of plum, blackberry and even a hint of tamarillo and there is some bretty stuff going on that adds a funky mellow earthiness. Beautiful oak regime - creamy with a touch of vanilla and lovely sweet fruit filling the mouth on the finish. A blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 4% Syrah and 2% Malbec with 30 months in oak (75-80% French, 50% new) then 3 years in the bottle before release. 13.5% alc. $80. 21Jun2008.

Kennedy Point Waiheke Island Barrel Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 85% Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Cabernet Franc making up the blend. A fruit driven medium-bodied style, it’s very fragrant with violets, rose petal and delicate spice, cherry and just a touch of chocolate. Lovely integration of tannins, not too leather, creamy texture with a very good finish. Tasted from barrel. $30. 26Sep2003.

Kim Crawford SP Cabernet Franc Merlot 2002 - Hawkes Bay (sc) A a medium to full-bodied wine with a deep plummy red colour and a remarkable fragrance that many wines strive for but few manage to get. The gorgeous, almost floral fragrance carries through to the palate, which is spicy and creamy with American oak adding a rather alluring vanillin edge. Hints of cigar box and a touch of plum and chocolate wrap up the silky tannined package. A gorgeous and deliciously drinkable red with a lasting finish and very youthful for its almost 6 years of age. 14 months in American oak. 13.5% alc. 14Jan2008.

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Franc 2002 - Hawkes Bay Deeply coloured with purple rims, immensely fragrant with rich winey scents, creamy oak, juicy red berries, blueberries, prunes and violets. The grainy tannins and smoky, leathery characters of the wine dominate the palate at this stage of its life but the fleshy red berry fruit flavours balance them somewhat. There's bright acidity, a touch of tobacco and pepper in this very youthful wine that needs to develop or have with food at this stage. ****. 14% alc. $39.95. 30Jun2004.

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Merlot 2002 - Hawkes Bay Deeply coloured with purple rims, more delicately scented than the Mills Reef Cabernet Franc 2002 with less intrusive oak and more essence of cassis, the fruit is concentrated and powerful. The oak comes through in the palate with earthy grainy tannins, leather, plum, tobacco and cigar, a wine of great power yet still has the delicacy to show off its lovely red fruit and fascinating nuances of rose petal. With lovely fruit sweetness on the finish and lingering creamy oak and liquorice, this wine is showing beautifully now but clearly has the goods to evolve even further. *****. 14% alc. $39.95. 30Jun2004.

Mills Reef Elspeth One 2002 - Hawkes Bay a wine of fragrance and concentrated fruit with tannins that are nicely settled and oak that is nicely balanced. A powerful blended wine with a winey richness, leather, chocolate, thick grainy tannins, a hint of pepper and excellent berry and plum fruit with a liquorice complexity. from the wonderful 2002 vintage. I would just like to see it with a little more age, it certainly has the pedigree to blossom in the cellar. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Merlot, Merlot, Malbec and Syrah. 14% $49.95. 30Jun2004.

Mudbrick Waiheke Island Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec Syrah 2002 You can smell the Malbec in this terrifically coloured purple red wine - it smells intense and intriguing with chocolate, violets, cassis and leather and taste of berries ranging from strawberry through cherry, through plum through blackberry. It's soft and user-friendly with a terrific ripe tannin structure, underlying but subtle leather, a spicy oak backbone and a peppery finish. The 76% cabernet component comes from Shepherds Pint while the 12% Malbec and 12% Syrah comes from Church Bay. Try it with juicy field mushrooms wrapped in a phyllo pastry tart. A soft, forward, 'drink me' wine. 13Oct2003.

Mudbrick Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002 - Waiheke Island Sweet vanillin oak on the first whiff then inhale more deeply to find cedar, leather, plum and chocolate liqueur. It's quite chocolatey in the palate too with velvety tannins and a wonderfully concentrated fruit structure and a spicy savouriness that gives lots of interest to the finish. Good colour again, perhaps with more red than purple than its stable mate that has Malbec and Syrah, this is a 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot blend from Mudbrick's Church Bay vineyard. 13Oct2002.

Newton Forrest Gimblett Road Cornerstone Cabernet Merlot Malbec 2002 (sc) Shiny black with red hues, a massive wine in the mouth, fleshy and creamy with up front succulent redcurrant flavours joined by dark smoky oak, tobacco, prunes and blackcurrants with spicy grainy tannins, a brooding wine that needs time but match to the right food and it will unfold layer by layer. 35% CS, 34% Merlot, 31% Malbec. 14.5% alc. $39.95. 19Jun2004.
Intensely coloured blackish purple, youthful, bready, wonderfully concentrated ripe fruit, liquorice, chocolate, cigar and a lifted, spicy, slightly peppery finish. Very tight in its structure, quite brooding at this stage of its life with fruit sweetness on finish. A blend of 35% Cab Sauv, 34% Merlot and 31% Malbec. 14.5% alc. $39.95. 7Jul2004.
Inky red black with creamy vanillin oak, sweet fruit, aromatic spices, a touch of liquorice, firm velvety tannins, chocolate, cherry, violets and brambly fruit. Good acidity, bright throughout and a deliciously long, sweet-fruited finish, there are some powerful tannins in this wine but the seem almost smooth and rounded after the muscular Craggy Range. 14.5% alc. $39.95. 15Sep2004.
Shining red black with rich scents of smoky bacon and red berries, this voluptuously flavoured, super ripe wine has considerable depth and flavour. Biscuity savoury creamy oak, chocolate and mocha, juicy plums, blueberries and currants, huge tannins, lots of spice, good acidity, liquorice on the finish and lingering red fruits, it is fantastically balanced throughout. 14% alc. $39.95. 27Oct2004.
This is still so youthful looking with its inky red black colour and purple-red rims. It’s a super ripe wine with alluring sweet oak aromas and voluptuous flavours of creamy oak, blackcurrants, blackberries, liquorice and leather with an earthy richness coming from the Malbec component. The tannins are stull huge but they have integrated beautifully since last tasted and the wine flows seamlessly across the mouth. 14% alc. $39.95. 23Nov2005.
Deep purple red, intense and vibrant, so youthful looking for its age. With rich, deep fruited, cedary scents, it's tarry in the palate, perhaps heading towards porty, with rich, sweet fruit full of chocolate and cherries with liquorice intensity, fruit cake spices, mocha, cedar, grunty tannins and an incredibly long, mouth-coating, succulent, flavoursome finish. 14.5% alc. $39.99. 13Sep2006.

Obsidian Weeping Sands Waiheke Island Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 Juicy yet robust with the typical blackcurrant (ribena) of cabernet and creamy oak in the background, it is an ideal choice for the traditional winter roast. 100% Cabernet Sauvignognon matrued in American and French oak. 12% alc. $24. 27May2004.

Passage Rock Waiheke Island 'The Sisters' 2002 A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, this early drinking style show firm tannins, plummy fruit, and leather at first buts opens up to a full-bodied, ultra-juicy, fruity wine with blackberry, plum, redcurrants and cherry. $25. 26Sep2003.

Ransom Dark Summit 2002 - Matakana A firmly structured, deeply coloured red with ripe plummy fruit joined by brambly berries and cherries, creamy oak, mint, spice, tobacco and just a touch of tar. The robust tannins are smooth and although the wine seems approachable, it's a good cellaring prospect too. Made from a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, it is the star of the Ransom range. $35. Feb2004.

Schubert Gimblett Gravels Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 A little closed on the nose at first but soon opens up to emit floral aromas with juicy berry fruit and rose petals. Rich red briar fruit in the palate with sweetish vanillin oak, velvety tannins and a long delicious finish. Think of a juicy wild blackberry protected by the prickles of the vine, a wonderful core of voluptuous fruit protected by a shroud of silky tannins and sweet spicy vanillin oak. The aftertaste is just gorgeous and the mouthfilling wine lingers so beautifully. Top wine of tasting. 14.5% alc. $45. 1Feb2005.

Schubert Wairarapa Cabernet Merlot 2002 Spicy, lifted, fresh and bright with creamy vanillin oak, some chocolate, a slight herbal edge – which if it is Cabernet is OK. Quite oak dominated with a meaty finish. 14% alc. $38. 1Feb2005.

Squawking Magpie Gimblett Gravels 'The Cabernets' 2002 - Hawkes Bay Deep black-red, there's iodine and cassis on the nose together with smoky, earthy, herbal notes. It's a densely concentrated, richly tannic, oaky wine with leather and tar, the leathery, earthy, plummy Merlot characters seem quite dominant at first before the blackcurrant fruit comes forth. There's a touch of burnt tobacco on the smoky leathery finish. A good wine that needs to evolve. $41.95. 9Jul2003.

Stonecroft Crofters VI - Hawkes Bay A multi-grape, multi-vintage blend with 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot and 14% Syrah. The backbone of the wine is 2002 but some of the Syrah is from 2003. Garnet red in colour with good depth, it's fairly closed on the nose, revealing only aromas of leather and prunes. In the palate it seems a bit lean, green and leathery to me, some acid points but also some raisin characters as well. The finish is spicy and lifted with a warm cedar and musky oak influence. 13.5% alc. $19. 29Feb2004.

Stonyridge Larose Waiheke Island Cabernets 2002 A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, this a vibrantly coloured inky red, concentrated with ripe and powerful tannins, sweet fruit, nutmeg, cherry, cassis, plum and smoke. It's got fantastic structure and is so gorgeous, you want to drink it now. It gets a concentrated liquorice mocha character with that fragrant purple fruited, leathery, earthy and chocolatey Malbec kicking in on the end. Great wine, lives up to its reputation.11Nov2003.

Te Awa Longlands Cabernet Merlot 2002 - Hawkes Bay More of a European style with a lovely French oak influence. Cherry, plum, leather, cigar, sweet charry oak and rose petals with firm velvety tannins and a long fulfilling finish. A touch of mocha/chocolate emerges to linger with fruitcake cherries. A wine to evolve. 76% CS, 16% Merlot, 8% CF. $18.95. 1Feb2005.
Dense black-red in colour with an earthy, tarry, smoky savoury aroma, grippy biscuity tannins, jammy red fruits, lots and lots of tar, bitumen, leather and smoke and a dry finish. Very European in style. hawkes Bay, 13% alc. $14.95. 10Aug2005.

Te Mata Awatea 2002 - Hawkes Bay 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Petit Verdot. Deep blackcurrant red in colour, not totally opaque and a little lighter than I expected from the vintage. Smoky on the nose with fragrant spices, leather, cedar, cherry, plum and blackcurrant, as it sits in the glass it becomes even more fragrant. The lifted upfront blackcurrant character of Cabernet Sauvignon flows into a soft and creamy, slightly smoky mouthful with a touch of spice, leathery and earth, plum and blueberry linger. Not as voluptuous as I was expecting but overall a beautifully structured harmonious wine that will be of great appeal to those who do not want a blockbuster. 14% alc. $33. 24Feb2004.

Trinity Hill Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (c) Deep black red with a fine textured appearance. It's showing some bottle developed characters on the nose with a biscuity, savoury, tar, dried herb and salty leather aroma. Black fruited and chocolatey to the taste thick grainy tannins, leather and tar, it is still very tightly structured although a lovely floral, cherry sweetness comes through on the lingering smoky finish. It really needs a big glass and a decanter. Look and tastes younger than it is. 18 months in French oak. 14% alc. $31.99. 11Jul2007.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Cabernet Merlot 2002 (sc) Deep and inky with a black-red core. Smoky oak, plum and cassis on the nose, creamy in the palate with spicy oak, grippy tannins, chocolate and juicy fully ripe berries. Beautifully structured with a concentrated meaty richness and a long creamy berry and smoky oak finish. A stunning vintage in Hawkes Bay and this is the result. 14.5% alc. $42.95. 16Mar2005.

Inky black red with crimson edges, smoky savoury oak and blackcurrant aromas, and concentrated cassis and plum fruit in the palate with velvety tannins, underlying leather and cedar and a chocolatey opulence to the long, seamless finish. A class act. 14.5% alc. $42.95. 15Mar2006.

[2009] [2008] [2007] [2006] [2005] [2004] [2003] [2002] [2001 and older vintages] [index]

Index to Varietal Tastings
Chardonnay Gewurztraminer
Riesling
Pinot Gris Sauvignon Blanc Other Whites
Bubblies Sweeties Pinks
Cabernet dominant Merlot dominant Pinotage
Pinot Noir Shiraz Other Reds

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