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edited by Sue Courtney

Wine Reviews - Merlot & blends
2000 vintage and older
by Sue Courtney
Last updated 26 Feb 2006

Although some of these tasting notes may be found elsewhere on this site, this page brings together most of my Merlot notes from the 2000 vintage and older, listed alphabetically by Producer. Click here for rating systems and abbreviations.

[2004 & 2003 vintages] [2002 & 2001] [2000] [1999] [1998] [older] [index]

2000 Vintage [top] [index]

Alexander Vineyard Martinborough Basket Press Merlot 2000 Creamy, ripe, well balanced wine with plum, spice, a touch of leather, hint of herb and vanillin oak. Firm tannins. Bright, dense, inky finish. 17Nov2001.

Alpha Domus Merlot Cabernet 2000 (70% merlot). Plummy and juicy but with a tight leathery note then a cigar box finish with some ripe plum and integrated oak. Nice smoky flavours linger. Destined for early drinking. Will keep under $20 for accessibility. 28Aug2001

Arahura Merlot Malbec 2000 (South Auckland) A 52/48 blend. Bright plum and raspberry with leathery spice emerging and lifted plum and spice lingering on the finish with floral nuances, leather tending toward licorice and hints of blackcurrant. There is plenty going on in the wine. Very enjoyable. 17Sep2001.

Bilancia Merlot 2000 (Hawkes Bay) Youthful, deep pinky red. Fragrant with ripe plum and berry aromas. Creamy texture with just a hint of sweet leather on the finish,. A big, big wine but very well balanced with the ripe tannins and oak. A savoury almost meaty finish. 18Sep2001.

Brajkovich Merlot 2000 A lovely cerise, cherry-red colour and a fruity aroma full of plums on a layer of savoury oak, then a floral nuance. The smoky savoury character continues through to the mouth and is joined by musk, violets, plums and firm meaty tannins on the long flavoursome finish. This is a well-structured wine offering great drinking at an unbelievable price. RRP NZ$14.95. 13Aug2002.

Brightwater Merlot 2000 Deep plummy red. Thin wine in mouth and an oxidative note. Did not enjoy this wine at all. Berries and mushrooms linger on the finish. $20. 21Jan2002.

Church Road Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2000 Youthful leathery aroma with concentrated, slightly oily berry fruit that needs a little aeration to show its true potential. It's a big wine with a rich tannin structure and plenty of leather, plums and blackcurrants in a dark and savoury wrap. There's a touch of herbs and sweeter black fruit on the finish, which has terrific length. Needs time to develop in the bottle and definitely needs to be enjoyed with food. 45% Merlot, 24% CS, 20% CF, 11% Malbec or thereabouts. 16Sep2003.

CJ Pask Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 This wine needs a lot of swirling in the glass - about a days worth - to get past the tight leather characters that dominate when first opened. So the bottle stayed opened for about an hour then the cork went back in. Next day it is all chocolate and cream, plum and blackcurrant with of hint of mint, tobacco-like oak and firm tannins on a savoury herb finish. Great cellaring potential. This begs for lamb and rosemary. $27. 14May2002.
Dark and savoury with cedar, plums, and a spicy finish. Drinking well now. Very good length. 7Apr2003.

CJ Pask Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 Wonderfully fragrant fine and vinous red fruit aromas with hints of spice. So much quality about this wine with fine cedary oak, dark plum, blackcurrant, hint of minty, fine licorice and chocolate nut flavours and integrated firm tannins on the creamy vanillin oak finish. Juicy yet sophisticated. Dark and mysterious. A little dusky. There's a lot going on in there. Ready now but will evolve beautifully. Another superstar from CJ Pask. 17May2002.

Coopers Creek Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 Cigar box/choc box, juicy, ripe, smoky. 17.5/20. 28Aug2001.
Medium weight dark cherry red. Lovely juicy ripe fruit with chocolate, cherry and plum fruit. Good flavoursome finish on the wine with a touch of spice. French oak trial using 10 different coopers. Great value medium weight wine for $15. 22Oct2001.

Craggy Range Seven Poplars Vineyard Merlot 2000 A rich cerise red wine that has an oaky influence on the nose. In fact there is a creamy butterscotch-like aromas, as one would expect in a chardonnay. It's a thick textured wine in the mouth, quite velvety in texture with slightly gripping tannins. The fruit is sweet and ripe almost tending towards raisin in flavour at first. But there are blackcurrants and juicy ripe plums there as well. In fact it is quite plummy indeed. It's a sumptuous merlot that tends towards chocolate on the chocolate. A very good wine indeed and although immensely flavoursome and drinkable now I think it will would benefit from further cellaring at this stage. 14Dec2002.

Esk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 Black-centred core and bright rims. Intense plum and chocolate-box aromas with a creamy nuance. Big, bold flavours-with spicy berries and plums, concentrated, ripe and dense with a good tannin structure. A bit of a meaty wine in some respects - from the oak, perhaps - and a "grip on the end of palate". Definitely not a quaffing wine. A little youthful - would like to see again in 6 months to let those flavours develop and the concentration unfold. But fabulous potential. 25July2001.

Esk Valley Black Label Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2000 A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and malbec. Slightly lighter in colour than the 100% merlot but still plenty of colour. Lovely, ripe vibrant flavours. Some chocolate richness with layers of berry flavours. Lifted raspberry, plum, and a little blackberry. A complex, interesting wine that will unfold well. Ripe, soft tannins and a pleasing creamy texture. 25July2001.

Esk Valley Reserve Merlot / Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec 2000 Very perfumed and fragrant. Dense coloured deep red and densely flavoured with berry, meaty, leather, savoury and bready characters. Another sample shows lovely concentrated fruit, licorice chocolate, berries and intensely firm tannins. The meaty Malbec seems quite influential on the palate. Lots of tannins and creamy integrated oak. Very long flavoursome finish. A good wine. 19Aug2002.

Goldridge Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 This is a classic Hawkes Bay style with dry tannins, plums and spice with a hint of cigar. 22Aug2002.

Goldwater Estate Esslin Merlot 2000 Quite shy biscuity aromas with hints of exotic spice. Lovely silky palate weight, spicy oak, very creamy texture, approachable tannin structure with hints of leather and cigarbox - all the classic characters of merlot. The fruit is sweet and ripe and the finish is dry, vinous, savoury and elegant. I would love to sit down with a big glass of this. This is a wine that is quite simply all about flavour and texture, a wine to enjoy with someone you enjoy. NZ$90. 22Jul2002.

Kim Crawford 'Tane' 2000 Fabulous nose, fabulous texture, fabulous flavour. This is an intense big and ripe fruited wine with licorice, mocha and chocolate - imagine liquid chocolate! Very balanced and seamless. 20Aug2002.

Kingsley Estate Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2000 (Merlot 85%, Malbec 14%) Dense and opaque in its blackcurrant colour, this is a rich and powerfully scented wine with an immense concentration of flavour. Ripe fruit tannins, plums, blackberries and violets fill the palate with mocha-like creamy oak, a little pepper and earth, new car leather and juicy black plums on the long rich finish. A beautifully structured, velvety and simply fantastic wine that boldly shows the direction that several of the top Hawkes Bay vintners are heading. 13.5% alc. $48.95. 20Aug2003.

Kumeu River Kumeu Merlot 2000 This is the first 100% Merlot release under the Kumeu River label since 1983. It's dark cherry red in colour with a seductively smoky and savoury aroma that hints of cigar box and spiced cured meats. It's a deliciously smooth and flavoursome in the mouth with sweet plum and berry fruit, smoky oak, leather and spice. Seems leaner than the ripe monsters that we've seen from Hawkes Bay this vintage but this Kumeu River Merlot has a lovely vinosity, that will see it mature finely, and a long sweet-fruited finish. It is great value too with an RRP of NZ$21.95. 13Aug2002.

Lombardi Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 60% CS, 30& Merlot, 10% CF. Deep ruby,. Hints of citrus on the nose. Ripe and spicy lifted fruit with plenty of leathery notes. $22. 24Sep2001.

Matariki Reserve Merlot 2000 Classic cigar box aromas, that hint of Brett comes through with its leathery like signature. A rich, full-bodied wine with dense concentrated fruit characterised mostly by plums, a sound tannin backbone and integrated earthy French oak. It's developing well and becoming quite Bordeaux-like. $39.50. 11Oct2003.

Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 (about $16.50). My memories go back to the day I spent at the Matua Valley winery last year. Merlot was being taken from the fermentation tanks and the juice was being separated from the skins that give the wine its colour. I tasted the spent grape skins squeezed dry of all their juices and thought how delicious the berry plum licorice and fruit leather flavours were. These are the flavours, along with the addition of subtle smoky oak, that I taste in this bright crimson, soft, easy drinking wine. ***1/2 April 2001

Matua Valley Bullrush Merlot 2000 (Hawkes Bay) Very deep colour for a NZ merlot. Rich vanillin spicy aroma. Very smooth and creamy textured, with blueberry bread, plums, fruitcake and a leathery nuance on the finish with a hint of chocolate. Smooth with ripe juicy tannins but powerful and flavoursome. Very good indeed. $25. 30May2002.

Mills Reef Elspeth One 2000 (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah) Inky, dense, deep dark red. A big, powerful meaty full-bodied wine with sensuous aromas and big gripping velvety tannins though there's plenty of plums, currants and black and red berry fruit to balance it - with time. Add to this spice, leather, mocha, chocolate, nutty oak and even a hint of mint. Five minutes after I'd swallowed it the opulent chocolate, mocha and creamy berry flavours still continue to linger. Built to last, cellar for best result. 14% alc. 1Oct2003.

Montana Reserve Merlot 2000 Gorgeous deep ruby in colour. Toasty oak, spiced plum and cream aromas. Sweet plum, blackberry and fruits of the forest with a touch of chocolate and mocha. Long, rich, ripe and flavoursome with a flavour reminiscent of chocolate covered coffee beans. A concentrated big wine with good tannins, chocolate box and hints of sweet leather lingering on the finish. Classy and excellent value for money at under $20. 26Sep2001.

Montana Reserve Merlot 2000 Plum, spice and dusky oak aromas then creamy black plum and cherry flavours. Quite delicious rich and moreish, full of Xmas cake fruits and spice with a nice touch of cinnamon lingering on the juicy finish. Very nice abd great value for money @ $18 a bottle. 17May2002.

Ngatarawa Alwyn Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2000 Big black and dark. Rich, big tannins, creamy chocolate, spice, a touch of pepper. Mouthfilling. Lots of interest. Should develop well. 23Sep2002.
A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, it's easy to see why this is the Ngatarawa flagship wine. It's big in colour, inky and still youthful three years after vintage. It's a full-bodied, rich wine that smells of concentrated fruit, spice and creamy cedary oak and is driven by grunty tannins in the palate where's there's sweet vanillin oak, lots of spicy and layers of berry, plum and cassis fruit. The American oak component adds to the sweetness on the finish while a savoury complexity balances it and rounds it out well. Still evolving and can be safely cellared for a few years yet. 13Oct2003.

Odyssey Reserve Illiad Kumeu Merlot 2000 Deep cherry pink in colour. Creamy sweet vanillin oak aroma with hints of coconut and cherry. There's plenty of oak influence in the palate with chocolate and cherry, (like a 'Cherry Ripe' chocolate bar) ripe berries and cream. A rich, ripe wine with plenty of flavour, firm tannins and lingering spice on the ling finish. Very more-ish. $24.95. 19Sep2001.
I was mightily impressed with this deeply coloured pinky-red wine made from ripe Kumeu fruit when tried last September and its improving all the time with that sweet-smelling vanillin oak integrating seamlessly into the cherry and plum fruit flavours with the tannins still firm and spicy. The price hasn't improved though. Back in November last year it had a RRP of $24.95. Glengarry has it for $27.95 on special with a 'was $34.95' crossed out. 6May2002.

Pegasus Bay The Maestro 2001 A very European style with a huge robust backbone, finely structured tannins, cigar box, hints of chocolate and savoury fruit on the finish. By this time the initial bretty character has disappeared and the lingering finish has good definition of sweet cherry and plum fruit. Great structure, mouthfeel and length. Fans of the Bordeaux style will love this. 75% Merlot, 15% Malbec, 5% CF, 5% CS. 18mths in oak, 30% new. 13.5% alc. $41.95. 1Feb2005.

Ponder Estate Artist's Reserve Merlot 2000 Deep ruby red in colour. Rich, toasty, chocolatey oak, cinnamon spice and forest berries. But very minty with big and sweet leathery tannins, concentrated fruit finish and a hint of slightly under-ripe blackberries lingering. 26Sep2001.

Redmetal Basket Press Merlot Cabernet Franc 2000 (Hawkes Bay) Dense red/black colour. Very oaky but integrated and creamy, Dry in the palate, with berries plums and 'cracked' spice. Ripe tannin structure and very elegant use of French oak, which adds a vanillin layer to the wine. This is a good wine with underlying power and richness but on this small sample I question the CFM factor at the price of $42.95. (Tasted blind). 23Jan2002.
Deep and dense in its dark red-purple colour, it's quite Bordeaux-like on the fragrant cedary nose, perhaps even a little floral. It's a big meaty wine with sweet leather, tar, bitumen and bread with heaps of plum fruit concentration. Rich and powerful with a firm, fine yet soft tannin structure, nutmeg and fruitcake spices linger with marmite on the savoury finish. Rather moreish with an underlying juiciness. A great food wine. 13.5% alc. $39.95. 19Nov2003.

Sileni Estate Selection Merlot Cabernets 2000 Showing a little development to its blackish red hue with biscuity oak on the nose, it's a densely flavoured, creamy textured, terrifically balanced wine with a good concentration of sweet ripe plum and cassis fruit, firm tannins and spice. There's some salty, cedary vanillin oak with an American oak signature that we associate with some Aussie reds and a leathery mocha character to the finish. Quite juicy and ready to enjoy now - though it's a big rich wine that needs food. Think a big juicy steak. Matured in French & American oak. 13% alc. $34.95. 19Nov2003.

Spy Valley Merlot 2000 Waihopai Valley, Marlborough. Cherry garnet, medium weight, plenty of spice and juicy plum with a hint of chocolate adding richness. Sweet fruit, soft tannins, subtle oak. Quite delicious. Excellent with a platter of eastern Mediterranean falafels, hummus, eggplant dip and tsaziki. July 2001

Saint Clair Merlot 2000 $20.95 Bright pink rims and deep centre. Dull nose at first with plums battling to show with creamy spicy vanillin oak. Tight, leathery, marginally stuffed. Perhaps a little green. A second sample not available, 13 June 2001.

Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2000 Loads of spice - cinnamon and pepper. Plummy, lots of sweet cedary oak and prune flavours. Quite ripe and juicy but firm tannins. Dry finish. But is there some stalkiness in there too? 18Dec2002.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Brokenstone Merlot 2000 Fabulous colour of red-black with carmine rims. Vanillin aromas with berries and a hint of mint. It's a lovely rich, ripe, complex and beautifully structured wine with really concentrated fruit full of blackberries and plums. Seemingly soft tannins make it so approachable but the tannins are well structured and grippy. Cigarbox characters linger. Classy wine. NZ$40. 22Jul2002.

Sacred Hill Hawkes Bay Merlot 2000 Inky red/blackcurrant colour. Biscuity oak on nose. It's tarry and dry first up but the sweet ripe fruit comes forth with tobacco, leather, plums, blackberry and chocolate coated cherries filled with more warm liquid chocolate. Savoury French oak plays in the background with powerful ripe tannins but overall the wine is smooth, spicy and succulent. A blockbuster of a New Zealand Merlot. 13.5% alc. $39.95. 25Jun2003.

Te Awa Boundary 2000 - Hawkes Bay Deep, red-black colour with a dense core and the fresh, blood-coloured rims. Seductive aromas of mellow cedar, plum, prune and blackberry while in the palate the fruit is opulent, almost luscious. Concentrated blackcurrant, blackberry, plum and cherry are supported by silk-grained tannins and dark, smoky, savoury oak with a touch of bitter chocolate while Herbs de Provence in the background add another dimension to the layers of flavour. There's also a leathery character which in its small proportion in this wine adds intrigue, then a spicy, fragrant, rose-petal note emerges to linger on the finish. It's a rich, mouthfilling wine that is integrating nicely, but still very primary in its fruit character. 85% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. $49.95. 22Feb2006.

Te Awa Farm Longlands Merlot 2000 (Hawkes Bay) Hallmark sweet leather and plum fruit of merlot. Spicy layer with some crisp herbal notes on the finish. 17Sep2001.
Lovely rich red/black. Farmyard, meaty, tons of guts and flavour. Plums, spice, sweet fruit, lovely creamy texture and firm dry (but not drying) tannins. Very good, long and flavoursome. Dry, vinous, nutty oak. V. good wine. 10Jul2002

Thornbury Merlot 2000 Purple red colour. Sweet coconut vanillin oak. Typical NZ style Bdx wine with that old fashioned pong. Sits lower on the palate than the Marl wine. Rich and sweet concentrated fruit. Thick chalky texture with a vinous complexity. $30. 24Jul2002.

Unison Merlot/Cab/Syrah 2000 The colour of freshly crushed black grapes that stain the hands purple, this is a deliciously vinous wine - just the thing for a self-declared vinophile. Seductive smoky oak combines with ripe blackcurrant and plum, while vinously fine tannins and creamy licorice provide a wonderful texture and flavour. There's some meaty richness, a touch of black pepper and a sultry savouriness that lingers on the lifted finish. Incredible balance, gorgeous ripe flavours and delicious length makes this one of the most impressive wines I've tried from the 2000 vintage. $25. 30/10/2001

Vidal Estate Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2000 Beautifully presented with its gold screwcap. Deep red, almost glowing. Wonderfully spicy aromas with floral hints over cedary oak and licorice and a slightly yeasty character. Soft and rounded in the mouth with licorice, plum, red berry and sweet leather flavours and a lingering spicy character that reminds me of Dutch windmill biscuits. A classy red indeed. $39. 30May2002.
Still very deep in colour but without the youthful glow. Lovely development with aromas of mellow cedar and primary fruit now integrated in the whole. Purple fruits, juicy, though with great structure and a warm, rich finish. 9Nov2005.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2000 Deep colour, purple black centre & cerise rims. Fragrant oak and cherry aromas, lovely rich creamy texture, blackcurrant & plum fruit, cigar box, hints of chocolate, love complexity. Lifted fragrant finish with lingering berry and smoke. Juicy and drinkable. 22Aug2002.
Deep dense red. Biscuity oak, tar, blackcurrants. A big juicy flavoursome wine, lots and lots of chocolate, plums and black fruits and a flavour that reminds me of moist Christmas cake with brandied fruits. Good tannin structure. Meaty oak on the finish. A very good wine that is very ripe and easy to drink. $23.95. 5Mar2003.

Villa Maria Cellar Selection Two Vineyards Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2000 is an aged release and pretty much what I expect from Villa Maria these days. Wonderful colour, warm vanillin oak, dark berry and plum fruits, a shot of blackcurrant, well loved leather and robust tannins with plenty of mouthfilling flavour and good length, a 5-star wine and at $24.95 it is exceptional value for money. Make the most of this with food. 13.5% alc. 10Feb2004.

Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2000 Showing more sanguine hues to the colour. "Cabernet adds a leafiness", says Corey Ryan the winemaker. I pick this up as a tobacco character amongst the plum fruit with firm tannins, hints of leather, a touch of liquorice. Lovely development and integration of oak to the concentrated fruit, would be a delightful accompaniment to a big juicy steak. 13% alc. 19Oct2004.
A densely coloured dark red with cedar aromas and succulent flavours of brambly fruit with a hint of mint, chocolate, cigar box and mellow spices with smooth tannins that are beautifully harmonious and make the wine seem deceptively youthful for its age. 13% alc. $42.95. 19Oct2005.
Lovely fruit, creamy fruit - a very harmonious wine with cedar, vanilla, blackcurrant and just a hint of mocha and chocolate. Drinking beautifully now but the tannins are still there - almost a little chunky in fact - so the wine has lots of evolving still to do. 13% alc. $39.95. 12Aug2005.

West Brook Blue Ridge Merlot 2000, Hawkes Bay. Deep and bright crimson red. Big chocolately tannins. Plums and citrus with the intensity of red berries, cassis and leather. Youthful, with an intriguing touch of earthiness & boot polish on the smoky finish. Pretty good. $20.95. 20Feb2002.

West Brook Merlot Shiraz Cabernet 2000 Medium weight red in colour with light pinky crimson hues that are starting to fade. Chocolate on the nose together with hints of cherry, violets, tar and brambly oak. Ripe plums in the mouth, firms tannins, sweet licorice and a spicy leathery lift to the finish with a bright juicy berry flavour lingering together with a smoky, cigar box-like nuance. Thought it most definitely Merlot at first, then the spiciness of the Shiraz that came through made me think it must something else. Turned out it was this interesting blend of Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon predominantly from Hawkes Bay. From recollection, the Shiraz comes from South Auckland.. Really good with a BBQ'd sirloin steak that had been marinated in a little soy. 22Mar2003.

Wishart Hawkes Bay Basket Press Merlot 2000 Lovely sweet plummy fruit, nicely structured with a touch of licorice and spice. 18Sep2001.

Wishart Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot Malbec Cabernet Franc 2000 This is a great follow-on from the 1999. Deep colour enhanced by the malbec. Spicy fruit, good weight and complexity with gripping tannins. 18Sep2001.
Smoke, ash and berries on the nose. Tight, tannic, leathery, smoky and tarry, a little oily and a touch of barnyard. Quite tough going from a newly opened bottle. May be better with decanting. 2May2003.

1999 Vintage [top] [index]

Brajkovich Merlot 1999 Lightly coloured. Appealing fruity black plum aromas with an earthy savoury character and a hint of buttered toast. An initial woody dryness at first in the palate is overtaken by sweet cherry and berry fruit flavours which fill the mouth along. A pleasant creaminess and a touch of rustic spiciness lifts the finish and savoury notes linger. $16.00. May2000.

Church Road Reserve Merlot Cabernet 1999 Medium dark red colour. Sweetly scented vanilla and spicy oak. Attractive fruity scents. Quite spicy with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. Very firm tannins, red berries, raspberries, not quite ripe blackberries. American oak dominates the front of the palate. It went well with the rich flavours of the lamb and red wine sauce that accompanied it, with some leathery nuances appearing in the wine with the food. Later on it appeared to be a big brooding wine that lengthened and broadened in the mouth, lingering with big thick sweet dark chocolate, red berries and a leathery richness. 27Apr2003.

CJ Pask Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 1999 Smoky berry fruit and creamy, spicy, oak aromas. Rich, very very ripe, lovely balance. Juicy, Strong but ripe tannins, citrus, a lifted almost eucalypt note. Lots of oak. 28 Feb 2001

Coopers Creek Reserve Huapai Merlot 1999 - "The Gardener'Creamy, smoky oak, spice, full & ripe, nice balance, cigar finish, and cowpat. 17.5/20. 28Aug2001.
Rich full bodied wine with smoky oak and an earthy, coal-like note typical of Auckland's heavy clay soils, then a minty lift on the finish. Ripe and creamy. A combination of old and new with 2/3 new vines (1st crop) and 1/3 the last crop of. Original merlot planted in 1980. Being replaced with a better clone of merlot with small berries and good intensity. Lots of chocolate on the finish. Good wine. $27. 22Oct2001.

Craggy Range Seven Poplars Vineyard Merlot 1999 (about $50) is one of the new 'super star' wines. It is a deeply coloured, rich, bold wine with blackberry fruit on a layer of creamy cedar and cigar-box influenced flavours. It has a velvety smooth texture, a ripe rich fine tannin structure, a wallop of spicy richness and savoury, earthy, plummy flavours lingering. Enjoy now or cellar. ***** April 2001

Delegats Reserve Merlot 1999 (Hawkes Bay). Rich chocolaty aromas, good tannin structure, dusky, dense fruit. Big tannins and dense chocolate, plum and leather complexities with soft French oak. A good wine that is fairly tight at this stage and also lacks the ripe lusciousness of the 1998 reserve merlot. A bit of mintiness and baked tomato spiciness on the finish. FG ***1/2 7Oct2000.
Rich, chocolate, creamy, strong tannins, dry, some spice, leather notes, lifted finish. Plummy fruit. 4**** 17 Jan 2001.

Esk Valley Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Crushed rose petals and spice. Creamy with a cedar influence reminiscent of Bordeaux. Good fruit but oak a little hard at this stage. 17/20 Tasted 30/10/2000

Esk Valley Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot/Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 (52% merlot, 33% malbec, 15% CS). Lovely varietal characters - very floral in a sense. Fabulous aromas a mix berries and creamy oak. Ripe and succulent with well integrated ripe tannins and a minty note on the finish. Fabulous balance. Another top wine from Gordon Russell. 25July2001.

Framingham Merlot 1999 Funky-almost bretty leathery character on the nose. Not very appealing. Dry, greenish, dry tannins and leathery finish. Seems to lack fruit. A good example of a bad wine. Really need to try a sample from another bottle to determine if a bad wine or bad bottle. 31 Jan 2000.

Grove Mill Merlot 1999 Creamy nose with plenty of spice almost shiraz-like but in the palate this wine is fruit-cake rich through and through. Plenty of power and concentration with well-integrated oak balanced to fruit, ripe soft tannins and lingering licorice and sweet leather. A good wine. Grove Mill is not going to continue with Merlot after the 2000 release as although good fruit this year, cannot get fruit of this calibre all the time. 31Oct2001

Gunn Estate Woolshed Merlot Cabernet 1999 This garnet coloured has a lovely rich creamy nose with blackberries, vanillin oak and spices. A huge tannic wine that is starting to soften. Sweet berry flavours linger together with the leathery character of merlot. NZ$19.95. 22Jul2002.

Harrier Rise Uppercase Kumeu Merlot 1999 Light in colour. A dry, plummy, elegant wine with fine tannins and a lovely balance of fruit and oak. A nice depth of flavour emerges and lingers. It's a wine that evolves well in the palate. 12Sep2001.

Herzog 'Spirit of Marlborough' Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 1999 Medium depth red. Fragrant aroma with florals on the varnishy oak nose. Minty cabernet fruit, spicy oak, good tannin structure although dusty. A very flavoursome full-bodied red with lifted red berries and denser plum. Lingering bright finish that shows its lively acids that will make this wine age. $70. 21Jan2002.

Kemblefield Hawkes Bay Merlot 1999 (about $22) was popular with the students at the Orewa College 'Swirl, Sniff and Sip' class. It is a light coloured but full flavoured wine with cherry and plum fruit, a little fruit cake spice, fine tannins and a lingering taste. ***1/2 April 2001

Kim Crawford Te Awanga Merlot 1999 Minty, dense, chocolate, cigar, sweet plums and black fruits with a smoky, charry olive (ie sour) finish. There's touch on green on the lingering finish which detracts on the finality. 16.5/20. FG Sept99.

Matakana Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon Franc Malbec 1999 Berry aromas influenced by chocolaty oak. Soft but high acids but some nice creamy texture works in its favour. 10 Feb 2001

Matariki Quintology 1999 (Hawkes Bay). 1/3 each of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc with 7% syrah making up the balance. It is very balanced and creamy with excellent balance of berry fruit and oak. It is an elegant stylish wine drinking very well today. 18Sep2001.

Te Awa Boundary 1999 (Hawkes Bay) Dominantly merlot (85%) with cabernet sauvignon (11%0 and franc. Fragrant, well-coloured wine with lovely spicy components. Very balanced, very elegant, very ripe and round. Good tannins without being overpowering. Impressive long wine with lingering spice, leather and smoky oak. 17Sep2001.

Trinity Hill Gimblett Rd Merlot 1999 Leathery, earthy, plums with the slightest hint of chocolate. A young wine, fairly tannic. Ripe fruit underlies all that tannin and oak. Rich, big, sweet, almost cassis-like fruit lingers beside those sweet leathery tannins.. A pretty smart wine but needs time. 9 May 2001

Trinity Hill Shepherds Croft Merlot Cabernet Franc Cabernet Sauvignon Syrah 1999 Chocolate aromas!! Sweet raspberry and blackcurrant fruit with a surge of spicy black pepper supported by leathery, toasty oak. It's a richly flavoured, full bodied, creamy textured wine with earthy tannins. Tannic wines and rare meat go really well together and this wine . This wine would be a superb to a rare to medium rare pepper steak. Priced from $22.50 to $25.00. May2001.

Unison 'Selection' 1999. A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah. Tried alonside the Unison 2000, this is a spicier more tannic wine which doesn't seem to have the same depth in the palate. Spice and tannin override and hide the deliciously juicy red fruits and creamy oak that soon emerge to show the long term potential of the wine. A while later the wine had really opened up on the nose but I found the tannins just too gripping on the finish. $35. 30/10/2001

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 1999 ($38.95) Smelled this wine and said 'Oh yum' Gorgeous colour. Sweet juicy plummy fruit - so lifted and clean. Very fine. A refined, elegant finish. 18.5 7 Mar 2001

1998 Vintage [top] [index]

Alpha Domus 'The Navigator' 1998 A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Vibrant, deep crimson red colour with pink / crimson rim. Subtle oak aromas. Heaps of fruit. Lifted, minty, cassis, raspberries, blackberries, summer and winter berry fruits. A deserved gold medal winner in the Air NZ Wine Awards. Tasted 10/11/99.

Brajkovich Signature Series Merlot 1998 Made from the "Irwin" clone, this deep red wine has a good density of colour. Upfront aromas of cherries, plums and raspberries are layered with a creamy toastiness. In the palate it is fruit with fairly noticeable soft tannins, spicy oak, good acidity and lots of plummy, berry and chocolate flavours. It has a toasty finish with a very good, warm, mouthfilling length. RRP about $18.00. 22Jul99.

Delegats Reserve Barrique Fermented Merlot 1998 Deep crimson red with earthy, mellow aromas which were warmly aromatic and vinous. Soft and round in the mouth with a little spicy oak and fruit flavours of red-fleshed plums and ripe blackberries. Medium tannins, a little dusty perhaps, a thickish texture and more flavours emerging that were reminiscent of dairy milk chocolate and sweet leather then yeasty complexities, a spicy ripe tangerine citrus lift on the finish and lingering nutty oak mingling with the berries on the aftertaste. 14% alc. $21. WOTW 9Jul2000.

Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 1998 Tasted several times since March 2000, this blend of 48% merlot, 28% malbec, 16% cabernet sauvignon and 8% cabernet franc is one of the most impressive and consistent Merlot dominant wines from the fantastic Hawkes Bay 1998 vintage. Deep and densely coloured red, it's big and concentrated with wonderful vinosity on the nose, rich and creamy in the palate with toasty oak, plums, blackcurrants and spicy fruitcake flavours, hints of chocolate and liquorice, and plenty of smooth and fine ripe fruit tannins. Powerful and mouthfilling with excellent length, there's a gorgeous lingering aftertaste of lifted blackcurrant fruit. The delicious wine has easily years of life ahead of it. $40. WOTW 5Nov2000.

Forrest Estate Merlot 1998 Deep colour with ruby centre and reddish rim. Chocolate, cream and spice with plum and blackcurrant fruit. Smoky oak then dominates in the palate. The tannins are firm and the finish is very spicy and lingering. RRP $19.95. 25Aug1999.

Glazebrook Merlot 1998 (Hawkes Bay) Rich, plummy fruit with warm toasty oak, spicy nuances, soft tannins and some strong berry fruits emerging on the finish. Creamy texture. A lovely structured, well made, balanced wine but not quite as good as the Glazebrook Merlot Cabernet 1998 in my opinion. Tasted 22/12/99 at Kingsley's 'Wines of the Year'.

Hyperion 'Gaia' Matakana Merlot 1998 A brilliant crimson colour of medium intensity. Creamy notes in the rich appealing smoky, spicy, berry aroma then in the palate the wine is distinctly fruit driven with voluptuous flavours of black cherries and plums. There's spice and cream, hints of mint and a touch of dusky earthiness with a liquorice finish and a lingering persistence of sweet, ripe, red berry fruits overlain with toasty oak. It is full, rich and gorgeous, has nicely integrated tannins and is clean and memorable. WOTW 4Jul1999.

Kumeu River MELBA 1998, A blend of Merlot and Malbec, this is a vibrantly coloured red wine with well-stated berry and plum-like fruit, soft to medium tannins, a nice touch of wood, a creamy texture, a hint of developing chocolate complexity and a flavoursome length accompanied by some rustic spice. $27. May2000.

Matua Valley Smith Dartmoor Merlot 1998 Dark mocha colour, red with browning orange hues. Bordeaux -like, with some nice nut chocolate richness and old plum jam characters with perhaps a bit of black currant flavour in there too. But not a great wine from 1998. Drink up. 28Dec2002.

Mills Reef Elspeth Merlot / Cabernet / Syrah 1998 (Hawkes Bay) A blend of 36% merlot, 35% cabernet sauvignon and 29% syrah. Fabulously concentrated fruit, well integrated ripe tannins, cream and spice, a touch of leather and a hint of acid. Blackcurrants and plums and raspberry and spice. Great length, powerful and intense. Some tobacco notes on the finish. A truly great wine and typical of the quality of the Mills Reef Elspet range from the 1998 vintage. Tasted 22/12/99 at Kingsley's 'Wines of the Year'.

Pegasus Bay Maestro Merlot Cabernet 1998 (Waipara). Densely coloured, opaque with deep purple-red rims. Spicy, meaty aromas, like a savoury & herb casserole on the nose. Touch of mint. Richly flavoured with spice, plum, blackcurrant, blackberry. and savoury with a creamy texture with a chocolate richness. Ripe bold tannins. Very long, with sweet ripe plum fruits lingering with sweet vanillin oak. A harmonious wine with superb balance. Tasted 01Sep 2001

Saint Clair Rapaura Merlot 1998 Fruity, spicy, (peppery), fairly ripe with a creamy chocolate-box character. Black cherry and red plum. Spicy, but fairly acidic fruit, plums, leather, dry chocolate and smoky oak. Quite rich and overpowering on its own. 31 Jan 2000.

Te Awanga Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 1998 This is an absolutely classy wine, fully deserving of its top place in the Cuisine NZ Red Wine Tasting. Aromas of creamy blackcurrant fruit and biscuits. All the components beautifully balanced - smooth tannins, integrated oak, and tons of delicious ripe fruit. Dreamy!!!! Winemaker is Kim Crawford. Costs about $NZ27.95. Tasted 18/8/99.

Thornbury Hawkes Bay Merlot 1998 Very dense colour, almost crimson pink with a purple rim - very appealing. Aromas are spearmint, cassis and blackcurrant. Full, "in your face" style. Strong flavours of mint, cassis with underlying berries. Soft and wonderfully balanced. This is the first crop of young vines in the Hawkes Bay and has the potential to age well, although immensely drinkable now. 27/3/99 Rating: Excellent.
From the first crop of young merlot vines in a new Hawkes Bay vineyard, the wine exhibits a dense but brilliant, almost crimson pink, colour with a purple rim. There's an appealing eucalypt aroma, reminiscent of an Aussie cousin. The winemaker attributes this to the stand of eucalypt trees growing along one boundary of the vineyard. There's spearmint, cassis and blackcurrant aromas too. In the palate it's a full, "in your face" style with strong flavours of mint and cassis with underlying berries. Soft ripe tannins and wonderfully balanced it has the potential to age well, although immensely drinkable now. I tried the remainder of a bottle, FIVE days later and it was still terrific. It had developed quite plummy characters - the cassis had disappeared. There was still a hint of eucalypt, although not as prominent as earlier. About $25. WOTW 30May1999.

Unison Selection 1998 Made from merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah in unspecified quantities, in the glass the colour is a deep ruby red and appears very dense. Toasty aromas are toasty with ripe blackberries and a jammy richness. At first in the palate there is a touch of herbs, dried herbs, just to remind you it is a New Zealand wine you have in the glass. Then come the rich complexities, one by one in waves and layers - cedar, licorice, chocolate, vanilla, blackcurrant, dried roses, more sweet fruit, then cream. A wine of great architecture, it shows its flare with concentrated power and an intensely long warm finish. When accompanied with medium rare to rare fillet steak, characters of leather and spice were brought forth in the wine while the rareness of the meat softened the thick, delicious tannins. $29.95. WOTW 30Apr2000.

Villa Maria Reserve Merlot Cabernet 1998 Densely coloured, blackberry red. Strong, smoky, spicy, vanillin oak with hints of tobacco and cigar. Warm berry flavours, but beautiful vinous structure, and thick, rich texture. Hints of chocolate and mocha mingle in with the berry richness and smoky oak. $42. 15Nov2001

Waipipi Masterton Basket Press Merlot 1998 Rich plummy wine with good structure and a sweet oaky finish. 17Nov2001.

Older Vintages [top] [index]

CJ Pask Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 1997 Poached plums with cinnamon spice. Developing savoury notes - ripe and luscious. Lovely integration and development. Good tannins, juicy, chewy fruit. A touch of leather and just a hint of chocolate. Lingering ripe berry fruit. 28 Feb 2001

Esk Valley Terraces 1995 (Hawkes Bay) A blend of merlot, malbec and cabernet franc. Amazingly deep youthful colour with deep purple rims. Delicious, minty character with a touch of licorice intensity (imagine freshly pressed grape skins) and again a floral nuance. Rich biscuity blackcurrant, lovely smoky toasty and well-integrated oak. Great vinosity and concentration. Very silky in the palate. A classic wine and one of the best ever made in NZ. Tasted in 2001.

A Vertical of CJ Pask Reserve Merlot [top] [index]

7 April 2003. Brevity of notes due to the tasting situation.

CJ Pask Hawkes Bay Merlot 1995 (not labelled 'Reserve' but was the equivalent. Reserve label not introduced until 1997). Showing some development with its browning colour. Has that old 'plum cheese' (a hard fruit jelly) character. Mellow, soft and integrated. A little Bordeaux-like. Very drinkable. Would like to muse over a glass of this at dinner. 7Apr2003.

CJ Pask Hawkes Bay Reserve Merlot 1997 Red in colour. Looks very youthful compared the 1995. Tastes youthful too. Oak still quite dominant on nose and quite grippy tannins in palate. There's a slight green edge as well amidst the strong plum fruit characters. 7Apr2003. Also see the note above.

CJ Pask Hawkes Bay 98 Reserve Merlot 1998 Great colour, dense with some lovely bright red hues. Good density of flavour too. Cedary oak, Primary fruit still abundant. Plums, leather, huge tannin structure and years of life ahead of it. Black, tarry, nuggetty with a savoury finish with marmite nuances lingering. 7Apr2003.

CJ Pask Hawkes Bay Reserve Merlot 1999 Chocolate, leather, dense tannins, spice and a savoury note. Even though a cool year, this has really voluptuous fruit and a smoky finish. Very savoury, leathery with a vegemite yeasty character to the finish. 7Apr2003.

CJ Pask Hawkes Bay Reserve Merlot 2000 Blackberry coloured, dense and rich. Voluptuosity plus. Huge tannins but opening up well. Plums, strawberry, spice, leather, great length. Loads of life ahead of it. 7Apr2003. Also see the note above in the 2000 vintage tastings.

[2004 & 2003 vintages] [2002 & 2001] [2000] [1999] [1998] [older] [index]

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

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