edited by Sue Courtney
Wine Reviews - Merlot & blends
2002 and 2001 vintages
by Sue Courtney
7 Nov 2007
Although some of these tasting notes may be found elsewhere on this site, this page brings together most of my Merlot notes from the 2001 and 2002 vintages, listed alphabetically by Producer. Click here for rating systems and abbreviations.
Airfield Waiheke Island Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 An earthy red, quite leathery and concentrated, a great food wine it softens out and becomes soft and approachable with a spicy lift to the finish. Plums and cedary fruit linger on the sweet, moreish finish.11Nov2003.
Alpha Domus Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Lovely cherry pink colour. Plums on the nose but fresh cherry flavours in the mouth. Designed for summer drinking. $16. 23Sep2002.
Alpha Domus Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 A dark savoury wine brimming with plums, leather, spice and smoke, it's a touch earthy to the taste. This is a good solid wine with weight and flavour, it's soft and round with nicely integrated tannins and a good acid backbone that extends the plummy length.. A blend of Merlot, Caberent, Franc and Malbec, the latter adds the dark purple-fruited savouriness. 13% alc. ****. 20Jan2004.
Alpha Domus Hawkes Bay 'The Navigator' 2002 Deep dark red. It looks good but the stinky, oily, leathery, horse saddle aromas scream 'Brettanomyces' and yes, the palate backs this observation up. It you can tolerate this character you'll find a fine tannin structure with French oak, concentrated plum and berry fruit, and some bottle development to boot, but the horse saddle character was too strong for me. Made from a blend of 43% Merlot, 36% Cab Sauv, 11% Cab Franc & 10% Malbec. 13.5% alc. $22. 7Jul2006.
Ascension Matakana Merlot 2002 Smoke, vanilla, spiced plums and a touch of licorice. It's the perfect medium-weight wine for drinking with or without food. Screwcap. 12.5%. $21.95. 11May2003.
Ascension Epiphany Matakana Pressings 2002 A blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and malbec aged in new French oak for 18 months, lavishly packaged with a hefty price tag. This deeply coloured, robust merlot dominant red has spicy plum, berry, cigar box, cinnamon, leather and meaty savoury oak flavours that are tightly knit together right now. A powerful wine with a slight herbal edge that I would not have expected from a wine of this realm. The second day it starts to open up a bit more with concentrated fruit, smoky oak and the influence of earthy Malbec and violets on the finish. I recommend cellaring for a least two years for best enjoyment. Screwcap. RRP $60. 13.5% alc. 23Apr2004.
Ascension Matakana Merlot Malbec 2002 (sc) Pongy on the nose - like an old style NZ wine - but with a rich core of concentrated fruit and a touch of liquorice. A big wine in the mouth with a savoury, earthy, wild fruits expression, grainy tannins and a nice amalgamation of oak, cedar, leather and mushrooms with a meatiness to the more velvety-textured, spicy finish that lingers well. 28Aug2005.
Ata Rangi Celebre 2002 (sc) Black pepper and rose petal on the nose indicates a fairly high proportion of Syrah in the wine. It is a lifted bright style with vibrant red berry fruits, cherry, wild blackberry, integrated silky tannins with the fruit, tannins and oak in harmony, a tough of cigar box on the finish and sweet but not jammy fruit lingers nicely. Hints of musk come through to linger. Interesting. Fascinating. 14% alc. $32. 1Feb2005.
Babich Gimblett Gravels Quartet 2002 A medium-bodied blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec. Classic Merlot characters of plum, leather, chocolate and cigar box-like oak intertwine with the blackcurrant of Cabernet while the pepper of Syrah comes to the fore on the finish and Malbec adds an earthy richness. 13.5% alc. $19.95. 18May2004.
Black Barn Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Dense, deep and shiny blackberry in colour, this powerful wine reeks of chocolate with nuances of spice. Rich, full, intense and creamy with firm tannins and concentrated plummy fruit overlain with fruit cake spice and a tarry oaky savouriness to the ripe fruited finish, it is a big wine but the chocolate-like sweetness and the delicious fruit make it oh, so drinkable. A blend of 87% Merlot and 13% Cabernet Franc matured in French oak for 18 months. 14.5% alc. $39.95. 24Nov2004.
Cable Bay Waiheke Island Five Hills Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 A well-structured, slightly tarry, concentrated fruited wine with a spicy backbone, it is quite fragrant, a little floral with good palate weight, supple tannins and lovely concentration. Soft and ready to drink, it has underlying power and good persistence. A blend of 62% Merlot, 21% Malbec, 7% CS. Made to go with food. $34. 26Sep2003.
Capricorn Wines Red Rock Gravel Pit Red 2002 A blend of Merlot and malbec. Intense inky colour. Plums, cinnamon and leather on the nose. Concentrated berry fruit, chocolate, tar and grunty grainy tannins with an earthy meaty complexity in the palate. A warm, full-bodied, rich and powerful red but with a definite barnyard (bretty) component. A Craggy Range label. Screwcap. 3Oct2002.
Church Road Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (61% Merlot, 26% CS and 12% Malbec) Forward and fruity on the nose, it opens up well over the course of the tasting. Crisp red berry fruit, chocolate, cigar, oak, leather and a slightly earthy barnyard nuance fills out the flavour that lingers with creamy oak, brambly fruit and youthful acidity. Approachable tannins make it a drink now style. 16Sep2003.
CJ Pask Gimblett Road Merlot 2002 (sc) A meaty, savoury wine that is intense and appealing on the nose with sweet oak and berry fruit scents. It's rich and full-bodied with juicy cherry and plum flavours, firm tannins, fruitcake spices and a long flavoursome finish with sweet oak and hints of chocolate on the lingering aftertaste. Good wine. One for the long haul. 14% alc. $22.50. 17May2004.
CJ Pask Reserve Merlot Hawkes Bay 2002 Deep red black in colour this savoury smelling wine with dark chocolate, plum, shoe leather and quite grunty tannins has a biscuity, spicy oak backbone and a long, rich, finish that has a chocolate liqueur intrigue. A brooding wine of great power and depth. Lovely berry flavours linger. It begs to be served with some rare cooked red meat. 13.5% alc. $49.95. 2Jun2004.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2002 - Hawkes Bay Deep and inky with plummy, leathery, savoury aromas, gripping furry tannins, biscuity oak, hints of violets and herbs, smoky bacon and a long juicy finish with excellent length and sweet ripe fruit on the aftertaste, this is bordering on delicious though the tannins will soften with a big juicy steak. 13.5% alc. $26.95. 22Sep2004.
Craggy Range Seven Poplars Merlot 2002 – Hawkes Bay Deep colour, inky, black-red, intense. Rich and powerful with grunty tannins, spicy cedary oak, sweet purple fruit, plums, blackberry, leather, cigar box and cedar. Once you get past the 'in your face' muscularity of this wine, you see an elegance coming through. There's good acidity underlying the smoky oak. It will be interesting to see this wine develop. 14% alc. $33.95. 15Sep2004.
Esk River Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2002 (sc) 74% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Franc make up this soft, sweet juicy wine with cherries, berries, a touch of chocolate and just a hint of tobacco. There's the classic Ribena flavour of Cabernet with sweet vanillin American oak. Easy drinking style. 12.5% alc. ~$16. 19Jul2004.
Esk Valley Black Label Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (60% Merlot, 28% Cab Sauv, 12% Malbec) Deep red with crimson hues. A huge wine, still quite closed and plenty of tannin but it opens up well with a lovely fruit definition of cherry, cassis and wild blackberry. It's smoky with creamy oak that is influenced by fruit cake spice (w/o the fruit cake) and has a rich, concentrated, meaty fruit finish. Leather, a touch of barnyard, smoky savoury oak and a rather juicy succulence on the finish. Screwcap. ****1/2. 7Aug2003.
Esk Valley Black Label Merlot 2002 Deep crimson black with deep plummy scents backed up with dark spicy oak. Taste it and 'Wow!' such immense concentration of flavour with leather, liquorice, rich creamy oak and ripe spicy fruit so terrifically balanced. Mouth-filling with masses of cigar, plum and cherry - everything you would expect in a very good Merlot. And though there's heaps of tannins, it is so svelte and smooth. Screwcap. 14.5% alc. $22.95. 7Aug2003. Wine of the Week, w/ending 17Aug2003.
Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 - Hawkes Bay (sc) Deep, inky blackberry red in colour and smelling of creamy Cedary oak full of vanilla and red berries. A huge wine in the palate with rich fruit tannins and intensely concentrated plum and cassis fruit, a nuance of violets, a hint of bitter chocolate and a dark savoury finish. There's a lovely juicy undercurrent. Still very young with tannins to soften, it has years of life ahead. 14.5% alc. $52.95. 6Oct2004.
Gibbston Valley Merlot 2002 An amazingly robust Merlot from the land of Pinot Noir. From a vintage that was conducive to ripe fruit, this has the hallmark plums and leather, berries and plums. There's a slight acidic edge but get past that and you've got a smooth, medium-bodied, smoky, flavoursome wine. A great addition to the Gibbston Valley Café. 17Jan2004.
Hinchco Matakana Merlot 2002 A soft juicy red that tastes of ripe plum fruit with a touch of leather, a sprinkle of spice and a hint of oak to add complexity. It is the first wine off the Hinchco Family Vineyard in Monarch Downs Way and was made by Darryl Soljan at the Ascension Winery. $25. 4Jan2003.
Hincho Reserve Merlot 'The Hinch' 2002 (sc) A spicy red wine with fruitcake spices dominating the backbone, it's got rich fruit flavours, a creamy chocolatey texture, plenty of acid and lingering flavours of cherries, plum and chocolate. 7Nov2003. A good creamy robust backbone, chocolate, plums, creamy oak, fruitcake spices, grainy tannins, good dense dark red colour and a length finish. Medium term cellaring. 3 silver medals in shows this year. Matured in French and American oak. 13% alc. 10Nov2003.
Kemblefield Distinction Merlot 2002 A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Malbec, this has the distinctive leather/plum cigar characters of Merlot on the nose, but shows much more fruit in the palate with a touch of raspberry and blackberry, but for me the leathery overtone is still too dominant. A savoury rather than a sweet fruited wine, red fruits linger well on the finish. Aged in French oak for 18 months. Would be good with food. 14% alc. $20.95. 8Mar2004.
Kennedy Point Waiheke Island Merlot 2002 A blend of predominantly Merlot with Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Leather, tar, smoke and fruit on the nose, a medium-bodied wine seemingly soft and easy going. Cigar smoke, fruitcake spice, lots of cherries and a little stewed plum, the richness of a small component Malbec adds a meaty richness to the finish. 13.6% alc. $32. 26Sep2003.
Kim Crawford Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Fragrant scents of plums and spiced oak, juicy plum and cherry fruit in the palate with smoky savoury oak, a hint of anise, good tannins, a clean finish and something that reminds me of cherry ripe chocolate bars. A medium-bodied style, easy to enjoy. 14% alc. $24.95. 17May2004.
Lincoln Winemakers Selection Gisborne Merlot 2002 Chocolate is a character ascribed to Merlot and thick creamy chocolate and rich spicy berry flavours are what I can taste in the this soft, velvety-textured easy to drink, user friendly, unoaked wine that is full of ripe berry flavours. Ahint of leather joins the berry flavours on the second day.
Main Divide Merlot Cabernet 2002 A deeply coloured, buxom, robust creamy red. Deep ruby with creamy vanilla and berry scents and lots of flavour with savoury oak, vanilla and cherries, tobacco joins the classic Merlot characters of chocolate and cigar. Not too leathery. Good with pizza. $13.5% alc. $17.50. 30Jul2004.
Margrain Martinborough Merlot 2002 Leather, plum, tar, tannins, concentrated fruit, everything you’d expect but Brett mars the finish for me. 8Dec2003.
Matariki Aspire Merlot Cabernet 2002 Attractive, pinky red, almost inky in its depth. It's a fruit bomb in the mouth, a mouthful of cherries, plums and red berries with musky overtones and a vanillin oak backing. The soft velvety tannins add structure to this care-free, summer BBQ style. $19.50. 11Oct2003.
Matariki Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 A deep, dense red with a youthful appearance. Savoury and tarry on the nose, sweet oak, primary fruit in the plum and cherry spectrum, hints of cassis and a touch of menthol, big grunty tannins that have a silky nature and a slightly savoury, barnyard aftertaste that at this stage of its life overpowers the chocolatey finish. A serious Bordeaux-influenced style with lots of 'new world' appeal but needs time to let the tannins unfold. 13% alc. $41.95. 6Apr2005.
Matariki Quintology 2002 - Hawkes Bay Youthful, dense, crimson red. Aromas of savoury, cedary oak with dark plummy scents. Lifted cedary flavours, big tannins, leather and spice. Beautiful balance of fruit to oak and tannins and a long, drawn-out, savoury, yet sweet-fruited finish. There are hints of strawberry and cherry amongst the cassis and plum with smoky, mellow, slightly vanillin oak and a growing richness as it lingers. Perhaps even some chocolate and then the pepper of the syrah emerges about a minute later. Sumptuous. Made from a blend of 42% merlot, 23.5% cabernet sauvignon, 21% malbec, 8.5% cabernet franc and 5% syrah. 13.8% alc. $29.95. 11Jul2005.
Matua Valley Ararimu Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet 2002 Inky black red with crimson rims - warm and appealing to the eye. Richly aromatic with vanilla and cassis over savoury meaty oak with dark, dusky sumptuous flavours and velvety tannins. Plums and black berries, violets, a hint of marmite and long savoury finish with sweet oak and cherry lifting the minty aftertaste with just a hint of chocolate. 50% Merlot, 25% Syrah, 20% CS, 5% Malbec. 13.5% alc. $42. 4Jun2004.
Matua Valley Bullrush Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Deeply coloured, richly flavoured, juicy and succulent with masses of fruit, a touch of liquorice, firm earthy tannins, leather and a savoury oak finish. Excellent quality, reflecting the vintage. 13.5% alc. $28.95. 8Jun2004.
Mills Reef Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Almost black, not quite opaque in colour but dense and dark in it its flavour. Chocolate, berries, plums, spice, tar and earth with absolutely load of fine ripe tannins, it's a powerfully rich and robust wine with that I though may have perhaps a smidgen of Malbec in the blend. Built to last. 13.5% alc. $26.95. 3Mar2004.
Mills Reef Elspeth Block 4 Merlot 2002 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawkes Bay Very deep black-red, almost blackberry in colour, though not as bright. A deep, savoury scented wine with leather and barnyard sweetened up by chocolate oak. Dense in its flavour too with thick chewy tannins, a biscuity sweetness, tar, roses, plums, blackberries and spicy oak. Quite monumental, in fact. Right now it needs more time. 14% alc. $39.95. 13Apr2005.
Morton Estate The Mercure Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2002 The colour of dark fleshed plums, this robust, rich creamy red has cigar box-like oak, a chocolate richness and plenty of berry flavours that lift the finish. It is Cabernet dominant so has that a slight herbaceousness that sits in well with the leathery character of the wine. Terrific with medium-rare to rare steak. $18.95. 13May2004.
Newton Forrest Gimblett Road Cornerstone Merlot 2002 (sc) Intense shiny black with bright crimson rims, fragrantly scented with smoky oak and violets, succulently flavoured with blackberries, black cherry, plum, vanillin oak, tobacco and cigar box, then liquorice and a chocolate cherry sweetness on the finish. A beautifully balanced wine with big tannins and big alcohol but with big fruit to match it. 14.5%. $39.95. 18Jun2004.
Ngatarawa Glazebrook Merlot 2002 This is a well-coloured fruit-driven wine with an abundance of cherry and plum layered with spice on the nose and a hint of leather in the sweet-fruited palate. The dry tannins make a statement on the finish but there is terrific fruit extending the length that is creamy and rich. I'd call it a medium-bodied Hawkes Bay merlot. 13Oct2003.
Ngatarawa Glazebrook Merlot Cabernet 2002 There's a slightly feral earthy character to the nose, maybe the result of the small proportion of Malbec that's in the blend but otherwise the scents emit layers of fruit and spice. Rich, with sweet vanillin oak and strong berry flavours, there's plum, leather, spice and cassis and a suggestion of mint on the finish. It's just a little tight right now, I'd let it aerate in a decanter before quaffing or enjoying with food. 13Oct2003.
Ngatarawa Silks Merlot Cabernet 2002 Dense crimson black. Deep brooding aromas of red berries, bitter chocolate and cedary smoky oak. Dark, savoury, earthy and tarry in the palate with grainy tannins, plums and red berries, a touch of tobacco and a creamy, savoury oak aftertaste. Full-bodied and warming. Match to a hearty stew. 13/5% alc. $19.95. 19May2005.
Obsidian 2002 A blend of 45% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Malbec and 8% Cabernet Franc, delivers everything that its provenance of Waiheke Island promises. Deep youthful red, smelling of berries and vanillin oak, the flavour is full of plum, spice, vanilla, liquorice and slightly savoury smoky oak with a concentrated berryfruit finish and just a touch of mint to keep it fresh. This is a solid red, with ripe fruit and velvety, suede tannins making it approachable on release but as it gets better and better as it opens up in the glass it is worth putting away in the cellar to serve with a bit more maturity in a couple of years time. Matured in French and American oak. ***** $49.95. 23Apr2004.
Okahu Estate Ninety Mile Merlot 2002 Light to medium weight, deep translucent pinky red, savoury leathery aromas, and some cork taint that becomes more obvious later. 12.5% alc. $23.95. 1Feb2005.
Passage Rock Waiheke Island 'Forte' 2002 A rich, concentrated, opulent smelling wine with a lovely structure built by the powerful fruit and big tannins, I taste a whole range of berry fruit from cherry through to blackberry, but mostly in the red berry spectrum. Rich and ripe with nice use of oak and lovely balance throughout. A blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Malbec. $40. 26Sep2003.
Pegasus Bay Merlot Cabernet 2002 Rich cherry red hues. Quite deep vanillin oak scents with the freshness of new oak and plum and cherry fruit. The appeal of the eye and the nose carries through to the smoothly textured palate which is flush with juicy ripe blackcurrant fruit, spicy oak, mocha and vanilla and just a hint o mint. Quite a dense meaty style, nicely balanced throughout with velvety tannins, a sweetness to the cigar box oak on the finish.and lingering fruit. 14% alc. $27.95. 1Feb2005.
Passage Rock Waiheke Island Merlot 2002 Fruity with soft tannins, the structure is a little grainy right now 6 weeks after bottling, it seems soft at first but the tannins are powerful though well balanced to the sweet red fruit, mellow oak and lingering liquorice flavours. Excellent persistence. $35. 26Sep2003.
Redmetal Vineyards Merlot Cabernet Franc 2002 Medium weight translucent pink red. Leather and cherry on the nose with creamy spice, a creamy textured wine with firm tannins, cherry, plum and blackberry, a touch of rose-petal and new car leather. There's liquorice, fruitcake spices, cherry chocolate and purple berry fruit leading to a dry finish. A well balanced wine with a long persistent finish. Not a blockbuster by any means but certainly subtle and understated in its power. Ready now. 13.5%. $24.95. 29Aug2003.
Saint Clair Vicars Choice Merlot 2002 Medium depth pinky red. Slight meaty aromas. Spicy fruit profile with wild blackberries, a touch of anise, mocha, fruit cake cherries and plums. An easy going light weight red good acidity, smoky oak and a savoury fruity finish. 13.5% alc. $16.95. 1Feb2005.
Selaks Founders Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2002 Dark dense red with smoky dusky oak on the nose and sweet cherry and strawberry fruit in the palate with spicy vanillin oak, liquorice, just a touch of orange zest on the finish and a long savoury aftertaste. It has quite grunty tannins with a nice touch of rusticity but its overall juicy succulence puts it right up there in the drinkability stakes. 13.5% alc. $16.95. 20Jul2005.
Sileni Cellar Selection Merlot Cabernet Franc 2002 An opaque black red, the bright colour influenced by a smidgen of Malbec, it's fruity yet savoury on the nose with sweet fruit in the palate together with lots of spice, leather, mocha and creamy oak on a soft tannin backbone. Deep, dusky and savoury with just a touch of marmite, there's a hint of blackberry joining the red fruits on the full-bodied lingering finish. A very approachable and exciting wine. Drink or cellar. 13.5% alc. $24.95. 19Nov2003.
Southbank Estate Merlot Cabernet 2002 Meaty oak. Quite spicy in the palate and very juicy. Firm succulent tannins, liquorice, mocha, blackberries brambles. I like the touch of anise that lifts the finish. Lovely oak balancing the juicy fruit and a long succulent, spicy, slightly creamy finish. 13% alc. $19.95. 4Jun2004.
Stonecroft Ruhanui 2002 Harvested from 20 year old vines, this is a blend of 41% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Syrah. Bright in its dense pinky-red colour, there's lovely concentration of berry fruit on nose with just a hint of leather and in the palate there's concentrated plum, blackberry and black currant fruit. It's creamy textured with fairly robust tannins, sweet spicy oak and a deliciously long succulent finish. With its good acidity, it's a wine that will live well in the cellar. Decant for drinking now. Excellent with the fillet of beef topped with the chicken liver paté. 13.5% alc. $30. 29Feb2004.
Stonecutter Martinborough Merlot 2002 Translucent red, it’s a light to medium weight Merlot, leathery on the nose with cherries and plums, rose hips, leather and a hint of chocolate with sweet vanillin oak, a creamy texture and a savoury finish. Not a blockbuster by any means, it becomes more fragrant as it opens up in the glass. Nice finish and it lingers well. ***1/2. 27Nov2003.
Te Awa Boundary 2002 - Hawkes Bay Youthful deep dark red with impressive depth. Fragrant, oak-bound aromas with spice and berries lifted by the appealing floral component of the Cabernet Franc. In the palate, brambly fruit is backed up by mellow cedar with mulled wine spices and a deep plummy character pushing through to make a statement on the full-bodied savoury finish. The wine has lovely vinosity with fine grained tannins and concentrated fruit adding a liquorice nuance to the finish where purples of all colours, aromas and flavours abound. 68% Merlot, 16% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Cabernet Franc. $39.95. 22Feb2006.
Te Awa Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Cherry pink-red, medium depth. Meaty smelling over black, fleshy plums - smoky. Big tannins, cedary oak, creamy textured, lots of structure, lots of flavour - plums, cassis, vanilla and spice and a dry, cracked berry finish that lingers well. 13% alc. $19.95. 4Jun2004.
Te Mata Coleraine 2002 30% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon. Opulent from the outset in both colour and fragrance, it's deeply scented with violets, currants, cedar, spice and concentrated berry fruits. Lovely vinosity and concentration in the silky textured palate, it has the Coleraine signature of harmony. Blackcurrant dominates the fruit profile at first, then blends into plum and currant with woodsmoke. Supple ripe tannins prove a firm backbone while good acidity lifts the finish. Red berries and slightly chocolatey oak linger. Harmonious throughout, it's drinkable at this early stage of its life, the more it sits in the glass the more it opens up and builds in fragrance - the Cabernet Franc is obviously a big factor in this. Note the Merlot dominance this vintage. 14% alc. $62. 24Feb2004.
TOM Merlot Cabernet 2002 - Hawkes Bay (c) Showing some bricking to the dark red hue and a delicacy to the aroma that has a subtle smoky, savoury, leafy, dried herb complexity and carries through to the palate where the fruit profile is no longer identifiable. But it is the fine, silky, seamlesss texture that is the most incredible feature and the underlying power of the wine that grows and grows. Then you detect the youthful acidity and the tannins exert dominance and you realise the wine has years and years to go. Church Road's flagship red - a blend of 47% Merlot, 44% Cabernet and 9% Malbec. 14% alc. $155.90. 12Aug2009.
Trinity Hill Homage Gimblett Gravels Hawkes Bay 'The Gimblett' 2002 A blend of 50% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Syrah, this a dark and mysterious wine with earth, violets, marmite yeasty flavours and cigar. Then the red and purple fruit emerge, there' s a meaty richness and Syrah florals comes through on the finish. Beautifully scented with hints of mocha and complex sweet-fruit flavours that last and last. A very opulent red with powerful tannins that just need to settle right now. 16 months in oak. 13.8% alc. 6Dec2004.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Road Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 It smells quite developed and savoury with sweet fruit, a hint of mint, spicy oak, cigar box, chocolate, smooth tannins and a smoky savoury finish. A big wine but nicely integrated and very approachable now. 13.5% alc. $29.95. 19Oct2005.
Unison Selection 2002 - Hawkes Bay Slightly leathery aromas with wild blackberry and smoky oak overtones, lovely fine tannin structure, lifted berry fruit and cigar, the tannins become firm and dominate the tarry finish. A wine with good staying power and some characters that I really like. Needs to evolve and let the tannins integrate more. A blend of Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. 14% alc. $40. 1Feb2005.
Vidal Estate Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2002 Inky purple in colour with leather, tar, dense nuggetty oak, spicy tobacco, lots of black fruits and bountiful tannins. Quite youthful, should be good drinking this winter. Gold medal ANZWA. 14% alc. 11Feb2004.
Vidal Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 (sc) Inky black red. Smells classy with well-integrated cedary oak aromas, perfumed musky blackcurrant, blackberry and plum fruit, vanilla, chocolate, cedar, spice and a touch of liquorice. Warm and rich with a beautiful tannin structure and a creamy cedar oak finish. Great length. A class act. 14.5% alc. $39.95. 9Nov2005.
Villa Maria Cellar Selection Hawkes Bay Merlot Cabernet 2002 (sc) Deep red black and wonderfully fragrant, it's like putting your nose into a bowl of berries and chocolate. A richly textured, robust wine with excellent weight and length, chocolate persists in the palate together with succulent ripe berry fruit, a touch of tar and creamy oak. Drinking beautifully now but has the potential to age if you want to. Gold Medal and Trophy for Champion Merlot predominant. 14% alc. $23.95. 3Mar2004.
Villa Maria Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2002 Lovely rich shining crimson red hues with creamy berry aromatics leading into a hugely structured wine still masked somewhat by its firm tannins and cigar-like oak but it has masses and masses of fruit behind it. Plums, spice, smoke and even a touch of chocolate with a suggestion of cherry as the wine lingers, it builds to a long powerful, sweet-fruited finish. A blend of 85% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 5% Cabernet with 18 months in 80% new French barriques. 14.5% alc. 19Oct2004.
Villa Maria Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2002 - Hawkes Bay (sc) 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. 15Mar2006.2001 Vintage [top] [index]
Ascension 'The Ascent' Merlot Cabernet Malbec 2001 ($29.95) is a heavier, more intense red with a concentrated fruit and savoury oak flavours. It's rich, long and complex and will evolve with time. 11May2003.
Black Barn Hawkes Bay Merlot, Cab Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc 2001 Dark ruby red. Smoky, juicy berries and wild cherries on the nose. Sweet fruit, quite lifted, perhaps just a little herbal with smokiness in the background but eventually the sweet creamy fruit takes over to linger on a velvety lining and some concentrated liquorice cherry flavours linger. It is a bit hollow in the middle. 54% Merlot, 30% Cab Sauv, 16% CF 12.5% alc. ***1/2. 26Jul2003.
Black Barn Reserve Hawkes Bay Merlot 2001 Youthful colour. Youthful flavours. This is a spicy wine with hints of chocolate, plummy fruit and dry tannins. It's ripe and fairly juicy and has a way to go. 23Sep2002.
Borthwick Wairarapa Merlot 2001 Quite smooth, dark and meaty with plum and blackberry fruit and a creamy oak backbone. Good tannins, lots going on. 8Dec2003.
Charles Wiffen Reserve Marlborough Merlot 2001 A thick and dark densely coloured black-purple wine. A touch of savoury, tobacco, spice and tar. Firm strong tannins. Creamy French oak. Great structure and lasts for ages with ripe Black Doris plum fruit lingering $36. 24Jul2002.
CJ Pask Roys Hill Merlot 2001 Smoky, juicy, perhaps a little stalky on entry but the cherries, plums and chocolate take over. A light, smooth style, absolutely quaffable and sure to please the masses. Just a slightly herbal edge. Better the second day and quite appealing. 13.5% alc. ***. 20Jan2004.
Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Merlot 2001 - Hawkes Bay A big, dense, blackberry coloured wine, this is succulent and juicy, with lots of sweet fruit, nuggety oak and rich ripe tannins. It's spicy and leathery with a touch of tobacco, hints of mocha and lots of chocolate. A terrific wine from the vintage and even with those youthful tannins, it seems very easy to drink. $22.95. 19Feb2003.
Crossroad Destination Series Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 Garnet red with vanillin oak on the nose, there's lots of interesting things going on in this wine. Kind of a meaty, baking berry, slightly herbal (faint mint and rosemary) aroma. The dry leathery tannins hit you first up but the succulence of the fruit quickly takes over. Plums, blackcurrants, nutty creamy oak, smoke, hints of cigar and a touch of spice. Ripe brambly fruit lingers well on the creamy finish together with leather, macerated cherry and plum. As the wine evolves there's a touch of musk and liqourice too. A lovely wine and good at the price. $25. 7Aug2003.
Drylands Marlborough Merlot 2001 Lovely colour. Deep purple. Great nose but short in palate. Tastes of raisins, plums and chocolate. Lots of spice too with a touch of aniseed and a touch of citrus underpinning the wine. Reasonably thick textured tannins. $20. 24Jul2002.
Esk Valley Res Merlot Cabernet Malbec 2001 Deep red wine with lovely concentrated fruit, licorice chocolate, berries and intensely firm tannins. Creamy and dense. 20Aug2002.
Framingham Merlot Malbec 2001 Quite a leathery savoury wine with sweet fruit and a rich musky meatiness. Fragrant with wild berry and floral notes on the spicy creamy finish. Firm teeth coating tannins hang around. 9Sep2002.
House of Nobilo Merlot 2001 This easy drinking fruity style definitely has a summery Xmas feel with fruit cake flavours of cherries, plums and sweet spice but finishing with a savoury richness that hints of licorice. Everyone will love this, including Grandma. Made from a blend of Hawkes Bay and Gisborne fruit. 2Dec2002.
Linden Estate Esk Valley Merlot 2001 There's a lovely berry and chocolate fragrance. In the mouth this is really quite delicious. It's creamy and smooth with ripe tannins, concentrated spicy plum fruit, chocolate and a hint of cigar on the finish. Very good wine. 5% malbec adds depth. $25 9Sep2002.
Matua Valley Hawkes Bay Merlot 2001 Fruit cake, almonds and leather. Hints of mint. Smoky, slightly spicy oak. Med. tannins and a juicy finish. Pleasant enough wine from a lean year but does not really represent good VFM @ $19. 10Jul2002
Mills Reef Reserve Merlot Cabernet Syrah 2001 - – Hawkes Bay Robust and dense in its dark red colour, savoury and earthy with grippy tannins, a little slow to reveal its potential, in fact it is quite Bordeaux-like if you can say that about a wine that contains a portion of Shiraz. Predominantly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with plums, cigar box, a touch of menthol and a sweet juicy finish, it really is a stunner for the money. Treat yourself a taste in a big 'Bordeaux Selection' glass – they're made for wines like this. 13% alc. $26.95. 1Dec2004.
Okahu Estate Shipwreck Bay Merlot Chambourcin Pinotage 2001 ($17) was my favourite from a recent tasting of soft easy drinking reds. Attractive scents of vanillin oak, marinating meat, cherries and plums combine with solid flavours of chocolatey oak, sweet dark fruit, cigars and a hint of menthol. Aged in American and French oak for 9 months.
Saint Clair Rapaura Reserve Merlot 2001 Dense red black in colour with a tarry, savoury, leathery aroma that has some distinct red berry scents behind it and the slightest suggestion of mint and later, aniseed. It's a big gutsy Merlot in the mouth with spicy dusty oak, mocha, ripe berries, plums and rosemary and savoury herbs. The tannins are firm and the finish is dry though the wine is terrifically ripe and even a little jammy on the finish. There are lots of interesting things going on in this wine and it is hard to believe it is from Marlborough. $28.95. 12Feb2003.
Selaks Founders Reserve Marlborough Merlot 2001 Deep purple with bright purple-pink-cerise rims. Deeply scented with vanillin oak. A concentrated rich and powerful wine with lots of ripe juicy flavour. It's interesting to see wines like this come out of Marlborough. After 1.5weeks it is creamy and chocolatey with ripe & juicy black cherry flavours and a deliciously long finish. 22Aug2002.
Stonecutter Martinborough Merlot 2001 Not sure why people bother with merlot in Martinborough when PN and PG do well. Creamy berry scents. Spicy, smoky, quite meaty in fact - bacon? Dense and plummy though I feel it is a bit tart on the finish. Reasonable tannin structure. Rich, spicy flavours linger with smoke and hints of musk. 13.5% 3* 10Nov2002.
Te Awa Boundary 2001 - Hawkes Bay A tall handsome he-man whose second name is Brett, dressed in tight leather pants carrying a jar of berry jam and a rose. A deep dense wine with thick ripe tannins, savoury oak, jammy fruit over earthy dense meaty flavours, cigar box and leather on the finish where the sweetness of the ripe fruit comes through and lingers with rose petals. 13% alc. $39.95. 1Feb2005.
Te Awa Farm Merlot 2001 I always get a leathery character in the Te Awa Farm reds and this is no exception. Medium to full-bodied with sweet oak, smoke, earth, leather and plums, this soft tannined wine begs for food to bring out its depth of fruit and spicy richness, a wine that gets better as the night goes on. Excellent with spag bol cooked with plenty of mushrooms. 13% $19.95. 2Jul2004.
Trinity Hill Shepherds Croft Merlot Cabernets Syrah 2001 Made from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah, this is a soft smooth red with creamy oak, good tannins, solid berry fruit, a hint of leather, a touch of spice and a long winey finish. 2001 is thought of as a inferior vintage because springtime frosts nipped the vines in the bud but what was left on the vine was ripe and concentrated. The quality shows in this wine, it is soft and approachable, sweet fruited and moreish. 13% alc. Cork. 20Mar2004.
Vidal Estate Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2001 - Hawkes Bay A deep red-black with macerated blackberries, cedar and smoky menthol on the nose, this smooth, soft and juicy red has ripe plum and blackberry fruit, subtle earth and leather, a touch of sweet menthol and sweet vanillin oak. An approachable, easy going, easy to drink red. 13.5% alc. $18.95. 9Jul2003.
Villa Maria Reserve Merlot 2001 What a great colour. It's dense and dark, almost black with bright crimson rims. The plush creamy oak is a smoky on the nose and nuggety in the mouth. Sweet black plums, leather, spices, smoky bacon, creamy texture, lots of tannins, classy oak and a very dry finish. $39.95. 19Mar2003.
Waimarie Dartmoor Merlot Malbec Testament 2001 Dense dark red colour, muted aromas, rhubarb and ribena, leathery, harsh tannins, some sweet fruit, good finish though overall quite awkward and not very enjoyable to drink. 14Apr2003.