When Chris Scott, winemaker at the Church Road Winery, asked if anyone had heard of marzemino, I was tempted to reply that I thought one had just won Crufts.
But I decided not to be flippant. We had just been told that a ghostly figure sometimes appears in the barrel hall and although I don’t believe in the paranormal, I wasn’t taken any chances.
I was in Hawke’s Bay to taste the Church Road ‘Tom McDonald’ wines, a range that pays tribute to the man who started working at the winery as a young man and later went on to buy the property. Scott explained the new range replaces the Cuve series, that despite often containing some gems, suffered from an uninspriring name and label design.
The Tom McDonald series of eight wines is almost exclusively from the group of French varieties upon which this winery, and Hawkes Bay in general, have made their name. But I wonder what McDonald would have made of the marzemino, a grape variety native to northern Italy, that has produced an intensely coloured red with a sour cherry and cranberry character and retains an unmistakeable savoury Mediterranean edge. Perhaps he’d like the more traditional Merlot, an intense gutsy wine with plenty of charm.
Scott isn’t the only winemaker who has been busy launching a brand new wine this month.
Waipara’s Black Estate was established back in 1993 but since it was taken over by winemaker Nicholas Brown and his wife Penelope Naish in 2007, it has gone from strength to strength. I’ve been very impressed by all the releases to date but the brand new 2010 Omihi Pinot Noir is the best yet. This single vineyard pinot noir has oodles of a character I find in Waipara pinots but which I have up until now struggled to define. Tasting this wine I realised that it is redcurrant jelly (a personal favourite) with an intense red fruit note, never overripe, yet with a sweetness and plumpness too.
Although only small in terms of volume and with only 20-odd wineries, Waipara has more than its fair share of talented winemakers. A quiet achiever and a region to watch.
Fast Fact : The Church Road Winery houses a small wine museum, open to the public, with tours running twice a day. A fascinating collection of wine artifacts from both here and overseas.
2010 Black Estate Omihi Pinot Noir 5 stars $45.00
This intensely fragrant single vineyard pinot has a delightful redcurrant jelly and raspberry character. A savoury edge gives structure and balances the dense, fleshy fruit. Attractive now yet better in a couple of years.
2009 Church Road Tom McDonald Pinot Gris 5 stars $32.99
Inspired by the late harvest wines of Alsace, Scott has crafted a medium dry pinot gris that is powerful yet pure. Amazing concentration and length, this would be perfect with roast pork belly, fresh chilli and ginger.