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Featured Reviews




Hills & Rivers, and Ash Ridge 2017s, and Ash Ridge ‘The Blend’ 2015

22 September,2017
The Ash Ridge winegrowing venture of Chris and Sonya Wilcock is an excellent example of the type of operation that is making Hawke’s Bay an exciting New Zealand wine region. The Wilcocks planted their first vines in 2005 and set up their winery and cellar door on the home ‘Cardoness’ vineyard site on State Highway 50 in the Bridge Pa Triangle. Originally having their wines made under contract, the quality of the wines took a step up in 2012 when they hired the young and talented Lauren Swift as their winemaker. The Wilcocks have refined their wine tiers into ‘Estate’, ‘Premium’ and ‘Reserve’, with a secondary brand ‘Hills & Rivers’ which is sold primarily overseas. Lauren introduced two special Syrah wines from the 2014 vintage, named ‘Doppio’ showcasing the MS and Chave clones (click here to see my report). It appears there are some interesting things afoot at Ash Ridge, with Lauren growing in adventurousness in her winemaking. Here, I review a selection of 2017 Hills & Rivers, and Ash Ridge ‘Estate’ wines, plus the 2015 Ash Ridge ‘Reserve’ ‘The Blend’.  The 2017s show good management in a challenging year. www.ashridgewines.co.nz

FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW



Hills & Rivers Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

16.5/20
Brilliant pale straw-yellow colour, very light on the rim. The nose is tightly bound with fresh aromas of green stonefruits and nuances of gooseberries, along with nuances of fresh herbs and a suggestion of nutty elements. This is very elegant and slender in presentation. Dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate has good depth and intensity of penetrating flavours of gooseberries and fresh herbs entwined with green stonefruits. The mouthfeel is fresh, bright and lively with brisk acidity, and the wine shows positive linearity, flowing along a very fine phenolic-threaded line leading to a thirst-quenching finish. This is a light Sauvignon Blanc with elegantly penetrating flavours of gooseberries and herbs on a brisk and racy palate. Serve as an aperitif, and with salads and vegetables over the next 2+ years. Fruit from the ‘Cardoness’ vineyard, tank-fermented with 20% in barrel to 11.0% alc. and 4 g/L RS, the wine aged 4 months on lees with batonnage. 480 cases made. 16.5/20 Sep 2017 RRP $16.00

Hills & Rivers Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2017

Pinot Gris from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

16.5+/20
Bright straw-yellow with pale golden hues and some depth, lighter on the rim. The nose is fresh with softly full and moderately deep aromas of white and yellow stonefruits and apricot notes, along with yellow florals, a hint of honeysuckle and citrus. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has up-front flavours of apricots and yellow stonefruits, along with yellow florals and lemon-curd MLF elements. The mouthfeel is fresh and crisp with bright acidity, and the wine follows a firm line with some concentration, leading to a lingering finish of stonefruits and citrus fruits. This is an elegant, up-front dry Pinot Gris with yellow stonefruit and apricot flavours, a fresh mouthfeel and fine, but firm line. Match with seafood and poultry dishes over the next 2-3 years. Fruit from a single site in the Esk Valley, 85% tank-fermented and 15% in barrel to 11.5% alc. and 7 g/L RS, the wine aged 4 months on lees with batonnage, the barrel portion undergoing MLF. 300 cases made. 16.5+/20 Sep 2017 RRP $16.00

Ash Ridge ‘Estate’ Hawke’s Bay Rosé 2017

Rose from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

16.5/20
Light salmon-pink colour with some depth, lighter on the edge. The nose is soft and gently voluminous with aromas of strawberries, quince and watermelon, along with nuances of red florals and a delicate amalgam of herbs and confectionary. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate possesses light and delicate fruit flavours of savoury strawberries, quince and nuances of watermelon, along with subtle notes of florals and confectionary. The palate has a light, drying phenolic texture and balanced acidity lending energy. The flavours recede as the wine carries to a light, dry finish. This is a light, dry rosé with flavours of savoury strawberries, quince and watermelon on a light-textured palate. Serve as an aperitif and with canapes over the next 2 years. 100% clone 481 Merlot, fermented to 12.0% alc. and dryness, the wine aged on lees for 4 months with batonnage, 25% undergoing MLF. 450 cases made. 16.5/20 Sep 2017 RRP $21.00

Ash Ridge ‘Estate’ Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2017

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

17/20
Bright, very pale straw-yellow colour, lighter edged. The nose is shy and restrained in expression with a delicate core of white stonefruits unfolding subtle notes of green stonefruits and gooseberries integrated with notes of herbs and nuts, with a sense of minerality. This has finesse and builds in intensity. Dry to taste and light-medium bodied, the palate has reserved flavours with a subtle array of white and green stonefruits, along with herb, gooseberry and nutty nuances. The palate is smooth flowing with fine textures and phenolics, and fresh, lacy acidity. While the palate is slender, there is good intensity and linearity, and the wine carries with energy to a light, lingering finish. This is a subtle and stylish Sauvignon Blanc with delicate flavours of white and green stonefruits, herbs and subtle nutty nuances on a refined palate. Serve as an aperitif and with Mediterranean fare over the next 2+ years. Fruit from the ‘Cardoness’ vineyard, 75% barrel-fermented with 25% in tank to11.0% alc. and dryness, the wine aged 4 months on lees with batonnage. 380 cases made. 17.0/20 Sep 2017 RRP $21.00

Ash Ridge ‘Estate’ Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris 2017

Pinot Gris from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

17.5-/20
Bright straw-yellow colour with light golden hues at the heart, paler on the rim. The nose is elegantly presented with fragrant and refined aromas of yellow stonefruits, yellow florals and a little honeysuckle. The nose has good depth and intensity revealing subtle nutty and mineral nuances. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, the palate has flavours of yellow stonefruits along with honey, citrus fruit, lemon-curd MLF and nutty notes, all harmoniously presented. The palate is rounded and blossoms to show bright florals, and the wine carries smoothly along a fine line with soft, integrated acidity, leading to a lingering finish. This is a moderately rich, rounded, dry Pinot Gris with stonefruit, citrus fruit and soft honey and nutty flavours on a smooth flowing palate. Match with poultry and pork dishes over the next 3 years. Fruit from Esk Valley, Maraekakaho and Mangatahi, 79% fermented in seasoned oak and 21% in tank to 13.0% alc. and 5 g/L RS, the wine aged 4 months on lees with batonnage, and 60% undergoing MLF. 600 cases made. 17.5-/20 Sep 2017 RRP $21.00

Ash Ridge ‘Reserve’ ‘The Blend’ Hawke’s Bay 2015

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

18.5-/20
Very dark, deep ruby-red colour with black-purple hues, a little lighter on the edge, and youthful in appearance. The nose is finely concentrated with rich fruit aromas of dark-red berry and plum fruit, unfolding a little blackcurrant and cassis, with fragrant redcurrant notes. A little nutty and pencilly oak adds interest. This is refined, but has depth. Medium-bodied, the palate has good depth and intensity of blackcurrant fruit with cassis flavours melded with redcurrants and dark plum elements and nuances of herbs. The mouthfeel is fresh with lacy acidity and the fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction. This has good depth and drive, and the wine flows with vibrancy and energy along a positive line to a long, sustained textured finish of curranty fruit. This is an elegantly concentrated Merlot/Cabernet-based blend with rich red berry and curranty fruit on a finely extracted, fresh palate. Match with roast lamb, beef and venison over the next 6-8 years. A barrel selection wine. A blend of 37% Merlot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% each Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah, the fruit from three Bridge Pa Triangle sites, fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 15 months in 30% new oak. 230 cases made. 18.5-/20 Sep 2017 RRP $45.00
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