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Featured Reviews

Kidnapper Cliffs 2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Cabernet Merlot and Syrah

21 June,2017
It is with great pleasure that I review the new releases of the Kidnapper Cliffs wines from Te Awa Winery. Kidnapper Cliffs was my inaugural ‘Winery of the Year’ in 2011. It was a somewhat controversial choice in a year when there were many contenders (click here to see my article). The Kidnapper Cliffs wines were the super-premium wines of Te Awa Winery, then owned by Julian Robertson, and the winemaking team led by Dr Neil McCallum instituted some Burgundy winemaking techniques in the making of the Bordeaux-varietal wines, based on very short skin maceration. But in the sensational 2009 Hawke’s Bay vintage, these techniques worked wonderfully, and the wines made were stunning. Last year, I tasted twice the 2009 Kidnapper Cliffs Cabernet Sauvignon, part of the release then, and can report they were beautiful bottles with many years of life ahead of them.

The Te Awa winery, vineyards and brands were sold to Villa Maria in 2012 and we saw a reduction in the wines released, as the Villa Maria winemaking team worked on incorporating the wines into the company’s portfolio. In doing so, they have come up with the ‘Left Field’, ‘Te Awa Single Estate’ and ‘Kidnapper Cliffs’ brands, the first two labels now well-established in the marketplace. The ‘Kidnapper Cliffs’ wines have taken some time to emerge, and this release is the first of the reworked label and brand. The wines have the same philosophy of the past of representing the best and most distinctive parcels of the Te Awa Estate on the Gimblett Gravels. Richard Painter is the winemaker at Te Awa Winery, and along with former winemaker Ant Mackenzie, report that these wines still include some of the techniques used before the change of ownership.

The Chardonnay and Syrah are aged in 300 L hogsheads, these larger barrels imparting a more subtle oak character than barriques. These are relatively rare in New Zealand (Dry River, uses these too). A great deal of care is taken with the skin maceration of the reds, and Richard aims for a "gentle infusion” rather than all-out extraction. The up-shot of this is that because these wines still have some of the previous vinification techniques involved, this gives the Kidnapper Cliffs and Te Awa wines a point of difference to their Villa Maria sister labels. Of course, this may change and evolve, and it is quite possible that the more conventional winemaking of the Villa Maria group may win out in the end. However, this may not be a great loss, as the Villa Maria, Vidal and Esk Valley reds can already be counted among the best of Hawke’s Bay.

Here, I review the new Kidnapper Cliffs wines, these being the 2014 Chardonnay, and 2013 Cabernet/Merlot and Syrah wines. These are, of course, two outstanding vintages in Hawke’s Bay.


Kidnapper Cliffs Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014

Chardonnay from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Bright, light golden-yellow colour with lemon-green hues, lighter on the edge. The nose is full, broad and voluminous with harmoniously melded aromas of ripe white and yellow stonefruits layered with complex gunflint sulphide reduction, along with creamy barrel-ferment and nutty les and toast oak detail. Medium-bodied, the palate is well-concentrated with a bright and vibrant core of ripe white and yellow stonefruits harmoniously intermixed with gunflint sulphide reduction and minerals, interwoven with creamy barrel-ferment notes, leesy elements and oak flavours. The mouthfeel is rich and luscious, and cut by crisp, lacy acidity. The ine flows along a very fine, phenolic-threaded line, leading to a long, lingering and elegant finish unfolding smoke and toasty oak. This is a very rich, vibrant, sweet stonefruited Chardonnay with harmonious layers of complexing gunflint, minerals, creamy and nutty oak, on a lively, fine-textured palate. Match with grilled seafood, poultry and pork dishes over the next 5+ years. A blend of Mendoza, clone 95 and 15 from the Te Awa Estate vineyard, the vines technically in both Bridge Pa and the Gimblett Gravels, the fruit hand-picked, WBP, and indigenous yeast fermented in hogsheads to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 10 months in 40% new oak, undergoing batonnage and partial MLF. 19.5-/20 Jun 2017 RRP $54.99

Kidnapper Cliffs Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2013

Blended Red from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Very full, dark, deep, near impenetrable black-red colour, a little lighter on the edge. The bouquet is elegantly presented with bright, ripe and vibrant aromas of blackberries, blackcurrants and beautifully fragrant redcurrants, entwined with dark-red florals, cassis liqueur and an amalgam of cedary and pencilly oak, unveiling savoury iron-earth suggestions. Medium-full bodied, the palate is elegantly proportioned with good concentration and depth of ripe, sweetly vibrant flavours of blackberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, entwined with cassis liqueur dark, savoury herbs, iron-earth and cedary oak. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannin extraction that allows the fruit sweetness to feature, and the wine carries with good energy and drive to a long and sustained finish. This is a vibrantly rich and sweet-fruited Cabernet and Merlot blend with flavours of blackberries, black and red currants, and subtle savoury herb and earth nuances, lifted by pencilly oak on a refined, structured palate. Match with roast lamb, beef and venison over the next 8-10+ years. A blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc from the Te Awa vineyard, vines averaging 25 y.o., the fruit hand-picked, destemmed but not crushed, with some indigenous ferments to 14.0% alc., the wine spending 12-15 days on skins and aged 21 months in 35% new French oak barriques. 19.0/20 Jun 2017 RRP $64.99

Kidnapper Cliffs Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013

Syrah from New Zealand – Hawke’s Bay

Full, black-hued purple-ruby colour, a little lighter on the rim, youthful in appearance. The nose is elegantly concentrated with deep and intense aromas of ripe blackberries, dark raspberries and an amalgam of red berries and plums, intermixed with liquorice, Asian spices and black pepper. The aromatics form a fine, firm heart. Medium-full bodied, the palate is fine and tightly concentrated with a core of ripe blackberry, dark raspberry, and plum fruit with liquorices and spices, unfolding black pepper. The fruit richness is well-balanced by fine, grainy tannin extraction with integrated acidity.. The wine carries to an elegant, soft-textured and layered finish of black fruits, spices and pepper. This is a well-concentrated Syrah with ripe blackberry, raspberry, plum, liquorice and spice flavours on a well-balanced, grainy palate. Match with game meat, casseroles and semi-hard cheeses over the next 8-9+ years. ‘Limmer’ clone fruit from the Te Awa vineyard, hand-picked, destemmed, but not crushed and indigenous yeast fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine on skins 14 days and aged 20 months in 35% new French oak hogsheads. 19.0-/20 Jun 2017 RRP $69.99
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