Tim Turvey and Helma van den Berg have slowly grown Clearview Estate to an exciting point where things are taking off. Founded three decades ago in 1986 with a purchase of 20 ha of land on the Hawke’s Bay coast at Te Awanga, the first vintages and initial plantings yielded around three tonnes of fruit, and instantly the Clearview Estate ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay became one of the most sought-after wines in New Zealand. The establishment of the Clearview Estate restaurant in 1991 quickly made a name as one of the best dining spots in Hawke’s Bay, and Clearview Estate became one of the best places to visit and buy wine from. Over the 30 years, Tim and Helma have put all their energies into the wine venture, seeing it become one of The Bay’s most respected and venerable producers, with a reputation for some of the country’s most bold and flavoursome wines. www.clearviewestate.co.nz
Increased tank capacity – Clearview Estate winery
Subtle Changes for a Significant Step Up in Viability
Clearview Estate now has access to just over 24 ha of vines spread around the winery area, supplemented with a small intake of Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gimblett Gravels, these supplying 12 varieties to yield approx. 200 tonnes annually, to make 15,000 cases of wine. The movement is forward, as it always has been, but increased efficiencies and greater economies of scale are enabling Clearview Estate make a significant step up in viability and no doubt, profitability.
The vineyard is seeing a continued adjustment, with some Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc being taken out, and generally replaced with Chardonnay, the rarest varietal resource. Last year, 0.2 ha of Riesling was planted in the bony soil on the land nearest the road, this being the 13th varietal that Clearview Estate is growing Overall the vineyard alterations total only 1.2 ha. The vineyards continue to be under the care of Tim Turvey and Grant Houston.
The portfolio of wines is quite mind-boggling from such a modestly sized operation. All of the varieties and styles are made very competently, but of course some wines stand out. Chardonnay continues to be the feature variety, the ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay proving to be the most desirable in sales as well as most successful in judgings. However, several other Chardonnays now support the ‘Reserve’, such as the ‘Beachhead’, ‘Coastal’ and super-premium ‘Endeavour’. Chardonnay accounts for a little less than one-third of the total production, but is seen as the variety that Clearview is best-regarded for.
The red wines also account for less than one-third of the production, but these support the outstanding reputation that Clearview Estate has as an overall quality producer. The bottlings of Malbec and Cabernet Franc are excellent, and stand among the famous ‘Old Olive Block’ Cabernet Sauvignon-based, and ‘Enigma’ Merlot-based wines. The super-premium red is ‘The Basket Press’ Bordeaux-varietal based blend. Syrah is a relative newcomer, but Clearview Estate’s bottlings look to be extremely good, and on par with the best efforts around The Bay.
The surprise category is the rosé, the Clearview Estate version labelled ‘Black Reef Blush’. This wine now accounts for 5,000 dozen, or one-third of the total production. Considerable effort has gone into the development and growth of this wine. The Clearview Estate approach to style is unashamedly populist, with the colour darker than most other rosé wines, definitely at the other end of the spectrum to the trendy, very pale bottlings. Tim and Helma have found that their clientele much prefer rosé with stronger colour and character. The unique character of the ‘Black Reef Blush’ can be partly attributed to the inclusion of the Chambourcin variety, which has hybrid parentage, lending a distinctive spiciness and muskiness. The other varieties in the rosé makes a melange including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Syrah. They know they may not win many gold medals at wine competitions for it, but they’ve already won the palates of their customers.
The other factor that has also contributed to the changes is the arrival of Matt Kirby, joining Rob Bregman and Tim Turvey in the winemaking team. Matt arrived to help finish the 2014 wines that were started by the long-serving Barry Riwai, who has now moved to Alpha Domus. Matt has had extensive experience overseas and in New Zealand, his recent term with Tim Knappstein of Lion in the Clare Valley in Australia cited as a major influence. A number of the lessons learnt from a relatively large winery have been applied to the winery flow and operations at Clearview Estate. Tim has now added tanks and slightly enlarged the winery area. Tim and Helma certainly appreciate Matt’s different perspectives and what they can bring to many aspects of the existing business.
Matt Kirby, Helma van den Berg and Tim Turvey
Matt Kirby, Helma van den Berg and Tim Turvey
Tasting New and Unreleased Chardonnays and Reds
For our visit to Clearview Estate, Tim and Matt took Sue and I for a tour around the Te Awanga area where Clearview draws its fruit from. All of the vineyards are very close to the winery and the coast, the reds furthest inland at Haumoana, 1.5 km away. The ‘Home’ block next to the winery has the 30 y.o. Mendoza clone Chardonnay. The vineyard tour was followed by a tasting at the restaurant, of a selection of Chardonnays and 2016 vintage reds. Here are my notes on the wines tasted.
The ‘Reserve’ Chardonnays are now given 18 months in oak. The 2015 ‘Reserve’ was finished wine, but the other two were barrel samples. These are the flagships for Clearview Estate.
‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2015
Pale straw-yellow colour. The nose is full and voluminous, but also possesses depth and density, resulting in a stylish presentation. Lovely ripe stonefruit aromas with rich oak notes. On palate very fresh and surprisingly taut and tightly bound, again resulting in stylishness and elegance. The flavours build in depth and intensity, revealing layers of ripe fruit, oak layers and complexing mealy, nutty and mineral notes. Excellent weight, but retaining freshness. Tim says the wine usually tightens up, as it has here, before opening with its normal flourish. This appears very ageworthy.
‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2016 Barrel Sample
Bright, light golden-yellow colour. This is full and broad with aromas of ripe stonefruits and tropical fruits. Some flinty reduction, which adds complexity. Tim says this will integrate. Full-bodied, broad and rounded with lovely ripe, rich tropical fruit flavours, and sweet oak. No indication of flintiness. The fruit is underlined by fresh acidity, lending brightness and energy. The flavours just blossom gloriously in the mouth. Classical ‘Reserve’ style.
‘The Endeavour’ Chardonnay 2015 Barrel Sample
Light golden-yellow colour. Wow, this is a startling wine on nose with masses of new oak, but the fruit richness to match. In reality, over the top. A big, concentrated wine on palate with incredibly rich, ripe and opulent fruit. This has power and considerable firmness. The generosity and strength seem more than its 14.3% alc. There is so much intensity here. A caricature of size, but one just can’t help but be in awe of what’s in the glass. Two puncheons made, all new oak. This is destined to spend 2 ½ to 3 years in barrel.
30 y.o. Mendoza clone Chardonnay
30 y.o. Mendoza clone Chardonnay
The 2016 Reds
These were all barrel samples. 2016 is the fourth consecutive excellent vintage in Hawke’s Bay. For some, it may not equal the quality of the previous three years, but judging from the samples tasted, it was a very good season for Clearview Estate. I rated the top 2015 reds at 5-star level, and I can see no reason why the 2016s won’t be the same.
‘Reserve’ Syrah 2016 Barrel Sample
Bright ruby-red colour. The fruit aromatics are vibrant showing dark raspberry fruit intermingling with a dark herb note. This is certainly not a coolness or ripeness expression, but probably a character of the site. This is 100% whole cluster, but there is no evidence of stalk character. The whole bunch is probably manifest in the vitality of the fruit. Spice elements emerge in the glass. Full-bodied, but elegant in proportion. The raspberry and herb amalgam features on palate. No pepperiness or stalkiness. Very fine tannin grip and lovely freshness to the mouthfeel.
‘Cape Kidnappers’ Merlot 2016 Barrel Sample
Very dark, black-hued purple-red colour. The nose is somewhat light and restrained, slender in presentation, unfolding ripe dark plum and berry aromas. But on palate deliciously juicy and plush with ripe, up-front flavours of black plums and dark-red berry fruits. The fruit is supported by light tannin extraction and fresh acidity. This is surprisingly mouthfilling. The wine is the ‘entry-level’ red for Clearview Estate, and an indication of what to see in the other reds.
‘Old Olive Block’ 2016 Barrel Sample
A blend with approx. 70% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Gimblett Gravels, the remainder Malbec and Cabernet Franc. To spend 15-16 months in barrel. Dark purple red. This has a beautifully elegant nose with pure blackcurrant and cassis aromas prevailing. On palate, the blackcurrant fruit is the feature, but the brightness and vibrancy is enhanced by fragrant notes and ripe plum elements. The fruit is underlined by very fine-grained extraction and the acidity is mouthwatering, adding to the juiciness of the palate. Lovely intensity and length.
‘Enigma’ 2016 Barrel Sample
A blend with approx. 60% Merlot. With Cabernet Franc and Malbec making the balance. To be aged 15-16 months in oak. Dark, deep, ruby-red colour. The nose is full with deep dark plum fruit aromas, showing good density, but not to lose elegance of proportion. Full-bodied and softly mouthfilling, the flavours ae of ripe dark plums, along with fresh curranty notes. This is a notch riper than the ‘Old Olive Block’. The core is very fine-textured and youthfully firm. A very positive wine that has the hallmarks of something special.
‘Basket Press’ 2016 Barrel Sample
One-third each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec, to be aged 2 ½+ years in barrel. Very dark black-red with purple hues, impenetrable. A considerable step up in volume and intensity on the nose over the two previous wines. Gorgeously ripe and opulent fruit aromas od black and dark-red berry and plum fruits, but not into the blue fruit spectrum. Plenty of oaking interwoven with the fruit. On palate extremely rich, lusciously juicy and sweet. Very plush and mouthfilling. The decadent fruit is match by the exotic oaking. The palate is supported by very fine-grained tannin structure, the acidity balanced and integrated, lending the mouthfeel a soft, supple density. At the end, a big wine with masses of fruit and matching oak. The ‘Basket Press’ style is so consistent.
The tasting was concluded with a delicious lunch at the Clearview Estate Restaurant, with the delightful company of co-owner Helma van den Berg. Thank you all at Clearview Estate for a great visit!