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Trinity Hill 2018 Red Tank Samples and 2016 ‘Homage’ Syrah Preview

By April 27, 2018No Comments
During my recent visit to Hawke’s Bay, it was a treat to be able to catch up with Warren Gibson and Cara Gittings, for a tour of the Trinity Hill vineyards, and to taste some 2018 red wines fresh from tank. I was also treated to a preview of the yet-to-be-released Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Syrah 2016.
There have been a number of management and ownership adjustments of Trinity Hill over the past few months, arguably the most visible being the resignation of founder John Hancock at the end of 2017 to start a winemaking venture with his son. However, there have been appropriate moves to meet the changes. The founding Wilson family shareholders still remain as owners, along with the ‘Terroir Wine Fund’ now led by Aaron Faust with C.E.O. John Hawkins. The man in charge on the ground in Hawke’s Bay is Philip Kingston, as Acting C.E.O., a man with over two decades of industry experience, notably with Nobilo and Constellation. His role is to consolidate and develop future commercial plans and strategies. Also, Michael Herrick has come on board in a global marketing role. Otherwise, it’s business as usual with the winemaking under Warren Gibson and Damian Fischer, and Cara Gittings in the sales and marketing. www.trinityhill.com

View of the Gimblett Gravels west towards the Ngaruroro river

A Drive Around the Vineyards

Although Trinity Hill sources fruit from all over Hawke’s Bay, to go into the white ‘Hawke’s Bay’ label, the premium black label ‘Gimblett Gravels’ bottlings are sourced solely from the company’s vineyards in the delineated area.. There are 45 ha of vines, with the ‘Gimblett Stones’ vines on the side of S.H. 50 closest to the Ngaruroro river. The other two main sites are on the other side of S.H. 50, these named the ‘Gimblett Road’ (a.k.a. the ‘Tin Shed’ site) and ‘Gimblett Estate’. A small holding is also on the edge of the Gimblett Gravels area bordering the Bridge Pa Triangle, at the foot of Roy’s Hill, near the winery. This is technically Gimblett Gravels and planted to Chardonnay. In addition there is a ‘Hill Block’ on the ‘Gimblett Heights’ of Roy’s Hill which is not Gimblett Gravels designated.

Trinity Hill has been best known as a producer of top-class red blends (of Bordeaux varieties) and Chardonnay, but nowadays Syrah has become the premier variety. This is reflected in the increased plantings of the variety to 13 ha now, spread over 8 clones. The plantings of Merlot are being decreased, but there is still focus on Tempranillo, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon and Touriga Nacional for interest.
Cara Gittings, Trinity Hill sales and marketing
atop Roy’s Hill
Warren and Cara took over my partner Sue Davies’ car and took us for a drive around the Gimblett Gravels vineyards, firstly to the top of Roy’s Hill for an overview perspective from a good height of the Gimblett Gravels area. Besides the swathe of vines, the Craggy Range winery on the western side of S.H. 50 and the new Villa Maria super-winery complex at the Te Awa site on the eastern side were very obvious. The Trinity Hill winery complex was discretely tucked into the northern lee of Roy’s Hill from our observation post and practically invisible.
The drive showed us that there is a degree of diversity in the soils which resulted in different growing patterns for the vines, flora and trees. As the vines are advancing in age, Warren and his team are dealing with maintaining the overall health of the plants, and some vines have been pulled out for replacement. It’s a common issue throughout the country with much attention to protection from disease and virus. This has enabled the planting of the new clones which are already adding to the increased interest and detail of the character of the wines.
Syrah vine, ‘Tin Shed’ vineyard, Gimblett Gravels

Tasting 2018 Wines

Warren and Cara took us through a tasting of wines from tank. There was one Chardonnay from 2017, then half a dozen 2018 reds from tank. Here are my impressions.

Chardonnay 2017: Gimblett Gravels, ‘Tin Shed’. A little cloudy. The nose is soft with an array of aromas from smoky citrus, grapefruit and stonefruits, with some mealy interest. On palate quite crisp, taut and tight, but with good intensity of stonefruits. Elegant really, with very fine textures and all enlivened by bright acidity. This is attractive.
Syrah 2018: Gimblett Estate, clone 877. Impenetrable black-red colour. This has a range of aromatics with black fruits and violet florals. A little varietal reduction shows. On palate very rich with blackberry fruit flavours, unfolding exotic spices, fine tannin and crisp acidity.
Syrah 2018: Zone 5, Gimblett Gravels, young MS clone vines. Impenetrable black-red colour. Black fruit aromas, liquorice and spices, floral array and very tightly bound, revealing a touch of reduction too. Tight black fruits and liquorice, very refined extraction and zesty acidity.
Syrah 2018: Bailey clone, with Viognier skins, 100% whole bunch. Saturated black-red and purple colour. Very aromatic, the floral component quite striking, all finesse and perfumes, the whole bunch all integral. Lovely sweet and rich fruited, the Viognier aromatics playing a significant role here, but with black fruits. Very fine tannins and fresh acidity. Regarded by Warren as the ‘Jamet component’.
Tempranillo 2018: Impenetrable black-red colour. Refined and fragrant on nose with black fruits and dark raspberries, with violet florals, a touch of reduction. Classical varietal character on palate, tight, fine-grained and firm with powdery textures. This will be an elegant style with purity.
Cabernet Sauvignon 2018: Gimblett Gravels, destined for ‘The Gimblett’. Dense, impenetrable black-red colour. The nose is concentrated with real depth and lovely blackcurrant and cassis notes. Palate is just as varietally expressive, with definition and concentration. The fruit richness and fine-grained grip are features. Really lovely.
Cabernet Franc 2018: Gimblett Gravels, destined for ‘The Gimblett’. Impenetrable black-red with purple. The nose is fragrant and perfumed with an array of black fruits and redcurrants, herbs and florals. Aromatic on palate with bright, lively mouthfeel, this has vitality and elegance. A component that exudes finesse.
Damian Fischer, Trinity Hill assistant winemaker
Damian’s hand-writing is the neatest of any winemaker I know!

A Preview of the Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Syrah 2016

Apparently the first showing of this wine to someone outside the winery. So I was very privileged. This is Trinity Hill’s flagship, and there has been a particularly magnificent run of consecutive releases yearly since 2013. Warren and his team have been working on making the aromatics more fragrant and complex. I’ve noticed that the wine is becoming increasingly harmonious and balanced, resulting in a beautiful completeness. This will be released in October.

Trinity Hill ‘Homage’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2016
Dark, deep ruby-red colour with black hues, a little lighter edged. The nose is refined and elegant with beautiful proportion showing blackberry fruit along with liquorice and spices, unfolding voluminous perfumes of violet florals. This is so seamless and yet enveloping. Medium-full bodied, the fruit richness on palate is the feature, with sweet and succulent black fruits, liquorice and spices, along with fragrant violet and fine herb nuances. The level of detailing is impressive. The fruit has a very concentrated core, with excellent structure from flowery tannin extraction to match the fruitiness. The mouthfeel is vibrant and energetic with a harmonious vitality. Ripe plum and liquorice elements emerge on the long and sustained finish. Not a blockbuster by any means, but a wine of completeness, fragrance, richness and subtle interwoven componentry that results in harmony. This will live 15+ years by way of its finesse, richness and balance. 19.5/20 April 2018 RRP $TBA
 Warren Gibson, Trinity Hill winemaker
drawing a tank sample of Chardonnay

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