Elephant Hill 2016 Salome Chardonnay, and 2014 Airavata Syrah and Hieronymus
With the release of the ‘Icon’ wines from Elephant Hill, Hawke’s Bay saw the arrival of a new winegrower operating at the top level. Setting up Elephant Hill in 2003, Roger and Reydan Weiss had the ambitions to make outstanding wine. They planted 24 ha of vines at Te Awanga and hired Steve Skinner as their winemaker. The first wines from the 2007 vintage were noteworthy for their quality, but the following ‘Icon’ releases showed that there was the potential to make great Hawke’s Bay and indeed New Zealand wine in the blended red and Syrah categories. To ensure that the potential would be realised, Elephant Hill began drawing fruit from a Bridge Pa Triangle vineyard they entered into a long-term lease with the owners at the end of 2011. And the company purchased the former ‘Two Gates’ vineyard in the Gimblett Gravels. The three vineyards gave the ability to choose and blend the best fruit from three distinct and different sub-regions.
Winemaker Steve Skinner reckons that it has only been from the 2013 vintage that the ‘Icon’ wines are where he wants them. At the end of November 2015, I rated the 2013 ‘Airavata’ Syrah at 19.5+/20 and the 2013 ‘Hieronymus’ Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec a perfect 20.0/20 (click here to see my reviews). At the end of last month, I was given a preview tasting of the new ‘Icon’ wines, and also a set of the three wines to take home and conduct ‘Feature Reviews’ on for their release. They included a new ‘Icon’ wine, the 2016 ‘Salome’ Chardonnay, made only from Te Awanga fruit which shines on fruit purity and place rather than funkiness, plus the stupendous 2014 ‘Airavata’ Syrah and 2014 ‘Hieronymus’ Merlot/Malbec-based blend. I’ve adjusted my score on the 2014 ‘Hieronymus’ to 20.0/20 – it is simply opulent and gorgeously perfect. The wines are now released, and here are my reviews. www.elephanthill.co.nz
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Elephant Hill ‘Salomé’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2016Chardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 08-May-2018Bright straw-yellow colour with pale lemon-gold hues, lighter on the rim. The nose is tightly bound with finely concentrated aromas of white stonefruits and citrus fruit interwoven with subtle notes of creamy barrel-ferment and nutty oak, along with a refreshing salinity and minerality. The aromatics are youthfully pure and detailed, and grow in richness with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is tightly concentrated with vibrant flavours of white stonefruits and subtle notes of savoury citrus fruit along with delicate creamy barrel-ferment elements and nutty oak, revealing saline and chalky mineral nuances. The fruit is driven by enormous energy and power, and the wine builds in richness to completeness, and the textures are balanced by beautiful acid cut. The mouthfeel is refreshing, steely and thirst-quenching, and the power carries the flavours to a very long, lingering finish. This is a very taut and concentrated Chardonnay of great beauty and purity of stonefruit, citrus, nutty and mineral flavours on a powerfully driven palate with balanced freshness. Serve with grilled and roasted seafood over the next 6-8 years. Chardonnay fruit, 83% from Te Awanga and 17% Triangle fully barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 28% new French oak, avoiding MLF. 150 dozen made. 19.5+/20 May 2018 RRP $75.00 Light golden-yellow colour with some depth. The nose is full, soft, harmonious and seamless in presentation with very pure and clear aromas of citrus fruit and white stonefruits along with subtle nutty oak and nuances of a creamy barrel-ferment overlay. This has beauty and refinement, the aromatics forming a tightly concentrated core. Medium-full bodied the palate has sweetly rich and luscious fruit, expressed with style and subtlety, unfolding layers of citrus and stonefruit and nutty, creamy oak. This has subtle power – the proverbial ‘iron fist in a velvet glove’. The sumptuousness is held to counterpoint and poise by very fine acidity. This captures beauty and finesse with clarity and there is absolutely no funky flintiness. Seamless in flow and an expression of sheer finesse. Nothing that shows any excess at all. A truly stunning wine. Chardonnay fruit, 83% from Te Awanga and 17% Triangle fully barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 28% new French oak, avoiding MLF. 150 dozen made. 19.5+/20 Apr 2018 RRP $75.00
Elephant Hill ‘Airavata’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014Syrah from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 08-May-2018Impenetrable black-hued purple-red colour, very youthful in appearance. The nose is very taut and concentrated with intense and very refined aromas of ripe black berrioed fruitd along with a very fine amalgam of Asian spices intermixed with violet florals and black, iron-earth minerals. This has beauty, finesse and intensity, and reveals great aromatic character with aeration. Full-bodied, the palate has powerful and concentrated rich and ripe blackberry fruit along with dark raspberry elements, black plums, liquorice, savoury Asian spices and an array of black-red and violet florals unfolding a little tar and iron-earth minerals. The fruit forms a fine and concentrated core, all underlined by considerable tannin structure, quite powdery and refined in texture. This has great linearity and the density absorbs the acidity. The flavours carry with real drive to a long, lingering finish of black fruits, spices and iron-earth. This is an impressively taut, refined and concentrated Syrah with rich black fruits, spices and minerals with very fine-grained structure. Serve with lamb, venison and game meat dishes over the next 15-20 years. Syrah fruit with 2% Viognier, two-thirds from the Gimblett and one-third from the Te Awanga vineyards, fermented with approx. 15% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 26 months in 71% new French oak. 149 dozen made. 19.5+/20 May 2018 RRP $120.00 Very dark, deep, impenetrable black-red with purple hues, youthful in appearance. This has a huge, massively concentrated, and powerfully intense nose, packed with ripe black berried and plum fruits with liquorice and Asian spices, a fine iron-earth mineral layer and reductive complexities and detail. Layers of fruits, spices and minerals unfold, the interest overflowing. This has immense density and depth, and makes a bold and powerful statement. Full-bodied, the fruit is extremely rich, sweet and succulent, quite lush with ripe black berried fruits, now revealing a little savoury complexity of dried herb and earth to the layers of spice and minerals. The extraction is enormous, but balanced by the fruit richness, and refined by the powdery tannin textures. with integrated, seamless acidity lending a degree of finesse. There is no doubt this is stupendous wine, just developing some edgy savoury complexities. This will develop over the next 15-20 years. Syrah fruit with 2% Viognier, two-thirds from the Gimblett and one-third from the Te Awanga vineyards, fermented with approx. 15% whole bunches to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 26 months in 71% new French oak. 149 dozen made. 19.5+/20 Apr 2018 RRP $120.00
Elephant Hill ‘Hieronymus’ Hawke’s Bay 2014Blended Red from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 08-May-2018Full, saturated black-hued purple-red colour with inky depth, very youthful in appearance. The nose is refined in expression with densely packed and concentrated aromas of ripe black berried fruits and black plums along with nuances of liquorice and suggestions of boysenberries, harmoniously layered with Asian spices and sweet, nutty oak. The aromatics possess freshness, unfolding nuances of dark herbs and florals. The aromatics grow in breadth and depth, becoming fulsome in the glass. Full-bodied, the palate is explosively rich with sweet and succulent flavours of ripe blackberries and black plums, along with nuances of boysenberries, liquorice, spices and oak. The fruit sweetness is the feature, forming a deep, plush and opulent heart, opening to fill the mouth. The fruit is framed by serious, fine-grained, flowery tannin structure, and the wine carries with great power and drive to a luscious, long and sustained finish. This is a superbly rich and opulent Merlot/Malbec-based wine with succulently sweet blackberry, plum, liquorice and spice flavours on a seriously structured, but refined palate. Match with roasted and slow-cooked lamb, venison and game meat dishes over the next 15-20 years. A co-fermented blend of 46% Merlot and 44% Malbec with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, fruit 90% from the Triangle vineyard and 10% Gimblett, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 26 months in 67% new French oak. 80 dozen made. 20.0/20 May 2018 RRP $120.00 Full, dense, saturated black-red colour. The nose is full with sweetly aromatic aromas of ripe black plums with notes od liquorice and Asian spices, a touch of lift and fragrance, unfolding layers of dark berried fruits. The aromatics are tight and fine in proportion, and yet to unveil its detail. Medium-full bodied, the palate has very ripe dark-red and black plum flavours with complexing savoury game elements, suggesting sweet and sour. Is this too ripe? There is no raisining so places it in the fully ripened spectrum. The extraction is serious, but very fine and flowery, with soft acidity. The savoury notes turn to game and herbs, then move to black fruits, indicating Cabernet Sauvignon expression. The black plum Merlot background also changes to blackberry Malbec in the glass. This is intriguing how it changes and shows different facets with aeration. A wine to go 15 years easily. A co-fermented blend of 46% Merlot and 44% Malbec with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, fruit 90% from the Triangle vineyard and 10% Gimblett, fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 26 months in 67% new French oak. 80 dozen made. 19.5-/20 Apr 2018 RRP $120.00