Kidnapper Cliffs 2014 Chardonnay and 2013 Cabernet Merlot and Syrah

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. www.teawacollection.com


  • Kidnapper Cliffs Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014
  • Kidnapper Cliffs Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2013
  • Kidnapper Cliffs Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013

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