Left Field from the Te Awa Collection
It has been a waiting game to see how Te Awa would emerge from the Villa Maria Estates chrysalis since it was purchased late in 2012. I’ve made discreet enquiries with the Villa Maria folk and Ant Mackenzie about the progress and re-emergence of this fine Hawke’s Bay brand, and the feelings have been positive all round. No doubt there has been considerable soul-searching to ensure that the individuality of ‘Te Awa’ and its associated brands of ‘Left Field’ and ‘Kidnapper Cliffs’ would be maintained, especially in the light of the Villa Maria Estates group already having Hawke’s Bay presences in the form of Vidal Estate, Esk Valley and wines under Thornbury and Villa Maria itself. There are plans for the Te Awa winery to be extended and upgraded, and the site to become the base for Villa Maria’s Hawke’s Bay operations. So the value of the acquisition will certainly be recognised in the near future. It’s a very good outcome.
The Te Awa Collection
The Te Awa wines in their new form have now been announced, as the ‘Te Awa Collection’. The premium wines will remain under the ‘Te Awa’ nomenclature, these being single estate Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay wines, very much as the brand has represented in its past life. ‘Kidnapper Cliffs’ also continues as unique expressions of selected parcels from within the Te Awa estate, again as previous. The range of wines offered under these brands has been consolidated to show the best expressions, these being Chardonnay, Syrah and a Bordeaux-varietal blend. I’ve been told that this is the basis for the relaunch of these brands, and that in the future, there may be other wines added. From my perspective, hopefully these could be Semillon, Pinotage and Malbec!
The most significant change has been with the ‘Left Field’ wines where the range has been increased and broadened, and includes wines made from fruit outside Hawke’s Bay. The new labelling is particularly noteworthy with fanciful creatures created and designed by Aaron Pollock adorning the bottles reflecting the overall creative philosophies in making the wines. The quirky creatures are beautifully and intricately drawn on the labels, and they incorporate the Te Awa windmill.
Technical and Style Developments
On the technical side, Richard Painter from Vidal Estate has assumed the winemaker position, with former chief winemaker and general manager Ant Mackenzie having a strong supporting and consulting role. Completing the team is the very experienced John van der Linden, who is Te Awa’s viticulturist. Ant has had significant influence in the development of a number of the new wines. The wines made since the Villa Maria purchase retain much of the characteristics and personalities they had previously. Clearly Villa Maria has recognised the success of the earlier wines, and endeavoured to keep their essence. There have been stylistic changes made, these for the better, according to Ant, and the wines are not clones of anything else under the Villa Maria umbrella.
This is extremely positive and promising news for past and existing fans of Te Awa. I count myself as among this group, as I awarded my inaugural Raymond Chan Wine Reviews ‘Winery of the Year’ award in 2011 to Kidnapper Cliffs. I look forward to seeing the new Te Awa and Kidnapper Cliffs wines soon. In the meantime, I review six of the new release Left Field wines. www.teawacollection.com
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Left Field Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand - MarlboroughReview Date : 09-Mar-2015Bright, very pale straw colour with green hues, lighter on rim. The nose is very tightly bound, elegantly penetrating with precise cool-spectrum aromas of cut grass, nettles and fresh herbs, along with thirst-quenching minerally notes. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, tightly concentrated grass and nettle fruit flavours combine with gooseberry and minerally elements to form a fine-textured core. Balanced lacy acidity enlivens the mouthfeel and adds to the fruit sweetness, and the wine flows with good vitality to a lush and juicy grassy finish with good length. This is an elegant, tightly bound cool-spectrum, classical Awatere Sauvignon Blanc with a juicy finish. Serve with seafood, salads and vegetables and Pacific Rim fare over the next 2 years. The label features the ‘Flying Squidmill’. Fruit from the Awatere Valley cool-fermented in stainless-steel to 12.5% alc. and 2.8 g/L RS. 17.0+/20 Mar 2015 RRP $17.99
Left Field East Coast Pinot Gris 2014Pinot Gris from New Zealand - North IslandReview Date : 09-Mar-2015Full, bright straw-yellow colour with a suggestion of light-olden and blush. The nose is light and fresh with delicate aromas of pears, with subtle and fine yellow stonefruit and floral notes, along with nuances of tropical fruits. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, light, but up-front flavours of pears and tropical fruits are enriched by honeysuckle nuances and hints of exotic florals. The mouthfeel is crisp and lively from the brisk acidity, and flows with good energy along a fine, lacy line. The palate leads to a light, crisp finish with some fruit sweetness. This is a light and lively dry Pinot Gris with pear and floral flavours. Match with Thai, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisine over the next 2-3 years. The label features the ‘Squidcrab’. A blend of Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay fruit cool-fermented to 13.5% alc. and 6.0 g/L RS. 16.5+/20 Mar 2015 RRP $17.99
Left Field Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2014Chardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Mar-2015The label depicts the ‘Lizard Fish’. Fruit from the ‘Te Awa’ vineyards fermented in stainless-steel and seasoned French oak to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 6 months in oak on lees with MLF. Bright, pale straw-yellow colour with green and lemony hues, lighter on rim. This has a tightly concentrated and deep nose of fresh white and yellow stonefruits, and citrus fruits infused with a complex layer of flinty reduction elements melded with nutty oak. Medium-bodied, this has a finely presented palate of stonefruits and citrus fruits bound with flint and minerally interest. The fruit is fresh and the mouthfeel is crisp from the acidity. A subtle barrel-ferment creaminess balances the zestiness and the wine flows along a fine, but firm line with good drive, carrying to a refreshing, dry finish. This is an elegantly concentrated, fresh and flinty Chardonnay with a good textured linearity. Match with seafood, poultry and pork over the next 3+ years. 17.5-/20 Mar 2015 RRP $17.99
Left Field Hawke’s Bay Rosé 2014Rose from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Mar-2015Even candy floss pink colour, lighter on rim. The nose is fresh with stonefruit and watermelon fruit aromas along with aromatic red florals and a steely, thirst-quenching flintiness. Dry to taste and medium-bodied, tight and elegantly presented flavours of stonefruits are lifted by red berry and floral notes. The palate is crisp and racy with mouthwatering acidity the feature. Nuances of watermelon emerge, and the wine grows into balance and vinous presence. The delicate flavours carry to a clean, zesty finish with light, sweet fruit elements. This is a clean, light, thirst-quenching rosé to serve as an aperitif, with antipasto and tapas over the next 2 years. The label depicts the ‘Moon Shell Moth’. A blend of Arneis and Pinotage, given overnight skin contact and fermented in stainless-steel to 13.5% alc. and 5.0 g/L RS, the wine aged for a short period on lees. 16.5/20 Mar 2015 RRP $17.99
Left Field Marlborough Pinot Noir 2013Pinot Noir from New Zealand - MarlboroughReview Date : 09-Mar-2015The label features the ‘Flamingo Recluse’. Fruit from the Awatere Valley destemmed, given a cold soak and mainly indigenous yeast fermented to 13.0% alc., the wine aged 15 months in oak. Even ruby-red colour with slight purple hues, lighter on rim. The nose is elegant and restrained in expression with a tight core of dark cherry and berry fruit aromas along with subtle, spicy oak, with fragrant and harmoniously infused nuances of dark herbs. Medium-bodied, elegantly concentrated flavours of dark cherry and red berry fruits are harmoniously entwined with nutty oak and spicy nuances. The fruit is supported by fine-grained tannins providing a positive structure and line. Bright acidity lends energy, enlivening the fruit sweetness, and the wine flows smoothly, growing in depth, leading to a sustained, soft red berry finish. This is an elegant, restrained Pinot Noir with some red cherry fruit and nutty oak, framed in a harmonious palate. Serve with duck, pork and Mediterranean cuisine over the next 4+ years. 17.5/20 Mar 2015 RRP $17.99
Left Field Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2013Merlot from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Mar-2015Dark, deep, purple-hued ruby-red colour, youthful in appearance. This has an elegantly proportioned, well-packed nose of ripe, dark red berry fruit with spicy plum, redcurrant and dark red florals lifted by oak elements. The aromatics are fresh, vibrant, and primary in expression. Medium-full bodied, deep and ripe flavours of dark red berry fruit and spicy red plums are lifted by fragrant redcurrant notes. Nuances of earth, fresh herbs and spice add detail and interest. The fruit depth is supported by grainy tannin structure, building to provide good rounded weight and some grip and texture. Background acidity lends tension and freshness, leading to a softly packed, fruity finish. This is a fresh, ripe-fruited Merlot/Malbec blend with good balanced structure and freshness. Match with roasted and grilled red meats and semi-hard cheeses over the next 5-6 years. The label depicts the ‘Hatchling Deer’. 85% Merlot and 15% Malbec from the Te Awa vineyards, given a cold soak and fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 18 months in barrel. 17.5/20 Mar 2015 RRP $23.99