Rod McDonald ‘Trademark’ 2015 Chardonnay and 2013 Syrah

Rod McDonald has been slowly developing his brand over the last 10 years. The key to understanding the Rod McDonald brand is that any wine with is name and logo comes from fruit from vineyards that he and his team have total operating control over. The 75 ha of vines are managed to his aim and philosophy of creating great wines that "taste like where they came from and who made them”, which is essentially "terroir”. Rod manages the vineyards he sources his fruit from with environmental awareness, and the target is to have them all certified BioGro organic within three years. The crucial aspect in getting there is to enable sufficient yield to ensure commercial viability during the conversion process.

The pinnacle of Rod’s dream is based around the finest expressions of Hawke's Bay Chardonnay and Syrah. The beginning of the realisation of this dream was manifest in the release of his super-premium ‘Trademark’ Syrah 2011 in 2014 (click here to see my review). The intention is to have five individual vineyard sites producing such distinctive wine that could be all blended together, or bottled separately in making outstanding wine. At this stage in the development of the flagship ‘Trademark’ brand, there are now four vineyards that supply Syrah of the desired quality and style, these being the ‘Two Gates’ in Maraekakaho, ‘Bridge Pa’, the ‘Seager’ vineyard in the Tuki Tuki River Valley, and the ‘Te Awanga Estate’. There is still one vineyard for Syrah to come. For this first ‘Trademark’ Chardonnay 2015, all of the fruit has come from the ‘Two Gates’ vineyard, but future releases will have the fruit source available from other sites as well, as with the Syrah. Rod regards Chardonnay and Syrah as the icon varieties, and there will not be a Bordeaux-varietal based ‘Trademark’ wine. Rod’s best Merlot comes from the ‘Te Awanga Estate’, and it has been reserved for a special wine under the ‘Te Awanga Estate’ brand.

It is indeed exciting times as Rod McDonald grows his wine brand, especially at the top level. Here, I review the latest ‘Trademark’ releases, the inaugural Chardonnay from the 2015 vintage, and the second Syrah, from the 2013 vintage.


  • Rod McDonald ‘Trademark’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015
  • Rod McDonald ‘Trademark’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2013

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