Sacred Hill ‘Special Selection’ 2015 Chardonnays and 2014 Reds
The ‘Riflemans’ Chardonnay has the most auspicious track record of the ‘Special Selection’ wines, and its elegance, intensity, refinement and individual character make it one of the country’s great Chardonnays. The ‘Riflemans’ was joined at the top level by Sacred Hill’s Chablis-inspired ‘Virgin’ Chardonnay from the 2011 vintage in 2012. The ‘Virgin’ Chardonnay is also sourced from the ‘Riflemans’ vineyard, and is a superb expression of pure fruit. Upon Tony Bish’s insistence, the ‘Wine Thief’ Chardonnay joined the ‘Special Selection’ tier from 2014. The wine was first made in 2004, and was seen as a ‘baby Riflemans’ but suffered from being an ‘orphan’ label, not quite fitting into any of the existing ranges. With intermittent production and in an alternative style, it seemed to languish. However Tony saw the potential quality and stylistic difference possible, that it was deemed to deserve its place alongside the original ‘Riflemans’ and ‘Virgin’ Chardonnays. The ‘Wine Thief’, also sourced from the ‘Riflemans’ vineyard, is based on high solids ferments where sulphides are a part of the style, and the wine employs different oak origins and toasting levels. It is a more ‘contemporary’ expression, with an emphasis on richness and mid-palate weight according to Tony. Thus there are three Chardonnay variations in the ‘Special Selection’ range. At the time of writing, the 2015 ‘Virgin’ Chardonnay is still on lees, but about to be bottled.
The other ‘Special Selection’ wines are the ‘Deerstalkers’ Syrah, named after the site of the clubrooms of the Deerstalkers Association which happened to be in the Gimblett Gravels; the ‘Brokenstone’ Merlot-predominant wine, named so because the vineyard site took a long time to become anywhere near profitable, and it was affectionately known as ‘Stoneybroke’; and the ‘Helmsman’ Cabernet Sauvignon-predominant wine, the name suggested by winegrower friend Allan Gunn who was driving his tractor through the vineyard listening to the radio commentary of the America’s Cup when ‘Black Magic’ crossed the finish line.
Here, I review the new ‘Special Selection releases, the 2015 ‘Wine Thief’ and ‘Riflemans’ Chardonnays, and the 2014 reds, the ‘Deerstalkers’ Syrah, ‘Brokenstone’ and ‘Helmsman’. www.sacredhill.com
FEATURED WINES IN THIS REVIEW
Sacred Hill ‘Wine Thief’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015Chardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Aug-2016Bright, light golden-yellow colour with some depth, paler on rim. The nose is full and broad with deep and densely packed aromas of ripe yellow stonefruits melded with layers of creamy barrel-ferment elements and nutty oak, along with firm, flinty lees and reductive mineral complexities. Medium-full bodied, the flavours of citrus, yellow stonefruits and tropical fruits are rich and succulent and harmoniously entwined with creamy barrel-ferment notes, and nutty, toasty oak, and layers of flinty lees and mineral detail. The palate is powerfully presented, but rounded in texture with integrated acidity adding to the breadth. The wine leads to a fulsome, rich and long lingering finish of nuts, toast and flint. This is a fulsome, rich and powerfully succulent Chardonnay with layers of toasty, nutty and flinty complexities. Match with roast pork over the next 4-5+ years. Old vine Mendoza clone from the ‘Riflemans Terraces’, hand-picked, WBP and fully barrel-fermented by indigenous yeasts to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 12 months in approx. 50% new French oak barriques, undergoing batonnage and 100% MLF. 18.5+/20 Aug 2016 RRP $34.99
Sacred Hill ‘Riflemans’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2015Chardonnay from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Aug-2016Bright yellow colour with pale golden hues and some depth, lighter edged. This has a beautifully refined youthfully fresh nose with firm and tightly bound aromas of citrus fruits along with exotic tropical fruit and floral elements, entwined with elegant mealy, nutty, creamy barrel-ferment and fragrant oak notes, and flinty nuances providing interest and detail. Medium-full bodied, the palate features a very finely proportioned structure with a tight and subtly concentrated, intense core of citrus and white stonefruits, exotic floral and tropical fruit elements and harmoniously balanced, mealy, nutty oak. The mouthfeel is very smooth-textured and enlivened by refreshing acidity and the wine flows seamlessly unfolding spice and mineral nuances. The finish is very long and sustained, with a balance of succulence and fine textures. This is a beautifully elegant, fresh and refined Chardonnay with subtle richness and layers of exotic complexities. Serve with seafood, poultry and pork over the next 6+ years. Old vine Mendoza clone from the ‘Riflemans Terraces’, hand-picked, WBP and indigenous yeast barrel-fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months in 80% new French oak with some batonnage and 100% MLF. 19.5-/20 Aug 2016 RRP $74.99
Sacred Hill ‘Deerstalkers’ Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2014Syrah from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 08-Jul-2017Full, even, near impenetrable, very dark black-hued red with purple hues on the rim. The nose is very powerful with intensely deep and penetrating aromas that bloom in volume showing ripe blackberry fruit with dark raspberries and plums with a complex amalgam of dark herbs and savoury whole cluster stalk and violet perfumes. This unfolds layers of opulence. Medium-full bodied, the palate is opulent and succulent with great vitality, showing a full array of flavours from ripe blackberry and black plum fruit to savoury herb and stalk notes, aromatic florals, spices and iron-earth. The fruit is beautifully integrated with the serious structure, the mouthfeel showing great presence and vibrancy. The flavours are mouthfilling and carry to a rich fulsome, blossoming finish. This is a multi-faceted and layered Syrah with an array of flavour detail on a powerfully structured palate. Match with slow-cooked game meat dishes over the next 10-12+ years. 100% Syrah from the ‘Deerstalkers’ vineyard, Gimblett Gravels, fermented with 30% whole bunches in open top vats to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 1,077 dozen made. 19.5+/20 Jul 2017 RRP $60.00 Full, dark, deep, black-hued purple-red colour, a little lighter on the rim. This has a very intense and concentrated nose of ripe blackberry fruit, showing richness, opulence and vibrancy, melded with black pepper, spices and exotic florals. The aromatics build in firmness and density with nuances of minerals and hints of earth. Medium-full bodied, the palate possesses rich and succulent fruit flavours of blackberries with blue fruit hints, black pepper, exotic spices and florals that fill the mouth. The fruit is balanced by firm, fine-grained tannin extraction and structure, but lends considerable grip and texture providing presence with opulence. The extraction has drive and line, carrying the wine to a very long, integrated finish with a concentrated core. This is a rich, opulent Syrah with black fruits, spices and florals, and serious structure and grip. 10-12+ years. 100% Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels, fermented with 30% whole bunches in open top vats to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5-/20 Sep 2016 RRP $59.99 Full, very dark, deep, near saturated, purple-hued black-red colour. This has a very full and voluminous nose with soft layers of ripe blackberry fruit along with iron-earth and black minerals, suggestions of blueberries and violet and black florals. The aromatics are harmoniously integrated and balanced, and unfold meaty and spicy oak complexities with aeration. Medium-full bodied, the palate is finely concentrated with rich and sweetly succulent flavours of ripe blackberries with subtle blueberries, entwined with iron-earth, minerals and liquorice, along with nuances of florals and oak spices. The fruit richness is balanced by very fine-grained, but considerable tannin extraction and structure, with fine, background acidity. This has a concentrated core with energy and linearity that carries to a very long and sustained finish of black fruits, spices, liquorice and violets. This is a finely concentrated, rich and succulent, exotic Syrah with considerable fine-grained extraction. Match with game meat dishes over the next 8-10+ years. 100% Syrah from the Gimblett Gravels, fermented with 30% whole bunches in open top vats to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 18 months in 30% new French oak barriques. 19.5/20 Aug 2016 RRP $59.99
Sacred Hill ‘Brokenstone’ Hawke’s Bay 2014Merlot from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Aug-2016Very full, near impenetrable, purple-hued black-red colour. The nose is finely presented and softly concentrated with aromatic black plum fruit along with blackberries, blackcurrants, spices and fragrant redcurrant notes, unfolding dark red floral elements. The aromatics are expressed with restraint and harmony, unfolding iron-earth hints and lifted oak. Medium-full bodied, the fruit flavours of savoury black and dark-red plums, blackberries and blackcurrants show with richness. The fruit is enlivened by fresh, lacy acidity and gently supported by fine-grained, powdery tannin structure. As the wine flows, the fruit sweetness grows, and the palate reveals iron-earth, minerals and oak as it carries to a long, lingering, dry-textured finish. This is a full, softly rich Merlot-based wine with black plum and berry fruit, iron-earth nuances and a firm, fine-grained palate. Serve with lamb, beef, venison and casseroles over the next 8-10 years. A blend of 83% Merlot, 8% Malbec, 5% Syrah, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels, indigenous yeast fermented to 14.0% alc., the wine aged 8 months then the components blended and given a further 12 months in French oak, of which 33% were new. 18.5+/20 Aug 2016 RRP $49.99
Sacred Hill ‘Helmsman’ Hawke’s Bay 2014Blended Red from New Zealand - Hawke's BayReview Date : 09-Aug-2016Very dark, deep, black-hued ruby-red colour with purple on the rim. This has a finely proportioned nose with concentrated and penetrating aromas of ripe blackberry and blackcurrant fruit along with black plums, cassis liqueur, fragrant herbs, complexing iron-earth mineral nuances and pencil-shavings oak. Medium-full bodied, the palate features rich, vibrantly bright and succulent flavours of ripe blackcurrants and blackberries, along with cassis and herbal detail. The fruit is fresh and quite primary in expression, but reveals black mineral, cedar and pencilly oak detail. The fruit is supported by fine-grained, flowery tannin structure providing body and presence, and a firm, concentrated core and line. Fresh acidity lends energy, tension and drive, and the palate leads to a long, lingering finish of cassis, minerals and oak. This is a fine and firmly concentrated, vibrantly rich Cabernet Sauvignon-based wine with fine-grained, balancing structure. Match with lamb, beef and semi-hard cheeses over the next 9-12 years. A blend of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels, hand-picked and indigenous yeast fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged in 50% new French oak, with blending in late spring, and given further aging in barrel for a total of 20 months. 19.5-/20 Aug 2016 RRP $84.99