The first of two wines from Zaria tonight. A classic Hawke’s Bay Merlot, from the family-run ‘Lesley’s Vineyard’ in Bridge Pa. Deep, dusky blood red in the glass, revealing aromas of violets, cranberry, chorizo and dried herbs. Medium bodied; soft but dense on the palate, with ripe fruit everywhere – boysenberry, damson, coffee bean and black cherry. Acidity lends a balanced brightness – with a light tang of balsamic; and tannins are fine, feathery and integrated. Spiciness comes through – juniper, anise and tobacco and a cocoon of plush texture mixes with a wisp of smoke and autumn bonfire. Concentration builds towards the end, and a dry, lengthy finish awaits. 91pts.