Hawke’s Bay award-winning winery, Church Road, has released the next vintages of Church Road 1, its prized single vineyard offering. These single vineyard expressions of individual grape varieties tell a true story of provenance showcasing the unique character of the very best vineyards from the best sub-regions in Hawke’s Bay. This year’s releases have been crafted from near perfect vintage conditions in the region.
Church Road’s Chief Winemaker, Chris Scott commented: “Terroir is a French word with no direct English translation. It can be described as the taste of the place. The same grape variety grown in different sites, even in the same region, will demonstrate uniquely different characteristics related to those individual sites. Differences in soil, slope, altitude, and shelter can subtly or dramatically alter the resulting wine, even over distances of a few metres.
The very best sites growing well suited varieties, will produce wines that stand out amongst their peers. Wines of recognisable personality, presence, and above all, quality. Church Road 1 is a range of single vineyard wines that showcase the terroir of our best vineyards.”
The Terraces Vineyard in the Tuki Tuki Valley is sheltered by Te Mata Peak from the cold southerly. Like the iconic sister Tuki Tuki vineyard on the other side of the river, both sites tend to add a slate-like minerality to the finished wines. But here they are richer, rounder, more textural in structure, and have a tendency towards peach-like stonefruit flavours over the zestier citrus notes.
The Redstone Vineyard, in Bridge Pa, is a prized site that’s one of the warmest, earliest ripening sites in Hawke’s Bay. It is perfectly suited for growing the red grape varieties, Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. There’s a patch of the vineyard that juts out and isn’t as protected by Roy’s Hill – and grapes from those rows can ripen up to ten days later than the rest – such is the shelter.
The Gimblett Gravels Malbec vineyard is only 30m above sea level, but far enough inland to be relatively well protected from the sea breeze. The vineyard is also sheltered from the cold southerly by Roy’s Hill, making this one of the most sheltered and warm sub-regions in the region.
At RRPs of up to $120, and sealed under cork (except the Chardonnay which is a screwcap, with a RRP of $100) this is not your everyday wine. Expect the reds to be drinking at their best after 5 years in bottle – and for the Cabernet Sauvignon you could be looking at 15 years for this wine to reach its peak. You can argue that there’s not many Chardonnays that will be improving with ten years age in the bottle, so look to be opening this – indeed, I would say – any, Chardonnay within 8 years.
Hawke’s Bay Syrah at its best is intensely varietal – the fact that ‘it is what it is’ should jump from the glass. Marrying the evocative, often delicate, perfume with a rounded, robustness through the middle – is the trick that is hard to pull off, but keeps the winemaker on their toes. Often the sheer power of Gimblett Gravels fruit makes this union elusive; and that’s where Bridge Pa is often the trump card – warmer, with higher fertility and with a noticeable ‘iron earth’ element that comes through into the wine.
Garnering some real interest from around the globe now – in particular the UK has really picked up on this.. Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is proving irresistable. Using a heavier-toasted barrel in the 27% new oak leaves behind the ‘sweetness’ that can often result from medium-toast oak and adds depth of flavour to the wine without dominating the fruit.
Although traditionally a classic blending option, Malbec was one of the varietals that the Church Road team really wanted to put into the ‘1’ range. With great tannin, a tendency to fleshy, plush fruit around the mid to back palate, and some distinctive flavours – I find elderberry and tar two of these – it’s a wine that ages beautifully without necessarily changing character too much.
Merlot in Hawke’s Bay is almost the forgotten grape. Too often it is overcropped and produces a thin, weedy, tannic wine with simple, jammy flavours. In many ways, Merlot is the red equivalent of Pinot Gris. A natural low vigour means that if grown well the result is often the finest red wine variety of them all. Luckily much of the Merlot around now ends up in rosé, leaving the serious contenders making some superb expressions.
The classic red wine grape of Cabernet Sauvignon is well suited to the Redstone vineyard, and makes the most structured wine of the range. Chris advised “I’d advise that no-one should go near this wine for at least five years, and it will last well beyond fifteen”. However, this is one wine that will evolve immensely in the bottle – reinventing itself over the years as any edgier elements meld together.
You should note that as the pinnacle of Church Road winemaking – the TOM – only offers a red blend, then getting your hands on this one (and the Merlot) is a unique aspect to the ‘1’ range.