Together with Waiheke Island, the Hawke’s Bay is the best region in New Zealand for producing red wines outside of Pinot Noir. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and more recently Syrah are the most successful red wine grape varieties grown here.
Church Road’s Grand Reserve range is the second highest in quality (and price), just below the flagship wines labeled as ‘Tom McDonald’. The Grande Reserve wines are produced only in great vintages. The best low-cropping vineyard blocks are targeted for selective hand-harvesting, yielding wines with the greatest possible flavour, depth and concentration. In the winery these wines are made in small batch, using traditional winemaking techniques. The producer says the aim is to “emphasise texture, structure and subtle complexity, while still letting the fruit shine through”.
2013 was a perfect vintage in New Zealand, with a long and hot summer ideal for ripening red grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon in particular.
So how good is the latest release of this premium Cabernet Merlot from a good local producer in a region particularly suitable for growing these varieties?
The answer is in the tasting notes of 2013 Church Road Grande Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot:
Appearance: very dark, purple rim.
Nose: strawberry + blueberry jam, pepper, red capsicum, vanilla. Medium intensity
Palate: A big chewy Cabernet – Merlot, packed full of flavors with the typical characters of Cabernet Sauvignon firmly marked (red capsicum, spices and cold ashes). Merlot contributes ripe fruity flavors: strawberry and blueberry jam, and the typical dark cherry. Notable notes of leather all along the palate. High tannins, dense tannic structure softened up by plenty of subtle French oak and a hint of sweetness. Finish is quite long, slightly bitter and with pronounced toffee and coffee flavors.
Overall: A good wine for lovers of rich, ripe and oaky Cabernet, yet not over the top: relatively subtle and balanced.
Drink between 2017 and 2025. A bit young to drink now, give it another 2 years. Should age well and develop further complexity tempering the current exuberance and noticeable alcohol.
A wine for robust and flavorful foods: grilled meats and stews, game.
Church Road Grand Reserve wines are available from selected restaurants and fine wine retailers in New Zealand, and from the Church Road Winery Cellar Door. Like this Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, they retail around $50 NZD.