Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay (2) six more top wines tasted

A few days ago I reported on six of the twelve Chardonnays (and Ring added her notes, after tasting through the case in early January 2021) that were selected by Cameron Douglas (out of 55 that were submitted) for the inaugural Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay selection. Here are the other six. One of the striking aspect of this selection is how different the wines are. This in part can be explained by the site differences – Hawke’s Bay has a range of different terroirs – but also because of the fact that Chardonnay is a winemaker’s grape. There are lots of choices about how to vinify Chardonnay, and add picking decisions into the mix and you can end up with lots of different expressions. New Zealand retail prices in NZ$ are marked.


Monowai ‘Upper Reaches’ Chardonnay 2019 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
14% alcohol. Vineyard based in Crowthorpe on the banks of the Ngarororu River. This is sweetly fruited and intense with nectarine, pear, some melon and a hint of pineapple. It’s juicy and lively with lovely brightness under the compact, sweet fruit. The emphasis is very much on the fruit here, with rich texture and a subtle bitter twist on the finish. 91/100 ($35) (JG)

From a vineyard in Crownthorpe, on the banks of the Ngarororu River, this was fermented and aged in new, 1, and 2 year old French oak, with full MLF. Quite perfumed, with white florals, musk melon, and medicinal kissed Rainier cherry, on a fuller, wider palate. This trails off with oak spicing on the shorter finish. 88/100 (TR)

Coopers Creek Select Vineyards Limeworks Chardonnay 2019 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
12.5% alcohol. From limestone-rich soils near Havelock North, this is a slightly disjointed wine, but it’s still very tasty. There’s a slight herbal, cabbage edge to the bright mandarin and lemon fruit, with some bitterness on the finish. It has a hint of mint and honey too, as well as some vanilla notes in the background. Nice acid line here, which gives the wine some energy. 92/100 ($25) (JG)

From limestone-laced soils near Havelock North, this is full and forward, with ample white flowers, lemon pith and peel, and a fine glimmering hum of minerality that lifts this to a perfumed finish. There’s a back shadow of toasted oak immersed in the wine, emerging more on the spicy, warming finish, leaving this a bit disjointed. 88/100 (TR)

Pask Declaration Chardonnay 2019 Gimblett Gravels, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. This is Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay, clone 15, fermented in barrel and aged for 10 months. Mostly new oak. This is fresh and linear with nice acidity and a core of citrus fruit, wrapped in white peach and fine spices. There’s a little vanilla and meal here, with a juiciness on the finish. Good concentration combined with intense fruit and some new oak to good effect. Some more exotic pineapple notes emerge after a while. 92/100 ($45) (JG)

This is a mix of clone 15 and Mendoza from Settlement 1 block on the Gimblett Gravels. After a whole bunch press directly to new French barriques for a native ferment, this was aged 10 months in barrel (55% new). Very silken, with white florals, baked pear, lemon verbena, fresh hazelnuts, and ample wood seasoning spicing the lingering finish. Quite polished. 91/100 (TR)

Sacred Hill Riflemans Chardonnay 2019 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. Old vine Mendoza clone, whole-bunch pressed and fermented in French oak. This is fresh and complex with marmalade, buts, lemon, honey and lime oil. Shows a great balance between structure and power, and also the way this can be managed in the cellar: there’s and intrinsic freshness, and a touch of grapefruit pith bitterness, as well as a hint of toast and matchstick. There’s a lot of concentration here, but it’s still very primary. Some pineapple notes emerge after a while. I think it will age really well, so be prepared to see this score go up. 93/100 ($70) (JG)

This is old vine own rooted Mendoza clone planted on an elevated river terrace in Dartmoor Valley. This was whole bunch pressed into tightly grained French oak (80% new) for ferment, with full MLF and regular bâtonnage over 12 months. Powerful and direct, with popcorn, lemon curd, spiced wood, roasted hazelnuts, and licks of reduction flooding a full, yet sleek (13.5%) palate. Such a baby, this powerful wine has time to unfold. Riflemans is the name of a little known native bird local to NZ. 92/100 (TR)

Church Road Tom Chardonnay 2019 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. This is a powerful and distinctive expression of Chardonnay. The nose shows intense reductive characters with flint and matchstick as well as grapefruit and lemon notes, and a hint of toast/brioche. The palate is fresh, intense and supple with pineapple, spice, lemons, pears and some fine herbs, all framed with this lovely spicy, matchstick and mineral character. Finishes all crystalline and spicy. This is a very primary wine, with lots of interesting elements: it’s powerful and impactful. But I’m sure it will come together. Fabulous effort. 96/100 ($150) (JG)

From Tuki Tuki Valley, this was predominantly from a vineyard planted by Tom McDonald in the 1960s, close to the Tuki Tuki river on dense clay over calcareous clay / limestone outwash. The remainder comes from Terraces Vineyard, an old river terrace to the north of Te Mata Peak.
A mix of clones 95, 1066, 15, and 548, this was whole bunch pressed directly to French oak barriques (31% new) for a native ferment and full MLF. This aged on full lees for 11 months, occasional bâtonnage before being bottled unfined and lightly filtered. Super powerful with ample reduction, toasted popcorn, rich brown butter, lemon curd, and toast, studded with rock salts, crystalline lemon, and scented with white florals. A potent acidity carries the intensity easily to the lingering finish. This is a lot of intensity in a 13.5% frame, drinking very well now, but even better with cellaring. 94/100 (TR)

Clearview Reserve Chardonnay 2019 Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
13.5% alcohol. This comes from Te Awanga, a subregion of Hawke’s Bay on the coast. Barrel fermented and aged in French oak. Subtle toasty notes with a creamy edge to the bold pineapple, pear and spice fruit. There’s a bit of mint and mandarin in the mix, with nice detail. It finishes crystalline with good acidity. Lovely intensity and balance here, with some vanilla and coconut hints from the oak. 92/100 ($45) JG

These old vines are rooted in coastal Te Awanga, and whole bunch pressed, partially in barrel, with 43% new oak. This remained in barrel for one year, with regular bâtonnage. Quite potent and focused, with perfumed pear scenting a savoury, brown butter laced palate, with flicks of reduction running throughout, and ample toasted oak framing the palate. Acidity is brisk, pulling this to the lingering, spiced, warming finish. A lot of intensity packed into 13.5%. 91/100 (TR)

See notes and scores on the first six of the twelve Chardonnays

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