This article was created in partnership with Church Road
Leading with beautifully ripe black plum and berryfruit, and the brooding, dark earthy / cacao complexity typical of great Merlot, Church Road TOM Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 also displays more lifted aromatic hints of violet lavender, vanilla, cedar, and spice. We'd recommend it alongside this earthy and decadent Spiced Venison Medallions on Creamy Cauliflower Mash.
The palate is full bodied and powerful with a plush richness and weight balanced by gentle acidity and an exceptionally fine grained, ripe tannin structure that lends the wine great presence across the full length of the palate. Still youthful, the wine should mature gracefully for 15 years or more from vintage date.
The wine was grown over two vineyards: the Merlot in the Gimblett Vineyard, where the dry, infertile soil is extremely young, having being laid down as part of the Ngaruroro riverbed as recently as 150 years ago. The site is gravelly with lenses of sand and silt, and very little topsoil. Merlot is a fickle grape performing in a narrow climate band. It likes neither too much heat nor excessively cool climates, and is prone to over-cropping. Ripening mid-season, it is possible to be lulled into a false sense of security, but unless vigour and crop load is tightly controlled, the wine will not achieve the textural warmth, density and generosity of great Merlot. Grown with consideration and respect in this site, Merlot can deliver incredibly serious wines that are dark, brooding and powerful.
The Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, which this year make up 19% of the blend, are grown in the The Redstone Vineyard in the warmest part of Bridge Pa Triangle winegrowing district. Sheltered from cold air draining out of the high country by Roy’s Hill, it is also far enough inland to be little affected by the cool sea breeze. The soils are known as red metals, a 10,000 year old alluvial greywacke gravel riverbed also laid down by the Ngaruroro River and since covered by a shallow layer of wind-blown loess, including iron rich volcanic ash that has rust coloured the soils. Cabernet off this site is ripe and fragrant, with positive varietal aroma, fine grained tannin, and brings textural length to the more mid palate focused Merlot.
The year marked the fourth excellent growing season in a row for Hawke’s Bay with rainfall significantly lower and temperatures warmer than the 30 year average and a warm, mostly dry harvest period. Church road employ extensive shoot and fruit thinning to ensure a balanced, evenly spaced and well exposed crop. Soil moisture is monitored to keep the vines in a state that promotes optimal ripening and small berry size ideal for quality red winemaking.
Selective harvesting was employed to target only the lowest vigour soils, with the best fruit. The fruit was then destemmed, lightly crushed, and fermented warm in open top French oak cuves. Total time on skins averaged around four weeks. The resultant wine was filled to a selection of the finest French oak barrels (62% new) for 18 months subsequent maturation. The final blend has been bottled unfiltered to maximise quality.