I visited Rod McDonald in his beautifully situated winery in Te Awanga. This is a cool, coastal part of Hawke’s Bay that’s getting quite a reputation for its Chardonnay. Rod started his own wine company, Rod McDonald wines, back in 2006, and in 2016 he changed the name of the project to Te Awanga Estate when he moved into his current place. ‘Now we have somewhere to be it makes sense to move it to that,’ he explained.
He has several tiers to his range. The top level consists of the Trademark Chardonnay (150 cases) and Trademark Syrah (200-300 cases). Then there’s the Quarter Acre range, which is a growers series. These come from small vineyards around Hawke’s Bay.
Rod himself owns or leases 75 hectares, and the leases they have are long-term (usually 20 years). 45% of this area is Biogro certified organic. The rest is going into conversion. ‘It’s never going to be a point of promotion for us,’ he says. And they have enough tools in their armoury to deal with disease. ‘In NZ limit on copper is 3 kg/hectare,’ he says, ‘and generally we don’t bump our head on that.’
Then there is the Te Awanga Estate range, either from the home block, or the further 45 hectares that are leased and farmed (11 ha in Bridge Pa and 35 ha Mangatahi, which is inland), and this includes a new reserve series from old vines (Chardonnay) and new vines (Syrah).
‘Chardonnay and Syrah are the two varieties that the region should lead with,’ he says. ‘Most of what we have in the ground is Chardonnay, Syrah and Pinot Gris. Hawke’s Bay Pinot Gris does well, and Delegats are planting 800 hectares in the Woodthorpe.’
But the region has seen a bit of contraction, too. ‘Contract growers have been removing old vines – mostly because of old vineyards that weren’t planted in the right place,’ says Rod. ‘If it’s a good place to grow apples then it’s not ideal for grapes.’ The exception to this contraction is the new plantings of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris by the big companies.
Te Awanga One Off Albarińo 2017 Hawke’s Bay
First crop from these vines in the Bridge Pa triangle. Lively and citrussy with bright with crisp fruit and a hint of pithiness. Nice brisk, linear style with some flavour, and a hint of saline lemon curd. 88/100
Te Awanga One Off Double Happy 2018 Hawke’s Bay
Chardonnay and Viognier, barrel fermented. Very fruity and delicious with some mineral notes as well as supple, fleshy pear and melon fruit. Easy and very drinkable. Tastes of Viognier. 89/100
Te Awanga Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2017
25 year old vines. Fresh, chalky and limey with lovely taut citrus fruit. Crisp and quite mineral with good acidity. Has some tangerine and a hint of pith. Lovely precision here. None dry. 90/100
Te Awanga Estate Chardonnay 2017
Young vine clone 15, with some barrel and tank ferment. There’s a really long hang time for Chardonnay here. It’s picked three weeks later here than the inland blocks, even though flowering is at the same time. Nice peach and pear depth with some nuts and spice. Fleshy and delicious with nice peachy fruit. 90/100
Te Awanga The Loom Reserve Chardonnay 2017
From the oldest Mendoza clones here, hand picked and run to barrel, 11 months in oak, 30% new. This is linear and quite saline with nice spiciness under the pear, lemon and apple fruit. Has some apricot detail on the finish. Supple and fine with a salty edge. 93/100
Te Awanga Quarter Acre Chardonnay 2015
25 year old Mendoza clone, 7 tons off two hectares. Hand picked and whole bunch pressed. Long time on lees, wild ferment. Lovely cabbagey, matchstick reduction on the nose, with some supple fruit. Very mineral and expressive with lovely detail. This is so expressive. 94/100
Te Awanga Trademark Chardonnay 2015
Inland vineyards, planted in 2005, clone 15 and clone 95. Redmetals, 150 000 year old terrace, cold nights. This is rich but well defined with complex peach and pear, with some toasty notes. Has nice depth and weight, combining richness, texture and also some freshness. Finishes with notes of bread and toast. 94/100
Te Awanga Estate Merlot Cabernet Franc 2015
Sweet, rounded and supple with a peppery edge to the rounded sweet cherry and blackberry fruit. Shows dried herbs, mint and thyme in the background. Nice grippy structure allied to a lovely rounded, sweetly fruited palate. This is really attractive. 91/100
Te Awanga Quarter Acre Syrah 2014
Peppery and bright, but also supple with some menthol and mint hints as well as bright, supple berry fruits. Has some blackberry and black cherry. Generous with nice texture to the fruit. 93/100
Te Awanga One Off The Banger 2016
Named after the old Holden V8. It’s a blend of Cabernet (off the Gimblett Gravels) and Syrah (Bridge Pa). This shows sweet blackcurrant and cherry fruit on the nose: it’s quite enticing. The palate is fresh with a peppery undercurrent to the blackcurrant fruit. Has a long, savoury finish with intriguing pepper hints. Lovely. 93/100
Te Awanga Trademark Syrah 2013
This is ripe and stylish with a bit of maturity, showing lush black fruits with some peppery hints. Saline with some herbs and warm savoury notes. Good concentration here with some richness on the mid-palate. Ripe and expressive. 93/100
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