Usually, I find this a time to reflect on what the year has offered. Following on from the regular BBQ in January we started off with a few hiccups in our arrangements. Nevertheless, tastings began on a high note in February with Ash Ridge from Hawkes Bay. March saw another late change, but an enjoyable evening was possible with club members presenting wines from our cellar. April allowed Ohau Wines to introduce us to some interesting local wines while May was, of course, our AGM.
Things really got rolling in June with Taylor Brown, who are the NZ agents for Brown Bros and Taylors from Australia. They presented mainly Taylors as we had quite recently shared an evening with Brown Bros. July took us to Bistro 52, WelTec’s training restaurant for our mid-year dinner while August showed the enjoyable wines of the well-established Wairarapa winery, Gladstone. September was a highlight with the iconic Hawkes Bay producer Craggy Range, followed in October with Man O’ War from Waiheke Island. The tasting year finished with festive wines presented by Macvine International.
Your committee are pleased with the programme and hope everyone found something to enjoy.
Only the dinner to go to complete a very successful year. We have had some great tastings in enjoyable company. Unlike Susan Devoy, I am happy to offer my best wishes for the Christmas season.
It is now official that Ash Ridge has the best young winemaker in the country. Lauren Swift was awarded the Young Winemaker of the Year trophy last night at the Bragato Dinner, by Mike McRoberts of TV3. Obviously we are all absolutely thrilled. Another huge feather in the cap for this extremely talented winemaker, and I think you can see this in the wines that are being made.
And while on the Bragato Awards….
Romeo Bragato Wine Awards 2015
An Auckland Chardonnay and a Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot shine at this year’s Romeo Bragato Wine Awards. Grown by Brett Donaldson, the Villa Maria Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2013 won the coveted Bragato Trophy – Champion Single Vineyard Wine and the Bill Irwin Trophy for Champion Chardonnay. “The Bragato Trophy went to this beautifully handled Chardonnay because in simple terms – it was exceptional. The wine had a sense of place and it was a pleasure to savour and taste” said Chairman of Judges Ben Glover.
Villa Maria’s Reserve Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013, made from grapes grown on the Vidal Vineyard by Phil Holden won the Richard Smart Trophy – Champion Domaine Wine. “This was just a beautifully crafted wine – well done to all on allowing the fruit to shine with deft and subtle winemaking” said Mr Glover.
The Bragato Wine Awards, held each year as part of the New Zealand Winegrowers Romeo Bragato National Conference, are awarded to the grower for viticultural excellence. The competition recognises that growing excellent grapes is the foundation of making wines of true quality. The Trophies were presented at the Bragato Dinner in Hawke’s Bay last night.
Big nights out are becoming a bit of an occupational hazard at Ash Ridge, and last Friday was no exception. Our very own Lauren Swift was crowned the Hawke’s Bay Young Winemaker of the Year, in the inaugural competition held at a gala dinner at Mission Winery. Up against some stiff competition, with winemakers from Dry River, Te Awa, Elephant Hill and Mission, the contestants had to perform a series of tasks over the whole day, covering all aspects of winemaking.
Lauren now goes into the national final against the winners of the Central Otago and Marlborough regional competitions, later in August, so we will be cheering her on. But what a fantastic accolade for a young and very talented winemaker, we are very proud (and a little bit hungover!)
The 2014 wines continue to accumulate awards and great reviews.
The 2014 Estate Syrah has received 92 points from Bob Campbell, 4 stars from Michael Cooper and has just won a Silver Medal at the Spiegelau Wine Awards. And this is the entry level 2014 Syrah!
Our 2014 Estate Merlot also was awarded a Silver at the Speiglau Wine Awards, whilst the Chardonnay received a Bronze. So once again all the wines we entered were awarded medals, a great result.
We are planning another event in conjunction with Summer FAWC (beginning of November), to be held at Ormlie Lodge in Taradale. Details will be announced soon and we will keep you in touch. This is an exciting White Wine themed event to keep in the spirit of spring.
We are of course working towards the next release in November. We are currently in the stages of bottling the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc and Rose, all ready for summer, as well as something new! If you did enjoy the wines in the May release, we have been asked by a few people about reordering. Please send me an email,firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the cellar door on 06 650 4324 to take advantage of wine club pricing.
The evening was excellent and the presenter was superb. Simon Bell’s style of presenting a tasting was the right balance showing that he knew about wine and was enthusiastic about what they were doing at Ash Ridge. We were rapt with the turnout and the response to orders. In addition a number of members joined up to the Ash Ridge Wine Club. A great evening, and a bonus at such short notice.
Simon presented Ash Ridge’s Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Chardonnay 2013, Viognier 2013, Vintners Reserve Chardonnay 2013, Rose 2014, Syrah 2013 and the Vintners Reserve “The Blend” 2013 (a bottle of which landed on the floor when one of the tables collapsed. Fortunately no-one went without.)
Venue: Johnsonville Community Centre Hall, 30 Moorefield Rd, Johnsonville, Wellington 6037 – Directions.
Cost: Members or guests $10, member with a guest $14.
Presenter: Simon Bell, Sales Manager. An EIT graduate, Simon spends his time ensuring that the public has access to Ash Ridge wines whether through the cellar door or charming the wine trade to ensure that you can enjoy our wines in restaurants and shops around the country.
Wines offered at the tasting are likely to include:
2014 Ash Ridge Sauvignon Blanc
2013 Ash Ridge Chardonnay
2013 Ash Ridge Viognier
2013 Ash Ridge Vintners Reserve Chardonnay
2014 Ash Ridge Rosé
2013 Ash Ridge Syrah
2013 Ash Ridge Vintners Reserve “The Blend”
In January 2014, in their biggest step to date, Ash Ridge opened a brand new Winery on their home site in Maraekakaho. The 100 tonne winery was designed to offer all modern winemaking facilities in a boutique size, allowing them to be truly hands on in their winemaking. The small winemaking team can nurture the process from vineyard to bottle.
Ash Ridge wines are all hand-crafted, single estate wines which reflect the unique vineyard location, the passion for winemaking and the premium quality that they make. Ash Ridge produce premium Hawkes Bay Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
In order to create a range of Bridge Pa Triangle wines they have partnered with the Peet Vineyard. The vineyard is based on an ash pumice ridge of soil, and is planted in sauvignon blanc, merlot, cabernet sauvignon. In more recent years they have also partnered with neighbour Shawn Hill, of Raptor Rise Vineyard, to source Malbec and Viognier grapes. With the vineyard being over the fence and on the same soil they are truly staying local.
Anne opened the evening with a thud and spilt wine. One of the tables with Ash Ridge wines broke sending bottles all over the place. What an introduction for Simon to the Cellar Club. Anne went on to thank Simon and Ash Ridge Wines for their effort in replacing Man O’ War at short notice. We’ll have Man O’ War presenting in October.
A gifted and passionate speaker, Simon spoke in some detail about the Bridge Pa Triangle convincing even the most steadfast Gimblett Gravels supporter that wines from Bridge Pa are worth more than a passing sip. In fact it’s those differences that gives Ash Ridge wines that expression of the terroir in which the grapes are grown. This was expressed exquisitely across the range of wines tasted.
Simon had obviously presented Ash Ridge Wines a few times before because his knowledge of the winery, the wines being produced and allround wine knowledge was outstanding.
After a brief history lesson of Ash Ridge Wines, it wasn’t that bad in fact it made you realise just how much effort has gone into developing the vineyard since 2000, Simon got into his stride with the tasting. Simon’s wine knowledge allowed members to understand nuances between Ash Ridge and other regions in New Zealand and around the world. This made interesting listening and even taught us a thing or two.
The wines selected for the night showcased all Ash Ridge wine styles. The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc was definitely Hawkes Bay, tropical rather than grassy. The Chardonnays were very fruit driven with the Estate making an exceptional replacement for non-savvy drinkers with its acidity just right for seafood and salads but would go just as well with most meats. The Viognier was elegant and true to its style.
The Syrah was well rounded needing several years, I’d suggest five to seven, to reach its potential so well worth stocking up on.
The showstopper of the night for most members was the first release of five varietals that make-up “The Blend”. Well balanced with great mouth feel now just wait ten to fifteen years for it to develop further. We were privileged to be the first outside Ash Ridge’s own cellar club to taste this wine.
A great evening with wines representative of the terror from a winery voted Winery of the Year 2014 at the Hawkes Bay Bayleys A&P. The only truly boutique winery to do so.
Tip: Start collecting “The Blend” as I’m sure overtime it will get as great a following as similar wine styles like Quintology, Sophia, Talisman and others.
When next visiting Ash Ridge Wines, ask about joining the Cellar Club.
Ash Ridge wins HB A&P Bayleys Wine Award for 2014 – (October 2014)
Winemaker Lauren Swift and owner Chris Wilcock have plenty to celebrate after Tuesday night’s awards dinner. A couple of the staff were running a little late for work yesterday but Ash Ridge Winery owner Chris Wilcock wasn’t too concerned as they had a good excuse. As did he for his slightly “slow start” to his own working day.
The 14th annual Hawke’s Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards served up the second top accolade in two years for the Bridge Pa grape growing “triangle” based Ash Ridge – Hawke’s Bay Winery of the Year. “It’s not bad is it,” he said modestly. “We are one of the youngest wineries in Hawke’s Bay and to win this trophy twice is just fantastic.”
Mr Wilcock and his partner Sonya did not enter the wine industry until 2007 when they released their first commercial wines after planting vines two years earlier. Until then it had been a life of working in foreign exchange trading rooms in London, Zurich, Singapore and Sydney – until they spotted two potential vineyard sites on the Heretaunga Plains in 2000. It simply moved on from there. “It has been a lot of hard work and we are a young team – we only built our own winery this time last year,” he said.
Mr Wilcock reserved special praise for the devotion of his team, as well as the EIT. As he told the gathering at the awards dinner – “all of us here have gone through the EIT”. His winemaker Lauren Swift only graduated from the EIT’s winemaking course a couple of years ago and had already claimed success – Ash Ridge Merlot 2013 picked up a gold trophy at the awards. “For her first effort – that is mighty.”
Mr Wilcock said his philosophy was simply to make the best wine they could, and he said Hawke’s Bay was the best place to achieve that. “The wine industry here is in a fantastic place at the moment – we are making wines people want to drink and more people are discovering us – exciting times.” Despite picking up the title for the second time in as many years there was still “plenty of work to do” and the morning after the awards he was back out among the vines.
At this stage of the winery’s development the focus was on the Kiwi market rather than the international. “We are very domestic focused at the moment – that is most important to us and where we put our efforts.” But in the years to come that focus could also move toward the international market.
As mentioned in my Email last week, Simon Bell from Ash Ridge has stepped in at short notice.
We want to encourage as many members as possible to attend so we have fixed an entry price of only $14 (in total) if a member brings a guest.
Please line up someone who has shown an interest in win and bring them along on Wednesday. It will be a great tasting. This Winery has now been awarded the HB Winery of the Year Award for two of the last three years (See “In the News”). They have also received accolades from NZ Herald Wine writer Jo Byrzynska as one the best boutique wineries. This is great going for a relatively new winery.
Note: This is what happens when you reach a significant birthday. Can’t even blow out my own candles even though they generously only used two.
Our President and Secretary, (with a nominated driver, ie Mr Secretary) embarked on a journey fraught with danger over the recent holiday weekend. The following is Anne’s account of the trip. I don’t know how they coped.
Easter in Hawke’s Bay, or……..The Intrepid Trios’ Travels
To experience as many wineries (and other delights), in the Hawke’s Bay area as possible in 4 ½ days over the Easter period.
The manager – Jenny Jebson The driver – Richard Jebson The navigator – Anne Megget
The trio set out from Grenada Village in the morning, following State highway 1 over the Rimutaka Hill. A slight detour to Parkvale mushrooms and then the first stop – Gladstone, where a sticky was purchased to be consumed with Hot cross buns.
Arrived safely in Napier, found the information center, supermarket and accommodation and settled in; had a lovely meal at an Italian restaurant, and an early night.
Good Friday – Slight hitch – most of the Christian world was shut for today. We have a good cooked breakfast, just in case we can’t find anywhere open, and go for a drive anyway, to find Unison Winery open for lunch but not tastings. Discovered they have a very nice sparkling rose, and a most substantial platter. Drove to the top of Te Mata Peak, saw from there that Craggy Range was open so dropped in.
Slight deviation from wine-ing to visit a Book Fair, as Richard has managed to leave all his reading material at home and has already finished one of Anne’s chick lit books. Went to Crab Farm, Esk Valley, Eskdale, had tastings and a lovely lunch at Linden Estate, Visited Mission Estate for a look around, Church Road. Wonderful dinner at Mission Estate.
Easter Day – Hastings Farmers Market, fruit, olive oil, sausages, all very good; Vidals, The Beach House, tiny place, very rustic, very nice riesling, and late harvest riesling, Te Awanga, Elephant Hill, lovely statue, restaurant very up market, but not much appealed in the wine department . Lunch at Clearview table in the vineyard, exceptional afternoon, good, good food, good wine, a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon among the vines.
April Fools Day – not that any of us remembered ! Off to the Gimlet Gravels – went to Unison vineyard for a tasting this time, Te Awa Farm, Sileni – wonderful merlot infused chocolate, Abbey Cellars, Alpha Domus, Trinity Hill was closed – for the whole of Easter, lunch at Ash Ridge, wine and olive oil tasting at Salvare Estate, and way out on the Taihape Road, De La Terre
Up bright and early (ok it was about 8.30am), and engaged in a combined house cleaning and car packing exercise; then off to Havelock North. Called into Advintage and said hello to ‘Mac’ and then went Te Mata and Black Barn and then headed home.