2019 Vintage “Grand Cru” Releases
2019 Vintage “Grand Cru” Releases
I am always very cautious about bestowing status on a collection of wines, it needs to be earned. At the heart of all potentially great wine is the reputation that a parcel of land or vineyard has garnered over time, fully in the knowledge that as a vine matures its true relationship with the land, people and wine it creates is revealed. That is why grand cru status in France is either truly linked to a vineyard or collection of people who have had a relationship with a “commune” and “collection of vineyards” for an extended length of time. The measure of a grand cru at the end of the day is always judged by exceptional wine quality.
So when I am thinking about whether our wines have earnt a potentially “grand cru” designation it is the confidence we have in the vineyard, how close we have been to it, and ultimately the wine quality and character over time that make that decision easy.
Warren Gibson and I have collectively had more than 50 vintages of experience with Gimblett Gravels Syrah, Cabernets and Tempranillo. While the Howell Vineyard has only been in our portfolio since 2016, I identified and helped design the vineyard more than 25 years ago, and Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay is a permanent constituent of our blood chemistry at Smith & Sheth!
The three wines that have made the “grand cru” designation within our CRU portfolio are the Howell Vineyard Chardonnay, Cantera and Omahu Syrah.
They will only be made in vintages of high quality and will be released as a collection on the 1st of July two years following vintage. The 2019 Vintage is the second in a string of four exceptional warm, dry Hawke’s Bay vintages hence all these wines are very deserving of their status.
The Howell Vineyard Chardonnay comes from a unique parcel of red metal soils in the Bridge Pa appellation. This 0.9ha. parcel is adjacent to the limestone hills and has a spring fed stream, saturated with calcium, running through it. This calcium has helped create a unique soil, high in pH that sets it apart from all other Chardonnay vineyards in the Bridge Pa appellation. The wine is always a generous, delicious cashew nut and white peach composed Chardonnay with a lovely streak of lemon pith texture, I think from the calcium, to finish. I liken it to great Meursault in a warm vintage, and should cellar well for 5-8 years from vintage. We have been making the Omahu Syrah since 2014, missing the 2016 vintage. It has quickly found a following amongst the Syrah cognoscenti in Aotearoa New Zealand and abroad. It is based on some of the oldest parcels of heritage clone Syrah growing in the stoniest soils of the Gimblett Gravels, with smaller parcels with generosity of aroma and black fruit to create a fine wine with true Gimblett Gravels breeding. The 2019 expresses a complete expression of our dense, vibrant style, a neoclassical wine using Hermitage as our foundation and our own culture as inspiration. Well cellared it will last two decades. There is no hiding my love of Cantera, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels that we have been making since 2016. Joe Czerwinski of Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate recently referred to the 2018 in these terms “It's medium to full bodied, almost creamy in texture on the palate, then rich and velvety on the long, mocha-tinged finish. It's a delicious, hedonistic wine that should age well for up to a decade. The 2019 is this on Ārepa!
These wines are exclusively released to our Whanau Wine Club members on the 1st of July, followed by a wider release to our wine community a week later. There will be extremely limited volumes offered to the wider wine trade. We have put together some mixed packs for those that want to try all three, and a Cantera Cellar Builder Pack with some 2018 alongside the 2019 to get your collection started. While the wines maybe available for the next few months I would recommend that you open one of each of the wines your purchase over the next month and if you want some more get back in touch with us quickly.
Finally thank you for your support of our small fine wine company, we are very excited about the quality of wines right now but even more excited about what is to come.
Steve Smith MW
Alongside Brian Sheth in crafting the wines of Smith & Sheth.