As with a number of other wine operations, Redmetal Vineyards and Sileni Estates are inextricably connected. Neighbours on Maraekakaho Road south-west of Hastings, Grant Edmonds who owns Redmetal with his wife Sue is also the chief winemaker at Sileni Estates. Redmetal is marketed by the Sileni team and is stocked at the Sileni cellar door. Situated in ‘The Triangle’ region of Hawke’s Bay, Redmetal is one of the smallest operations – the apex, whereas Sileni Estates is the largest – the base of thr triangle. The advantages of the interconnection are easy to see, but the loss of identity for Redmetal is an issue.
Grant and Sue Edmonds have taken steps to “bring Redmetal home”, to restore some of the status the label had in the beginning. The 1996 vintage was Redmetal’s first, and it instantly achieved near cult-status at a time when, pre-Pinot Noir, Merlot was exciting. The early years saw ‘Basket Press’ Merlot/Franc and ‘The Merlot’ as frontrunners in collectability. Since then, with Grant fully committed to Sileni Estate’s growth and success, Redmetal has become a supplier of great-value Bordeaux-style red wine. Just a year ago, Nigel Davies, former winemaker at Sileni Estates was recruited to run Redmetal full-time, following his winemaking sabbatical in Slovakia. Nigel has taken up the challenge, and with the Edmonds are keen to see Redmetal be at the top again.
The Redmetal vineyard is just under 7.0 ha, the majority of it planted to Merlot. 1 ha is in Cabernet Franc and another hectare devoted to Syrah. The first crop of Syrah was 2009, but Nigel feels the quantity and quality must be more than satisfactory to be worthy of an inaugural release. A great Syrah will certainly bring Redmetal up to speed with the latest developments. There are suggestions to have a varietal bottling of Cabernet Franc as well, bolstering up the range of ‘estate’ Merlot/Franc, ‘Basket Press’ Merlot/Franc and ‘Resolution’ Merlot. The existing Rosé and Chardonnay wines, the latter made from Sileni Estates sourced fruit may see variations on their themes, and maybe a more complex Chardonnay will emerge.
While Nigel totally manages the vineyard and is fully capable in the winery, the combined expertise and experienced teamwork of Grant and Nigel in setting styles and quality parameters will guarantee some very good things with Redmetal in the near future. As they say, “watch this space”. www.redmetalvineyards.co.nz
The Avery family have seen Sileni Estates change over the years as well. Now a Category One producer, the amount of wine made is around 100-fold that of the original vintage in 1998. The business model Sileni works on is based on the making and exporting of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and this accounts for 70% of the production. Graeme Avery and Grant Edmonds devote much of their time supporting marketing initiatives. While away, the winery is in the capable hands of senior winemaker Rachel Garnham, with Sileni since 2002, with winemaker Cairn Coghill as her right-hand man. Rachel has special responsibility for the whites and Cairn the reds.
Despite the major focus on Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, Sileni Estates remains a true Hawke’s Bay committed operation. The traditional styles of Bordeaux-varietal reds and Chardonnay are what Sileni is best known for domestically. Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Syrah are considered baseline varieties. The Sauvignon Blanc may include barrel-fermentation, and Semillon made in 2010 and 2011 will make a comeback after a break.
But interestingly, Sileni has large if not the largest plantings of Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir in Hawke’s Bay. A new development is the ‘Parkhill Estate’, 25 ha above Haumoana, near the coast, planted to 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Gris and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. The clay-influenced soils and cooler temperatures are suited to these cultivars. These are the wines that provide the winemaking team and the wine drinkers at large the interest for Sileni Estates, complementing the portfolio centred on the classics of Chardonnay and Merlot.
I mis-timed my visit to Sileni Estates, as essentially, there was no new wine to taste. An empty winery is akin to a pub with no beer! The excuse was that sales demands have never been better, and that anything that was in the winery was not in a state to taste. What an enviable position to be in. I’ll try a catch up again soon, and report on wines from the up-coming vintage. www.sileni.co.nz