It is incredibly difficult to sustain growth, as most wineries in New Zealand have found, including the high profile Gimblett Gravels producer Trinity Hill who appears to have it all. The arrival of American financial man Charles Banks as a new partner signals a period of growth, long desired by the company, and this is one of the parts of the double pun of the ‘In Relief’ title of this article. Founded by John Hancock, Robert and Robyn Wilson and the Janes family by planting grapes in the Gimblett Gravels in 1993, they burst upon the scene with gusto and promise. Growth has been steady rather than explosive, and the pressure has always been on to fully realise the potential and take the winery and its excellent wines to another level.
Relief has come in the form of Charles Banks who has decided to invest in Trinity Hill. Mr Banks is a true wine lover, who under his ‘Terroir Wine Fund’ owns and distributes a number of Californian winery superstars such as Mayacamas, Qupe and new cult producer Sandi. He also owns Mulderbosch in South Africa. Probably less known nowadays is that he was one of the owners of Screaming Eagle. For him to be interested in Trinity Hill is significant. Banks has stated he’d like to see Trinity Hill make its mark in the U.S. market, and to do that, an additional winery could be built to see an increased proportion of the ‘Black Label’ Gimblett Gravels and top tier ‘Homage’ wines made to the ‘White Label’ Hawke’s Bat range.
I find this extremely exciting for Trinity Hill and Hawke’s Bay. Suddenly, Trinity Hill is coming to the forefront again in recognition. The Hawke’s Bay region has generally been quiet in recent developments, but there now seems to be quite a buzz. Villa Maria and Delegats are building new wineries, Rod McDonald is growing his market presence from his newly acquired winery, and the stalwarts of Te Mata Estate and Craggy Range in the super-premium field now have Trinity Hill in their active ranks.
John Hancock and his 2011 & 2012 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels wines
John Hancock and his 2011 & 2012 Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels wines
John Hancock Pays a Visit
As this news of the Charles Banks investment broke, I got notice that John Hancock was in town and was available for a catch up. John discussed the new developments with relish, as Trinity Hill could be expected to grow. John’s been based in Melbourne for the last year, working on the Australian market. He has come home to see the process of Charles Banks’ incorporation in the company, and then it’s off to the U.S. to oversee a full launch of Trinity Hill on the market there. The next move may be to China where there’s a very receptive audience for the Hawke’s Bay styles of wines.
John brought with him a full selection of wines to taste, and I chose to look at the latest 2012 releases of ‘Black Label’ Gimblett Gravels Viognier, Chardonnay, ‘The Gimblett’ and Syrah alongside last years’ 2011 vintage releases. I’ve tasted and reviewed all of these wines in the past, but to see them alongside each other offered a different perspective. One can see the style of one year against the other, when ‘in relief’ – the second part of the pun from the title of this article. In tasting these wines, it was easy to see the tightness of the 2011 whites in comparison with the opulence of the 2012s. With the reds, the 2011s show their ripeness and depth of fruit and structure, while the 2012s show elegance, aromatics and acid beauty.
I believe winemaker Warren Gibson and his winemaking and viticultural teams have done a great job with the 2012 Trinity Hill wines. They will dispel many incorrect impressions about this admittedly difficult vintage with a set of top flight examples. One can appreciate the reds especially for their elegance, freshness and aromatic beauty. Here are my notes on the wines tasted, after John had left. www.trinityhill.com
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2011
Bright, light golden-hued straw colour, light on edge. The nose is fresh and moderately full with tightly held aromas of ripe apricots and citrus zest, and nutty, minerally notes, revealing deoth and concentration. Dry to taste and tight in construction, the fruit expression is restrained, but nevertheless succulent and rich. The palate has elegance and finesse with a seamless flow, leading to a tight, linear, minerally finish carried by the phenolics and acidity. This will keep well, another 3-4 years. 18.0+/20
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Viognier 2012
Deepish light golden colour. This has a very full, broad and opulent nose with ripe apricots, oranges and tropical fruits. Some botrytis? There is a complex layering of oak and exotic fruits. Dry to taste, this is a full, openly accessible style with lush and opulent tropical fruits, orange zest and apricots. The flavours are soft, broad and mouthfilling, but kept fresh with good acidity and liveliness. The flavours flow with some decadence to a dry, soft-textured, sustained finish. This will drink well over the next 2-3+ years. 18.5/20
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2011
Bright, light straw-yellow with golden hues. This is very elegant ant tight with deep aromas of stonefruits, citrus fruits, nuts and oak, along with flint andoxidative complexities, very burgundian in style. Elegant in proportion and quite slender on palate, this has lovely acidity and freshness. Bright stonefruits, nuts, citrus and flint all in great balance. Some phenolic textures underline the palate flow, and along with the acidity carry through to a very long, lingering finish. This has developed real class and come into its own. This should develop over another 4-5 years. 18.5+/20
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay 2012
Full, even, light golden yellow colour. The bouquet is softly broad and open, but with well-packed and deep, complex aromas unfolding, showing yellow stonefruits and distinctive gunflint and sulphide complexities. There is nutty, oak detail in support. Is this a little too complex? Dry to taste, the palate is broad and mouthfilling and openly accessible, with rich and lush citrus and ripe stonefruit flavours infused with layers and waves of complexing sulphides. There are nutty, oxidative and citrus fruit with creamy elements adding to the flavour profile, and the palate has a light, grainy, phenolic line on finish, which remains generous and sweet-fruited. 4+ years. 18.5-/20
Introductory 2012 Vintage Reds
Trinity Hill ‘The Trinity’ Hawke’s Bay 2012
Dark, deep ruby-red colour with some black hues at heart. The bouquet is very fresh and primary with aromas of red berries and currants, marked a little by herbaceous notes, but presented softly with good volume and cohesiveness. Medium-bodied, a mix of herbaceous red berry fruits features, but the fruit is sweet and shows richness and succulence. The acidity is restrained and along with soft, supple tannins results in an attractively supple mouthfeel. The acidity becomes more prominent on finish. A blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from the Gimblett Gravels, fermented to 12.5% alc., the wine aged 10 months in French oak and stainless-steel barrels. Drink over the next 3-4+ years. 17.0+/20
Trinity Hill Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2012
Deep black-red colour with some garnet, lighter on rim. The nose is fresh wit intense and penetrating aromas of black pepper with herbal and stalky elements, revealing savoury berry fruits. Medium bodied, this is elegant in weight, with savoury and sour red and black fruits initially, opening up to reveal sweet and spicy notes and aromatic pepper and florals. The mouthfeel is acid driven, smooth and with a lusciousness, and low in extraction, the tannins supple and gentle. This is a refreshing Syrah that has savoury interest. Drink over the next 3 years. Hawke’s Bay Syrah fruit including the Gimblett Gravels and Bridge Pa Triangle fermented with 2% Viognier to 12.0% alc., the wine aged in barriques and tank. 17.5/20
The Gimblett Bordeaux Blend
Trinity Hill ‘The Gimblett’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2011
Very dark, black-red colour, near impenetrable and with purple hues. This is restrained and contained, but shows real deoth of ripe black berry and dark plum fruit aromas, along with a minerally, earthy complexity, nutty and spicy oak notes. Medium-full bodied, there is density and depth to the palate with a soft concentration of black fruits. Some liquorice, earth and spice layers are present, all firmly held and brooding. Fine, grainy tannins and sufficient acidity supports the fruit weight and packed nature, providing good line. This should unfold it potential over the next 5-6 years. 18.5+/20
Trinity Hill ‘The Gimblett’ Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay 2012
Very full, even, black-red colour with youthful purple hues. The bouquet is full, open and aromatic with lifted dark red florals and redcurrant fruit, along with gentle red plum and fresh herb notes. This is fragrant and has perfume. Elegant in proportion and very fine-featured, succulent and aromatic red berry fruits provide a vibrant, juicy mouthfeel. The fruit is balanced by fine tannins and fresh, lively acidity enhancing the vitality. The freshness, suppleness and aromatic nature make this deliciously approachable. It will develop over the next 5+ year. 18.5-/20
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2011
Very dark, deep, near impenetrable purple-hued red colour, very youthful in appearance. The nose is a little locked up, but shows densely concentrated aromas of black fruits, black pepper with the beginnings of complexing savoury secondary interest. Some violetty perfumes are present with earthy spice notes. Fullish bodied, the mouthfeel is rounded with restrained richness of ripe black fruits and layers of spices and peppery detail. The tannins are dry, but soft, providing good mouthfeel and presence. The flavours blossom and carry through to a fulsome and long finish. This is full, and dense with complex interest developing. Drink over the next 5-6 years. 18.5-/20
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels Hawke’s Bay Syrah 2012
Bright, even dark ruby-red colour with youthful purple hues. The bouquet is elegantly fresh with aromas of white and black pepper along with spicy red berry fruits and perfumed violet and dark red florals. The aromatics are attractive and a feature. Medium-bodied, tightly bound flavours of red berry fruits, florals and pepper form a fine-flowing palate line. Refined tannins and fresh. Lacy acidity support and enliven the fruit expression providing poise and tension. The wine unfolds a good array of floral and red fruit detail which is carried to a fresh, light and lively finish. Beautifully elegant, aromatic and driven by the acidity, this Syrah will develop savoury interest over the next 4-5+ years. 18.0+/20