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Gimblett Road,  
Hawke's Bay,  
New Zealand.  

 


History of Wines:                                             
1995    Cabernet Sauvignon

Gimblett Road - Cabernet Sauvignon 100%.
Grown organically, hand harvested, 50 cases
           Trophy Champion Red Wine – Romeo Bragato Wine Awards, 1997
"Floral, purity, essence of fruit, mineral, and concentrated" - tasting Nov 2005

1997    Cabernet Sauvignon

Gimblett Road - Cabernet Sauvignon 100%.
Grown organically, hand harvested, 120 cases
          5 stars   93/100  -Cuisine Magazine, 1998

1998    Cabernet Sauvignon

Gimblett Road - Cabernet Sauvignon 86%, Merlot 14%
Grown organically, Bio-Gro certified, hand harvested, 250 cases
          Trophy Champion Cabernet Sauvignon
- Hawkes Bay, Mercedes Benz, A&P, Wine Show, 2001
          5 stars   97/100  -Cuisine Wine Annual, 2001.
“The best New Zealand Cabernet Sauvignon that I have tasted. Buy all you can.”
“Dense, ripe flavours exhibit strong varietal characters in a focussed New World style that features plenty of spicy French oak. Good potential. Organic wine from a top red winemaker.” Bob Campbell

1998    Merlot

Gimblett Road - Merlot 100%
Grown organically, Bio-Gro certified, hand harvested, 20 cases.
          5 stars   94/100  -Cuisine Magazine, NZ reds tasting, 1999, top ten.
“This is an intense merlot with plum and liquorice flavours supported by masses of oak…all judges were impressed by the density of this big red.”

2000    Merlot

Gimblett Road - Merlot 86 %, Malbec 14%
Grown organically, Bio-Gro certified, hand harvested, 600 cases.
         Trophy Champion Wine of Show
- Hawkes Bay, A&P, Mercedes Benz, Wine Show
“ A complex, rich, mouthfilling wine with the velvety lusciousness of fully ripe new world merlot,
but no hint of jamminess, it is a superb wine.” James Halliday – Weekend Australian 23-11-02

2000    Cabernet Merlot

Gimblett Road - Cabernet Sauvignon 67%, Merlot 30%, Malbec 3%.
Grown organically, Bio-Gro certified, hand harvested, 800 cases.
          5 Stars   94/100   - Cuisine magazine
(2nd in NZ reds tasting – Aug. 02)
“…this dense, lush and complex red has flavours that were variously described as cassis, mint, mocha, meaty and smoky. A chewy, mouth-filling wine with enormous cellaring potential.”

2001    Syrah

Gimblett Gravels - three Vineyards
Syrah 76 %, Cabernet Sauvignon 12%, Malbec 12%
          Trophy Champion Wine of Show
- Tri-Nations Wine Challenge, Sydney, Oct 2003
          Decanter - Top 10 New Zealand red wine recommendations.
“Strong cracked black pepper and ripe plum/berry fruit flavours. A dense and complex wine beautifully balanced and with the structure to age well.” Dec 2003, Bob Campbell.
          5 stars   19/20   -Geoff Kelly
“Ruby, carmine and velvet. In the blind tasting of 30 syrah-related wines, this one gradually worked its way towards the top by offering the most complex varietal (syrah) bouquet, coupled with sufficiency of palate…some fragrant and floral notes plus black peppercorns mingle with aromatic cassis and oak to provide an excellent bouquet, totally Hermitage in style, and slightly old-fashioned. This is exciting wine …which will cellar for 10 - 15 years.”
www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz

2002    Cabernet Malbec

Gimblett Gravels – Three vineyards, 26% from Gimblett Road vineyard
Cabernet Sauvignon 71%, Malbec 15%, Merlot 14 %. 788 cases
          Gold Medal Air New Zealand Wine Awards, 2004
“Boldly coloured, it is smooth, rich and complex, with lovely depth of blackcurrant, plum, herb and spice flavours, hints of coffee and nuts, and firm underlying tannins. It’s already approachable but built to last.” Michael Cooper’s Buyers Guide - 2005.
           5 Stars   19/20  -Geoff Kelly, Dec 2004
“Ruby, carmine and velvet, not the deepest of the set. This is a stunning bouquet, standing out in this bracket of cabernet / merlot and related wines from the Gimblett Gravels. In its beautiful violet florals, aromatic cassis and dark red berries, plus potentially cedary subtle oak, it is much the closest to classed Bordeaux in style. Palate is aromatic, intensely cabernet, not as weighty as some nor as alcoholic as others, just gorgeous crisp flavoursome fruit of great potential complexity. Marvellous wine… cellar for 10 – 15 years”
www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz

2002    Merlot Malbec

Gimblett Gravels – four vineyards. 615 cases
Merlot 67 %, Malbec 19%, Cabernet Franc 7%, Cabernet Sauvignon 7%
          Gold Medal New Zealand Wine Society, Royal Easter, Show, 2004
“Complex and rich, it’s a densely coloured wine with ripe-fruit characters, concentrated, plummy, spicy, slightly gamey flavours seasoned with quality oak and a good tannin backbone” …
Michael Cooper’s Buyers Guide, 2005

2002     Syrah

Gimblett Gravels - two vineyards, 130 cases
Syrah 86% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Malbec 7 %
          GOLD MEDAL 93/100 - New Zealand Home & Entertaining, Oct. 2004
“Big dense red with strong berry, jamy flavours and a solid dose of oak….a slightly funky character….adds to its complexity and appeal.” … Bob Campbell
          5 Stars   18 ½   - Geoff Kelly, June 2005
Ruby, carmine and velvet, an excellent colour but not quite the magical velvety depths of the le Sol or Homage. Bouquet is classical syrah, and bears some relation to Jaboulet’s La Chapelle of 20 years ago. There are dark florals deeper then dark roses, saturated cassis, blackest plums, suggestions of black peppercorns, plus a trace of VA. It is closest to the Homage in style, and lovely oak. Palate is marvellous, slightly crisper and fresher than several, firmer and more aromatic than the Homage or le Sol (probably picking up the cabernet sauvignon percentage), with a saturation of cassis flavours, plus ripe tannins and soft oak. The 2001 was the winner of the Tri-Nation (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand) Challenge 2 years ago. The 2002 will cellar 10 - 15 years, at least. www.geoffkellywinereviews.co.nz

 

The vineyard                                             Autum Colours & Kaf
                                                                         Kaf amongst the Wild Flowers & Autumn Vines

        The Gimblett Road vineyard was purchased as bare land in 1990 and 1.8 hectares of Cabernet Sauvignon was planted in 1991. This was followed by 2 hectares of Merlot, and 1 hectare Malbec. The soils are of alluvial origin with 50 cm of sandy silt loam over river gravels. The vineyard is located in the Gimblett Gravels Winegrowing District. This strictly defined area is 800 hectares of gravely soils laid down by the old Ngaruroro River, which were exposed after a huge flood in the 1870's. The area is up to three degrees Celsius warmer during the day in summer and autumn, compared with most other areas in Hawke's Bay. The evenings are also warmer because of thermal conductivity in the stony soils. The extra summer and autumn heat and the contribution from the soils puts the terroir of Gimblett Gravels alongside some of the world's famous wine regions, with respect to the red Bordeaux varieties.
          Organic methods were chosen in the beginning and the property became Hawke’s Bays first certified organic vineyard, with the 1997 vintage being Hawke’s Bays first certified organic wine. People who said it could not be done or that it would restrict quality made the additional organic ‘challenge’ even more important. As the years go by, I find great personal satisfaction in being able to consistently produce top quality wines using organic methods. Chemicals are not used in vineyards for the direct benefit of wine quality. It is only for the supposed protection from pests and diseases. Therefore if pests are kept in check and protection from disease is achieved with other methods, surely wine quality can only be better with its absence. There are four areas of vineyard management that require different approaches –weeds, pests, fungal disease and nutrition.
           Weeds can be physically controlled by cultivation or mowing. There are only three times in the year where weed growth will affect the vines performance. It will affect plant growth (cane and root) prior to flowering and a month either side of harvest. It will reduce crop size between flowering and verasion. If high rainfall is causing problems with vigour, surely this would be a time when weed growth would help – odd concept, but I have let grass and weeds grow at times, putting up with the usual comments about the ‘appearance.’ The bottom line is wine quality and that relates to berry size, as in, smaller the better. The conventional view that a vineyard should be clean and tidy (i.e. short grass or no grass) is like many superficial approaches and pays no respect to the real goal. Chemicals have a detrimental affect in terms of soil health. They kill the animal life in the soil, altering the natural balance. Worms, bugs and the microbial activity giving life to the soil are no longer present. The soil is dead, becoming deficient in nutrients - certainly not a long term, sustainable option. I have heard many excuses for chemical use but I am much happier not needing them. On the subject of soil health there is a reason to have plants between the rows. Soil structure is improved with taproots as they bring nutrients to the surface and break up the soil. Drainage is also improved. Flowering plants in the vineyard also attract predator insects and this takes us to the next subject.
           Pest control is achieved by providing a home and nectar for the relevant predators. Each insect will have host plants that provide a habitat or food and the easiest solution is to plant a mixture of wildflowers down every fifth row. Most pesticides are non selective and kill the predators as well as the pests. The problem here is that the predators (eg parasitic wasps and ladybirds) will be wiped out but the pests that hide in the bark and canopy will often survive (my foes - mealy bug and leaf roll caterpillar respectively) I have found that creating a natural balance is far more effective and much easier. No chemical regime is totally effective anyway and surely the absence of chemicals is a benefit – remember pesticides are sprayed directly onto the fruit.
           

            Wild Flowers           
Wild Flowers Planted amongst the Vines          

         Disease prevention has been the biggest challenge. Three aspects of management here are plant strength, prevention and competition. The plant has its own immune system, which can be bolstered. The right sprays at the right time can improve this. Strengthening the berry skin is very important, as this is where the fungal disease botrytis will cause the most damage. A strong berry skin is also helpful in terms of wine quality as this is where the colour and flavour of the wine comes from, (especially important for red wine.) A canopy that is open and airy will not become a humid environment. Limiting humidity is the best form of prevention. Leaf plucking along the fruit zone will also let in sunlight and sprays will be more effective. Sprays designed as fungal deterrents (using plant oils), will inhibit fungal activity in general. As a competitive approach the concept of using competitive fungi to fight off botrytis can be achieved using compost teas. The real joy of these organic alternatives is that they can be used right up to harvest. Chemicals have so called withholding periods and are not supposed to be used in the weeks prior to harvest. It is this time that is often the most crucial, especially if rain alternates with sunshine. (Water + heat = humidity)
           Nutrition - soil and plant health, under conventional regimes, are addressed with artificial fertilizers and quick hit nutrient sprays but with an organic approach a long-term sustainable view is taken. Natural rock phosphates like dolomite and gypsum are used as soil fertilizers. Seaweed, compost teas and natural elements are sprayed as a foliar feed. Compost is the organic growers main nutritional focus as this gives a complete, balanced solution to soil health. There is a difference with quality winegrowing that sets it apart from most organic farms. Wine quality diminishes with an increase in crop (and berry) size. It is therefore not a hugely fertile, highly productive result that we are looking for. A balanced soil with growth on the verge of stress is what gives the best results. This is best achieved in a marginal, free draining soil such as the type found in the Gimblett Road region.
           Biodynamic farming methods are often used by organic growers. The writings of Rudolf Steiner in the 1920’s were a reaction to the introduction of chemicals in farming. Because his ideas are based on astrology there are unfortunately many sceptics. I have found there to be logical explanations for many of his concepts and the bottom line is if it works, use it. Is the most likely sceptic not a Virgo? (Using astrology to justify itself, you may say. Virgo – methodical, logical, pedantic). I initially thought it strange that as a Virgo, I would be accepting of what some thought of as ‘fluffy ideas.’ However the astrological aspects are all based on mathematical logic and the physical movements of the planets. Understanding why or how something works is not a requirement for its use, especially these days with technology looking more and more like magic. The astrological calendar is very useful with regards to the timing of work, especially spraying. There are other New Zealand wine producers who follow these methods (links page) and many overseas. Some very noteworthy brands in Europe and California have been quietly using Biodynamic methods for some time. The basic decision is whether the vineyard management is to be fighting pests and disease or working with nature - two distinctly different approaches. I think wine quality and peace of mind have been well served by the latter.

Kingsley Tobin
Organic Winegrower