Trinity Hill is an iconic New Zealand winery, the idea for which was formed in London in 1987. John Hancock was meeting in the restaurant Bleeding Heart, owned by Robert and Robyn Wilson. Over a bottle of John’s Morton Estate Chardonnay, the Wilson’s expressed their desire to produce their own world-class wines in the Hawkes Bay. John had already recognised the outstanding potential of the Gimblett Gravels district, and they began planting in 1993 on the barren former bed of the Ngaruroro River. Since those early days, this sub-region has become one of the most expensive and important wine growing areas in the country. We were lucky to have John himself here this week to talk us through that history, and taste their Black Label Gimblett Gravels wines from the 2014 vintage.
The highlight of the evening was the two vintages of their flagship wine ‘Homage’. The 2014 has only just been bottled and will not be released until the end of the year. This was a real treat to be able to taste these two outstanding years side by side now. Homage was first produced in 2002, and is named as a tribute to the late Gerard Jaboulet of Domaine Paul Jaboulet Aine in France’s Rhone Valley. They produced one of the world’s greatest Syrah in the form of the famous ‘La Chapelle’ Hermitage. Gerard was also a great friend of Robert and Robyn Wilson and had hosted many legendary dinners at the Bleeding Heart. John Hancock also worked alongside Gerard at Jaboulet’s cellars during the 1996 harvest, and when he left was presented with cuttings of Syrah from the La Chapelle vineyard, and Viognier from Les Jumelles in Cote Rotie. It was these cuttings that formed the basis of the plantings that now make up Homage.
2013 and 2014 are arguably the finest back to back vintages Hawkes Bay has ever seen. I haven’t tried the 2013 since last year and it is now looking much more integrated, while the 2014 is still trying to find its feet. If you prefer rich opulence, then the 2014 is the wine for you; the 2013 is a little darker and harder in character, but both are outstanding wines. Unlike some of the other ‘super premium’ Hawkes Bay Syrah, I find Homage less polished and refined on release, it just takes a lot more time to settle down into itself. This is a wine that demands at least 10 years of cellaring to really show what’s it’s made of. It’s more brutish, edgier and has tons of character. A few years back John and I also hosted a tasting where we compared 4 vintages of ‘Homage’ directly with ‘La Chapelle’ and La Petite Chapelle and they really do have a very similar character. Time and vine age will only serve to improve what Trinity Hill is producing down there. I’ve got a number of bottles in my own cellar, and so should you.
The wines tasted were:
Gimblett Gravels Marsanne / Viognier 2014, Gimblett Gravels Chardonnay 2014, Gimblett Gravels Tempranillo 2014, Gimblett Gravels ‘The Gimblett’ 2014 (Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc), Gimblett Gravels Syrah 2014, Homage 2014 (Pre Release), Homage 2013.