We have had these bottles for a few years now, not a very long time, but long enough to see how they had matured for the early part of their lives. They were big boys on release, statements of their varieties and style, and packaged to be as impressive as the wine was. So at a dinner party with plenty of good wine friends, it was time to open them.
The 2010 Church Road ‘TOM’ Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay was a bit of a gunflint monster on release, and a little divisive as it was full-on. I felt it has all the fruit you could want, and the oaking powerful, but in balance. You’d think at this stage of life it would be fully mature, and show how good it really was. Time tends to see the wines veer in their inherent direction, often downwards through imbalance. But not this. The wine had come together and integrated. Any hard edges had disappeared, and the gunflint was integrated with the stonefruit and nutty flavours. The wine wasn’t expansive or effusive, but rich and well concentrated in a soft way. Lovely layers of detail, and not so much a statement now. Delicious drinking.
Pairing the above wine was the 2009 Church Road ‘TOM’ Hawke’s Bay Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot. Again on release this was a strong and big wine. Not monstrous by any means, but packed with concentrated flavours and plenty of grip to match the rich fruit. I though at the time this would need a decade to show what it had. The firmness of blackcurrant and plum fruit with a touch of herb was pretty well classical in the Bordeaux camp. And what a pleasant wine this is turning out to be. Still sweet-fruited with just the right amount of structure, and only the beginnings of development with detailed secondary notes. It still can handle another decade if need be.
These wines are named after Tom McDonald, who is regarded by many as the ‘father of modern New Zealand wine’, his Cabernet Sauvignon wines of the 1960s drawing favourable comparisons with Margaux wines by Andre Simon. I never net Tom, but he was a man of stature, a big man in every sense, with a commanding presence and quickly earning respect. He’d be pleased with these wines named after him.