|2016 Tom Chardonnay, Hawkes Bay||14.0% alcohol||$150.00|
|2015 Tom Syrah, Hawkes Bay||13.5% alcohol||$220.00|
|2015 Tom Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, Hawkes Bay||14.0% alcohol||$200.00|
Church Road’s flagship white has had an evolution in style, moving away from the bolder expressions of earlier vintages towards a wine that is more taut, linear and textural. This may be in part because winemaker Chris Scott is now using fruit from the Tuki Tuki vineyards which gives tension and acidity (although not at the expense of ripeness), as well as employing more sensitive barrel maturation. The 2016 Tom Chardonnay is quite reductive in style initially with a strong burst of struck match but it never veers into rubber and there’s certainly plenty of ripe fruit behind it. Aromas of grilled white peach, lemon curd and red grapefruit sit alongside the aforementioned struck match plus some flint and bran biscuit. The palate is richly-fruited with a nice silkiness, a vibrant line of acid and quite racy structure overall. Oak is very deftly handled – it’s there, it’s good but it’s never obtrusive and the long dry, savoury finish helps temper the richness of all that ripe fruit. This is a full-flavoured chardonnay that is already delicious now though it will continue to develop over the next 3-5 years.
Some Hawke’s Bay syrah have strong peppery characters that can seem impressive on the tasting bench but are much harder work at the dinner table. Thankfully the 2015 Tom Syrah is a much more subtle interpretation of the style; quite reductive initially, then lots of blackberry, dark plums, liquorice, dusty cocoa, even a touch of violets. There is some cracked pepper but skilfully judged. With time in the glass the wine opens up to reveal a ripe, generously fruited palate that is much more structured and buttoned down than the expressive nose would suggest. Quite bold and perhaps a touch too polished but still, this is a pretty smart concentrated wine that definitely needs time in bottle to develop fully.
Perfectly ripe cabernet is one of life’s great joys and the 2015 Tom Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot is a beautifully precise expression, showing a strong creamy sweet blackcurrant nose with touches of graphite and classic cabernet leafiness. Whilst there is merlot to give a supple edge to the palate, cabernet is the star here contributing intensity and a delicious touch of crispness. Firm fine-grained tannins make it seem a little angular and gawky right now but this is just youth as overall there’s plenty of stuffing. There is balance between fruit/acid/tannins, with the impact of new oak mainly found on the palate. A long, sustained finish suggests it will continue to age gracefully, and really it needs at least another 5-8 years to come into its own.