Rod McDonald Wines – Wine Tasting at Regional Wines
By John Shearlock
It was a diverse selection of wines that Rod McDonald opened at Regional Wines in February, through which he was able to highlight his diverse array of winemaking techniques and vineyard sites whilst showing what both can offer to the wines he makes.
The tasting kicked off with Rod’s One Off Albariño, made with fruit from the first official vintage from new vines at Bridge Pa. This was clean, crisp and bone dry, showing complexity from lees work and saline hints; befitting an Albariño from Rías Baixas, on which it was styled. His cheeky Chiaretto Sangiovese rosé charmed us next with its gentle red fruit flavours, which were balanced by lees derived characteristics.
With our palates primed, varietal comparisons across some of the RMW lines began in earnest, and started with the One Off organic Pinot Gris and the Te Awanga Pinot Gris. Made with fruit from the same coastal site, these two wines are worlds apart in style, with the One Off gently whispering hints of Pinot Grigio through its bony dryness and mineral hints, and the Te Awanga shouting proudly of its kiwi provenance - higher residual sugar, higher acidity, higher alcohol and more fullness of flavour in general. When pushed to choose, it was the latter that the room preferred.
Rod's Chardonnays came under the microscope next, with the 2016 Te Awanga tasted next to the 2016 Quarter Acre. Both are 100% Mendoza clone, but from different sites. The Te Awanga wine was made with grapes from vines situated inland, versus the Quarter Acre fruit which comes from the coastal Haumoana site. The wines were also made with a very different intent.
The Te Awanga was round and gentle with a medium body, befitting the long hang times at that vineyard site - expressive stone fruit and citrus flavours integrated nicely with toasty oak and gentle acidity. The oak appeared more prominently on the rich long finish. Conversely, the Quarter Acre, from the cooler coastal site was bright and steely with higher acidity and had a reductive gun flint nose from a full solid approach at ferment. The balance was spot on, the reductive qualities being cleverly balanced by lees work, fruit concentration and oak.
The Syrahs showed similar contrasts across the brands - once again with a soft fruit driven approachable Te Awanga being countered by the savoury line, big tannins and mineral crunch of the 2016 Quarter Acre. This wine follows hot on the heels of the multi-award winning 2015 Quarter Acre Syrah, and although certainly showing its youth, Rod’s opinion was that it was showing better than the 2015 at the same age.
A trinity of Syrahs was completed by the 2015 Trademark which was only recently bottled. There is a composure and tangible self-belief that the 2015 Syrahs from the Hawke's Bay seem to possess - almost like the two great vintages before have given the vines and winemakers confidence to really sing, and this is very evident in the Trademark, which is a beautifully delineated and pure wine, with bright fruit, keen acidity and fine tannins. This is a wine for the cellar, but approachable even at this young age, thanks to its sheer fruit concentration.
The tasting finished with the One Off Gewürztraminer, a fabulous sticky with heaps of complex botrytised flavours and plenty of natural acid to balance the 120 g/l of residual sugar.
It is hard not to be charmed by both Rod and his wines. He talked openly and passionately about wine and his belief in the future of Chardonnay and Syrah in the Hawke’s Bay. In fact, he's done the maths on this topic and thinks it will take a mere $270 million to replant the Hawke’s Bay with only Chardonnay and Syrah. On the strength of his wines, you would have to agree, it would be a sound investment.