Te Awanga is on the coast, south of Napier and benefits from the moderating effects of the Pacific ocean. It is ideally situated for white, cooler climate varietals. We visited Elephant Hill and Clearview Estate.
From the moment of meeting the owner of Clearview, Tim Turvey, it was obvious that he knows how to grow stuff (pineapples, pine trees, avocado, juniper berries, olives basically everything you can think of) He has the determination and stamina to both work hard and play hard to make his success. Tim purchased a small plot of bare land in the mid 1980 with a view to doing what he knows best, and it wasn’t long before he used his skills to grow grapes and producing wine from this bare patch. Looking around the olive and avocado shaded restaurant, the name “Clearview” no longer suits the heavily planted property. Tim has literally dug every post hole and strained every new wire. He discovered a small plaque whilst digging which revealed that this was the second site of the original Vidal vineyard.
Tim’s enthusiasm and commitment to his endeavour was obvious. He was quick to show us his recently innovations including a new steel post system to replace hours of back breaking hole digging. His best recent story was the accidental discovery that sheep let loose in the vines, leaf strip to the perfect height without eating the berries (and saving the cost and boredom of employing humans to do this)
He now has a small product of typical styles of the region and other more experimental follies. We enjoyed lunch in the shaded gardens while Tim brought out pairs of wine for us to try. I was too focused on the delicious the 28 day aged ribeye to make formal tasting notes.
Tim makes six Chardonnays we tried 3 of these and the highly rated top of the range endeavour chardonnay made with extremely low yields, they were fruit driven wines with lovely balance. The Rose had good colour and lovely red fruits, more traditional style rather than the newer vogue for more subtle barely coloured Rose. Interestingly it is made with Chambourcin an unusual hybrid grape with red flesh.The Endeavour red 2016 is only made in exceptional years revealed the quality of fruit here.We finished with Sea Red – a lightly fortified red wine made from cane cut grapes to increase the sugar content. None of the wine is cellared and mostly sells to the NZ market or at the cellar door, at reasonable prices given the high quality of wine.
Tim was too generous and passionate to leave it there. We were taken went to his authentic winery to taste a selection of barrel samples. I noticed an unusual brown cladding to some of his fermentation tanks which is a material derived from his surf board making days. Tim said it’s the best insulator he’s found. We finished with a sample from a tiny barrel of botrytized Chardonnay painstakingly made from very small quantities of noble rotted fruit. It was phenomenal and a fitting end to one of the best wine experiences I’ve had over the years.
Elephant Hill is a new comer to the region with high tech new facilities officially opened in 2008. The focus is on low yield from top quality sites. It was originally set up by the late founder Roger Weiss and is now led by his son Andreas.The winery is stunning, designed by architect John Blair. It is Bauhaus, clean lined covered with beautiful turquoise coloured copper which during a four and a half year process it was oxidized in Germany to give this effect. It blends in seamlessly with the colours of the sea off Cape Kidnappers.
They have 62 hectares including holdings in the Bridge Pa triangle and Gimblett Gravels and Te Awanga on the coast, and are one of the top 5 Syrah producers in New Zealand. Categories of wines go from Estate to Reserve to Limited edition and Ultimately Icons
Elephant Hill Estate Chardonnay 2016
pickled lemon, citrus, fresh, some smoke barrel influence texture
Elephant Hill Reserve Chardonnay 2017
More smoke flintiness wood vanilla possible salinity r(ight by the Pacific and sometimes the sea washes up to vineyard) No or minimal malo, hazelnut almond on the palate not overtly buttery Very nice length
Elephant Hill Icon Salome 2017 after Maria Salome family history dating to 1700’s
Rich well seasoned barrel, First year T5 Malo 35% pineapple, mango,, nuttiness saltiness long long on plate and sides mouth
Elephant Hill Stone 2016 Syrah
Black fruit lovely soft ripe tannins flinty stony good acid ,1% Viognier
Elephant Hill Airavata Syrah 2015
70 Gimblett gravels 30% Te awanga, fruit, soft silky tannins, floral soft fruit tone cherry and spice black pepper
Elephant Hill Hieronymus 2015
Full bodied delicious black fruit tannin and chocolate 41 cs 22 merlot 17 cab franc Malbec 8 Tempranillo, smoky leathery Structured tannins. Needs a few more years
Special thanks to Aaron O’Connell for his help writing this post and his companionship during many days of hard work in Hawke’s Bay