By Dan Berger
Great Pinot Noir can be made only in cooler climates, and New Zealand’s Hawke’s Bay is blessed to have within it one of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon regions in the nation, Gimblett Gravels.
And since Cabernet calls for warmer weather, it is only logical to assume that Hawke’s Bay isn’t cool enough for it to be great PN country as well. But things are not always as they seem, and I can only say that Hawke’s Bay is one of the most mystical and magical areas of the world for wine, since great Cabernet and great PN seem to be able to coexist here.
Not every producer can do this. Only a few have even tried. But when it comes together, it can be truly mind-bending. Not to mention slightly confusing because it doesn’t exactly fit all the books on viticulture.
Validating a Cool Climate
One of New Zealand’s best red wine regions, Hawke’s Bay does brilliantly with cool-climate Syrah, validating its weather conditions. A majority of the better Syrahs here display the rotundone (black pepper) characteristics that seem extremely difficult to achieve in warmer regions.
The fact that Pinot Noirs from Hawke’s Bay are rarely compared with the best in that two-island nation may be just a quirk of fate. Martinborough, Marlborough, Central Otago, and North Canterbury all are better-regarded PN regions.
Trinity Hill, with brilliant winemaker Warren Gibson at the helm, long has produced stellar wines from many different varieties, and less than a decade ago began exporting wine to the United States using a warehouse in Northern California.
Unfortunately, some legal issues arose that had absolutely nothing to do with the winemaker, the winery, or the product, but the result was an almost complete hiatus in the ability to sell the wines.
All of the cases that had been shipped here ended up in a temperature-controlled warehouse, and as time has gone on, the winery realized it needed to begin marketing the wines.
But to discount them as deeply as would be necessary could be damaging to the brand image, so a few wines have been very carefully distributed in ways that will allow them to disappear as quietly as possible.
The goal is to fly well under the radar.
After some of the legal
issues began to be resolved, the first Trinity Hill wines to be sold began with
a 2016 Sauvignon Blanc that was being closed out for well under $10. Now we see
2016 Trinity Hill Pinot Noir, Hawke’s Bay ($5.99, Selected Grocery Outlet stores): Bright tea/herb and medium-weight cherry aromas, with hints of cooler climate rotundone-ish notes, brisk acidity, and it gets better with aeration. Grocery Outlet stores (about 320 of them) are largely on the West Coast (plus Pennsylvania), but the company rarely discloses its strategies; I have never had any success talking with its wine buyer(s).
When I first tasted this wine, I suspected it would sell for about $35 per bottle. I later learned that the full suggested retail is about $17, which would be a great value. The Grocery Outlet price is hard to imagine.