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C.J. Pask Winery GimblettRoad Merlot 1998
Chris Pask pioneered grape plantings at Gimblett Road, Hawkes Bay in 1982. The winery now owns and manages 60 hectares of established vineyard in Gimblett Road, arguably the leading viticultural site in New Zealand. The company also has a further 20 hectares, to be developed in the medium term, affording flexibility to future production. Four main blocks are planted at Gimblett Road, on the old riverbed of the Ngaruroro River. The soil profile is typically, fine river silt over free draining shingle which supports premium vine growth exceptionally well.
Three distinct ranges are produced by C J Pask winery, they are predominately estate grown, elegant styles displaying clearly defined fruit characters. The aim of these different ranges is to meet the market demands, nationally and internationally of varying price points, and winestyles, with quality that exceeds expectations. The Reserve Range are produced in limited quantities only when the fruit quality is exceptional. The Gimblett Road Range and Roys Hill Range are produced in commercial quantities in very consistent styles from vintage to vintage.
The Gimblett Road region lies on the old Ngaruroro riverbed, the free draining shingle combined with the silt soils tend to increase soil temperature and to reflect the sun onto the grapes during the day. The region has its own micro climate with Roys Hill blocking the prevailing winds and cloud formation, the heat retention effectively means a different categorisation from the "cool climate" definition used for the broader New Zealand wine industry. The consequences are an extending of the ripening process and fruit characteristics of the wine CJ Pask being a genuine estate grown producer from only the Gimblett Road site, with integrated Viticulture, Production, Winemaking and Marketing resources ensure that the opportunities of Gimblett Road are reflected in the final product.
A relatively young but extremely promising wine-producing country, New Zealand is widely recognized for its distinctive wines made from the aromatic, Sauvignon blanc. While this is indeed the country’s most planted and successful variety, it is certainly not the only New Zealand grape capable of delighting wine lovers—and in a very wallet-friendly manner, at that.
The world’s most southerly vineyards are found here, with significant climatic variation both between and within the warmer North Island and the cooler South Island. Overall, the climate is maritime, with plenty of rainfall, as well as abundant sunshine. Producers have almost unilaterally embraced cutting-edge winery technology, resulting in clean, high-quality wines at every price point.
Sauvignon blanc, known here for its trademark herbaceous character, is at its best in Marlborough but thrives throughout the nation, accounting for an overwhelming majority of the country’s exports.
Chardonnay is the second-most important white variety and takes on a supple texture and citrus and tropical fruit aromas in Gisborne and Hawke’s Bay, respectively. Pinot noir, second behind Sauvignon blanc in national production numbers, is at its best in Central Otago—the moust southerly winegrowing region in the world! These wines are known for bright and juicy red fruit. Taking cues from the wines of Alsace, aromatic varieties like Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer shine in Martinborough, while red Bordeaux varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot have found success in Hawke’s Bay. Throughout New Zealand but especially in Marlborough, Pinot noir and Chardonnay are used to produce traditional method sparkling wines.
An easy-going red variety with generous fruit and a supple texture, Merlot’s subtle tannins make it perfect for early drinking and allow it to pair with a wide range of foods. But the grape also has enough stuffing to make serious, world-renowned wines. One simply needs to look to Bordeaux to understand Merlot's status as a noble variety. On the region’s Right Bank, in St. Emilion and Pomerol, it dominates in blends with Cabernet Franc. On the Left Bank in the Medoc, it plays a supporting role to (and helps soften) Cabernet Sauvignon—in both cases resulting in some of the longest-lived and highest-quality wines in the world. They are often emulated elsewhere in Bordeaux-style blends, particularly in California’s Napa Valley, where Merlot also frequently shines on its own.
In the Glass
Merlot is known for its soft, silky texture and approachable flavors of ripe plum, red and black cherry and raspberry. In a cool climate, you may find earthier notes alongside dried herbs, tobacco and tar, while Merlot from warmer regions is generally more straightforward and fruit-focused.
Lamb with Merlot is an ideal match—the sweetness of the meat picks up on the sweet fruit flavors of the wine to create a harmonious balance. Merlot’s gentle tannins allow for a hint of spice and its medium weight and bright acidity permit the possibilities of simple pizza or pasta with red sauce—overall, an extremely versatile food wine.
Since the release of the 2004 film Sideways, Merlot's repuation has taken a big hit, and more than a decade later has yet to fully recover, though it is on its way. What many viewers didn't realize was that as much as Miles derided the variety, the prized wine of his collection—a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc—is made from a blend of Merlot with Cabernet Franc.