Mills Reef Hawkes Bay Cabernet/Merlot 1998
The Preston family established Mills Reef Winery in 1989. Adding commitment and dedication to excellence, MillsReef has established itself as one of New Zealand's premium wine brands with a particular reputation for outstanding Bordeaux varietal reds and Syrah from the renowned Gimblett Gravels District in Hawkes Bay. Located at 143 Moffat Road, Bethlehem, Tauranga, the Art Deco style architecture is a reflection on Hawkes Bay, and specifically Napier - the Art Deco capital of the world.
Mills Reef Winery has frequently been acclaimed as one of the most stylish and attractive wineries in New Zealand. Set on 20 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, the complex boasts full wine-making and bottling facilities, two underground barrel cellars, an aged wine cellar and an enviable reputation as one of New Zealand's leading wine producers.
Although New Zealand is known primarily as a cool climate winemaking country, there are exclusive regions, one of which is Hawkes Bay, that lend themselves to a warmer style of winemaking. The Gimblett Gravels appellation is a sub-region of Hawkes Bay, and is a gem in the NZ winegrowing landscape, with its particular stony soils that enable winemakers to produce superb Bordeaux style wines, hence our focus.
An eclectic region on the east coast of the North Island, Hawkes Bay extends from wide, fertile, coastal plains, inland, to the coast range, whose peaks reach as high as 5,300 feet. While the flatter areas were historically more popular because they are easier to cultivate, their alluvial soils can be too fertile for vines. In the late 20th century, the drive for quality led growers to the hills where soils are free-draining, limestone-rich and more suited to producing high quality wines.
Over the passing of time, the old Ngaruroro River laid down deep, gravelly beds, which were subsequently exposed after a huge flood in the 1860’s. In the 1980s growers identified this stretch, which continues for approximately 800 ha, and named it the Gimblett Gravels. The zone has proven to be ideal for the production of excellent red wines, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah.
Today the area takes well-earned recognition for its Bordeaux blends and other reds. Expressive of intense stewed red and black berry with gentle herbaceous characters, Gimblett Gravels wines are suggestive of their cool climate origin, and on par with other top-notch Bordeaux blends around the globe.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends
Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.
Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.