Founded in 1897, Church Road is one of New Zealand’s oldest wineries. With decades of experience under its belt, this winery has learned that poised, considered progress reaps appreciable rewards, as demonstrated by its recent move into the Chinese market.
Church Road is credited as being the first winery to identify its home territory, Hawke’s Bay, as being an exemplary region for Bordeaux-style wines. The mid-20th century saw then winemaker Tom McDonald, often referred to as the Father of New Zealand winemaking, create the country’s first widely available Cabernet Sauvignon, and while Bordeaux remains in the blood at Church Road, its family of wines also comprise Chardonnay and Syrah.
These two varieties – along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Merlot – make up its Prestige Collection: a trio of small-batch, top-tier ranges called Church Road Grand Reserve, Church Road 1 and Church Road TOM, which represent the very best of Church Road and have been selected to carry its world-class reputation into Asia. Church Road’s stature, at home and abroad, has been demonstrated time and again through its many international awards, most recently at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards, where Church Road 1 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon achieved a Gold medal, and its sister, Church Road 1 Single Vineyard Syrah, a Platinum.
Behind this rollcall of achievements is chief winemaker Chris Scott, three- times recipient of the New Zealand Winemaker of the Year award, who has had his hand on the tiller at Church Road since 2005. Scott has arguably grown in tandem with Church Road, while becoming one of his country’s most celebrated winemakers.
‘Exceptional,’ he says, ‘comes from mastering the details of your craft and knowing when to trust your instinct.’ It’s a proclamation that encapsulates the ethos of Church Road as a whole: achieve excellence, pair it with experience, and only then make your next move.
Church Road – the wines:
Tasted and scored by the Decanter team.
Church Road TOM Syrah 2015
The 2015 Syrah has alluring aromas of black pepper-spiced dark cherry, plums and vanilla, topped by dried figs and forest floor. On the palate there is a pure, juicy core of blueberry, black cherry and cedar, plus crushed minerals and dried tobacco leaves, supported by velvety tannins. Concentrated and ripe but never overpowering. The vivid acidity carries the wine onto the long, plummy finish.
Church Road TOM Merlot Cabernet 2016
The TOM Merlot-Cabernet blend opens with a savoury layer of forest floor, revealing an undertone of blackcurrant, dark plums and roasted coffee, seasoned with tobacco leaves and graphite. A solid spine of tannins supports a plush palate of cassis, dark cherry, prunes, olive and bitter dark chocolate. Mineral notes follow, with plenty of elegance to balance the ripe fruits. The finish is warm and long. Will unleash even more beauty once it has spent some time in the cellar.
Church Road TOM Chardonnay 2019
The TOM range. released in the best vintages only, pays tribute to the late Tom McDonald, a legendary New Zealand winemaker and pioneer.
Bright lemon with a golden hue, the 2019 TOM Chardonnay has an intensely smokey nose, with flinty gunpowder over nectarine and creamy vanilla. Crisp green apple acidity on the attack, followed by a rich palate of grapefruit and canned peach lined by a savoury edge of almonds and butter-coated hazelnuts. Moreish and long with lingering nutty notes. Whole-bunch pressed directly to French oak barriques for fermentation, then aged in 31% new French oak for 11 months.
Church Road 1 Single Vineyard Syrah 2018
From the free-draining, ancient gravel vineyard of Redstone, the single-vineyard Syrah has a beautiful nose of mushroom, preserved cherry, plum and violet. The solid core of spicy dark fruits is laced with crushed minerals, violet and minty cedar, supported by ripe tannins. Robust but incredibly elegant, with a warming finish of black pepper and prunes. Aged for 3 years in French oak, some of which new.
Church Road 1 Single Vineyard Merlot 2016
This five-year-old Merlot retains a vibrant purple hue. Rich chocolate cake and prunes dominate on the nose, with tobacco leaves and a hint of forest floor. Mellow and plush on the palate, with juicy dark fruits, dark chocolate and Christmas spices. Black tea tannins form the spine, with refreshing acidity underneath. Aged for 3 years in seasoned French oak (54% new).
Church Road 1 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2019
A classic Cabernet blackcurrant perfume on the nose, with crushed mint and cigar box complexity, thanks to three years of ageing in 55% new French oak. Cool dark fruits on the palate with blackberry, black cherry, violet and vanilla. Herbal spices of blackcurrant leaves linger onto a long finish of warm poached plums. Mineral backbone, acidity and solid but smooth tannins form the structure, suggesting a long life ahead.
Church Road Grand Reserve Syrah 2019
Deep purple with a ripe nose of blueberry, dark cherry jam and a hint of black pepper. Dark plum, black tea, subtle cedar and elegant graphite on the palate, lifted by good acidity and soft-textured wood tannins. Dried herbs and dark fruits linger on the finish. The ‘Grand Reserve Syrah’ was sourced from the estate’s Redstone Vineyard in the Bridge Pa Triangle District.
Church Road Grand Reserve Merlot Cabernet 2019
Aged in French oak barrels, the Merlot/Cabernet has a perfumed nose of violet, vanilla and blackcurrant. Juicy and spicy on the palate, with plenty of cassis, dark cherry liqueur, plus herbal complexity of blackcurrant leaves and vanilla. Poised and ripe; peppery dark plum notes follow onto a warming finish.