Sacred Hill - Dartmoor Valley, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand (Appointment Only)
A rare treat to see the Sacred Hill in full swing.
Sacred Hill. A name most people who have bought a bottle of wine in NZ in the last 10 years should know.
A big player in the wine export market, it's rare nowadays to see many people out at the original vineyard HQ. Sacred Hill's Cellar Door is nestled far from the rest of the bay in the upper Dartmoor Valley and is open only by appointment, however on certain occasions they do host events.
'Sundaze' is one of these events and this day of wine, music and food was held on each Sunday of January 2014.
This is when I chose to head out to Sacred Hill to join in on the merriments and visit the place while it was brimming with activity.
I arrived nice and early, so I could get a wine tasting and some food before more cars filled the parking lot.
There was already several tastings going on when I stepped into the nice little cellar door.
That day they were tasting Sacred Hill's "Halo" mid-range of wines, usually reserved for restaurants and the like.
Tasting through the first two 2012's both from Marlborough : A Sauvignon Blanc and next a Pinot Gris, I thought they were simple yet elegant. This is a range of wines that appeal to a large array of people, and my thoughts were confirmed when it came to the Hawke's Bay Chardonnay 2011 that despite 1 year in oak, had tight, springy acidity and was so fresh it almost seemed Unoaked in style.
Moving on to the reds, I was very impressed with the structure in all three.
The Marlborough Pinot Noir was perhaps more like a Martinborough style, with savoury notes and a rusty-red hue to it.
Sacred Hill's 2012 Bordeaux blend was a very Merlot-dominant affair with the one variety almost overwhelming the other two at this young age. This was understandable as the blend was 70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc.
Finally for the reds, an excellent Gimblett Gravels Syrah from 2012 (readers will note my fondness for Syrahs from this area) with smooth, tannins and great pepper dusting on the palate (but curiously not much white pepper on the nose).
This would have put an end to my tasting had my tasting host Larissa not told me she might be able to convince her boss Marg to open something from their 'Special Selection' for me.
Marg, after a quick chat, consented and I was able to have a taste of the Special Selection "Sauvage" Sauvignon Blanc 2011.
This 100% wild ferment, barrel-aged wine from the Dartmoor Valley Vineyard just down the road proved to be my favourite of the tasting, with fantastic mango flavours bringing a nice sweeter tinge to a wine that will age beautifully.
Experience: Usually open by appointment only, this was a rare occasion for anyone to just show up and enjoy Sacred Hill.
The food and music is definitely a one-off thing and should not be expected when you visit on other occasions.
Tasting: While I would have loved to have tasted more of the Special Selection the tasting was varied and the knowledge was sound, and made fun by an enthusiastic host. (Note: tasting fees may apply when a tasting appointment is made)
Final Verdict: Sacred Hill is a place full of charm and is a relaxing venue far away from the usual Summer crowd of the Hawke's Bay.
Just make sure you call and make an appointment well in advance before making the long trip out there!
Please contact Marg on 06 834 2587 (Monday to Friday) for more information on tasting appointments.