Situated of the coast of Auckland, Waiheke island is possibly one of the most stunning places you can visit, and even better, they have a number of amazing wineries that you can visit as you tour around the island. With it being an island, it has a very maritime climate which means is has cooler summers and milder winters, there can be early morning mists but they are cleared away by the sea breeze. With this type of climate, it helps to deliver a long slow ripening season which helps to produce fruit which has amazing depths of flavours to them, and with the geology of the island they also have a beautiful minerality to the wines.
As I’ve said there are a number of wineries on the island, but very little ever reaches our shores, that is up until now with the arrival of the wines from Obsidian, named after a semi-precious stone that the Maori used to make tools. Situated in Onetangi Bay and with the climate the island has they are able to produce stunningly elegant Syrah, Bordeaux Blends and Chardonnay. The vineyard was planted in 1993, with Michael Wood joining in 2005 as winemaker. They produce two ranges, the Estate and Reserve, with total production for the whole estate of 4,000 cases, which is not a lot when you think that they grow 11 varieties.
The first wine we tasted was the Estate Vitreous, now this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec, so you could say a very traditional Bordeaux blend, but it was anything but. Each parcel of grapes were vinified separately and once fermentation had happened, they were blended together and allowed to go through malolactic fermentation in French Barriques, 20% of which were new.
On the nose you got these beautiful and developed aromas of cassis, herbs, black cherry, cedar and notes of leather, these all came through on the palate with the spices starting to get a little more pronounced and added hints of black olive, the tannins are soft and silky and balanced with a gentle acidity perfectly helping the flavours to linger on the palate for some time.
We then move on to the Estate Syrah, which is also one of my favourite varieties, the grapes are destemmed and partially crushed before being put into big open top fermenters, after allowing a period of maceration the grapes are pressed and transferred to French Oak with 20% again being new to allow the wine to go through the Malolactic fermentation before Bottling.
From the moment you get anywhere near your nose with the glass you get hit with this abundance of beautiful dark berry fruit that is then followed up with delicate hints of violets and sweet spice. These all come through magnificently on the palate with again that beautiful silky tannic structure and soft acidity, this was just stunning and reminded me very much of the great Syrah’s of the Northern Rhone.
We then finally moved on to The Mayor Reserve, like the first wine I tasted it is a big Bordeaux blend this time of only Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec are in the blend. The same vinification process as the other two wines was followed, however they used 30% new Oak instead of 20% as with the others.
On the nose you get Black Cherry and other dark berry fruit, the sweet spice of Liquorice and other woody herbs. On the palate these all came through on the palate with great depth and elegance, it has a good tannic backbone to the wine and again that soft acidity helps to give the wine balance.
As a massive fan of wines from New Zealand, anything new has a lot to live up to, and these certainly do, both of the estate wines are drinking fantastically now and will continue to for a good few years, The Mayor was drinking beautifully now, but will only get better over the coming years, if you can hold on to it for that long!