Vineyard Visit – Easthope Family Winegrowers – Hawkes Bay

Dhall & Nash visit to Easthope Family Winegrowers, December 2015. Left to right – Rod Easthope, Puneet Dhall, Jean-Jacques Bourvis, Emma Easthope, Sweetha Shetty, Anthony Watt, Hannah Priestley


The Easthope Family Winegrowers story begins (as so many do) with romance. Rod Easthope (ex Craggy Range) and his wife Emma (ex Stoneyridge and Martinborough Vineyards) both grew up in the Hawkes Bay, involved in the wine industry from their youth. Unsurprisingly, the two had a lot in common, and romance blossomed.

Emma moved overseas to pursue a career as a winemaker in South Africa, while Rod attended the prestigious Roseworthy College in South Australia. Upon graduation, he soon found himself in the same winemaking region as Emma (Stellenbosch in Capetown), and the two were reunited. Fast forward several years (and vintages), and the couple are now happily married, with 3 young children.


Rod and Emma Easthope with their concrete eggs – used for aging without oak influence

The Easthope Family Winegrowers label was born out of the Easthope’s desire to produce ultra-premium wines, from specific sites, to exacting standards. Two vintages young, the wines have be released to critical acclaim. The Dhall & Nash team recently visited the site chosen for their new vineyard and winery, perched on the volcanic soils surrounding the Ngaruroro river, to the west of Hastings. We spoke to Rod about his aspirations for the new site, and plans for the future.

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The team exploring the new vineyard – Rod Easthope among his newly planted Syrah vines

Rod, You’ve selected a unique piece of land for your new vineyard. What is it that makes this site so special?

It is a combination of factors; deep red metal gravel soils are ideal for drainage.  This combined with our top terrace being on gentle north facing slope maximises light interception and therefore heat (ideal for reds).  The site is also sheltered by an amphitheatre of hills to south which also makes this site warmer the neighbouring vineyards.  Lastly, being on a promontory over-looking the river means that the site is less frost prone and has spectacular views. 

The view from the new vineyard - The soil profile is visible in the cliff face, showing the drainage through the layers

The view from the new vineyard – The soil profile is visible in the cliff face, showing the drainage through the layers


What varietals have you planted here, and do you plan to plant more?

We have planted Syrah and Chardonnay thus far, and plan to plant Gamay Noir and Cabernet Franc next year.  

What does the future hold for Easthope Family Winegrowers?

It is all about sticking to our guns which means remaining small so that we can control every aspect of the viticulture.  To do that our new winery will be complete for the 2016 harvest so that we can do everything in house.  Once the vines are established we will employ organic techniques because the health of our soils, vines and family will be paramount.  We will always endeavour to make unique cuvees and carve out a reputation for truly individual wines.

Current vintages:

2013 Te Muna Pinot Noir – 95 points Bob Campbell MW

2014 Moteo Syrah – 4 1/2 stars – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines

2014 Skeetfield Chardonnay – 4 stars – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines

2015 Blackhawk dry Pinot Gris – 4 stars – Michael Cooper’s Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines

Easthope Family Winegrowers Blackhawk Dry Pinot Gris

Seizing upon Hawkes Bay’s ideal climate to ripen pinot gris to a level of intensity and texture, that doesn’t require the unnecessary artifice of residual sugar was the intention of this wine. Aromas of peach, pear, rose and cinnamon are the wine’s key characters. The palate reflects the same fruit characters allied to talcum powder like texture and long refreshing finish.

Ponsonby News, October 2014, Phil Parker

“Technically dry, but full-bodied and unctuous. Smells like nashi pear and citrus, while in the mouth it’s all poached apple and pear with a hint of tonic water and a dry finish.”

2009 William Murdoch ‘The Guardsman’ Cabernet Sauvignon Blend

Dedicated to “The Guardsman” William Murdoch, this cabernet sauvignon based wine embodies the strength and refinement of the variety. Deep, dark fruit and violets combine to give this wine an intense, lifted nose. A rich, concentrated palate, with red fruit, cinnamon and nutmeg flavours. Finely structured with depth and power, this is a very serious wine and the head of the William Murdoch clan. Approachable now, but ideal for cellaring.


Bob’s Wine Reviews, 2011, Bob Campbell

93 points

“First vintage of the flagship wine (and in fact, all wines). Denise, chewy red with strong ripe berry and plum flavours plus an interesting slight mint/herbal note that the winemaker believes is a vineyard characteristic. Terrific mouth-filling texture really appeals. Slightly rustic and certainly individual wine. Should age well but very accessible now.

Raymond Chan Wine Reviews, October 2011, Raymond Chan


“The flagship wine of William Murdoch, this is a blend of 60% cabernet sauvignon, 20% merlot, 15% malbec and 5% cabernet franc fermented to 13% alc., the wine aged 18 months in new French oak barriques, 50% new. Bright ruby-red colour with good depth, this has an elegant, refined and somewhat reticent bouquet showing ripe blackcurranty fruit with layers of plums, cedar, fresh herbs and subtle oak spices, gently unfolding the glass. Medium-full on the palate, the palate is tightly bound and brooding, with concentrated flavours of blackcurrants, berries and dark plums and nuances of spices, minerals and oak, supported by very fine-grained tannins. The wine has finesse and a well-proportioned structure that has intensity with drive and length. A wine with class, detail and harmony to match with roasted lamb and beef, and with hard aged cheeses over the next 8-10 years.”

Wine Orbit, October 2015, Sam Kim

94 points

Classically expressed, this sturdy Bordeaux style red is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and cabernet franc. The bouquet is complex and stylish, dis;saying cassis, plum jam, dried herb and cedar notes. It is concentrated and powerful on the palate, and delivers loads of attractive flavours and fine texture, beautifully framed by fine, firm tannins. The wine shows impressive presence and length. At it’s best now to 2025. Certified organic.”


2013 Collaboration Ceresia Merlot Cabernet Franc

Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wines, 2015 edition, Michael Cooper

5 stars

“The very elegant, Bordeaux-like 2013 vintage was hand-picked in Hawkes Bay from ‘ideal sites’, matured for 22 months in French oak barrels and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Full and youthful in colour, it’s notably savoury and supple, full-bodied wine with concentrated, well-ripened blackcurrant, plum and spice flavours, oak complexity and fine-grained tannins. Already delicious, it should be at it’s best from 2017 onwards.”

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2011 Collaboration Aurulent Chardonnay

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, #209 2013, Lisa Perotti-Brown

91+ points

“The 2011 Aurulent Chardonnay offers a promising nose of ripe apricots, muskmelons and honeycomb with suggestions of cedar and toasted almonds. Medium-bodied with a lovely silkiness to the texture, it fills the mouth with honeyed stone fruit and toasty flavors enlivened by a refreshing acid backbone and long finish laced with just a hint of oakiness. Drinking nicely now, it should cellar to 2016+. ”


Raymond Chan Wine Reviews, August 2013, Raymond Chan


“Aurulent is ‘the colour of gold’. Chardonnay fruit from sites with medium to heavy silt soils. Fully barrel-fermented in new and seasoned oak to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 12 months on lees with 100% MLF. Bright straw-colour with light, lemon-gold hues. This has an elegant and tight bouquet of ripe citrus and stone fruit aromas with mealy, nutty notes and very subtle butterscotch MLF and creamy barrel-ferment elements that build in intensity. Medium-full bodied, finely concentrated citrus stone fruit and nutty flavours feature on a soft-textured palate with rounded mouthfeel. An amalgam of barrel-ferment and MLF creaminess is balanced by good underlying acidity that provides tension, and the flavours are driven to a very long and sustained nutty nuanced finish. This is an elegantly creamy, subtly concentrated chardonnay with nutty, stone fruit flavours and a long finish. Serve with roasted poultry and pork dishes over the next 4-5 years.”

Buyers Guide to New Zealand Wines, 2013 Edition, Michael Cooper

4 stars

“Already drinking well, the debut 2011 vintage was hand-picked at ‘select vineyard sites’ in Hawkes Bay and fermented and lees-aged for a year in new and older French oak barrels, with full malolactic fermentation. Pale yellow, it is full-bodied and crisp, fleshy and generous, with strong, peachy, citrusy, slightly toasty flavours, woven with fresh acidity. Drink now or cellar.”

2010 Collaboration Argent Cabernet Sauvignon

Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, #209 2013, Lisa Perotti-Brown

91 points

“Deep garnet-purple colored, the 2010 Argent Cabernet Sauvignon opens with aromas of crushed blackcurrants, blackberries and ripe plums accented by nuances of cedar, mocha, dried Mediterranean herbs and pencil lead. Medium-bodied and packed with ripe blackberry and toasty oak flavors, it is well structured with a medium to firm level of grainy tannins and a good backbone of acid through the long finish with a pleasant, herbal lift. Drink it now to 2020+.”

Wine Orbit, October 2015, Sam Kim

94 points

“This is a stylish expression of the noble grape, exhibiting lifted aromas of dark fruit, game, tar, cedar and dried herb on the nose. It is ripe and concentrated on the palate with excellent focus and silky texture, finishing superbly long and engaging. This wine is wonderfully balanced, and looks very youthful for it’s age. At it’s best: now to 2024.”, 2014, Bob Campbell MW

93 points

“Elegant cabernet sauvignon with classic blackberry/cassis and cedar flavours. Silken-textured red with fine, soft tannins providing a gentle backbone. Supple wine with a surprisingly lengthy finish. Very approachable now but with cellaring potential.”

Buyers Guide to New Zealand Wines, 2013 edition, Michael Cooper

4 stars

“The debut 2010 vintage was hand-harvested at ‘select vineyard sites’ in the Hawkes Bay, blended with a small parcel of merlot, matured for 20 months in French oak barrels (partly new), and bottled unfined and unfiltered. Full and youthful in colour, with a  fragrant, ripe, berths bouquet, it is mouth filling, sweet-fruited and savoury, with generous, plummy, spicy flavours, showing good complexity, fresh acidity and obvious potential. Best drinking 2014+.”

Raymond Chan Wine Reviews, August 2013, Raymond Chan


“Argent is the ‘colour of silver’. Cabernet sauvignon from gravelly vineyard sites blended with a small parcel of merlot from heavier soil, fermented to 13.5% alc., the wine aged 20 months in new and seasoned French oak barrels. Very full, near impenetrable black-red with youthful purple hues. Concentrated, focussed, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant aromas are entwined with subtle plum notes, with pencil shavings and cedary oak elements adding detail. Medium-full bodied and elegantly proportioned, this has a concentrated core of sweetly ripe black berry fruits with liquorice, currant and herb nuances, along with spicy oak. The mouthfeel is textured with fine-grained tannins and the palate is carried somewhat but the acidity, leading to a long, lingering, spicy, black-plum finish. This is a ripe black-fruited cabernet sauvignon with fine tannins and sweet oak. Match with roasted red meats or serve with hard cheeses over the next 7-9 years.”

Christmas Roast Duck with Ponnelle Fleurie

Try something new this Christmas, and serve this moist and flavoursome duck with a lightly chilled glass of Fleurie. The Christmas spices in the recipe are perfectly complimented by the mocha, cherry and roasted coffee notes of the Fleurie – try the wine slightly chilled for a refreshing compliment to this meal. Recipe from – serves 10.



  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • ½ nutmeg , grated
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 oranges or blood oranges , zested and halved
  • 2 x 2 kg whole ducks , necks and giblets reserved and roughly chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic , unpeeled
  • 3 red onions , peeled and quartered
  • a few stalks celery , trimmed and chopped into chunks
  • 3 carrots , scrubbed and chopped into chunks
  • ½ stick cinnamon
  • 1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger , peeled and roughly chopped
  • a few bay leaves
  • 2 kg Maris Piper potatoes , peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 1 litre water or organic chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 200 ml Ferreira Ruby port


Pick the leaves off one of the rosemary sprigs and place on a board with the nutmeg, orange zest, thyme and one tablespoon of sea salt. Chop everything together and rub the mixture all over the ducks, inside and out. Cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours or overnight to let the flavours penetrate.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and place the shelves on the middle and bottom levels. Stuff the ducks with the remaining rosemary sprigs and orange halves, and the garlic cloves, then place them breast-side up, straight on to the bars of the middle shelf. Scatter the onion, celery and carrot in the bottom of a large, deep-sided roasting tray with the cinnamon, ginger, bay leaves, and chopped duck neck and giblets. Place on the bottom shelf beneath the ducks so it will catch all the lovely fat that drips out of them.

Meanwhile, place the potatoes in a pan. Cover with cold, salted water, bring to a simmer and parboil for 5 to 10 minutes, then tip into a colander and chuff them up a little.

After the duck has roasted for an hour, take the bottom tray out of the oven, replacing it immediately with an empty tray. Spoon the fat from the veggie tray into a bowl. Put all the veg, duck bits and juices into a large saucepan, then add a little boiling water to the tray to get all the sticky brown bits off the bottom – this is what you’re going to make your gravy with. Tip the water and brown bits into the pan with the veg, top up with 1 litre of water or chicken stock and place on a medium heat, skimming off any of the fat that rises to the top.

Put your parboiled potatoes into the empty tray in the oven. Add a few more tablespoons of duck fat from the bowl, season, and place back underneath the ducks to cook for an hour.

Meanwhile, heat a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of duck fat. When it’s hot and melted, add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until you have a paste. Stir in the contents of the saucepan and the port. Bring the gravy to the boil and simmer gently for half an hour, stirring occasionally. By now the ducks will have had 2 hours in the oven and will be done. Lift them on to a plate, cover loosely with tin foil and leave to rest for about 15 minutes.

Pour the gravy through a sieve into a clean saucepan, pressing down on all the veg and other bits to extract as many flavours and juices as you can. Keep the gravy warm in the saucepan, again skimming off any fat on the surface.

Don’t carve the ducks – the best thing to do is to pull the meat away from the bones with a pair of tongs or with your fingers wearing clean kitchen gloves, then let everyone fight over the delicious skin! Serve with your potatoes and port gravy.


2010 Inglenook Rubicon

Wine Orbit, October 2015, Sam Kim

97 points

“Flagship wine of this famous winery, this cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, petit verdot and merlot blend is formidable and impressively expressed. Gloriously complex bouquet shows dark fruit, mixed spice, dark chocolate, cedar and game with hints of dried herb and roasted nut characters. The palate is full, expansive and velvety, with layers of rich texture and sweet berry flavours. It is wonderfully structured with loads of polished tannins, and finishes superbly long and seamless.”

Napa, California, November 2013, JL

93 points

“A classy, well-structured effort, with flavors that build and gain depth around a core of loamy earth, espresso, dark berry, cedary oak and tobacco. Most impressive on the graceful, long and persistent finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. Drink now through 2026. 3,700 cases made.”

eRobert Parker Wine Advocate #204 December 2012, Antonio Galloni

90 points

Super-ripe dark cherries, plums, cassis and mocha take shape in the 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Rubicon. This is a fairly bold style, even within the context of the year. The ripeness and opulence of the fruit seems to reflect the heat waves of the year. Stylistically, the Rubicon is similar to the Cask, but with naturally more body and a bit more overtness and overall ripeness. The 2010 Rubicon is 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot and 2% Merlot. Anticipated maturity: 2015-2025.

Proprietor Francis Ford Coppola continues to move forward with his project to restore Inglenook, one of Napa Valley’s historic estates, to its previous glory. Coppola has certainly been willing to put everything on the line, bringing in viticulturist Stephane Derenoncourt in 2008 and winemaker Philippe Bascaules, from Chateau Margaux, in 2011. Naturally, it is too early to see the results of these two very high-profile hires, but count me among those who are highly interested to see what develops here over the next few years. There are now essentially two Cabernet Sauvignon-based wines. The Cask is made from vineyards on the front portion of the property bordering Highway 29, while Rubicon is made from vineyards located at the back of the estate. Inglenook will no longer bottle other single-variety wines.



Just arrived – Meursault Premiere Cru

Meursault – where Chardonnay is King

“The quality of white Burgundy from Meursault’s best premiere crus is rarely surpassed.” – Jancis Robinson MW, The Oxford Companion to Wine

Often compared to Chassagne-Montrachet and Puligny-Montrachet, these wines are among the best white Burgundies available. From the Côte de Beaunes appellation in Burgundy’s prestigious Côte d’Or, this unique terroir produces Chardonnay of unsurpassed richness. If you like your Chardonnay fat, round and buttery, then you need look no further than Meursault.

From the 19 Premiere Cru vineyards in Meursault, we have selected 3 outstanding wines which we feel are perfect representations of this great appellation.

2010 Jean-Michel Ganoux Meursault Perrière Premiere Cru – Tasting Notes

2012 Rèmi Jobard Le Poruzot Dessus Premiere Cru – Tasting Notes

2013 Rèmi Jobard Les Genevrières Premiere Cru – Tasting Notes

Available in extremely limited quantities.

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