1998 Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet - From Jeff & Gordon Chat

A few nights back I hunted around in our cellar at our Mangawhai Home… in lockdown here and ordered to stay at home and stay safe by Richard & Tracey. Over 43-years we have collected a lot of wine and are privileged to have some of the world’s most amazing wines in our cellar. But when I put my hands on a bottle of 1998 Esk Valley (EV) Reserve (these days it’s called Winemakers Reserve) Merlot Malbec Cabernet 1998, I felt a pang of excitement and my taste buds began to salivate just holding the bottle. I’ve always had huge regard for EV Chief Winemaker Gordon Russell (incumbent for 27-years) and collected numerous vintages of Winemakers Reserve releases and the prestigious Terraces red (a marquee NZ vineyard), which is my equal finest NZ red. But the obvious quality starts with their entry level wines, the quality of which are almost without peer sub $20/bottle. The EV Merlot Malbec having won Champion Trophies, Michael Cooper’s Best Value Red of the Year on numerous occasions, plus swags of Gold & 5 Star awards. The Rosé, Chardonnay and Syrah also having won many Gold Medals and Champion Trophies over 2-decades. Gordon’s attention to detail in the vineyards (EV have some of the regions finest) and minimalist winemaking are core to the exceptional quality of their wines from the bottom to the top and their outstanding age ability. It’s my 23-years of tasting, ranging and promotion of Esk Valley wines that have led to my squirreling several vintages of Terraces and WMR wines in our cellar. You can understand why I was excited to discover this bottle of 1998 EV Reserve in our cellar and my excitement proved well founded when Virginia and I got to savour it that night. So much so, I was moved to send Gordon the text immediately below… and delighted to receive his reply, also detailed below… enjoy the read.

Hi Gordon,

In lockdown in Mangawhai with my darling Virginia and been digging in the cellar. 1998 Esk Valley Reserve Merlot Malbec Cabernet... 22-years old... a magnificent red in immaculate condition (Also helps it has been well cellared) ... deep ruby red colour with no browning that many 22-year old reds would have. Beautifully developed aromas still with hint of floral freshness. Palate rich... bloody opulent actually and layered with flavours... tannins velvety and acid adding freshness to an old red. Bloody magnificent and a tribute to a great vintage... more so to masterful and passionate winemaking from the legend Gordon Russell. FWD bought 200 cases in 2000 and we sold it an incredible $35/bottle... too cheap for this outstanding quality even at that time! Current vintage is equally under-priced circa $55-$60... thanks Gordon for your passion and excellence! You young aspiring red wine drinkers male/female should put this amazing red at the top of your shopping list... it’s so affordable for a genuine prestige red and it will live for decades. I’m so pleased we bought this magnificent red Gordon, wonderful craftsmanship.



Hi Jeff

So pleased you liked that one, I always had a soft spot for it and have never been disappointed. It’s one of those wines that you feel could last forever. It was such a great year 1998, a drought filled year much like the one we are experiencing at the moment. This too has turned out to be a very memorable year for more than covid-19. This has been one of the finest years of my career, unusual in the fact that it has been a great harvest for all the varieties we have harvested which is very rare. If you recall 1998 was an amazing red wine year but many of the whites lacked acidity and had a very short life. This vintage on the other hand has provided us with some of our best chardonnay for many years, albeit in a rich Clearview Reserve style, some amazing Albariño which possessed both high sugars and high acid, clean and flavoursome Chenin Blanc and reds uniformly black with ripe, soft tannins, including the best Syrah since 2014. All in all, I'm very happy. On a personal note though it has been a memorable harvest as I have had to forego my family and live onsite in a motor home. My wife and her sister who boards with us are both working, and I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t bring the virus on site no matter how careful I was. The decision was made for me to stay here through the lockdown. How's that for commitment? Unable to leave the estate for one month. In my little spare time, I have been hitting golf balls and working on my game but it seems its more me repeating the same mistakes each day. After one week, I'm starting to realise the gravity of my situation. I'm bored, missing my wife, dog and our house. Life is very constricted in a motorhome sharing showers and washing machine with the others on site. It doesn’t help that my wife keeps posting food porn images on Instagram. I'm sincerely hoping that the lockdown ends after the initial month.

I trust you and the family are well and thanks again for such a great review.



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