When Crossroads founder Malcolm Reeves planted several grape varietals on the winery’s Home Block vineyard in Fernhill, Hawke’s Bay, he had a vision to make a great New Zealand red.
Fast forward 25 years and that vision is being bottled into a very special anniversary wine – Talisman Syrah 2013, to celebrate the vineyard’s silver jubilee.
It’s not to be confused with the winery’s mystery Talisman blend, upon which Crossroads was founded – a unique blend created by Reeves that combines up to seven grape varietals to produce a rich, complex wine with a long, fine finish.
There’s no mystery about the soon to be released Talisman Syrah 2013 – it is what it says on the label. It’s made from fruit hand-picked from Crossroads’ best-performing parcel of syrah grapes, which has consistently produced award-winning wines. This includes its 2012 Winemakers Collection Syrah, which won the Best in New Zealand Red Wine and Best New Zealand Syrah at the International Wine Challenge 2014. Already proving its quality, the Talisman Syrah 2013 recently won Silver at the International Wine Challenge.
“Ever since we did our first bottling [of syrah] in 2007 as a single-vineyard wine, every wine we have bottled has been a trophy or gold medal,” says Crossroads head winemaker Miles Dinneen. “The Talisman Syrah comes from the same vineyard.”
Since Dinneen first joined Crossroads 10 years ago, the winery has enjoyed steady growth. But it’s still small when compared to bigger wine producers and Crossroads plans to keep it that way. Grapes for its wines come from six vineyards (four of them in the acclaimed Gimblett Gravels appellation).
Its largest vineyard, Kereru (split across four river terraces), is ideal for growing merlot, chardonnay, pinot gris and sauvignon blanc. The Home Block vineyard is home to secret varieties used in the iconic Talisman blend as well as chardonnay, pinot gris and gewürztraminer.
Over time Dinneen and his team have become more experienced but it’s the growth out on the vines that has allowed the “real consistency of our wines”.
“As the vineyards get older the vines really settle down. We know how to handle them and they make really great wine and grow good fruit, regardless of the season,” he says. “Even in 2012, which was a really difficult year in the Hawke’s Bay as far as being cool, we still got gold medals for our Syrah and Chardonnay.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s if you get better fruit, there’s less you have to do to it in the winery. In the case of the chardonnay we generally just press it directly into an oak barrel and let it ferment. Likewise with the reds, I like to use a really long maceration which means the juice stays with the skin for quite a long time.”
For the 25th anniversary celebrations, Crossroads will be hosting a series of winemakers dinners leading up to a celebratory event at the Cellar Door in Hawke’s Bay, with the goal of thanking the local community for their support. Guests can expect great wine, food and even a special musical performance. As part of the celebration, locals will be invited to bring their back vintages of Talisman to help take part in a special vertical tasting.
“Talisman was always built for the cellar and there are enthusiasts out there who have hung onto it,” Dinneen says.
When Dinneen got the job at Crossroads he promised on a handshake with Reeves that he would never reveal the secret blend of the winery’s signature wine and he has kept his promise.
Reeves used up to seven varieties but since then Dinneen has brought that back to “about five”. He deliberately blends so each variety masks the other “so that it’s a bit more intriguing and leads your nose through it” and has your brain trying to figure it out.
Over the years people have come close to guessing the blend. “The fact Malcolm planted a number of varieties that are quite different from the usual suspects has been the saving grace of keeping the mystery,” Dinneen says. “But so far, so good and Talisman is going from strength to strength.”
One of the things Dinneen loves about working for Crossroads is the creative freedom he has as a winemaker and the great fruit he has to work with.
“It’s good to make 25 years. The business is in great heart really – making better wine than ever and that’s the main thing,” says Dinneen.