An Evening With Esk Valley - 29th April, 2021

The headline

The 2021 Exel Wines Zoom tastings continue.

Hot on the heels of "An Evening With ..." Ken Forrester in February and Laura Catena in March, we're turning it into a New World trio.

You asked for New Zealand and - despite the headache with the time difference - we bring you New Zealand!

It's a chance to hear from - and learn about - one of the leading, most innovative and respected names in the land, Esk Valley.

On Thursday, 29th April, at 7:30 pm (UK time). we'll be joined by for a talk and tasting with Gordon Russell, Esk Valley's Head Winemaker.

Gordon has been a winemaker with Esk since 1993; few have seen the renaissance in NZ wine as closely as Gordon. He is a great raconteur and ambassador of his art and wines. Some of NZ's finest labels are his creations.

Like our previous speakers, he is one not to miss.

We've unlimited space for customers and would love you to join us.

For more details, see below. Once again, the evening is free to all comers; you simply buy tasting bottles if, as and in such quantity as you choose.

This also marks our launching of some of these wines at some pretty special prices (that we'll not be able to hold for more than a couple of months).


The background

Esk Valley has come a long way since Sir George Fistonich purchased the historic Glenvale Winery from the Bird Family in 1986. From a time when ports and sherries ruled the market, Esk Valley began forging a reputation for its innovative and quality wines. Under winemaker Gordon Russell, Esk Valley has broken boundaries, introducing new grape varieties and new wine styles to Hawke's Bay.

From the original historic cellars in the north of Hawke's Bay to Esk Valley’s new purpose built winery within the confines of the renowned Gimblett Gravels, Esk Valley continues to produce a collection of wines regarded amongst New Zealand's finest. Utilising a very traditional and hands-off approach - including concrete fermenters for the finest parcels of red grapes - Esk Valley continues to build on its reputation.

The winery sources fruit from Hawke's Bay, including the world-renowned Gimblett Gravels, and Marlborough, as both regions consistently produce grapes of an extremely high quality.

Many of Exel's Decanter-keen customers will have encounted Esk Valley for the first time when their Winemaker's Reserve Bordeaux (blend 2014) topped a 2020 panel of Global Bordeaux blends. They'll be pleased to know that the new vintage of that wine will be the Last Wine of the Evening.


Gordon Russell

Born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, Gordon’s desire to travel took him to England and Europe for three years after university. He had always been interested in different flavours and trying new food so during his time abroad he naturally also developed an appreciation for fine wine.

In 1986 Gordon returned to New Zealand, just when the wine styles for which New Zealand has become highly regarded were beginning to emerge. Gordon was appointed as Esk Valley winemaker in 1993, after working for Villa Maria in Auckland as a cellar hand from 1987 and then as assistant winemaker to Grant Edmonds at Esk Valley from 1990.

Gordon strives to make wines that tell the story of the vineyards from which they came. Experience has taught him that with attention to detail in vineyard, the winemaking process becomes simple and a hands-off affair. Esk Valley’s aim is to produce a natural style of wine utilising wild yeast and long-term lees ageing. These are modern styles of wine made in a hand crafted manner. Gordon's particular trademark is hand-plunged red wine.


The evening itself - how it works and how to join in

Gordon will talk us through as much of the Esk Valley story/legend as he can in an hour (with questions afterwards).

We'll be tasting five wines as we go; these span styles, approaches, areas of New Zealand (Marlborough, Hawke's Bay and the Gimblett Gravels all get a look-in), terroirs, price points and grape varieties.

The tasting wines are shown - and are buyable - at the bottom of this page. If we don't have them in immediate stock, they'll be here in just a few days, and there is plenty of time to send samples before the evening. Just don't leave sample-buying until the last minute, mind.

Specifically, on the tasting wines:

  • The Sauvignon Blanc is an obligatory inclusion, of course, this one's from the already-celebrated 2020 vintage.
  • Esk Valley's new, rich and surprisingly full-bodied Albarino (yes, Albarino) is on the list.
  • Gordon's Chardonnays are delightful and very much have his fingerprints on them. We'll be trying one.
  • Hawke's Bay and Gimblett Gravels Syrahs are now of world reknown. One from the excellent 2018 vintage is included.
  • We finish with the Esk statement that is the Winemaker's Reserve Bordeaux blend.

Taste one wine with us/Gordon - or all five. Or none at all (that is, just come along and listen/ask questions). It's entirely up to you. In any event, the evening is free to all comers.

Also, a few customers, we know, like to use these evenings as an opportunity to try the very top wines from the evening's producer. We do have a very few bottles of Esk's flagship The Terraces available, but there are so very few in the UK (single figures of bottles!) that it made no sense practically (let alone on cost grounds). Gordon will be mentioning the wine, for sure, and if you would like to try a bottle and enjoy it on the evening, do please go ahead.

There is no limit to the number of people that can join us, so do please buy samples safe in the knowledge that there is a place for you.

Gordon may mention the poor performance of English cricketers in India. We can't do much about that.

If you'd like to join us, please send an email to communications@exelwines.co.uk . We'll get back to you within a couple of days, if not sooner, to confirm we've booked your place and that we will send full Zoom details nearer the date.

We look forward to seeing you at the evening. (Gordon promises us he will not still be in his pyjamas).

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Esk Valley, (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (1x75cl)

** For the 2020 vintage, Esk Valley are releasing both a Hawke's Bay and Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This, just to be abundantly clear, is the Marlborough version. **


Esk Valley, Albarino 2020 (1x75cl)



Esk Valley, Chardonnay 2018 (1x75cl)



Esk Valley, Syrah 2018 (1x75cl)


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