Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir is not overtly fruity, soft and “sweet” and it generally shows hints of that alluring “primal” character along with a dark, spicy, complex primary fruit perfume. Fabulous earthy red berry fruit complexity bolstered by fine creamy tannins and soft, tangy acids that steer the wine to a long, glycerol, textured finish packed with lots of appeal. This is the first (and hopefully only) time Hamilton Russell have had to buy in Pinot Noir grapes due to the wildfire in January 2019 that smoke-tainted nearly all their Pinot Noir grapes. This vintage is a "Hamilton Russell Walker Bay" wine.
Read Greg Sherwood's Wine Safari post on this 2019 vintage here.
95 points Andrew Howard MW, Decanter (2018 vintage): A fine, structured, monumental Pinot with great tannins on the palate. Typical Pinot Noir characters of truffle and 'sous bois' compliment the warm, spicy notes from nine months maturation in Francois Frère oak barrels. Very much a baby at the moment, this has potential to be one of the finest expressions yet of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir.
95 Greg Sherwood, MW (2018 vintage): Every new release reveals a vintage of Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir that is again purer, finer and more distinguished than the previous vintage. The 2018 is no exception showing a broody dark fruited nose with lashings of black cherry, black currant and salted black plums. At this young stage, the oak is incredibly well integrated allowing both the purity of black berry fruit and the limestone minerality to really shine through. On the palate, alluring hints of blueberry and mulberry dance a tightly choreographed routine supported by a well drilled accompaniment of mineral tannins finishing with a long, sappy, black bramble berry finish. This must surely rank as one of the finest young Pinot Noirs produced at the winery to date.
2019 will go down as the year of “the fire”. A massive fire burned around Hamilton Russell vineyards on January 11th, directly damaging 10% of our Pinot noir and causing concerns over smoke taint. Careful advance measurements, and separate extremely gentle vinifications, have however enabled us to produce a fine, complex and beautiful 2019, albeit in a much negligable quantity. A great pity about the low production as the year looks to be a truly great one for Pinot noir. Fortunately the fire passed through very rapidly reducing smoke exposure. Fire was not the only challenge. An unusually warm May, June and July effected Chardonnay dormancy and as a result bud break was extremely uneven and in some cases incomplete. Our Chardonnay crop was 44% down, but the quality is excellent, with unusually slow ferments resulting in a generous texture with our typical bright minerality, stylistically somewhere between 2015 and 2018.
Overall the vintage was a cooler than 2017 and even 2018, with an average maximum temperature for Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar of 24.5 Centigrade (versus an equivalent long term average for Burgundy of 24.8 Centigrade for this period). Rainfall was lower than average for Spring and during harvest, but occurred in frequent small amounts causing sustained high humidity. Fortunately our organic treatments proved highly effective against the resulting downy and powdery mildew threat. And the day after harvest finished, the serious rains began – some luck at least! We had the highest March rainfall in 21 years. Record low production and several challenges, but the 2019’s have a pure, refined beauty.