One of the most charming men in the Square Mile is Robert Wilson, the proprietor of both The Don restaurant in St Swithin’s Lane and the Bleeding Heart in Farringdon, two of most convivial places in the City where he has been feeding and watering deal-doers and advisers for decades.
What is perhaps less well known is that he and his wife Robyn are also the proud owners of a winery in New Zealand, Trinity Hill. A winery that produces some rather wonderful wines. And, equally wonderfully, the whole adventure was cooked up some 30 years ago over a glass of Chardonnay in the Bleeding Heart.
The story began when Robert and Robyn met John Hancock, a top class New Zealand wine maker working at Morton’s. He wanted to strike out on his own and asked them to back him. After a search lasting a few years they found what they wanted – an old gravelly river bed in Hawkes Bay, that they were convinced would be perfect for growing vines. They cleared away the scrubby sheep’s pasture and set to work. The first vintage was released in 1998.
From the start, Trinity Hill has been a pioneering winery – one of the first to set up in Hawkes Bay and to grow Syrah. They were blessed in a friendship with Jaboulet in the Rhone, who sent them some rootstock from the finest vineyards (and had to survive three years in quarantine) so these are grapes with a pedigree. Today they are still inventing and innovating, and are one of the only New Zealand wineries to produce a Tempranillo for example. Perhaps their greatest claim to fame is that half of their production is drunk in New Zealand – the locals know when they are onto a good thing.
I have long been a fan of all the Trinity Hill range, but when I had lunch with him recently there was one wine that blew me away, the “Gimblett Gravels” Chardonnay. This was a truly elegant wine, with length and great balance between the oak and citrus fruit, and a really good length. In a blind tasting I would have put it down as a fine white Burgundy, a young Meursault perhaps – at a fraction of the cost.
Robyn and Robert’s wines are not always easy to find retail, although the store above in Brixton stocks the full range. Perhaps better to go and enjoy them at their birthplace, in the Bleeding Heart itself.
Trinity Hill Gimblett Gravels 2015 (The New Zealand Cellar, £20.49)