Travels through New Zealand and France

sky diving over the Klutha River, Wanaka, Central Otago

My daughter Rachel and I just returned from New Zealand. I arrived there in mid-October to serve as an international judge for the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, and then did a road trip around the country until the award ceremony in November. In the midst of the trip I also traveled to France for a Central Otago event occurring in Burgundy. Then, Rachel arrived in New Zealand for a few weeks of travel with me. After the reality of the California wild fires, in truth, I felt a lot of strain and it felt like it took a few weeks just to put myself back together. I had to be slow and steady with myself. Gratefully people on my trip were patient and supportive too. People went out of their way to be helpful and I am very grateful. Here in California, when Caleb Taft found out that due to the fires I couldn’t reach wine I was meant to bring with me to New Zealand for a Chardonnay seminar in Auckland he contacted Arlequin Wine Merchant. The two together, Caleb and the shop, donated the wine for me to bring to the seminar. In New Zealand, friends and colleagues hosted me in their homes, scheduled visits for me, and just provided space for me to quietly stay. It made all the difference. Eventually, when I’d finally relaxed enough again, they helped me have a lot of fun too. It was incredibly special to travel with Rachel. We had a great time and she loved New Zealand too. Thank you very much to everyone that hosted me in New Zealand and France. Thank you most especially to the New Zealand Winegrowers, the Central Otago Winegrowers Association, and Air New Zealand for helping me plan my travel. Here are some photos from our recent travels originally shared to Instagram during the trip itself.

Preloading for my flight to Burgundy… #chardonnay @charteriswines @lacollinanz

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Traveled 39 hours to get here from Auckland. Totally worth it. Driving north through the Haut Cote de Beaune. #bourgogne

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To celebrate ten years (it is now eleven) of the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange a group of producers from Central Otago brought their wines to share with vintners of Burgundy in a tasting held in the king’s room of the Hospices de Beaune. The top producers of Burgundy, as well as former stagiaires of the program, were there with the group of Kiwis and a handful of media, from New Zealand, Australia, the UK, the US, and France. Few of us, even among those from France, had been inside the king’s room of the Hospice before as it is not open to the public. A tasting like this, showcasing wines from so many producers, all there together, from outside Burgundy has not happened here before. Around 140 attended from France. 14 producers from New Zealand poured their wine. It was inspiring and incredible to witness the excitement of the tasting. #bourgogne #centralotago

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Our final day of the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange celebration brought us to the Ancienne Abbaye de Saint-Vivant, a monastary from the 11th century that is in the process of being restored. Aubert de Villaine helped instigate and organize the restoration and so hosted us in recognition of the importance of the Exchange. The Abbaye is not yet open to the public. During part of the ceremony the Central Otago contingent gathered together at one end of the Abbaye and sang a Maori prayer in gratitude and blessing of the Exchange, the sharing of cultures, and the world history of wine the Abbaye represents. Afterwards Aubert shared with us Chardonnay made from the vineyard beside the Abbaye, which is sold to help fund the restoration. #bourgogne #centralotago

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Deeply grateful for this time with friends. It has, on paper, been a crazy side trip to fly to Beaune in the middle of work in New Zealand, but the time here has also been restorative and special. In truth, after everything that has happened recently I have a lot of sadness to deal with over time. The fires and their aftermath are so massive it is hard to face all at once. Our region has been changed and we are all grappling with that small bits at a time. This trip to Burgundy has been both the culmination of a year spent getting to know a particular story, and the ongoing development of friendships. The last two months have included a wealth of challenges for me from personal change, to loss of loved ones, health crises for others, and being part of a massive natural disaster. What a crazy time. The gift of all of it has been recognizing that life has surrounded me with grace. It has felt as though faith has given me sea legs, and with that there is foremost the grace of friendship. The rest, with plenty of care, sorts itself over time. Thank you very much to everyone that organized this time in Burgundy celebrating the Central Otago Burgundy Exchange for including me. #bourgogne #centralotago

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My day today – 80 some New Zealand Chardonnay and Riesling, and a view. #newzealand @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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Lovely subtlety. #centralotago Felton Road 2002 Riesling @nzwinegrowers @nzwineusa

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Tasting the new Cru wines from Smith & Sheth. Classic Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. #newzealand

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Looking east over the Pacific from near the Waimarama Domain on the eastern shores of the North Island. #newzealand

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Honestly, Hawke’s Bay, just stop it. Out west in Maraekakaho. #newzealand

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I AM SO EXCITED #newzealand INTERISLANDER FERRY OHMYGOD YES

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Standing on the edge of the world looking west. Greymouth, West Coast, South Island. #newzealand

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I gave a ride to a backpacker from one small town to another yesterday. From Austria, he was trained and worked there as an architect but got tired with the way increasing regulations in the building industry there heavily reduced, he felt, the room for creativity of design as the focus turns more strongly to cutting costs. Fed up with his work he decided to make a bold move and left his job, let go his rental flat, and sold everything he owns. He left a bicycle at his parents’ home in Austria and now besides has only what he carries with him in his backpack and wears along the way. The ongoing plan is to simply hike what interests him as he finds it along the way here in New Zealand. Arriving just over a month ago, he has walked many of the mountain trails on the North Island, and is now walking his way down the mountains of the South. Eventually he confessed that besides the peacefulness and calm of it one of his favorite aspects of this trek across New Zealand is the trees he finds in the forest. “The trees here all have, I don’t know what to call it,” he said. After a pause he continued. “Personality. They all have their own personality.” One of my favorites is the fern trees. I have never seen them anywhere else. Here looking up into the canopy of one of the South Island’s fern trees. #newzealand

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Fox Glacier view from across the valley, West Coast, South Island #newzealand

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See that plane? We’re going to jump out of it. #newzealand

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Post sky dive mince pie from the Doughbin, Wanaka. #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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On the site today: skydiving with Rachel over Wanaka #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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So, this is what Alaska looks like… #newzealand Aoraki Mount Cook, South Island

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Sunset approaching over the Tasman Bay. Nelson. #newzealand

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Nelson in frames. Looking over the Tasman Bay in daylight. #newzealand

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Rachel in the Tasman. Nelson. #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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Wow. Ten year old Marlborough Semillon beautifully made by Pyramid Valley from vines that no longer exist. Very little Semillon grows today in New Zealand but this wine offers a great reminder of how palate stimulating and distinctive it can be in an aged, dry style – the variety just wants time in bottle. A sea fresh, floral nose with hints of incense and beeswax, on the palate becomes savory, with a firm, delicious mid palate, a crazy long finish, and that classic, wonderful oil-cloth texture of aged Semillon. A bit overwhelmed to get to taste this and share it with Rachel. #newzealand Thank you to @winejames and @yrmom_safoodie for helping me talk through dinner pairings. Wish you were here to share the wine. Thank you to Claudia for gifting us with the bottle. @pyramidvalleyvineyards @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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A good afternoon starts like this… the Zephyr. #newzealand @mrbglover

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Another nice example of how well Sauvignon can age. Zephyr 2011 from Marlborough. #newzealand @mrbglover

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Such a distinctive site. Fromm established the recognition of quality seen today in the Clayvin Vineyard of Marlborough. Even so, I had only had Chardonnay from the site made by other producers. Though Fromm certainly makes their Chardonnay in their own style – focus on freshness and texture, great palate tension and length, utterly dry finish – I was struck by immediately recognizing the Clayvin site itself in the Fromm wine. It carries a distinct acid signature that helps provide the palate tension at the heart of the wine, while also showcasing distinctive toasted nut and citrus notes that carries across producer style. The Chardonnay from Fromm offers lovely transparency and ample presence that hovers and floats through the palate avoiding any sense of heaviness or push. Wonderful wine. Elegant with strength. #newzealand @frommwinery

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Classic. Rachel taking the Wellington Harbor jump from the top platform. #newzealand @buteo_jamaicensis_jr

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Clive Paton, a titan of the New Zealand wine industry, standing in the mother block of Abel clone Pinot Noir, planted in 1980 with cuttings Clive got from the man himself, Mister Malcolm Abel, establishing Ata Rangi, and effectively starting the history of Pinot Noir in not only Martinborough but also New Zealand. These vines went on to become the source of Abel clone, New Zealand’s own unique signature of Pinot Noir, for the rest of the country. Clive went on to spearhead bringing Dijon clones into the country as well, and has continued to keep an eye on the future of the New Zealand wine industry researching new possible varieties for the country and focusing on expanding sustainability and preservation efforts not only in winegrowing but for the environment more broadly. It is deeply inspiring to have time with people like Clive both for the opportunity to connect with him as a person, and to deepen my understanding of the history and evolving conditions of the region, the country, and this industry, to reflect on what it means to humbly gain understanding while using that to contribute to the larger community. #newzealand @ata_rangi

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Walking a legendary vineyard, Heipipi, The Terraces, near the Esk Valley area, part of Esk Valley vineyards, at the Northern reach of Hawke’s Bay, with a total legend, winemaker Gordon Russell. The Terraces has been a favorite vineyard of mine without my having ever seen it until now thanks to its remarkable history, limestone and seashell soils, absolutely stunning dry-farmed, co-ferment, field blend wine, and the passion of winemaker Gordon Russell for the site. Honestly energizing to finally be there and spend the first half of the day discussing it and its wines with Gordon. The Terraces is yet another example of the rich diversity of Hawke’s Bay. At the north end of Hawke’s Bay, the Pacific Ocean is essentially across the street from the vineyard, cooling the vines and extending the growing season. The Terraces themselves were designed in the early part of the last century, then planted again to a field blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc in the late 1980s. It ‘s a remarkable choice – planting Bordeaux varieties at a time before new world expressions of them had exploded on the international scene, and Malbec before Argentina had again made it famous. Esk Valley’s The Terraces is one of the most unique sites in New Zealand, and one of the country’s truly great wines. Plus Gordon is just damn cool. #newzealand @gordonatesk

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The soils at The Terraces, Esk Valley Vineyard, is an uplifted seabed full of limestone and seashells. Walking the Terraces bands of seashells will suddenly appear from the soil, clutched together in surprising stacks. In the soils above these stacks seashells are dotted throughout with less density but still persistent throughout the limestone-based loam. Surprising and cool. The site sits at the North end of Hawke’s Bay, short distance from the Pacific Ocean. The Terraces are planted to a field blend of Malbec, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, all dry-farmed, and picked together. The fruit is then co-fermented and bottled as Esk Valley Heipipi The Terraces, one of New Zealand’s great wines. #newzealand @gordonatesk (If you look through the three photos they zoom in on the seashell stack visible in the lower right corner of the top photo.)

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Super fascinating. Surveying the Gimblett Gravels area of Hawke’s Bay with Matt Stafford of Craggy Range. Beneath this raw field rest feet of greywacke gravel deposited over hundreds of years by the Ngaruroro River. The stones tend to correlate with a gunmetal dustiness in wines from the area. In planting a piece of land that at first glance looks flat subtle features on the surface can reveal insights on how the site will interact with future vines. Here the variation in color in the natural grasses and flowers reveals an underlying difference in natural water supply and soil density. In planting new sites the Craggy Range teams does what it can to keep the natural shape of the land, rather than smoothing, flattening, or moving soil more than needed to put in vines. These sorts of subtle dips and valleys tend to mean subtle differences in ripening that can bring interesting character to some varieties and problematic ripening to others thereby pointing to smart varietal and clonal choices. Future plans for this particular site are to plant Chardonnay. #newzealand @craggyrange @crmattstafford

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Walking the Craggy Range Syrah blocks in their Gimblett Gravels vineyard with winemaker Matt Stafford talking clonal and rootstock variation in relation to vine age and subtle site variation. Such a complex dynamic of elements that come together and express themselves in the wine. As we walk the blocks we also taste block and clone, then also rootstock specific vinifications. The older vine blocks reveal a more apparent while also more integrated gunmetal dustiness with loads of sapidity that the Gimblett Gravels are celebrated for. The older vine blocks also feel brighter and more complete with finer tannin. In the younger vines some clonal blocks are more floral, others show darker fruits or more savory notes. The contrasting blocks are all within mere feet (or meters here in New Zealand) of each other but also on differing subtle lifts or dips of Greywacke gravel. By keeping the clonal block components separate during vinification the Craggy Range team is better able to study the growing conditions leading into cellar characteristics of the different clones through their development with vine age. In the end the separate blocks are blended to create a more complete wine, capturing the fine tannin and sapidity of the older vines accented by the floral lift, savory backbone, and mix of fruits of the clonal differences. #newzealand @craggyrange @crmattstafford

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Awesome look at aging potential and vintage variation in the Gimblett Gravels via an odd-vintages vertical from 2005 to 2015 of Craggy Range Le Sol Syrah. Vineyard replants and winemaker changes factor in here too but even so there is great insight here on age-ability and the wineries evolution of style. The 2005 has aged well with time still left in bottle. It‘s a richer, riper style than more recent vintages but carries a nice balance of development with still fresh palate stimulation and several years more left to go. By 2011 the wine has become lighter on its feet beginning to reveal the focus on refinement and ultra fine tannin that is front and center in 2015. While the 2013 feels like a perfect vintage with the balance of structure and fruit, depth and freshness, it also needs more time in bottle to settle into the grace it will have more seamlessly in a few more years. Awesome, insightful tasting. Huge thanks to Matt Stafford and Craggy Range for sharing the wines and the time! #newzealand @craggyrange @crmattstafford

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