I spent a week in Central Otago primarily focused around attending the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. Prior to the start of the event I was able to do a full day of vineyard visit and tasting with Grasshopper Rock in the Earnscleugh subzone of Central Otago along with Masters of Wine Jane Skilton and Julia Harding, and then also attend the Air New Zealand Fine Wine List from 2017.
The Air New Zealand Fine Wine List program is an exciting selection of the best wines of New Zealand selected by Masters of Wine and the Master Sommelier of the country. It focuses on wines of pedigree that have both proven themselves over time, and shine in the particular current release vintage. Air New Zealand features a selection of them on their long haul flights as well.
The Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration
Every other year, the region of Central Otago hosts the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. The event features pinot noir of the region while also looking at that made from other celebrated regions of the world. International media and wine professionals, as well as consumers from all over the world attend.
This year, the theme for the event was Connections. As a result, winemakers from other parts of the world who have also made wine in Central Otago attended and were part of the educational seminars as well.
The first day included the Discovery Tasting, led by Matt Dicey of Mt Difficulty, with winemakers Ted Lemon of Littorai in Sonoma and Burn Cottage in Central Otago, François of Comte Georges de Vogüé in Burgundy who also makes the Cuvée Aux Antipodes with Paul Pujol of Prophet’s Rock, and PJ Charteris who works as a wine consultant in the Hunter Valley and makes Charteris Wines from Central Otago. Each winemaker presented a wine from each of their two regions and discussed their experiences learning from both locales.
The second day centered around the Grand Tasting including around 40 wineries from the region in a walk around style, followed by more intimate lunches hosted at featured wineries, and then more intimate dinners held in restaurants around Queenstown.
On the third day, the Formal Tasting, a three-hour seminar designed to go in depth into the featured wine region of the year is held. This year I was asked to lead the seminar on Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with winemakers Adam Campbell of Elk Cove, and Sam Tannahill of Francis-Tannahill, Rex Hill, and A to Z Wineworks. It was an enormous honor to represent the wines we selected, to present with two such knowledgable and recognized winemakers in such a respected event for a region I love as much as Central Otago.
Following the seminar, attendees were escorted to a beautiful and relaxing picnic lunch just outside Queenstown. Then, in the evening we were brought to the top of one of the region’s mountains for the Gala Dinner overlooking Lake Wakatipu.
Following my week in Central Otago for the Celebration, I traveled to Marlborough to do a series of visits centered mainly on smaller producers in the Southern Valleys of the region. The Southern Valleys fall in the cooler side of Marlborough with a mix of soils. There are a wealth of fascinating vineyards, including several that are considered among the best in New Zealand. The area features Sauvignon Blanc more distinctly full of kefir lime leaf and other citrus notes than the examples from the warmer sections of the region, as well as some fantastic aromatic whites, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Syrah. Later this month, I’ll be giving a seminar of several wines from this sub-zone to a group in Oregon.
Following are some of the photos taken during the two weeks in New Zealand as shared along the way on Instagram.
Two Weeks in New Zealand
I realize if you live here a cocktail at 10:30 am might seem a bit startling but since I’ve been awake about 36 hours, a good bit of that on a plane, and have now happily arrived in Queenstown, a gin & tonic overlooking the lake while I wait for my room to be ready is just the right thing to do. #newzealand
Insightful tasting of the Air New Zealand Fine Wines of New Zealand collection. This is the first year Air New Zealand has helped sponsor the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration bringing international media and VIPs from Japan, Sweden, the UK, United States, Australia and also New Zealand for the event, while also coupling the Celebration with their Fine Wine list tasting. Here, a few of the stand out wines from the collection. #newzealand #wine @airnz @pinotcentral @camdouglasms @paulpujol
Hard to find a more celebrated and accomplished collection of world winemakers. My Difficulty’s Matt Dicey, Charteris Wine’s PJ Charteris, Comte George de Vogue’s François Millet, Littorai’s Ted Lemon giving the event’s opening Discovery Tasting: From There to Here, The Journey to Understand Central Otago. #centralotagowine #newzealand @diceywine @charteriswines @littoraiwine @burncottagevineyard @paulpujol @pinotcentral
In considering what makes winegrowing in Central Otago unique compared to where he has worked elsewhere in Burgundy, Napa, Sonoma, Willamette Valley, Ted Lemon points out that Central Otago being so far south (the southern most growing region in the world) means that as the growing season progresses the length of daylight hours begins to reduce very swiftly. The result is that the vines’ fruit ripening moves with the light change and halts grape development as days get short regardless of sugar development or vigneron intent. As a result, farming must be in tune to the swift arc of the growing season and its light levels from the very beginning of the season. #centralotagowine #newzealand @pinotcentral @burncottagevineyard @littoraiwine
In discussing why he makes wine in Central Otago, the Cuvee Aux Antipodes with Paul Pujol at Prophet’s Rock, when he comes from such a rich history in Chambolle Musigny, François Millet says, “There is a lot of nuance and this is very interesting to try to show, to put in the front [of the wines]. And also the vines are getting older [in Central]. At 20 to 25 years old this is when the vines begin to get deeper, into the terroir. And also the vintage variation. There are very interesting vintage differences that prove there is vintage diversity. So [with all these things channeled through winemaking in Central Otago] here there is a lot of room to find the connections between the sky, the land, and the expression of the wines.” #Repost @somm_arthurhon ・・・ #FrançoisMillet speaks about #chambollemusigny and his connection with #centralotago & @paulpujol @prophetsrock @pinotcentral @nzwinegrowers #nzwine
“I don’t think you can get a sense of the site’s complexity, and nuance of the flavor and structure of the site without [experience of the site building] understanding and thought. Without understanding and thought it is just luck. The build up of knowledge and experience becomes very important for consistency across vintages.” – PJ Charteris speaking on what it takes to make genuinely site expressive wines. #centralotagowine #newzealand @charteriswines @pinotcentral
In grad school we had several absurd hypothetical questions we’d ask each other as ways to get through the strain of doing doctoral work in philosophy. One of them was predicting how you were you likely to die. Here’s my answer: Death by gorging on potatoes from an inability to deny and avoid their deliciousness. (Honest to god potato season in New Zealand is the best season. They are not better anywhere else.) Two Paddocks lunch, Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. Earnscleugh. #centralotagowine #newzealand @twopaddocks @pinotcentral
Thank you! Repost @chardfarm … Thank you “for the best ever Oregon wine tasting” @hawk_wakawaka @eyrievineyards @elkcove @bergstromwines @francistannahill @walterscottwines @brianneday very thoughtfully put together and presented. Much appreciated by all here at Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. #pinotcentral #oregonwine #nzwine @pinotcentral
#Repost @paultudormw This morning, a fantastic Willamette Valley Pinot noir tasting hosted by @hawk_wakawaka and Adam from @elkcove and Sam from @rexhillvyds @atozwineworks @francistannahill #centralotagowine #newzealand @pinotcentral @eyrievineyards @bergstromwines @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday
#Repost @somm_arthurhon ・・・ A powerful and personal presentation on the topic of @wvwines at @pinotcentral by @hawk_wakawaka. It was informative and intimate along with panelists, @elkcove and @francistannahill. #nzwine #connection #centralotago #willamettevalley @eyrievineyards @bergstromwines @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday @pinotcentral
#Repost @grasshopperrock ・・・ Elaine Chukan Brown @hawk_wakawaka Fantastically well researched and prepared for Oregon Pinot Noir presentation. Wines generously contributed by @eyrievineyards @elkcove @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday #pinotcentral #centralotago #nzwine #oregonpinot
#Repost @pinotcentral ・・・ An informative, engaging and heartfelt tasting and discussion this morning on Pinot Noir of the Willamette Valley, Oregon, led by @hawk_wakawaka . Amazing! Thank you! 🙏 @eyrievineyards @elkcove @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday
❤️ #Repost @madsmw ・・・ The beauty of connecting people & places. Oregon in Central Otago. Outstanding @willamettevalleyvineyards seminar @hawk_wakawaka style with @francistannahill @elkcove A lineup reflecting the stylistic diversity in a unique way. All wines trembling with great energy, tremendous purity and sense of place while all so diverse in fruit expression. And brought even more to life by communicating the people behind the place and the wine. And somehow, all of them, in the most beautiful of ways, connected to the people of Central Otago. Thx @eyrievineyards @elkcove @joshbergstromwine @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday @oregonwineboard
Can’t wait! #Repost @angiebellalili ・・・ After a SUPER interesting tasting on Oregon Pinot Noir led by @hawk_wakawaka Blair and I decided a visit is in order. Later that same evening he outbid a room full of people to win two return business class tickets from New Zealand to San Francisco!! USA HERE WE COME!! @pinotcentral #soexcited #bestboyfriendever #oregonwine #pinotnoir #wsetdiploma #traveller #winetravel #americaherewecome #tasting #formaltasting #airnewzealand #charity #charityauction @wvwinelady @eyrievineyards @elkcove @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday
#Repost @paulpujol ・・・ Catching breath and catching up on photos after chairing an epic Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration… The formal tasting this year celebrated the ties between Oregon and Central Otago with an absolutely amazing seminar led by Elaine Chukan Brown @hawk_wakawaka and featuring Oregon Adam Campbell and Sam Tannahill on the panel. This was the best Oregon seminar I've ever seen including the ones I was involved with when I worked in Oregon. The range of wines beautifully covered history, geography, style, and included wonderful stories that helped greatly to inform the wines. A massive thanks to Elaine for the unbelievable amount of preparation and expertly leading us through this great flight of 8 wines. Thanks to Adam and Sam for sharing their stories and knowledge with us. @eyrievineyards @elkcove @joshbergstromwine @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday @pinotcentral @wvwinelady
Thank you to Sophie Delich of Glengarry Wines for her kind write up on the Willamette Valley Pinot Seminar for the recent Central Otago Pinot about Celebration for their shop newsletter. #centralotagowine #newzealand @pinotcentral @glengarrywines @eyrievineyards @elkcove @bergstromwines @francistannahill @brookswinery @antica_terra @walterscottwines @brianneday @paulpujol @wvwinelady
Awesome to hear Joe Czerwinski reflect on the growth and changes of the Central Otago wine industry since his first visit in 2000 as one of the closing keynotes for the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration. Great speech, Joe! #centralotagowine #newzealand @joeczinsta #Repost @angiebellalili @pinotcentral
Awesome return to a discussion on texture in winemaking with Lucie Lawrence of Aurum. We started the conversation a year ago, and have come back to it again and again from different angles. Today we got to sit down with a horizontal of 2014 Pinot Gris made in three different styles – white, rosé, and Amber. Really delicious to see all three with a few years of bottle age. It has brought good result in all three wines. Always nice to have time with you, Lucie! Thank you! #centralotagowine #newzealand @aurumwineslucie
Digging into the viticultural history of Marlborough with none other than Mister Brian Bicknell himself. The history of the region is deeply fascinating and no one is more interesting to discuss it with than Brian. He knows the subject intimately from a combination of his own experience and his diligence speaking with and listening to early founders, but also because he hunts out, collects, and studies old wine books (so cool). Awesome opportunity to dig into the subject with him and his library. Hugely grateful to Brian for his taking the time. #marlboroughwine #newzealand @mahiwine
It turns out in the middle of a rainstorm, when you still need to see the vineyards, a Mini Cooper is the perfect size to fit down rows, and the perfect window height to put you exactly in the fruit zone. In a four door Mini Cooper you could actually load up the car, roll down all four windows and literally go about all your leaf pulling or fruit thinning no problem. I know. Brian Bicknell and I tested it. I’m not sure I have ever had more fun. Here, checking on Sauvignon Blanc in the cooler western reaches of Marlborough where fruit character rests in lime leaf and citrus oils, and the older vines Mahi works with deliver genuine fruit weight. Wines worth drinking. #marlboroughwine #newzealand @mahiwine
Delicious, sophisticated wines of finesse. Really impressive line up of single vineyard wines across a range of whites from Mahi. Real stand outs from single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – here from Boundary Farm – and Pinot Gris – here from Ward Farm, each especially in the 2015 vintage. Great fruit weight, textural freshness, and a long, mouthwatering spine of acidity in both cases. Mahi shows the nobility of these varieties through the single vineyard examples with truly distinct, site expressive wines. Awesome to see. #marlboroughwine #newzealand @mahiwine
Hell of a thing when you walk into a cocktail party wearing a shirt from the same winery as your buddy from the other side of the world when you’re both in a different hemisphere than the winery you’re wearing and neither of you even live in the place where the winery is located and nobody planned it. Cheers to @brookswinery and @janiebrooksheuck from Marlborough! #newzealand #willamettevalley @drjamiegoode Thanks for the pic, @natjchristensen !
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