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Two Weeks in New Zealand


Central Otago

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




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

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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

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#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

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