Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration 2018

Set in the jaw dropping beauty of Queenstown, the 13th Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration was a three-day exploratory journey into the culture, passion and diversity of Central Otago Pinot Noir. Hosted in one of the world’s most dramatic and awe-inspiring wine regions, this is a unique opportunity to engage with the region’s top winemakers and other leading wine personalities and enthusiasts from all over the world. Glengarry Wines‘ Sophie Delich writes about her experience.


Day One

The theme for 2018 was ‘connections’ and this was explored on Day One with the Discovery Tasting. Hosted by three winemakers (each with a background wine making in an international region not dissimilar to Central Otago) the tasting was an opportunity to taste their version and understand what goes into making wine in a new and challenging region.

Wines Tasted

Littorai The Pivot Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2015 (California)

Burn Cottage Pinot Noir 2015 (Central Otago)

Domaine Gilbert et Christine Felettig Chambolle Musigny 1er Cru Les Combottes (Burgundy)

Prophets Rock Cuvee Aux Antipodes 2015 (Central Otago)

Giant Steps Applejack Vineyard Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2015 (Australia)

Charteris Te Tahi Pinot Noir 2015 (Central Otago)


Day Two

Off to the Grand Tasting held at the spectacular Amisfield Winery. This tasting is where all of the producers involved are in one place, giving everybody the chance to talk one on one with them and get answers to any questions they have. Each producer presented two wines; most chose their current vintage and also an older example. This was an amazing opportunity to taste some very rare and exciting wines.

Wines Tasted

Too many to name 😉



Day Three

The tasting today was one of the most interesting and engaging I have attended.

Hosted by Elaine Chukan Brown (one of the world’s most respected communicators of wine) alongside winemakers from the region, the focus of the tasting was the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the diverse appellations within.  Elaine has spent a lot of time with the winemakers from this region and as she explained the characters and traits of the winemakers and vineyards, you could really see their personalities coming out in the wine. Fantastic wines and fantastic speakers, this tasting will be remembered as a highlight of the trip for many attendees.

Wines Tasted

Eyrie Outcrop Pinot Noir 2014 (Dundee Hills)

Elk Cove Mount Richmond Pinot Noir 2014 (Yamhill-Carlton)

Bergstrom Silice Pinot Noir 2015 (Chehalem Mountains)

Francis Tannahill The Hermit Pinot Noir 2014 (Dundee Hills)

Brooks Janus Pinot Noir 2014 (Willamette Valley)

Antica Terra Antikythera Pinot Noir 2014 (Eola-Amity Hills)

Day Johan Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015 (Willamette Valley)


Taking good care of history

Heading down to Gisborne to judge at the Gisborne Wine Awards, my first stop off the plane was Matawhero. Kirsten Searle kindly collected me from the Airport and it was not long before the question I’d dreaded came up – ‘When was I last in Gisborne?’, you see, it was in fact my first time to Gisborne. Given it’s NZ’s third largest wine producing area, that’s somewhat of a disgrace.

Kirsten and Richard Searle took over Matawhero from Denis Irwin, somewhat of a local and NZ winemaking legend. I must admit wondering at the time what I would do if I was in their position, taking on a winery with such a reputation. It’s something that those joining me in Gisborne for the Wine Awards also pondered and a subject of much conversation. Denis Irwin made at Matawhero, one of the finest Gewurtztraminer, in it’s prime, it was legendary.

Kirsten took me for a fantastic tour of the property and through thier current releases. I’m delighted to report, there’s clear direction and I believe – in the right way. Rather than dwelling too much on the past, although you do get a clear sense of respect for it, Kirsten and Richard are aiming to showcase the very best that Gisborne as a region can produce. To do this they have partnered with some very smart Gisborne growers, many of whom’s wine I’ve sold for years but never met, including Peter Bryant and Paul Tietjen. It was a delight to meet them and take a tour around their vineyard sites.

Part of highlighting what Gisborne does best involves a fair amount of trial and they are well positioned for it in Gisborne. Riversun nursery is the pre-eminant nursery to the NZ wine industry, and at Matawhero they have had excellent success with some new clones of Pinot Gris.Plus and a wonderfully aromatic Chardonnay clone that they bottle as Chardonnay Musque – often used as a blending component in top Burgundian wines.

I had a delightful afternoon with Kirsten at Matawhero and an educational drive around the region, which set me up nicely for the full day of judging ahead.