Day 4 of my visit was a long, enjoyable one. We began with a drive out to the lovely Northburn station, just out of Cromwell. This was to be the setting for the grand tasting of Central Otago Pinot Noir, with 40 wineries showing two wines each: current release plus an older bottle. This was a brilliantly thought out tasting. It was busy and bustling, but there was no problem accessing wines or spittoons, largely because of the lack of tables – instead, wineries each had their bottles on an upturned barrel. And chair of the celebration Jenn Parr kicked things off by singing Janis Joplin. Remarkable. This is a bit of a rogues gallery. Above we have John Harris and Marilyn Duxson, ex-research scientists whose label is Maori Point. 2012 was a really good, fresh wine. Domenic Mondillo knows how to smile for the camera. The 2012 Mondillo is a lovely warm, ripe style. Andrew Hawker, son of Warwick and Jenny Hawker, has returned from studying enology and will begin making the wines at the family property Pisa Range. The 2006 was showing really beautifully, and 12 is good too. Paul Pujol’s Prophet’s Rock wines really impressed. The current release is sleek, textured and mineral and was one of the wines of the tasting. Here’s Central legend Rudi Bauer with Toronto-based Christopher Waters. The Quartz Reef 2012 is one of Rudi’s best. So pure and fine. What can I say about Nick Mills, and his incredible Rippon wines? Nick looks for what he calls ‘tonic’ qualities in the wine, and the Rippon 2011 is just so textured and vital. 2004 from magnum was quite profound. Marlborough-based Tom Hutchison was showing his Rockferry wines. These are concentrated and quite structured Pinots from the Trig Hill vineyard in Bendigo. Claudio Heye’s Surveyor Thomspon wines are quite delicious, with supple, bright, spicy personality. This was my first time trying the Terra Sancta wines, which come from three vineyards in Bannockburn. I really like them. Pictured above, owners Mark Weldon and Sarah Elliot. Grant Taylor is another Central Legend. Seek out his 2012 Valli Gibbston Vineyard and buy as much as you can. He has toyed a little with reduction and got it just right. Matt Connell’s Akarua wines showed well, supple and stylish, balancing richness and freshness. Lucie Lawrence named the Madeleine Pinot Noir after her daughter, and it’s 100% whole bunch. There’s stemmy spiciness and some nice finesse to the 2012 and it will age in an interesting way, I reckon. Marquis Sauvage of Burn Cottage. What a dude. Ted Lemon, Burn Cottage. Top man. Superb wines, juggling richness and elegance in a seamless whole. The tippy tappy brigade. Brookesey, Stocky and Peter Moser. Then it was time for lunch. We were all split up into groups, each going to different wineries. I was off to Mount Maude in Wanaka. This was a great setting: a beautiful vineyard I’d never been to before, and great people. The food was fabulous, as was the company. We ended up back in Queenstown with just a 20 minute turn-around before leaving for another party. This was a celebration at Jack’s Point, a stunning resort and golf course in the shadow of The Remarkables. Lots of wine (including some lovely older bottles of Central wine) and lots of banter. I made the wise choice to go to bed when we got back to Queenstown, despite the siren calls of my chums.