An early start, time for a 7 am run around the lake in Queenstown, through the botanic gardens. You can just keep on going for as far as you want, and it’s a really beautiful place to run. So much better than squelching through the winter mud. Then a shower, packing belongings, and off to Cromwell with Stephen Farquharson of Wooing Tree (above).
We stopped off for some cherries on the way (Central Otago is famous for them) and had a quick look at the new motor racing circuit (Highlands – www.highlands.co.nz), before a brilliant tasting looking at all the Pinot Noirs that Wooing Tree have produced to date (2005 was the first vintage here). Then it was off to Bendigo, to visit Folding Hill with Tim Kerruish.
Tim is a medic, an ex-pat Brit, who is based in Dunedin. His 4 hectare vineyard is beautifully situated and he’s making some pretty serious wines in relatively small quantities. Once again, we looked at all the Pinots ever made here, going back to 2007.
The 2012 regular Pinot and the 2011 Orchard Block (from a special part of the vineyard next to Tim’s small cider apple orchard) were mind-blowingly good.
Next up, Mount Difficulty, one of the larger producers in the region, with Matt Dicey (above). They’re in the Bannockburn sub-district, and we had a look at the Long Gully vineyard, planted in 1992, as well as heading up to their irrigation pond for a view across the whole of Bannockburn. In terms of tasting, we once again went back in time to 2007: the regular Pinot is ageing in a beautifully elegant, linear direction. The Long Gully 2008 and 2011 were sensationally good, as was the Growers Series Packspur Vineyard 2011, from a high vineyard in Lowburn.
And Lowburn was the site of the next visit. Lowburn Ferry is the vineyard owned by Roger and Jean Gibson. We tried all the Pinots to date, back to 2003. They have aged beautifully, with 2003 and 2005 (2004 was frosted so no wine) in really good shape. Of recent vintages, 2010, 2012 and 2013 (a barrel sample) were all superb.
The wines are made by Peter Bartle(pictured above) at VinPro, one of the two large contract winemaking facilities in the region. This is another interesting story about Central: the availability of top quality contract winemaking has really helped with quality here. The evening saw an informal gathering at Wooing Tree, with several local winemakers joining a bunch of international guests for a spot of dinner. Pictured below is Denis Marshall of Hawkshead together with Becky Potez who is with Prophet’s Rock.