In New Zealand, day 3, The Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration starts

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This is turning into a very good trip. Day three began with two visits. The first was at Grasshopper Rock, with Phil Handford. Phil lives in Hamilton, and has a background in agricultural banking, He found the perfect vineyard in Alexandra (the picture above is Clyde, the main town here), and now makes 4000 cases a year of just Pinot Noir from this site. It was my first time in this subdistrict.

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We tried all the wines, back to the first vintage. He only makes one wine, which is a sensible strategy, and it’s priced about $10 dollars cheaper than its peers (in the UK it is £20 from Naked Wines), which makes it a total bargain.

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Every vintage is good, but a particular standout is the 2010. 2011 is really good, in a slightly lighter style, and when the 2012 is released later this year, I think I will buy some. Pictured above: Phil, one of his rows with leaf plucking in the fruit zone, and a sunburned bunch.

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Then it was off to see Steve Davies, in Bannockburn, whose label is Doctors Flat. Steve has a lot of experience as a winemaker, a lot of it gained in the USA, and then with Carrick in Central Otago. He bought a 15 hectare property at 300 m elevation, and has planted 3 ha with vines. The vineyard is managed organically, with every 10th row planted with flowers to encourage beneficial insects.

His wines are really great, with the 2011 and 2012 in particular showing real elegance and precision. He makes the wine at Mount Difficulty and then brings the barrels up to a container he’s parked on his property, and then takes the barrels to VinPro for blending and bottling. It’s an ingenious move.

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After a drive back to Queenstown, it was time for the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration to begin, with a special tasting of selected 2012 wines. This was really good, and demonstrated just how smart 2012 is as a vintage here. I liked all the wines, but it was particularly interesting to taste two interpretations of the same vineyard: Steve’s Doctors Flat, and Grant Taylor’s Valli Bannockburn, also made from the Doctors Flat vineyard. Steve’s was lighter and more expressive, while Grant’s had a bit more flesh. Both were fantastic. Pictured below: Blair Walter (Felton Road) and Grant Taylor, at the tasting.

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