2018 began in New Zealand, where I’d been staying for Christmas. It was to be the first of several joy-filled trips to this wonderful country. This time last year, I’d been planning to relocate there. The picture above is looking from the top of the Clayvin Vineyard in the Marlborough region.
I was allowed to attend the Southern Pinot workshop in Hanmer springs in the capacity of accompanying partner. This meant I was allowed to taste the finished wines, but not take part in the sessions where winemakers brought along unfinished wines for frank appraisal by their peers. It’s a great event, and one of the reasons that New Zealand is making such strides with Pinot Noir: there’s a lot of sharing and learning together.
Nat and I did a bit of touring around South Island, including a visit to Milford South, a great life experience.
This was followed by some time at the Central Otago Pinot Noir conference. Pictured above, I’m taking a dip with Ned Goodwin and Frances Hut in Lake Wakatipu.
Pinot Central was great. Here’s the panel that led a great tasting of Oregon Pinot Noir: Elaine Brown, Adam Campbell and Sam Tannahill.
We drove back through some spectacular scenery, through the Haast Pass and up the west coast.
February saw me head to South Africa, for some vintage with Gabrielskloof in Bot River. This is a great place to work: there are three talented winemakers sharing the same space. Peter-Allen Finlayson (above; he makes the excellent Crystallum wines and also the Gabrielskloof wines for his wife Nicolene’s family) is one.
Then there’s Marilese Niemann, of Momento: she’s sampling Grenache here in the Bot River.
And there’s John Seccombe of Thorne & Daughters.
While I was in South Africa I too part in a memorable tasting of old Italian wines with the Swartland crew.
Then it was off to Porto for Simplesmente Vinho, an amazing celebration of artisan wines from Portugal and northern Spain.
I also had an ill-fated trip to Provence where I almost got snowed in, at the end of February. Beast from the East.
March took me back briefly to New Zealand, where among other things I caught up with the talented Dave Clouston who is doing great things with his Two Rivers project, and also some side projects. Above is his Brookby Road vineyard.
And I also headed to Japan, for an in-depth exploration of the Nagano wine region.
I headed back from Japan in time for Prowein. I did some work for Canada (above), New Zealand and Oregon.
And we drank Green Chartreuse in the Killeputsch. And then it was April. Time for tranche 2 of the 2018 International Wine Challenge. Two weeks of judging wine with good people.
We even got to see some cricket at The Oval, where we judge.
Then another visit to Beaujolais. A mixture of producer visits (this is Mont Brouilly, above) and the Biens Boires Beaujolais event.
Pierre Cotton, a new star producer.
And a visit with Fabien Duperray of Jules Desjourneys: the new reference for Beaujolais and the Maconnais.
Then it was back to New Zealand, just in time to catch Takaki Okada’s post-vintage Hangi. The food is cooked in a pit, and this is the unearthing.
In New Zealand I ate well. We had a blow-out wine dinner at Scotch Bar in Blenheim (above, the wines).
Then a great meal at Roots Lyttleton (near Christchurch). It’s a very creative foragey sort of place, and regarded to be one of Kiwiland’s best restaurants.
And a brilliant cocktails and food matching evening at Arbour in Marlborough. Arbour is a gem.
I also did some good visits, including Framingham and their superb wines.
Clos Henri, bringing a bit of the Loire to Blenheim.
And the fab Vandals, making some fun wines.
There was time for a holiday in Thailand with Natalie and her friends. My first time here.
Then off to the Okanagan, beginning with some time in Vancouver, where we got to cook with Ned Bell. And then we had a trip visiting some of the top wineries in this exciting region.
Time to revisit the Garnet Valley Ranch of Haywire: last time I was here it was just planted.
June also saw Ben Henshaw, Daniel Primack and I head to Rias Baixas in northern Spain.
There I discovered gastronomic tinned seafood.
And the charming town of Cambados where we stayed.
Some quality time in Ribeira Sacra, which is a stunning region.
I also went to Norway for the Sandjeford wine festival, with Brian Smith of Elgin Ridge as my travelling companion
Then it was back to Vancouver, and from there to Penticton in the Okanagan, to judge the National Wine Awards of Canada. Always good to hang with my Canadian family.