Incredible Views Paired with Incredible Wines in Central Otago
It's hard to say what I'm more impressed with: the wines of Central Otago or the people who make them. Of course, the two are intertwined so let's just say I was very happy during my three-day trip to this region on the far south end of New Zealand's South Island.
The location is one reason why you find so many passionate people making wine in Central Otago. Central Otago is the most southern wine region in all of the world, presenting a host of challenges, typically weather. Situated among some of the most beautiful mountains imaginable, the area can get quite nippy both early and late in the season presenting challenges with early spring and late autumn frosts. Of course, that coolness is also the reason the area is predominantly planted with Pinot Noir and whites like Pinot Gris and Riesling. We found most of the wines to be stellar and its winemakers driven.
Chief among the more interesting winemakers we visited with was Duncan Forsyth of Mount Edward wines. There's no mistaking where his wine love lies as he sports a RIESLING tattoo that wraps around his right arm. His wines were nothing short of exceptional. We were fortunate to taste one of the last bottles of his 2012 Rieslings (he makes four) since they already had sold out. We also tried a luscious Rose of Pinot Noir and a 2011 Pinot Noir. Thanks Duncan for spending so much time with us. Your passion shows through and we share your sentiment that wine and wine tasting needs to be less serious.
We also had a great visit with Jen Parr, winemaker for Terra Sancta, a newly established label producing fantastic Pinots, Rieslings and Chardonnay among other things. Jen was terribly generous with her time and her pours, including a 2012 Chardonnay that had not been released yet. Blair Hunt from Bald Hills winery is a total character making some seriously good wines. His small winery is for sale, let's hope the next owners care for the property as well as Blair.
The highlight of our trip was actually getting to spend a night in our camper van surrounded by the vineyards for Remarkable Wines. Owner Richard Guthrie allowed us to camp at his place and opened his house to us on a chilly night. He also shared some of his wine with us, the highlight a Pinot Noir from Bannockburn.
One of the great things about visiting Central Otago is that it is so close to the major tourist destination of Queenstown. It takes roughly 15 minutes to get from Queenstown to Amisfield Winery, which is making some of the best whites we tasted. Other standouts included Pinot Noir from Chard Farms, a Chenin Blanc from Mt. Difficulty and everything from Felton Road.
In the interest of brevity I have not given proper credit nor space to all of the wineries and people who shared their stories with us. It's why we're writing a book about New Zealand wines. In the meantime, the next time you are in your local wine shop try to find a bottle of Central Otago wine. Though there are some large producers in the area, you should get a fairly good representation of the area from most bottles and they shouldn't break the bank.
We have tasted wine in a lot of areas around the states and the world and can say that the Central Otago region is hands down the most beautiful of them yet. Flanked by mountains, soaked in sun and surrounded by the occasional lake, the views from the vineyards rival the delicious pours from the cellar doors.