I’m back at the desk today, successfully managing to make the second half of my Queenstown trip as much of a holiday as possible.
Mostly (sorry family if I went too far).
I’ve got to say, again, that Queenstown is an excellent place to visit. The combination of a dazzling array of ridiculous adventure activities plus superb local wines makes this a very unique tourist destination. I went from mountain bike (epic trails. AM bike essential) to winery in literally under an hour. Couple that with great food and you’ve got the sort of place that I want to visit (again). Maybe in ski season next time (though traffic was bad enough on easter weekend) and I’ll take at least one bike with me.
On that topic, curious to see a distinct lack of road bikes. None. With all those excellent trails I’m not surprised that everyone rides MTB but still, with such epic, accessible hills I was surprised by how few roadies were around. Just not done.
Anyway, the whole purpose of this post is a quick wine wrap-up before I forget the details.
I covered some broad impressions here, but with some additions since I thought a little more insight on the wines might not go astray.
A final thought too – sub-regions (although there is no geographical indication system in NZ, so all unofficial) make a massive difference in Central Otago (CO). In fact, I’d say that the sub-regional difference in CO wines is underplayed. When you consider that Alexandra is classed as semi-arid with some of NZ’s highest summer temperatures, whilst only a shortish drive away Gibbston experiences double the rainfall and can harvest a month later.
Big differences, that are still yet to be fully expressed in the wines, particularly when many are blending across the different districts/sub-regions.
Regardless, this short trip reminded (again) of just how superb a wine region this is. World class wines. World class destination.
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Wines (in alphabetical order by winery)
The closest winery to Queenstown and apparently a great cellar door restaurant (was too full for us). The ’14 Pinot Gris here was a highlight, and the ’11 Pinot was delicious. The ’12 Pinot looked moody and angular next to the ’11 however. The sweetness was a bit overt on the ’12 Lowburn Terrace Riesling but the ’13 Dry Riesling was one of the better dry Rieslings around.
I’ve always liked Carrick, with their Pinot carrying a more savoury, tannic form giving an appeal beyond just immediate drinking. The ’12 Pinot tying with the Mount Edward for ’12 vintage Pinot Noir of choice. I couldn’t get my head around the overly oaky ’13 Excelsior Pinot, which spends a huge 24 months in wood. Looks it too. A long term prospect perhaps? A special mention to the ’13 Crown & Cross Pinot Noir though, produced from the Desert Heart vineyard which has been sold to Sam Neil’s Two Paddocks. For $36NZ this was easily the best value wine of the trip. The whole Carrick range was of a high standard really.
While much of the Pinot during my holiday was young, the mature ’09 Misha’s Vineyard ‘The Highnote’ Pinot was in a really good place. Gentle, evolved, with just a little mushroom to match its red fruit, this was satisfying and easy.
Mount Edward Pinot Noir 2012
The extra angles of the vintage made this a moodier wine than in some previous vintages, with more acidity and savoury character. Complex, cool and spicy, this was one of the better, more complete ’12 Pinots tasted. I’d drink this over many other wines.
The Pinots are now ’13s at Mt Difficulty and they looked very youthful. Even the Roaring Meg is a seriously structured wine in ’13 and has the power and weight comparable to more expensive wines. The only challenge here is a little raw extraction, with the ’13 Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir looking backward and a bit oaky. A top vintage for the winery though. I’d prefer the $46 ’13 Pinot Noir to the $90 ’12 Long Gully Pinot actually, with the younger/cheaper wine’s extra ripeness and structure looking much more promising, though time is required. The Rieslings here lacked sweetness balance, and the ’14 Pinot Rose, whilst serious, looked mighty dry and awkward.
Curiously, this range left me cold (and it doesn’t normally). The ’13 Saddleback Pinot was good value drinking, the ’12 Peregrine Pinot not memorable. A notable exception was the ’10 Rastaburn off-dry Riesling that, at five years, was actually in a good place.
In a quality world of its own. The beautifully moody image at the top of this post is from Rippon. The ’13 Rippon Gewurtz was about the best non-Alsatian Gewurtz I’ve had in ages. I enjoyed a wonderful comparison of steely, bony and beautiful ’12 Rippon Riesling vs the more flashy, riper and drier ’11. Loved both. Intriguingly, the Pinots here are so much more purple compared to many other ’12 Central Otago Pinots. Curious. Is it an acidity thing? Clonal? Nonetheless, the ’12 Rippon Pinot was wonderfully delicate, yet ripe and alive. In fact, the only outlier here was the ’11 Osteiner, an odd little white wine that had acidity but little else going for it.
Just the one Terra Sancta wine, and probably not representative. The ’13 Mysterious Diggings Pinot is an entry-level wine in the scheme of things and looked rather simple and a bit jubey. Pleasant enough, but nothing more.
The delicacy of the Two Paddocks Pinots make this an easy go-to winery. Indeed the delicate, carefully gentle ‘I’ve been to Volnay’ ’13 Pinot was supremely drinkable. Effortless even, if not the deepest or more profound wine.
Just two quick wines from Valli, but again a reminder of just how good Grant’s wines can be. The new ’13 Gibbston Pinot Noir was absolutely delicious, bursting out of its skin with ripe fruits without looking unbalanced. Needs 12 months in bottle, but gee I’d be lining up for it. Ditto the Valli Waitaki Late Harvest Riesling which was beautifully fragrant and full flavoured, yet delicate too. Great balance.
I just got back from a wedding in Wanaka and while I didn't get to visit many wineries, I made sure I wandered up to Rippon and my thoughts echo yours. Picked up some of the Emma's Block and Tinker's Field to hide in the wine fridge for a couple of years. Wonderful location, got some stunning photos there.