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Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration 2014 – Overview

By January 30, 2014No Comments

After attending the 2014 Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration in Queenstown, just one year after Pinot Noir 2013 which was held in Wellington, it was inevitable to draw comparisons. Questions could be asked: Which event is better? Do the two Pinot Noir celebrations offer something different? Is there room for two similar themed festivities, held so close to each other? There is a difference in cost, the Central Otago event around $1,300.00 pp, whereas the Wellington one is around $2,000.00 pp. Of course, this is a factor to be taken in.

Both Pinot Noir events are high price ticket items, and will appeal to all Pinot Noir interested people, but in practical terms, only those with a vested interest will really be able to afford to go, unless, one has some discretionary income. Having attended both this year’s Central Otago Celebration and Pinot Noir 2013 as a media guest, but considering paying my own (or my partner’s) way, I conclude that both are definitely worth the cost, and we could attend as paying delegates in future events. Our experience in the past has been working at the Pinot Noir conferences in 2001, 2004 and 2007, so seeing the ‘guest’ experience has demonstrated the quality and value delivered at both events.

Central Otago Celebration vs Pinot Noir Conference
One cannot help but see the similarity in programmes for both events. Both run for around the same duration. There are large-scale more informal ‘exhibition’ tastings as well as structured and themed tastings. And the culinary side features good food and dining in high-end restaurants as well as more rustic, ‘country’ fare, as well as plenty of canapé dining.

However, the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration is a focus on one region, and as such, it gives a deeper insight to the particulars of growing and making of Pinot Noir there and how it tastes, whereas the Wellington conference offers a broad, countrywide perspective. Being in situ in Central Otago offers delegates the experience of feeling the environment where the vineyards are site, the grapes grown and the wine made. You can sense the terroir. And of course, the natural beauty of Central Otago is stunning and incomparable. Wellington offers the sophistication of a city, the situation where much fine Pinot Noir will be consumed. The compactness of Wellington is a logistical pleasure. There is no doubt the Central Otago experience is more hedonistic and consumer-focussed. This makes it a wonderful event for a wider audience. The Pinot Noir conference in Wellington is geared towards the industry professional, and the agenda of promoting the Pinot Noir industry to overseas guests as well as trade and hospitality personnel is evident.

The issue of market saturation with two similar promotions is a real one. The lure of attending these Pinot Noir-fests is very strong, and between the two, the opportunity of attending around two times every three years. Factoring in travel and accommodation, that is an investment in money as well as time. Unless Pinot Noir is everything, there are other things in the world of wine and in our personal lives to be at and devote time and attention to. Something will suffer! From the perspective of the Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration organisers, I feel they have a winning formula. This is borne out by the fact that this year’s celebration was a sell-out.

An Overview of the Programme
I’ve written reports and reviews of several of the winery visits and tastings I participated in, and these are posted on this website, and I list links to them below, rather than put more words to print. Here, I briefly summarise the other events in the context of the time frame:

Wednesday 29 January
Not officially part of the programme, many guests and delegates fitted in winery visits before the organised activities began. I visited:
Grasshopper Rock, Alexandra – Click here for my report tasting 2006 – 2012 Pinot Noirs.
Domain Road, Bannockburn – Click here for my report on seeing the two vineyards and tasting current releases.
Doctors Flat, Bannockburn – Click here for my report and notes on 2008 – 2012 Pinot Noirs.

Thursday 30 January
An informal visit to Wooing Tree in Cromwell started the day. Click here to see my report and review of tasting 2005 2012 Pinot Noirs.

Central Otago Masterclass‘A Coming of Age’ – Click here to see my report on an outstanding selection of 12 Pinot Noir wines from the 2012 vintage.

The Formal Welcome was conducted at Josh Emett’s ‘Rata’ restaurant in Queenstown, with canapés and a selection of Central Otago whites wines.

Friday 31 January
The Grand Pinot Noir Tasting – Click here to see my review of tasting 40+ Pinot Noir wines mainly from the 2012 vintage, from 80 that were on offer.

Tables beautifully set for lunch at Two Paddocks

Lunch in the Vines – The 200 delegates were divided into different groups. I was in the party that went to Two Paddocks ‘Red Bank’ vineyard, between Alexandra and Clyde.
Our starter was roast quail, Otago cherries, hazelnuts and liver parfait, served with the Two Paddocks ‘Last Chance’ Earnscleugh Pinot Noir 2010, a classically structured, youthful Alexandra expression, and the Domain Road ‘Paradise’ Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2009, a full, dense and opulent wine with great harmony and layers. For the main, it was slow roasted Silere lamb shoulder, Vadouvan spiced cauliflower and almonds, coriander, with sides of new potatoes, sweetcorn and green salad. We had a very youthful, black-fruited Two Paddocks ‘First Paddock’ Gibbston Pinot Noir 2006 and a fully mature, sweet Pisa Range Estate ‘Black Poplar’ Pisa Pinot Noir 2003. Then out came cheeses, dessert and a few other aged wine treasures…

It was a pleasure to have a more relaxed situation for the Winemakers Party in the evening. A Maori welcome and canapés at Jacks Point resort. The wine selection included many cellar-aged examples. Many (people and bottles) danced into the night…

Saturday 1 February
The Formal Tasting ‘The Climats of Burgundy’ – Click here for my review of this tasting of 6 burgundies demonstrating the difference of climat. This was preceded by a presentation on the Bid for UNESCO World Heritage Status.

The Wines – Lunch at Lombardi, St Moritz Hotel, Queenstown

Lunch in Downtown Queenstown – The delegates went to various restaurants in Queenstown, and I attended lunch at ‘Lombardi’ at the St Moritz Hotel. The first of four courses was Atlantic scallops, duck tongues, sweet corn mash, chilli marmalade, served with a gently rich and attractively accessible Hawkshead Pinot Gris 2012. Next was the Havoc pork scotch fillet, mango chutney, carrot puree, passionfruit emulsion, served with a beautifully lime pure, seamless and soft-textured Judge Rock Riesling 2013. The third course was more challenging, Ox tongue, soft shell crab, Kalamata essence, yerba mate béarnaise sauce, matched with a steely, lime-flavoured and subtly nuanced Gibbston Valley Pinot Blanc 2008. Then with the berry delight dessert with panna cotta, vanilla ice-cream and Central Otago berries was a mis-matched, but still delightfully lush Mud House ‘Golden Terraces’ Bendigo Pinot Noir 2011.

The final event was The Grand Dinner and The Celebration Pinot Noir Trust Charity Auction at the Skyline Restaurant, accessed by the famous gondolas. The dinner courses composed canapés of Fiordland crayfish tail and cured Akaroa salmon, the entrée of rabbit and pork rillettes, a main of roasted Fiordland venison back , flowed by a lemon tart for dessert and Whitestone cheeses. While a selection of wines, one from each of the 40 producers involved, was available, it has become a tradition to bring a bottle of something special to share with fellow guests and diners. As can be imagined, there was a wealth of burgundy wines, many with bottle-age being passed around and poured…

The Charity Auction featured just over a dozen lots with a ‘Central Otago Cuvee’ 2014 to be assembled from the combined fruit from the 40 wineries involved in the Celebration from the 2014 vintage (still on vine). The lots included dozens of 750 ml bottles and larger formats up to 9 L. The original artwork of Nigel Brown was one of the lots and his painting will feature on the labels. Included in the lots was a ‘Cuvee Barrel’ from Bouchard Cooperages and Tonnellerie Billon. The auction beneficiaries were The Mercy Hospital Charitable Outreach and Sport Otago Trust. Media personality John Hawkesby was the entertaining and popular auctioneer, and over $40,000 was raised. www.pinotcelebration.co.nz

Magnificent vew from the Skyline Restaurant, Queenstown

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