Misha’s Vineyard Joins in the Pinot Celebration Fun

Misha talks to Central Otago wine pioneer Alan Brady
Misha talks to Central Otago wine pioneer Alan Brady
Misha’s Vineyard participated in this year’s 2015 Central Otago Pinot Noir Celebration – it was the 11th time this event has been staged but it was the first year we have been involved.

Held in Queenstown each year, the Pinot Celebration is a two and a half day extravaganza where Central Otago Pinot Noir is placed centre stage and beautifully supported by a stunning array of aromatic white wines from the region. This event has been one of the key reasons that the Central Otago region is the envy of all others as it demonstrates a great cohesiveness within the local winegrowing community. This sense of community has come about for many reasons: it’s a relatively new winegrowing region (20 or so years old) and with that comes a pioneering spirit and sense of comradery and support; it’s a region that’s predominantly made up of family-owned boutique producers; and there is a common thread that links everyone – our ‘hero’ grape variety, Pinot Noir, which accounts for about 80% of the grapes grown in the region, with every producer having Pinot Noir as either part of their range or exclusively focussed on it.

Two examples of  stylish attire! Jeffrey Bragman from the US with Rockburn winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis
Two examples of the stylish attire at Pinot Celebration! Jeffrey Bragman from the US with Rockburn winemaker Malcolm Rees-Francis
The Pinot Celebration sets out to present a balanced program of activities – some were educational, some exploratory, but all enjoyable. Attending these celebrations is quite a varied audience comprising wine producers, wine writers, wine retailers, sommeliers and ‘pinotphiles’ – a term coined to describe consumer Pinot Noir lovers. In fact there were pinotphiles from all over the world, some of whom making the Pinot Celebration a regular event on their calendar! This year the events included a masterclass to understand and appreciate German Pinot Noir – Spätburgunder with a visiting German expert to guide us through this excellent tasting; a masterclass that set out to discover whether the various ages of geological features across the region could be the basis for explaining similarities in some of the Pinot Noirs produced, and a Grand Tasting with every producer showing two Pinot Noirs, current vintage and an older one, in a morning that took dedication and resilience and sheer determination to taste through them all. We showed our 2013 Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir (although it will be a couple of years before we release it) and our 2010 Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir, which had won a Gold Outstanding medal in London the year before last. We had some fantastic comments on the wines and now a few people have had a taste (quite literally) of what’s coming with future Misha’s Vineyard Pinot Noir releases!
UK Master or Wine Tim Akin was very excited!
UK Master of Wine Tim Akin was very excited!

Interspersed with those more serious tasting exercises at the Celebration there was an informal welcome event where a range of older vintage white wines seduced the crowd along with a constant stream of food prepared by one of New Zealand’s icon chefs Josh Emett, and a winemaker’s party complete with a Maori haka and plenty of older Pinot Noirs as well as aromatic whites to keep one busy tasting all evening. The ‘celebrationers’ were broken into smaller groups for lunches and on the first day headed to various creative venues for lunch which included a barrel hall, marquees in vineyards or around beautiful gardens, with only one lunch in a conventional dining space in a winery restaurant at Carrick Winery, which is where Olly, our winemaker, and I enjoyed our winery lunch.

Mel Brown (Providores) with Theo Coles (Kalex Wines)
Mel Brown (Providores) with Theo Coles (Kalex Wines)
The second day of lunches took people to some of the finest restaurants in Queenstown where degustation menus had been developed to perfectly complement a selected range of predominantly older wines. Olly and I were very fortunate as our lunch was at True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel where Executive Chef Ben Batterbury has a reputation for serving Queenstown’s finest food. There were four wines expertly matched by Ben to a lunch that had our group raving. Ben, as always pushed the boundaries on the matching and it worked brilliantly. He paired our 2009 Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris with a dessert – which when I found out at the beginning of the lunch had me let out a little gasp, as pairing an off-dry Pinot Gris with a dessert would not have seemed like an obvious match to say the least. To describe the dessert as a deconstructed apricot cheese cake certainly doesn’t do it justice – it was so much more than that! Yes I should have known better than to doubt Ben’s ability to understand and match flavours and textures! These various lunches over two days provided great conversation topics when the group came together for the evening events as people shared and compared their experiences.

Our Winemaker Olly talks to Dane Campbell from The Musket Room
Our Winemaker Olly talks to Dane Campbell from The Musket Room (NY)

We went straight to the top for the final dinner – literally up a gondola ride to the Skyline restaurant and breathtaking view over Queenstown, and with a special guest chef brought in to prepare the feast. Wines were provided by the participating wineries with every guest also encouraged to dig into their cellar and bring something interesting to share. The number of amazing bottles on the tables at the end of the night proved that this was not exclusively a Pinot Noir celebration!

So why haven’t we previously been part of this wonderful event that attracts well over 200 Pinot Noir lovers from around the world along with those influential wine journalists and sommeliers who are invited to experience the ambiance of this special event?

Hong Kong wine writer Rebecca Leung with Misha
Hong Kong wine writer Rebecca Leung with Misha
For the past five years since we launched our wines, our prime focus has been to establish and build our export markets so that we can be sustainable and viable from a financial and business perspective. To do anything well it takes a lot of hard work and a very focussed approach. But with over 20 export markets now established, we are moving into our next phase of development which is more about but supporting and growing the markets that we are already in, and participating in events and activities in those markets that we believe will be beneficial in building the Misha’s Vineyard brand.

Congratulations to Central Otago Pinot Noir Limited (COPNL) – the marketing arm of our local winegrowing association, who put this event together. There is a lot of commitment and months of work by a small team of volunteers from our local winegrowing community to pull off an event like this. They did it brilliantly!

The Misha’s Vineyard wines that were shown at the 11th Pinot Noir Celebration – January 2015 were:

Welcome party at Rata
Misha’s Vineyard Lyric Riesling 2010
Grand Tasting
Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir 2013
Misha’s Vineyard Verismo Pinot Noir 2010
Winemakers’ Party
Misha’s Vineyard The High Note Pinot Noir 2010
True South -The Rees Hotel
Misha’s Vineyard Dress Circle Pinot Gris 2009
Grand Dinner
Misha’s Vineyard The Gallery Gewurztraminer 2009