Misha’s Vineyard shows NZ Junior Sommelier Winner the ‘High Life’

Vineyard Manager Michelle Dacombe talks to Ollie
Vineyard Manager Michelle Dacombe talks to Ollie
Oliver Carr, or ‘Ollie’ as he’s known, was the winner of the inaugural New Zealand Junior Sommelier of the Year title which was judged last September during Auckland’s Wine and Food celebration. The competition was established by Celia Hay, director of the New Zealand School of Food and Wine. The rigorous judging for the New Zealand Sommelier of the Year and the Junior Sommelier title were judged by a team of industry experts – Cameron Douglas, New Zealand’s only Master Sommelier, Tim Hanni, a Master of Wine from California and Therese Herzog, an acclaimed restauranteur from Marlborough.

Misha’s Vineyard is the sponsor of the Junior Sommelier of the Year award, which is open to those under 30 years of age, with the Sommelier of the Year award sponsored by Champagne house Louis Roederer. The sponsorship makes sense for us given the focus with Misha’s Vineyard has always been on working with the country’s leading restaurants who distinguish themselves with outstanding food and wine but also outstanding service. By sponsoring this sommelier award, we hope we can play a small role in motivating and encouraging young industry professionals.

Touring the vines at Misha's Vineyard
Touring the vines at Misha’s Vineyard
Ollie’s prize was to experience a bit of the ‘high life’ in Central Otago as well as learning a little more about the region. His first afternoon was spent with Oliver Masters, who is not only our winemaker but also one of the most well regarded wine judges in the country. It was a great opportunity for Ollie to be able to do some tutored tastings with him and also to visit some of the top rated wine producers in the Central Otago region including Burn Cottage and Aurum Wines. Ollie was then guest of honour at a special degustation dinner at True South Dining Room at The Rees Hotel Queenstown where Executive Chef and rising culinary star, Ben Batterbury had designed the menu. This special dining experience was generously provided by Mark Rose, General Manager of The Rees Hotel Queenstown, whose strong belief in delivering accommodation and dining experiences at the very highest standards, result in the many accolades that the hotel and restaurant receive. (If you’re ever looking for fabulous accommodation in Queenstown, don’t hesitate in booking The Rees Hotel –and of course they serve our wines there!).

Included in the prize was also a helicopter trip over the main winegrowing region of Central Otago. Our local Cromwell-based helicopter company, Heliview Flights, owned by the fabulous couple, Jolanda and Richard Foale, took Ollie all around the Bannockburn region and then down along both sides of Lake Dunstan to see all the vineyards in the Cromwell basin where the majority of Central Otago’s grapes are grown.

Andy, Ollie, Michelle & Misha prepare for the Heliview trip over the vineyards of Cromwell Basin
Andy, Ollie, Michelle & Misha prepare for the Heliview trip over the vineyards of Cromwell Basin
Travelling with Ollie and providing the commentary during the flight was Michelle Dacombe, the Vineyard Manager for Misha’s Vineyard, who has spent many years working on vineyards in the region. Back on land, we headed to Misha’s Vineyard where Michelle took Ollie on a tour and talked about viticultural practices, soils etc. After all of that it was time for lunch, so we set up an impromptu lunch in our old goldminer’s hut, ‘Ah Foo’s House’ on the top block of the vineyard and enjoyed some Limelight Riesling and The High Note Pinot Noir.

It certainly seems Ollie has developed a taste for Central Otago as he has chosen to be temporarily based in the region and is working with one of the local vineyards over the next few months in order to broaden his knowledge and understanding of viticulture, having just completed a post-graduate diploma in Viticulture and Oenology at Lincoln University. He then plans to do some travelling and work at various wineries overseas during vintage to gain further experience.

Lunch on the vineyard at Ah Foo's House
Lunch on the vineyard at Ah Foo’s House
Given that Ollie has come from a family where his father has been a restauranteur for over 20 years, it isn’t surprising Ollie has been attracted to the hospitality sector. He has gained some solid experience in hospitality while working in Wellington, which is where we first met him when he was working at Shed 5, and along with formal qualifications and experience in vineyards and wineries, he certainly will have a fantastic base on which to launch his career in whatever direction he chooses within the hospitality or wine sectors.

We wish Ollie all the best for his career and hope our small contribution provided a little education and inspiration!