We went wine tasting on Wednesday. We started late in the day with a lunch at Wild Earth – an Outdoor Kitchen and Cellar door at 803 Kawarau Gorge Road on the way to Cromwell. They serve a very good tasting menu; small dishes presented on an oak stave with matching wines.
You can also visit the old mining centre just behind the Wild Earth Kitchen. You can see old sluicing guns and pipes, the remains of a rope and metal cage used to bring supplies across the river and some of the old stone built shacks with tin roofs.
After lunch we continued our tasting trip and visited some more wineries along Felton Road in the Bannockburn sub region.
Central Otago is a relatively young wine growing area. Although there is a record of planting here as early as 1864, the first commercial wine growing operations did not start in this area until 1987. The region is famous for its Pinot Noir and also grows Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris.
The Bannockburn area seems to have a micro climate all of its own. The vineyards are planted on alluvial deposits with stony riverbed and mining deposits making for a dry, gravel and schist, free-draining soil. The harvest is much later than in the northern growing areas of New Zealand and the Pinots often have a greater depth… fuller flavour.
Mount Difficulty, Felton Road, Wild Earth and Bald Hill seem to be the leading lights. The oldest vines in Bannockburn are still only about 20 years old at most. From the growers mentioned the Pinots are all ‘keepers’ and need cellaring for a few years before they can be appreciated. In reality they still don’t know how long the wines will cellar. Felton Road said that they have some library stock from old vintages and none of them have ‘fallen over’ yet.