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Here we go first time I am writing a blog about my experience and what better way to start then New Zealand and the Pinot Noir 2013 Conference!!!

Thank to Villa Maria, myself and my colleague JIM YANG-he is managing the Beijing PUDAO shop, were given the opportunity to travel to New Zealand visit Villa Maria various vineyards and join the Pinot Noir conference when you can taste wines from more than 124 producers from New Zealand.

After arriving to Auckland, the next day we flew to Napier-Hawkes Bay. I must say here the country is just gorgeous, the weather was perfect, 26 degrees Celsius average during the day and around 16 degrees Celsius during the night. Absolutely perfect! Visited Villa Maria's world famous winery-ESK VALLEY. We were accompanied by Hawkes Bay regional vitivulturist, John Van der Linden. He was so kind to tour the terraces of the vineyards, giving us an understanding of the different micro-climate and soil differences of the various terraces and vineyards. We also found out that canopy management and attention to details makes the difference, here at Esk Valley they irrigate the vineyards separately  by row to rows. The tour were followed by a tasting of the full range of Esk Valley wines...

All wines are hand picked hand punched and hand selected... Gordon Russell wine maker were make sure you get the best from the terroir from all of his wines and I have to say he succeeded. All the wines expressed great complexity and exceptional balance, without being overwhelmingly explicit or overdone. We particularly liked the Esk Valley Syrah, a modern Northern Rhone Style wine with a lot of black pepper and spice on the nose with substantial acidity and great balance. The other favorite of mine was the Esk Valley Wine maker Reserve Syrah, same vineyard, totally different style, this one is more like a warmer climate Southern Rhone style with lot of depth and structure in the wine. Powerful but it fits it. Shortly after lunch with John and Ollie Powrie- group viticulturist for VM, we went out to Villa Maria nursery and we discover they have one of the biggest or maybe the biggest plantation of Arneis-Nebbiolio Bianco, in the new world... Villa Maria have an extensive operation as they nursery, they supply the vines for all of their vineyards from here and also sell them to other producers. The nursery also features the only one special laboratory for this purpose in the country. Followed by a visit to the different single vineyard sites, such as:
 
•  Keltern
•  Waikahu
•  Twyford Gravels
•  Soler vineyard (organic )

Off to Gimblett Gravels vineyard to explore the different soil type and which one fits which grapes the best. Here they grow Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay among many others. At the end of the day we had a nice dinner with Ollie at Milk&Honey restaurant, close to the see, we drunk a bottle of Keltern Single vineyard Chardonnay-which reminded us a good premier cru Chablis or I would say Mersault, with is creaminess, buttery-ness, expressive but not overwhelming fruit and great complexity. Concluded the night with a bottle of Villa MAria Reserve Merlot 2007, which was very complex, chocolaty, dark red fruits with very well integrated and softened tannins and long, persistent, pleasant finish... What a way to conclude the dinner! 

To be continued....



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