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Misha’s Vineyard in Fiji

Posted on May 27th, 2015

In May Misha and Andy visited our distributor and customers in Fiji

Fiji - trade calls in Denarau (63)Bula! You might think that a trip to Fiji is hardly likely to be a business trip but I can assure you our trip in May was absolutely packed with trade visits, wine training with various hotels and resorts, hosting various wine dinners, and also spending some time with wonderful distributor, Victoria Wines.

Arriving in Nadi, we were met by Kate Vusoniwailala, whose father Liam established Victoria Wines many years back and who still is very involved in the business. Kate is now responsible for the day-to-day running of the business and is doing an amazing job and expanding the team. In fact Victoria Wines now has a training manager on board and has started to provide WSET education which is a milestone for Fiji in terms of hospitality education. Just a couple of weeks before we arrived, Victoria Wines had invited one of New Zealand’s Master of Wine, Jane Skilton, to Fiji to conduct some WSET training in Nadi and Suva.

Gateway to Castaway Island Resort

Gateway to Castaway Island Resort

After a short trip from the airport, we settled into the beautiful Sofitel Hotel on Denarau Island and as the sun went down we acclimatised to our new surroundings with a ‘Bula – Life on the Beach’ – a very colourful cocktail that’s a speciality of the hotel! Next day our business activities start and we met by the effervescent Joyce Kumari, who heads the sales team, and were off on our first call.
Arriving in style at Castaway Island

Arriving in style at Castaway Island

This first meeting was via boat – in fact it was via the local ferry first and then mid-ocean we transferred to a smaller boat – and then we had to jump out of the small boat and wade in to the island! The vision of Andy with his shoes and socks popped the top of the carton of wine he was carrying from the boat up the beach looked like he was doing an ad for courier company DHL – ‘we will delivery…no matter what’! We had a wonderful meeting with Steven and Monica on Castaway Island – our first-ever barefoot trade call sitting at a table under palm trees. That’s the way all meetings should take place.

Joyce & Misha

Joyce & Misha

Back at Denarau Port we had the opportunity to visit the brand new Yacht Club with their wonderful restaurant Rhum-Ba. In fact we visited it on their first day of business and came back and had dinner on their 2nd night of operations – and it was fabulous. We were delighted to see that our Misha’s Vineyard Lyric Riesling is featured on their small and carefully chosen wine list and we hear there will be more of our wines on the list soon! If you’re ever in Denarau, visit the Yacht Club – which promises to be one of the most popular spots in town judging by the number of people we saw there in the first couple of days of business. Whilst on Denarau Island, we also met with met with the F&B Directors of some of the top hotels (including at the Sofitel Hotel where we were staying) and did another wonderful training session with the team at the Hilton Hotel. We had been to the Hilton two years earlier and they stock Misha’s Vineyard wines, so it was great to go back and do some refresher training there.

The amazing Victoria Wines team

The amazing Victoria Wines team

The next day after some training with the Victoria Wines team, Andy and I headed out to the airport for our flight to Laucala Island – the second time we have been invited to the island. Laucala (pronounced ‘Lauthala’) is to the east of Taveuni Island and is owned by billionaire Dietrich-Mateschitz of Red Bull fame. Initially his own private island, Laucala is now open to visitors but targets only the world’s most discerning travellers and frequently hosts celebrities looking for the ultimate in luxury and privacy. We were flown out on one of the island’s private planes and on arrival settled into our gloriously spacious hilltop villa. It’s hard to describe the luxury of Laucala Island – you need to experience to know just how perfect a place can be!

Our villa at Laucala

Our villa at Laucala

Our first evening on Laucala Island started with cocktails at the Rock Lounge with Tony, the golf pro who manages the 18-hole championship golf course, then a wonderful Asian-inspired dinner at Seagrass Lounge. It’s not unusual to be the only people at a restaurant at Laucala Island as they regularly have less than a dozen guests on the island and five restaurants – hard to get your head around right? But wait, they have a staggering 370 staff because Laucala Island is focussed on sustainability with most of what’s used on the island being produced on the island, so many of the staff are involved in the organic farms and gardens producing fruit, vegetables, herbs and meat for resort restaurants as well as flowers and spices for the spa.

Staff training at Laucala - lots of fun!

Staff training at Laucala – lots of fun!

The next day, Andy and I delivered wine education to the F&B teams starting with a three-hour session in the morning which was repeated in the afternoon with a second group of staff. We taught the Laucala Island team about New Zealand wine, detailed information on the key varieties and we did a little wine tasting with them too. With many having taken some WSET education already so they were a pretty knowledgeable crew! In the evening we hosted a wine dinner in the main restaurant Plantation House with some of the guests and the islands General Manager Andrew Thomson, with the range of our wines that the resort carries, as well as a few special wines we brought over with us. Sadly the next morning, we had to leave the island but we do have an invitation to return again! We will definitely be back.

The team training at The Pearl

The team training at The Pearl

We flew into Suva and spent a day visiting customers and also training the Victoria Wines team in the lovely new shop in Damodar City centre then we drove down to The Pearl South Pacific Resort which is set on one of Fiji’s longest beaches. Within a few minutes of arriving we were back into wine training for the team at the hotel! With the training complete, we had a little time to relax before we headed to the brand new restaurant at the hotel called Seduce. The hotel’s General Manager Natalie Marletta, was responsible for conceiving the restaurant and she’s done an amazing job as it’s a seriously beautiful space with the most incredible views across the ocean. Chef Ben Tedrick created some superb and innovative food with his degustation menu. This was our second wine event at The Pearl, having been there two years earlier for a wine lunch. I have a feeling we’ll be back at The Pearl before too long as well!

The next morning we were driven back to Nadi to connect without flight home and back to reality. The truth is i I only had about 15 minutes in a pool the whole time we were in Fiji as it really was a business trip. However, we dined on some of the most amazing food, had the most glorious cocktails, stayed in some luxurious hotels and resorts and met some of the nicest and happiest people in the world. I don’t mind that sort of work!

Canadian “Gold Medal Plates” Visit to Vineyard

Posted on March 30th, 2015

Olly talks about the Central Otago region and wines

Olly talks about the Central Otago region and wines

On 30th March we welcomed a group of 20 Canadian visitors to Misha’s Vineyard. Lead by well-known Toronto wine writer and educator David Lawrason, the wine interest group was part of a larger “Gold Medal Plates” tour from Canada who were visiting New Zealand. Gold Medal Plates raises money for high performance Canadian athletes through culinary events and trip auctions.

With the weather having been forecast cold and damp we were delighted to see clear skies and no wind in the morning as we set up marquee, tables and wine table ahead of their arrival. The area around Ah Foo’s House on the Top Block of Misha’s Vineyard has been used for

David Lawrason talks to the group about the style of New Zealand wines

David Lawrason talks to the group about the style of New Zealand wines

smaller groups and tastings before, but not for a larger scale lunch so our vineyard crew had done some clearing work earlier in the week to make sure we had space for the lunch marquee and a gazebo for the food and wine. We lit the fire in Ah Foo’s to make sure there was some warmth should the weather turn cold and to add to the character and atmosphere of the site.

On arrival the group were given an introduction to Misha’s Vineyard and an overview of the Central Otago wine region by Vineyard Manager Michelle Dacombe and Misha’s Vineyard winemaker Olly Masters. This introduction included a tour of the vineyard with Michelle to see the slopes and soils of the vineyard, and a tasting of wines from Misha’s Vineyard, Aurum, Quartz Reef and Mondillo hosted by Olly to show the quality and diversity of wines from the region. One of our seasonal vineyard team – Haruru Kubo a sommelier from Tokyo – helped with pouring the wines as we talked about the climate, soils, viticulture and winemaking that has propelled Central Otago wines to prominence in such a short time.

Cooking the Paella

Cooking the Paella

Rees Hotel GM Mark Rose with the Paella

Rees Hotel GM Mark Rose with the Paella

The group were staying at The Rees Hotel & Luxury Apartments in Queenstown, and lunch was prepared by hotel General Manager Mark Rosewho proved his culinary expertise in quite rustic surroundings. With limited cooking facilities available on the vineyard Mark and Mika used Ah Foo’s fireplace to prepare the Paella and our small BBQ to cook the chicken and seafood topping. The lunch was quite spectacular. The fireplace gave a slight smoky note to the Paella which was sensational, and the finishing touches produced a platter that could have been from any fine dining kitchen. Ah Foo would have been impressed!

Lunch is served!

Lunch is served!

David Lawrason gave a pre-lunch talk on the wines we had for the day, plus some other wines of New Zealand that had been bought along to show the group. It was really interesting to hear his perspective on the wines of New Zealand and how each region has such distinctive characters that show through.

Lunch was a huge success and we won a lot of fans for Central Otago wines from this high profile Canadian group. Thanks to Rudi (Quartz Reef), Lucie (Aurum) and Dominic (Mondillo) for assisting with great wines.

Misha’s Vineyard Returns to Singapore

Posted on March 28th, 2015

Misha updates on her recent trip to Singapore to visit customers and attend SAVOUR – the Singapore food and wine extravaganza.

Visitors at Savour 2015

Visitors at Savour 2015

Given we lived in Singapore for over 17 years, returning for business trips feels like returning home in many ways. Waiting at Auckland airport for my Singapore Airlines flight, I read the news about the passing of Lee Kuan Yew in the early hours of that day. Lee was the first Prime Minister of Singapore and known as the founding father of independent Singapore – a country which transitioned from a third world country to a first world country in a single generation under his leadership. So it was with sadness that I boarded the flight but also feeling a sense of consolation that I was at least going to be in Singapore during the week of mourning.

My Singapore work schedule started with an Indian themed trade dinner which, to be honest, I had been a little nervous about when I realised the wine pairing wasn’t a case of one wine with one dish but one wine with 3-6 dishes within each course! However my fears were allayed once we started this wine dinner at Tandoor Restaurant at the Holiday Inn as the team there were actually quite expert in matching food and wine flavours – and have won awards for doing so! The evening worked brilliantly and we had quite a large group of trade attending. Some of them admitted they came as they were curious as to how wines could match the diverse menu that had been published! What I learned from the evening is that Pinot Noir is a very versatile wine (actually I already knew that!) and that aromatic white wines with some residual sugar are wonderful food companions to spicy food – and to be honest I knew that too! Our Limelight Riesling really proved herself to be the most accommodating of all the wines with the foods we were served so my advice is, if you like Indian food, you absolutely need buy some Misha’s Vineyard Limelight Riesling!

Visitors at Savour 2015

Visitors at Savour 2015

I was able to meet some new accounts during some trade visits and am pleased to announce that Harry’s now carry our Limelight Riesling in Singapore thanks to a great tasting with Darren Mark Ee. And I’m also pleased to announce that the Grand Hyatt in Singapore now have our Sauvignon Blanc listed after a tasting with Chai – and a bit of pressure from long-term expat Phil Medway who’s a regular at the Grand Hyatt and very keen to be drinking our Sauvignon Blanc on a regular basis! I had a fabulous day visiting customers and potential new accounts with Ivy Lee, one of our distributor, Crystal Wines’ most experienced sales staff and who predominantly looks after the 5 star hotels.

Visitors at Savour 2015

Visitors at Savour 2015

The main reason for my visit to Singapore was to participate in the Savour event – a food and wine extravaganza which ran from the 26th to 29th March. Having participated at Savour before, I knew it was going to be tough going with 4 days of standing behind a counter serving wine. Fortunately the first two days only have evening sessions instead of all day sessions! The wine showcased at the event was all from Crystal Wines, so it was a wonderful selection of premium wine from around the world. To attend Savour, attendees pay SGD $60 to just in through the main gate and then to get into the wine area, there was an additional tasting ticket required (which was then refunded on purchase of two bottles of any wine). I must say, it was a pleasure serving wines and talking about our wines over the four days of the event as many people were pretty wine savvy and the rest were really keen to learn more! One of the big hits in terms of our wines, was ‘The Cadenza’ – our new late harvest Gewurztraminer which seemed to be something that everyone enjoyed. Thank goodness Crystal had ordered enough stock of this wine as it was a bottle that people were purchasing to take home with them!

Visitors at Savour 2015

Visitors at Savour 2015

I presented a Masterclass on Pinot Noir in the Wine Theatre on the second evening of the event entitled “Pinot Noirs of the World – New Zealand’s Place in the World”. We had a full attendance at the class where the first part of the class went through various aspects of growing and making Pinot Noir. We then poured 6 Pinot Noirs for the class and gave them a list of 6 Pinot Noir regions and some time to taste the wines and match the Pinots with a region. As we then went through each Pinot Noir and unveiled their origins, most people were surprised with very few able to select the correct region. Within the flight of Pinots there were two from New Zealand (Marlborough and Central Otago) and the other regions represented were Burgundy (France), Willamette Valley (Oregon, USA), Yarra Valley (Victoria, Australia) and Casablanca Valley (Chile). The class certainly showed the diversity of Pinot Noir but I think it also showed that New Zealand makes some fine examples of this variety!

The nice thing about being in Singapore for the Savour event was being able to spend a bit of time with Kimberley Judd from Greywacke and her son Alex. Greywacke and Misha’s Vineyard are on the same portfolio in New Zealand with Negociants and also in Singapore with Crystal Wines. So between sessions at Savour we shared a few coffees, a couple of lunches and the odd glass of something sparkling!

On tour in Hong Kong & China – March 2015

Posted on March 25th, 2015

A report on the recent sales trip to Hong Kong & China by Andy & Olly

With the focus that is placed on the Chinese wine market it is always interesting to get out and meet sommeliers, retailers, consumers and wine sales people in Hong Kong and China. The hype is always a little above the reality, but these are still very important markets and ones that Misha’s Vineyard has been investing in.

Members at the Foreign Correspondents Club

Members at the Foreign Correspondents Club

Olly Master (our winemaker) and I started in Hong Kong with visits to current and prospective customers at some of the most amazing hotels and restaurants including The Upper House and The Park Lane Hotel. Hong Kong was one of Misha’s Vineyard’s first four markets and we have started to develop some great history with both our wine distributor – Jebsen Fine Wines – and many of their customers. Monday night, after an overnight flight from Auckland, we did our first wine dinner with the enthusiastic and vocal members of the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club.

Olly with Celia from Jebsen HK and Roger Chan of Greys at The Upper House

Olly with Celia from Jebsen HK and Roger Chan of Greys at The Upper House

Organisers from the clubs wine committee wanted to have us share the stories of our Chinese connection with the members, as well as some detailed information on the wines. Perfect for myself to be the story-teller and Olly the more serious wine guy! We had a great evening – lots of questions and plenty of laughter and chatter. The evening finished with a quick quiz on Central Otago wines – with the winners taking home a bottle of our fab Pinot Noir.

Some of the party at Ming Court

Some of the party at Ming Court

After visiting customers on Tuesday we returned to the two Michelin Star Cantonese restaurant, Ming Court at The Langham Hotel in Mong Kok. Misha and I had hosted a wine dinner at Ming Court two years ago and were amazed by the food and service – this dinner was no exception. The dinner guests were customer of Rare & Fine Wines – one of our long term retailers in Hong Kong whose stores boast some of the finest wines of the world, and whose customers are some of Hong Kong’s most discerning wine collectors. The menu was again truly amazing, with dishes matched to our wines by sommelier Vincent Yuen and the chefs in this icon restaurant of Asia. The guests had a great night – with lots of toasts and “cheers” as the evening progressed.

Wednesday was training day for the Jebsen sales team – a refresher on Misha’s Vineyard for many of the team and an introduction for some new sales reps who have joined recently. We also had the opportunity to have dinner with well-known wine writer and educator Mabel Lai, with her husband Hood and principal lecturer Karl who with Mabel run the Hong Kong Wine Academy. Mabel is studying for her Master of Wine which offer the opportunity for Hood, Karl and Olly to challenge her with some blind tastings of wines bought along. She certainly impressed with her well trained palate picking up most of the wine styles and characters!

Hong Kong is a vibrant and dynamic city and we love the enthusiasm we see at every event we participate in!

Fried Scorpion

Fried Scorpion

BBQ Snake

BBQ Snake

Grilled spiders

Grilled spiders

On to Beijing and Olly’s first visit to China. With our hotel being right next to The Forbidden City and a short walk to Tiananmen Square Olly had the chance to explore a little in the evenings and also try some local delicacies

Jebsen Beijing team

Jebsen Beijing team

Our visit to Beijing was quite brief – but with training of the Jebsen team in the Friday morning and an afternoon trade masterclass held at the China World Hotel we had the opportunity to meet quite a few sommeliers and all of the Jebsen Beijing team. A lot of the talk was of how clean the air was that week – unusual for Beijing but because the government was holding a major “congress” of all senior Communist Party leaders, the surrounding factories had been closed as they did for the Olympics to reduce the smog for a short period.

Next city was Shanghai – one of my favourite cities in the world (pollution aside). Since going there first more than 25 years ago it has changed drastically from drab grey two story concrete and brick houses and narrow street markets to a mass of skyscrapers, designer shops, massive shopping malls and great hotels. We had a weekend to explore and shop before starting work with customer lunches, trade meetings and staff training on Monday & Tuesday.

Olly presenting at TasteSpirit masterclass

Olly presenting at TasteSpirit masterclass

Part of the schedule included a masterclass on “Central Otago – Pinot Noir and more” for the TasteSpirit wine school founded by Young Shi (who visited us in NZ) and Siwei Zhu. The class was packed, and included one of our former vineyard workers who had returned to China to continue wine studies! Olly provided the technical and informative part of the class – with wines to show why Central Otago has such an amazing reputation not just for Pinot Noir – but also cool climate aromatic wines. My role was some light entertainment in-between with our Chinese gold mining stories, and the connection of Misha’s opera background to the wine names. They even played opera excerpts – selected by Misha – to match the wines. Olly and many of the class were convinced the music made the wines taste different!

Olly talks to a customer at The Langham tasting

Olly talks to a customer at The Langham tasting

The last event in Shanghai was an open trade tasting at the beautiful Langham Hotel where they have our wines listed and served by-the-glass. We had a number of sommeliers and wine retailers come through to taste the wines and chat to Olly and myself. The impressive images of Misha’s Vineyard had been set onto art boards by our brand manager at Jebsen China – Amanda – and had a real impact at the venue.

Final stop was in Guangzhou, a city of over 20 million people where I have not been for over 10 years. While our wines are with Jebsen Fine Wines in Guangzhou we had not made it there on previous visits to do training or visit any customers. It was a short visit but well worthwhile with our morning staff training and lunch at The Westin Hotel – overlooking the central park and some of the redeveloped areas of Guangzhou.

While everything about this trip flowed easily we know how much work goes into making these visits a success. A huge thanks to the Jebsen teams in both Hong Kong and China – we look forward to coming back again soon.

Vineyard Happenings…

Posted on March 20th, 2015

Michelle Dacombe Feb 2015Vineyard Manager, Michelle Dacombe’s pre-2015 harvest Blog Update

It’s a long time since my first week at Misha’s Vineyard – and a lot has happened! After a cooler, drier and windier spring than we have had in a while, we finally had some growth on our canopy in late November. December saw a very successful flowering period and some stunning weather throughout the month. In January we started our crop load adjustments which is where we remove bunches so that we’re ripening just the amount of fruit we require to ensure high quality yields (and not high quantity) and we trimmed the canopy and did a lot of leaf plucking to ensure we expose the fruit to the sun for good ripening. In February was all go with putting on the bird nets and now in mid-March we can finally breathe out and let the vines slowly ripen the crop.

Some of our hardworking seasonal team

Some of our hardworking seasonal team

Our casuals will have a bit of time to head off and do a bit of travelling before we start harvest and get into the real fun of grape growing. I must admit I can smell harvest in the air and every year I get a few wee butterflies of excitement as it gets closer. This year those butterflies might reflect a bit more nerves, but since the hard work is done and the weather has so far be kind, I can only sit back and look forward to a few weeks of smiles and high fives as the grapes make their journey from vineyard to winery. In anticipation of tasting the spoils from a good growing season, I might just raise a glass (or two) and reflect on the successes of previous vintages. Cheers!

Misha’s Vineyard on Tour in the UK & Abu Dhabi

Posted on March 4th, 2015

Misha recently visited London, Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

It’s always great to visit the UK but it takes such a long time to get there from Queenstown – some 38 hours of travelling! On my most recent visit, as well as the usual round of meetings, I was fortunate that the Specialist Importers Trade Tasting (SITT), which I’ve always wanted to attend, was scheduled during the week I was visiting. Held at the Royal Horticultural Halls, this tasting event is a great way to get a snapshot of the range of wines available in the UK and it makes one realise just spoilt the UK is for choice! I was lucky enough to be able to sit in on a Masterclass by Lynne Sherriff MW called Great Whites of South Africa and thoroughly enjoyed being able to taste a range of unusual but very drinkable white wine blends.

Wine Advocate event - Saatchi Gallery

Wine Advocate event – Saatchi Gallery

The highlight of my week in the UK was participating in a Matter of Taste – a Robert Parker/The Wine Advocate event where over 600 wines from “the world’s most talented and iconic winemakers’ were assembled under one roof. All the wineries participating in this prestigious event had to be invited by The Wine Advocate (one of the world’s leading wine titles) and then only wines that had been scored 90+ points could be shown. Staged at the Saatchi Gallery in London, it was thrilling to have been included and to be able to show three of our wines – The Starlet Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (91 points), The High Note Pinot Noir 2009 (90 points) and our Reserve level Verismo Pinot Noir 2010 (93 points). The event was a sell-out success and was another of those key milestone moments when we realise how lucky we are to have such a fabulous vineyard and such a gifted winemaker because to be among such esteemed company with so many of the top wineries from around the world, was an honour indeed.

Tasting at Haakasan - Emirates Palace

Tasting at Haakasan – Emirates Palace

After the UK it was off to Abi Dhabi to spend a few days to work with our UAE distributor, EuroStar Cellars. I knew things were off to a good start once I checked into the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr! I just loved my spacious 45 sq. metre room with an amazing view and just wished I had more time to enjoy the room but our schedule in Abu Dhabi was busy. Fortunately the Fairmont Hotel is a customer and list our Pinot Noir so I was able to spend some time at one of the hotel’s restaurants, Frankie’s, and take Oskar Skoog and his team through some wine training. Sid, who heads up sales for EuroStar, and who was my constant companion for 3 days, took me to visit some amazing hotels and restaurants during my visit. I was delighted to see our Pinot Noir listed at Hakkasan at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi and it was a great opportunity to show them some of the other wines from our range and tell them more about Misha’s Vineyard. We also had the opportunity to meet Hakkasan Dubai’s Head Sommelier Olivier Gasselin and some of his team as we drove to Dubai and spent an afternoon there.

Staff training at Brasserie Angelique

Staff training at Brasserie Angelique

On the first evening in Abu Dhabi we had a very fun trade dinner at Brasserie Angelique at Jumeiriah at Etihad Towers for a select group of top hotel F&B directors (and also did a staff training for the enthusiastic team at Brasserie Angelique – which is one of the top restaurants in Abu Dhabi). On the second evening we held a wine dinner at the Shang Palace, the Chinese restaurant at the Shangri La Hotel which was very successful and we won many fans of our wines. Held in the outdoor area of the restaurant with a stunning view, the only issue we had was timing the presentation speeches in between the helicopters flying overhead and the jet boats on the river adjacent to the hotel. It made me realise just how many folks in Abi Dhabi have really expensive toys!

Staff training at Shanghai Palace

Staff training at Shanghai Palace

There was also a training session with the staff at Teatro at the Rotana Hotel who list several of our wines and on the last night a Misha’s Vineyard wine tasting was held for consumers at Yas Viceroy Hotel – a spectacular hotel set half on land and half on the water and literally straddles the Formula One Yas Marina Circuit race track! It was such a fun evening with some amazing canapé matches to the wines we presented. We are very lucky to be working with Eurostar Cellar who are such a great distributor in Abu Dhabi and I really look forward to getting back there again and visiting more of our accounts there.

I try and bring home some small gifts for our team at home when I can, so I decided that camels were the most appropriate thing from Abu Dhabi – chocolate camels! I watched them being made by the chocolatier at the Fairmont Hotel. They were absolutely delicious – yes I had to bring a souvenir home for myself too!

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

Posted on February 10th, 2015

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!

Misha’s Vineyard Joins in the Pinot Celebration Fun

Posted on February 9th, 2015

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

Festivals, Friends and Fun at Misha’s Vineyard in January

Posted on February 6th, 2015

Misha looks at some activities on Misha’s Vineyard through January – normally our quietest month!

Hat Party on New Year's Day.

Hat Party on New Year’s Day.

Even when we think we’re going to have a quiet month, it never really works out that way. But to be honest, I think we’d be bored if we did have things too quiet! Our year started with a New Year’s Day party at home with a ‘hat party’ which was a lot of fun, but then we were back into work mode with our first wine festival two days later.

Annabelle & Misha at Old Cromwell Wine & Food Festival

Annabelle & Misha at Old Cromwell Wine & Food Festival

The Old Cromwell Wine & Food Festival is a small affair but an opportunity to let our local community come and try our wines since we don’t have a cellar door. About a dozen Central Otago producers (mainly the boutique wineries) set up marquees alongside some food tents and with wonderful warm weather, we all enjoyed a fabulous afternoon on the green. We chatted with the locals, served lots of wines and got into the rhythm of things with a little dancing in our tent to the sensational country pop music of Jody Direen – the guest performer for the afternoon. We were lucky to have our friends, Mark and Annabelle staying with us at the time, as we roped them in to help serve wines in our marquee. And it was lucky they did, as the four of us hardly paused for breath all afternoon!

Sharon & Chris on the vineyard with Andy

Sharon & Chris on the vineyard with Andy

It’s an amazing thing, but we always find at these festivals that when people can try a taste of our Limelight Riesling, it then becomes their favourite. It was the most popular wine we served that day – ahead of our Pinot Gris or Sauvignon Blanc. Even Jody Direen enjoyed a glass of Limelight Riesling during her performance and then posted in her Facebook later how much she enjoyed the bottle she’d taken home with her!

Our first visitors in January were Sharon and Chris Dawson – Sharon’s brother Carl manages Golddiggers – a wine retail store in Thames, a town in the Coromandel Peninsula of NZ, where Andy and I had a really fun tasting event last year and broke the record for selling more wine than any other wine dinner they’d had!

Andy & Kip on the vineyard

Andy & Kip on the vineyard

Then Kip Heegaard and his father Peter, all the way from Minnetonka, Minnesota (USA), popped in to see us on their way to the fabulous Cedar Lodge, north of Wanaka, for a spot of heli-fishing. I met Kip and his wife Lucy on Twitter and found out they visit many vineyard and taste many wines and write a blog called the Thirsty Kitten. http://thethirstykitten.com/ Their blog works as their “virtual” wine bar where they share what they love to do — sip, learn, and talk about wine. When Kip told us “Lucy and I are huge Riesling fans although ours hearts belong to Pinot noir” – we knew we’d hit it off so it was great to be able to meet Peter in person.

Later in January it was nice to get a call from Liam Hindle from Victoria Wines, our distributor in Fiji, to tell us he was in town and wanted to visit along with his wife and daughter.

Liam and family from Vitoria Wines in Fiji visit the Vineyard

Liam and family from Vitoria Wines in Fiji visit the Vineyard

It was the first time Liam had been to see Misha’s Vineyard so he wasn’t quite prepared for what he’d find on our vineyard – rocks! As a former geologist, Liam gets pretty excited by rocks, naturally, and he was gobsmacked by the size, quantity and shape of the rocks on Misha’s Vineyard! To be honest I fell in love with the rocky outcrops on our ‘canyon’ when I first saw the piece of land that became Misha’s Vineyard so I can understand his enthusiasm. Although he’d seen many photos, standing on our vineyard is the only way to appreciate the size and steepness of our land – in fact we made Liam and his daughter walk down the ‘ski slope’ block to truly appreciate it’s incline!

We finished the month with the 11th annual Pinot Celebration in Queenstown. But there’s so much to tell you, it’s worthy of its own posting!

Misha

The Art of Leaf Plucking at Misha’s Vineyard

Posted on January 22nd, 2015

A little about why we pluck leaves from the vines

The vine before leaf plucking

The vine before leaf plucking

We’re midway through summer and at the point in the season where we need to do some leaf plucking. This process involves the removal of a few leaves around our grape bunches which increases the exposure to sunlight and provides a number of beneficial effects:

– it reduces disease pressure, particularly the incidence of powdery mildew and botrytis, due to the increase in airflow and reduction in humidity as well as an increase in UV levels. The open canopy also allows for more effective disease prevention activities e.g. application of sprays.

– the effects of increased light and temperature also increase tannin levels in the berry skins which help them survive disease attacks but also add structure to the Pinot Noir wine.

Vines after leaf plucking. Fruit is exposed but leaving a

Vines after leaf plucking. Fruit is exposed but leaving a “verandah” leaf cover above

– this temperature/light benefit also results in increased rates of malic acid degradation which is an important step towards ripeness and also reduces levels of green unripe flavours from compounds such as methoxypyrazine.

All of these things allow us to let the fruit ripen for as long as we think is necessary and that the level of ripeness is uniform through all the fruit rather than a mix of under and over ripe fruit. Visually being able to see the fruit easily as we walk down the rows also makes it much easier to monitor the fruit and also speeds up our hand-harvesting.

Whilst this may seem like a straight forward operation it is important to not overdo it and important that it’s done soon after fruit set in order to avoid sunburnt grapes. Generally it will be carried out more on the shaded side of the canopy. The best result is achieved if the work is done by hand which allows for the variations in canopy density and row orientation to be taken into account. It also minimises any physical damage that might result from machinery bruising the fruit.

It is not the most exciting job in the vineyard so it is also important that the work is closely monitored to avoid over or under achieving!

(Olly Masters – Winemaker & Michelle Dacombe- Vineyard Manager)