Central Otago – Felton Road

The three great advantages  of Central Otago for wine-making were all there for us to see (and feel): clear, clean air, bright sunlight with a very high ultra violet count, and terrific day/night temperature variation (29.2 deg C in the day time down to 0.2 deg C at night had recently occured). The clarity of this photo – taken in the late afternoon – says it all.

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The views all around were breath-taking and the sense of space and silence palpable – until a party to celebrate a neighbour’s 50th birthday reminded us that yes, people do live, work and party in this beautiful place.

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Jancis the cat – the third Jancis, if you take into account both the human one and the cat before – welcomed us warmly from her lookout on the picnic table bench, and accompanied us on our explorations of the almost completed new cellar

Felton Road lies on the southern side of the Kawarau river as it emerges from the  gorge, and flows in a loop around Cornish Point opposite Cromwell, and converges with the Clutha river, just south of Lake Dunstan to the north. Some of its vineyards benefit from an old race, built by the gold prospectors in the 1860s, to carry water from a nearby tributary. Some of the Bannockburn Gold Sluicings can be seen from Felton Road. (See the next post: Gorges and Gold: Central Otago)

The vineyard around the winery is known as the Elms, after Stewart Elms who first spotted the potential of the land around Felton Road for growing Pinot Noir and from whom Nigel Greening bought the property in the early nineties. We met Nigel and his daughter Nicola at a wonderful lunch on the balcony of the winery itself. This was hosted by Blair Walter, the wine maker, who had already treated us to a marvellous tasting, and a fascinating explanation of the soils and the aspects of their three main vineyards: Cornish Point, the Elms and Calvert, shown below:

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The growers on the land to the south of the rivers are keen to establish a Geographical Indication (GI) of their own, to be known as Bannockburn, to differentiate their wines within the more generic Central Otago, and to distinguish themselves from those in the neighbouring Cromwell Basin, whose soils and aspects are very different.

Given the distinctiveness and very high quality of these Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays it is easy to see why Nigel and Blair are so keen. Thank you to both for your time, warm welcome and patient explanations; to Nicola for arranging the stunning lunch, and to Tracy Thomson, La Petite Fromage, who we didn’t meet, but whose instructions on accessing the winery and the flat were entirely foolproof.

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This was our twelth and last visit: Felton Road is the most southerly of the Family of XII. We drove to Queenstown to catch a flight back to Auckland where our tour began.

It’s difficult to express just how extraordinary the fortnight has been, how delightful it has been to meet so many wonderful people working in such remarkable places, and how smooth the itinerary has been, courtesy of the meticulous efforts of Kate Pritchard, who pulled the programme together, booked the flights, the cars, as well as choreographing all the many meetings, visits and tastings. Thank you, thank you…..

 

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