A number of New Zealand wine writers have formed an organisation to promote excellence and independence in wine reviewing and commenting. Wine Nelson invited the group for a two day visit to the Nelson region so writers could experience the wide range of wines produced in Nelson and to also see the places these wines are produced to put the flavours they taste in wines into context, so they understand the environment the wines are produced in and the philosophies of the producers. As a member of Wine Writers of New Zealand I was the our guide for the two days, proudly showing off the wonderful region, introducing them to great people and generally making sure everyone got to experience the best Nelson has to offer. This wasn’t a laid back jaunt for some journo’s, these guys were in Nelson to work and work they did. On day one three of the group of eight who were able to attend rose at around 4am to head to airports and catch flights and the day finished at around 11pm after a five course degustation dinner. In the interim they had a regional tasting of about 30 gold medal and five star Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, visited four wineries in the Moutere Hills winegrowing area (including lunch at Woollaston Estates) and worked their way through about another 40 wines. Notebooks, tablets and laptops were put to good use as was the time travelling between wineries; there was plenty of discussion about the wines tasted and winemaking techniques described by winemakers. The group is preparing a summary of the two days, with each writer contributing, and that will be published in due course but in the meantime here is a quick overview of Day One. Everyone met at the airport and headed to the first stop for the day, 9am at Harbour Light Bistro overlooking the beautiful Nelson harbour. Writers were welcomed and let loose on a perfect range of Nelson wines. The range was made up of five star and gold medal winning Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Without getting into a full review of wines in this column it is fair to say all were outstanding wines with the chardonnays really shining. It became obvious to the writers that Nelson Chardonnay stands proudly among some of the best in NZ. After spending an hour and a half at this regional tasting the writers were whisked off to Neudorf Vineyards were Tim & Judy Finn presented two flights of wines, the first a vertical tasting of Neudorf Moutere Chardonnay, including wines from the 2001, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2012 1nd 2013 vintages. It isn’t very often you get to taste wines of this quality and age. The second flight was a selection of six Moutere Pinot Noirs including two from the 2002 vintage, one was sealed with a screwcap and one with a cork. Again it isn’t often we get to try the same aged wine sealed with two different closures and it proved a very interesting comparison and the writers were split about 50/50 on which one they preferred. The wines had aged differently with the wine under cork having more complexity while the wine sealed with a screwcap had retained more fruit characters. Then it was off to Woollaston Estates for a tasting hosted by winemaker Shane Munn who annopuinced he is leaving Woollaston soon to take up a job in Canada. This tasting was of wines matched with some of the finest winery restaurant I have had for a long time included sashimi paua, perfectly seared Ora King Salmon and a succulent confit duck leg. With food of this quality to go with the very good Woollaston wines this is going to be the best place for winery fine dining at reasonable prices this summer. Next stop on very long first day was at Kahurangi Estate where the group tried a selection of wines from both Kahurangi and Harakeke Farm Wines and were treated to a glass of Crofts 2011 Vintage Port to finish. Finally it was off to Kina Cliffs lovely tasting room where the groups was able to sit on the deck, take in the expansive views over Tasman Bay and taste wines from both Kina Cliffs and Kina Beach wineries. As if that wasn’t enough it was back to the city to check in to Delorenzo Apartments before heading to Hopgood’s Restaurant for a five course degustation dinner for which I had the pleasure of selecting the wines to pair with the food. I won’t go in to those details here but I will writer another column specifically about both this dinner and the lunch at Woollaston’s so look for a review on these soon.