For many the highlight of the showing, I guess, the Central Otago Pinot Noirs. I found most of the wines uninspiring. There are too many imitators whose sites are sub-optimal and the grapes too young. There were some highlights, though.
The 2009 Maude Wanaka Pinot Noir, from the far north of this region, was as good as I remembered previous versions. The wine is fruit orientated, but not in the usual black cherry style, but rather tasting of strawberry with lifted and perfumed characters. This hand crafted wine has a silky finish and overall reminded me of the Martinborough Vineyard Pinot Noir (93 points).
The Wooing Tree Pinots are getting very expensive. The 2009 Pinot Noir is very dark, with savoury forest floor characteristics. It is quite an elegant wine, but the finish comes way too sudden (91 points). The 2009 Sandstorm Reserve is slightly more refined, but otherwise similar.
Gibbston Valley has a number of vineyards at their disposal. The 2009 China Terrace Pinot Noir comes from a 320m elevated vineyard. It shows red fruit at medium weight and good acidity (92 points). The 2009 Schoolhouse Pinot Noir, from a 400m high vineyard, is darker and tastes of black cherry. It has more power and complex savoury notes. Again, there is good acidity on the finish (92 points). These are wines you can put away for a while.
I scored the other wines I tried in the 90 to 91 bracket. They included the 2009 Akarua Pinot Noir, the 2010 Archangel Pinot Noir, the 2009 Chard Farm Mata-Au Pinot Noir, 2009 Domain Road Pinot Noir and the 2010 Mt. Difficulty Pinot Noir. Mt. Difficulty used to be in the upper echelon of Central Otago, but their standard wine seems diluted now, with only the reserve and or single vineyard wines being special.
As the scores demonstrate, there were no really poor Pinot Noirs in my tasting. This is one of the strengths of Central Otago. The average wine is of good quality. However, outstanding wines were hard to come by. The challenger to Felton Road did not show up.