Good Bunch Film Festival
Debra Cruickshank of Tannacrieff Wines, with her ‘boss’, black labrador Jade. Photo supplied

It was a feel-good vibe at Coronation Hall last Thursday night, as the local community heard from Central Otago winemakers and watched their inspiring short films, in the first Good Bunch Film Festival, especially for our region.

The wine industry in our area is making a concerted effort to both practice organic viticulture and connect with the local community, and the festival was a great illustration of this.

A quirky story with a difference was the first offering. Ben Leen, assistant winemaker at Amisfield, has started his own label, Alpine Wine Company, with his wife Lucy and his brother and sister-in-law.

“We make our wine fun, accessible, and approachable,” says Ben.

He adds ‘Lo-fi, minimal and natural’ to that list, markets the wine in bottles or cans, with names like ‘Head in the Clouds’ and ‘Sparks will Fly’.

Blair Walter, of Felton Road Winery, then introduced a film showing the story of how he, proprietor Nigel Greening and the team have developed their biodynamic system.

The team of course, includes the chooks, the highland cattle, the goats, the dogs and one cat.

Next came Rippon Vineyard and Winery’s film, outlining the Mills family’s and staff’s pioneering work and ongoing commitment to biodynamics and the guardianship of the soil.

James Dicey showed different aspects of the winery journey, with a film of brother Matt and James and their development of a name change from Ceres to Dicey wines.

The short film gives an interesting insight into how the re-branding process happens and includes the pair’s road trip though the North Island, minus locked-down Auckland.

The pinot we tasted was excellent, and I can’t wait to gift a bottle of the new brand, just to say, “I’ve brought you a bottle of Dicey wine.”

My father’s favourite drink was port, and every June, on his birthday, I open a bottle of Deborah Cruickshank’s Tannacrieff Port, the one with the drawing of her father on the label, and toast to Dad.

My brother shares the toast from South Australia, with a different port. Debra is a one-woman band, controlling every process and hand-waxing every bottle. That’s the way she likes it; that’s the way she ensures quality.

Her short film traces her journey from boutique winemaker to Supreme Winner, Rural Women New Zealand Business Award, to New Zealand’s Queen of Port.

Perhaps the tasting of each winery’s product helped, but it seemed that the audience left feeling very proud of Central Otago’s wine industry, and their commitment to a sustainable future for the next generation.

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