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Jing Song was back in Dunedin last night to auction off wine to raise money for a Toitu Otago Settlers Museum documentary tracing the history of Otago’s Chinese community from the 1860s until the recent construction of the Dunedin Chinese Garden.
She was approached by the museum at the start of the year to raise money for the film, The Journey to Lan Yuan, and felt auctioning off her Crown Range Cellar winery’s new China Girl Pinot Noir was a fitting way to help out.
The grapes for the wine were grown on Chinaman’s Terrace at Bendigo, near Tarras, where Chinese goldminers lived and toiled in the 19th century.
She also still had an affection for the city where she lived for eight years and was glad to be back for a visit and to help such a worthy project.
There was still a lingering regret her plans for a 27-storey tower on Wharf St never came to fruition — she felt the hotel would have been perfect for the growing numbers of Chinese visitors — but she had moved on to other projects, including her award-winning winery.
The wine auction raised more than $18,000, which included a Salmanazar (9-litre bottle) of China Girl, signed by Prime Minister John Key and Sir Michael Hill, selling for $11,500 to an anonymous bidder.
But that was nothing on the plans she had with jeweller and fellow Queenstown resident Sir Michael to create a 15-litre bottle (a Nebuchadnezzar), with sculptured gold mountains around the base and as many as 150 black diamonds melting from the top down.
Ms Song was unsure how much the bottle would sell for, but said it could reach $1 million given how much gold was on it.
She saw the bottle as an "art piece".
"It’s about moving forward from the harsh and difficult history that those miners lived through.
"And now it’s about Otago as a place where we produce liquid gold."
She was also working with other Central Otago wineries in the hopes of getting some of the region’s award-winning pinot noirs into Christie’s wine auction in Hong Kong in March.
Despite looking to the future, Ms Song has not completely given up on the idea of building a hotel on the Wharf St site, which she still owned.
"Maybe when the right opportunity comes; I don’t know."