Signature makes the First Fifteen!

8.09am, Saturday 15th August, Federal Deli, Federal Street, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and we’re making a good start to the day with proper muesli and stewed rhubarb at the Federal Deli….I’ve been swinging between the Fed Deli and sisterstove Depot Eatery next door for three days now…and loving it! They’ve both really looked after us – the HandPicked Shiraz Viognier is on the list at The Fed, and both the Signature and Cigar (Coonawarra Cab) are on at Depot.

But what I want to do this morning is tell you about our absolutely fabulous moment yesterday. We were one of three wines poured yesterday at THE big gig in Auckland. Rugby is akin to religion in this country, and families trace their bloodlines according to when they had their last All Black – the national representative team – playing for New Zealand! The fortune and form of the All Blacks is the barometer of how things are travelling in the country, and apparently points fall off their stock exchange when the All Blacks lose…..which in recent years is not very often at all. So at this time of the year, all conversation turns to the Bledisloe Cup – the Trans Tasman trophy that the All Blacks have had bolted to their mantlepiece for 15 years or so……and this year because of the maverick Wallabies (for our international readers – that’s the Australian national team) taking a game from the All Blacks last week in Sydney – the return match at Eden Park here in Auckland this evening… alive! And we’re not traipsing off to the game…..hoping that the best possible situation will be to get beaten by the All Blacks by less than 20 points! We’re actually in with a chance….slim to nil because the All Blacks will grow 4 more inches at their home ground, and Richie McCaw will pick the team up under one arm, the ball under the other…..and charge!! 

So….into this moment…..given that in another few weeks, the Rugby World Cup will be underway in the United Kingdom……we find ourself on the wine list, at the Gala Launch for Sir Graham Henry’s book launch celebrating the victorious World Cup Campaigns by the All Blacks. And yes that would be mostly tangled up with the 2011 win, which makes the All Blacks the current defending champions….and Sir Graham their coach. Serious rugby royalty ladies and gentlemen… a rugby mad country. And here we are, Australians coming to the party with their best old school ‘claret’ Cabernet and shiraz blend…..and sharing it with 600 people in the Great Room at the Langham Hotel, Auckland. In the words of Spandau Ballet……”that is…….GOLD”.

So here’s a bit of a snapshot of the day….

We arrive early to open and prepare 60 magnums of the 2009 Signature Cabernet Shiraz….and the Langham has already set up the room……oh and helping out is the man on the back of the 2009….Clive Weston (the tall boy on the left)

The sound check is underway, lots of stirring video of the 2011 Final pre game haka against France

Besides the book launch, there’s to be a charity auction of extraordinary items – to benefit the fund that provides for rugby players – male and female of all grades – who have been injured playing the game. Here’s the prize item – an All Blacks ‘originals’ the first ever team – Jersey

We’ve sorted the Signature magnums, and out come the table centrepieces – old style rugby balls made completely of chocolate, and the first wine of the day – Nautilus Pinot Gris – also served from magnum

The chefs start putting 600 entrees together – we’re in New Zealand folks, so it’s got to be a magic salmon combo

How good are these folks in the Langham kitchen!

Do you think I might be able to sneak this auction item – the Bollinger Bullet ( hides a magnum in there – only 200 made for the world) – into my suitcase? 

Table 52 – Yalumba hosting their friends from Kiwiland – ready to go!

Happy days! This was just after main course…before the dessert was served with our Signature

This was us…..chocolate football, chocolate mousse…Then we had a chat to the crowd, pleased to report that we won a lot of hearts…..and went home for a big sleep!!

Thank you Sir Graham, thank you Sir Brian – an absolute national kiwi treasure – thank you The Langham…..and thank you Don Hope the publisher for one of the greatest gigs Yalumba has been poured into!! The spirit of ANZAC was alive and well in Auckland yesterday folks…… bring on the game at Eden Park tonight!!

New York Deli – Kiwi style

6.16pm, Wednesday 13th August, Federal Delicatessen, Federal Street, Auckland downtown, North Island, New Zealand

Evening folks, it’s been a crazy couple of days over here in New Zealand, but tonight we get a chance to take a deep breath, get an early night, and prepare for the massive event tomorrow. We are pouring the 2009 Yalumba Signature Cab Shiraz at the launch of legendary All Black (this is rugby folks….big time!) coach Sir Graham Henry’s new book. Our big red is going out with the bitter chocolate rugby ball dessert…..sitting at just the right angle on the plate to ensure it would sail through the sticks for a score! So tonight we’re having early dinner at the Fed Deli, right next door to sister cookhouse Depot Eatery, where we did breakfast this morning. Fed Deli, Depot and Best Ugly Bagel are all top food house brain children of fab Kiwi chef Al Brown. 

Lucky for us we’ve made the wine shelves at Fed Deli – with the Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier, and at Depot with both the Cigar Coonawarra Cab and the Signature. The Fed has caught all the good pickled smoked and preserved bits made famous in those tremendous Jewish delis all over Manhattan….and if you’ve ever been to Katz’s Deli down the bottom of Manhattan – yes, that’s where that Harry Met Sally scene was filmed – you’ll feel completely at home at The Fed. 

Starters? Pea and in house prepared pastrami croquettes with a habanero Mayo…..but I asked if I could try their three ‘Lucky Taco’ sauces. The verdict? The Habanero is just a touch too flamethrower for me, the jalapeño is stingy green and cactussy fresh – nice, but it’s the smoky warm chilli of the Chipotle that’s the winner winner hot sauce dinner for mine. Croquettes? Magic – like molten tasty pea and ham soup snared in a deep fried crispy skin.  Definitely worth crossing the Tasman for – on their own!

Main course? ‘House pastrami – smoked brisket with pickles and mustard’, with some of the Feds own creamy slaw (a fraction Asian style with peanuts) and the Fried Cauliflower salad – laced with kalamata olives and pickled lemon. Yep – that would be Deli style, Manhattan with a North Island NZ twist. And it’s just sensational! That pastrami is so tender there’s no need for a knife, and the smoky pepper combo is just twangy enough to be a flavour all its own. If you live within a day’s ride of Auckland – do not miss the Pastrami plate! But get in early, the place fills up and stays chockers for hours at a time.


Not even 24 hours in Christchurch NZ

8.52am, Gate 18 Christchurch Airport, South Island, New Zealand

Weather check – overcast and 3 degrees C – better than the -6 degrees C yesterday as we walked across the Tarmac at the Invercargill airport to catch our baby plane to Christchurch.

Well Christchurch, it was fab being in town, even though it wasn’t even technically for a whole day! It was still long enough to catch up with our folks who look after us so well on the Canterbury Plains – Ju Mannering and Bruce Smith – have lunch with some of the local trade at the brand spanking new and awarded only the night before last ‘Best new establishment in Christchurch’ – Boo Radley’s. Yes – that would be the speakeasy style bar and food above Tequila Mockingbird. The Deep American South style feel, food and liquor shelf at Boo Radley’s is no accident, considering that one of the owners – Hollis Giddens  – is a Mississippi native now living and working with husband Brett in Christchurch…….and it was just the spot for us to slide into town with our new releases and show them off with some fabulous ‘down home kiwi style’ cooking.

Check out that magic collection of whiskey, bourbon & rye – I did, whilst decanting our big reds for lunch.

The boys in the engine room where all the deep fried and slow cooked magic happens….Paul and Noel

And what’s that on the tray? That my friends is their home made bacon marmalade, just the thing to top the steaks ear marked to go with our Signature Cabernet Shiraz

But I’m getting ahead of myself….first it was a stand up look at 6 of our new releases, including the 2012 Hand Picked Shiraz Viognier – velvet smooth and elegant, and dare I say it – our ‘metro sexual pretty’ shiraz from the cooler Eden Valley high country, in contrast to the ‘burlier’ more robust richer Shirazes from the Barossa Valley floor

Then out came the 2013 Roussanne and the 2012 Virgilius viognier – with Boos ‘maple & moonshine cured Akaroa salmon’ and deep fried ‘crab hush puppies’,

I’ll just leave it there folks, as they’re about to load the jet for Auckland – see you again when I finish this later on tonight in the harbour city.

Good Morning Invercargill NZ

8.09am, Monday 10th August, Ascot Park Hotel, Tay Street, Invercargill, South Island, New Zeland

**weather check – clear as a bell, sun’s out (true!), -2 degrees C

Morning folks, just a quick foodie catch up before we start getting set up for our ‘Yalumba visits the South Island’ events today. Here’s my tips for excellent kiwi sweets to pack in your take home bag……Afghans and Chocolate Fish!


Invercargill NZ – home of the “World’s Fastest Indian” 

10.03pm, Sunday 9th August, Ascot Park Hotel, Invercargill, South Island, New Zealand

**weather check – occasional sleet, drizzle, 3 degrees C

Evening folks – a quick one before lights out for the motorbike fans, the film buffs, and people who like to see the underdog get up. Enter Burt Munro, one of Invercargill’s favourite sons…..immortalised on film not so long ago by Anthony Hopkins in ‘The World’s Fastest Indian’. Here’s a fabulous story about an ordinary bloke with an extraordinary passion for mechanical stuff, motorbikes, and going really rally fast. He takes a seriously self modified 1920 Indian Scout from his Invercargill home garage to the Bonneville salt flats in Utah in 1967….and sets a world speed records for motorcycles under 1000cc that still stands today! And guess what? You can see the real thing, that exact same motorcycle…..on display with a stack of the bits and pieces that Burt modified over the years… the middle of the E. Hayes & Son Hardware Store, 168 Dee Street, Invercargill.

Now what’s the World’s Fastest Indian doing in a hardware store? Turns out that Norman Hayes of the hardware store owning family was a friend of Burts, and raced and mucked about with modifying motorbikes in the same small town at the same time. So…..when Burt gave it away…..the Hayes family bought the bike so that it wouldn’t leave the town. There’s a huge number of motorcycles and cars on display through the store, not forgetting the old tool showcases, or the old scientific approach to horse shoeing! There’s also one of the 1920 Indian Scout replicas made for the movie, and for a donation to the local hospice, you can get your photo taken in (it’s a pretty tight space!) or with “The World’s Fastest Indian”! Has to go close to the best souveneir you can take home from Invercargill! I chose the T shirt!

Hey! I bet you thought I was joking about the scientific approach to horseshoeing! Nope!

So thanks a huge amount to E Hayes & Son Hardware……it’s there on display every day, no entry fee… Dee Street, Invercargill.Thats a really magic thing, and a top reminder that actually………great things come in parcels of all shapes and sizes from very interesting corners of the globe! Don’t miss this if you’re ever in the area….and its got to be the best hardware store I’ve seen as well!

See you when it’s Monday, and we’re talking wine in Invercargill.

The end of the earth….that is New Zealand

1.25pm, Sunday 9th August, Global Byte Cafe, Invercargill, Southland, New Zealand

Afternoon folks, and this will be a quick one, as I’m on the wi fi clock here. This is today’s geography, sport and foodie report, all rolled into one! Firstly, happy day! It’s been four years since the Wallabies were able to take a game from the All Blacks, and it happened last night in Sydney – well done the crowd, the new/old Wallaby combination, Stephen Moore (we love hooker captains) and Michael Cheika. As the seriously outnumbered Australian down here in deepest Southland New Zealand, watching the game last night silently lest my accent give me away…….thank up you enormously! It’s a rugby mad country – see the offer on the Weet Bix down here – and I have no doubt that at Eden Park next Saturday with the All Blacks backs against the wall defending the Bledisloe Cup – that it will be one for the ages. I have a ticket folks, so watch this space for the match report!

PS Yes I will be wearing the green and gold, even though we will be vastly outnumbered. The Wallabies haven’t won at Eden Park since 19 Eighty something, and who knows……the stars could be aligning……keep the faith!

Now the foodie report. Tied in with the geography lesson really.We’re in what’s locally known as Southland…..the Southern third of the South Island of New Zealand – one of my favourite bits of turf in the world really, and it’s the home of the fabulous cheese roll and mini mince meat pie – both favourites of mine from way back, so that’s lunch today, with a bowl of Kumara Soup – that’s the local sweet potato folks, and it makes excellent chips as well!

  So that’s Invercargill right down there on the big southern natural bay harbour, and that’s Bluff, further south and pretty much the end of the earth that is officially New Zealand. And what’s Bluff famous for?
In fact, Bluff looks like a giant hump back oyster clinging to Southland as you drive south towards it from Invercargill. And then another 15 odd kilometres south of Bluff township will put you at Stirling Point… stop the Antarctic!

That’s all there is folks……and if you’re adrift, you might bump into Stewart Island before the South Pole, and you might not!

OK – my wi fi time is nearly up, so next post will be all about Invercargill. Cheers for now

Invercargill NZ – here we come!

6.57am, Saturday 8th August, Gate 3, Tullamarine Airport International, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Morning folks, here we are with 45 minutes before we load for Auckland, Harbour City, site of next week’s big big big rugby ticket….the Gala lunch launch of Sir Graham Henry’s new book celebrating the All Blacks World Cup wins – that’s the Friday 14th, then it will be the Bledisloe Cup match 2 at Eden Park. With Bledisloe Cup match one tonight in Sydney, I sadly think that the All Blacks will have one in the bag and take game two as well. My heart hopes to be proven wrong, but my head says…..I think that All Black mincing machine will take care of the new Wallabies combo…..just like they do most times we meet! And why am I starting this post with so much Rugby chat? Because folks, I’m about to head a R,it’s the Tasman Sea to the Land of the Long White misty covered chilly bits….Aotearoa…..New Zealand! And seeing as rugby is the lifeblood of NZ and the fortunes of the All Blacks are the barometer of how things are travelling in the whole country…..and its Bledisloe Cup time, on the eve of the 2015 World Cup which starts next month in the United Kingdom……then it’s pretty much the way to go.

We have a stack of events in the South Island to do first though, top staunch fortresses and friends of Yalumba, before we trek up to Auckland….and its to Invercargill, right down the bottom end of the South Island, that we’re starting our Yalumba week in NZ. Now to get to Invercargill is a bit of an adventure in itself. We came down from the Barossa to Adelaide yesterday, and came through to Melbourne last night to avoid a 2.30am start today with 4 flights in a row. So this morning’s 8.30am flight with Air New Zealand – I do like their form, and the big Koru fern on their tail planes – goes through to Auckland. Pick up the bags – extra kilos of wine event booklets customised to each event jam packed with all the right info – check the trolley load!

Through customs and border control, and explain the bags full of suspicious square parcels, all individually packed and taped up! Watch out I could get searched for that TV show! Then it’s Auckland to Christchurch on the South Island….and a quick change to a little plane to do the last jump right down to Invercargill. All going well, that should get us into Invercargill around 7.30pm, just in time to find a bar showing the Bledisloe Cup match. Yep…be brave and watch the game, seriously outnumbered by the locals who will have every reason to believe that their steamroller All Black outfit will get up!

So, what to do for 45 minutes before we load? I think we should try and re capture our youth!! Enter the Sandman say I …..with  memories of the entrance of the New York Yankees greatest closing pitcher – Mariano Rivera – that sond was his theme as he jogged to the pitching mound. I was lucky enough to see him decimate the opposition many times with his legendary ‘cutter’. Happy Days!

But first, plough through the breakfast of wine roadwarrior champions…..

See you when it’s New Zealand!