Washington DC & Virginia – The USA & Canada tour begins

2.09pm, Sunday 7th May, Rhode Island Avenue, Washington DC, USA

Afternoon folks, and it’s a lovely cool drizzly Washington spring day out there, and I’m feeling quite righteous as I finish replying to the last 150 emails from the iPad in box, and reconciling the last week’s on tour receipts! We’ve left The South and our Victorian trade incentive tour group behind, and now we start the three week top end Yalumba red wine tour of the USA and Canada…….and the start of the show – the ‘super claret’ Cabernet Shiraz blend, but I’ll give you the whole story on that tomorrow.

For now, here’s a quick catch up on what we’ve been up to over the last two days…..after a very early start on Friday morning in Nashville and two very bumpy rides across to Chicago and then Washington DC through the storm fronts. First stop was the Australian Embassy and its extremely representative of the complete Australian Wine Industry ‘wine locker’, where we put on a tasting for staff, then yesterday it was out to Virginia to see the folks from Total Wine & More, and Seasons 52. Earlier this year we had the buyers responsible for the Australian section at Total visit the Barossa, and in return they suggested two different store models to visit whilst we were in town. So it was the brand new ‘urban concept’ store in  Ballston, and then the larger traditional plan store in McLean for us.Its always nice to thank folks in person for having us on the shelves, so to Heather and Will, James and Mary – you know who you are – and “thanks”!

And yep, that was me getting into the Cinco de Mayo spirit at the Ballston store……

Whilst we were out in McLean, we dropped into Seasons 53 for a late lunch, as they have our Y Viognier on the list, and are about to add the Y Vermentino. With the range of local crab, scampi and shrimp dishes on the menu, plus Maine lobster, Alaskan Halibut and Canadian salmon…..the two white varietals should do really well. We set up the staff training sessions for a couple of weeks time, and worked out all the combos for the team……and tried some out……just to make sure they worked!

So there you have it, we’re underway! Cheers until we’re in Edmonton, Canada tomorrow and I’ll lift the lid on the new ‘super claret’

New Orleans in full Jazz Fest swing

6.55am, Saturday 29th April, Orleans Street, New Orleans, Louisiana

Morning folks, and right now, it’s just the street cleaners and me up and about. The city is jam packed to the gills with pretty happy laid back late night revellers, and our crew of Victorian restaurateurs and retailers are soaking the whole ‘Big Easy’ thing up in style. We’ve got right into the cultural thing – joined the locals for Jazz in the Park, went out to Willie Mae’s Scotch House for possibly the best ‘fraaaaaied chikkkn’ in the country (and yep, everybody has to line up), and got quite flashed up  to go along to the old school fine dining house Brennan’s last night for our Welcome along team dinner…….accompanied by some of Yalumba’s finest – 1989 Menzies, 2006 Reserve, and the brace of 2009 & 2010 Octavius……thank you Terry for raiding your cellar, and for everyone that ferried bottles accross in their luggage.

Oh and PS….still on London time, so that’s the working breakfast photo first up – 6am run down to Cafe du Monde for their fab cafe au lait and beignets ( ben-yays if you want to sound like a local), and a catch up on those jolly always accumulating each one requires an answer emails.

So cheers from the Crescent City, most folks are off to the Jazz Fest today, and I’m off to catch up with our new area manager for Down this way …..Louis. We’re off to Crabby Jacks, local seafood shack right next to the Louisiana seafood exchange, so catfish and shrimp …..here we come!

New Orleans, Louisiana…..its Jazz Fest time

4.42pm, Thursday 27th April, The Hotel Lobby, French Quarter, Noo Awlins, Loosiana, The Yoo Nighted States of Mmmmmerica

I’m waiting on our team of intrepid Melbourne trade travellers to arrive any minute, and I’m expecting them to be a tad creased from the flight up to Los Angeles, then the almost trans continental hop from LA to NOLA. We’ve put a cool tour guide together for them that covers a good solid checklist of the best things to do in New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville……and tonight I think it’s just going to be an early dinner then crash…..even though the Jazz Fest packed streets will be extremely inviting. The plan is to wander across the French Quarter to the old warehouse district where the restaurant Mother’s has been serving up the local flavours down home style since the 1930s, and that’s going to be us! Gumbo, catfish, andouille sausage, country ham, crawfish étouffée…..and pie!!

I’ll introduce the crew in the next post, might be best if I take that first group pic tomorrow I think!! Cheers for now and we’ll check in tomorrow

Goodbye London – Noo Awlins, Loozyanna…..here we come!

11.56am, Wednesday 26th April, Heathrow Terminal 5, London, England, United (for now) Kingdom

Morning folks, and here I am at Heathrow Terminal 5 again, this time getting set to catch British Airways’ brand new direct Boeing Dreamliner service to New Orleans (pronounced NooAwlins one word by the locals) to meet up with an intrepid group of staunch Yalumba trade who have won a trip to spend a week exploring the ‘Americana Music Triangle’ of New Orleans, Memphis and Nashville for a week. We’ve coined the tour the ‘Americana Adventurers’, written a specific tour guide book for the ground we’re going to cover, and it’s even got a ‘sealed section’ for the surprise day tour from Nashville next Wednesday. 

So goodbye London, and thanks enormously yet again to 67 Pall Mall for your support…..and we’ll see you all again when it’s autumn.

PS going to the post office in South Kensington yesterday, guess what I found next door? The Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman has a rib and burger place called Sticky Fingers……..definitely on the ‘must do’ list for the next trip.

Big 2017 Adelaide Fringe night out!!

1.14pm, Saturday 25th February 2017, Adelaide

Howdy folks, it’s a new year and I’ve just tried out a whole new thing! Late last year the publican at The Kentish in leafy green Stanley Street, North Adelaide – Bud Goldsworthy – asked me if I’d be interested in being their ‘talent’ at the 2017 Adelaide Fringe….just to get up and tell a few of my funny stories about selling wine around the world. My first reaction was “no”……then thinking about the large volume of dental work on my immediate horizon, including crowns and an implant!…..I quickly reversed that to “yep, why not!!Im actually going to be on long service leave, so it will all fit in”. So fast forward to today, and we have the “world premiere – no red carpet” of my ‘Ferrari : Unlimited Kilometres’ behind us…..first SOLD OUT show of six in the ‘season’ (that’s showbiz for the number of sessions you do at one time).

Last Thursday night we had a fab full house in The Kentish Wine Shed – some from town (that’s Adelaide) , and then everyone else who travelled for the show – Moculta, Truro, Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Light Pass, Greenock, Kapunda, Naracoorte, Mt Gambier and Coonawarra. Thanks an absolute million for swapping your hard earned folding money for a ticket to come along and hear me do stories, poems and a song about my time on the road! “A funny thing happened to me on the way to work……happened to be in London / San Francisco/ Dunedin / Dublin / Edinburgh at the time”.And in fact, because vintage is a bit late this year, we had Sue Hodder (yep that would be good mate chief winemaker for Wynns Coonawarra….. now I’m name dropping) babysittingthe merchandise stand – check out the excellent t shirts that Bud made up for the event!

My special guest on the night was Joe “Dry Creek Truckie (check it out on I tunes) ” Ahern, and he opened the second set with two of his original songs – there’s some real talent for you!

Good to see the stories like meeting Hugh Grant in London, and the poems like The Queen Of Room Fifteen get a good laugh, and now it’s all about this next massive week – three in a row –  Wednesday 1st,  Thursday 2nd and Friday 3rd of March, Saturday off…..then the big double header finish on Sunday 5th with a sold out 2 pm matinee and the evening show sitting on 97 tickets sold – 100 is SOLD OUT! Actually, right this minute there’s only 7 seats left across the Wed, Thurs and Sunday night shows!! Can you believe it? 7 seats off a sold out season! Not bad for an almost pension age Adelaide Fringe first timer. So…..one down and five to go! See ya at The Kentish!! 

PS on Wednesday and Thursday nights, Moculta’s own Christine Sherwood will be opening the second set….amongst other things, Chris has written music to one of my poems about travelling through New Mexico…….then Joe’s back to do the same on the Friday and Sunday.

Back in the VWBV….very wet Barossa Valley

4.44am, Sunday 16th October, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA, Australia

Morning folks, sitting here bright as a button, still out of whack with the local time zone after only being 48 hours home on the deck here in the Barossa Valley. And who else has just landed here from Los Angeles? Our good mate and super advocate for Oz Wine in the USA – Adam Dromi, The Wine House LA. So seeing as it was such a top day to be out and about, we spent most of our Saturday doing great Grenache around the Barossa……including Soul Cafe’s ‘brekky burrito’ of local bacon, eggs,sausage, hash brown, cheese and BBQ sauce – an excellent start to a wine tasting vineyard tour – and the fabulous front window dining at Kampung Kitchen – “every day is a satay day”. We had an extended comparative tasting at Cellar Door that was informative and entertaining for everyone visiting Yalumba yesterday at lunch time – thanks again Adam for all that enthusiasm and support. ……..and enjoy  your week in McLaren Vale – well done on the invitation to be the guest International judge at their wine show.

The best way to learn about terroir in the Barossa……taste it on the spots! Here’s Adam amongst our 800 odd surviving Grenache bush vines planted back in the 1940s on the ‘Carriage Block’ in the Moppa……out to the north east of the Valley.

How’s this for my tasting bench set up for in vineyard wine assessment? And everything is just so lush from the amazing amount of rain over the last few weeks

So wet still that we’re supporting very large families of ducks in some of our vineyards……

Sorry Hurricane Matthew! No date for us!

8.40am, Thursday 6th October, South 8th Street, Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Morning folks, and very happy to be up here in Minneapolis – we took the 10am Southwest flight out of Fort Lauderdale yesterday for Chicago, and as of early today, the same airport has been closed due to the effects of the oncoming Hurricane Matthew.  So to all our friends from South eastern coastline of Florida – Stacole Wines, Wine Watch, Tims Wine Stores, Market 17, Cafe Maxx – you all know who you are……stay safe and let’s hope the storm stays offshore.

PS after fitting the shutters and battening down the hatches, it might be worth opening a bottle of something cold before the generators kick in……..and take care!

On Hurricane Matthew watch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

8.29am, Tuesday 4th October, Dania Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Morning folks, and it’s a typical south Florida morning…..28 degrees C & 96% humidity……and stormy. The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency last night due to the track of the big storm in the Caribbean – Hurricane Matthew – shifting north west…..towards Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Yep…..that’s where we are now!

Fortunately travelling at 9 miles per hour, that puts Hurricane Matthew still 200 odd miles away tomorrow morning when I’m planning to be on a Southwest jet heading for Minneapolis. But spare a thought for Haiti right now where it’s just made land fall, and dropping 40 inches of rain – twice the annual rainfall that we get in the Barossa Valley, all dumped in 48 hours on those poor folks living in shacks.

So today we’re up and down the local coast visiting accounts, and finishing with a dinner at Wine Watch……lets hope for an uneventful next 48 hours

Cheers from the tropics! 

Definitely developing a taste for the local ‘cafe con leche’…..smooth, strong and frothy like a drinkable Aero bar!

Wet, steamy & size does matter in Tampa, Florida 

12.52pm, Monday 3rd October, Gate C 35, Tampa Airport, Florida

OK! Made it through a very rainy night in Tampa and about to hop across to Fort Lauderdale on the East Coast. So last night, after dropping off the Halloween treat bags to our man down here in the US tropical zone – Paul – I got caught in the sort of late afternoon torrential downpour that they talk about down here in South Florida.

It looked a bit threatening…

Then down it hammered…..and within minutes, I was hugging the inside lane as a river appeared from nowhere to fill the lower right hand line, and car sales yard lining the highway.

Good thing I had a Jeep rental car! Very relieved to get home to the hotel actually, and especially proud of my veteran Magellan GPS for not cutting out in the dense storm clouds and lightning.

Then this morning we caught up with our Stacole sales folk at Oxford Exchange for a power tasting brunch……8 wines and some magic soft breakfast tacos and a boatload of what’s happening at Yalumba and with the wines around the world….no mucking around when it comes to our bloke Paul, and the Stacole crew – Michael, Neil , Scott, Brent & John!!

Oh and about the “size does matter” thing…..down here it’s all about the crab…..and in this case, size definitely matters! See y’all when it’s Fort Lauderdale. Thanks for now Tampa

Steamy nights in Tampa, Florida – and that’s just the weather!!

12.13am, actually Saturday 1st October, 30th Avenue, Tampa, Florida, USA

Morning folks, we left a foggy and cold Seattle this morning, the flight about an hour late with the planes all backed up because of the weather……just made the connection in Kansas City, and have only now checked in to the hotel in Tampa. And folks, it’s very warm and steamy out there right now…..with 33 C and storms forecast for tomorrow. Sounds like a perfect day to spend in Ybor City, drinking Cubano style cafe con leche, and eating guava pastries at La Segunda bakery. And catching up a weeks worth of blog posts from our simply marvellous time in Washington State – on Bainbridge Island, in Seattle, and up the Olympic Peninsula.

But we’ve made it to Florida, in one piece, and the Yalumba roadshow rolls on!

Goodbye Seattle …..for now, and I think we’ll be back in the Spring!