Houston, Texas – I have no problem……with your BBQ

4.11pm, Monday 2nd March, San Felipe Blvd, Houston, Texas, USA

Howdy folks, I really have got rubbish timing!! I arrived in Houston last night, which was one day after their massive 4 day BBQ Festival finished, and two days before their week long massive Rodeo &Livestock show starts! How we possibly found the two days in between those ‘must do whenever you finally get to Houston’ signature Texas events – I’ll never know!! But I made up for it as best I could. I went to the Goode Company BBQ house last night for a brisket and honey ham two meat Po boy sandwich on jalapeño bread. You can’t miss the Goode Co eating shed – wind your window down and follow that smoky mesquite trail……and pull up at the outside benches. And no, I couldn’t finish this sandwich!

Then today I slept in!! It’s my day off and I came down from the Vancouver Wine Fest yesterday like a jigsaw puzzle shaken up in the box! Completely shredded! Which is a good problem to have after the Wine Fest when Australia has been the featured wine producing country for the week! It means we saw and spoke to a lot of folks, won a lot of hearts and palates, and looked after a lot of die hard fans of Australian wine that live and work in Van Sushi City – wine savvy beacon on the west coast……and I include the folks on Victoria Island in this. Don’t turn up if you don’t know your wine stuff, because British Columbia does!

So today’s culinary road trip was a relatively short one – over to West Houston to see if the rumours I’d heard about the baked potatoes at Blakes BBQ & Burgers were true. The easy answer is “Yep”… Ugly jam packed loaded jackets is what they got! I went with the ‘Super Beef Deluxe’ baked spud – with ALL the toppings – butter, sour cream, cheese, chives and BBQ sauce. Now that word ‘beef’ in this situation is a little bit deceptive – it means bbq brisket, chopped to smaller chunks……and very very tasty. Their BBQ sauce is dark and on the sweet side, which suggests a heavier hand with the brown sugar…..which is completely OK with me. So there I sat, with my football sized spud, dry skin loaded with all the goodies wrapped up with a soft and not lumpy potato layer. And yes, I added another topping – this is Texas, so a small mountain of jalapeño slices from the bottomless jar that seems to be everywhere in this part of the world – is absolutely necessary! If someone had told me 10 years ago before I’d had the chance to criss cross Texas like I have – that I’d be happily crunching away on jalapeño slices like they were potato chips, I’d have said they were nuts! But here I am…..and loving it! I gave my tongue a bit of chill relief with Blakes own ‘BBB’ Root Beer – very nice old school stuff, and I’ll definitely be back ……sometime.

So next thing I’ll do is add the remainder of those wines from the opening Oz Wine Seminar from the Vancouver Wine Fest into the previous post and re send it, then I’ve got to get sorted as I’m off to a Bordeaux masterclass tonight with some good mates from the sensational SPECS liquor stores here in town. Then the rental car goes back out to the airport, I get some more sleep – love that bit, it’s nearly my favourite part of the day at the minute – then back into the events schedule tomorrow here in Houston.

See ya when it’s later on 

Goodbye Vancouver Wine Festival 2015

10.52pm, Sunday 1st March, Downtown Houston, Texas, USA

Evening folks, it’s been a very long day. We kissed the Vancouver Wine Fest goodbye last night with a packed house consumer tasting session, and with all the best intentions to go to the after party put on by our fabulous distributor in British Columbia – Pacific Wine & Spirits – I went to drop my gear in the hotel room and both legs cramped up, and I couldn’t walk. So after rubbing a tube of deep heat in to the poor bloody stumps masquerading as legs – I put them to bed!! In the cold light of the 4am start this morning needed to get the 7.30am flight to Houston….the cramp might have been a blessing in disguise. I am disappointed to have missed having a drink with the Pacific team though, but I did tell them that during this incredibly busy week of events – compounded by having the bonus of Australia being the spotlight wine producing region at this years Festival – all of those Pacific sales rep / area manager/ marketing / admin organiser / delivery  / marketing / management folk were tremendous! I felt like the Force was with me……and it was Pacific! Thanks folks, and more trinkets will be heading to them once I get back to the winery.

We had even more muscle with us – Australia’s wine producing regions under the spotlight this last week – as Wine Australia was with us, shipped in a magic timber pallet construction style ‘night market’ framework for us all to physically work within – all of us having individual tasting benches of a similar fashion in our ‘Oz Wine precinct’. It was tops and folks flocked in to see us at every opportunity. Thanks Vancouver, and everyone else from across Canada, and even a few from the USA who trekked up – for coming by to taste our wares. We won a lot of new hearts and palates, and caught up with a lot of long time mates. So after the week…..for our house, we can say “job done!”. We were in everything but a ham sandwich!, and being so busy because folks want to see us is a really good problem to have. I’m going to blog whatever pictures I have from the events that we were involved with, and hopefully this gives you a bit of an idea what the Festival week is like. I reckon I’ll get one event out of the way tonight, and the rest tomorrow on my ‘rest day’ here in Houston.

 “Past, Present, Future” – this was the opening seminar session, put on by Wine Australia under the Savour Australia banner. Mark Davidson – our Wine Oz man on the west coast of Canada & the USA – put an excellent progression of the following wines together to give the folks attending a ‘snapshot’ of what our complete Australian Wine World is up to. Channelling all the discussion on the wines with Mark was the long time ‘even when Australia wasn’t wine flavour of the month’ supporter of what we all put into the bottle was Vancouver Sun wine super scribe Tony Gismondi – you can never have too many informed opinions on your collective side!!

***I was on the panel for this one and wherever I remembered to write down my thoughts, I’ve put my tasting notes in. The wines were in the order as I’ve listed them

****got to meet for the first time, and sit next to – the very eloquent and easy on the eye Matt Fowles – winemaker and owner of Fowles Wine and bloke who hunts and eats the catch up there in Victoria’s Strathbogie Ranges. 

****was actually ‘sandwiched’ between Matt Fowles and the very passionate about the Hunter Valley – Neil McGuigan – custodian of sensational Semillon up in their part of ‘our’ Oz wine world

1. 2013 McWilliams Appellation Series Orange (NSW) Sauvignon Blanc – “super pungent Passionfruit and fresh grass lift”

2. 2013 Jacobs Creek Steingarten Eden Valley Riesling – one of my all time fave wines, super memorable vines clinging to the side of the hill location – “lemon lime sorbet with the marmalade already lurking in the background  & it flags Eden Valley in big flashing neon lights” – ticks all the boxes for mine.**another wine that shows how strong the 2013 vintage seems to be……and should convince folks that the “even vintages are good, odd vintages not so much” pre conceived idea is out the window with the 2013s.

3. 1999 McGuigan Wines Bin 9000 Hunter Valley Semillon – “16 years old and still a Bub! Wow! Endless lemon steel palate” As Neil said – this Semillon was made in the old clean as a whistle ‘Riesling’ style 

4. 2012 Fowles ‘Ladies that shoot their lunch’ Chardonnay , Strathbogie Ranges (VIC) – “all pears and apples with an elegant palate dancing on a nice stage of integrated French oak”  quite possibly the shape of chardonnay to come – especially according to stacks of comments I heard after the event

5. 2013 Wolf Blass White Label Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills – forgot to write down what I thought, too interested in listening to Chris Hatcher – boss of winemaking for Blass – as I worked a vintage for him in their White cellar back in 1988

12.09am  folks – running out of steam! Will return in the am when I go downstairs for brekky. I’m staying with the La Quinta people, and they have Texas shaped waffle machines. In the spirit of showing you what they are…..I’ll have one tomorrow…warm crispy waffle drowned in corn syrup…..mmmm Yep – I do 

12.23am the next day – just back from dropping the rental car off – will add a couple more wines from this event

6.2013  Tolpuddle Vineyard (Tasmania) Pinot Noir – Pinot Noir is a bit out of my area of expertise, but this one has lovely lift, I get the hint of strawberry and I’d put bacon wrapped scallops with it!

7. 2012 Pirramimma (McLaren Vale) Petit Verdot Reserve – has the deep darks on the nose, fairly solid tannins, on that mid palate, and is destined to be a partner for…….anything in the butcher shop.

8. 2013 Wakefield Wines (Clare) Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – really pretty floral Cabernet with lovely fruit that carries right through the palate

9. 2009 Brothers In Arms (Langhorne Creek) Cabernet Sauvignon – All leather and earth, with warm fruit and spice over granuley tannins that roll out the palate as the wine cools down. Nice stuff.

10. 2012 Majella (Coonawarra) Cabernet Sauvignon – berry fruit and a bit of bell pepper, juicy fruit landing on solid French oak rails – Prof, it looks like it’s locale!

11. 2010 Wynns Coonawarra Estate John Riddoch Cabernet Suavignon – OK! This is how it’s done! Core lift of black currant berries and mushroomy earth – endless tunnel of fruit telescoping out over sturdy but elegant tannins that will make sure this wine sticks around for a long long time…..looking good!

12. 2009 Tahbilk (Nagambie Lakes, VIC) Eric Stevens Purbrick Shiraz – old school stuff! Big solid bucketful of spicy dark fruit in very elegant shape. I liked it!

13. 2012 St Hallett (Barossa) Blackwell Shiraz – This is Barossa in a nutshell. Lush juicy fruit landing elegantly on a solid vein of drying tannins, and I suggest putting it in a dark corner, and come back to check on it in a couple of years. A keeper.

14. 2010 Henschke (Barossa) Euphonium Shiraz – what a fabulous combination – shiraz laced with Cabernet Franc – look up ‘power with elegance’ in the wine dictionary, the Euphonium will be looking back at you.

15. 2008 Yalumba ‘The Signature’ Cabernet Sauvignon & Shiraz – still pretty much in its primary fruits, this is more old school Australian dry red in that magic old ‘claret’ style. The spice and berry fruit from the Cab is up top, and the shiraz is rolling out nicely underneath. Look for some short ribs with the meat falling away in fibres from dry bones…and open a bottle.

There you go, and the verdict? Australia, in the wine stakes, you’re looking good – and you could have put a whole different set of 15 wines on for the same event, and it would have looked just as strong.  Looking good as we went into the Vancouver Wine Fest with this as our opening event.

**i didn’t have any photos of the event as I’d misplaced my phone – but found it again later

And this is our moderator man Mark Davidson – Global Education Manager – Wine Australia. That’s Mark second from the left, when we were all on the radio together. The program host is Daenna Van Mulligan, next to Mark is Chris Hatcher (Wolf Blass) and next to Chris is Sam from Thorne Clarke

And our other moderator man Tony Gismondi – The Vancouver Sun, Wine Align, Gismondionwine.com , and on the BC wireless with Kasey on CISL 650am ‘Smooth & easy’

see Ya tomorrow with the other 10 wines from this event

Vancouver Wine Festival – on the wireless!

8.48am, Saturday 28th February, Last day in Vancouver, BC, Canada

Morning folks, I did the right thing – again – last night. As we left the convention centre at the end of the consumer tasting session, I heard that dangerous question start “Hey Ferrari, coming for a drink?”I did walk in with the lads, but didn’t even take my back pack off. So glad this morning! I’ve just dived into Starbucks downstairs and loaded up with oatmeal – stirred in the fruit and brown sugar – and flat white, thrown a few more things in the suitcase, and now I’m back to bed for an hour before getting set for the last day of the Festival. Here’s what the day looks like:

1. 10.30am – 2pm Go to the convention centre and set up for the Wine Australia event “Restaurant Australia” consumer grazing lunch – we’re pouring 2013 Y Vermentino and 2012 Scribbler

2. 2- 3pm  Across the road to the bar of the Fairmont – signing bottles of the 2010 Signature that was sold at the Union Club event on Victoria Island last year. This is where we’ll grab some bar snacks for lunch as well 

3. 3-5pm Consumer tasting session – this is where it gets crazy folks, I like to affectionately call this “the cauldron”

4. I get to leave the cauldron early as I have one more event to do – “25 under $25″ – this is local wine guy James Nevison’s event, and it’s important to showcase the good wine that’s about at reasonable prices, so we’re in. James is a lovely young bloke, so it’s good to support him as well.

5.15 – 6.30pm “25 under $25″

5. 7 -10pm The final consumer tasting session – I’ll be late to this one as I’ll be packing my gear up – my flight out to Houston, TX tomorrow leaves at 7.30am, which means 5.30 am in the cab and moving, which means 4am up and at Em!

6. 10pm – making a valiant attempt to not go out with the boys after work!

So I’d better get mobile! Here’s two of our good Vancouver mates – Queen and King of the wine vibe airwaves respectively …..Daenna Van Mulligan and Anthony Gismondi……broadcasting from the festival.

See ya when it’s Texas!

Oh, here’s the other stuff we did at the festival…..

We went to this seminar with the 2008 Octavius…….then…..

had dinner on the run at Tim Hortons after the Barossa Old Vine seminar. I put Vegemite on my bread roll and that got me through the following tasting session!

Vancouver Wine Festival – Day 3!

10.41pm, Friday 27th February, Pan Pacific Hotel , The Waterfront next to the Convention Centre where the Van Wine Fest is being staged, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Evening folks, just got back from the consumer session at the Van Wine Fest, the “Barossa’s Old Vine Heritage” seminar before that, and the Trade Tasting Session before that. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint this Van Wine Fest – but the level of interest is so high, folks come from all over Canada and now the USA to this event, and the circuit of seminars and dinners that make up the wine week are so well supported – that you just have to throw yourself into it and plough on!

I’m going to try something a bit different and put words and pictures together, instead of all the pictures at the end, so please bear with me.

Our day started at 9am with breakfast at the Acme Cafe, which is down on East Hastings street, just before it gets a bit ‘sketchy’ as the locals call it. I like the Acme Cafe, and never fail to put on a kilo every time I stand there and gaze at their cake stands. This morning we took two gals from our fab Seattle distributor – Noble Wines – to breakfast as part of their ‘come to the Vancouver Wine Festival’ prize for winning a sales incentive. Acme Cafe do their own very special version of Eggs Benedict called ‘Baked Eggs Benny’ and it’s ham, egg and muffin – but all layered ‘lasagna’ fashion and baked in a deep dish, served on shredded potato hash browns. Top start to the day, then it was off to pack my kit for Day 3 of the Vancouver Wine Festival. Corkscrew, soft drink, snacks, info booklets, ID pass & ticket, and most importantly….your individual event day by day schedule.

First up the Trade Tasting Session …1.30 – 5pm dedicated for retail and restaurant trade only. We had a very VIP visitor today, the excellent young sommelier Jason Yamakazi from Chambar restaurant – Yep, that’s where we did our “Wizards of Oz” dinner Tuesday night. All I’ll say is “you just had to be there!! The stars aligned….the food, the wine, the sold out in 6 hours from ticket release company, and the stories”. The announcement was made this morning – Jason has been named the top sommelier for British Columbia, and now goes on to compete for the national title in Toronto. Superb result, and all the very best from all of us Jason.

So, it worked! Matching words and picture, on we go!

I left the Trade Tasting Session early, to be on the panel for the seminar ” Barossa’s Old Vine Heritage” with the absolutely lovely Bernie Hickin from Jacobs Creek, our local Barossa Grape & Wine Assoc guy James March, and the super staunch supporter of the Australian Wine Industry – local Vancouver hero wine scribe Anthony Gismondi. I’m starting to run out of steam as its just ticked past midnight and it’s another big day tomorrow, so to keep it short and sweet…..this set of wines sets the bar high for any region anywhere, and yes of course I’m biased – I love the place – but I saw some wines from my own region today for the first time and it stopped me in my tracks.  We have something seriously special with capital S’s in these old vine Barossa wines…….not a shadow of doubt in my mind that they are a vinous force to be reckoned with, and I was proud as punch to be there to tell stories about the Barossa in and around them. Today was a good day. Here’s the pic of what the wines looked like from where I sat, plus a few of what these old vines actually look like in the ground. Tomorrow I’ll add in the list of wines, as well as the Old Vine Charter that has come into play in the Barossa in reference to the tremendous viticultural treasure trove that we have in these old timer vines of ours.

Vancouver Wine Festival…..we’re away!

11.56am, Wednesday 25th February, Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Sorry folks, it’s been a big day, just got in from hosting the absolutely huge! “Wizards Of Oz” dinner at the staggeringly good speakeasy look Chambar restaurant, complete with old warehouse style narrow red brickwork and exposed timbers. It was Yalumba, Henschke and Vasse Felix on the list, and I’m not saying any more now – I want to do justice to sommelier Jason Yamasaki and chef Nico Scheurmans, so I’m writing it up tomorrow during the Festival tasting sessions. Now I need to get some sleep, as tomorrow is THE biggest day for us.

Cheers and here’s a couple of my rock star winemaker mates from Coonawarra – Sue Hodder and Prof Lynn – at last night’s opening Australia arrives at Van Wine Fest event. I’m seriously looking forward to being down on the ‘Terra Rossa Cigar’ for their Coonawarra Cabernet Weekend come October this year.

See ya when it’s Thursday



Yalumba at Vancouver Wine Fest 2015

11.32pm, Tuesday 24th February, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Just back from our first Van Wine Fest event, and I’ve got one more job to do before ‘lights out’! I promised a list of what we’ll be up to this Festival Week. I’ve listed everything that we know of below – and with any luck we’ll see you at least once…..somewhere!


1.30-3.30pm. “Shiraz Aussie Superstar” trade seminar

6.30-10pm. “Wizards Of Oz” Dinner – Chambar Restaurant ***Jason Yamakazi Head Sommelier – representing BC at the top Canadian Sommelier event soon in Toronto.


9.30-11.30am. “Past Present & Future” – Australian theme country opening plenary session

1.30-2.30pm Trade buyers tasting session

2.30-5pm. General trade tasting session

5.15pm – 6.45pm. “All About Syrah” seminar

7-10pm. Consumer tasting session


9-11am. Unofficial breakfast at Acme Cafe

1.30-4pm. Trade tasting session

4.30-6.45pm Barossa Old Vine Heritage ” Seminar

7-10pm. Consumer tasting session


11.30am – 2pm. “Restaurant Australia” consumer tasting

3-4.30pm. Consumer tasting session

5.15 – 6.45pm. “25 under $25″ event ***with James Nevison – The Provinces wine guy

8-10pm. Consumer tasting session

Apart from that, you’ll find me at Starbucks or Tim Hortons in the Waterfront Food Hall!



Blow torched sushi??

11.53am, Tuesday 23rd February, Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Morning folks, still a bit bleary eyed from a late finish last night – we were out at the Tramonto Restaurant at the River Rock Casino for dinner with the most die hard band of Australian wine fans – the Australian Wine Appreciation Society. Every time we come to town, we try and do something special with them, and that was what last night was all about. If you want to see what was on the plate…..check out my Twitter thing @barossasaint as the folks from AWAS had those dishes up and tweeted moments after they arrived on the table. I’ll get to that event later on, but for now, I just want to catch you up on yesterday’s visit to one of our Yalumba ‘fortresses’ here in Vancouver – Miku Restaurant – right on the Waterfront, sandwiched between the Vancouver Sun building and the Pan Pacific Hotel.

These folks do not muck around when it comes to working with the fresh fresh fresh best possible ingredients from land and sea, and go to great lengths to present a menu of outrageous flavour and texture combinations – beautifully – on specially crafted crockery. We’ve been lucky enough to have a wine on the list here for a long while – initially the Yalumba Y Series Viognier – fresh middleweight perfumed stone fruit aromatics with a slightly slippery palate – perfect for the Miku sashimi and ‘Aburi’ sushi world. I’m a massive fan of their House Superstar ‘Salmon Oshi Sushi’. This is spooky good stuff. OK – it starts with the way Miku handles their rice. They have a super secret method of preparing and cooking their rice for the sushi bar that is one of their ‘X’ factors! It’s soft but not gluggy, single grain, cling together stuff! The boys layer the rice and local BC sockeye salmon into a solid plastic ‘box’ , top it with their secret Miku Mayo – like sauce, sit another layer of the salmon on top, then ‘press’ the whole thing until the sushi ‘block’ forms and holds. Then they use those fabulous knives like painters pick up their brushes…..slice off the bite size sushi pieces, and out comes the blow torch! Across the top of the salmon, just enough to colour it up and warm that sauce down – capillary action – in amongst the rice grains, on goes the secret spice, topped with single slices of fresh jalapeño with a flourish! And yes! It absolutely tastes better than it sounds! And yes – our Viognier does fly nicely with it.

4.39pm Where did the day go? I started this before lunch, and am just getting it finished now. Any rate, that’s it for me, I have to get my stuff organised, as we’re off to the other side of town this evening for the Wine Australia ‘Savour’ opening night of the Vancouver Wine Festival event. We’re the feature wine producing country this year, so if you want to see Oz Wine in a nutshell, then Loungeworks on West 4th Ave will be the place to be. My mate the rock star winemaker for Wynns – Sue Hodder – has just landed in Vancouver – there’s going to be a stack of the Oz ‘wine-eratti’ there tonight, so it should be a top night out

So have a look at the pics below, I’ve done my best phone-cam food shots to catch the edible artistry going on every day at Miku Waterfront, as well as their newer sister sushi ship – Minami Yaletown.

See ya tomorrow, when the whole Vancouver Wine Festival starts to get serious