Windy – seriously – in Wellington!!

5.08pm, Sunday 24th July, Lambton Quay, Wellington, North Island, New Zealand

Evening folks, and here today in the nation’s capital – Wellington – the winds are ‘easing’.That’s easing slightly from the belting 120 km/ hr gusts yesterday that were pushing even me around the streets like a large four layers of jerseys and jackets on version of Mary Poppins! But at least it’s not raining, so there’s always an up side. Last night the local rugby side the Hurricanes absolutely flogged the visiting Sharks from South Africa 41-0, so the whole town is happy, so all looks well for our Wellington trade event tomorrow. As luck would have it, the Sharks were staying at the same hotel as me last night, and I happened to see a couple of them yesterday afternoon and again this morning at the Starbucks next door, and whilst they were obviously out classed on the field last night at the game……they seemed to be very very nice …….and very large! boys……so hopefully they’ll come back stronger next year. 

So seeing as I had the day off today, I thought I might go adventuring, and I caught the number 3 bus down to the beach at Lyall Bay and went for lunch at the Maranui Surf Club Cafe. (I got off the bus at the wrong stop initially, hiked around, and with the help of some amused locals, eventually found the 3 bus again, and the beach!)

It’s got a top view of the opening out to the Cook Strait, as well as the southern end of the Wellington airport’s runway, and after a bit of a wait in line on the old staircase – some local kids in front of me reckoned the line was really short today – sometimes it goes outside and down the road! – I got a seat where I could watch the planes take off and land. How neat to be in the sunshine, out of the wind, and knowing exactly how those folks felt as those birds swung and lurched down towards the tar in the spin dryer that is the wind currents around Wellington Airport. That’ll be me next Tuesday morning early as we do the ‘slingshot’ take off in the Air New Zealand  7.30am breakfast special down to Queenstown on the bottom of the South Island. Fingers crossed the weather keeps easing! Here’s a Fiji Airlines jet ready to go….

So here’s the view from the main part of the dining room, and to the right of that point folks, is the Cook Strait….and I saw the ferry heading out at around 2pm today. 

So what’s the food like? Pretty damn good. I crossed over the breakfast and lunch menu, and did the ham and cheese toasted with a poached egg and baby kransky sausages – with a bottle of the local softie Foxton Fizz. Excellent plane spotting tucker! If you’re visiting Wellington, it’s definitely well worth the bus ride and wait in line to do breakfast / brunch out at the Maranui Cafe – plus there’s a couple of interesting spots to stop on the Number 3 bus route on the way – Riddiford Road, Newtown and Kilburnie look pretty interesting as well.

So the plan now is to get a very early night, meet the team tomorrow for brekky at The Thunderbird Cafe down the street, and catch up with the local Wellington trade after that.

So I’ll see ya when it’s Monday and a brand new wintry week – thanks Maranui and Lyall Bay – I had a top day out.

Goodbye Auckland – Wellington here we come!

8.40am, The Bach Cafe, Auckland Airport, North Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and I’ve found another super start to the day breakfast idea to export to Australia – the ‘Toasty Tower’ – I chose the ham cheese and pineapple combo, it’s a bit of a favourite!

Staying on the North Island, but making the baby hop down to Wellington today, but first a quick catch up on yesterday’s big event in Auckland – Yalumba’s The Professionals Lunch. Sky City was a busy place to be yesterday…

With 190 people booked in, we needed a separate room to decant the Reds – thanks Prabhat and all the wait staff and prep team at Sky City – you made it all easy, it’s nice to work with top operators!

The calm before the event storm…

North Island, New Zealand – first stop – Auckland

9.41pm, Wednesday 21st July, Federal Street, Auckland central, North Island, New Zealand

Evening folks, and it’s night two of three in Auckland….and terribly exciting as we find ourselves in town at the same time as the US Vice President is visiting, and it looks like we’re neighbours for a couple of days! First things first though…..this was our last look at the South Island as we hopped across the Cook Strait to the North Island…..rugged mountains straight down to the sea……

Our first job in town was our annual consumer tasting with local national Wine Options competition superstar Kingsley Wood… his new First Glass Wine & Spirits store on the North Side of Auckland in Takapuna. Picture this – 95 wine fans cheerfully turning up on a cold school night to take their place on their chairs with a wine set sheet on a clipboard, to taste through 12 wines with some cheese & baguette snacks on the side. Never fails to impress me, and last night was no exception. With about a third of the folks new to the wine class, I went for a very high fact content, a bit more Barossa history than usual, and a lot of food and wine matching winners seen around the traps so far this year on our travels through England, Scotland, the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, the USA, and across Australia from Perth to Brisbane during our recent Rare & Fine tour. Eg  the whole slow cooked lamb shoulder from Matt Moran’s conservatory style restaurant complete with kitchen garden ‘Chiswick’ amongst the leafy green side streets of Woollahra in Sydney …..with our Cabernets The Menzies and The Cigar, and our top Cabernet Shiraz blend The Signature…..

A top night had by all…..and a traditional exchange of gifts between Kingsley and myself – I got an All Blacks flag – might store that at work  in the Clocktower, under the flagpole……with our collection of flags of the world…..ready for the day that Richie McCaw visits the winery, and we can run it up! Thanks Kingsley, Harvey & Sam, and all the First Glass faithful that come along to the tastings……not forgetting Sue who puts together all the tasting notes from the sessions. See you all next year – roughly when the British Lions are touring

OK, it’s lights out now, as we have a massive day tomorrow with ‘The Professionals’ Consumer lunch …..ill let you know how it goes, plus catch up today’s super Auckland trade session at Banque Oyster Bar & Eatery, Remuera. See ya when it’s Friday in The City Of Sails.

8.25am, Friday 22nd July, Depot Eatery, Federal Street, still Auckland Central, North Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and I’ll have to get my skates on, as I’m due over the road at Sky City to start decanting the multitude of bottles of big reds on show today at our “The Professionals Long Business Lunch”. But first, whilst I plough through probably what’s going to be the healthiest moment of my day…..a quick catch up on yesterday’s local trade event, because if I don’t do it straight away, if just doesn’t get done! 

Thanks Depot Eatery, whenever I’m in town, I’m powered by their magic muesli!

Yesterday’s trade event was at Banque Oyster Bar and Restaurant, on the other side of town on Remuera Road……run by their top in house version of the energiser bunny – Aki – he genuinely just never stops!…..complete attention to what’s going out on the plates, the set of the room, the sparkling finish on the wine glasses, the presentation of the oysters in the raw bar….the consummate professional wine and food man – we were in very good hands indeed!

The plan was a good one – fortunately we have some organisational superstars in our business, and my tour of New Zealand  logistically was sorted from Auckland by Tina Rutherford…..and we tasted our way through ten wines showcasing our new release wine world just now – from the worker bee 2015 Y Series ‘baby’ Viognier through to the muscular new release 2013 Signature Cabernet Shiraz and the ‘moving right now from primary fruit to some nice aromatic pipe tobacco secondary development’ 2006 The Reserve Cabernet Shiraz…..yep! There’s definitely an old Australian Claret (that’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz blended together folks) theme going on in our wine house. Then Aki and the boys sent out some fab taster canapé things to complement the wines, and we just got to mix and match and chat at will! Some days are diamonds folks! My star combos for the day?

The shredded spanner crab lettuce cups with the 2015 Y Viognier and 2014 Roussanne…

The Peking style duck with house made hoisin ‘with a slight sting’ style sauce and the 2013 ‘Strapper’ Grenache Shiraz Mataro blend…

And the rare beef on a roasted – but cold and firm – kumara slice – with the bigger reds…..

So there you have it…..thanks to everyone for coming over to Banque, including the fab crew wine selling road warriors from Negociants New Zealand here in Auckland….yesterday was a treat! See ya next year when the British Lions are touring! This will be me, all rugged up, in my Highlanders colours…….

Not even 24 hours this trip Christchurch!

7.41am, Wednesday 20th July, Gate 18, Christchurch Airport, South Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and I’ve just polished of a fab  pinepple and cheese roll for brekky – the locals call cheese rolls ‘Southland sushi’ and I love em! Watch out next week as I have a day off down Invercargill and Gore way, and have heard a rumour about a deep fried cheese roll! Watch this space!

Any rate, I’m off to the North Island and Auckland today, so will fill you in once I get there. But thanks Vino Fino, not sure how you squeezed 50 people into your tasting basement….but a top wine night out had by all! See ya when the British Lions are touring next year……I’m off to catch a ride with my Air New Zealand mates….lovely folks actually

Big night out in Dunedin, New Zealand

8.50am, Sunday 17th July, Brothers Hotel, Rattray St, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and I’m pleased to report that our first ever Yalumba stadium gig last night at the Forsyth Barr here in Dunedin – home of the Highlanders – went absolutely swimmingly! We had 40 wine and rugby fans from all over Southland turn up at 5 to assess their way through eight wines……each one paired with a canapé put together by the fab stadium chefs.Here’s the view from the Heartlands Hotels Lounge in the Forsyth Barr Stadium above the pitch…..the 3.30pm calm before the sell out game against the Waikato Chiefs storm.

The table settings were fab…

Pork belly with the 2015 Y Viognier…..fell apart in your mouth with a sweet chilli glaze

Mini beef and potato pies with our new vintage release 2013 The Signature Cabernet Shiraz

Then it was game on!

And a tremendous win to the home – we love em’ – Highlanders 25 : Chiefs 15……and thanks to the freaky good Ben Smith for signing the flag – magic souveneir of our first stadium / pre game Yalumba event…….it’s going straight to display at my desk!

Cheers for now….off adventuring on our day off…..down the Otago Peninsula amongst the Penguins, the albatrosses, the sea horses and the seals!

Welcome to Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand

4.02pm, Saturday 16th July, Heartland Hotels Lounge, above the Forsyth Barr Stadium pitch, Home of the Otago Highlanders, Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand

Welcome folks, or as the locals around here say “Kia Ora”. It’s the calm before the storm right now in Dunedin, New Zealand….. and we’re set to go with a showcase tasting for the Members of Forsyth Barr Stadium, the home of the Otago Highlanders rugby side. Our tasting class this evening is capped at 40 people, and we’ll be looking at 8 wines, each with a specially paired canapé……set to finish half an hour before the kick off in tonight’s sell out match between the Highlanders and the visiting Chiefs from Waikato up on the North Island. Here’s where we are…

We’re in Dunedin to start our two week Yalumba Rare & Fine tour of New Zealand, and we’re certainly doing in style tonight! Go Highlanders!

Oh, and by the way, on the the trip down to Dunedin on Air New Zealand last night, I read their in flight magazine, and look what made Bob Campbell’s wine column! Yep, that’s us with the Paradox Shiraz…..”as Aussie as Crocodile Dundee”… We’ll take that thanks! It’s a top Single Site Shiraz planted back in the 1920s in the ‘Moppa’ – the northern part of the Barossa Valley Floor that’s slotted north of Nuriootpa between Carrara Hill, the Adelaide to Sydney highway, and Truro.

Our good mate Richard Emerson has just opened his brewery about one hefty kick of the football from the stadium, and we dropped in there for a quick look on the way to set up for this evening – check it out if you get a chance…..the restaurant is fab, and the beer even better. Here’s a special seasonal one for seafood lovers…..actually steeped with local clams……

And…..I’ve already done a quick trip to the store to stock up on local treats like Pineapple Lumps – full of fruit juice, so technically an essential fruit group – with more to come!

Stick with us as we tour Aotearoa for the next two weeks…..Haere Ra…..that’s ‘goodbye’ in Maori folks……for now!

I’m Goodbye Queensland….tremendous time had by this wine gal!

12.57pm, Sunday 10th July, Brisbane Airport, Queensland, Australia

Afternoon folks – it’s been a big week in this particular wine road warrior’s world. After a brilliant run through Far North Queensland, it was a three night stand in Brisbane, then one night only in three consecutive parts of Queensland – Toowoomba, Noosa Heads, and The Sunshine Coast. This is all staunch Yalumba wine country, thanks to the great efforts of some fabulous S Smith & Son reps ……Jayney, Steele, Jamie, Juddy you know who you are – who have built and maintained a string of local ‘fortresses’ for our wines – each and every one of them pleased to see us each year as we do our annual Rare & Fine circuit. I only wish there were more days in each week, so that I could spend some time in these spots – check the spectacular views!

Bribie Island, Sunshine Coast

In front of the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club

Also Noosa Heads, panoramic shot didn’t work properly, but the scenery was still pretty good!
So any rate, here’s a quick hop skip and a jump through some of what we were up to in our last week of the domestic Rare & Fine roadshow – coast to coast across the country. We started in Perth back on May 15th, and we finished last night in Brisbane………19 towns in all! In Brisbane  we did our first event with ‘the worst vegetarian restaurant’ in town! 

Yep, that would be the meat lovers from The Norman Hotel.

We did a business folks’ lunch in The Longhorn Room, and it went so well that we now have an annual event on our hands! Yay! One can never have too much excellent steak on one’s horizon!