‘Tiptoeing  through the tulips’ ……in the Scagit Valley, Washington state

11.26pm, Friday 27th March, 8th Ave, Seattle, WA, USA

Evening folks, I’ve just come in from our last event of the three day program for Washington state.

Actually, that’s as far as I got before I dropped off to sleep. So let’s start again.

9.56am, Saturday 28th March, Gate B12, Sea Tac Airport, Seattle, WA, USA

I’m off to San Diego today, and get to play tourist, although we are going to attempt another ‘in the footsteps of Fred Caley Smith’ adventure later on. For those of you who are new to the blog or Yalumba, Fred Caley Smith is our current owners’ second uncle – the elder brother to their grandfather Walter Smith – who ran Yalumba back before World War 1. Any rate – Fred Caley Smith was the Indiana Jones horticulturalist for the family, and was a recognised expert in fruit tree diseases in South Australia. Seeing as Yalumba in those days was a fresh fruit exporter to England, as well as a winemaker, distiller and fruit cannery – Fred was a pretty important part of the machinery. He was sent away to travel on behalf of the family for two years – 1893 & 1894 – to consolidate their traditional export markets in the British Empire, and to open up new arenas of operation in the USA and Canada. Sound familiar? Yep – that’s pretty much been my world for the past 13 years, so at times, even though we’re 120 years apart – it often seems like we’re running on parallel lines. We can compare travel notes though as Fred was an astonishing correspondent – sending 30-50 page hand written reports almost daily to his father – Sidney Smith, son of the founder Samuel Smith. So we often find ourselves doing Yalumba events in exactly the same places where Fred visited – either to promote Yalumba, or look for ways to improve the winery, orchard or canning operations. You should see how excited he gets when he visits the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893, and the ‘new’ thing that is on display that year was electricity!! “The applications” he enthuses – for every part of the business!!

So we’re going to visit the Hotel Del Coronado later on this evening, as Fred stayed there between the 4th and 8th of August 1893 – so wish us luck as we go in search of the ballroom and the original location of the indoor saltwater baths.

But what did we do over the last couple of days? A lot of miles up and down Washington State! Here’s a photo log of some tremendous corners of Washington State – where we’re fortunate to be listed at some pretty fabulous addresses.

On to the ferry from Seattle, and across the Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island – we chose the warmest and calmest day of the year so far!

 

 

 

Thanks a huge amount to the folks at Town & Country Market – we’re on the shelves there, an easy option with their great soup, chilli and salad bars….and that deli!

Then further north, up the Olympic Peninsula, to Port Hadlock and the legendary Ajax Cafe, right on the beach

 

   

 

They have a fabulous wine dinner schedule each month, and Bill The Rubber Man Wine Guy runs a great show…..

 

 

 

We finished off the very last of the 2010 Signature in the USA with lamb……as you should with Cabernet & shiraz blended together.

 

 

There you go, that’s a better photo of the Ajax Cafe Wine Dinner faithful – thanks for coming out in force on a school night!

Then back down to the ferry for the 11.30pm crossing

 

 

A few hours sleep – I love that stuff…….

And back up to La Conner and its Historic Waterfront, to see our friends at Nell Conners, right there on the river, just downstream from the Rainbow Bridge

 

 

They’ve got our Eden Valley Viognier on, as it goes so well with their crab cakes…..

 

 

And their Sockeye Salmon salad….

  

 
 

  

They’re the local champions of ‘farm to table’ , and we’re thrilled to bits to be on their list

  

 Now, finally for the tulip bit. Nell Thorn is on the Historical La Conner Waterfront, and they’re smack bang in the middle of the section of the Scagit Valley that’s famous for its tulip fields……and as a stopover point for the Snow Geese on their way to the sprig get together spots further south. This year the tulips are out early, so on the way back to Seattle…… 

 

  

 

There’s just thousands of them!, the Tulip Trail is one of the main tourist seasonal peaks of the La Conner season, and Nell Thorn (Bistro & Pub) had 200 people for lunch on Thursday, and we’re on their way to much the same when we were there yesterday. So thanks again – Holly, Susan & Casey – what a lovely waterside address to be at.

Then it was back to Seattle last night for a blogger interview / food and wine matching session With Jameson (‘Wine without Worry’) 

Finkat the forever fab  Wild Ginger, followed by a trade dinner – same place! 

 

That brings us to this morning – Goodbye Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Port Hadlock, La Conner, Bow – sorry Tacoma but I’ll see ya next time I’ve already promised Patrick…..

Goodbye Colorado – Seattle – hold on….I’m coming…..

6.03am, Wednesday 25th March, Gate C28, Denver Int Airport, Colorado, USA

Morning folks, through security, coffees hot, and we’re on our way to the Pacific North West. Today is all about the scenic route – first Sea Tac airport, get the rental car – then downtown Seattle, put the bags in the room, grab my wine dinner gear – then hit the road and head north into Cascadia – pine trees, rain & mountains…..water everywhere – I love it!! 

First stop La Conners to drop in and say thanks for the support of our wines at the Nell Thorn Waterfront Bistro & Pub, then on up to Bellingham to do a tasting – mandatory stop at Rocket Donuts – then back down to Bow for tonight’s wine dinner at the Rhododendron Cafe – ‘The Rhody’. Then a nice quiet run back down to Seattle late tonight …….should have the road to myself, and a big sleep! Today’s a long one folks, but the view will be magic all the way.

See ya when it’s Washington State 

 

Thank you Colorado Springs……

7.29am, Tuesday 24th March, Louisville near Denver, Colorado, USA

Morning folks, I’ve put the vitamin sticky patch across my bicep, packed a banana in my school bag, and put half a bottle of water and some Gatorade down my throat already – all designed to combat the thin air up here in Denver – which knocks me about like crazy every time I come up here to Colorado. It’s just a flying two day visit, so it’s all about sucking deep breaths and keeping coffee to a minimum – then tomorrow it will be through to Seattle and sea level for the rest of this trip……yay!

So just a quick thanks enormously to Ross from our distributor here in Colorado – Classic Wines – because we did a fab trade lunch for 26 people down in Colorado Springs yesterday, and knowing I was a nut job Yankees fan, he asked local citizen Goose Gossage to sign a cap for me. Any baseball fans out there will know that Goose is a Hall Of Fame pitcher with his trademark mutton chop moustache – one of those tremendous three dimensional characters that you go to the ball park to see.

  

So “THANK YOU” – made my day, and this is going straight to the shelf at my desk at the winery, between my Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera signed photos!! 

Staying High – New Mexico desert to Colorado Rocky Mountain…

5.44am, Monday 23rd March, Gate A7, Albuquerque Airport, New Mexico, USA

Rental car returned in one piece, luggage on, uneventful passage  through security, the latte from the local Black Mesa coffee company isn’t bad, and somehow the Smart Start cereal from Kellogs this morning doesn’t taste like soggy shredded cardboard. Not wanting to tempt fate, but this is a good start to the day. It’s a short hop from the high desert of Albuquerque and Santa Fe this morning across to Denver – Capital city of the Colorado Rocky Mountain High happy, fit,  bike riding, trail hiking, mountain climbing, kayaking, Lycra clad folks. No folks, I don’t really fit in just yet, but I’m working on it. Working my way through the New Mexico Tourism Official Green Chile Cheeseburger Trail this last few days probably won’t help!

Any rate, just had a fabulous two days off in a row – first time since mid January, so I made the most of it – and yesterday I went for a drive between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but not the 75 mile per hour 1 and a half hour zippy trip along the interstate – I took the 65 mile back road called The Turquoise Trail.

First you head east out of Albuquerque along Central Avenue, which is pretty much the original Route 66 road bed – to Tijeras.

 

Not quite Frank Sinatras place in Vegas, but still standing, and still looking after road trippers that like ‘nice clean rooms’

Beyond the Albuquerque city limits, one agic old motor court hasn’t done quite so well

 

 

Into Tijeras, and you turn north onto NM Highway 14 – the Turquoise Trail – which winds north through the Sandia Mountains. 

  

First you’ll hit Cedar Crest – Yep, covered in Cedar trees, then  through a couple of hamlets – Sandia Crest, Golden, then you’re into the old silver and turquoise mining area, where you’ll find the resurrected ghost town now an artist colony of Madrid, and Cerillos – site location of several western movies. Here’s where my rental car developed partial 4 wheel drive. Excellent job thanks Chevy.

 

This is magic country – but with not many spots to perch on the side of the road – trust me – magnificent mesas and snow covered peaks in the distance – I just tried to soak it up with my eyes. You can see by the sky I had the best day of the week for the drive, and by the end of the day, I was in shirtsleeves. Hard day to match folks.

Here’s Madrid – if you can imagine the Woodstock festival moving into Tombstone – that’s what this place looks like, with everything wrapped around the narrowed two lane road down to one lane Main Street. Oh oh – better go, we’re loading in 15 minutes 

  

    

 

 

 

 

  

This is not a diner folks, it’s where they filmed the Wild Hogs movie – goodness knows how they got any film crew and their gear into the Main Street. Talking of filming – one of my favourite actors Kiefer Sutherland made “Young Guns” at the next village on the Turquoise Trail – Cerrillos. There’s a few Adobe houses, a mining museum, a bar a post office and a church – that’s the whole town.

  

 

 

  

 

  

  Then it’s through to Santa Fe, and you’ve done the trail. I think next trip that I’ll be staying at the boarding house in Madrid, as the music sessions at the Mine Shaft Tavern are legendary, and local gossip has it that the place gets terribly interesting very late of the evening when the previous  – long deceased – citizens “come back” to wander about town at will.

After completing the trail, I thought that the right thing to do was to head for El Parasol – household name in Santa Fe for Mexican take away food – and get one of their green chile cheeseburgers,  for the run back to Albuquerque on the freeway. 

  

 So that’s exactly what I did – miracoulously not covering myself with  Green chile, tomato, melted cheese, shredded lettuce or the good juices coming out of the lot. That’s probably why the good folks at El Parasol wrap it for you in foil and heavy duty paper……

 

 Yes!! It was as good as it looks. Get ready Angaston, I’m bringing this New Mexican tradition back with me as well!

So, back to Albuquerque and a visit to the rattlesnake museum – they’re evil looking things, and even with the glass between us……they made the hair stand up on the back of my neck, not in a nice way at all!

  

 

So there you have it folks – into Colorado for a quick couple of days, then on to Seattle on Wednesday morning.

See you tomorrow with all the news from Colorado Springs and Denver   

Slipped into a New Mex frame of mind…

10.39pm,  Saturday 21st March, Marquette Ave, Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

Evening  folks, and it’s been a whirlwind 72 hours since I left New York on Southwest last Wednesday evening – having  throughly enjoyed my half day in Manhattan – walked through a snow flurry  early to get to a lovely breakfast with our brand manager Marko from Winebow –  our fabulous New York State distributor. PS I grew up in the Australian desert, so layering up and looking like a big round warm snowball in the Northern hemisphere winter suits me to a tee! Then I said goodbye to the Yotel and my compact cruise liner cabin, threw my gear into a cab and shot across town to host a Viognier breakfast / brunch for the trade at Sarabeths Bakery, then another cab and up to La Guardia to pick up my Southwest ride to Albuquerque – as we had a two day program set up to launch a new distributor for the “Land Of Enchantment” – New Mexico. 

So goodbye New York, and my favourite part of the Manhattan skyline…the Chrysler Building.

  

The two stage flight was a trek in itself – the weather shut down La Guardia to one flight ‘lane’ in and out,  but the Southwest fly boys shaved enough off the 4 hour flight time to get us into Denver to comfortably make the 10pm connection to Albuquerque. 

  

Got to  a deserted ABQ Sunport airport, picked up my bags, shuttled across to the car rental shed, and at around midnight was heading for downtown and the hotel, when I noticed the ‘low pressure in the back tyre’ light on. So I pulled into an all night gas station – of course because of the high crime rate in town, they can’t let you in, and they can’t come out – so with a combination of sign language and dollar bills through a slot in the glass, on went the compressor, enough air went into the tyre, warning light off, good to go to the hotel. Checked in……and crashed out at 2am and woke up at 7am – didn’t have to be anywhere until 11, so I’d planned to go to a local Route 66 legendary breakfast spot….so went out to the car…..tyre’s noticeably down! Around about now….I’m not thrilled to bits with the job! I distinctly remember thinking “this is not the glamarama globetrotter gig that folks think it is!” The only option was to belt over to the airport and swap the car over – fingers crossed that the tyre didn’t go on the way! I ended up with quite a sharp Chevy SUV, and eventually got to the Frontier Restaurant, Central Avenue – which is the section of the old Route 66 road bed that runs through the middle of Albuquerque’s downtown.

  

It’s a rambling barn of a place, with about 6 dining rooms joining on – caterpillar style – to a huge open galley kitchen. I went with their breakfast option “Number 1 : 2 eggs, bacon ham sausage or carne adovada, hash browns, toast or flour tortilla $6.99″ OK, so 2 eggs, scrambled with cheese on top, the tortilla and the carne adovada was my choice……..my plan being to invent my own breakfast burrito, seeing as our Soul Cafe back in Angaston does such a good job of theirs. 

**before I go any further – I can hear you asking “what is carne adovada?” It’s slow cooked fall apart fibres of spicy pork. 

So here you go, the Barossaburque brekky burrito! And bear in mind the tortilla is the Frontier’s own fresh made that day fluffy number…..you can actually buy them by the dozen for $3.09!

 

 

 

Nearly forgot – theres crock pots of warm red chilli (not as stingy hot as the green) salsa……and that goes on top of the carne.

 

 

Not too bad for a new arrival in town!

Then it was a matter of loading visine into my eyes, and we were off to introduce ourselves to our recently appointed distributor for  New Mexico – Fiasco – and some of the local restaurant and retail trade with a masterclass over lunch. I was set up well for the day with my Frontier brekky burrito – always a good thing, as at these trade or consumer events, the smart move for me is to talk whilst everybody else eats – trying the wine with  the various foods.

So it was all about our viogniers, Shirazes and Grenaches with the local New Mexican cuisine….which I love to bits. We do salt, sweet, spice and hot at home with Thai and Vietnamese twists – here it’s a similar combination, only with a Southwest twist on Mexican with a completely different range of chillis. Here’s one of the dishes that went superbly with our Eden Valley viognier – ‘Pecan crusted poblano chilli stuffed with sweet potato’ 

And here’s what the same poblano chillis look like at the local market….

 

 

Sorry folks, my eyes are starting to close as I’m writing this, so I’ll leave it at last Thursday  afternoon, and I’ll be back tomorrow with the Ranchers Club event on the Thursday night, and then our time in Santa Fe yesterday . 

See Ya when it’s Sunday

This is New York baby – keep up!?

8.26am, Wednesday 18th 2015, 10th Avenue, Manhattan, NYC, NY, USA

Morning folks, I know there hasn’t been a blog posted for a couple of days – it’s been just a tad hectic! Just getting from A to B in this town is a trek, and we’ve covered some ground, in New Jersey and New York, hired a Zip car, braved the New Jersey Turnpike without even a close shave – anyone that knows that road knows what I mean! – we had a couple of irate faces, but they zoomed off to whatever earth shatteringly important thing that they had to be at……and we returned our Zip car in one – unblemished – piece. So here’s a quick catch up with what we’ve been up to, and don’t forget we navigated our way through all the leprechauns – male and female – that descended into Manhattan for the St Patrick’s Day parade, and their green beer fuelled antics……and again emerged unscathed. So read on intrepid wine tour follower…..we’re away!



Shall we take one of these cars to New Jersey? Nah…..better choose a Zip car….and off to NJ





Found a new excellent product at Gary’s……reminds me of that sandwich in New Orleans





Whilst out and about – look! – it’s my mate Chris Ringland’s wine!! We were in the same class at Roseworthy – the wine making school, way back in the day. And who else was in our class? Michael Brajkovich from Kumeu River NZ, Martin Shaw from Shaw & Smith, Pete Barry from Jim Barry Wines, Clare – even Rolfy Binder from Veritas, Barossa…..and Roger Harbord from Cellarmasters, and Mark Purbrick from Chateau Tahbilk – yes it was pretty stellar stuff!



Hey Dan Killey – isn’t that some of your Rousabout Rousey I see stacked there?

Then back into Manhattan, the Upper West Side to one of my favourite stores anywhere – Whole Foods! Thanks a million folks, for such staunch and continued support…..and with all that magic hot and cold ready to roll food next door, no surprise that our Y series flies!





After work, back onto the bus downtown along Broadway, get off at 42nd Street, for the crosstown bus to the hotel – sounds like I’m living in the lyrics to a song!





Watch out, tomorrow is St Pats Day, and the buses aren’t running where I need them to be ……..so…..



It’s back to the hotel – I’m in a cruise liner single cabin at the Yotel – 



And plan my attack for getting right up to the top of Manhattan for the first job of the day



Into the Subway, and ride the A train right up to the last stop!



It’s a pretty colourful neighbourhood!



I save the company heaps of money and have a cheese pocket for lunch from the Dominican street vendor, straight out of the hot oil



We do our trade call, then high tail it back down to Manhattan for the staff training and consumer session at Burke & Wills – the fab Australian outpost on the Upper West Side – do not let this mild mannered facade fool you! As you come in from the street, first an intimate wine and cocktail bar…..continue down the wool pack lined corridor to a hidden gorgeous atrium dining room…join the Manhattan Cricket Club, and gain access through that dark leather studded door to the staircase and the series of four “wine and cocktail salons” upstairs. Yes folks, best kept secret in Manhattan! And we love them!



Look for this window at 226 West 79th Street – between Amsterdam and Broadway – and tell them we sent you!

OK – I have to go, as we’re doing a Viognier Breakfast this morning, and I’m out of La Guardia on Southwest this afternoon….for Albuquerque, New Mexico

See ya New York – no more Derek Jeter in that cling on uniform at shortstop – City …….love Ya heaps

Crab town to the Big Apple

9.24pm, Sunday 15th March, 10th Ave between 41st & 42nd, Hells Kitchen, Manhattan, New York City, NY, USA

Evening folks, it’s seriously chilly here in New York, and blowing an absolutely icy gale just as an added extra! I said goodbye to Crabtown this morning and rode the Amtrak train ‘the Northeast Regional’ up to New York. 



I even managed to plough through the stack of accumulated receipts – accountants are running the world – and I write a story on the back of each one so that it all makes sense and then gets balanced  up. This is the glamorous stuff folks – like doing the washing in the hand basin, and drinking scalding hot coffee from truck stops late at night driving home from events – we did that last night after our wine class with the lovely folks at Stateline Liquors, Elkton, MD.



Any rate, made it to Penn Station, NYC – then across to Hells Kitchen – my favourite place to stay in Manhattan – and this trip I’m staying in the new ‘Yotel’ for the first time. It’s a very edgy idea – each room is called a ‘cabin’ and it’s like staying in a cruise ship. One that doesn’t pitch and roll, so that’s a good thing. Everything is very compact and streamlined, the shower cubicle and toilet are all in the same four walls as the bed, but it works for me. If you’re lucky enough to be in the Big Apple – for work or pleasure – I reckon  your room is for sleeping and storing your stuff. And here at the Yotel, I’m as happy as a clam with my cabin for the next 3 nights.

PS You press a button and the bed slides down and locks flat.



I did the usual thing that I do first when I get into New York – into the subway to buy my Metpass – it’s the  keys to the city – and all its public transit. Then I went up to Harlem, as I’ve only ever been up there once before, and met up with our gal who looks after this part of the world for us – for an early dinner at the legendary home of soulfood “Sylvia’s”. Here’s me wandering down 125th street…

















So it’s lights out early for me now, as we’ve got a very big day out and about in New Jersey first and then back in Manhattan. See you when it’s  Monday