Goodbye Invercargill, Southland, NZ…….for now!!

10.05am, Friday 29th July, Invercargill Airport, Southland, South Island, New Zealand

Well folks, another trek across Aotearoa….’Land of the long white cloud’……comes to an end……quite fittingly here in Invercargill,  right down at the tip end of the South Island. Our Air New Zealand baby prop jet ride up to Wellington will be here soon, and we’ll be ploughing through some rough stuff on our way today – the complete opposite of the clear breezy run down the Southern Alps that we had three days ago.Landing in Wellington today will be like being one of those whizzy stomach dropping carnival rides……my plan is to just close my eyes when the flight attendants take their seats and hope the anchors work when they throw them out!

But we’ve had a busy couple of days down here between Queenown, Invercargill and Riverton – so here’s a quick catch up…..


Beautiful run down the Southern Alps thanks to the weather gods and Air New Zealand…..


Even if you do seem to ‘thread the needle’ between two pretty sturdy peaks to run up the lake – Wakatipu – to the Queenstown airstrip.


Tremendous turn out for our local trade event, held at No 5 Church Lane, which is the cosy private dining room at The Spire Hotel, Queenstown – thanks a million Tom.


Stayed overnight at the top ‘old motel converted into a cool lodge but there’s no TV in the rooms so it’s not for everyone’ Sherwood – I like it and could move in for a week with mornings like this one from the breakfast table window!

Hang on….I’m about to run out of my free 30 minutes of airport wi fi, so I’ll have to pick this up in Wellington whilst I wait for our Qantas ride across the Tasman. See ya when it’s the North Island.

***Same day folks…..6.53pm, Sydney Airport, Gate 6

So Queenstown went really well, excellent turnout……and after a fab Japanese meal with my delightful Southland handler from Negociants NZ – AJ you know who you are ! – I broke out the blankets, curled up in my lodge room, and hit the hay….no TV but no trouble going out like a light!

Then an early morning start, brekky in the lodge dining hall / bar arrangement, caught the sunrise and we hit the road southwards for Invercargill and our lunch time trade event.


Farewell Lake Wakatipu, the snowcaps rising out of it, Queenstown, and the pied piper of good times in the area Danny Carson – you also know who you are!

One quick coffee and cheese rolls / trade call stop at the Highway Cafe in Athol en route……



And it was on to Invercargill and our local trade event with our staunch mate Mana Davis at his tremendous bistro bar “Louie’s”


How lucky can a gal be – working with this particular bunch of talented food and wine blokes!

As a starter with the exotic aromatic treble of 2015 Y Viognier, 2014 Roussanne & 2014 Virgilius…..Mana made up a ‘fluffy mousse more than paste’ of salted mutton bird from the local Titi Islands – near Stewart Island, next stop the South Pole – and the closest thing I could compare it to is that anchovette paste that we used to have on our sandwiches as kids. I asked Mana why the Mutton Bird mousse tasted like fish paste, and apparently the birds eat krill, hence the fishy taste of the flesh. Mana cooked the Mutton bird meat up in its own fat with local Southland swede, watercress, and some secret herbs & spices….topped with pickled ginger. Excellent example of truly regional Southland cuisine!


Goodbye Wellington…..Queenstown snow country – here we come!

6.12am, Tuesday 26th July, Gate 18a, Wellington Airport, North Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and here we are at Wellington airport, grabbing the porridge breakfast option at Wishbone – just did a bit of surgery to remove all those horrid walnuts before the girls heated it up – and we’re off for the ‘southern double hop’ two flight trip down to Queenstown……excitement capital of the South Island – skiing, snowboarding, parasailing, jet boating, and my pace – the cable car ride above town. When you get Gate 18a on your boarding pass, that means one of the regional Air New Zealand (and that’s pronounced Earr Nyu Zillind around here!)  prop jets, and a bouncy old ride down to Christchurch. That’s where you change for the ‘split the middle and plop over the top’ prop jet again ride into Queenstown, where the pilots literally slice in between two mountain tops, slide down the river bed towards the air strip, then belly flop up and over the bank and onto the tar! Sometimes it’s better not to know what’s coming!


Off to Queenstown, so it’s internal combustion stuff for brekky, and on with the thermal undershirt!

But before heading south, a quick catch up on yesterday’s fab local trade event in Wellington – thanks to our Local gals Hanna and Cenna for putting it together, and Lorenzo and Lucas from Bresolin for the set up, tremendous log fire, and food!


That’s Lucas on the left – Lorenzo on the right – lovely young trustworthy food and wine lads from Wellington!


Slow cooked lamb shoulder, and house smoked brisket – lovely when the photos are completely self explanatory!!


See ya when it’s snowing down in Queenstown folks!

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…..at 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!