Goodbye Calgary – from your next Stampede Queen!!

8.22am, Tuesday 20th September, Gate C58, Calgary Airport, Alberta, Canada

Morning folks, and it’s always nice to be leaving town with a good strong set of events done and dusted! Our dinner on Saturday night with the Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse went swimmingly….and re United us with one of our staunchest Yalumba ‘fortresses’ wrapped up in a person – Scott ex the manager of Judges Country House Hotel up in the Grim North (I love that part of the world!) of England. Chef / owner Joao Dachery did a top job of matching carnivorous courses to our wine set, and came out to explain the menu and the origins of the cooking style at Pampa – Brazilian for ‘prairie’.


And just when you think it’s all over……a dessert flourish with the floral berry lift and lemon zip of the Christobel’s Moscato 8.5% alcohol and a lovely ‘refresher’ to finish with. Pampa, and Susan from Pacific…..we love your work!


Our other events in town involved a staff training with the managers of the 15 Crowfoot Liquor stores across the Calgary area….at their headquarters store, they have a proper demonstration kitchen, so we did a proper history, geography, wine and wine and food pairing class. To thank the folks for coming in on their day off…..3 dozen Tim Hortons donuts for starters! Excellent session, and tremendous people to work with – thanks a million to Dale from Pacific for making it all happen.


Then back to downtown Calgary to catch up with local Journo Tom Firth (Cowtownwine.com) at Buchanan’s Chop House. I knew we were in the right place straight away, because there up on the wall is a framed Wallabies jersey (that’s our national Australian rugby team for the folks who don’t follow that code of football) signed by none other than Phil Waugh – great flanker from an era way back when we were actually competitive against the might New Zealand All Blacks. 

To finish our two day visit, we did a consumer Masterclass last night with the good people out at Craft Cellars – look! – our favourite sign….


Thanks enormously to Darcy and the crew at Craft, to Ken from Pacific and his offsides Grant – what a quality event! And we had the 2008 Octavius to work with, as it appears there were some boxes stacked underneath something else that came to light…..and as soon as we pulled the corks…..chocolate, coffee, licorice and fruit! Yep, seriously good velvety Shiraz flying nicely last night at Craft Cellars.

So it’s off to Edmonton shortly, with one thing left on my bucket list to do in Calgary, and that’s to attend the world famous Calgary Stampede……and I really want to be a Stampede Queen! That’ll give me something to work towards!



Cheers and thank you Cowtown!


In Calgary …..the locals call it Cowtown….now….

12.35pm, Sunday 18th September, Centre Street, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Howdy folks, just about to walk out the door and catch up with a long time staunch supporter of Yalumba wines who used to run a country house hotel in England, now with the Pampa restaurant here in Calgary – where we did our dinner last night. So just a quick dateline – safe and sound on the ground in a very sunny unseasonal Calgary – a bit disappointed that I didn’t check the concert listings. Why? Because if I’d taken the earlier plane across from Vancouver…..I would have been able to make the concert here Friday night….the absolutely fabulous in every sense of the word….Dolly Parton!! Never mind, I’ve turned up a little juke joint here in Calgary where a bluegrass band – The Men Of Constant Sorrow – are playing this afternoon, so that’s where we’ll be spending our Sunday off.


Welcome to Calgary, home of The Stampede, The Calgary Flames hockey men, and fantastic local Alberta beef brisket? This is the big mural that greets you at the Calgary Airport arrivals area – not hard to see why the locals call it Cowtown.

And as for the local brisket? Yep, it’s as good as they say – thank you to the Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club


See you tomorrow – when we have a big day in town with three top events scheduled.

Vancouver – nice to back, thanks a million, and goodbye!

11.28am, Friday 16th September, Bentall Centre, Burrard & Pender, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Morning folks, and a massive amount of water has gone under the bridge since I last posted, over on Vancouver Island, In Victoria. So let’s quickly catch you up on the Vancouver leg of the tour. Staying right on Coal Harbour on Vancouver’s waterfront, right next door to the Convention Centre….


you certainly realise very quickly just how busy Vancouver is as a tourist stop. The float planes are like busy bees from dawn to dusk – they fly by sight, not instruments…

And the cruise ships slip in at daybreak and out in the late afternoon, giving the passengers a top day in Vancouver, incurring no overnight dock fees…..


So whilst we’ve been in town, we’ve covered a lot of ground. On Tuesday morning, we did a tremendous Masterclass with the Product Consultants from the BCLDB – British Columbia Liquor Board – and used a wine set that represented the Australian situation well – various wineries, several wine regions, and a style range from a light fresh Mosacto through a traditional fortified . We did the first ever formal wine and food matching exercise training session at the same class that the PCs had done, and it was just tops! The combos were: Moscato / Sparkling with Asian cabbage and crab lettuce cups, Viognier with a mini Banh mi Pork belly roll, Riesling / Chardonnay with a smoked salmon blini, Barossa Grenache / Margaret River Cabernet with Prosciuto wrapped melon, GSM blend (Grenache Shiraz Mataro) / Clare Cabernet Shiraz with a Peking duck roll, Cabernet Shiraz blends with a steak tip bruschetta. Here’s the team from Negociants and our agents for Western Canada – Pacific Wines & Spirits with the food safe kit preparing the individual tasting plates…..


Oops! That’s the tasting plate – excellent exercise, and I think we’re going to use this sort of thing a lot.


Here’s the team….Alex, Maryann and Cynthia! Daniel was here as well, but not in the picture – he was carting everything in…thanks a million also.

Oh oh, I’ve just noticed the time. I have to finish up for now, as I’ve got a meeting with local Vancity or Hollywood North (that’s the cool names for Vancouver) hipster wine scribe and event entrepreneur – all round nice bloke that loves donuts like I do – Kurtis Kolt.So I’ll dive off and do that – I have had some strange looks as I sit here in the food court next door to Joey One – the restaurant we’re meeting at – with my three bottles of wine…..so best go before they confiscate my bottles in an unlicensed area!! See you when I’m at Vancouver airport – heading for Calgary tonight as we have a wine dinner scheduled at Pampa Restaurant tomorrow evening.

5.56pm, Same Day, Still Vancit, Vanncouver Airport, Gate C30

So, where was I. OK, trade call to the truly fabulous Miku Waterfront for an early dinner – they’ve been running our Yalumba Organic Shiraz by the glass for ever ***thanks!***- and their signature blowtorch finished wild sockeye Salmon Osha Sushi…..8 pieces of foodie heaven on a plate…..trust me!

Sorry folks, not quite sure how that boat pic got in there!


  Ferry boat ride Seattle USA to Victoria, Canada

12.47pm, Friday 9th September, Clipper Cafe, Pier 69, Port of Seattle, Washington state, Pacific Northwest,USA

Afternoon folks, and it’s a beautiful day out there on the water of  the Port of Seattle. Now this harbour is part of the body of water called Puget Sound, which goes all the way north to meet Admiralty Inlet, that in itself opens out and joins Puget Sound to a big football shaped section of water called the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Somewhere in there is the international border between the USA and Canada, and if you keep going due north, you’ll run straight into the island of Victoria, part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. 

So why the geography lesson? Because the elegant harbourside city of Victoria BC is our destination today, and we’re travelling exactly the same waterway as our Yalumba  ancestor Fred Caley Smith – the ‘Indiana Jones horticulturalist’ of the family – who did the same trip back in 1893. And it’s much the same time of year too – end of summer, beginning of fall or Autumn – it’s the first week of September and it’s still warm days. Fred travelled in October 1893, so probably well into the cooler weather. Although, we’re going on a high speed catamaran called The Victoria Clipper which should do the trip terminal to terminal in 4 hours. Fred Caley Smith caught the train from Portland, Oregon to Tacoma, Washington….and transferred to a ferry ship there. That puts him at the southern end of Puget Sound, and they steamed up to The Port of Seattle for a brief stop then on to a small bay at Admiralty Inlet called Port Townsend for another stop….then on to Victoria, the whole thing being an overnight voyage. It really gives you an insight into how folks travelled 123 years ago, and why travelling the globe was such an overwhelming idea for most people, and why stories of those journeys were so newsworthy……and built reputations and colourful adventure stories for decades. So stay tuned – our vessel is yet to arrive from Victoria, the forecast is for less than two feet of swell today……so it could be a fab run up to Canada……in the watery this time –  ‘footsteps of Fred Caley Smith’.

Same day, much later – different country.

10.24pm, Friday 9th September, Douglas Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Here’s our ride up to Canada folks – The Victoria Clipper….


There goes the luggage…


Goodbye Seattle….we’re away – and that’s Mt Ranier to the right folks


Here’s the narrows at Admiralty Inlet, where Fred’s steamer made its last stop at Port Townsend before Victoria…



Then it’s on up through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, across the border and into Canada….and Victoria Harbour, which is quite busy this evening


So here we are, thanks to The Victoria Clipper and Captain Scott Corden…..Yalumba is back in the house!

Chicago World’s Fair 1893 – why are we interested?

1.09pm, Thursday September 8th, Gate A17, Chicago Midway airport, Illinois

Howdy folks, and it was a top – although pretty warm at 96F or 36C – day here in Chicago yesterday, and we set of to have a look at The Museum of Science, located just back from the Lake Michigan shoreline, in the Hyde Park neighbourhood of Chicago…..about six miles south of the city.


Now what would a wine family business be interested in The Museum of Science in Chicago? Because this building is pretty much the only complete structure that remains….in exactly the same place….as it was for the 1893 Worlds Fair. Still, why would that interest us at Yalumba? Because the World’s Fair was a six month exposition of all things wonderful, uniquely regional and cultural from all corners of the globe….and new – in mechanical, architectural, constructional, adventurous, sensuous, scandalous and entertaining directions! And…..because during the last week of the Fair’s run…..in October 1893, one of the Yalumba family – Fred Caley Smith, grandson of the founder Samuel Smith, and great uncle of the current owners Rober & Sam Hill Smith – our own ‘Indiana Jones horticulturalist’ was there. Fortunately for us, Fred sent home detailed letters of his travels abroad, and toured this very building, when it was The Palace Of Fine Arts during the World’s Fair run.


So yesterday was our opportunity to catch up with our truly fabulous friends from our distributor for the mighty working hard state of Illinois – Heritage Wine Cellars – and actually walk “in the footsteps” of Fred Caley Smith…..123 years down the track. You certainly don’t get to do that sort of thing every day, and it’s one of the special things about working for this family business with its great history, and we’re thrilled to bits that Fred Caley was such a prolific writer, detailing everything that he did and saw for the folks at home – fully intending to have his correspondence bound as a diary of his adventures and observations – many of them directly related to the wine, vine and fruit growing and preserving businesses that Yalumba was involved with at the time. Otherwise we wouldn’t have these opportunities to have a window back in time to these sorts of fabulous events that Fred Caley attended. Don’t get me started on how he found himself at the Press preview one day before the new Tower Bridge was opened in London! That’s a whole another story!

Road snack taste test # 1 – Malley OH’S!

11.48pm, Tuesday 6th September, South Bend, Indiana

Evening folks, and it’s a very unseasonal warm night in Indiana – 28 degrees C out there right now, and for tonight’s blog post, I thought it was about time to start rating ‘unique local snacks’ as I’m travelling. Today as I was driving through the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio – heading for Indiana – I happened to pass the Malley’s chocolate works. Now apparently this family confectionery business has been going since 1935, so the forces of fate must have set the GPS to take me literally past their door. 

So tonight I’m going to taste test one of their top sellers – the round milk chocolate covered biscuit called the ‘Malley OH’.


Very smart printed cello bag with one biscuit inside….and biting in…..surprise! It’s not just a choc coated bikkie! It’s two dark chocolate biscuit discs with a thin layer of vanilla marshmallow between, coated with a decent layer of creamy milk chocolate. Very very nice, not too sweet, and everything melts away just leaving a yum milk choc flavour.

Rating – 9/10 – and the only down side? I only bought one!

PS apparently there a few Malley’s ‘Chocolate Shoppes’ dotted around north eastern Ohio, and four of them have old fashioned ice cream parlours attached. If you’re ever in Ohio, as Molly Meldrum on the Countdown TV show used to say….”go out and do yourself a favour”…. Track one down

See you when it’s Wednesday and we’re in Chicago

From Pittsburgh to Cleveland on the backroads…..and a Bigfoot sighting!

11.02pm, Monday 5th September, East Sixth Street, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Evening here in Cleveland folks, a very busy town today for visitors…..both US Presidential candidates Trump and Clinton had their planes parked side by side at the airport as they toured the local area…..and I drove in from Pittsburgh on the backroads. In fact at one stage today, I reckon the Trump convoy and I were not far off crossing paths! They were off to the fair at Canfield in north east Ohio, and I came through to Lisbon – just south – and then on up to Cleveland. I wondered why all the bunting and signs were up! 


Any rate, I promised a lot of folks that I’d get a blog post done each day, and I’m going to do my darnedest to make that happen…..with pics! So here’s the cross country hike from Pittsburgh – goodbye to the Steel City for now….


An early morning drive north west across a little slice of West Virginia, over the Ohio River at East Liverpool …..

Into the state of Ohio proper – I stopped in the little town of Lisbon for lunch – by luck I stumbled across the Steel Trolley Diner. Once upon a time, these things liberally dotted the American countryside, and now folks go looking for them…..


****weird moment in Lisbon, as I couldn’t help myself when I saw a sign in the local hunting shop across from the diner saying “Bigfoot tees”. Then I had to ask! Apparently there was a Bigfoot sighting in the area back in 2012 that didn’t involve alcohol or any weird experience enhancing stuff….and the locals aren’t discounting the story…..

– then straight up to Cleveland – sitting on both the Cuyahoga River and the southern edge of Lake Erie. I didn’t realise that the local baseball heroes – the Cleveland Indians – were playing the Houston Astros this evening, so I was lucky enough to get along with some locals….and this record of my first – and probably only – visit to Progressive Field……is going straight to the Pool Room!


PS I do have a very soft spot for Cleveland, as I was really looked after 15 years ago at the Amtrak Train Station as part of my four day residency on the trains and in the stations as I got out of 9/11 devastated New York. So it’s nice to be back – I like this town…..a lot.

See ya tomorrow, after catching up with those tremendous folks that look after us in Ohio – the Buckeye State – Vintage Wine Distributor……it will be along Lake Erie to Toledo – get ready Klinger fans from the MASH TV show, we might do dinner at Tony Packo’s – then on to South Bend, Indiana overnight before a very big day in Chicago with our distributor there Heritage.