Monthly Archives: October 2009

Roller Derby Update

10.30am, 5th Avenue & 45th Street, Midtown, Manhattan, NY, NY, USA
Hey Sportsfans – here’s a Windy City Rollergirls update. They’re off to the National Titles, the “Declaration of Derby” being held November 13-15 in Philadelphia. It’s usually known as The City of Brotherly Love, but during this event hosted by the Philly Rollergirls it will become The City of Sisterly Shove. This playoff series will decide the National Champion Flat Track team and will see our gals from Chicago compete against 11 other teams – including the Texas Rollergirls (Austin, TX), the Oly Rollers (Olympia, Washington), and the Kansas City Roller Warriors. I’ll keep you up to date with how the gals go.

Jane Gets a World Series Ring, Briefly

8.50am, Times Square, Manhattan, NY, NY, USA
The rain’s back today, but even a wet Manhattan is a great place to be. Yesterday we spent a lovely sunny Autumn day next door in New Jersey, “The Garden State”. I caught the train out to Milburn. It’s a shame that most folks think of New Jersey as a bit of an idustrial wasteland/Bruce Springsteen film clip. The largest part of it is rolling forest and countryside, dotted with Mayberry like townships – like Milburn.

This is where I met up with our charismatic distributor man in New Jersey and Pennsylvania – Al – and we presented a set of our new releases to the folks from the Canoe Brook Country Club, who have supported our wines in their clubhouse and dining room for a couple of years now. This is the best part of the job, where you get to introduce the wines to people, they like them and run with them, the folks at the club like them, they stay on the list, and then you get to go back and show consecutive vintage releases – they stay strong and stay on the list – then you get to do a dinner at the club that features the wines – and this is hopefully what we’ll be setting up for next October or the Fall (Autumn ) season. Thanks Canoe Brook – have a great holiday season and we’ll see you when the leaves start falling in 2010.

We made it a scenic route tasting day in New Jersey through Mountainside and Clifton, finishing up at Weehawken, which is the Hudson riverside landing just below where the Lincoln Tunnel connects New Jersey and Manhattan. I caught the ferry back to the city, and it landed right next to where the old aircraft carrier Intrepid is moored as a floating museum. What a way to head home after work – churning across the Hudson with the setting sun lighting up the Manhattan skyline like a movie set. Days like today – you gotta love your job!

mickey-rivers

Mickey "Mick the Quick" Rivers

Oh and by the way – Sunday night up in the Bronx, I had a roast turkey dinner pulled up at the counter of the Crown Donuts Diner – literally in the shadow of Yankee Stadium. While 55,000 people went crazy inside, I watched the game with the folks from Crown. As midnight ticked through, we saw Mariano Rivera close out a great night on the mound by Andy Pettite and send the Yankees to the World Series against the Phillies – and carried on the same way ourselves.

Truly great stuff – but I’d already had my own World Series moment before I even started watching the game. Down under the elevated subway line that brings the 4 train up to Yankee Stadium, there’s a whole line of old sports bars and memorabilia stores that go way back in Yankees folklore. One of these is Stan’s, and it’s traditional that come playoff time, they arrange for Yankee legends to be on hand for a couple of hours to meet the sportsfans and sign autographs. My luck on Sunday night was to meet Mickey Rivers, who played with the Yanks 1975-78 and won two World Series rings in 77 & 78. He was part of the Bronx Zoo era, was an All Star centrefielder and generally recognised as the fastest Yankee between the bases ever. He signed an 8×10 photo for me to add to my collection – as “Mick the Quick” – and when I asked to take a photo of him featuring his 1977 World Series ring, he promptly slipped it off and said “Here – you put it on!” How magic is that! What a great night – and that was even before the first pitch!

Suffice to say that I’ll be glued to the television across the series – my prediction is the Yanks in 7. I think it’s going to be one of the greats.

New York, from Winemakers to Naked Cowboys

New York Wine Experience and the “Completo” Hot Dog

3.23pm, internet cafe, Astoria Boulevard & 31st Street, Queens, NYC, NY,USA
Wouldn’t you know it – best laid plans always go astray. I ended up hearing about one of the best-kept-secret hot dogs in town, so changed my plans because it was also in a part of town I’d never been to – Astoria in the borough of Queens.

Just for those folks who have never been to New York City, the whole thing is made up of 5 boroughs: Manhattan, Queens (home of the New York Mets), The Bronx (home of the Yankees), Staten Island, and Brooklyn.

But I did go for a wander through Times Square first and bowled into a crowd having their photos taken with a total NYC icon – The Naked Cowboy. Check the photo, gals in all branches of the company – don’t say I don’t put stuff in the blog just for you! Then I hopped onto the subway for the first time this trip and tracked down the San Antonio Bakery #2 on Astoria Boulevard & 37th Street. It’s a proper working bakery with a Chilean flavour – definitely helps all over New York if you’ve got a few words of Spanish. Besides a glass-fronted counter full of freshly baked custard fluffy buns, meringue topped citrus tarts, and pastry creations that I couldn’t identify – with and without fruit – they have several savoury options as well. One of them is a meat and vegetable pastie-looking turnover made with more of a flour tortilla rather than flaky pastry, and the other is what I was looking for – the “Completo” hot dog.

The Completo Hot Dog

The Completo Hot Dog

I think a lot of folks think I’m weird when I take photos of hot dogs, but I’m going to end up with a very handy reference library of a wide range of foods in the end! The hot dog comes its own individual “rest”, which makes a lot of sense, topped with shredded onion, mashed avocado and mayo in a lightly toasted bun. A tub of spicy salsa called “pebre” comes with it, and you ladle on what you can handle, because it’s pretty stingy – definitely leaves your lips humming! I asked what was in it, and there’s onion, fresh chilli, tomato, lime juice, coriander – and something else I couldn’t get. Wait until I get more words in Spanish – I’m going to be dangerous! In the photo, you can see the dog and the salsa, and the layered caramel biscuit thing – absolutely sensational creamy sweet crisp. Definitely worth the trek.

And back to business …

Thursday & Friday, 22nd & 23rd October: New York City Rewind

These two days were all about the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience, a massive three-day program of tastings, master classes and food & wine events featuring 250 top wineries from every corner of the wine-producing world. This is the first time we have been invited to participate, and the two really big nights are the “Critics Choice Grand Tastings” on the Thursday and Friday evenings.

Brian Walsh (our chief of all things winemaking and viticultural) and I manned the Yalumba booth, and we poured the 2004 Signature Cabernet Shiraz blend – fitting really, as Walshy’s signature is on the back label of that Signature. We talked our faces off, and poured for consumers, the press, distributor reps, retailers, restaurant folk, and other winemakers – and were thoroughly shattered at the finish – but really pleased with the response to the wine, and just to be there – amongst such a stellar collection of wineries.

Also good to see that there was no shortage of Barossa neighbours either. I’ve put some photos in which I slipped around and took before everything got too crazy. There’s Cam Ashmead from Elderton, Dave Powell from Torbreck, Prue and Stephen Henshke looking like a honeymoon couple, Angela our PR gal based in the USA with Prue, and Brian and me at Yalumba central. (Notice I’m wearing those sharp threads, and yes, we did ring each other up and colour coordinate in power dressing red and black.)

If it’s a stellar parade of wine faces – makers and press – that you’re looking for, this was the place to be. Here’s the owner of Chateau Musar one minute, Matt Kroemer talking Sicily the next. We just talked nonstop to the consumers and answered 20 questions most of the time, but I did get to indulge my sweet tooth during a lull in the traffic. I slid over to the back corner of the room and tried four Sauternes – Suduiraut, Climens, d’Yquem & Coutet. No spitting those out, I can tell you! It really is a “gathering of the great” when you look at the Old World names that were there, and it was a treat to be there and see it all happen.

Now I’m caught up, I’m off to the Bronx to see if the Yanks can get up over the Angels and get to the World Series. See ya.

Looking Back to Genesee Depot

9.11am, behind Grand Central Station, Manhattan, New York, NY, USA
I went out early to grab a coffee, and I’m going to have to pinch some lines from that old musical Oklahoma – “O what a beautiful morning, o what a beautiful day etc etc”. Or come to thinkof it, maybe I’ve still got a bit of a Hugh Jackman hangover from last night’s theatre thing, cos I think he was in Oklahoma and did that song. Any rate, the sun is shining on Noo Yark Sitty today. It’s crisp but clear and I’m going to lash out and buy a new pair of jeans today, then head up to a part of town I haven’t been to before – Spanish Harlem for lunch, or maybe Dinosaur BBQ in Harlem itself. It’s too good a day off to waste, so once I’ve caught up with the blog – I’m out.

Later on this evening, the New York Yankees (another one of my passions that I’ve managed to avoid mentioning until now) will be in a position to take Game 6 of the ALCS (American League Championship Series) against the Anaheim Angels at Yankee Stadium up in the Bronx. This would get them a berth against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series. That would be a good thing, as they’ve not won a title since 2000 when they beat the other New York team – the Mets – in “the Subway Series’. So I already know what I’ll be doing tonight – it’s a full house, so I’ll be crushed into the Yankee Tavern across the way from the Stadium with all the other diehard fans without a ticket to yell and scream our boys past those pesky Angels. And I’ll have had dinner over the road beforehand at the old Crown Diner, made famous with a feature role in the recently released and sensational independent Spanish language film about minor league baseball, “Sugar”. Remember yesterday when I said sometimes the travel puts you right in the right place at the right time? Today, I love this job!

Now back to the business and back to Wisconsin.

Wednesday 21st October: Genesee Depot – The Union House Consumer Wine Dinner Rewind

The Union House circa 1899

The Union House circa 1899

Genesee Depot is a sleepy hamlet in southeast Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Madison and grew up as the support centre for the Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad in the late 1800s. It started with a mill and wagon factory, and by the end of the 1890s there was a slaughterhouse, blacksmith. woolen factory, quarry, and train depot with ticket office, baggage handling, waiting room and storage shed – hence the town name Genesee Depot. The Union House was built right on the main road and railroad crossing in 1861, built by an Irish immigrant as a bar and hotel for locals and travellers, and seeing as it gained a small upstairs ballroom soon afterwards – became social events central for the whole region. See the “before” black and white photo for how it used to look.

It’s now in the hands of Patty and Curt Robinson, and they run it as a local bar and restaurant – featuring a Wine Spectator Wine List of excellence and a menu that regularly has locally shot wild game. They’ve been great supporters of our wines for some time, and through John – the local rep for our Wisconsin distributor Purple Feet (and who visited Yalumba earlier this year) – we were able to arrange our first consumer wine dinner with The Union House for 60 people. Patty runs the kitchen and designed the menu, and Curt picks the wines to go with the food. According to the locals, the matches always work. That’s why the place was full. Curt has two of our wines on by the glass at the moment (thanks!) – the 2007 TGV Tempranillo Grenache Viognier and the 2006 Patchwork Shiraz – and it was the Tempranillo combination with the Herb & Spice Roasted Cornish Game Hen dish that won the popular vote as best combo of the night.

If you want to have a better look at what they do, check out their website at www.theunionhouse.com. They’ve got a recipe for their famous Pecan Crusted Chicken with Kentucky Bourbon Sauce – amongst other things. It all went really well, and we’re now set to make The Union House & Yalumba Wine Dinner an annual event. Another goodie – thanks Patty & Curt … and Bill the celebrity waiter as well, can’t forget him.

We had a late run back to Chicago Wednesday night and an early flight through to New York, and on to the Wine Spectator Wine Experience.

Broadway, Buses, and Hugh Jackman’s Singlet

10.39pm, 45th & Madison Avenue, Midtown, in a very soggy Big Apple tonight, NY, USA
I’m back – but it’s been a busy couple of days and nights in between. I’ve just got in from one of the major treats of my job: being in exactly the right place at the right time.

But first – the business. I had an in-store tasting with Sussex Wines (over on the East Side at 42nd Street and 2nd Avenue) this afternoon and evening, where we opened the Y Series Riesling, Unwooded Chardonnay, Shiraz Viognier and Merlot – and basically went through them all with almost everyone who came in to the store. This is the way you get to win folks over one at a time and answer all those questions on wine that everyone’s always wanted to ask. Lovely folks to work with, and a great day’s investment of time.

After work, I ducked across to 8th Avenue and up to 45th – right in the middle of the theatre district. Yep, we’re on Broadway! By the way, I love the weekly unlimited Met pass that the New York transit system has – it’s an access-all-areas pass for the whole 5 boroughs, and once you work out the crosstown and up & down town buses – it’s easy peasy, the city is mine!

One of my favourite things is the theatre, and occasionally I get to be in a city when someone special is on the boards – and this week is one of those times. I had a ticket to tonight’s performance of “A Steady Rain” with Hugh Jackman & Daniel Craig in a two-man, 90 minute, no intermission “discourse”. I won’t give too much away, as you’d want to see it if you get a chance. Basically you’ve got two Chicago policemen telling two sides of the same relationship – professional and personal – and unravelling a sequence of events that starts almost as black comedy, but pretty swiftly gets pretty close to the bone and “squeeze your eyes closed” nasty. Enough said that you can see why it’s 90 minutes straight through! The two boys are pretty convincing with their broad Chicago accents, and when they have a chat on stage after the show, you have to give yourself a quick shake at the prim English from Craig and definite Australian twang from Jackman.

This is what the story is. There’s a drive on to raise money for the Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS charity, and Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig lit up the theatre after their curtain call, explained the charity’s work, and said they would auction off their singlets from the performance, with the successful bidders being able to go backstage and collect them, meet the boys, take photos – the whole up close and personal experience. The result? $5000 for each, with both boys signing the two sweaty undershirts! It was spirited bidding – but why wouldn’t it be – literally live on stage, you’ve got James Bond and Wolverine up there on stage stripping down to their singlets. The rest of us who missed out … didn’t really miss out! Great night, great show, and great Broadway debut for Daniel Craig.

Now I did have good intentions when I started this, I was going to finish the Wisconsin story, as I want to tell you about another neat corner of the world where we’re in very good hands – Gennessee Depot is the hamlet, The Union House is the restaurant. And I wanted to talk about Thursday and Friday’s events at the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience – 2009 being our first invitation to be part of the whole thing. But trust me, it will all keep for tomorrow as suddenly, the bottom is rapidly falling out of my bucket – and I’m just going to fall into bed before midnight. No plans for tomorrow – it’s my day off, so I’ll catch it all up then.

How The Cigar Got Its Name

2.02pm , Midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Hiding out in the PR gals’ room until the hotel has mine ready, I thought I’d catch up on a very long day in Wisconsin yesterday. We drove interstate from Chicago, crossed the state line from Illinois into “America’s Dairyland” to visit retailers in and around Milwaukee – then went out to the sticks to Gennessee Depot  to do a wine dinner with The Union House Restaurant.

First stop was to see Rick at Ray’s Liquor, who has been a solid supporter of ours for a long time, and show him and the team our new Barossa Eden wines and the new Coonawarra Cabernet The Cigar. That name always starts a conversation, as there’s a much more established cigar culture in the US than at home, and I always enjoy telling the story that follows the question “Why is it called The Cigar?”

Here’s the thing. Coonawarra is about 5 hours drive south of the Barossa, and it is a really special spot to grow Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a lot cooler than the Barossa and sits on a geological hot spot for Cabernet that has been tagged “the terra rossa cigar” in Australia forever. It’s a north-south lying skinny strip of limestone ridge covered with 2 – 3 feet of ferric red dirt. That’s where the “cigar” term comes from, but how did it get there? Back in the dinosaur times, as the water was receding off our continent to shape Australia’s coastline, this cigar-shaped limestone ridge was formed because this was where the beach was – for about 300 years. Now, the coastline is about 30 miles further out, but this limestone ridge covered with red dirt remains and has been planted out to mostly Cabernet Sauvignon.

The typical characteristics that you see from Cabernet grown on the terra rossa cigar are mint eucalypt, blackcurrant or creme de cassis, mushroomy earth with a long and reasonably lean palate over predominantly French oak. There you have it – that’s why we’ve called our wine Yalumba The Cigar Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ray’s is in a nice old school area, and the bar next door had an ancient Schlitz Beer neon sign, which immediately triggered all the memory lane Laverne & Shirley stuff for me – from when I used to watch the TV show way back in the dark ages, yep back in high school. For those of you who missed out – have a look! It was based in Milwaukee and best friends Laverne Di Fazio and Shirley Feeney were bottlecappers at the ficticious Shotz Brewery – just a great show that’s still worth watching this far down the track.

Further into Milwaukee and we caught up with Ben at the Waterford Wine Company on East Brady Street. Here, we thought we’d show the Single Site shirazes and how they illustrate the French concept of terroir working in our Barossa world, and we compared and contrasted the FDR (Fine Dry Red)1A Cabernet Shiraz blend wines from both the 1999 and 2004 vintages. We’ve kept the 1999 FDR1A wine under wraps and just released it this year to coincide with the winery’s birthday on November 17th – yes! Next month! Lovely stuff, this cabernet shiraz as it cools down, stretches out and settles into this licorice over tobacco with velvety fruit. It showed so well at lunch that we decided to add it in to our dinner that evening – as an extra treat to thank the Union House folks for their support. So it was “see you sometime next year, Ben” – we’ve decided to do an Australian masterclass that repeats the tasting we did today – but for customers of the Waterford Wine Company. Good event to put in the calendar. (And thanks for the tip – we went to Katie’s Diner for a late lunch, and it could have been the inspiration for the “Happy Days” TV show by itself)

Have to go – the front desk just told me that the room is ready. I have to hang the sharp threads up and polish the shoes – off later this evening to pour our wines at the Grand Tasting for the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience.

I’ll be back.