From Fine Seattle to Steamy Jacksonville

9.15pm, Southbank, Jacksonville (River City), Florida, USA
I left Seattle this morning on the 6.10am flight. Seattle was headed for a high of 56 F (13 C), and when I landed in steamy Jacksonville at 5pm this afternoon, it was still 93 F (34C). So.

Jacksonville – home of the orange-and-blue clad mad keen supporters of the Florida (University of) Gators and their Heisman Trophy winning and nearly concussion sidelined quarterback – Tim Tebow. (Amazing what you absorb when you’re a late night Sports Center junkie. It’s the only thing that’s on when I get home from work!) Also home of the NFL football team the Jacksonville Jaguars – and as soon as I saw their colours today, I thought of Wayne Butcher at the winery, our diehard Port Power-supporting financial wizard. Wayney! There is another team in the world that uses the colour teal. It’s the Jags. So you may just get a teal-coloured souveneir Jags trinket for Xmas this year!

This is my first time in Jacksonville, and coming in toward the airport, you could really see that there are huge chunks of everglades left, right and centre with ribbons of water crisscrossing themselves and pooling in amongst the dense undergrowth. No wonder it’s teeming with those big black alligators that consume everything including folks that stray the wrong way – check CSI Miami! It’s very steamy, and there’s not even enough wind to lift the flags off the poles – and there’s thunderstorms predicted for tomorrow. I’ve got the day off tomorrow, then we’re doing a wine dinner just around the corner at BB’s Restaurant. I think it was Sam Temme back about 6 years ago who won them over to our wines. So I’m looking forward to doing this event – it’s been a long time since we’ve done a dinner there.

But I just want to dive back and close the book properly on Seattle, as we had a grand finish to our triple night stand in the Sonics City, where they build my favourite aeroplanes, Boeing. (Apparently, according to my mates in the New Zealand air force – sorry I wasn’t home the other week when you visited Poppa and AJ – they build in 10% more thrust and braking than they need – makes me feel a lot safer, seeing as I spend so much time on them in the USA.) After our extended presentation with our distributor Unique on Friday morning, Ram (wine specialist with Unique) and I headed out to an outer suburb – Redmond – and we did a consumer tasting for Debbi atFine Wine and Cigars.

Now this is where good karma kicks in, and it is a small world. Our area manager that really built some magic presence and relationships for us in the Pacific Northwest was Dana J – who I swear used to channel Joan Jett – a great rock ‘n’ roll look for a wine gal. Dana used to be the Unique rep who looked after Debbi at Fine Wine, so when one Joe (of the five store owners) was planning a visit to the Barossa earlier this year – Dana and Debbi made sure we looked after them. I took Joe and his wife up into the Eden Valley, and we tried single vineyard rieslings and chardonnays up at the top of Pewsey Vale vineyard after visiting each of the individual vineyards on the way. I think it’s an excellent way of illustrating how the French concept of terroir’ applies to our area. So up at Pewsey, I mentioned that I’d be in Seattle at the backend of the year, so what about doing a tasting – featuring our Cabernet Shiraz blends plus the Riesling and Chardonnays.

So there we were last evening from 4 – 7.30pm, Ram, Debbi and me talking our faces off to a really good turnout of interested wine appreciators. I got a bit of a surprise when some folks who visited the winery in 2000 as part of a wine tour group – Sue, Karl & Karen – showed up with some photos of us all having lunch on the side lawn! Good stuff – thanks guys. And two more of the store’s owners – Dr Joe and Dan – came by for a taste as well, and we organised Dr Joe for a visit next month. He heard such good things he wants to do the whole Barossa & Yalumba thing himself. I made a nice list of wineries and sights – including the Farmers Market for Saturday brekky – and he’s set like jelly! I reckon Dan won’t be far behind either!

So at the end of the day, it was a tremendous finish – thanks very much to Deb and the boys for having us – and we’re all decided that we’re going to make it an annual event. And aswe did last night, we’re going to show new wines, and things that are from the top of our tree that most wineries wouldn’t open – and answer every question on all fronts so that folks have a memorable night out. So thanks Joe in Japan for the initial visit that started the ball rolling, and thanks Debbi and Dana for setting us up with our Yalumba safehouse in Redmond, thanks Ram for looking after them now. We’ll se ya next year Fine Wines, and I’ll put my thinking cap on to find something special as next year’s feature wine!!

More tomorrow from steamier Gatorville!

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