3.23pm, I-95 at Stirling (just around the corner from the Fishing Hall Of Fame), Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
Sorry folks, we’ve been flat out – in this unseasonally hot weather down here in Southern Florida – but I’ve got time to catch up the last couple of days. Just on the weather and why it is absolutely smacking me in the face every time I move out of the air con – today at 91 F (33C) is the hottest October day for Fort Lauderdale since 1911. Add the 70% humidity and it’s like a sauna you can’t switch off. We finish in Florida with this evening’s charity tasting and dinner, and I’m off to Chicago tomorrow for 5 days – and the weather looks great to me: 46 degrees F or 7.7 degrees C! I’m unpacking the long sleeves, the jersey, the arctic jacket. Yay! But before I get carried away – let’s rewind the last couple of days, because good things have happened in Tampa, Tarpon Springs and Fort Lauderdale.
Wednesday 14th October: Tarpon Springs & Tampa Rewind
We headed out early from Tampa, north along the west coast of Florida to Tarpon Springs. This town was established in the 1860s where the Anclote River meets the Gulf of Mexico. Its main claim to fame is that it turns out to be the home of massive sponge beds, and the place grew and developed around the diving for sponges, cleaning them up for sale, packing them and sending them to the world industry – from the 1870s onwards. In 1900 it was the biggest sponge port in the USA, and now the sponge docks and jettys are a great historical and tourist attraction.
Tarpon Springs is also home to one of the oldest family-owned independent wine & spirits retailers in the state. It’s called B21 – and because I knew you’d ask – it’s because the original owner of the store had a big sign up saying “B21 or B Gone!” Because you need to be 21 to purchase and consume alcohol in the USA. This store has been a long-time huge Australian supporter and has a seriously heavy bias across that section to the Barossa. I took a photo of a section of the shelving to demonstrate. Not just us, but a stack of our neighbours – Henschke, Ben Glaetzer, Langmeil, Trevor Jones, Barossa Valley Estate, St Hallett, Kaesler, Chris Ringland – and I think that might be Jim Barry from Clare sneaking into the picture as a ring-in! Nice thing to see – 16000km from home. Especially on behalf of the Barossa – thanks B21 and have a magic holiday season.
Back to Tampa, and we invited some folks from the local trade to Circles – one of the surprising things you’ll find in South Tampa – excellent authentic Thai food from Michael and Judy Chulikavit – in a bungalow restaurant with a fabulous cellar. This was one of my first-ever trade calls on behalf of Yalumba outside of Australia, back in 2001 – and it’s very nice to see that some of the good things actually don’t change. We had a top opportunity to show our wines off against the really live flavours and aromas of Judy’s dishes – even the Antique Tawny with the chocolate treble of ganache, mocha and mousse. Yes – it is a food group on its own.
Then we were in for a pleasant surprise.
Michael demonstrated massive generosity of spirit by presenting a wine from his cellar after lunch as a “mystery wine”. With all attending suitably impressed, it was revealed to be Yalumba’s 1996 Signature – travelling very very well and still solidly in its primary fruits. What an unexpected highlight – with the side benefit of being able to demonstrate in such convincing fashion how well these Cabernet & Shiraz blends age. Thanks Judy, thanks Michael – he’s thrilled to bits because he’s got another 6 bottles! – and thanks to the boys from Transatlantic, our distributors in Western Florida. (Mark & Victor – you know who you are!)
OK – run out of time, have to get ready for tonight’s job. I guess I’ll get back to this from Chicago. See ya from the South Florida steam centre.