Monthly Archives: April 2010

Voyager 1 Has Landed

10.40am, Yalumba Clocktower, Angaston, Barossa Valley, SA, Australia
Just wanted to let you know folks – Voyager 1 has landed in the Barossa safe & sound, and I’ll be docked at Yalumba for at least 4 days!

Changing Minds With an Aged Aussie White

2.38pm, Tuesday 27th April, Changi Airport, Singapore, still in transit
This is Voyager One on the home run – having a magnificent cup of TWG (est 1837!) Jasmine Queen Tea – and every one of their teas I’ve tried really are head and shoulders above any other tea I’ve had! Check this back of the tea bag description – “intoxicting jasmine flowers enhance the sparkling elegance of this delicately fashioned green tea”. (They must  go to a similar school of writing as a lot of wine back label writers.)

Any rate, I’ve just been off around Terminal 3 for an explore, and I got quite excited because  believe it or not … Dunkin Donuts are now here! However – Dave Langford this is for you – their Boston Cream is not the same doughnut here! It’s a thick dry dark not glazed choc icing with a white ripple – definitely not our favourite that we have when we’re working Chicago together! And the vanilla custard cream centre is lighter and sweeter – not the same doughnut Dave!  I took one bite and I knew.

Wow, it’s just started to pour outside and it’s 30 degrees C. I’m glad I’m in here. So – to the last couple of days in Vancouver.

Saturday April 24th – Vancouver Wine festival

Here’s how the day went:

11am – 2pm   We met up with Tara from MAB (she’s in that photo of the three girls below from the first day we were in town doing the wine speed dating session with our distributor), and she took Kath and me across to the yacht marina just across from where the recent Winter Olympic Village was located. Here you’ll find a double-story restaurant perched on and over the water called Monk McQueens – the venue for this year’s Aussie barbie – a long standing Wine Festival event. The idea here is to put about 35 Australian wineries exhibiting at the Festival around the outside of the room, and folks buy a grazing ticket to try any wines they like, plus a whole lot of “Aussie barbie” finger food.

There was crocodile and kangaroo coming off the grill, little baby lamb shepherds pies, and the mandatory “prawns off the barbie”.

 Great day really, and the event was sold out again. It’s always a given that we see a whole pack of folks from the Australian Wine Appreciation Society on this day – they have a crazy staunch chapter up there in Vancouver, and we love ’em! Over in our corner, folks had the added extra of my karaoke version of The Easybeats “Friday On My Mind”, seeing as the music for the day was All Australian, and that’s pretty much my era.

A lot of fun, the Pewsey Vale Contours and 2008 The Scribbler flying high yet again – you know you’re onto something when folks are over “by reccommendation” from other folks in the room to try an aged, dry Eden Valley riesling. So much for the preconceived ideas by a lot of marketing types that consumers only “get” Australian white wines that are simple, slightly sweet, and super fresh. They should have been with us on those 4 Festival days to see how much consistent  impact that 2003 Pewsey Vale Contours made. Well done, Lou Rose, and everyone with a hand in whatever happens at Pewsey Vale!

Then we had a big break until the evening session. I went to the shops because SOMEONE at the winery with a massive crush on Michael Buble wanted a hockey jersey from the Vancouver Giants – the team he part owns. Turns out you can usually only get the jerseys at the game – but I got lucky and found the only one in the city! Someone (who helps out a huge amount with my incoming visitor work at the winery) is going to be very happy!

After that – flat out for a nanna nap for a couple of hours.

7 – 10pm  The last ‘party time’ Exhibition Tasting Session – open to the general public. It’s a big Saturday night out for folks, and they didn’t let us down, they were out in force.

10pm – We went out for a late dinner to The Flying Tiger over in the Kitsilano part of the city, as we’d met the chef /owner Tina Fineza at Friday’s trade session where she fell in love with The Scribbler. But we were in for a pleasant surprise several ways when we got there, firstly as it turns out she’s had the Y Viognier on the list since she opened the restaurant , secondly because the food was a style we hadn’t struck before in Vancouver and it was sensational.  Tina does modern Asian street food, and you know you’re in the right place as you walk in, because it just smells right to start with – like walking into a wall of spice in an exotic way. That probably has a lot to do with the kitchen being wide open to the room. I drove the gals nuts because I wanted to take photos of the dishes that we ordered, and I’ve put in my two super favourites. Mind you, we got an extra treat as Tina came out and explained a lot of what she did on the plate.

The sablefish

The Miso Yuzu glazed smoked sablefish ‘inari’ sushi pockets. We didn’t order this dish, but Tina said we needed to try it because the sablefish is a local thing. But the way it came out is not how it read on the menu. You have to think modern Asian new wave version of a really sharp vol au vant. It’s a small tofu ‘boat’ that Tina fills with nori, sweet peas, and carrot, topped with a piece of smoked glazed sablefish, and garnished with salty pickled ginger. And it works! I tackled it with chopsticks like a large piece of sushi and have to say I never would have ordered it – but now wouldn’t go there without having it.

Duck confit rolls

My other favourite was the Pulled Duck Confit Crepes. The plate comes out as a ‘make em yourself kit’ with the bowl of duck confit, Phillipine lime, Charred scallions, shredded jicama and cucumber salad, sesame oil crepes, and 5 different Asian leaf herbs to add into the ‘roll’. There were two types of Vietnamese mint, as well as a Thai basil and the last two I didn’t pick up. But fresh and light, even given that it’s duck confit. You gotta do the do it yourself crepes.

And I could add the Grilled Korean Kalbi Ribs – quarter inch thin sheets of beef short ribs marinated  for 48 hours in kim chee, Korean chilli & sui choy then char grilled to a soft glaze. I’m going to stop now or I’ll be dribbling over the computer keyboard – not a good look!  Just go over and drop by if you’re in the mood for a spicy night out, that’s what we did!

12 midnight
I’d love to say I went straight to bed after dinner, but we got back to the Fairmont Pacific Rim Lobby Bar to find assorted winemakers and our distributor folk all having a quiet celebratory champagne, and we couldn’t not be hospitable, so we did the right thing and waved the Australian and New Zealand flag via Yalumba and Nautilus for about an hour and then it was all over red rover for another year.

Thanks such a huge amount to Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Mark Anthony Brands, and all those folks in  Vancouver that have adopted us – you know who you are. I’ve never enjoyed losing my voice as much as I did this trip, and you can absolutely bet on it – We’ll be back!!

Floating Mountains of Hong Kong

OK I think we’re good again. I just want to do this Hong Kong thing, as I was in one of those Boeing (my favourite plane – thanks, Seattle)  777 birds for the San Francisco to HK flight, and just before dawn this morning we came in really low over a chain of little islands before hitting the runway, and there was low fog and mist hanging in all the right scenic spots so that in that blue grey light, the islands looked like those floating mountains in the Avatar movie. The sea was almost dead calm, and the early morning fishing junks looked like they were skimming on the surface effortless. And we were 150 feet above – tops! This was another one of those good bits you get on this job.  And I was lucky last night too – apparently it was a really lumpy flight and I slept through most of it because I was just completely bushed. Another good reason to get those midnight or 1am long haul flights.

Any rate, here we are with the blog bits landing, so I’ll catch up the last couple of days in Vancouver and I’ll have a clean slate, ready to start the next ‘section’ of work.

Hello? Hello?

12.27pm, Tuesday April 27th, Changi Airport, Singapore – in transit
Well folks, hopefully this will land, as I tried to post a blog bit in Hong kong this morning about coming in at dawn, and it didn’t land, so goodness knows where that’s spinning around!

But I’ve made it to Singapore – and now it’s just this evening’s direct flight to Adelaide, and I’m nearly there.

The Signature Wins Hearts in Vancouver

More Catchup : Friday 23rd April at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

This was the “hump day” for me to get past. Big day!

7.30- 9.30am
British Columbia Liquor Board Breakfast

I left early once Kath told me I didn’t need to stay!

10 – 11.30am
The Signature vertical tasting for invited trade

Did the 1991, 1993, 1994, 1998, 2001, 2003 vintages of The Signature and continued to pleasantly surprise folks with these older reds from our world. The 1994 again was in such good form, the 1998 is travelling so well compared to alot of other ‘bigger’ wines from that vintage, and the 2003 won a lot of hearts.

1.30 – 5pm
Exhibition Session – Trade Only

I got to sneak out early, as I was on the panel for one of the seminars.

5 – 6.45pm
“Cool, Single and Sustainable Wines from Australia”

Yes folks, Mark Davidson (our mate from Wine Australia) was chairing this panel, and he roped me in as the “expert on being Single!” (Unfair, as I have worked hard over the last 10 years to NOT be single!)  These seminars are a lot of fun actually. They are set for about 100 people, and they try and illustrate different facets of the Australian industry each year – and Mark has a top knack of making them entertaining as well as informative.

There were 15 wines – three sets of five, with each set showing one facet of Australian wine that folks over here may not have thought about – cool climate regions, single site vineyards strong enough to stand alone as wines, and the industrywide practices – gaining momentum every day – of  a sustainable  approach to all sections of our wine world from the vine to the physical travelling of the wine out to the rest of the world.

We had a top time with this exercise, and folks wanted to hang around and ask 20 questions, so that’s always a good result. You can never do too many of these sorts of events, where we peel away more layers of the Australian Wine World onion, and people get a much better understanding of the diversity that we really do have.

7 – 10pm
Exhibition Session – General Public

Packed up the stand and went  to the Shore Club where there was a meet & greet party for everyone involved in the Festival. I went for about an hour, but am definitely far too old for it all and melted away home to the hotel at about midnight.

PS  My voice was REALLY scratchy by this point, and I started chasing endless cough lollies to take the sting away. But I made it over the hump in reasonably good form.

Speccy Digs at Vancouver Wine Festival

More Catchup : Thursday 22nd April
Back at the Vancouver Wine Festival.

Nice view!

Most of the festival program is occurring at the new Convention Centre, which is right on Vancouver harbour with the float planes that go to and from Victoria Island landing and taking off out front. There’s also the Olympic Torch from the recent Winter Olympics at the front entrance, so the whole thing is in a quite spectacular location, with the snow topped mountians on the other side of the water as a magnificent backdrop. Vancouver is all dressed up with everywhere to go right now!

The Olympic Torch

So for the main three days – Thursday through Saturday – this section of the Vancouver waterfront is just buzzing , and we’re right amongst it all – staying directly opposite the Convention Centre at the very new, just completed in time for the Winter Olympics, Fairmont Pacific Rim. This is rock star accommodation folks, and this is the first time I’ve stayed in such a hotspot!

It took me a few hours to work out the lights and curtains, as there aren’t any switches – it’s all hot dot touchpads. I stood there for a bit  just power opening and closing the curtains – juvenile but fun! And the bathroom – you could live in there! All I can say is: Now I know why all those hijinks happen in those rock star rooms! They’re built for it. Just lucky I didn’t have ANY spare moments to get into any such trouble!

Seriously though, the service and facilities at the FPR (Fairmont Pacific Rim) are outstanding! We have our Pewsey Vale Riesling on at the Raw Bar/Lobby Bar to go with all the sushi and sashimi, but if that’s not your thing they have “giovane” (means “young” in Italian), which is the bakery and deli. Check out the sugar bun if you have a sweet tooth. I looked at one and put on a kilo! There’s the sugar and new chocolate version that they bake daily themselves, made with butter pastry and filled with either vanilla or choc cream.  My pick of it all? The tempura prawn rolls and poached chicken with ginger from the raw bar. How healthy is that!

Being so close to the action is really important for this event, as there’s a lot of contact hours and consecutive sessions and events. Here was my schedule for the Thursday:

11.15am  – 1.30pm (glorious late start after the late finish at Point Grey last night) 
Trade Days Lunch – where we sit in our distributor “stables” with invited key trade and press guests, and this is the formal opening with the welcome speeches. I  was lucky enough to get Jason from The Boathouse restaurant, sitting next to me, and we had a grand old catch up.

1.30 – 5pm
Festival Exhibition Session – Trade Only

This is where the trade has access to all 200-odd wineries in the exhibition hall, and you generally see a non-stop stream of folks from all facets of the Vancouver and British Columbia trade. (There is also trade from other Canadian provinces, plus this year quite a few from the Pacific Northwest US states.)

7 – 10pm
Festival Exhibition Consumer Session

This is open to everybody and is one of three evening sessions that were sold out this year. I reckon there were several thousand people in the place each night, and you basically pour and talk your face off from go to wo!


Joined the rest of the wineries in our MAB stable at a suite in the FPR hotel for some late dinner and to compare notes on the event thus far.

I didn’t have any extra events Thursday, so it was a softer start than I’m used to – no complaints here!

Lest We Forget

4.04pm, Sunday 25th April, Gate 78, Vancouver Airport, Vancouver, BC, Canada
“Lest We Forget” today folks, that it’s ANZAC Day. This means a huge amount to folks from both Australia and New Zealand. I had every intention of making it to this morning’s service here in Vancouver, but have to confess to sleeping through my alarm – first time this trip. However, I was lucky enough to get a phone message left very early this morning from our man on the New South Wales Central Coast – Wiggo – who not only left me some lovely ANZAC words, but did a whistled version of the Last Post. I get looked after well by those boys. Thanks Wig – I’ll be seeing you in a few weeks when we start the Yalumba Rare & Fine new vintages launch across Australia.

So everything is packed up, and with any luck, the next time I see my bags will be at baggage claim in Adelaide before going through customs and heading back up to the Barossa. I have a heap of time here and in San Francisco waiting on planes, so I’m going to try and get caught up on all the goings on.

More Catch Up : Wed 21st April

MAB's Jason and Negociant's Kath

I need to put this in – for the record. For the Point Grey Golf Club dinner, I had to get all flashed up in the power jacket and skirt combo, and was being picked up from the hotel by Jason (MAB), Kate (Nautilus) and Kath (Negociants – she babysits me when I’m working in Canada, and sets up the jobs with all the local distributors, press, trade and consumers).

Apparently as I was walking out to meet them in the car, I was looking pretty good coming through the lobby, then when I got up close they realised I was wearing my runners and carrying my killer pointy high heels, and they laughed at me! Yes – very cruel! If I could walk more than the length of a room in the jolly things – I would. But there I was having a total Melanie Griffith “Working Girl” moment, and they laughed!

The Vancouver Wine Adventure Begins

More catchup:

MAB's Jessica, Tara and Christina

Wednesday 21st April
Flew into Vancouver and caught up with the team from our distributor – Mark Anthony Brands (MAB from here on) at The Vancouver Club, along with all the other wineries that they look after besides us across Canada. We’re in a really interesting stable with wine houses from all corners of the wine producing world. When we all get together for ‘Wine Festival in Vancouver’, it’s a great opportunity to show the team what we’re all up to.

First – let me explain ‘Wine Festival’ when you’re talking about this particular city. It is actually The Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. The difference between this wine event and most of the others I’ve seen is that for a winery to ‘exhibit’ and participate in the Festival, there has to actually be someone from the winery attending. That means that at any event, or at the winery ‘stand’ in the open exhibition trade or consumer sessions, that the folks coming along get to speak to someone from the home base. So the way it works is that each year, one country is featured, and there is a huge supporting program of food and wine events that feature regions, specific varieties, workshops, masterclasses, lunches and dinners – pretty much everything food and wine that you can think of – and it goes for a very solid four days.

Which brings me back to our distributor and their international stable of wineries, and the logistical mirror maze they have of making sure that we are all at the right place, on the right day, at the right time, with the right wine. I’ve listed the wineries in the MAB stable below to give you an idea – and it’s just lucky that MAB have The Ultimate Organiser in Miss Judy to make all of that happen! Besides that, she makes sure that there’s food to keep us going when we finish, and yes, she is definitely saint material!

Here’s who is in our ‘stable’ of wineries, and New Zealand and Argentina are the featured countries at this year’s festival:

  • Antinori from Italy
  • Dona Paula from Argentina
  • Haras De Pirque from Chile
  • Henkell from Germany
  • Lanson & Louis Latour from France
  • Nautilus & Man O War from New Zealand
  • Nederburg from South Africa
  • the local folk from the Prospect Winery and the Mission Hill winery in the Okanagan Valley
  • Symington Family Estates (Warre, Dow, Graham) from Portugal
  • and us – Yalumba from Australia
  • plus there”s Tyrells as well, from the Hunter Valley

So now you can see why it’s such a huge exercise, and we’re just one stable coming to town! Our first event therefore makes a lot of sense – we all get together with the complete MAB sales team at The Vancouver Club, and do a ‘wine speed dating ‘ thing where we have 7 minutes with a trio of reps to taste one of our wines and do a quick catch up on the latest news from home.

After this, I went straight off to a private dinner at the Point Grey Golf Club, where we sat down with 20 members who have formed a wine club group – and had a look at everything from Unwooded Chardonnay to Octavius.  Thanks Denise – who has supported Yalumba since seeing our wines for the first time 9 years ago when she was sommelier at The Beach House. Also, lovely to work with our young GQ coverbloke candidate – Jason. Very professional operator and we will be looking forward to now having an annual ‘Yalumba Dinner Date’ with the Point Grey Golf Club.

There endeth day one of our Vancouver four-day wine adventure!

Back at The Bothy, Edmonton’s Best Kept Secret

4.39pm, Saturday 24th April, Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, BC, Canada
OK kids, looks like we’re back on the air! So I’m going to whiz back to Edmonton, finish that off, then catch up to where we’re at today. An action packed 72 hours has happened to it will be the flying fingers this end as I belt out the highlights.

Tuesday April 20th Edmonton – Oil City

Chef Kevin at The Bothy

I just want to finish off The Bothy story first. In the pic, Kevin the chef has plated up one of Andrea’s chicken & leek pies for me, which was exactly what I was looking for. Then we really got spoiled, as he came out with some of their experimental tenderloin beef done sous vide. This is where they prepare the beef with a four pepper rub and some smoked salt, then seal the beef in an airtight bag and poach it at low temperature over an extended time. Well, it was like a melt-in-your-mouth pastrami thing – sensational.

Souv vide = melt in your mouth

The Bothy has only been open since December 2, so is probably the the best kept secret in town, but it won’t stay that way for long. If you’re in town, make sure you drop by and see them – and have a chat to Chris the Scot behind the bar and ask him about representing Scotland in their national baseball team – true story!

Jane Searches for the Right Stuff

10.25am, Saturday 24th April,  Fairmont Pacific Rim, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Testing, Testing, Houston – I think we may be close to overcoming our problem.