Monthly Archives: March 2013

Back into London….and it’s snowing

12.53pm, Saturday 23rd March, St Thomas Street SE1, London, England

You have to love the daily weather reports in this town – “continuing cloudy, windy and cold with the rain occasionally turning to sleet and snow”. Much the same tomorrow I believe……and with any luck, throw a few clear patches into those snow flurries there and you’ll have Monday. Thats when I’m scheduled to be on a big Emirates bird, taking off from Heathrow on the first 13 hour leg of the run back to the Barossa. To be honest, I’m right into the ‘layers on layers off’ winter thing over here now, and would be more than happy to stay on! Most of the folks that live here are thoroughly sick and tired of the weather, and I’m loving it. So much water, flaming logs and coals in pub fireplaces till closing, tanks of hot home made soup left right and centre, and really it’s just when there’s too much snow and everything grinds to a halt that it gets a bit dramatic.

Any rate – it’s been a very welcome change to the heat wave season back at home. But back to the Barossa it is come Monday, a short week at the winery for me, and then from Easter Monday we’re into the Barossa Valley Vintage Festival.

For today, most of my wine mates are off to Germany for Prowein. Me – I’m catching up all my reports and going out to see one of the greatest actors that’s ever worked the boards and screen – Judy Dench. She’s on at the Noel Coward Theatre this evening with young Ben Whishaw in “Peter and Alice”, so should be top notch. One more wine event tomorrow, and that’s it for me this trip – and it will be back into short sleeves for a couple of months.

I did sneak out this morning into the sleet and snow because Westminster is three stops away on the Jubilee Line, so I went and did a couple of touristy hours before the crowds got too heavy. So much stone, so much history – you can never spend too much time tracking it all down.

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The Lakes District cross country to Cheshire

7.59am, Thursday 21st March, next to the Swan And Two Nicks pub, Lymm, Cheshire, England

Morning folks, and it’s all sunshine and frost out there this morning…….top day in Cheshire here we come! Here you go, this is for all the sunshine starved Englishfolk!

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Yesterday we started out by saying goodbye to Chris and the team at the Rothay Garden hotel up the top of the Lakes District in Grasmere, after doing the Tuesday night Yalumba dinner as part of their in house residential Wine and Food Festival. Yep, that would be the one with the grand finale of the unforgettably fluffy Sticky Toffee Pudding.

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And then when we found out that the village of Cartmel was on our way to our first call of the day, and happens to be the Home of Sticky Toffee Pudding – minor detour and away we went. It turns out to be an old Norman town that has a lot more going on than just Sticky Toffee Pudding – the locals put me straight there!! In fact, I was introduced to a bloke that you’re going to hear a bit more about – William Marshal. He’s the chap that was responsible for raising the Cartmel Priory back in 1190, and goes on to become the First Earl of Pembroke.very interesting chap, and he had to go on a serious search for the location of the priory, because he had to find a site that was “between two rivers, one flowing south, one flowing north”. True story.

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So, just a whirlwind stop, but a good one. What else will you find in Cartmel? The two Michelin star restaurant L’Enclume, the Cartmel Cheese shop and bakery – magnificent jam donuts!! Then theres the Kings Head pub complete with stream and ducks, and a proper stone arched village square, and of course – the village shop groaning under tons of Sticky Toffee Pudding and Kendal Mint Cake. I’ll definitely be back!

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Oh yes…..don’t worry Cartmel – we’ll be back!! You can never have too much Sticky Toffee Pudding!!

Then it was on to our first call, to Windermere and the Lakeside Hotel. But I’ll have to leave it there – we have to get cracking as we’re heading over to Clitheroe and more trade calls today before finishing up this evening with a Yalumba Dinner near Macclesfield. See ya then

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OK folks – we’ve criss crossed Cheshire and Lancashire most of the day, and I’ve made it to where we’re doing our last wine dinner for this tour – at The Windmill Pub at Whitely Green, near Adlington. There’s 64 hardy souls going to brave the ice solidifying out there in the air, to come and have a look at what we’re up to 9000miles away on the other side of the world. It’s the Windmill Pub’s Wine Lovers Club night, and it’s going to be a bit of fun – featuring the 2006 The Signature Cabernet Shiraz. So this is where I’m at right now, about to put a bowl of Potato soup away – the calm before the storm that’s going to start at around 7.30pm for an 8pm kickoff.

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But to finish off the ‘what we did with our travels yesterday’ section, here we go. After meeting Marcus at the Lakeside Hotel in Windermere, we nipped down to the village of High Newton with Jannette – our EWGA (that’s our local wine distributors looking after us up in The Lakes district) gal, and we grabbed a bowl of tomato and bean soup at The Crown pub. I can honestly say I’m going to cheerfully volunteer for all the work up here in The Lakes and surrounding areas – the pub, country house, restaurant and hotel folk that we’ve met so far are just tops. Yep – I’m definitely free those days!

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After the late lunch – off to EWGA headquarters for the introductory tasting of all the Yalumba wines that they have on their books before making tracks to Hale (in Cheshire) and our masterclass…..with canapés….at Simon Rimmer’s “Earle”. This was our first event with Paula and the folks at Portland Wine, and I’ll be truthful – they gave me a serious wine workout! Not just the usual stelvin closure vs cork questions here – we got into the Barossa and terroir, the comparison of brandy spirit and svr with respect to the difference between making port and muscat styles of fortified wines, and the characteristics of the last 3 Barossa vintages compared and contrasted – you get the picture! Happy to report that we’ve been booked for the same time next year, and the class is full! Thanks a million Paula, and to young Charlie at Earle – great canapé combinations with the wines.

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And then it was back to Ash Farm in Lymm……lights straight out!!

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So there you have it – that was Wednesday, and that was us county hopping from The Lakes in Cumbria to Cheshire.

York to the Lakes District via Lancashire

8.34am, Tuesday 19th March, High Petergate, York, Yorkshire, England

Morning folks – and here’s the weather report for our day out and about ….. “There will be large amounts of dry yet cloudy weather, with only limited brightness. Outbreaks of mostly light rain, sleet and snow will occur – max temp 4 degrees C”. You really have to love the English – how optimistic is that! I’ll translate for you. This weather report actually says ‘another grey old dismal day and with any luck you’ll have the odd half hour to duck out and grab lunch / coffee / go to the post office without getting totally drenched, snow crusted, or blown away!’.

But onward we forge, in the endless quest to win hearts and palates for Yalumba – today we go from York to the Lakes District – home of Beatrix Potter and Cumberland Coloured Pencils – via Lancashire. First stop, the Stirk House Hotel in Gisburn. So wish us luck, here’s a look at yesterday

Field and Fawcett – our local retailer wholesaler in Yorkshire and parts nearby – thanks Peter and Catherine for waving the Yalumba, Barossa, Australian and New Zealand wine flag up North. ****All the action will be in their upstairs tasting loft this Thursday, for the sellout New World tasting with the charismatic expert on all things wine and vine related from the Antipodes – the mighty Matthew Jukes!

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Long time Yalumba supporter Brasserie 44 in the RE developed inner city docks and narrow boat canals of Leeds – excellent views and one of the romantic dinner corners of the world…..thanks a huge amount!

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Still in Leeds – our first masterclass, with Tom at Lazy Lounge – not only the ‘first wine bar’ in Leeds, but the winner of the Imbibe Magazine / Roederer 2012 Best Wine Bar Wine List in the United Kingdom . That was us doing our Yalumba stuff upstairs in the mezzanine whilst Tom did his champagne class downstairs. And the meat and cheese share plates….worth going just for those and the ‘watch out you’ll be swallowed whole’ couches. Very comfortable surrounds at the Lazy Lounge!

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Meanwhile…back in York….

10.10am, Monday 18th March, High Petergate, in the shadow of the Minster, York, England

Back just briefly folks, here’s the weather report for today up here….”sleet and snow will move across the region, max temp 4 degrees C”

I do love this town though, so much history and you have to remember to look up and down or you miss the good stuff….

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Where did that week go? Wales for starters!

8.34am, Monday 18th March, St Helen’s Square, the mighty Roman city of York, England, UK

Morning folks, welcome to what a really long, drawn out winter is! It snowed again last night here in York, but it’s all been reduced to freezing slush by a very steady cold rain. Here we are in week 5 of this 5 week job, and so far so great! I’m pumping Lemsip cold and flu capsules into myself daily and doing the hot drinks at night, and I’m holding the vicious bugs at bay for the moment……fingers crossed one more week and all will be good. We’ve got tickets to see the fabulous Helen Mirren on stage in London on Friday night, and you’re not allowed to cough and sniffle all the way through the play!

So last time I put up the blog, we were down on the A 23 south of London in all that blizzardy mess that bought things to an absolute standstill for a couple of days, and had to abandon our masterclass with Hennings Chichester last Tuesday night. Well, good news. I’ve just returned the rental car that I’ve been driving – very carefully – through the elements up here in the Grim North (love it to bits!) to the York railway station, and now I’m waiting for the Post Office to open. Why? Because I wrote to everyone that was registered for the masterclass to apologise and let them know that they will at least have a bottle of our 2010 Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz to keep those winter chills at bay – with our compliments – and that our man in London – Chris Unger – will do the tasting on May 8th. And when we’re back in England come March 2014, Hennings Chichester – thanks very much for being so good to work with on all of this Karl – will be on the top of my list for a special Yalumba masterclass.

Now, what on earth happened to the rest of the week? Well, we went to Wales – Cardiff and Swansea – and we went to Hampshire – Emsworth, Liphook, Grayshott, and Haslemere. Lets just have a look.

Started at Waterloo railway station in London – here’s the lady in stone above the money exchange – I bet she’s seen some crazy commuter sights over the last hundred odd years.

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Got to Teddington, out near Twickenham south ish from London, and jumped into the car with my colleague from Negociants UK – Emma Crowther – they look after our interests day to day here in the United Kingdom – and we were off on a 3 day south western regions road trip.

First stop – Cardiff, in Wales – where we are extremely well promoted to all and sundry by ND John Wine Merchants. yes, we’re in very very good hands down there – the ND John in question is a bloke who is channelling all the good Welsh “yes Im easily as dangerous as Tom Jones” stuff!! that would be Nick John. Local legend. And not forgetting the gals who make the machinery all work – that would be Nicola and Deb. Thanks gals!

So welcome to one of the more impressive buildings in Cardiff – The Park House Hotel – apparently designed by the same chap who drafted up the plans for Cardiff Castle. We did a staff training masterclass for the whole team – a tremendous session actually, to launch the Yalumba Pages on the wine list at Park House. Sometimes you get a really good and solid feeling about a place and the people in it, and I suspect that The Park House is going to be a serious Yalumba fortress in Wales – and we’re already plotting and scheming some special events for the next 12 months! Thanks to the PHP – that’s Park House People – top crew, top food…..and good things down the track!

a Yalumba fortress in W

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OK folks, hold that Wales thought, it’s just ticked past 9am and I’m off to the Post Office. Be back in a bit. Next we go to Swansea.

West Sussex – Snowbound! We went to Surrey!

12.47pm, Tuesday 12th March, Front Bar, The Albert Arms, Esher, Surrey, England, UK

Howdy folks, we had to abandon our planned day of tastings with the lovely folks at Hennings Wine Merchants down West Sussex way. After the second police road closure in front of us because of the drifting snow and vehicle accidents, we decided to head north and back to London.

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The number of cars and trucks at funny angles along the side of the road helped enormously in our decision making – which we did over a nice quiet moment and a cup of service station coffee.

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So on the way back up to London, we pulled in to the village of Esher, in Surrey, where our good mate Jonny Donne has a pub called The Albert Arms, and is doing magic things with beef – Longhorn and Hereford – and our 2010 Scribbler Cabernet Shiraz by the glass.

Me personally, I’m relieved to not be in a snow drift and thrilled to be parked in front of one of Jonny’s Steak and Ale Pies – with mash and extra gravy. So much safer! But please stay with us Hennings – we’ll be sending out a bottle of the 2010 Scribbler to all 15 people signed up for the Chichester masterclass tonight … and we will do the whole thing properly next trip. Cheers from Sunny Surrey – still frosty and 3 degrees C, but safe!

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Eastbourne, East Sussex – snowing at the beach!

1.55pm, Monday 11th March, Grand Parade, Eastbourne, East Sussex, England

Afternoon, folks, it’s been a snowy drive south from London today, and we’re on the Grand Parade at Eastbourne, in the ballroom of the Cavendish Hotel, running a tasting table as part of the complete portfolio feature for the local trade – by our distributor in this part of the world HT White.

This is the beach, folks. There’s a sizeable blizzard driven swell out there, and the white stuff most definitely is snow! We’re due for 5-10 cm more of the flaky stuff overnight, so it could be an interesting day tomorrow with the four store staff training sessions planned across the county.

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Don’t worry about the overnight snowfall making 5cm, we’re already there now! This is looking toward the Eastbourne Pier from my first floor window – the tide is out, there’s snow down to the tideline, and now the arctic wind is blowing more snow in horizontally!

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10.36 pm It’s still snowing out there, we’ve just finished our tasting, and it sounds like roads are closed left, right, and centre right across the south east of England. We’ll have to see what Ma Nature does tomorrow morning to see if we still trek across Sussex and do our four Hennings Wine Merchants staff training sessions in Goring , Pullborough, Petworth and Chichester. We’ve got a consumer masterclass planned for tomorrow evening in Chichester, so again – it’s all in the lap of the gods. See ya when it’s Tuesday and we become intrepid arctic cross country explorers, or I end up on a train back to London

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