Monthly Archives: February 2015

Vancouver Wine Festival – Day 3!

10.41pm, Friday 27th February, Pan Pacific Hotel , The Waterfront next to the Convention Centre where the Van Wine Fest is being staged, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Evening folks, just got back from the consumer session at the Van Wine Fest, the “Barossa’s Old Vine Heritage” seminar before that, and the Trade Tasting Session before that. It’s definitely a marathon, not a sprint this Van Wine Fest – but the level of interest is so high, folks come from all over Canada and now the USA to this event, and the circuit of seminars and dinners that make up the wine week are so well supported – that you just have to throw yourself into it and plough on!

I’m going to try something a bit different and put words and pictures together, instead of all the pictures at the end, so please bear with me.

Our day started at 9am with breakfast at the Acme Cafe, which is down on East Hastings street, just before it gets a bit ‘sketchy’ as the locals call it. I like the Acme Cafe, and never fail to put on a kilo every time I stand there and gaze at their cake stands. This morning we took two gals from our fab Seattle distributor – Noble Wines – to breakfast as part of their ‘come to the Vancouver Wine Festival’ prize for winning a sales incentive. Acme Cafe do their own very special version of Eggs Benedict called ‘Baked Eggs Benny’ and it’s ham, egg and muffin – but all layered ‘lasagna’ fashion and baked in a deep dish, served on shredded potato hash browns. Top start to the day, then it was off to pack my kit for Day 3 of the Vancouver Wine Festival. Corkscrew, soft drink, snacks, info booklets, ID pass & ticket, and most importantly….your individual event day by day schedule.

First up the Trade Tasting Session …1.30 – 5pm dedicated for retail and restaurant trade only. We had a very VIP visitor today, the excellent young sommelier Jason Yamakazi from Chambar restaurant – Yep, that’s where we did our “Wizards of Oz” dinner Tuesday night. All I’ll say is “you just had to be there!! The stars aligned….the food, the wine, the sold out in 6 hours from ticket release company, and the stories”. The announcement was made this morning – Jason has been named the top sommelier for British Columbia, and now goes on to compete for the national title in Toronto. Superb result, and all the very best from all of us Jason.

So, it worked! Matching words and picture, on we go!

I left the Trade Tasting Session early, to be on the panel for the seminar ” Barossa’s Old Vine Heritage” with the absolutely lovely Bernie Hickin from Jacobs Creek, our local Barossa Grape & Wine Assoc guy James March, and the super staunch supporter of the Australian Wine Industry – local Vancouver hero wine scribe Anthony Gismondi. I’m starting to run out of steam as its just ticked past midnight and it’s another big day tomorrow, so to keep it short and sweet…..this set of wines sets the bar high for any region anywhere, and yes of course I’m biased – I love the place – but I saw some wines from my own region today for the first time and it stopped me in my tracks.  We have something seriously special with capital S’s in these old vine Barossa wines…….not a shadow of doubt in my mind that they are a vinous force to be reckoned with, and I was proud as punch to be there to tell stories about the Barossa in and around them. Today was a good day. Here’s the pic of what the wines looked like from where I sat, plus a few of what these old vines actually look like in the ground. Tomorrow I’ll add in the list of wines, as well as the Old Vine Charter that has come into play in the Barossa in reference to the tremendous viticultural treasure trove that we have in these old timer vines of ours.

Vancouver Wine Festival…..we’re away!

11.56am, Wednesday 25th February, Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Sorry folks, it’s been a big day, just got in from hosting the absolutely huge! “Wizards Of Oz” dinner at the staggeringly good speakeasy look Chambar restaurant, complete with old warehouse style narrow red brickwork and exposed timbers. It was Yalumba, Henschke and Vasse Felix on the list, and I’m not saying any more now – I want to do justice to sommelier Jason Yamasaki and chef Nico Scheurmans, so I’m writing it up tomorrow during the Festival tasting sessions. Now I need to get some sleep, as tomorrow is THE biggest day for us.

Cheers and here’s a couple of my rock star winemaker mates from Coonawarra – Sue Hodder and Prof Lynn – at last night’s opening Australia arrives at Van Wine Fest event. I’m seriously looking forward to being down on the ‘Terra Rossa Cigar’ for their Coonawarra Cabernet Weekend come October this year.

See ya when it’s Thursday



Yalumba at Vancouver Wine Fest 2015

11.32pm, Tuesday 24th February, Canada Place, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Just back from our first Van Wine Fest event, and I’ve got one more job to do before ‘lights out’! I promised a list of what we’ll be up to this Festival Week. I’ve listed everything that we know of below – and with any luck we’ll see you at least once…..somewhere!


1.30-3.30pm. “Shiraz Aussie Superstar” trade seminar

6.30-10pm. “Wizards Of Oz” Dinner – Chambar Restaurant ***Jason Yamakazi Head Sommelier – representing BC at the top Canadian Sommelier event soon in Toronto.


9.30-11.30am. “Past Present & Future” – Australian theme country opening plenary session

1.30-2.30pm Trade buyers tasting session

2.30-5pm. General trade tasting session

5.15pm – 6.45pm. “All About Syrah” seminar

7-10pm. Consumer tasting session


9-11am. Unofficial breakfast at Acme Cafe

1.30-4pm. Trade tasting session

4.30-6.45pm Barossa Old Vine Heritage ” Seminar

7-10pm. Consumer tasting session


11.30am – 2pm. “Restaurant Australia” consumer tasting

3-4.30pm. Consumer tasting session

5.15 – 6.45pm. “25 under $25” event ***with James Nevison – The Provinces wine guy

8-10pm. Consumer tasting session

Apart from that, you’ll find me at Starbucks or Tim Hortons in the Waterfront Food Hall!



Blow torched sushi??

11.53am, Tuesday 23rd February, Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada

Morning folks, still a bit bleary eyed from a late finish last night – we were out at the Tramonto Restaurant at the River Rock Casino for dinner with the most die hard band of Australian wine fans – the Australian Wine Appreciation Society. Every time we come to town, we try and do something special with them, and that was what last night was all about. If you want to see what was on the plate…..check out my Twitter thing @barossasaint as the folks from AWAS had those dishes up and tweeted moments after they arrived on the table. I’ll get to that event later on, but for now, I just want to catch you up on yesterday’s visit to one of our Yalumba ‘fortresses’ here in Vancouver – Miku Restaurant – right on the Waterfront, sandwiched between the Vancouver Sun building and the Pan Pacific Hotel.

These folks do not muck around when it comes to working with the fresh fresh fresh best possible ingredients from land and sea, and go to great lengths to present a menu of outrageous flavour and texture combinations – beautifully – on specially crafted crockery. We’ve been lucky enough to have a wine on the list here for a long while – initially the Yalumba Y Series Viognier – fresh middleweight perfumed stone fruit aromatics with a slightly slippery palate – perfect for the Miku sashimi and ‘Aburi’ sushi world. I’m a massive fan of their House Superstar ‘Salmon Oshi Sushi’. This is spooky good stuff. OK – it starts with the way Miku handles their rice. They have a super secret method of preparing and cooking their rice for the sushi bar that is one of their ‘X’ factors! It’s soft but not gluggy, single grain, cling together stuff! The boys layer the rice and local BC sockeye salmon into a solid plastic ‘box’ , top it with their secret Miku Mayo – like sauce, sit another layer of the salmon on top, then ‘press’ the whole thing until the sushi ‘block’ forms and holds. Then they use those fabulous knives like painters pick up their brushes…..slice off the bite size sushi pieces, and out comes the blow torch! Across the top of the salmon, just enough to colour it up and warm that sauce down – capillary action – in amongst the rice grains, on goes the secret spice, topped with single slices of fresh jalapeño with a flourish! And yes! It absolutely tastes better than it sounds! And yes – our Viognier does fly nicely with it.

4.39pm Where did the day go? I started this before lunch, and am just getting it finished now. Any rate, that’s it for me, I have to get my stuff organised, as we’re off to the other side of town this evening for the Wine Australia ‘Savour’ opening night of the Vancouver Wine Festival event. We’re the feature wine producing country this year, so if you want to see Oz Wine in a nutshell, then Loungeworks on West 4th Ave will be the place to be. My mate the rock star winemaker for Wynns – Sue Hodder – has just landed in Vancouver – there’s going to be a stack of the Oz ‘wine-eratti’ there tonight, so it should be a top night out

So have a look at the pics below, I’ve done my best phone-cam food shots to catch the edible artistry going on every day at Miku Waterfront, as well as their newer sister sushi ship – Minami Yaletown.

See ya tomorrow, when the whole Vancouver Wine Festival starts to get serious





Vancouver, we made it!

9.23am, Sunday 22nd February 2015, Canada Place, Vancouver, Canada

Morning folks, and I have landed in Vancouver – with all my luggage! – after a two day trek, starting back on Friday evening in Angaston, Barossa Valley…..roughly 12500 km away. And folks “all my luggage” includes about 42 kg of booklets for different events that we’re doing with the Vancouver Wine Festival throughout the next week, corkscrews, my decanting kit for the big reds, and maps of the Australian wine regions showing our vineyards that will make up the ‘tablecloth’ for our tasting bench at the Festival. The maps were designed by our fabulous in house designers – thanks to Jimmy the rev head and his crew – and help enormously to explain our world at the consumer and trade sessions that are a big part of the Festival.

So our trek to the Vancouver Wine Festival went a bit like this – drive down to Adelaide from the Barossa, stay in Adelaide overnight, 4.30am start to catch a plane to Melbourne, change to a much bigger plane – thanks Qantas for the ride in the big bird named ‘Reginald Ansett’ after one of our local commercial aviation pioneers – and the long haul up to Los Angeles. Then navigate the ugly construction site that is currently Los Angeles International airport, through their legendary rubbish security setup, and into the sardine can setup of Terminal 2 as its being renovated. Thanks go here to the folks at The Pie Hole coffee and pie / breakfast spot – they’re working in crazy difficult congested conditions looking after an endless stream of folks travelling to Canada, Mexico and China!! So it was coffee here, and grab a sandwich for the plane, and the lunchtime flight to Vancouver with Westjet.

Through customs in Vancouver and yay! – there’s both of my suitcases on the belt – big win! Dumped my bags at the Pan Pacific hotel – excellent choice thanks, seeing as it’s right next door to the Convention Centre, home of the Vancouver Wine Festival for the next week – and over the road for my first Tim Hortons cafe mocha and maple iced donut.Mmmmmm……that means we’re back in Canada. Then a quick change of clothes and its off to the Pacific Coliseum, home ice to the local junior hockey team – the Vancouver Giants. It’s always difficult to get into the local time zone, so the easiest way is to do something on the first night that pushes you to say awake past 6pm. Otherwise you flake out as soon as 4 or 5 pm comes around, but you’re wide awake at 2 or 3 am.

Lucky for me that the Vancouver Giants were home to the Kamloops Blazers, and it was a top game! Fast, aggressive hockey with two top goalies – each having a red hot game, and only one goal getting through……fortunately for us it was for the local side. Well done the Giants goalie Payton Lee – all of 18 years old – we’ll definitely see him down the track in the NHL!! Then collapsed into bed, out like a light, and got a solid first night on the decks sleep. You have to do everything you can to get set up well for this Vancouver Wine Festival week – it’s a magic exhibition, and we’re fortunate as Australia is this years feature wine producing country, but it is a marathon.

So we’re here, and today’s job is to unpack all the gear and get set up for this evening’s event – a charity dinner that we’re doing with local top wine scribe Anthony Gismondi, the Vancouver Sun newspaper, the Hawksworth restaurant, and the Adopt-A-School program. Adopt-A-School is an incredible thing – it identifies different needs of schools across the Vancouver metro area, and puts what is needed directly in place. This includes before school literacy programs combined with breakfast, after school activity programs with snacks, special needs audio visual equipment, co ordinated out of school educational excursions – the list goes on. The Vancouver Sun newspaper supports Adopt-A-School, and with Gismondi as their main wine words man – have been incredibly supportive of the Australian Wine Industry and Yalumba – so we’re thrilled to bits to be able to give something back by being involved in tonight’s dinner at Hawksworth. At the end of the day, our event this evening will fund meals at one Vancouver school in need for a year. That’s a good thing!

So here’s the pictures for the last two days trek to Vancouver, we’re here, and we’re working tonight…..on a good thing. See you later on.

PS oh yes – nearly forgot. Right across the road is Miku restaurant – fabulous does not do their food justice! I’ll be there every opportunity I can – their edamame beans and sushi are my secret weapon to stay on top of this week’s schedule!