Monthly Archives: June 2016

One night wine stand….Byron Bay, Laidbackville, NSW

8.08am, Marvell Street, Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

The morning is the very best part of the day folks, and I’m spending it sat here at the window bench at “Get Toasted – Byron Bay’s original toasting / Jaffie bar” ploughing into the breakfast of wine road warrior champions – toasted ham, cheese and pineapple with a cup of truly splendid coffee from the hole in the wall (literally) Barefoot Roasters people. We had a top event last night, a small group of local Byron Bay and Bangalow – seriously fabulous Pork from that area people – trade at Muoi’s Feast……a French / Thai crossover kitchen that’s quite the local legend. So breakfast first, then around the corner to the community hall to vote in the Australian Federal Election…..ahead of most of the country who will be doing that on Saturday. I’m travelling out of my home area so must ‘absentee’ vote early. Trouble is, I’ve searched and searched the ballot paper, and none of my favourites – Richard Roxburgh, Sam Neill, Graham Connors or Jimmy Barnes – seem to be standing for Prime Minister……..oh well, back to brekky


I do love Byron Bay – in fact every time I’m here, I expect the characters from the tremendous TV show filmed here as the mythical surfside hippie haven Broken Bay  – East Of Everything – to come walking down the street. I walked past the Golden Breed Surf Shop yesterday, and Morning Of The Earth was belting out – an old surf movie anthem and part of the East Of Everything soundtrack. If you haven’t seen the show, buy both series and sit back and view!


Thanks Barefoot Roasters….


And Byron Bay – we’ll see you next year. As soon as I vote, we’re off up the coast to Kingscliff, NSW and our event on the beach at the Cudgen Headland Surf Lifesaving Club……where I’m staying “on the beach” in a surfari tent at the local caravan park……20 metres from the high water mark! Can’t wait!


And don’t forget…..look after the country when you’re there

Coast hopping …….Goodbye Gold Coast…..Byron Bay here we come

7.45am, Wednesday 29th June, The Esplanade, Surfers Paradise, Queensland, Australia

It’s a big eye squintingly bright powder blue sky ot there today, as we coast hop south from Queensland’s Surfers Paradise to Byron Bay – jewel in the crown of the Northern New South Wales coast beaches……..and the home turf to several generations of sun chasing hippies and alternative lifestylers! I like the town…..and always leave with my back re aligned and my head straight! So goodbye Gold Coast…..had a top time, but I’m off to do a one night wine stand at Byron.


A bit stormy on morning number one….


But a dramatic improvement on morning number two….


Welcome to the BMD Northcliffe Surf Lifesaving Club…..that’s kingfish sashimi with our exotic aromatics…


Chef Chris the food wizard is ex the Palms Resort, Dubai….


Does excellent Pork belly…


And a killer soufflé! Bring on the big Rare & Fine lunch this time next year at the club. 

PS Thank you Montmartre By The Sea Cafe on the Esplanade at Surfers – three days, three great breakfasts & seriously good coffee. Just me, the locals, and the Lycra clad street warrior cyclists!

Brekky view this am



See ya next year

Tropical storming and sugar in Mackay, Far North Queensland

11.12am, Sunday 19th June, Mackay Airport, Far North Queensland, Australia.

Howdy folks, it’s your drowned rat lookalike traveller her, with all my gear spread out to dry before the plane gets here to take us down to Brisbane. It’s a full on tropical storm out there, and between dropping off the rental car and the airport building….I got drenched! Even with my lightweight tropical rain hoodie on! What a strange luggage pack for this trip – everything from the thermal vest and woollen scarf for Tasmania and Melbourne…..to the lightweight over the top of everything rain top. Glad it all went in though – I’ve used it all!

It’s been threatening to do this for days….since Cairns…..and it’s belting the coastline today. The Virgin jet left this morning for Brisbane with the visiting Gold Coast basketball side on board – they played here last night – and hopefully our little Dash 8 will do the same. There’s a fair bit of lightning around, so fingers crossed!

This whole area is a huge sugar producing hub for Austrlai, and June through December is their ‘vintage’ or crushing season. So yesterday we went out to the Farleigh Mill, north of Mackay, to see how it all happens. 

The cane is harvested in the field – they literally ‘mow’ the cane down in the field, chop it up into 6 inch pieces called ‘billets’, and load them into mesh train cars – each one holding about 6 tons. The loaded open mesh rail cars are built into  ‘trains’ on sidings around the countryside, then picked up and taken to the mill by these tough little ‘toy town’ size locomotive engines. 

By mowing the cane, it ‘pushes’ another plant from the root system still in the ground, and you can get up to seven crops from the one planting season.



The cane trains are dropped off at the mill, and they are shunted automatically two at a time into a rotating combination weigh ridge and unloader. Once the weight is recorded, the whole thing does a 360 degree revolution, and 12 ton of cane goes up the elevator and into the hammer mill. The juice is extracted, then cleaned up three times until hitting the heaters and being crystallised in this weird 5 hour process in ‘the pans’. You have to climb up and in to the belly of this huge, hot, mechanical beast…..but the smells get you. As you walk towards the mill, it smells like caramelised toffee. Above the crushers and where it’s heated up to get the juice out, it smells like steamed cabbage – really vegetal. But then, when you climb up to the top of the mill, where the crystallising pans are, and the magic happens…..it smells fabulous…..like warm brown sugar, toffee, molasses, honey, and fudgey toffee!! The pans are regularly sampled, and some of the sticky brown liquid put on a slide, and under the microscope to see the level of crystallisation that’s occurred. Wow! Even though my hands were filthy from the gangway rails, I couldn’t help myself…..it was like warm not quite set toffee…with a bit of a natural praline crunch. We need to be able to buy this by the litre! Spread on buttered toast I reckon…..just for starters.

Then you start working your way back down to ground level, stopping first at the giant whizzing thing that throws the molasses out of solution, keeping the semi dry brown crystals – and that’s the raw sugar folks – and dumping that on to a conveyor. That’s taken to storage, then down to the docks, as the majority of the sugar produced at Farleigh Mill then goes on to be refined elsewhere. But for my money….ill take my sugar now just as it is on the conveyor…..warm brown sweet almost golden syrup flavoured rough crystals. Couldn’t help myself there either – I batted away a whole dose of erratically flying bees drunk on the stuff away so that I could get a handful as a snack.

So thanks to our local guide Jacquie from Reeforest Tours – what a great way to spend the morning! Yes, you have to have proper shoes, long sleeves, long pants, wear a hair net, safety glasses and a hair net & hard hat – at all times. But you get to see a hulking, tough, slightly rusty, steaming hot mechanical meccano set make sugar crystals from the fresh cane – it has to be crushed within 12 hours of being cut or you start to lose sugar content – and taste it on the way through. And I liked it.Because then you can take that sugar, add a few other things, and make these! Cream buns never go out of fashion – thanks to the Crusty Bakery Bakehouse….Mackay, Mackay Sugar, and Reeforest Tours!


Now let’s hope we fly! The Dash 8 going to Rockhampton has been delayed, so we will probably have the same problem. Let’s hope I still make the connection in Brisbane! See ya when we’re back in the Barossa.

One night wine stand – Townsville, FNQ

7.46am, Friday 17th June, Around 18000 feet, QF 2301 between Townsville & Mackay, Far North Queensland, Australia

Morning folks, and this is new for me – I’ve figured out how to write these things whilst being in safe fly mode….anther technical barrier smashed by a non tech operator! By leaving at this time this morning, I’ve smashed the ‘less than 24 hours on the ground to deliver an event’ record as well. Previously it was 23 hours on the deck – one dinner and one trade Masterclass. Yesterday I arrived into Townsville at 9.30am, we did three trade calls (one including lunch) and a consumer dinner for 64 at Touch Of Salt, and I’m lifting off the runway at 7.39am. That’s a 22 hour flat turnaround – new record!

Here we are, coast hopping down into Townsville from Cairns

Thanks a million to the staunch Yalumba ‘fortresses’ that we did manage to catch up with – Brett & Brenda at the Seaview Bottle shop, Fitzi at City Lane, Haddad and his Longboard Bar & Grill -great view of Magnetic Island and love the fish tacos!



and the whole Brine Family and their Touch Of Salt – we do love your work!!


So see you next trip when I’ve got at least a day to spend with you…..bye for now!

The Yalumba Rare & Fine roadshow rolls on…..through Tasmania

7.58am, Thursday 16th June, Cairns Airport, Far North Queensland, Australia

Morning folks, and today we’ll be coast hopping down to Townsville, for a one night wine stand with the Brine family and 120 local wine fans – at their restaurant A Touch Of Salt. But for now, I want to give you a quick pictorial run down of our Rare & Fine run through Launceston and Hobart…..

Launceston airport, and our chariot for the two day five event run through Tasmania….


First stop…..dinner on Sunday night with our friends from the Spice Lounge on the boardwalk at Seaport……the best chicken tikka masala I’ve had outside England! Thanks for your support – Jansz and Patchwork Shiraz at a lovely waterside address.

And speaking of waterside addresses…..you can’t do better than the aptly named Stillwater, in the old mill, on the side waters of the Tamar River. Fabulous breakfast, coffee, cellar, restaurant, and local produce store.


We did our trade lunch there, thanks Stillwater – and we hope all goes well after the flooding that came through the week after we were there.


We met some great blokes who have just opened a new restaurant – Henry’s – in the gorgeous old Northern Club building. All the very best, and we’ll be keen to come by when we’re back in town


OK, that’s it for now, as they’ll be calling our flight to Townsville any minute, see ya when we’re one coastal hop further south

The Rare & Fine Yalumba Wine Roadshow….rolls on 

7.39am, Tuesday 14th June 2016, Lake Street, Cairns, Far North Queensland, Australia

Morning again folks, and back to our current tour. Last night we hosted local Cairns and Palm Cove trade folks at the Waterbar steakhouse – that’s the one with the great view of the Great Barrier Reef fleet, moored at the opening to Cairns harbour. Tonight we have a sell out consumer dinner at the Red Beret Hotel, so we’re thrilled to bits with that.


Yesterday I finished the blog with our Canberra Wine & Food Club event – such a good club that I applied to join……and am a bona fide paid up for the next two years ‘country member’. Tremendous folks and they had just hosted Charlie Melton – our neighbour from Krondorf Road on the Barossa Valley floor – the week before our Yalumba event. It’s very nice to be part of the hot circuit! After Canberra, we whipped up north to Newcastle, and for the first time did a Members dinner at the Newcastle Club….elegantly propped on the high side of town overlooking the whole harbour and across to Stockton ‘island’.


Trust me – besides having a top chef, and a simply special sommelier and wait staff that made the evening outstanding in itself – the club is like a living museum of the most extraordinary exhibits. Prize trout from New Zealand expeditions……some armaments from the battle of Culloden – yes you read that correctly – and to top it all off……..they have closed off one of the breeze ways upstairs and made a long bar overlooking the city that could hold its own anywhere in the world. Thanks enormously to the Newcastle Club for having us, and to Richard for making it all happen, to Mick, Craig, Stephen,Roly – all the hard core Yalumba fans up there who took tables – you know who you are and we love you all! And…..we’ll see you the same time next year!


From Newcastle it was back down to Sydney, get the glad rags dry cleaned, and off to the Royal Sydney Golf Club for a Friday night consumer dinner. I’m taking it as a huge compliment to our wines that folks turned out in force, seeing as both the local football teams – Sydney Swans in the AFL, and the Waratahs in the rugby union – were playing at home the same evening! That’s when you really know you’re doing something right in the glass!


And just when I thought the night was coming to a close, the request came from the floor for a Question & Answer session. OK I thought, maybe one or two…….there were 30 questions written out and deposited on the lectern! That went quite late and would have still been going if we hadn’t started running out of wine! And I was all out of stories…..no not really, but battling a nasty throat infection I was looked after with hot lemon and honey tea by fab head waiter Tony…..so I sent him home with the body sized floral bouquet the RSGC presented to me……it’s always nice to work with nice folks. And I think that has now become an annual Yalumba at the Royal Sydney Golf Club event – I’d better collect a few more stories before June next year. Thanks a huge amount to everyone on that front – Dearne and Garth you know who you are!

Have to run – see you when I’ve got some chores done!

How to tackle a dragonfruit – in Cairns FNQ

2.53pm, Monday 13th June, Abbott Street, Cairns, FNQ, Australia

Here’s a quick tropical fruity moment for you – it’s afternoon tea time, and up here in Caitprns, there’s a tremendous local fruit market called Rusty’s…..where you can literally eat your way through a comparison 4 different types of bananas, 3 different varieties of mangoes, and try fruits that you’d never get this fresh straight of the tree or bush ‘down south’ in the Barossa Valley. So today, we’re going to try Dragonfruit! These individuals in the picture below will weigh out at about $2 each.


So, I’ve made the cut and split the fruit into two halves…..


And the idea is to scoop the fruit out with a spoon, like ice cream.So that’s what I’ve done, and it’s like a cold sweet cross between honeydew melon and raspberry, with a ‘seedy’ texture…..really nice actually…..and probably really good for you. 

Way more healthy for afternoon tea than a donut! I’m feeling quite good about this fruity adventure.Over and  out for now – probably got enough dragonfruit from one unit for two solid meals!