On Hurricane Matthew watch in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

8.29am, Tuesday 4th October, Dania Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA

Morning folks, and it’s a typical south Florida morning…..28 degrees C & 96% humidity……and stormy. The governor of Florida declared a state of emergency last night due to the track of the big storm in the Caribbean – Hurricane Matthew – shifting north west…..towards Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Yep…..that’s where we are now!

Fortunately travelling at 9 miles per hour, that puts Hurricane Matthew still 200 odd miles away tomorrow morning when I’m planning to be on a Southwest jet heading for Minneapolis. But spare a thought for Haiti right now where it’s just made land fall, and dropping 40 inches of rain – twice the annual rainfall that we get in the Barossa Valley, all dumped in 48 hours on those poor folks living in shacks.

So today we’re up and down the local coast visiting accounts, and finishing with a dinner at Wine Watch……lets hope for an uneventful next 48 hours

Cheers from the tropics! 

Definitely developing a taste for the local ‘cafe con leche’…..smooth, strong and frothy like a drinkable Aero bar!

Wet, steamy & size does matter in Tampa, Florida 

12.52pm, Monday 3rd October, Gate C 35, Tampa Airport, Florida

OK! Made it through a very rainy night in Tampa and about to hop across to Fort Lauderdale on the East Coast. So last night, after dropping off the Halloween treat bags to our man down here in the US tropical zone – Paul – I got caught in the sort of late afternoon torrential downpour that they talk about down here in South Florida.

It looked a bit threatening…

Then down it hammered…..and within minutes, I was hugging the inside lane as a river appeared from nowhere to fill the lower right hand line, and car sales yard lining the highway.

Good thing I had a Jeep rental car! Very relieved to get home to the hotel actually, and especially proud of my veteran Magellan GPS for not cutting out in the dense storm clouds and lightning.

Then this morning we caught up with our Stacole sales folk at Oxford Exchange for a power tasting brunch……8 wines and some magic soft breakfast tacos and a boatload of what’s happening at Yalumba and with the wines around the world….no mucking around when it comes to our bloke Paul, and the Stacole crew – Michael, Neil , Scott, Brent & John!!

Oh and about the “size does matter” thing…..down here it’s all about the crab…..and in this case, size definitely matters! See y’all when it’s Fort Lauderdale. Thanks for now Tampa

Steamy nights in Tampa, Florida – and that’s just the weather!!

12.13am, actually Saturday 1st October, 30th Avenue, Tampa, Florida, USA

Morning folks, we left a foggy and cold Seattle this morning, the flight about an hour late with the planes all backed up because of the weather……just made the connection in Kansas City, and have only now checked in to the hotel in Tampa. And folks, it’s very warm and steamy out there right now…..with 33 C and storms forecast for tomorrow. Sounds like a perfect day to spend in Ybor City, drinking Cubano style cafe con leche, and eating guava pastries at La Segunda bakery. And catching up a weeks worth of blog posts from our simply marvellous time in Washington State – on Bainbridge Island, in Seattle, and up the Olympic Peninsula.

But we’ve made it to Florida, in one piece, and the Yalumba roadshow rolls on!

Goodbye Seattle …..for now, and I think we’ll be back in the Spring!

Goodbye Calgary – from your next Stampede Queen!!

8.22am, Tuesday 20th September, Gate C58, Calgary Airport, Alberta, Canada

Morning folks, and it’s always nice to be leaving town with a good strong set of events done and dusted! Our dinner on Saturday night with the Pampa Brazilian Steakhouse went swimmingly….and re United us with one of our staunchest Yalumba ‘fortresses’ wrapped up in a person – Scott ex the manager of Judges Country House Hotel up in the Grim North (I love that part of the world!) of England. Chef / owner Joao Dachery did a top job of matching carnivorous courses to our wine set, and came out to explain the menu and the origins of the cooking style at Pampa – Brazilian for ‘prairie’.

And just when you think it’s all over……a dessert flourish with the floral berry lift and lemon zip of the Christobel’s Moscato 8.5% alcohol and a lovely ‘refresher’ to finish with. Pampa, and Susan from Pacific…..we love your work!

Our other events in town involved a staff training with the managers of the 15 Crowfoot Liquor stores across the Calgary area….at their headquarters store, they have a proper demonstration kitchen, so we did a proper history, geography, wine and wine and food pairing class. To thank the folks for coming in on their day off…..3 dozen Tim Hortons donuts for starters! Excellent session, and tremendous people to work with – thanks a million to Dale from Pacific for making it all happen.

Then back to downtown Calgary to catch up with local Journo Tom Firth (Cowtownwine.com) at Buchanan’s Chop House. I knew we were in the right place straight away, because there up on the wall is a framed Wallabies jersey (that’s our national Australian rugby team for the folks who don’t follow that code of football) signed by none other than Phil Waugh – great flanker from an era way back when we were actually competitive against the might New Zealand All Blacks. 

To finish our two day visit, we did a consumer Masterclass last night with the good people out at Craft Cellars – look! – our favourite sign….

Thanks enormously to Darcy and the crew at Craft, to Ken from Pacific and his offsides Grant – what a quality event! And we had the 2008 Octavius to work with, as it appears there were some boxes stacked underneath something else that came to light…..and as soon as we pulled the corks…..chocolate, coffee, licorice and fruit! Yep, seriously good velvety Shiraz flying nicely last night at Craft Cellars.

So it’s off to Edmonton shortly, with one thing left on my bucket list to do in Calgary, and that’s to attend the world famous Calgary Stampede……and I really want to be a Stampede Queen! That’ll give me something to work towards!

Cheers and thank you Cowtown!

In Calgary …..the locals call it Cowtown….now….

12.35pm, Sunday 18th September, Centre Street, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Howdy folks, just about to walk out the door and catch up with a long time staunch supporter of Yalumba wines who used to run a country house hotel in England, now with the Pampa restaurant here in Calgary – where we did our dinner last night. So just a quick dateline – safe and sound on the ground in a very sunny unseasonal Calgary – a bit disappointed that I didn’t check the concert listings. Why? Because if I’d taken the earlier plane across from Vancouver…..I would have been able to make the concert here Friday night….the absolutely fabulous in every sense of the word….Dolly Parton!! Never mind, I’ve turned up a little juke joint here in Calgary where a bluegrass band – The Men Of Constant Sorrow – are playing this afternoon, so that’s where we’ll be spending our Sunday off.

Welcome to Calgary, home of The Stampede, The Calgary Flames hockey men, and fantastic local Alberta beef brisket? This is the big mural that greets you at the Calgary Airport arrivals area – not hard to see why the locals call it Cowtown.

And as for the local brisket? Yep, it’s as good as they say – thank you to the Palomino Smokehouse and Social Club

See you tomorrow – when we have a big day in town with three top events scheduled.

Vancouver – nice to back, thanks a million, and goodbye!

11.28am, Friday 16th September, Bentall Centre, Burrard & Pender, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Morning folks, and a massive amount of water has gone under the bridge since I last posted, over on Vancouver Island, In Victoria. So let’s quickly catch you up on the Vancouver leg of the tour. Staying right on Coal Harbour on Vancouver’s waterfront, right next door to the Convention Centre….

you certainly realise very quickly just how busy Vancouver is as a tourist stop. The float planes are like busy bees from dawn to dusk – they fly by sight, not instruments…

And the cruise ships slip in at daybreak and out in the late afternoon, giving the passengers a top day in Vancouver, incurring no overnight dock fees…..

So whilst we’ve been in town, we’ve covered a lot of ground. On Tuesday morning, we did a tremendous Masterclass with the Product Consultants from the BCLDB – British Columbia Liquor Board – and used a wine set that represented the Australian situation well – various wineries, several wine regions, and a style range from a light fresh Mosacto through a traditional fortified . We did the first ever formal wine and food matching exercise training session at the same class that the PCs had done, and it was just tops! The combos were: Moscato / Sparkling with Asian cabbage and crab lettuce cups, Viognier with a mini Banh mi Pork belly roll, Riesling / Chardonnay with a smoked salmon blini, Barossa Grenache / Margaret River Cabernet with Prosciuto wrapped melon, GSM blend (Grenache Shiraz Mataro) / Clare Cabernet Shiraz with a Peking duck roll, Cabernet Shiraz blends with a steak tip bruschetta. Here’s the team from Negociants and our agents for Western Canada – Pacific Wines & Spirits with the food safe kit preparing the individual tasting plates…..

Oops! That’s the tasting plate – excellent exercise, and I think we’re going to use this sort of thing a lot.

Here’s the team….Alex, Maryann and Cynthia! Daniel was here as well, but not in the picture – he was carting everything in…thanks a million also.

Oh oh, I’ve just noticed the time. I have to finish up for now, as I’ve got a meeting with local Vancity or Hollywood North (that’s the cool names for Vancouver) hipster wine scribe and event entrepreneur – all round nice bloke that loves donuts like I do – Kurtis Kolt.So I’ll dive off and do that – I have had some strange looks as I sit here in the food court next door to Joey One – the restaurant we’re meeting at – with my three bottles of wine…..so best go before they confiscate my bottles in an unlicensed area!! See you when I’m at Vancouver airport – heading for Calgary tonight as we have a wine dinner scheduled at Pampa Restaurant tomorrow evening.

5.56pm, Same Day, Still Vancit, Vanncouver Airport, Gate C30

So, where was I. OK, trade call to the truly fabulous Miku Waterfront for an early dinner – they’ve been running our Yalumba Organic Shiraz by the glass for ever ***thanks!***- and their signature blowtorch finished wild sockeye Salmon Osha Sushi…..8 pieces of foodie heaven on a plate…..trust me!

Sorry folks, not quite sure how that boat pic got in there!

  Ferry boat ride Seattle USA to Victoria, Canada

12.47pm, Friday 9th September, Clipper Cafe, Pier 69, Port of Seattle, Washington state, Pacific Northwest,USA

Afternoon folks, and it’s a beautiful day out there on the water of  the Port of Seattle. Now this harbour is part of the body of water called Puget Sound, which goes all the way north to meet Admiralty Inlet, that in itself opens out and joins Puget Sound to a big football shaped section of water called the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Somewhere in there is the international border between the USA and Canada, and if you keep going due north, you’ll run straight into the island of Victoria, part of the Canadian province of British Columbia. 

So why the geography lesson? Because the elegant harbourside city of Victoria BC is our destination today, and we’re travelling exactly the same waterway as our Yalumba  ancestor Fred Caley Smith – the ‘Indiana Jones horticulturalist’ of the family – who did the same trip back in 1893. And it’s much the same time of year too – end of summer, beginning of fall or Autumn – it’s the first week of September and it’s still warm days. Fred travelled in October 1893, so probably well into the cooler weather. Although, we’re going on a high speed catamaran called The Victoria Clipper which should do the trip terminal to terminal in 4 hours. Fred Caley Smith caught the train from Portland, Oregon to Tacoma, Washington….and transferred to a ferry ship there. That puts him at the southern end of Puget Sound, and they steamed up to The Port of Seattle for a brief stop then on to a small bay at Admiralty Inlet called Port Townsend for another stop….then on to Victoria, the whole thing being an overnight voyage. It really gives you an insight into how folks travelled 123 years ago, and why travelling the globe was such an overwhelming idea for most people, and why stories of those journeys were so newsworthy……and built reputations and colourful adventure stories for decades. So stay tuned – our vessel is yet to arrive from Victoria, the forecast is for less than two feet of swell today……so it could be a fab run up to Canada……in the watery this time –  ‘footsteps of Fred Caley Smith’.

Same day, much later – different country.

10.24pm, Friday 9th September, Douglas Street, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Here’s our ride up to Canada folks – The Victoria Clipper….

There goes the luggage…

Goodbye Seattle….we’re away – and that’s Mt Ranier to the right folks

Here’s the narrows at Admiralty Inlet, where Fred’s steamer made its last stop at Port Townsend before Victoria…

Then it’s on up through the Straits of Juan de Fuca, across the border and into Canada….and Victoria Harbour, which is quite busy this evening

So here we are, thanks to The Victoria Clipper and Captain Scott Corden…..Yalumba is back in the house!