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 ( 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… 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… 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!

Chicago World’s Fair 1893 – why are we interested?

1.09pm, Thursday September 8th, Gate A17, Chicago Midway airport, Illinois

Howdy folks, and it was a top – although pretty warm at 96F or 36C – day here in Chicago yesterday, and we set of to have a look at The Museum of Science, located just back from the Lake Michigan shoreline, in the Hyde Park neighbourhood of Chicago…..about six miles south of the city.

Now what would a wine family business be interested in The Museum of Science in Chicago? Because this building is pretty much the only complete structure that remains….in exactly the same place….as it was for the 1893 Worlds Fair. Still, why would that interest us at Yalumba? Because the World’s Fair was a six month exposition of all things wonderful, uniquely regional and cultural from all corners of the globe….and new – in mechanical, architectural, constructional, adventurous, sensuous, scandalous and entertaining directions! And…..because during the last week of the Fair’s run… October 1893, one of the Yalumba family – Fred Caley Smith, grandson of the founder Samuel Smith, and great uncle of the current owners Rober & Sam Hill Smith – our own ‘Indiana Jones horticulturalist’ was there. Fortunately for us, Fred sent home detailed letters of his travels abroad, and toured this very building, when it was The Palace Of Fine Arts during the World’s Fair run.

So yesterday was our opportunity to catch up with our truly fabulous friends from our distributor for the mighty working hard state of Illinois – Heritage Wine Cellars – and actually walk “in the footsteps” of Fred Caley Smith…..123 years down the track. You certainly don’t get to do that sort of thing every day, and it’s one of the special things about working for this family business with its great history, and we’re thrilled to bits that Fred Caley was such a prolific writer, detailing everything that he did and saw for the folks at home – fully intending to have his correspondence bound as a diary of his adventures and observations – many of them directly related to the wine, vine and fruit growing and preserving businesses that Yalumba was involved with at the time. Otherwise we wouldn’t have these opportunities to have a window back in time to these sorts of fabulous events that Fred Caley attended. Don’t get me started on how he found himself at the Press preview one day before the new Tower Bridge was opened in London! That’s a whole another story!

Road snack taste test # 1 – Malley OH’S!

11.48pm, Tuesday 6th September, South Bend, Indiana

Evening folks, and it’s a very unseasonal warm night in Indiana – 28 degrees C out there right now, and for tonight’s blog post, I thought it was about time to start rating ‘unique local snacks’ as I’m travelling. Today as I was driving through the outskirts of Cleveland, Ohio – heading for Indiana – I happened to pass the Malley’s chocolate works. Now apparently this family confectionery business has been going since 1935, so the forces of fate must have set the GPS to take me literally past their door. 

So tonight I’m going to taste test one of their top sellers – the round milk chocolate covered biscuit called the ‘Malley OH’.

Very smart printed cello bag with one biscuit inside….and biting in…..surprise! It’s not just a choc coated bikkie! It’s two dark chocolate biscuit discs with a thin layer of vanilla marshmallow between, coated with a decent layer of creamy milk chocolate. Very very nice, not too sweet, and everything melts away just leaving a yum milk choc flavour.

Rating – 9/10 – and the only down side? I only bought one!

PS apparently there a few Malley’s ‘Chocolate Shoppes’ dotted around north eastern Ohio, and four of them have old fashioned ice cream parlours attached. If you’re ever in Ohio, as Molly Meldrum on the Countdown TV show used to say….”go out and do yourself a favour”…. Track one down

See you when it’s Wednesday and we’re in Chicago

From Pittsburgh to Cleveland on the backroads…..and a Bigfoot sighting!

11.02pm, Monday 5th September, East Sixth Street, Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Evening here in Cleveland folks, a very busy town today for visitors…..both US Presidential candidates Trump and Clinton had their planes parked side by side at the airport as they toured the local area…..and I drove in from Pittsburgh on the backroads. In fact at one stage today, I reckon the Trump convoy and I were not far off crossing paths! They were off to the fair at Canfield in north east Ohio, and I came through to Lisbon – just south – and then on up to Cleveland. I wondered why all the bunting and signs were up! 

Any rate, I promised a lot of folks that I’d get a blog post done each day, and I’m going to do my darnedest to make that happen…..with pics! So here’s the cross country hike from Pittsburgh – goodbye to the Steel City for now….

An early morning drive north west across a little slice of West Virginia, over the Ohio River at East Liverpool …..

Into the state of Ohio proper – I stopped in the little town of Lisbon for lunch – by luck I stumbled across the Steel Trolley Diner. Once upon a time, these things liberally dotted the American countryside, and now folks go looking for them…..

****weird moment in Lisbon, as I couldn’t help myself when I saw a sign in the local hunting shop across from the diner saying “Bigfoot tees”. Then I had to ask! Apparently there was a Bigfoot sighting in the area back in 2012 that didn’t involve alcohol or any weird experience enhancing stuff….and the locals aren’t discounting the story…..

– then straight up to Cleveland – sitting on both the Cuyahoga River and the southern edge of Lake Erie. I didn’t realise that the local baseball heroes – the Cleveland Indians – were playing the Houston Astros this evening, so I was lucky enough to get along with some locals….and this record of my first – and probably only – visit to Progressive Field……is going straight to the Pool Room!

PS I do have a very soft spot for Cleveland, as I was really looked after 15 years ago at the Amtrak Train Station as part of my four day residency on the trains and in the stations as I got out of 9/11 devastated New York. So it’s nice to be back – I like this town…..a lot.

See ya tomorrow, after catching up with those tremendous folks that look after us in Ohio – the Buckeye State – Vintage Wine Distributor……it will be along Lake Erie to Toledo – get ready Klinger fans from the MASH TV show, we might do dinner at Tony Packo’s – then on to South Bend, Indiana overnight before a very big day in Chicago with our distributor there Heritage.

Pittsburgh PA – first time in Steeltown USA

6.49pm, Sunday 4th September, University Boulevard, Moon Township….on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA

Evening folks, or whatever time it is where you are – I’m back on the air, because we’re back on the road. This trip it’s a split between the USA – a whistlestop tour of six states…Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Washington, Florida & Minnesota and four cities…..and Western Canada – Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton & Calgary.

So here’s a quick photo catch up of the last couple of days….Welcome to Pittsburgh for my first ever visit. Now I’m already a big fan of the blue collar riverside Midwest towns – Cincinnatti, Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland – are all favourites – and after 36 hours on the deck, I’m ready to add Pittsburgh to that list. I’m not sure if Kansas City is in the Midwest, but Pittsburgh reminds me off a cross between KC – it’s on bluffs above the river one side, and flats on the other – and Cincinnatti with its industrial manufacturing inner city and downtown dock areas having a big makeover to apartments and entertainment precincts. Pittsburgh is also a massive sports town, with a completely black and gold Pirates / Steelers colour scheme……and they’re already gearing up for the new NFL football season with a vengeance!

We start with the most unique view of downtown Pittsburgh……from the Duequesne (that’s pronounced ‘Doo-Kayne’ for the out of owners) Incline. This is an amazing piece of 1800s engineering that literally ferried folks from the business part of town, in the city, at the docks, foundries,mfactories and markets of the riverside ‘flats’……up to the more residential part of town that was established on the bluffs above. After falling into dis repair in the 1960s, the Incline has been restored, and is run completely as a non profit operation….just because enough people wanted to keep it rolling. The cars are the completely original timber and steel construction, and whilst the mechanicals were all steam back in the day, now it’s electrics that run the cables…..but the mechanism is much the same. 

I’m still out of the time zone, so had no problem getting into town early before the holiday weekend crowds, and riding the Incline. Here we go…..first up what the Incline looks like today & yesterday….

Downtown Pittsburgh from the top of the Incline….and that big riverside stadium in the foreground left? Is Heinz Field….home of the Steelers. The Heinz name is another page in the Pittsburgh story of really interesting things that started locally….and I’ll get to that in another post.

Away the old wooden car goes…365 days of the year….from early morning until midnight…..$5 return. I would definitely have paid the money rather than hike up and down!

Pittsburgh – thanks for a fab 48 hours, and I’ll definitely be back….I didn’t even try any pierogies!

Cheers for now, tomorrow it’s off to Cleveland, Ohio.

Goodbye Invercargill, Southland, NZ…….for now!!

10.05am, Friday 29th July, Invercargill Airport, Southland, South Island, New Zealand

Well folks, another trek across Aotearoa….’Land of the long white cloud’……comes to an end……quite fittingly here in Invercargill,  right down at the tip end of the South Island. Our Air New Zealand baby prop jet ride up to Wellington will be here soon, and we’ll be ploughing through some rough stuff on our way today – the complete opposite of the clear breezy run down the Southern Alps that we had three days ago.Landing in Wellington today will be like being one of those whizzy stomach dropping carnival rides……my plan is to just close my eyes when the flight attendants take their seats and hope the anchors work when they throw them out!

But we’ve had a busy couple of days down here between Queenown, Invercargill and Riverton – so here’s a quick catch up…..

Beautiful run down the Southern Alps thanks to the weather gods and Air New Zealand…..

Even if you do seem to ‘thread the needle’ between two pretty sturdy peaks to run up the lake – Wakatipu – to the Queenstown airstrip.

Tremendous turn out for our local trade event, held at No 5 Church Lane, which is the cosy private dining room at The Spire Hotel, Queenstown – thanks a million Tom.

Stayed overnight at the top ‘old motel converted into a cool lodge but there’s no TV in the rooms so it’s not for everyone’ Sherwood – I like it and could move in for a week with mornings like this one from the breakfast table window!

Hang on….I’m about to run out of my free 30 minutes of airport wi fi, so I’ll have to pick this up in Wellington whilst I wait for our Qantas ride across the Tasman. See ya when it’s the North Island.

***Same day folks…..6.53pm, Sydney Airport, Gate 6

So Queenstown went really well, excellent turnout……and after a fab Japanese meal with my delightful Southland handler from Negociants NZ – AJ you know who you are ! – I broke out the blankets, curled up in my lodge room, and hit the hay….no TV but no trouble going out like a light!

Then an early morning start, brekky in the lodge dining hall / bar arrangement, caught the sunrise and we hit the road southwards for Invercargill and our lunch time trade event.

Farewell Lake Wakatipu, the snowcaps rising out of it, Queenstown, and the pied piper of good times in the area Danny Carson – you also know who you are!

One quick coffee and cheese rolls / trade call stop at the Highway Cafe in Athol en route……

And it was on to Invercargill and our local trade event with our staunch mate Mana Davis at his tremendous bistro bar “Louie’s”

How lucky can a gal be – working with this particular bunch of talented food and wine blokes!

As a starter with the exotic aromatic treble of 2015 Y Viognier, 2014 Roussanne & 2014 Virgilius…..Mana made up a ‘fluffy mousse more than paste’ of salted mutton bird from the local Titi Islands – near Stewart Island, next stop the South Pole – and the closest thing I could compare it to is that anchovette paste that we used to have on our sandwiches as kids. I asked Mana why the Mutton Bird mousse tasted like fish paste, and apparently the birds eat krill, hence the fishy taste of the flesh. Mana cooked the Mutton bird meat up in its own fat with local Southland swede, watercress, and some secret herbs & spices….topped with pickled ginger. Excellent example of truly regional Southland cuisine!

Goodbye Wellington…..Queenstown snow country – here we come!

6.12am, Tuesday 26th July, Gate 18a, Wellington Airport, North Island, New Zealand

Morning folks, and here we are at Wellington airport, grabbing the porridge breakfast option at Wishbone – just did a bit of surgery to remove all those horrid walnuts before the girls heated it up – and we’re off for the ‘southern double hop’ two flight trip down to Queenstown……excitement capital of the South Island – skiing, snowboarding, parasailing, jet boating, and my pace – the cable car ride above town. When you get Gate 18a on your boarding pass, that means one of the regional Air New Zealand (and that’s pronounced Earr Nyu Zillind around here!)  prop jets, and a bouncy old ride down to Christchurch. That’s where you change for the ‘split the middle and plop over the top’ prop jet again ride into Queenstown, where the pilots literally slice in between two mountain tops, slide down the river bed towards the air strip, then belly flop up and over the bank and onto the tar! Sometimes it’s better not to know what’s coming!

Off to Queenstown, so it’s internal combustion stuff for brekky, and on with the thermal undershirt!

But before heading south, a quick catch up on yesterday’s fab local trade event in Wellington – thanks to our Local gals Hanna and Cenna for putting it together, and Lorenzo and Lucas from Bresolin for the set up, tremendous log fire, and food!

That’s Lucas on the left – Lorenzo on the right – lovely young trustworthy food and wine lads from Wellington!

Slow cooked lamb shoulder, and house smoked brisket – lovely when the photos are completely self explanatory!!

See ya when it’s snowing down in Queenstown folks!