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Auckland, North Island, New Zealand
Wine tour operator, wine writer and lapsed physiotherapist. "Nature abhors a vacuum. I personally hate dusting."


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

chef joke

Chef 1: So, everything goes pear-shaped and then turns to custard.
Chef 2: Fantastic!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A bit of a flap

As you probably are aware - I do wine tours in Auckland.

On Sunday, I had to pick up a couple from a city hotel at 10.00 for a half day tour. The vehicle petrol gauge was almost on empty but I had allowed time to fill up on the way to the pick-up.

I pulled into Shell, pulled the petrol cap lever by the seat - went round the side. Flap would not not open.

Got back in, pulled the petrol cap lever - went round the side. Flap would not open.

Said (insert bad word here) ! Started to panic. 5 minutes to pick up my clients and no petrol. Shit shit shit.Had visions of borrowing a can opener or a crowbar just so I could get the effing flap open. Rediscovered Christianity - made short but heartfelt plea to the Almighty.

Crawled under driver's seat, pulled on as many random cables as I could find.

Finally the flap opened after I flicked a credit card into the gap. (the spring lock thing was buggered). I was 10 min late for clients - luckily they were laid-back Uruguayans and we all had a happy day. Thanks be to God.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mixed feelings - Auckland's 'Orbit' revolving restaurant

Phil Parker runs wine tours around Auckland New Zealand.

The in-laws were up from Dunedin and last Friday was my dear Mum-in-law's birthday.
So, for something different we booked Auckland's Sky City Hotel's revolving restaurant - Orbit.
I always wondered how the revolving thing worked - like: do all the electrics and plumbing get tensioned up at one point, and the lights go dim, and the toilets won't flush, so they have to reverse to unwind it - to relieve the pressure. And stuff like that. In fact - the revolving bit is just the dining area. The middle bit and the outside walls stay still.

As a rule of thumb, with restaurants - if the view's good the food's bad, but I have had nothing but good feedback from my overseas guests who have dined at Orbit. We booked for 6.30 and eventually got there after threading through AKL's mad traffic.

I had been up there before for the view in daytime, but we were in luck as it was a clear night and the twinkling white, amber, red and blue tiny lights of the city extended to the dusky horizon. The only dark patches without twinkles were the Waitemata and Manukau harbours - which, but for Auckland's isthmus, would convert the North Island into two islands. (Luckily Auckland has a very merry little isthmus).

In short - a fab evening. The food was faultless. I had crayfish (that's rock lobster to USA readers). Others had lamb, snapper, pork and scallops.

Unfortunately, the service was, er, patchy. I ordered two bottles of wine - they turned up after about 10 m minutes, plonked on the table and abandoned by the waitress (plus we had no wine glasses!). By the time we ordered another two, I was presented with a bottle by a different waitperson, to approve of in the normal manner. On the plus side, the Chardonnay was just slightly chilled and the Pinot just above room temperature.
You get the impression that the waiting staff were pressured, inexperienced, and not at the level of grooming and attention to detail that you would expect when all else was of such a high standard. Which is a pity - as Orbit has everything else going for it.

Yennyhoo - the wines:

Ormond 'O' Gisborne Chardonnay 2006 from NZ's Pernod Ricard. Toasty, dry and elegant with buttery cashew, stonefruit, mineral and citrus flavours. Perfect match for the crayfish in the shell.

Gibbston Valley Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007. Soft, sweet and ripe, with black cherry/blackberry, soy, plum and cassis, with a hint of mocha. Fantastic. One of the best Pinots I have tasted this year.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Bouldevines releases new Chardonnay

(Edited from press release 20 May 2010)
Boutique family-owned Marlborough vineyard, Bouldevines has just released their latest vintage of Bouldevines Chardonnay.

Janey and Philip Walsh have a long history growing grapes as contract growers, for over 30 years, on part of a property first settled by their family in 1935.
Following Philip’s debilitating accident in 2004, they turned adversity into advantage – releasing their own label as a way to secure their future on the land. Launching their own single-vineyard Bouldevines label in 2005, Janey knew that one of their varieties would have to be Chardonnay.

“I enjoy a good Chardonnay,” she says. “Fortunately for me the variety does very well on our Bouldevines vineyard!”

As the name suggests, there are many boulders studded in the vineyard soil, causing the vines some stress, but overcoming adversity only adds to the character of their wines.

US-born winemaker Drew Ellis had good quality fruit to work with. Drew believes in crafting wines which are true to the vines, letting the fruit dictate the winemaking rather than trying to force the grapes into preconceived styles.

Bouldevines Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 has a beautifully smooth, full-bodied texture. It opens with grapefruit on the nose, followed by hints of spicy oak and slight buttery notes. The citrus and butter characters continue on the palate, followed with subtle spice and fine acidity

Now available from restaurants and selected fine wine retail outlets throughout New Zealand, Bouldevines Marlborough Chardonnay 2008 has a recommended retail price of $NZ24.95.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why you shouldn't weigh yourself.

(unflattering image courtesy of my good mate and ace cartoonist Chris Slane)
Just after Christmas, I decided that I should trim down a tad - having hit the 85.5 kg mark on my occasional weigh-in at the local shopping centre 'your height & your weight for $1' machine.

So I cut down on the cafe lunches, and walked Jasper (10 y/o black lab) more often, and generally avoided french fries wherever humanly possible, and reduced my wine intake. Slightly.

And after a couple of weeks, I was thrilled to find when I weighed myself on my 15 year-old spring compression type crappy bathroom scales - that I had dropped to 80 kg!

And then - I thought that 5Kg was maybe .... a bit too much. So I eased up on the french fry moratorium, ordered the chicken and pine nut quiche more often, had a few more glasses of vino, and walked Jasper no more than 5 x a week.

My weight stayed the same: hop on the old spring-loaded bathroom scales - kaching! 80Kg. Fab! At this point I conjectured that I must have had some early 50s metabolic gear change which allowed me to eat anything I damn well wanted. Bring. It. On! Whoo-hoo!

Yeah - fish & chips, little citron tarts, chocolate, more wine!!! I felt great. I looked in the mirror after each bathroom weigh-in - I was certain that I looked fabulous. Not quite the chiseled Adonis - more Henry Moore sculpture. But I told anyone who'd listen - I lost 5kg!! And I feel great.

Until .. .I went to my GP for a check-up. Hop on the good doctor's scales and ... "You seem to have put on, um, a bit of weight, Phil. You're 86 kg - last time you were 79."

Whaaaahh ???? Turns out my sudden weight loss was due to my elderly faulty bathroom scales showing wayyyy under the actual reading.

So, they went out in the rubbish bin a week ago.

Today I walked Jasper to the vet and hopped on (while the receptionist wasn't looking) the dog scales - 85 kg. A modest drop. And yet ... somehow, I don't think I'll ever give up french fries.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Prison joke

Guard 1: Hear about that fab new state-of-the-art prison in Texas?
Guard 2: Yeah - they got an electric chair to die for!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rugby World Cup 2011

In NZ right here, right now, the tourism sector is collectively wetting its pants with excitement about the Rugby World Cup to be held here next year. The predicted cash injection into our recessed economy is anticipated with something bordering on hysteria by businesses and media alike.
The last Rugby World Cup was held in South Africa, inspiring the movie Invictus (review here.)

Auckland’s Eden Park is the venue for the final, and there has been much media debate lately about whether accommodation providers are price gouging - as rooms are rapidly getting booked out by overseas fans. There are tales of homeowners in far distant suburbs advertising accommodation ‘just minutes’ from Eden Park. Caveat emptor, sez I. Just minutes in a Mig jet fighter, more likely.

As a wine tour operator, for me there may be more punters in town, and I may make a bit more money over our late spring shoulder season. My experience with the last big sports event here – the Lions rugby tour, was rather mixed. A few bothered to book ahead online with me, and a few found my details on the day and called direct. So I had some very busy days but mostly normal numbers for the time of year.

But, the Rugby World Cup 2011 is providing a wealth of opportunity for advertising hawkers who circle the wide-eyed small business owners like hyenas sniffing out dim-witted prey that missed out on running away lessons at prey school.
I’ve seen it all before. “Of course we’d love to have you in our magazine and luckily we have just one spot left, which also - luckily, your opposition hasn’t taken. Yet.”

So you cough up your $1200 for a quarter page spot in a disposable glossy, take all the risk, sit back and wait for the phone to ring. Meanwhile, the hyenas are dabbing their lips, burping and scanning the horizon for more victims.

Call me cynical, but there are hordes of businesses and organisations which extract thousands of dollars selling vague promises and statistical projections, when the tourist operators pay up front and carry all the risk.

New joke

Man: I had some bad luck this year - broke my leg in three places.

Woman: Really?

Man: Yes. Sydney, London and Dusseldorf.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kim Crawford 'Rise & Shine Creek' Central Otago Pinot Noir 2007

Phil Parker runs Fine Food & Wine Tours in Auckland.

This wine is one of the Kim Crawford SP (small parcel) range of wines where grapes are sourced from a specific vineyard area. Retailing at about $NZ27.00 this is a very good deal for a top notch Central Otago P Noir.

Deep garnet red and opaque. Rich, ripe and spicy, it has the classic black berry fruit and cherry palate, with soft tannins and savoury roast beef/soy sauce flavours. The flavours linger on the palate and draw you back for ... just ... one ... more... glass.

As I have said before, Crawford himself has no connection with the wines any more. He had an ambassadorial role for the brand after he sold to Vincor, and then less so when Constellation (USA) swallowed Vincor. A falling out with Constellation got him kicked out of the sandpit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Teen death from alcohol overdose in Auckland

Debate over teen drinking continues in NZ, days after an Auckland Kings College student died from an apparent vodka overdose. Sixteen-year-old James Webster died in his sleep at the weekend after drinking vodka at a friend's party.

Being a small nation, we New Zealanders grieve as a community - and the needless death of James Webster is no exception.

However, the need to lash out and attribute blame is often misguided.
Society, 'The Government' and the police are not responsible.

Sadly - good kids sometimes do very stupid things.

Kids need to know how much is too much, and what the consequences are.
Grass roots education in responsible drinking from parents and schools is a feasible countermeasure.

Demonising alcohol is not the solution.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Villa Maria wines clock up medals at NZ wine show

Edited from Villa Maria Press release:

Gold awards are for a range Villa Maria Group’s classic wine varieties including Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Viognier.

Villa Maria Group wines also picked up 17 Silver and 34 Bronze awards in what is New Zealand’s most established international wine competition. International entries for the competition came from eight countries (including New Zealand) and Villa Maria Group received 15 of the total 81 golds awarded.

“To receive 15 gold medals across a range of varieties and regions is a tribute to the Villa Maria Group winemakers and our viticultural team in their determination to consistently produce quality wines that our customers will love” says Villa Maria Group Winemaker, Alastair Maling MW.

The Liquorland International Wine Competition is open for entries of all wines sold in the New Zealand market.

Director of the competition Belinda Jackson commented on the range of entries received: “As always, a wide range of wines were entered into the competition. We see the bar lifted each year as the quality of entries gets better, with wine faults declining and more focus is placed on quality fruit and winemaking”.

2010 Liquorland International Wine Competition trophy announcements will be made at the official awards function on Thursday 1 July 2010.

A summary of gold medal wins for Villa Maria and associated wineries are as follows:

Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Fletcher Riesling 2008
Villa Maria Estate Reserve Clifford Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Villa Maria Estate Reserve Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2008
Villa Maria Estate Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2008
Villa Maria Estate Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007
Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2008
Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Keltern Chardonnay 2007
Villa Maria Estate Private Bin Viognier 2009
Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Omahu Viognier 2009
Villa Maria Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2007
Villa Maria Estate Single Vineyard Southern Clays Pinot Noir 2008 }
Vidal East Coast Viognier 2009
Vidal Reserve Syrah 2006
Esk Valley Estate Winemakers Syrah 2007
Thornbury Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008

Friday, May 7, 2010

Australian Reds - cracker bonza, mate!

By Phil Parker, wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine Tours Ltd.

Like it or not, and all sports bigotry aside, Australia does pump out gazillions of litres of very good affordable wine. In fact, they have so much of a good thing right now because of overproduction, that growers have been forced to plough under their vines, the grapes not economically worth picking in some regions.

Red wine is what they do best, and South Australia with its hot, dry extended summer ripening season is the best place for Cabernet Sauvignon and the great Aussie icon – Shiraz. Particularly the Barossa region. That’s why so many Aussie reds have a jammy, almost overcooked quality, which some wine drinkers dismiss as too sweet and alcoholic. I love them.

Extended sunny weather means extremely ripe grapes and therefore high natural fruit sugars. This in turn gives wine yeasts a banquet of food for them to convert into alcohol during fermentation. The winemaker has the option of stopping fermentation any time he/she requires, but officially in NZ, wines should not be more than 15% alcohol. Any more than that, and the excise duties increase, and the wine taxed accordingly higher.

Therefore, many Aussie reds clock in at about 14.5% - which makes for really huge wines – inky dark, medium sweet, high tannins and knockout alcohol. Consequently the number of ‘standard drinks’ in a bottle of Barossa Shiraz is going to be a whole lot more than a wimpy Rosé, which may be as low as 10% alcohol.
So these really are wines which should be consumed with food – good hearty winter fare like roasts and casseroles are a good match.

Here’s a few bargain-priced rippers from the supermarket shelves.

LEASINGHAM Magnus Shiraz Clare Valley $NZ15.00
Medium style. Spicy, soft and slightly sweet. Classic Shiraz profile.

LEASINGHAM Magnus Cabernet Merlot Clare Valley $NZ15.00
Medium to full-bodied. Soft and very ripe, with mocha, blackberry and cherry flavours and lasting tannins. A total bargain.

ROBARD & BUTLER Shiraz $NZ 11.00

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Versovino by-the-glass decanting

A while ago, a mate of mine - Chad Thompson came back from a trip to Italy, very enthused about a little wine gadget that he discovered on sale over there. Basically it looks like a large crack pipe: a blown glass bowl with two tubes protruding - one of them with a cork-like wine bottle neck attachment (see image).

They come in two sizes: 100ml and 180 ml. To aerate and decant - just invert the bottle, fill the bowl with wine, then tip the wine into the glass via the outlet pipe. Works well on young tannic reds - oxygenating without the hassle of filling, emptying a larger flask.

Chad is now importing and has these online in NZ - see here
he has distribution throughout NZ. Tomorrow - the World!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 scores in Sydney comp

Phil Parker is a wine writer who runs wine and food tours around Auckland New Zealand.

Central Otago iconic Pinot producer Gibbston Valley scooped the pool in an international wine competition in Sydney.
The recently released 2008 Reserve Pinot Noir has been awarded the trophy for Best Pinot Noir at the 2010 Sydney International Wine Competition, coming out on top of 183 pinot noirs.

Made only in the best vintages, the Gibbston Valley Reserve Pinot Noir is their flagship wine and is no stranger to International Awards since first being produced in 1995.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Restaurant joke IV

Waiter: Would you like me to run through the desserts?

Woman: No. Keep your filthy shoes out of the food.

Marc Brédif Chenin Blanc 2007

Phil Parker is a wine writer who also runs wine tours around Auckland New Zealand.

Last night we caught up with friends from Wellington – up here for the Spandau Ballet/Tears For Fears concert on Thursday.

The venue was Vivace – longstanding Italian style restaurant, upstairs off High Street. Big and noisy, the place was pumping with a thirty-ish crowd. Brisk service, good food, and reasonable prices – I’d go back.

To wine – I’d started with a glass of our NZ made Deutz sparkler. Very pleasant: apple/pear flavours with a nice acid balance. I’m not a huge fan of methode Champenoise, so one glass was enough. I checked the wine list for ‘other white wines’ and spied the Marc Brédif Chenin Blanc 2007. I haven’t had a French Chenin for ages so I took a punt and got a bottle ($NZ52). I was pleasantly surprised – the wine was ripe and crisp, with musky apple and pear flavours, just a hint of honey, minerality and some lime and quince flavours in the mix. Yum. More please.

Marc Brédif is one of the famous Chenin producers from Vouvrey in the Loire Valley. Vouvrey AC is always Chenin Blanc, but the style can vary from dry and flinty to sweet botrytised styles, depending on the vagaries of the season. Limestone soils provide minerality and natural acidity that help in making these wines very long lasting (some up to 70 years).