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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."


Friday, November 26, 2010

Dining with the Rich and Famous - Langham's Barolo - Selaks Winemaker's Lunch

Okay - the other pics wouldn’t download for some technical reason – so all I have is a slightly gloomy shot of the wine selection.

Yennyhoo – as I have a passing acquaintance with the wine fraternity as a writer, I was invited along to this very fab lunch, with wine matches at ‘Barolo’ – the Langham Auckland’s renowned restaurants. Now, there were many wine luminaries there, plus a few food writers and industry people from Selak’s parent company Constellation NZ (the winery formerly known as Nobilo) and numerous PR agents.

Selak’s chief winemaker Brett Fullerton led us through the wines as the courses were served. Waitpersons with perfect posture stood to attention, and quietly swooped and efficiently served fab food, watered and cleared.

Now …funny thing. I was seated next to an alleged ‘famous’ wine critic. The list of wines was on a printed card with the food matches. But there was a minor cock-up. Wine number 1. was listed as a Viognier. But… in fact it was a Sauvignon Blanc. I sniffed wine #1 and thought – yep, Marlborough Savvy, no doubt. My wine writer famouse critic pal took about ten minutes and then exclaimed, ‘They switched them! I’ve been writing notes on the Viognier – and I just realised that it’s a Sauvignon!’

Sheesh. This is like watching the All Whites for ten minutes and then realising that they were the All Blacks.

Shame On You - alleged ‘famous’ wine critic. Cry bitter tears of shame into your SauViognier.

Anyway – the wines were pretty darn good. They only do about 1,000 cases of each of the wines as a premium brand: Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay (highly recommended), and a Merlot/Cab (also highly recommended).

Phil runs wine tours around Auckland in return for warm handshakes and pats on the back.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Snowy the Cat May Have Killed A Legend

Last night, as we sat watching TV, Snowy the Cat appeared at the window, miaowing loudly and demanding entry. This is not unusual, though Snowy isn't normally that insistent. He has regarded Garfield as a role model and generally assumes that humans are a barely tolerable, inferior species of dedicated cat slaves.

So I let him in, and as he walked through the door, he dropped something with a 'there - deal with that. And don't say I never give you anything' nonchalance and swagger. But as he plopped onto my knee to settle in for a good four-hour back rub, I saw that his gift was small and dark and ...rodent like. In the dim TV lighting, I could see that it was possibly a large, long mouse with a big head and large ears. As I picked it up by its cold lifeless tail - I realised that it must be a rat. A young rat.

But the funny thing was - it had a certain anthropomorphic quality - long and lean - and in fact looked very much like the rat from the movie Ratatouille. I have seen many rats before – but normally solid, compact and muscular – but this one was different. I pondered this as I walked downstairs to drop it into the garbage bin. Could Snowy have killed a special rat? Was this rat the Neo of the Ratrix? The Chosen Rodent? The One rat, after millennia of evolution that made the jump to supreme rathood, and could change rat-human relations for ever. The peace broker. The Rodent Messiah??

Well, sadly Snowy was the Mr.Smith to Ratty’s Neo.
'So. Mister. Ratterson. Unfortunately, I am here to.  Exterminate you ...'

And we’ll never know the truth. And it’s garbage collection day.

Phil will do Wine Tours in Auckland for food stamps

Monday, November 22, 2010

Mud House Awarded Trophy at Air NZ Wine Awards. Okay - I'm flat out busy, but here's a press release from Sth Island's Mud House

Press release November 20, 2010

Popular Kiwi vineyard Mud House has won top honours for its Pinot Gris at New Zealand’s most prestigious wine awards.

The 2010 Mud House Estate Home Block Vineyard Waipara Valley Pinot Gris received the trophy for best Pinot Gris at the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, announced at a gala dinner held in Auckland tonight.

The competition was organised by New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation for the country's 1,300 grape growers and winemakers.

Mud House winemaker Nadine Worley says the company is delighted to have their unique varietal recognised at the awards.
“We’ve always known that our old vines in Waipara were something special, and with this new release wine we wanted to show this to the world. Getting this recognition so soon after bottling the wine was certainly more than we expected, but further shows the depth and richness that this wine has and will continue to show in the coming years,” she says.

With an ongoing commitment to regional varietal specialisation, Mud House sourced the fruit for the award-winning Pinot Gris solely from its Home Block Vineyard in the Waipara Valley.

“Made from the oldest vines on our Home Block Vineyard, the fruit for this wine was handpicked, whole bunch pressed and cold settled before starting its fermentation in tank,” says Worley.

“Careful tending throughout this process was crucial to ensure that the fruit could evolve, and the palate flavours and texture could emerge. Lastly, knowing when to leave it alone, for time on lees, and just to settle down, so that it could come together as a wine and show all that it’s got to show right from the start.”

A number of other Mud House varietals have also been recognised at both local and international wines awards recently including the 2010 Mud House Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc which was presented with Gold at the New Zealand International Wine Competition. The 2009 Mud House Swan Central Otago Pinot Noir was also awarded Gold and Best of Class at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition in USA and Gold at San Francisco International Wine Competition.

For more information visit or

Phil runs the best Auckland wine tours.  Get over it

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Social Media

For a long time I was a Facebook member, but never logged on. I’d kind of lumped it in with all the other online teenage ennui-swapping sites like Twitter and Bebo. But about a year ago I kept hearing that it was ‘good for business’ to have a presence in Social Media, so I set up this blog, and started posting links on Twitter and Facebook. I’ve always had page one Google hits for my wine tours, but now I do seem to be getting a higher Google ranking and also scoring OK on MSN and Yahoo – so I guess it’s working.

To me, the downside of Facebook is that Famous people also use it as an advertising/PR medium – so musicians, comedians, politicians and so forth play it as a billboard for their latest policies, gig, CD releases etc., without any attempt to interact with their ‘friends’. So you might think that you’re Kiri Te Kawana’s Facebook best buddy, but she’ll just be running adverts for her career and certainly won’t bother replying to any conversation thread that you have added.

To my surprise, I have found a lot of former colleagues from many fields on Facebook, and have established contact with long lost pals from rock music, comedy, wine and writing. So I’ve become a bit of a born again fan and obsessively check the site during the day. Yet – the sort of friends who took a weeks to write back in the old days of snail mail are actually no faster online than they were then. Procrastinating bastards don’t change – even if a message reply can happen in a keystroke.

Phil runs wine tours around Auckland.  OK?  You gotta problem with that?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Bathtime for Jasper - how to bath a 40kg Black Labrador

One of the great things about living where I do, is local Waiatarua off-leash dog park that surrounds a recovered wetland area. I enjoy it because of the natural beauty, wildlife, peacefulness and clean air.

This is also Jasper’s favourite walkie – lots of other dogs to meet & greet, or growl. Lots of smells and sounds.  It takes about an hour to do the complete circuit from our house (allowing for Jasper’s many diversions and obsessive sniffing of anything decomposing or related to other dogs’ excretory functions.)

So anyway yesterday afternoon, we entered the park, I let Jaz off leash. Shortly after that, Molly - a Labradoodle 1-year old, appeared with her owner. Molly took a shine to Jaz, did the sniff and greet and then raced of to a muddy drain alongside the path – alternately madly running into the water and up the bank and back to Jasper as if to say – ‘Hey this is cool! Lookit – a stinky old muddy drain! Come on in, old fellah, the water’s disgusting, darling!’

So Jasper unable to resist the perfect smile of a bedraggled curly black female mud puppy, plunged in – gerplosh! Problem was, the sides of the drain were too steep for is old back legs to gain any traction. He made a few half-hearted ‘leap-and-slide-backwards’ attempts, and then looked at me with a slightly embarrassed ‘Ahem. Would you be so kind as to assist me?’ expression. I managed to pull him up by his collar.

We continued the walkie. Molly, happy that she had successfully got Jaz literally in the crap, happily raced off to further adventures.
When we got home, I knew that Jasper needed a bath. Now I knew, from previous experience that Jasper hates baths. Any attempt to wash him in the past has resulted in whining, trembling, running away, hiding, or a combination thereof.  But I know that Jasper is so food obsessed that he’d betray state secrets and sell me into white slavery for a square of chocolate.  So the process is: I get a large bucket of warm water with dog shampoo in it. I get a frozen dog bone from the fridge and place it on a ledge so he can smell it, but just out of reach.  He stands, transfixed for the whole time it takes to wash and rinse, staring at the bone. I could probably perform major surgery and he wouldn’t notice a jot.

Final rinse. Good boy. Sit. Jasper grabs the bone and flies away where he does that mad rolling on the ground thing to dry off on some old towels, then settles down to demolish the bone. All sorted. Apart from the kilo or two of winter coat he will shed over the next day.

Phil runs the goddam best Auckland Wine Tours and Food Tours known to mankind. And to a few other sentient mammals.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pinot Blanc - the Uber Groovy White Wine of the Moment - you heard it here first

Move over, Pinot Gris - we were bored last month. 
Siddown Viognier, you're ssssssssssooo Tuesday. 

Step up - Pinot Blanc and step into the spotlight for your 15 minutes ....
Okay - it all starts with Pinot Noir. Not the easiest grape to grow, the viticulture vultures tell me.

Fickle, over-sensitive, stingy - and unstable. But enough about me.

Pinot Noir is genetically unstable and readily mutates into other subspecies - or whatever the gene genies and genome gnomes call it. 
From the original Pinot Noir Variety we now have Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. If you remember your 5th form French, Noir = black, Gris = grey, Blnc = white.  Thus the name describes the colour of the ripe grape.

I know when Pinot Gris first hit the shelves, they tended to be very wishy-washy, indistinct wines with little that you could nail in terms of aroma or flavour.  Basically a quaffing, forgettable slosh it down type drink.
Now there is more of a varietal character with Pinot Gris showing pear, apple and citrus, often with a lager-like aftertaste.

Just lately, I sampled two Pinot Blancs - one from north Canterbury's  Pyramid Valley wines and another from Nelson's Hope region - Greenhough label.  These are two family wineries - and I recommend clicking the links to read more.

Yennyhoo ... les vins

Pyramid Valley Kerner Estate Pinot Blanc 2008  $NZ30.00
Lovely golden colour, fermented and stored in French oak 450L barrels. Silky voluptuous wine with over ripe grapefruit, peach, melon and citrus.

Greenhough Hope Pinot Blanc 2009   $NZ32.00
13 months in French oak.  Pears, anise and a hint of ginger in syrup. Good palate weight and a lengthy finish.

Phil runs a not-for-profit business also known as Fine Wine Tours Auckland New Zealand

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mt Beautiful Cheviot Hills Riesling 2008

Just sampled this lovely wine from north Canterbury's Mt. Beautiful label.
Absolutely fab wine.  Every now and then I try a Riesling - and it restores my (somewhat irregular) faith in the Riesling grape.  This was one of those. 

A lot of Marlborough Rieslings seem to be too try-hard: way too acidic, aggressive and shouty 'look at me' wines.

This wine is subtle - off-dry style with aromas of minerals, crisp Nashi pear and lime.  On the palate - initial medium sweetness with a cascade of pear, peach, ripe grapefruit, honey and raisins.  Then a crisp, clean finish.  Very classy wine.
A great match for pork, seafood or Asian cuisine.  $NZ24.00 a bottle

Phil is a wine writer and hosts the best Auckland Wine Tours on Earth