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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."


Saturday, December 17, 2011

So what's wrong with Christmas?

Disclaimer: I am agnostic.  I was raised as a Catholic.  But at 55 and with two parents long gone from cancer, and two marriages, no kids and a bit of life experience, I ... still ...just ... don't know.
However, Christmas ... 

Where I live - New Zealand, has a predominantly Christian religious culture.  Polynesian  people came here about 800 years ago and developed their own
Maori belief system.  Then around 1800 NZ was seriously colonised by Europeans who brought Christianity - as well as rats, measles, muskets, alcohol, syphilis, influenza and other stuff.  But anyway, eventually many Maori converted to Christianity. So - like it or not, over about 150 years, and right now NZ has a majority 'religious culture' of Christianity. (Even though fewer than 10% of us attend church regularly). 
We also have much smaller numbers of Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Taoist, Hindu, Sikh, Jedi, Pagan, Wiccan and many others. 

Christian culture celebrates Christmas as a reminder of: good will, peace, generosity, kindness, reconciliation, hospitality, family and friendship.

Christian religion celebrates all of the above plus the birth of a Jewish male who they believe is the Christ (the chosen one) and therefore son of God. Believe it - or not.

As a physiotherapist a few years back, I felt no insult or rage if Muslim patients shared Ramadan food treats with me.  Or when a totally crazy Ukrainian Jewish guy used to bring me traditional heart-stopping cold weather fatty meat products to sample.

- I see no shame in celebrating Christmas - or wishing someone a Merry Christmas. Or sending Christmas cards, or exchanging Christmas gifts. Christmas is part of my culture - not necessarily my belief system.

So If I say, Have good Christmas, or Merry Christmas - I'm not saying "Screw your religion and your culture,"  or "My imaginary friend is better than yours," or "In your face, immigrant."

I am saying, "Enjoy our traditional New Zealand festive celebrations and holiday season, and best wishes to you."

So - Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (Gregorian Calendar - my bad) to All

Monday, December 12, 2011

Internet marketing bullshit

Now, don't get me wrong - the InterWeb is potentially a powerful marketing tool for small business.

Twenty years ago it would not be possible for me to run a one-man wine tour operation.  I have the added advantage of an 0800 number that connects direct to my mobile phone.  I can take online bookings direct from my fabulous website, I process international credit card payments online.  Thus I pick up my customers, all paid-up, and then hopefully exceed their expectations with a fab tour, so everyone is happy.  Win-win.  Yadda yadda.

Problem for me is - the Internet has become a confusing predator-driven market for sales reps and web hawkers who prey on the unsavvy average punter who is just trying to sell something and make an honest buck.  Every day, I have unsolicited emails and phone calls from people who claim to be experts at 'getting me on page one of Google,'  by optimising my search critera and generally doing Harry Potter-esque dark Web Magic to make me hot to trot.

Then there is the received wisdom that 'you have to be all over social media' - i.e. FaceBook, Twitter, Blogger, TwitBook, Facer, ArseBook, TwitFace or whatever - all in the desperate hope that someone will feel wildly excited by your online profile to sign up for what you're selling.

I have been doing this for ten years  now - and it has been a random roller coaster ride of expectation and disappointment with web marketing.  I have tried pay per click with Yahoo and Google, plus paid listings on TripAdvisor, FaceBook, Rankers (NZ), and Cruise Critic.  I have free listings on Tourism Auckland, Tourism NZ - and many others I can't remember.  And  I write a Blog - and you're reading it.  Whoo hoo.

My over all impressions: 
1. There is a a swag of competitiors out there -  all doing all marketing stuff that you are doing. 
2.  It's a money game (i.e. if you have tens of thousands of dollars to throw at online marketing - you will likely achieve a high level of response).  That's fine if you're a 5-Star hotel chain in Auckland or a Casino or million dollar sailing adventure operation.
3. There's no easy answer to selling online.
4.  Disclaimer: I run a one-off wine tour experience with no expectation of repeat custom.. I am in a niche market.  God help me.

Phil runs just the diddly darned best goddamm winery tours in Auckland New Zealand

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do you know there's a dog on your roof?

Yes, we do, and we're not surprised.  George has discovered that he can squeeze through the window above our bed and gain access to the roof space.  Whereupon he is master of his own domain - scanning the neighbourhood for cats, getting an early glimpse of any invading visitors and generally lording it over us lower ground mortals.  It's been a good way to meet the neighbours - mostly female - who have rushed over in a state of mild alarm to tell us the news.  Anyway, after a while, Georgie gets sick of it and asks to be lifted back (he can't jump back in).  And peace is restored to Point Chevalier for the meantime.

Phil runs winery tours in Auckland NZ when he's not being annoyed by George.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Karikari Estate Wines

By Phil Parker wine writer and operator of Auckland Fine Wine & Food Tours

A few months back I was invited to a relaxed sit-down tasting with Karikari Estate’s winemaker, the affable Ben Dugdale.

Available for tasting were no less than six wines.  Northland’s wines constitute less than 1% of our national wine production nationally, yet these are an impressive range of wines and well worth seeking out. Ben’s winemaking history dates back over 20 years to iconic companies such as Collards, Coopers Creek and Dry River.   
Karikari Estate is located on the Karikari Peninsula, overlooking the blue Pacific towards North Cape.  Ben, and his assistant winemaker Rachel Hogan, oversee the production of a number of red and white varieties – many of them trophy winners.  The first vines were planted in 1998 and production commenced with the first vintage in 2003. They boast some 41 hectares of Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc, Malbec, Pinotage, Chardonnay and Viognier.  The use of naturally occurring ‘wild’ vineyard yeasts adds a special character to these wines from New Zealand’s northernmost winery.  As a special Northland twist, they are investigating the use of Kauri casks as an adjunct to traditional French and American oak barrels.
Associated with Karikari is the Heritage hotel chain’s Carrington Resort, comprising luxury accommodation, championship 18-hole golf course designed by American designer Matt Dye, Olympic skeet shooting range, vineyard and winery, and a grass-fed Black Angus beef farm.
The onsite restaurant features fresh and often organic produce from local farms and pristine coastal waters.
Okay – the wines.  The Calypso range is made from fruit sourced from other regions. The remainder are estate grown.

Calypso Sauvignon Blanc 2011  $NZ22.00
Fruit sourced from Marlborough.  This is very approachable even for a young Sauvignon Blanc, lacking the rampant acidity of most young Marlborough Savvies.  Soft and inviting, with Gooseberry, bell pepper and crisp fruit flavours.

Wild Chardonnay 2010  $NZ40.00
Fab Chardonnay – estate grown, ripe, unctuous and buttery, with integrated flavours of Golden Queen peach, spice, vanilla and tropical fruits.  Only 75 cases made – mail order, cellar door, or at the restaurant onsite.

Calypso Martinborough Pinot Noir 2009  $NZ24.00
Matured in French oak barrels for 12 months, then bottled and cellared for another year before release. Soft, perfumed and graceful Pinot with classic black cherry and savoury characters.

Pinotage 2010  $NZ29.50
Grown on the property.  Very drinkable right now, yet shows potential for cellaring for 3 or more years.  Silky tannins with ripe sweet black cherry and black berry fruit flavours, and a hint of mocha. 

Syrah 2010  $NZ27.50
This is a  big wine with firm tannins.  Definitely a food wine.  Aromas of pot pourri and spicy vanillin oak, with ripe black berry sweet fruit palate.

Toa Iti Malbec/Cabernet Franc/Malbec 2008 $NZ25.50
Toa Iti translates as ‘Little Warrior.’   Its bigger brother the Toa was a 2007 release. This is another big wine.  Earthy, tannic and complex with black berry fruit and poached Black Doris plum flavours.

Karikari Estate
Maitai Bay Road
Karikari Peninsula
Ph: 09 408 7222   Web: