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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."


Monday, August 30, 2010

Ngatarawa Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009

Phil runs (arguably) the frickin' BEST wine tours around Auckland

Not the best pic - but it is taken with my mobile phone camera which is about 12 pixel resolution. 

Anyway, Ngatarawa is another of my favourite wineries. Nice people, great wines, great location. Unpretentious.   Located in Hawkes Bay region, they produce some ab fab Chardonnay, Syrah and Merlot.  Alwyn Corban and Garry Glazebrook established their venture in a former racing Stables back in 1981. Garry’s background was horse racing; Alwyn’s a long history of winemaking, going back to his west Auckland Lebanese forebears. The Glazebrooks have now sold their share to Alwyn’s cousin, Brian.

Cellar door and winery are located in charming old wooden stables, and there is an ornamental lake on the property. Wines are in four levels. Entry level is Stables range (about $16), then Silks (about $20), Glazebrook (around $27), and finally the top shelf Alwyn series (up to $60) A new range has just been released – Farmgate, available from Cellar Door or online only – in a four-pack ($25 a bottle).

This release the Ngatarawa Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2009 $NZ8.99 from Countdown
I made the mistake of over-chilling this wine and suffered the consequences - the cold stifled the subtle fruit and creamy texture.  So, we opened a second bottle at room temp and it really opened up:  Peach, lime, and hazel nut oak, with a crisp finish. Would be even better in 4 years.  A total bargain at that price.

More good news for lushes - non-drinkers die earlier than drinkers

A new paper in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research suggests that - for reasons that aren't entirely clear - abstaining from alcohol does actually tend to increase one's risk of dying even when you exclude former drinkers.  CLICK HERE

Saturday, August 28, 2010

wine makes women smarter

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland

A recent study shows that women who drank four or more times over a two week period scored better on cognitive tests than those who only drank once during the same time frame.



Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When people get your name wrong

Phil runs wine tours in auckland New Zealand

On Monday I hosted a Food & Wine Lovers Tour of Auckland City and Kumeu wine region.  One of the places we visited is a fab food outlet where the staff are very friendly.  I don't get that many bookings for the foodie tour, so it means I'm there infrequently.  The last twice I've been in, one of the ladies called me Paul.
I kind of let it slide ... basically because I'm a coward and partly because I thought she'd get it right next time.

But on Monday I said 'Hi (her actual name) !'
And she replied "Hi, Paul!'
Soooo... I kind of let it slide ... basically because I'm a coward and partly because I thought she'd get it right next time.  But it is difficult.  Now, that I've let it go on so long that she really thinks I'm called Paul - so I guess it's too late now, and I'm too embarrassed to say - 'Hey - it's Phil - not Paul!'  Because then she'll think I'm an idiot for not telling her sooner.  And anyhow- she called me by my right name for MONTHS
prior to my name morphing into Paul, so it's really her fault.

OPTIONS:  (A) wear a large name tag with PHIL on it next time. (B) Officially change my name to Paul Parker (C) arrange to have someone engage me in conversation in earshot of the Paul lady and make sure they say things lie\ke: 'So, PHIL, how's your day PHIL, are you busy PHIL?  etc...

Suggestions on a postcard please.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

SPARTACUS - blood, sand and bollocks

Phil, sadly, has to plug the fact that he runs wine tours in Auckland.

There was a lot of advance PR blurb and publicity about this new TV series, which premiered on Sky TV’s (appropriately perhaps) Box Channel 5 last night.

‘Spurt-a-cuss’ could be a more appropriate name – as there is lots of effing and blinding by the cast, in addition to the much-touted nudity. And yes - boobs, pubes and diddles were gratuitously on display. Ho hum.

Sadly, the production values and acting were more B grade than I had hoped. A few NZ actors in there seemed a bit out of place – like Craig Parker (no relation) as a Roman general, but looking a bit like someone at a fancy dress party.

The Romans speak like pretendy upper class Brits and say stuff like “The Gedi are massing – in vast numbers in the east. We must vanquish them before afternoon tea. What-what?”

Thracians speak like Flight of the Conchords (Unless they are Spurt-a-cuss – who as a US accent.)

And Gedi (as far as I could tell), generally say things like “Huarrrgh!” Or “Gaaahhhhh!” Or “Blurrrrgh!” as they get dismembered in slow motion, and spurt sheets of Computer Generated Image (CGI) gore in a direct rip-off of 300 the movie.

Spartacus seems to be an uneasy blend of cartoony CGI imagery and standard Swords ‘n’ Sandals epic. To be honest, I gave up after the first 15 minutes and went to bed to read a damn fine spy novel.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Main Divide Chardonnay 2008 & Main Divide Pinot Noir 2008

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland

I'm quite chuffed with this pic - two fab wines, with Queenstown's Remarkables mountain range in the background.
The wines are actually grown in Waipara - one of my favourite wine regions in NZ, about one hour north of Christchurch.

Main Divide is the second label from Waipara's Pegasus Bay winery (rated by  Robert Parker as one of NZ's top 5 wineries).

I have long been a huge fan of Pegasus Bay - they consistently poduce top notch Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir as well as having one of the best and most picturesque vineyard restaurants in NZ.

Main Divide Chardonnay 2008 $NZ20.00  Crisp and mouth-filling with creamy yeast influence, plus flavours of canned peach, lime and apple. Would easily stand cellaring for another three years.

Main Divide Pinot Noir 2008 $NZ25.00  A steal at this price - a lush and sweetly ripe Pinot with lovely black berry fruit, liquorice and spicy characters.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A bit of southern humour

I run wine tours in Auckland NZ.  I drink therefore I am.

Okay ...while on my recent break down south (NZ that is, Skiing, Speights, wild boar, Pinot Noir etc.) this gem of local humour emerged:

The daughter-in law's partner was on a hunting trip with a fresh faced newbie from further north.  They arrived at a local paddock, unload the ute of guns and gear.  Newbie boy looks around.
"So what's with all the filing cabinets in the field?"
Others: "Filing cabinets?"
"Yeah - look.  Over there."
Daughter-in law's partner: " Oh yeah! They contain individual files on each of the sheep, so the farmer can update the information on the sheep 'in the field.'

Ol' red Eyes is BACK

Okay - I photoshopped it - but it's a very realistic impression of my current red eye thing.  It looks like I have done something horrible to my eye. 
And people do say 'What have you done to your eye?'
And I say 'Um ... nothing at all. It just happens. It's not serious.  And it's a sign of high virility and - hey! what about them All Blacks?'

In truth - I have done nothing to my eye.  My eye has done something to me. It pisses me off.  It means that as a 'dealing with the public' person I have to look like a half-done Vampire. Possibly some kind of trauma victim.  Or, being in the wine business, I fear that people assume it is some kind of alcoholic symptom.

But you may ask - What causes a subconjunctival haemorrhage?  According to the experts :
"In the vast majority of cases there is no apparent cause. It just occurs 'out of the blue' and the reason is unclear. Older people tend to have them most."

Older people.  Me?  OK 54 years on planet Earth and - planning to leave at some stage.  But ...Older??

Yeah OK.  I went to a tourism function tonight, hosted by an Australian inbound tour operator (ITO in tourspeak), where there were lots of young female Australian travel agents.  I was kind of obliged to go, given that about 80% of my inbound AUS business is through them.  So I showed up, but severely self-conscious about the gruesome eye thing.  I figured if I kept them to my left side, then my red eye would sort of laterally rotate so they only saw the white bit. Plus I wore my crappy old OPSM GraduTint bifocals in the hope that I wouldn't freak out the Aussie chicks too much. 

Anyhoo - seemed to go okay.  The lighting was dim and I got two glasses of wine, two mini burgers and schmoozed four travel agents, plus gave them all a copy of my wine guide to NZ book.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I am nursing a slight headache and queasy tummy today after a good ol' Central Otago dinner last night.  We Aucklanders did a chicken Marsala with spuds and salad and consumed copious amounts of Pinot Noir, after a Chardonnay or two.  As I recall somewhat fuzzily - the Waipara Hills P Noir was the winner.

Suitably late in the morning mine hostess whipped up some fab French Toast for brekkers. Then we went for a big walk - a very leisurely stroll through Millbrook resorts golf course, dodging the fluoro yellow balls from the driving range. Tonight - blue cod, crayfish and duck are on the menu.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Queenstown revisited

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland NZ

(Pic of view from our accomm window - Arrowtown.  Pic below - Arrowtown village.)

Last time I was in Queenstown, it was February - hot dry weather, with clear blue skies and no snow on the mountains.  Now we're here in late winter and the alpine scenery is breathtaking.  Local ski fields Cardrona, Coronet Peak and The Remarkables are doing great business and the central Queenstown tourist strip is bustling.  Despite the recession, Queenstown is still a tourist mecca - thanks to the Australian economy being largely untouched by the credit crunch, plus enough monied USA and European making it over here.

Property values - in the words of a local builder: 'Not so much bargains, as properties being sold for their real worth,' after hyped prices got a reality check.  And despite doom & gloom in other parts of NZ, there is a lot of housing construction and subdivision development still going on.  Having said that, there are many houses sitting unsold, and huge housing estate projects with vacant lots awaiting buyers.

The reality - I believe, is that very ... VERY wealthy people have invested in Queenstown long term and are quite happy to ride out the recession with their small change sitting here as a sleeper.  There are houses here worth tens of millions of dollars, and Queenstown has always had the cachet of wealth with local home owners such as Shanaia Twain, Sam Neill, and Michael Hill.

Personally I would love to live in Arrowtown - a quaint historic village about 20 minutes north of the touristy bits. Local knowledge is crucial - there is a smog line, below which you don't want to live in winter (due to wood fires).  Also, orientation to the sun is a major factor - to take in the best of winter's free sun energy and also to escape shadows from the mountains.  There are some houses which are in shade for 4 months of the winter.  Caveat Emptor, sez I.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

24 hours in Dunedin

I have just spent 20 mins writing a nuanced and absolutely f****ing hilarious blog entry - on my partner's Dell Inspiron 1501 laptop (DO NOT BUY ONE).   And what happened?  LOST THE FECKING LOT with a mis-aimed keystroke or some other thing that happens when a 54 year-old meets new-ish technology, and a glass or two of Chardonnay.

I hate laptops.  The tickle-and-click navigation is pathetic - I wanna normal mouse!!!
I see all these earnest laptop people in airports and cafes, ostentatiously tapping and doing the tickle and click thing, being Sooo kewl.  And I just sooo hope that they will spill their flat whites on the keyboard and produce a rilly amazing SFX - sparks & smoke laptop meltdown display.  But it never happens.

OK.  Count to Ten.  Breathe in thru the nose.  Out from the mouse.  Er .. mouth. 

Dunedin: like Wellington without the charming harbour.  Yes, they do have a harbour, but not as pretty as Wgtn on a fine day.  But, like Wgtn it does have ODD people in the central city.  40-ish guys in grubby grey trackies with back packs and really bad hair.  (In AKL they hide under bridges or stay in Papakura.)

Positives:  $2.00 for four hours parking.  Also there is a women's clothing shop called Hype - in the Meridian Mall where they have a Massage Chair for the guys who have partners trying on clothing and doing the girlie shopping thing.  Fantastic.  I got a free robotic back rub for 15 mins while the ladies stroked and sniffed and generally checked out apparel, as only ladies can. 
The only problem I see is when the guy is lying in the Massage Chair with his eyes closed, saying 'Oh yeah. Mmmm, oh baby.  Ohhh YEAH!'
Meanwhile the women in the changing cubicles are thinking that the guy is perving thru the crack in the curtains.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Down South for A While

Greetings from Arrowtown in Central Otago.  We are away for 8 days checking out the deep south as a retirement option - slash-  bolt hole if the economy falls over totally.  The theory is that ab fab properties here will be going for a song in about 12 months.  At present, some apartments which were going for $500K two years ago are worth $200K now.  Also it's a chance to catch up with my partner's family and (ahem) do some wine related research of the famous Central Otago wine region.

As I sit, TVNZ's Good Morning is on the telly (a sort of B grade talent show for Celebridies and homely infomercial actors).  My daughter in law is hosting us so I feel I should leave it on. 

The view (I'll post pics when I can) snow-topped mountain peaks and powder blue skies. *sigh* Someone has to do it.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Vidal Stopbank Pinot Noir 2008, Waitaki Braids Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland see:

As we get into spring, many wineries are starting to release wines onto the market. Some wines are young and zingy whites from this year’s vintage; some are older reds and Chardonnays that have been in the wings for a while, mellowing out. Consequently I get invited to the odd wine release tasting and get to sample a few.

Another recent experience was a guided wine tasting using the Riedel wine glasses.
These glasses are made by the German glass company founded by Klaus Riedel 250 years ago, but now famous for making wine glasses which bring out the aromas and flavours of a specific wine. E.g. the Sauvignon glass has a narrow bowl with slightly curved sides, where the Pinot Noir bowl is wide and rounded with a narrow top. The process of developing the glasses was trial and error – with hundreds of prototypes sent out to wine critics all over the world. Today the company has a large range of their elegant glasses to suit any wine or occasion. I’m a huge fan – they do make a difference to bringing out the best of each wine.

Okay – here’s a few recent tastings:

Vidal Stopbank Hawkes Bay Pinot Noir 2007 $40

Hawkes Bay is not normally seen as a Pinot region, but this is a pretty smart example.
Medium bodied, ripe and sweet with cherry and red berry fruit flavours and a hint of earthy spice.

Waitaki Braids Central Otago Pinot Noir 2008 $50

This is a new label to watch. Top NZ chef Peter Gordon and winemaker Michelle Richardson are behind the brand. Made from premium Otago fruit, this is a lovely opulent “Central” style Pinot with silky tannins, ripe black cherry and a little smokiness on the nose.

Low Back Pain - ow!

As an ex-physiotherapist, I generally get no sympathy for my episodic low back pain: ‘Ha ha ha you should see a physio,’ or ‘Ha ha ha physician heal thyself.’

This of course, is hilariously funny and I fulsomely congratulate the speaker on their originality and grasp of the comedic craft.
I generally have a jolly good chuckle as I struggle to put on my socks and undies in the morning, or by back muscles spasm when I try to shave.

After 22 years in treating low back pain, I know for sure that:
A nobody has a clue what causes most back pain.
B nobody has a clue as to the best method to cure it.

All I know is: it is bloody painful, inconvenient and eventually goes away. My approach is to swallow cocktails of paracetamol and ibuprofen, lie down flat with a hot pack, avoid sitting – and if I have to sit, use a back roll.

I have had acupuncture – but the cure is almost as bad as the problem.

Contrary to popular opinion (from those who have never had it) the needles DO hurt. Part of the treatment is that the acupuncturist tweaks the needles periodically to stimulate a deep sense of nausea and worry. This is called Teche– and is apparently a good thing. The last time I had acupuncture needles removed, my back muscles spasmed and gripped the needles so tightly, that my physio couldn’t pull them out any further. She told me that she had seen needles bend just from the power of spasm in some patients.

So…day three and I do feel a bit better. At least I can sit at my special back pain chair and blog a bit.
And so to bed

Thursday, August 5, 2010

NZ recession real or imaginary?

It’s an odd thing talking about ‘the recession’ with friends and acquaintances.

Personally I have experienced a 40% drop in income over the last 18 months and have been hit very hard.
Inbound wine tourism from USA, UK and Japan (formerly the top three) has dropped radically. Lucky for us, Australia is just across the Tasman and our dollar is weak, so the Aussies God bless ‘em have been flocking over here and gone some way to redress the problem.

But I do find it weird when people in high paid, stable jobs try to sympathise:
‘Yes. Oooo. Interest rates are up … a bit. Hmmm. Gosh it’s tough.’

The thing is – schoolteachers, tertiary lecturers and public servants are all pretty comfortable. And though employees in the private sector probably are watching their backs, fearing redundancy, for the meantime they’re OK. Self employed medical GPs and specialists are pretty comfortable too – they know their jobs are pretty safe.

So it’s really we private sector self-employed, small business operators who are truly feeling the pinch: retailers, tour operators, accommodation providers, journalists, cafĂ© and restaurant owners etc. It is a saying in NZ that small businesses drive our economy. Too bloody right. And we are the ones to feel the brunt of any slowdown.

Still, unless we hit another international crunch, I believe that things are improving but slowly. I would realistically give it another 3-4 years before we are near back to normal.

More Words for the New Millennium

Pontius Pilates – Ancient Roman exercise programme

Onomatopoeia – Italian cat with weak bladder, on rug

Aboriginal – novel core strength exercise

Abdicate – give up on core strength exercise programme

Catalyst – herd specialist

Penal Colony – gay beach resort

Infanticide - aerosol spray that gets rid of babies

Hard day at the office

Thursday turned out to be one of those days when you really can’t put off doing the paperwork, so it was a quick brekkie, shower and shave and hit the keyboard running. I have three articles due in by tomorrow, plus I have invoices and filing to be done, should walk the dog, do some washing, have a hearing test, and need to go shopping.

As a sign of my new dynamic work ethic I got all keen, and did some yoga type stretches and push-ups after my shower. About half an hour later, I discovered that I had consequently buggered up my low back and have been in pain all day.  That's why I don't normally exercise - it's bad for you. Not great when one has a fun-filled schedule of sedentary activities planned. The spouse has promised a back rub, but she’s out for dinner with pals.

Anyway I thought I’d reward myself by blogging now, as I have not only written and filed two articles, but sent all invoices, did washing and shopping. Probably the moonlight walkies with Jasper before bed as usual. Haven’t done filing. Bugger.

And …despite my 54 y/o back problems, and advancing mental decay, I did pass the hearing test. It was a phishing telephone marketing thing by hearing aid hawkers, but I got a free hearing test in Remuera. I had to sit in a little phone booth with headphones on and click a button every time I heard the beep, as the beeps got fainter and fainter. Turns out I have normal hearing – in spite of being a drummer for most of my 20s and early 30s. I’ll drink to that. Now what about a free liver function test?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Vacations in Cow Land

As mentioned previously - we spent a weekend away in the middle of the Waikato - rural dairy Nyo Zillund.

The venue was the Okoroire Hotel - in its day, allegedly, one of the finest in New Zealand. It was built in 1889 of native timber in the Victorian style with sash windows and verandahs, and became famous for its level of comfort and service, as well as the healing qualities of its hot springs, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside. In the old days, tourists and travellers would arrive by train and coach from Auckland, relax for a few days and then continue onwards to Rotorua and Taupo.

Now it is a case of faded glory, but efforts are continuing to upgrade the facilities. The original small guest rooms have been renovated in Colonial style and now each contains an ensuite. A set of 1970s motel type units are unfortunately where our group stayed - and they’re really not up to scratch, considering that the tariff is the same ($160) for a night. They are the old concrete block wall and natural timber ceiling style cookie-cutter motel units, but with original 70s drapes and odd features (like the deafening fan heater right by the bed, which has a timer/thermostat so it cuts out every 15 minutes or so after it has spewed out mild heat and 40 year-old dust). Or the power point located so far from the fixed mirror – so the lady has to dry her hair with binoculars for a good view.

On the plus side, the old hotel proper has a cosy lounge with gas fireplace and a renovated Colonial dining room. The tariff includes a hearty country brekkie, starting with cereal, fresh fruit salad, tea/coffee, toast and jam. Then it’s a choice of French toast, Pancakes and berries, mixed grill, etc. The dinner menu has lamb shanks, Porterhouse steak, Chicken curry, fresh fish and a standard pub desserts – like sticky puddings.
For the active souls (unlike moi) there is a 9-hole golf course, bush walks, natural hot pools, petanque, croquet, and volleyball.

I opted for sloth, indolence, napping, shopping in Tirau and drinking in the middle of the day.
All up – pretty good for a 2 night stay. Old world atmos, hearty country menu and a bit of peace and quiet.