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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, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year - Phil's top Ten from 2010

I looked under Google Images for an appropriate New Year image - the very first was six young women in thongs, squatting facing away from the camera with Happy New Year painted on their buttocks - one letter per cheek. Naturally I averted my eyes, and chose a wholesome exploding incendiary device instead.

Anyway - best wishes to my two readers.  Thanks Granny & Grandpa.

I have written a whole bunch of blog posts over the last 12 months and many of the earlier, really good stuff (before I became famous and sold out to The Establishment in return for mind-altering wine trade samples) may have escaped the attention of the discerning reader.

So here's a Top Ten from 2010 ... enjoy!  Discuss!

January - Vincent Price & Bob Dylan - are they related?
February -  Marley and Me - scathing movie review
March - Dry River Wines - Martinborough NZ
June - Helen Mirren's husband and a Sasquatch.  Are they related?
July - Dentists and Vets.  Why they pretend money is not involved.
July  - Movie Prequels - a word game for rainy days
September - Fine Food & Wine Tours Auckland - world famous in Shanghai
September - Interesting People I have met on my wine tours
December - The King's Speech movie review
December - Epic Fail for Snowy the Cat

Happy New Year !!!!

Phil runs wine tours around Auckland - rated #12 out 100 best things to do min Auckland by TripAdvisor.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Jasper the failed Labrador

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love my dog.  He wakes me up with his normal scratch on the door which signals feeding time.  His joy at seeing me only just superseded by the anticipatory joy of a bowl of dog sausage and Tux biscuits.

Not being one of those folk who like to pretend that animals have a clue as to the significance of human festivals I have spared him the indignity of wearing antlers or a Santa hat.  But as a Festive treat I gave him a chunk of frozen beef bone.  'Merry Christmas, Jasp' - I said.   I could have said 'Greco-Roman Toe Wrestling' - it would have made no difference to the wide-eyed, tail wagging unbridled joy that accompanied my gift.  (Hint: dog's don't speak English).

The pic above shows Jasper wading in a new pond to escape the heat on a sticky hot day this week.  Now Jasper, being a Lab is by definition a water dog.  Labs are originally from the island of Newfoundland where they were used to retrieve and pull fishing nets.  But Jasper is, in fact, only a water dog up to a certain point - his shoulders, that is.  Jasper can't swim and is scared of any water above shoulder height.  He will happily wade and plod around in the shallows, but tentatively explores any deeper water with an extended front paw, and a look of concern on his brow. 

Jasper should also technically be a retriever - but he has no concept of retrieving.  If I throw a stick for him he will feign interest, tracking its trajectory with a 'why did he throw away that stick?' look of puzzlement.  Even as a puppy when he was mildly interested in where the stick landed, I would have to find it for him. 
Look!  Jas - a stick!! 
Then, if he liked the stick he would grab it and refuse to let go.

Add to these incompetencies the fact that he is a lousy guard dog:  he never barks, and he greets any stranger at the door like a long lost friend.  Our grumpy cat totally dominates him and deliberately dawdles over his meals, making Jasper wait patiently in the hope of getting any cat food leftovers.

For all that,  he is basically a good dog solely because he has a genuinely nice nature - he is happy, amiable, loving and affectionate, despite having no concept of obedience, or wanting to 'please his master.' 
And ...I kind of respect that.


Phil runs Wine Tours in Auckland NewZealand

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blondie, The Pretenders and the smell of the crowd (Concert review)

Last night we caught the Blondie/Pretenders Auckland show - the first of three in NZ , the other two being vineyard gigs.

Cut to the chase - excellent. 
Auckland's cavernous Vector Arena even managed almost-okay sound quality where we were on the stalls floor area.  I swore I'd never sit at the raked back section again after being subjected to a roaring muffled wash of bass and echoey vocals at Bob Dylan and The Cure.

We missed the support band The Dukes, but arrived in time to get a nostalgic rum 'n' coke and find our seats in the refreshingly air conditioned Arena hangar.  First up - Blondie.  Deborah Harry appeared - to a rapturous response, dressed in a chunky white jacket, tutu, blonde wig and enormous black sunglasses.  It did look a tad like she was hiding behind all the gear, and she talked rather than sang through the first three songs, avoiding the high notes and hardly moving.  But by the time she'd ditched the shades and belted into Union City Men things were chugging along nicely. The Debbie Harry of old was summoned up and she rocked and sang just like she used to. Original co-founder Chris Stein on guitar was backed by a skilled younger lineup of bass, keyboards, drums and lead guitar.  They rolled through some new material - e.g Maria, but the hits were the winners, with the crowd (very tunefully) singing along - Rapture, Sunday Girl, Heart of Glass, The Tide is High, One Way or Another and Call Me.  By the end, Harry had also dropped the tutu and jacket to reveal a new slimline bod and fab pair of legs in a black hotpants suit. 

Somewhere around this time, I noticed a subtle yet noxious smell in the row we were in. Hard to place ... damp cardboard ... dog shit ... cheese ... all four, yet somehow ... worse than the sum of its parts. 
Then I nailed it - Smelly Sneakers.  Yup.  The young lady two seats away had worn her grooviest Chuck Taylors for style but not for aroma.  Good ol' Auckland heat and humidity had combined with rubber, canvas and sweaty feet to brew a pong worthy of a teenage boy.

Anyway,  we got a break while they set up for The Pretenders.  Chrissy Hynde didn't muck around.  Skinny legs clad in black jeans and a white shirt with rolled up sleeves - she kicked into a series of tight as a gnat's bum versions of some Pretenders gold - Precious, Brass in Pocket, Back On the Chain Gang, Talk of The Town, Don't Get Me Wrong.
Unfortunately, the audience (being average age around 50) were wee bit tired, and after all that hooting and clapping and standing up for Debbie and the boys, Chrissie Hynde struggled to maintain the crowd's momentum as they sat down for the less bouncy choons.  Where Blondie had presented an avalanche of very accessible singalong pop, The Pretenders presented as real Rawk band with a structured set and some quieter numbers.  But not to worry, the crowd lit up on the hits and sang along - ending with an appropriate version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas and a stonking Brass in Pocket.

Great show.  Shame about the smell.

Savvy Savvy everywhere - and quite a lot to drink.

By Phil Parker - wine writer.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland

Another bumper crop from this year’s Marlborough vintage has resulted in a flood of Sauvignon Blanc hitting the shelves. And just in time for summer, these wines are very typical of the famous assertive Marlborough style of Savvie that has made its mark internationally as NZ’s signature wine.

Retailing at around the $20 mark, they are full flavoured and crisp, intense drink-young wines, which can stand a bit of chilling (say 30 min in the fridge) and go well with summer salads and seafood BBQs.

Each winery has its particular style, and flavours and aromas will vary depending on which part of Marlborough’s vast wine growing region the grapes are sourced from.

Typically – look for aromas and flavours of any of the following: black currant, passion fruit, grapefruit, lime, lemon, bell pepper, guava, grass, tomato leaf, gooseberry, apple, herbs, lantana, geranium, melon, fresh peas, and asparagus.

Here are some classic examples from Marlborough’s 2010 vintage releases:

Waipara Hills Cuvee

Ideal sparkler for the festive season, this is a carbonated bubbly Sauvignon Blanc, just right for cork popping. Flavours of passion fruit, with grassy herbaceousness – a softer style suited to the fizzy interpretation of S Blanc.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc

Highly rated – has flavours of grapefruit, herbs and passionfruit. Champion wine at the 2009 Liquorland Top 100 International Wine Competition

Selaks Winemakers Favourite Sauvignon Blanc

Awatere Valley fruit contributes to flavours of nettles, gooseberry and green bell pepper.

Sacred Hill Halo Sauvignon Blanc

A single vineyard wine from low cropped vines. Aromas of orange blossom and tropical fruits. Flavours of lemongrass and guava.

Stoneleigh Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Fruit sourced from the stony northern Wairau Valley. Flavours of nectarine and grapefruit, with passion fruit and tropical notes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc top 100 in the world

A Villa Maria wine has been named the only New Zealand wine in a list of top 100 wines by the prestigious US Wine Enthusiast Magazine.

The Villa Maria Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc 2009 was the only New Zealand wine to make the list of 100 of ‘The Most Coveted Wines of 2010’, a guide put together by a panel who agree the wines on the list are exemplary.

Villa Maria is amongst good company on the list with the likes of Louis Roederer, Chateau Pontet-Canet.

Criteria for inclusion goes beyond the points assigned, it includes quality to price ratio, immediate drinkability and uniqueness. The panel assert that wines included represent the very best of their category.

This listing comes just after the same wine was listed in the December issue of Wine Enthusiast Buying Guide as Editors’ Choice at 92 Points. The Villa Maria Wairau Valley Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2009 also received 92 points in the same issue.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pinot Noir - a bit of a gamble. Place your bets.

Now, I must state for starters, that for me - the Best Wine In The World is a damn fine Pinot Noir.

Pinot Noir at its best is a glorious spectrum of flavours from funky to savoury to fruity to lush, ripe, spicy, smoky, herbal and opulent.

But, lately I have been the recipient of trade samples of a few P Noirs which really don't quite hit the mark.  And sadly, not a few from Central Otago.  Most have disappointed.

The very first P Noir that I fell in love with was from Matua Valley, in the days (1980s) when Bill & Ross Spence were still the owners (and before the sellout to Fosters Aus).  This was a good value locally grown West Auckland, see-thru light to medium red wine from the Kumeu clay soils - and yet barnyard/funky, and ripe with a glorious herbal spicy flavour and good length. 

Lately the P Noirs I have been sampling are a tad one dimensional.  They have an overpowering flavour of red fruits like strawberry and raspberry with a short length -and nothing more that is notable.

And yet - a wine that made me rejoice with the feeling of finding a long lost friend, was the Awa Valley Pinot Noir - grown in Huapai/Kumeu west Auckland and vinted by freelance winemaker Shane Cox.  This wine brought back all those nostalgic moments from the old Matua valley Days.

Sadly as a child I had threadworms. Ewwww!  Sorry to have to share that with you.  But anyway - the cure for the 'whole family' ('cos threadworm are a 'shared family experience') was a disgusting anti-wormy cure called Vanquin.  You had to skull a little plastic V-shaped measure cup of 20 ml of bright red, strawberry flavour-disguised worm death crapolla guck.  It was the kind of stuff that made you retch slightly when you swallowed it.

Even more sadly, when I sample some of these young, one-dimensional P Noirs, I am reminded on a subliminal level of the Strawberry Horrors of Vanquin and immediately feel a bit nauseous.

I can't escape my past.  But the Awa Valley hits the mark - with no anti-worm flashback memories.

Phil runs Wine Tours In Auckland, God help him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Epic Fail for Snowy the Cat

Okay - we were watching TV, seated on the couch. 
Snowy decided that he would avoid climbing over Jasper the black Lab, and would leap with feline agility like a Crouching Tiger,  from the arm of one couch - onto the arm of the other couch and thence settle on my lap for a schmooze and snooze.

However - Snowy did not allow for the fact that a blanket was draped over the arm of our couch.  So,  he tensed up like a coiled spring, leapt into the air, hit the blanket with his front paws ...claws engaged with the blanket, it slipped down vertically, rapidly taking Snow with it. 


There was an embarassing thump and Snowy hit the deck.  We laughed loudly.  Snowy skulked away sat on the Flokati rug with his back to us, seething with resentment and humiliation and whispering special cat swear words in our direction, through his perfectly gritted little cat teeth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Movie review - The King's Speech

The King’s Speech represents a leap in achievement for Colin Firth, as he takes on the role of the cripplingly speech impaired King George VI, in this beautifully crafted movie. Being in number of tepid Rom Com roles, he was in danger of being trapped as a cuddly Spaniel, sleep walking through chick flicks. But this challenging role presents him as a top notch actor, playing the part of ‘Bertie’ with sensitivity and understatement.

A veritable dream team of other players are involved – Helena Bonham Carter as his wife Queen Elizabeth (to become the Queen Mother in later life). Plus Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, the irreverent and unconventional Australian speech coach who is brought in to help the King. Add to that, Guy Pearce as the Duke of Windsor (about to abdicate in favour of his American hottie Mrs. Simpson. No not that Mrs. Simpson), plus Michael Gambon as crusty King George V and Timothy Spall as a quintessential Winston Churchill.

This is based on true events, and was the result of a discovery of his father’s detailed diaries by the son of speech coach ‘Doctor’ Logue. The Queen Mother refused to countenance any movie based on the events, but now since she has departed, the movie was possible.

As much as it is a feel-good story of friendship and trust overcoming adversity, this movie explores areas of responsibility, duty and courage in the rarefied atmosphere of the British Royalty.