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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."

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Rugby World Cup 2011 - My Part In Its Success



Well, it’s finally here – the Rugby  World Cup 2011 ©.  (For legal reasons I’m not really allowed to use the phrase ‘Rugby  World Cup 2011’ – and should probably say ‘You Know What 2011’ instead.  

Years of waiting and fevered preparation have finally come to fruition with around 80,000 foreign fans expected to arrive at some stage over September / October,  to  attend matches and to participate in rugby–related tourism activities in our fair land.  As I have blogged previously there was much pre RWC2011© hysteria and wild predictions of an economic mini boom for poor old recessed, earthquaked NZ.

The reality is – airlines, hotels, pub bars and restaurants have had a good couple of weeks (in Auckland anyway).  But the by-catch for other tourism ventures has been minimal.  A friend who knows these things told me that even the brothels haven’t  picked up any extra business.  For me, wine tour wise, not much at all – but just the odd two-person booking here and there.  (If the fans don’t want wine or women, then the Karaoke bars must be going nuts.)

Yet I do wonder how 60,000 fans can attend a rugby match between France and the All Blacks  last night – and not one of ‘em feels the urge to head out with Phil to quaff some fine NZ wines a mere 20 minutes from downtown Auckers.  It’s not as if I haven’t put in the groundwork with a revamped website, five downtown brochure rack displays, and a local Auckland A-Z visitor guide print advert, in addition to schmoozing all the high end hotel concierges. It’s still five weeks till the Final so we shall see …

The tally so far:
Eleven male Aussies here for the first Ireland/Australia game last Saturday.  They had been drinking all night and were 40 minutes late getting the group together.  Eleven hung-over and still plastered, unshaven Aussies is not a pretty sight, I can assure you.  Still, they rallied and the loud conversation, foul language and sheep-shagging jokes flowed as freely as the wine down their throats - and I emptied them out at their hotel around three p.m., after a trip to a liquor outlet for them to get a few dozen beers for the pre-match hour or two.
Tuesday – a charming 50-ish Japanese couple over here to support their home team, The Cherry Blossoms.  In the macho world of rugby, surely they could have come up with something a bit grittier.  The Wasabi Warriors?  The Flying Fugu Fish?   
Sunday (today)  - a Japanese mother and daughter also here following their national rugby team.

That’s it!  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Being An Also-Dad : Living with a 9 year-old girl




Living in the same house as a 9 year-old girl is a challenge – me being a non-breeder for all of my 55 years on planet Earth, despite ‘trying’ through two marriages and a few lovers.

So, I’m a late comer to my ‘also-Dad’ status as the partner of a mother of one.  Miss Nine is pretty special – a volatile mix of high intelligence, artistic temperament, a love of high drama at any opportunity, an enviable prowess in burping and farting, a beguiling charm, and a vocal range that goes from a roar to ultrasonic ear-splitting screams.
She has the ability to talk on an adult level on many subjects - and then break off to have an intimate tea party with her soft toy collection.

On the odd occasion when I am left to babysit, I end up being lured into reading numerous horrendous children’s books, making hot chocolate, and  making up stories from scratch.  Lights Out deadlines seem to stretch magically as I am coerced into … just … one … more … chapter pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaase!!!   I am invariably caught out by my partner returning from orchestra practice – waaaay past bedtime, me (with wine glass), and Miss Nine engrossed in another chapter of Enid Blighton’s Subtle as A Train Crash cautionary tales, house lights blazing and all wide-awake.

Still I did get an ‘also-Dad’ Father’s Day present.  “It’s SO Phil!,” She enthused to her mother when she bought it.  It is a bewildered paper weight bear, with a snow globe attached to the top half of its head – like a brain surgery add-on.  Inside the snow globe is another smaller bear more depressed looking , seated, with a small red heart in its upraised hand.
It’s SO me.

Phil runs wine tours in Auckland.  Why?  He asks himself.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Villa Maria Chardonnay tasting - New Releases


Being a major Chardonnay fan, I couldn’t resist the chance to join other Villa Wine Club members in a tasting of eight new Chardonnay releases.
MC for the evening was Senior Auckland Winemaker Nick Picone.
Generous amount of cheese and crackers were available before the 6.00 pm start.  At the finish, there was tea and coffee, hot and cold food. All that for $25!

The line-up was a good selection of wines, ranging from from the home vineyard in Mangere, through to Hawkes Bay and south to Marlborough.

Yenneyhoo – here we go.
On arrival we were given a glass of the…
Cellar Selection Marlborough Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 20
An entry level  blend from various Marlborough vineyards.  Mineral and light with crisp lime, grapefruit and apple.

Reserve Hawkes Bay Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 28
Floral aromas, with a creamy yeast, grapefruit, white peach and nectarine flavours.

Single Vineyard Ihumatao Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 33
Grown on the property - a stone’s throw from the tasting room, in Mangere clay soils.
Spicy nose.  Softer palate of lime and grapefruit with a mouth feel of higher alcohol.

Reserve Barrique Fermented Gisborne  Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 33
Gisborne is one of my favourite Chard regions, some wineries sadly seen to be pulling vines because of oversupply.
Anyway, this is great – Soft and creamy with floral jasmine, mandarin and quinine.

Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Marlborough Chardonnay 2007 $NZ 33
Grown in the cooler Awatere region.  Quite yeasty and funky with toasty oak crisp mineral lime palate.

Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007  $NZ 28
Fruit from two vineyards – the Waldron and Taylors Pass.  Funky, ripe and peachy with lemon squash, toast and quinine.

Finally a vertical three vintage tasting from Hawkes Bay. (My personal favourites).
Single Vineyard Keltern Hawkes Bay  Chardonnay 2010 $NZ 33
Creamy, soft and mouth-filling with ripe grapefruit, pear and apple.  

Cellar Selection Keltern Hawkes Bay  Chardonnay 2009 $NZ 33
Riper and even softer  than the 2010 with a hint of lanoline and stewed apple. 

Cellar Selection Keltern Hawkes Bay  Chardonnay 2008 $NZ 33 
Buttery, with cream cheese and quince.

Over all I found the wines still quite young and in the tight, lean and clean Villa style with fairly crisp acidity.  However, 2-3 years would take the edges off them, for the patient buyer.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Volnay Versus Pommard - French Burgundy tasting




Last Thursday night, I was to found at a local French wine importers for a tasting of eight French Burgundies i.e. Pinot Noir.
These were divided into two flights – 4 from Volnay and 4 from Pommard.  At $NZ 70 per person it was still a rare chance to sample some of France’s most famous red wines.  And while I do describe myself as a wine enthusiast I am certainly not an expert.  Thus I make no claim to be any authority on French wines, although I have tasted quite a few over the years.  So this was an educative experience.

Spoiler Alert:  I really couldn’t bond with any of them.  They were wildly tannic, dry, rustic and gamey.  We were told that they would benefit from at least another 5 years ageing, probably more.

Anyway, Volnay and Pommard are two small villages located in Burgundy in the southern end of the Cote du Beaune, more famous for its oak aged Chardonnays than its reds.
Still, some of the Pinot Noirs are rated as Premier Cru.

The first flight of 4 wines from Volnay.  These are regarded as more feminine, perfumed  wines, compared to the muscular reds from Pommard.
Lafarge Volnay  2007    Smoky aromas with red berry fruit.  Astringently dry and tannic, young and edgy.
Lafarge Volnay  Premier Cru Clos des Ducs 2004   Brick red tints of colour indicating an older vintage.  Herbal and muscatel aromas.  Softer tannins. Palate of sour cherry, plum pudding.  My over-all favourite.
Montille Volnay Premier Cru Les Champans 2007  Savoury, smoky, gamey and spicy with ripe cherry fruit flavours.
Montille Volnay Premier Cru Les Taillepieds 2007  Less ripe than the Champans.  Savoury and spice flavours with plum and cherry.

Then to the bigger masculine reds from Pommard – described by mine French host as more of a rustic ‘truck driver’ style of wine. 
“Zeese wine weel not leap into your lap, and say take me ‘ome,” he explained.
Muzard Pommard Les Cras 2007 Overpowering  aromas of tar and dare-I-say-it, creosote.  Plus gamey herbal and carnation.  Me no like.
Courcel Pommard Premier Cru Les Croix Noirs 2006  Pot pourri aromas, flavours of cassis and cherry.  Big tannins.
Courcel Pommard Premier Cru Grand Clos des Epenots 2006 Again Pot pourri, cherry, black currant and wildly, wildly tannic.
Montille Pommard Premier Cru Les Rugiens 2004  Showing the benefit of age.  Floral pot pourri and gamey aromas. Flavours of beetroot, cassis, ripe plum and still very grippy tannins.

As a regular drinker of NZ Pinots, I really think we have extremely good value wines, particularly those from Martinborough and Waipara. Considering that the wines I tasted were around $NZ 160 a bottle, I think we are getting excellent value right here, right now!


Phil runs not for profit wine tours in Auckland Noo Zeelaand, baby!