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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, December 3, 2012

The Day I killed Ten Lawyers. Almost

The day starts off quite well.  I have all the winery visits scheduled, the 12-seater coach is booked for a 1.00 pm pickup in order to pick up the group of ten lawyers from a west Auckland conference and hotel facility located deep in native bush at 2.00 pm.

I get to the car hire place with time to spare.  But the place is locked.  I look around and checked my watch, but …nobody home.  Shit.
So I ring the manager’s mobile.  “Oh!  So sorry!  We completely forgot!  I think the guy next door has a key so you can get the coach key.”   I find the guy in the shop next door.  He looks everywhere – nope.  No key.  I ring the manager  back.  He’s flustered.  “I’m on the other side of town, I’ll get there ASAP.”  It’s now 1.15
Time slows – the minutes tick by.  My gut is in a knot as I obsessively check the time. Finally he screams up in his car, I rapidly sign papers with  and scramble into the coach with about 25 minutes to get there.  It starts raining.  Heavily.
The winding, narrow roads of Titirangi weave in and out of rain squalls and native bush as the wipers nyoink-nyoink, nyoink-nyoink ineffectually trying to clear sheets of water from the windscreen. 

At last I spot the entrance to the conference place.  It is marked by a gate, flanked by two white concrete pillars.  My pulse is racing, I’m dry-lipped with anxiety and I’m already ten minutes late.  I pull on the wheel to turn right off the main road and misjudge the turn, scraping the side of the coach on the square pillar as the car enters the gate.  I don’t stop.
I get there at ten past two and luckily they are only now meandering down to the lobby for the pickup.  The rain intensifies as ten lawyers load into the coach and we finally set off to the vineyards.

The torrential rain makes visibility appalling, compounded by steamed-up windows.  On one inside corner, I drive too far onto a patch of gravel on the roadside.  The coach slides to the left and tips off balance.  I brake, and the rear end slides almost out of control.  I pull the steering wheel to the right and finally the tyres bite into solid tar seal and the coach regains normal control.  Whew.   It was pretty close.   

The lawyers get very drunk, insist that I stop at a Microbrewery on the way back, get drunker cruder and louder.  I finally make it home around six p.m., exhausted.  The insurance excess is $1,000 and I make a loss of about $500 on the whole exercise. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

My Brilliant Portfolio Career

Thirty years ago, if someone had told me (as a 26 year-old physiotherapist with his own practice) that in 2012 I’d have four or more jobs – I would have been incredulous.  Back then, I thought that I was into a secure lifetime career which would only end if I sold it the practice to retire in splendour, or carked it at work and was carried out feet first.  Today I run a wine tour company, write wine articles and other freelance journalism, work three shifts a week in a wine store, have done some acting in TV commercials, do some home-based massage and manual therapy ...and I’m working on my second wine book when I find a spare moment.

Right now we live in a totally changed world.  Jobs that were once sexy and lucrative are marginal now.  I had to walk away from my physio practice because of declining patient numbers and a hostile environment for state funded health providers who work in low income areas.  A good friend of mine who was a senior social worker now makes more money being a home handyman at a retirement home.  The jobs that he and I trained for were once viable in a healthy economy that had social welfare as an affordable priority. 

Health, social work and education - and Law, to a lesser extent, were areas where a lot of us Hippy era kids were attracted.  Trades were regarded as a good option for the kids who weren’t so bright.  Finance and commerce were uncool and more like working for the Man.  Computers were for science geeks and bean counters.  A web site was something where spiders lived.  Banking, Accountancy?  No way – they were part of The Establishment.

So did I make a bad choice when I decided to go to physiotherapy school?  No. In 1974, I had opted for a hot profession, just like the other kids who did Law, Medicine, social work and teaching. 

Now, the old certainties are gone and employment is subject to the repercussions of global financial crises, international terrorism, an ageing population, scarcity of fossil fuels and even climate change.  Tourism was hot when I launched an Auckland wine tour business aimed at international tourists in 2001.  Since then the Twin Towers bombing and the global financial crisis have reduced tourism numbers dramatically.  So, I looked elsewhere to augment my income, and hence – my multiple income streams.  Do I regret it?  No.  I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and into areas I never dreamed of like acting and retail sales.  It’s not easy – I do three late shifts a week selling wine and that cuts in to family and social time.  I work very hard some days putting in 13 hours when a wine tour and a late shift coincide.  On the other hand some weeks I get three or four days off – so I get some time to catch up with friends, walk the dogs etc. 

The only thing that is certain is uncertainty.  Welcome to the new millennium.

Phil runs the No. 1  TripAdvisorAuckland tour activity – Fine Wine & Food Tours.  Also writes wine columns for Ponsonby News, Medical Assurance’s OnMas glossy quarterly, works Monday Thursday and Saturday at Glengarry Grey Lynn, and is available for TV or web based commercials and can fix a crook back or neck.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wines for the Auckland Summer

Summertime… time to bid farewell to big grunty Shiraz and Cabernet blends.  A time to smell the  sun block and barbecue smoke, feel the sand between your toes and listen cricket on the radio.  And time to embrace wines and drinks that can stand a bit of chilling and match well with outdoor entertaining, salads, BBQs and our fabulous fresh Auckland seafood. Cheers!

Matua Spritz $NZ 18.00

Pale blush pink colour, off-dry style with aromas and flavours of red summer berry fruits.  Crisp and refreshing with a spritz of bubbles and 10% alcohol make this a great summer cooler quaffer.

Kim Crawford Pansy Rosé  2012 $NZ 25.00
Marketed at the gay community in 2005, Pansy has become a favourite with summer sippers. Vibrant pink, this fresh and just off-dry rosé is all strawberries and cream and red berry fruits. 

Matua Single Vineyard Dartmoor Chardonnay  $NZ 56.00
Toasty Oak on the nose, with crisp apple, Golden Queen peach, brioche and hazel nut on the lengthy palate.  The fruit is selected from Hawkes Bay Dartmoor vineyard’s 25 year old vines.

Gladstone Vineyard Sophie’s Choice Wairarapa Sauvignon Blanc 2011  $NZ 35.00
Fermentation in French oak makes a very classy Sauvignon that will appeal to Chardonnay fans. Delicately toasty, rounded and with a lengthy palate.  Flavours of ripe peach, hazel nut, cape gooseberry and tropical fruits.

LST Energised Ice Tea $NZ 2.50 250ml
Comic Willy de Witt and his pal Peter Murphy launched this alternative to sickly B-vitamin energy drinks.  This is a blend of tea, lemon juice, cane sugar, natural caffeine, Acai and Guarana.  Available locally at Early Bird Bakery and Bhana Brothers. Or online at

Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates FineWine & Food Tours in Auckland. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

West Brook Winery Auckland

One of my favourite Kumeu wineries which I frequently visit on my wine tours is West Brook.  Situated in Waimauku next to the Riverhead pine forest, the vineyard and winery sit among landscaped manicured lawns with a placid duck pond and neat rows of vines climbing the slopes beyond.  Third generation Croatian winemaker Anthony Ivicevich and his charming wife Susan own the small family business,  which has been in operation since 1935. The Cellar Door welcomes visitors 7 days a week, with picnic tables, petanque, giant chess and BBQ facilities available.  Deli foods are available from the cooler.

Anyway to the wines:
Waimauku Pinot Gris 2012 $26.00
Delicate and elegant with mineral notes on the palate and a deliciously crisp finish.  Flavours of Nashi pear, quinine and Braeburn apple.

Barrique Fermented Chardonnay 2011  $22.90
Made from a blend of Waimauku and Marlborough fruit.  Toasty oak and lush flavours of peach and  pear, with a hint of yeasty brioche.

Waimauku Estate Chardonnay 2011  $29.50
All home vineyard fruit. Citrus, stone fruit and toast with a mineral crisp finish.

Waimauku Pinot Noir 2011 $26.00

Light and elegant with cherry/berry red fruit flavours with earthy undertones.

Waimauku Estate Malbec 2010 $ $32.00
Ripe and full with black fruit intensity and spicy, savoury flavours. Medium tannins and lengthy palate.  Drinking beautifully now, but could cellar for another 3 years.

West Brook Winery
215 Ararimu Valley Road  Kumeu
09 411 9924  
Open 7 Days  Mon – Fri 9.00 to 5.00 Sat 10.00 am to  5.00 pm Sun 11.00 am to 5.00 pm
Phil Parker is a wine writer and operates Fine Wine & Food Tours in Auckland.