Saturday, 19 June 2021

Meet Australia's most unlikely wine tourism destination

Wine tourism has never been more popular, which is why even regions that are unsuitable for growing wine grapes are jumping on the bandwagon.

Take the Gold Coast in Queensland; a beach destination with a lot to offer. but not known for its vineyards. 

I was very surprised to see a press release this week promoting the merits of Gold Coast hinterland wineries. 

It said, in part: "Gold Coast wineries produce some fabulous offerings for wine lovers, and a visit to some of our beautiful vineyards, cellar doors, wine bars and restaurants should feature on any foodie’s itinerary."

That is just a tad disingenuous, as nearly all of the grapes used by Gold Coast wine producers are grown several hours away in the much cooler Granite Belt region near Stanthorpe.

That said, there are several worthwhile destinations for wine lovers, including Witches Falls at Mount Tamborine, 

You can watch grapes grow as you taste their array of wines accompanied by a platter of local cheeses. They freely admit that their wine grapes are grown on the Granite Belt 200 km away, but the wines are made on site. 

One of the largest Gold Coast wineries, Cedar Creek Estate (above), does grow some warm-climate varieties verdelho and chambourcin on site. 

You can enjoy lunch here next to a picturesque garden overlooking the vineyards. 

Near Canungra, you'll find O'Reilly's Canungra Valley Vineyards, where you can feast on picnic baskets and enjoy music at weekends. 

At Mount Cotton – an hour’s drive north of the Gold Coast – Sirromet Wines is a family owned and run winery spread across eight hectares. Again, a lot of fruit comes from the cooler Granite Belt. 

Sirromet create a wide range of wines  including lesser known varietals like montepulciano and have a renowned on-site restaurant. 

For full details see:

Friday, 18 June 2021

Impressive start for new Seppelt winemaker

New Seppelt senior winemaker Clare Dry is off to a good start with her first release as the venerable producer marks its 170th birthday.

Dry's 2021 Seppelt Drumborg Riesling from Henty is part of the 2021 Seppelt Luxury Collection launched this month. All the other new releases were made by her predecessor Adam Carnaby. 

The collection comprises seven wines sourced from regional Victoria: Grampians, Heathcote and Henty regions for a brand that was established in 1851. 

“It’s a privilege to launch the 2021 Seppelt Luxury Collection in honour of the icons of Australian wine  who have been at the helm of Seppelt," Dry said. 

"Names including Benno and Karl Seppelt, Charles Pierlot, Ian McKenzie, Colin Preece and most recently Adam Carnaby, have been transformational not only just for Seppelt, but the Australian wine industry in general.

"There is a little bit of each of them in these wines - and that’s pretty special. 

“The sole wine from vintage 2021, the Drumborg Vineyard Riesling, is my first Seppelt release. I experimented with different techniques including whole bunch pressing, hand pick with crush to press, and different levels of solids in the ferment. 

"The resulting wine is classic Drumborg, with tight mineral acid and a seamless palate of florals and citrus fruit with a hint of exotic spice."

The Drumborg retails for $40 and maintains the standards you would expect. It's dry, delicious and full of palate interest. I'll taste the shirazes over the next couple of weeks. 

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Five-star hotel delivers six-star experience

When a hotel has been named the best in the country multiple times, that creates an expectation of excellence among guests. 

COMO The Treasury - named best city hotel in Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific for 2020 by Travel + Leisure magazine - not only lives up to expectations but exceeds them. 

During my career I have been lucky enough to stay in a range of global hotel icons including The Ritz in London, the Meurice in Paris, Amandari in Bali, and the Palace of the Lost City in South Africa. 

COMO The Treasury is in the same class - both when it comes to facilities and to service. 

Even though you are in a five-star environment - someone to park your car, someone else to whisk away your bags, a check-in lounge rather than a desk - the vibe is effortlessly courteous. The staff here are slick and helpful without the slightest hint of condescension.

Opened six years ago - and named best hotel in Australia and New Zealand by Conde Nast Traveler in 2017 - the luxury urban hotel has a charming Victorian-era façade on Cathedral Square in the centre of Perth city core. It remains on the Conde Nast Gold List.

There are just 48 large rooms and suites: all with a definite boutique buzz. 

"We pride ourselves in offering unparalleled luxury service and a bespoke cultural experience from the moment our guests arrive," says general manager Jesse Tibert "It is with the help of our attentive staff that COMO The Treasury rises to the top.”

The rooms (all different) are impeccably equipped. Think Egyptian cotton, super-comfy beds, air-con, a complimentary in-room bar replenished daily (thanks for the delicious cashews), private safe, multimedia hub, USB charging points, free wifi, Illy coffee machine, electronic blinds and super-modern bathrooms with heated towel rails, bathrobes, and slippers.

There was no iron and ironing board, but a phone call saw them arrive quick smart. 

This is a serious five-star property so there is a 24-hour reception, concierge and daily housekeeping and turndown service (a rarity nowadays). Complimentary fruit and water are delivered daily (no nickel and diming here).

The historic 19th-century Treasury is part of a building that is now a gourmet hub but that sat empty for more than 20 years before being completely reimagined. 

There are two restaurants - Wildflower (above) and Post with chef Kim Brennan in charge - within the hotel, a bar and a spa offering COMO Shambhala wellness therapies. There is a heated indoor pool, gym and a personal trainer on hand should you want or need one. 

My wine tasting appointment meant I had to miss out on an Indian head massage (below).

Super-knowledgeable Emma Farrelly oversees not only the wine lists in house, but also the wine program for Petition, Poole’s Temple and Petition Wine Bar and Merchant, which are among the several wining and dining options within the State Buildings complex. 

Beer Corner, Telegram Coffee, The Honeycake and Long Chim are other choices, depending on your mood.

Thanks, Emma, for introducing me to new Western Australian wine names including Trait, Dormilona and Vino Volta, but the lists also include favourites including Barolo and Bourgogne. 

Dinner at Wildflower (overlooking the city) is a memorable modern Australian experience (particularly with a selection of matched wines), while Post does excellent breakfasts. Those are for another review another day. 

# COMO Hotels and Resorts has 15 luxury properties around the globe in destinations including Bhutan, Turks and Caicos, Miami, Indonesia, Italy, Australia, the United Kingdom, and the Maldives. Room rates start from $595. See  

# The writer was a guest of COMO The Treasury but hopes to soon return as a paying guest  


Details of Adelaide's new five-star hotel unveiled

Details have been revealed about Accor’s newest Sofitel hotel in Australia, Sofitel Adelaide, which is scheduled for open in September 

The hotel will mark the luxury brand’s debut in South Australia and will be the first internationally recognised five-star hotel to be built in Adelaide in 30 years.

Accor Pacific CEO Simon McGrath, said: “Distinguished by its bursting calendar of cultural events and flourishing passions for gastronomy, fine wine, music, fashion and design, Adelaide is an ideal destination for our Sofitel brand. 

"The hotel’s design reflects the distinct sense of style and sophistication of Sofitel. Sofitel Adelaide is one of our biggest hotel openings of 2021 and its level of luxury and on-site amenities will ensure it’s one of Adelaide’s most illustrious new destinations.”

Located in the heart of Adelaide on Currie Street, the design of the new $150 million property will be decorated with French-inspired artwork. 

Sofitel Adelaide will have 251 guest rooms and suites in French colonial style adapted to a modern contemporary aesthetic (whatever that means). 

Sofitel Adelaide is part of a 32-story mixed-use tower by Palumbo Group, which in addition to being a hotel, will also house one of the tallest residential developments in South Australia. 

Of the 32 stories, the first 24 will be dedicated to the hotel and its leisure and business facilities, which will include a French-inspired restaurant, two bars, swimming pool, SoFIT health and fitness centre, meeting and private dining rooms and a Sofitel Club Lounge.

The largest hotel operator in Australia, Accor has 15 hotels across South Australia, with 12 of these in the city of Adelaide. Sofitel Adelaide will join a growing portfolio of five Sofitel hotels and resorts in Australia and more than 120 globally.

Rooms at Sofitel Adelaide will start from $350 per night. To book, visit

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

d'Arenberg Wines buys into the spirits business

Venerable McLaren Vale wine producer d"Arenberg has bought into the spirits business with the acquisition  of award-winning craft distillery Settlers Spirits and associated premium mixer brand Oceans Spirit.

Founded by Rowland and Shelley Short in 2018, Settlers Spirits has quickly become recognised as one of the industry’s premier boutique gin distillers. 

With 13 different flavoured gins along with a range of whisky, rum, vodka and flavoured liqueurs, the brand is distributed nationally. 

“I couldn’t be happier to see d’Arenberg as custodians of Settlers Spirits and to see ownership remain within the McLaren Vale wine region,” said co-founder Rowland Short.

d’Arenberg chief winemaker Chester Osborn says despite the purchase there are currently no plans for any significant changes to the business. 

“I’m a fan of the diversity and craftsmanship of Rowland’s gins and spirits," he said. "The methodical and detailed blending methods represent a philosophical alignment to what we do here at d’Arenberg. 

“Rowland has some exciting ideas around product development, and we are excited to work together to bring those ideas to fruition which can only be a great thing for fans of Settlers Spirits”.

Settlers’ McLaren Vale cellar door operations, famous for behind the scenes experiences - such as a gin blending masterclass - will operate independently. 

Lift your spirits in the Byron Bay hinterland


The Byron Bay hinterland is not known for its wines, but the region is home to the Cape Byron Distillery and Cellar Door.

The distillery is home to Brookie’s gin and offers tastings, cocktails and tours.

Visitors can enjoy tours of the nearby rainforest and distillery, casual tasting flights and a range of seasonally inspired cocktails that can be enjoyed on the balcony.

Distillery tours include a G+T on arrival, a product tasting, tour and discussion for $40. The cellar door is open by appointment, so you’ll need to phone ahead.

The property is part of the Brook family’s macadamia farm and products include a dry gin, a slow gin and a macadamia and wattleseed liqueur.  Brookie’s have also just released their new pre-packed G&T’s with finger lime.

Call (02) 6684 7961 or visit

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Kyoto is calling all Nintendo fans

Japanese electronics and video game company Nintendo has unveiled
plans to convert one of its former factories into the world’s first Nintendo museum. 

The Nintendo Uji Ogura Plant in Kyoto, which is to be the site of the new museum, is one of Nintendo’s older factories. 

Constructed in 1969, the Uji Ogura Plant was used to make playing cards and hanafuda cards, a traditional game played in Japan and throughout Asia that is sometimes referred to as “the battle of the flowers” for its floral designs, as well as for product repairs, Travel Mole reported. 

The building has been empty since its functions were transferred to a new Uji plant in 2016.

Nintendo, which began as a producer of playing cards in 1889, has achieved success with its game consoles as well as with the Mario, Legend of Zelda and Pokémon media franchises.

In 2020 Nintendo was named Japan’s richest company. 

The release of the new game Animal Crossing, New Horizons coincided with the pandemic lockdown, which contributed to record sales of the Nintendo Switch handheld gaming system. 

Profits increased by 34% as the company earned over $16 billion in sales.

Pokémon playing cards have also found renewed interest during the pandemic, with a rare sealed Pokémon card set fetching $408,000 at Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas.

The museum, tentatively titled the Nintendo Gallery, will showcase the company’s historic products as well as related exhibits and game experiences. It is scheduled to open in 2024, Nintendo said in a press release.