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Thursday 30 November 2017

Mitchelton in the spotlight with new hotel opening

Mitchelton wines will be under the spotlight with the opening this week of The Mitchelton Hotel and Spa at Nagambie, just 90 minutes' drive from Melbourne.
A personal project of caravan magnate Gerry Ryan and his son Andrew, the $16 million Mitchelton Hotel and Spa is the most recent addition to the family's spectacular Mitchelton Winery Estate, set on the banks of the Goulburn River.
Initially planned for construction upon the property's founding in 1969 – a vision never realised due to budget constraints – the project has finally blossomed. 

Developed to enhance the facility as a tourism drawcard for the region, the Mitchelton Hotel's 58 rooms are in a range of sizes. 

Featuring spacious rooms adorned with earthy tones, the hotel was designed to have a relationship with its countryside setting and, in particular, the horse studs around Nagambie. Further drawing on this connection, the hotel features works by Melbourne photographer Trevor Mein, commissioned specifically for the space.
"The Hotel and Day Spa is something that we wanted to develop early on with our acquisition of the estate," said Andrew Ryan, managing director of the Mitchelton property.
"It has always been the missing piece in the puzzle for Mitchelton. 

"The Goulburn Valley and Nagambie have so much to offer, we have high hopes that the addition of the accommodation facility will help attract more visitors to the region and boost local tourism."

In guest rooms, floor-to-ceiling windows open onto private terraces with expansive views of the Goulburn River or Mitchelton Vineyard. There is also a 20-metre infinity pool where guests can embrace the rural setting whilst sampling one of winemaker Travis Clydesdale's creations. 

Executive chef Jess Hayes is at the helm of Mitchelton's restaurant, Muse (surely there are too many restaurants around Australia using this name?) 

Opening special room rates for the Mitchelton Hotel start at $289 per night including breakfast for two and a winery tour.

Wednesday 29 November 2017

Unearthed - a unique barrel of McLaren Vale wine

Gemtree Wines has unearthed a new wine in its range - literally.

SubTerra, a premium-quality McLaren Vale single-vineyard shiraz, is billed as "the first wine in the world to be "returned to the earth" in a barrel to age. 

Aged in a wax-coated French oak barrel buried deep in the soil underneath the vines where the grapes for the wine were handpicked, the earth provided a perfect natural temperature controlled cellar for the wine to mature, the Gemtree crew believes.

It is a technique inspired by ancient Georgian winemakers who fermented their wine in clay pots called Amphoras, which were sealed using a thick layer of olive oil at the top and buried in the ground to age. 

It has never previously been done in a wine barrel, however. as far as the Gemtree team is aware.

Gemtree winemakers Mike Brown and Joshua Waechter said the original idea came towards the end of vintage while discussing winemaking with the team over a few beers after a long day in the cellar. 

“We thought the winemaking process starts in the vineyard, why not return the wine to its roots to age and continue its connection to the earth,” said Mike. 

“The idea fitted with the winery’s biodynamic and organic ethos, minimal-intervention approach, so we thought it was worth a try while also giving ourselves the greatest chance of success.

“We’ve never been afraid of trying new things to explore what’s possible.”

The hand-picked grapes for SubTerra were selected from a small, protected vineyard with alluvial soils and a geology dating back millions of years. 

The wine was fermented on its skins for five days until the tannin profile was balanced and then pressed before being transferred to a three-year-old barrel for the remainder of primary and secondary fermentation. 

The barrel was returned to the earth on the March equinox, when the earth was breathing in (so I am reliably told) and buried 2 metres below ground beneath the original vines. It was then aged until the Spring equinox. 

“The excavation was like an archaeological dig with great care taken not to damage the barrel which had by now been enveloped and protected by the earth through one of the wettest winters on record,” said Brown. 

“After lifting the barrel from the earth, removing the chive then tasting provided the nerve-racking moment but we needn’t have worried – the wine was extraordinary. Purity, vibrance, energy, the balance was all there."

Unfortunately for those keen to try only 240 bottles were produced, all made from clear mud sourced from the vineyard (just joking!). 

If you are interested, the wines are for sale for $180 a bottle. 

Tuesday 28 November 2017

How mixing riesling concentrate with water can taste better than Champagne

Did you know that you can squirt some riesling concentrate into water, put a SodaStream machine into action and end up with a beverage that tastes better than Champagne.

This remarkable news came to me via a SodaStream press release issued by a PR company and datelined Airport City, Israel.

The release read: SodaStream International is announcing the launch of its limited edition line, "Sparkling Gold", a fine alcoholic concentrate to be added to sparkling water. This sparkling tangy tongue pleaser, resembling the taste of a fruity Riesling wine, is available exclusively on the SodaStream Germany online shop at

I checked my calendar carefully but April 1 is a long way away.

So what, then, to make of this release, which claims: "SodaStream 'Sparkling Gold' limited edition is the result of an innovative development process, designed to enable consumers a variety of indulging, sparkling drinks. 

An independent market research test conducted in Germany in October 2017, established that 76% of people surveyed enjoyed the taste of SodaStream 'Sparkling Gold' as much as or more than French champagne brands Moet & Chardon and Veuve Clicquot.

It goes on: "SodaStream is changing the way people drink. Millions of people around the globe enjoy using SodaStream to transform their ordinary tap water into fresh sparkling water at the touch of a button. Fun and exciting concentrates give more users the opportunity to enjoy and even indulge in festive beverages this holiday season."

The man behind these intriguing claims is Daniel Birnbaum, chief executive officer of SodaStream.

He says that SodaStream 'Sparkling Gold' contains 10% alcohol by volume when prepared using the recommended mixing ratio of one part 'Sparkling Gold' concentrate to five parts sparkling water. And 'Sparkling Gold' comes in a beautiful 200ml gold-tinted glass bottle that creates 12 glasses of holiday celebration.

This is simply amazing news - but I worry that it may well put thousands of hard-working Champenoise out of work by the end of the year.

# A close look at the "independent market research" conducted in October shows it featured a whopping 100 testers, of whom 76% of women found "Sparkling Gold" tastes very good or good, to 56% for Moet & Chandon and 67% Veuve Clicquot. Compelling evidence indeed.

But I think I might be sticking to Billecart-Salmon or Bollinger for just a while longer.

Monday 27 November 2017

The one Australian book every wine lover should have

If you know a little bit about Australian wine, or even quite a lot, there is one book you should get your hands on.

Australian Wine: styles and tastes, people and places is a new-release collaboration between wine educator Patrick Iland, Penfolds' chief winemaker Peter Gago, wine writer and academic Andrew Caillard and viticultural scientist Peter Dry.

There is an awful lot of experience shared by that quartet, and their combined knowledge makes this a must for every serious wine lover's bookshelves. The perfect non-liquid Christmas present. 

Available both as a hard copy book ($59.95) or an e-book ($30) this is a book that offers much useful information regardless of the reader's level of expertise. 

It is being promoted as: "a book for anyone who enjoys wine and would like to know a little bit more about Australian wine", it covers topics including pruning, organic and biodynamic winemaking and different styles in no-nonsense detail. 

In one volume you have a comprehensive guide to the way grapes are grown, and how wine is made, along with sensory profiles of different grape varieties. A quick look through here will settle any number of wine arguments.

The 290 pages include text, maps, graphics and over 300 photographs. It would be most useful for staff training or as a wine course manual. Authoritative and highly recommended. 

Australian Wine: styles, and tastes, people and places is available through selected cellar doors, wine retail outlets and bookstores, as well as direct from

Sunday 26 November 2017

Tasmanian sparkling wine label sweeps the board

I am no great fan of wine show results. 

It is easy, given the many vagaries of the system, for a wine to win a trophy in one show, and be awarded 15 points in another show held at the same time in a different city. 

But when one wine label - in this case House of Arras from Tasmania - sweeps the trophies at every capital wine show in Australia, then it is time to sit up and take notice. 

Ed Carr (above), the House of Arras winemaker, is celebrating this remarkable clean sweep after the results of the Royal Hobart Wine Show and the National Wine Show in Canberra were unveiled over the weekend.

“These awards have topped a superlative year for House of Arras," Carr said. "Such endorsement across a broad range of judges is an absolute statement of quality and the entire viticulture and winemaking team is extremely proud of this achievement. 

“It is particularly pleasing to be awarded the 'home state' trophy for the Best Tasmanian Wine in Hobart from a field of strong competition across many premium cold climate wine styles. ” 

The seven trophies were split between the House of Arras Grand Vintage 2008, which took home three trophies, and Blanc de Blancs 2008 which received four. 

Last week, House of Arras also was named Best Australian Producer, winning a trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition in London. 

“It is absolutely fantastic to see our philosophy of fastidious viticulture and winemaking come to fruition and receive these awards from such discerning wine judges in recognised quality competitions both here in Australian and overseas,” said Carr. 

House of Arras is part of the Accolade Wines portfolio, which features other premium brands including Grant Burge, Hardys, St Hallett, Bay of Fires and Croser. Fruit for House of Arras is sourced across Tasmania’s premium cool-climate regions, ideal for long, slow and consistent fruit development. 

In addition to the trophy-winning Grand Vintage 2008 ($79.99) and Blanc de Blancs 2008 ($86.99), the House of Arras portfolio includes a Brut Elite (RRP $50), Rosé 2006 ($86.99) and the E.J. Carr Late Disgorged 2003 ($189.99). 

Saturday 25 November 2017

Now that's a crayfish! Monster specimen found in the Tarkine.

Now that's a crayfish. This 3kg+ monster Giant Freshwater Crayfish, with only one claw intact, was found this weekend in the Tarkine wilderness area - a region the Tasmanian Government would like to see thrown open to loggers and four-wheel-drive enthusiasts. 

This freshwater crayfish, Astacopsis gouldi, was found by expert Todd Walsh in a Tasmanian rainforest that remains unprotected from logging.

“Our third annual BioBlitz has been a great success already, with over 160 participants surveying sites in the Tarkine’s forests, plains, rivers and coastline," Bob Brown Foundation spokesperson Jenny Weber said.

Walsh, who has been operating in Tasmania for 40 years, said the male crayfish was the second-largest he had seen. 

“This big boy weighed over 3 kilos with only one full-size claw," Walsh said. "With two full-sized claws, he would have tipped the scales at close to 5 kilograms.

“The site was low in sediment, with superb bush extending as far as the eye can see. This location been recommended for protection for over a decade and this huge creature is an example of how these animals will thrive in near pristine environments.

“For 20 years the Giant Freshwater Crayfish has been listed as a priority species under the Regional Forest Agreement; we’ve had governments trumpet how important it is and yet not one of them has put a hectare aside specifically for this animal.

“It is now well past time for Government to put selected areas aside to ensure these giant specimens are no longer such a rare occurrence.”

He said the Bob Brown Foundation had identified 30,000 hectares that, if protected from logging and loss of riverside habitat, would secure the future of the creatures. 

The Giant Freshwater Crayfish was tagged and released without harm.

The Tarkine BioBlitz, based just outside Smithton in north-west Tasmania , continues until Sunday.

Friday 24 November 2017

Younger winemakers descend on Tasmania

If you happen to be out and about in Tasmanian cellars this weekend, there is a good chance you'll come across some of the most famous names in the Australian wine industry. 

There will be Henschkes, some de Bortolis, a Barry, and a Taylor.

But these are not the famous names that Australian wine lovers might recognise; they are the next generation of Australia's First Families of Wine, visiting the Apple Isle for the first time. 

The Next Gen group is led by Katherine Brown from Brown Brothers, a fourth-generation winemaker, and has attended a Hobart Wine Show tasting and whisky sampling at Lark Distillery in Hobart. 

Tomorrow's activities include a visit to Devil's Corner, owned by Brown Brothers, with the trip wrapping up in the north of the state with a visit to Jansz (owned by the Hill-Smith Family). 

Two scheduled public events, and a media meet-up, fell through, leaving the group time to bond together with their peers from different regions of Australia. 

The group includes 11 of Australia’s leading wine talent for a weekend of wine education and vinous discussions with local winemakers and viticulturists.

On the trip are Katherine Brown, Anna, Sophie and Ben De Bortoli, Sally Webber (De Bortoli), Justine and Andreas Henschke (Henschke), Olivia Barry (Jim Barry Wines), Scott McWilliam (McWilliam’s), Monica George (Tahbilk) and Justin Taylor (Taylors). 

Australia’s First Families of Wine was established in 2009 to tell the tales, share the history and highlight the provenance behind some of Australia’s most iconic drops. Its 12 members represent over 1380 years of collaborative winemaking experience across 16 regions. 


Familiar name behind a new Barossa wine brand

There is a very familiar name behind the new Barossa Valley wine label Barossa Boy. 

The entrepreneur behind Barossa Bay is sixth-generation Barossa winemaker Trent Burge, son of Grant Burge. 

He likes to say he has dirt under his nails and Barossa blood in his veins. 

The Burge wine story goes back to 1855 when his great-great-great grandfather John Burge immigrated to South Australia and began work as a winemaker. 

Every generation since has followed in the same profession. 

Trent says: "The objective of Barossa Boy wines is to continue what generations before me have created, showcasing the Barossa’s most loved varietals in a modern way, by telling untold stories of my life lived in this extraordinary region." 

With the first two wines now ready for release, Trent says he's ready to make his own mark in the Australian wine industry. 

The first two releases are the 2016 Little Tacker Grenache Shiraz Mataro and the 2016 Double Trouble Shiraz Cabernet. Both sell for $30. 

Both are unmistakeably Barossan: big, bold and assertive wines that appeal to a certain consituency. Both offer fair value.  

A further two wines; Young Wisdom Mataro and Lifeblood Shiraz will be released in early 2018 with the brand's official launch set for January. 

Barossa Boy wines are currently available online at

Thursday 23 November 2017

Riding a wave of 50 years of wine history in Margaret River

Margaret River is one of the best-known wine regions in the world; a magnet for gourmets looking for a uniquely Australian travel experience.

But turn the clock back just 50 years and Margaret River was a sleepy country region with weekend shacks owned by Perth doctors and lawyers, who shared the deserted beaches with a handful of surfers.

Those Perth high-flyers who planted vines back in the 1960s and 70s were very much ahead of the curve as Margaret River's natural beauty, ocean beaches, superb wines and gourmet produce has seen it soar to global recognition.

Located a leisurely three-hour drive from the booming Western Australian capital of Perth, Margaret River is today home to over 200 vineyards and more than 100 cellar doors – and is regarded as one of the most sought-after holiday destinations in the country with its remarkable diversity.

Massive events like the Margaret River Gourmet Festival would have been unthinkable when vines were planted at Vasse Felix in 1967 and quickly followed by Moss Wood, Cape Mentelle and Cullen. 

The fascinating history of the local wine industry has been captured by two of Australia's leading wine writers, Perth-based duo Peter Forrestal and Ray Jordan, in the newly-released book The Way It Was.

Beginning in 1967, with Dr Tom Cullity planting the first vines, Forrestal and Jordan use text, photos and their own intimate knowledge of the region to paint a fascinating picture of a Western Australian success story. 

Fascinating characters and inspiring stories abound from an obsessive scientist to an ambitious politician and some brave pioneers. Wine lovers will find it hard to put down. 

The Way It Was by Peter Forrestal and Ray Jordan. $39. Margaret River Press

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Book early and save in one of Europe's holiday hotspots

Early bookings can save travellers a lot of money and Casa Angelina on Italy’s Amalfi Coast has announced exclusive offers for Australians booking a minimum two nights across all room categories during next year’s European spring and autumn seasons. 

The spring offer is available on bookings confirmed by May 15, 2018, for stays between March 24 and May 31. 

The autumn offer is for stays between October 1-28, 2018.

The deals include 15% discount on best available rates, early check-in or late check-out (subject to availability) €80,00 food and beverage credit and a complimentary bottle of Casa Angelina Champagne and in-season fruit platter in room upon arrival. 

For bookings, contact The Unique Tourism Collection on (tell them I sent you) or your local travel agent.

Casa Angelina overlooks expanses of the Mediterranean Sea from a cliff-edge perch in the quiet and picturesque Campania village of Praiano, which is only a 10-minute drive from Positano and 15 minutes from Amalfi.

The property, which I have not visited but have received good reports on, welcomes many Australians - hence the discount offer. 

A member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World (always a good sign), Casa Angelina features 39 rooms and suites, plus four ultra-exclusive Eaudesea rooms, close to at sea level. The chic rooms offer free wifi, flat-screen TVs and designer toiletries - and there is an on-site spa.  

The gourmet restaurant, Un Piano nel Cielo, showcases seasonal, locally sourced Mediterranean cuisine, while the poolside dining offers easy, healthy salads, pastas and other lighter dishes.

There are heated indoor and outdoor pools and the hotel has its own private boats for excursions.

Tuesday 21 November 2017

Fly from Australia to India for $241 each way

Ever wanted to go to India? Ever thought it might all be too hard, or too expensive? 

Not anymore. AirAsia X is celebrating the launch of four-times-weekly flights to Jaipur, India, via Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, commencing on February 5, 2018.

AirAsia X, regularly voted as world’s best low-cost airline, is running a special promotion with all-in-fares to Jaipur from $241 one-way. Fares are available online and on the AirAsia mobile app for booking now until Saturday. 

Travel dates are February 5, 2018, until May 6, 2018.

AirAsia X is the first low-cost long-haul carrier to fly direct from Kuala Lumpur to Jaipur, the capital city of Rajasthan. This follows a successful launch of the Bangkok-Jaipur route in September this year operated by its short-haul affiliate AirAsia Thailand.

Jaipur is the 12th destination in India on the AirAsia Group network.

AirAsia X Chief Executive Officer Benyamin Ismail said: “This new route will offer travel convenience and affordable options for our guests. 

"Before this, guests wanting to travel to Jaipur with us would have had to first fly from Kuala Lumpur to Delhi for five hours and 30 minutes, or to Mumbai for five hours before taking a domestic flight, spending quite a bit for another hour from Delhi or 2 1/2 hours from Mumbai to reach Jaipur.

"For those who opt for ground travel, it will take at least five hours to get to Jaipur from Delhi and about half the journey from Mumbai. We are expecting to carry between 132,000 and 143,000 passengers between February and December next year for this route."

The "pink" city of Jaipur is one of most beautiful cities in India. As the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur is also the largest city in the state and is the first planned city of India.

AirAsia X, together with AirAsia Group, provides Australians with low-cost fares and access to over 130 destinations across 24 countries in Asia, the Middle East and New Zealand, departing from Melbourne, Sydney, Gold Coast, Darwin and Perth. For bookings or further information visit

The airline earlier this month celebrates its 10th anniversary milestone in Australia. 

Large new international hotel unveiled for Geelong

The vibrant Victorian coastal city of Geelong is to get a new international hotel with the announcement of the Holiday Inn and Suites Geelong, which will be the largest hotel in the city.

Opening in 2020, the 190-room property will be the first new hotel in Geelong in more than 20 years. It is also IHG's first Holiday Inn hotel in Australia to include a 'suites' offering: with 40 suites intended for the longer-stay segment.
Franzé Developments announced that it had acquired the central CBD site in April, highlighting plans to that include retail and office space along with the flagship hotel.
The hotel will feature an all-day dining restaurant and bar, swimming pool, gym, parking and a meeting facilities including a function room for 250 people.
Paul Franzé, founder and managing director at Franzé Developments, said: “Geelong welcomes around 2.2 million overnight visitors annually, but is dramatically underrepresented by quality hotels. 
"The Holiday Inn brand is known and loved by travellers all around the world, so I can't imagine a better fit for a world-class city like Geelong. With a prime CBD location in close proximity to the station, hospital, university, offices and government entities, I am confident that Holiday Inn and Suites Geelong is going to be a story of success.”
IHG currently has 47 hotels operating under four brands across Australasia: InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn Express with a further 15 in the pipeline including Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels.

The new hotel is good news for anyone wanting to visit the Bellarine Peninsula and Moorabool Valley wine regions, both of which are short of quality accommodation. 

Monday 20 November 2017

Wine industry duo combine in McLaren Vale

Lovers of casual gourmet destinations will be keen to check out McLaren Vale newcomer The General Wine Bar & Kitchen

The new tasting venue and eatery is the brainchild of Mr Riggs winemaker and Zonte's Footstep co-owner Brad Rey. 

The General Wine Bar & Kitchen at 55a Main Road, McLaren Flat, combines a wine bar, open kitchen and cellar door experience - and is housed in a 100-year-old former general store. 

Chef Sommariva, formerly at the Kitchen Door restaurant at Penny's Hill, Fino’s Willunga and The Salopian, creates a daily set menu using the best local produce, with a choice of two or three courses.

The wine duo select their wine pairings to match the chef’s latest offerings, creating bespoke wine and food experiences every day.

Diners can choose to sit looking out over the vineyards, or at what they call “the pass”, sitting at the kitchen bench. 

The General Wine Bar & Kitchen will house both wine labels, Mr Riggs and Zonte’s Footstep, as a cellar door experience. Unique wine flights are on offer. 

The General is open seven days for wine tastings from 10am-5pm with wine flights from $25. The Kitchen is open for lunch Wednesday to Sunday 12noon-3pm offering two courses for $55. On Fridays, The General is open from 4.30pm until late for after-work drinks, pintxos and dinner. 

To check out the daily menu offering and to find out more visit

Sunday 19 November 2017

Proof that the travelling public are idiots

Where can we see the wild haggis? Can you teach me Spanish in an hour? 

If you ever had any doubt that that travelling public was slightly lacking in the IQ department, a new survey released by the Traveldoge hotel chain in the UK removes all doubt. 

These are Brits, so sympathy is required, but can you seriously imagine rocking up at the reception of your local hotel and asking to use it as the venue for the school nativity play? 

The budget hotel chain polled staff across its 552 UK properties about the weirdest requests they had received. 

Blackpool South Shore was asked to move a guest’s entire room closer to the beach as they wanted to hear the ocean, while London Tower Bridge was expected to accommodate a yacht.

Another team were asked if they could stay up all night sewing crystals onto a wedding dress.  

In Slough, the team was asked directions to The Office to meet Ricky Gervais’ fictional character, David Brent. 

One Halifax guest wanted to be taught Spanish in an hour to impress Spanish investors, while one at Fort William asked about the local haggis population. 

Not forgetting the optimistic guest who wanted Travelodge staff to transform into wedding planners, asking if they could arrange for a ceremony at St Paul's Cathedral.

Which train goes to Hogwarts? 

Please can you stop the wind from blowing? 

Am I able to bring Spyro, my 7ft Komodo Dragon, to stay with me as part of your pet policy? 

Please can you fill my room with pink inflatable flamingos?

All in a day's work for Travelodge staff. 

Saturday 18 November 2017

Mitolo unveils new wine and food complex in McLaren Vale

McLaren Vale winery Mitolo has unveiled a new $3.5 million cellar door and restaurant complex.

The new facility offers personalised tasting experiences and Italian-accented food.

The Mitolo family has used 10 shipping containers as the basis for its tasting room, restaurant and event space – an ultra-modern, architecturally designed structure that also incorporates glass, concrete and timber.

“Nothing prissy,” said Mitolo brand founder Frank Mitolo. “A masculine structure just like the big red wines of the brand.”

Mitolo is the first McLaren Vale winery to make use of shipping containers.

The structure is the creation of local architect firm Tectvs, its director Francesco Bonato and interior designer Dina Giannone.

It covers around 24,000 square metres and is a reinvention of the classic Italian "sagra", a popular pop-up festival organised to show off local food and drink.

The landscaped exterior features fresh produce for use in the restaurant.

“I wanted this space to represent the brand and its people,” Mitolo said. “It needed to be unique and special - but it’s not about the building, it’s all about the wines.

“Terroir really defines our wines, and enables us to produce wines that are unique and expressive of place. And each wine comes with its own distinct personality and story.”

It’s now 18 years since Mitolo teamed up with winemaker Ben Glaetzer to launch his own brand.

Mitolo Wines is known for classic Australian shiraz, cabernet and grenache but the family’s Italian heritage is proudly displayed in their winemaking techniques and other coveted Mitolo wines like vermentino, sangiovese and sagrantino.

And guests can match the wines with a complimentary tasting plate for one from the new on-site restaurant, Bocca Di Luppo.

Head chef Tom Jack’s menu owes much to Italian tradition but it comes with a modern twist.

Mitolo Wines, 141 McMurtrie Rd, McLaren Vale.

Friday 17 November 2017

Wine industry newcomer makes a big impact

Lost Buoy Wines has made quite an impact on the marketplace since launching its first wines just three years ago. 

Based in McLaren Vale and owned by the Kelley family, Lost Bouy has boomed from producing two wines and a few hundred cases in August 2014 to eight wines and 8,500 cases in 2017. 

The estate vineyard, from which the brand-leading Cliff Block Shiraz and Lion Point Shiraz ($30+) are sourced, is located on a cliff top overlooking Port Willunga, while the fruit for the rest of the range, labelled Lost at Sea ($20-25),  is sourced from growers.

With experienced winemaker Phil Christiansen on board and former Schild marketer, and human dynamo Anna Watson running the show it is no surprise that growth has been so rapid.

And with an exciting pinot noir project launching next year, and some covetous eyes being cast at Tasmania, the expansion is not over yet. 

Watson hosted the first Lost Buoy dinner in Tasmania last night (the Apple Isle is the brand's No.2 market after South Australia) and I caught up with her the following morning when she was typically upbeat. 

Sales are buoyant (see what I did there) in Australia and export markets including Singapore, Hong Kong and Canada. 

"It's been a very exciting time," says Watson. "The whole team has been working hard to spread the word about quality and value - and it's great that is paying off."

# Stay tuned for some exciting news on the pinot noir project very soon. 



Thursday 16 November 2017

Good vibes all round on board the Norwegian Jewel

You can tell a lot from smiles. The cruise guests embarking and disembarking the Norwegian Jewel in Hobart this week almost all had smiles on their faces.

Similarly, the crew, making their first visit to the Tasmanian capital, went about their onboard duties clearly happy to be playing their various roles. 

There's a good feel about the Norwegian Jewel, part of the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) fleet that has just begun her inaugural Australia and New Zealand season. It's clearly a happy ship with a good mix of age demographics

As the first Norwegian Cruise Lhomeportto home port in Australia for a full cruising season, Norwegian Jewel’s arrival reflects Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings long-term focus on the region, following similar announcements from sister brands – Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises – that they are more committed than ever before to Australia and New Zealand.

NCLH recently announced that Norwegian Jewel will return to Australian waters in 2018/19 – fresh from a multi-million-dollar bow-to-stern refurbishment – for a series of home-ported sailings. 

She is a light and airy ship with no fewer than 16 different dining options, making sure  even the fussiest guest does not get bored with the culinary offerings. 

“We are thrilled to welcome Norwegian Jewel to Sydney for her highly anticipated inaugural Australia and New Zealand season, said senior VP Steve Odell. "Norwegian Jewel’s arrival breaks the mould when it comes to freedom and flexibility, ushering in a new style of cruising with no set dining times, no pre-assigned seating and no dress codes, giving Australian travellers the unique opportunity to create bespoke cruise holiday experiences any way they want.” 

“The way Australian cruisers have embraced Norwegian Jewel’s inaugural season has exceeded our expectations, with the current booking season already close to capacity before it has even started.

"Norwegian Jewel’s 2018/19 season is now on sale, and early booking activity indicates it is set to be another ground-breaking one.” 

For those seeking the ultimate in luxury, Norwegian Cruise Line’s private enclave – The Haven by Norwegian features the most luxurious accommodation on board with a 24-hour butler, dedicated concierge service and a private sundeck.

The ship boasts those 16 impressive dining venues (half of them included in the tariff), along with 15 bars and lounges including dedicated Champagne, sake, mojito, whisky and cabaret bars, as well as a poolside bar for afternoon cocktails at sea. 

Guests keen to explore the raft of dining possibilities on board can indulge in Brazilian steakhouse Moderno, Japanese specials at Teppanyaki Room, authentic American fare at Cagney’s Steakhouse, Tuscan country flavours at La Cucina, and sushi and sake at Chin Chin.

On board on Wednesday, we enjoyed some impressive French flavours (and great service) at Le Bistro. 

Entertainment options for cruisers include Australia’s own Burn the Floor dance cabaret,  magic and comedy shows and acrobatics by Le Cirque Bijou. There is an impressive spa facility and a large on-board theatre. 

During her November 2017 to February 2018 time in local waters, Norwegian Jewel will embark on a total of nine sailings commencing with the current five-day sampler to Tasmania, visiting Burnie and Hobart before returning to Sydney. 

Other season highlights include a nine-day voyage calling at regional gems such as Eden, Kangaroo Island and Burnie, departing December 14, and a series of 10- to 16-day Australia and New Zealand itineraries visiting destinations including Milford Sound and the Bay of Islands.

Following her inaugural Australian and New Zealand season, Norwegian Jewel will travel to Asia, and then on to Alaska for the Northern Hemisphere summer before making her way back to Australia and New Zealand next year. 

The 2018-2019 home-ported sailings are now on sale and offer a number of new itineraries, taking in destinations such as Cairns, Hobart, Milford Sound and Tauranga, as well as sailings to the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, and a transpacific voyage from Vancouver to Tokyo (Yokohama).

Norwegian Jewel can host up to 2,376 guests. Built 12 years ago and set for an off-season refurb, she has 1,069 professional crew.

For further information visit; or ring 1300 255 200 in New Zealand. 

# The author was a guest of Norwegian Cruise Line and Norwegian Jewel will host the Sunrise breakfast program on Channel Seven when it docks back in Sydney on November 17.