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Tuesday 30 October 2018

Discover the hottest new destination in the Clare Valley

Leading Clare Valley winery Pikes has opened a new state-of-the-art art tasting room and sophisticated new restaurant, to be known as Slate. 

The restaurant and tasting room operate side by side in a dramatic new building 
blends contemporary design with the traditional materials and colours of the historic family-owned estate.

The family chose the name Slate for the new high-end eatery as Pikes Polish Hill River Estate and the entire Polish Hill River Valley sit on an ancient bed of  slate which was laid down more than 500 million years ago in the Neoproterozoic (that's the first time I've ever used that word) era. 

It is a critical element that gives Polish Hill River wines, particularly riesling, unique
characteristics and identity.

Max Stephenson has been named as head chef and joins Pikes from The Source at MONA, in Tasmania, where he was executive sous chef for five years.

The restaurant will offer a contemporary Modern Australian menu that draws influences
from various Mediterranean cuisines and will focus on both locally and ethically grown produce to supplement vegetables from the kitchen garden. 

A dedicated art space within Slate will feature local Mintaro artist Jen McDonald, while diners will enjoy views of the vineyards of the Polish Hill River Estate. 

There is an la fresco dining area for warmer months while the cellar is an intimate 
private dining space and houses museum wines. 

 The new facility connects with the existing Pike Beer Company brewery and includes a new beer garden that will offer a casual lunch option available seven days per week.
Pikes Wines tasting room is now open and trading seven days from 10am-4pm. Pikes Beer Co. Beer Garden will be open seven days from Saturday, 11am-3.30pm and Slate Restaurant is open in a limited capacity Friday-Monday, noon-3pm with bookings essential.

Love Tasmanian wines? Here's a date for the diary

Goaty Hill at Kayena in the Tamar Valley is one of the prettiest cellar door settings in Tasmania and its regular ‘A Day At The Goat’ mini-festivals have become extremely popular. 

Mark November 24 down for the next mix of wine, food, music and fun in the vines with entry by donation and proceeds going to the Empty Stocking appeal. 

The fun will run from 11am-5pm featuring local musicians Cody Gunton, Just Flare and The Embers. 

Regional producers will be on site offering a range of food and coffee - and guests are encourage to bring a picnic rug and outdoor chairs. 

Think Burger Junkie, Casa Paella, Lol Kitchen, Trailer Pork Boys and Lighthouse Dumplings, along with Aromas Coffee.

There will also be the chance to taste new-release wines including the 2018 Pinot Gris and 2018 Rosé. 

No pets, or BYO alcohol allowed. Tell 'em Winsor sent you. 

Goaty Hill is at 530 Auburn Road, Kayena, Tasmania. 1300 819 997. 

Monday 29 October 2018

Ghost tourism proves a frightful success

Ghost tourism is set to boom in Scotland, where tourists are being encouraged to discover green ladies, Jacobite soldiers, a terrifying train and a headless drummer. 

The new Ghost Trail leads visitors on a journey into the unknown with stories about spirits said to haunt various locations across the country, says tourism body VisitScotland. 

From ghostly graveyards to creepy castles, visitors can now source a handy map to get ghost hunting.

St Andrews Cathedral
Scotland is arguably the home of Halloween – or Samhain as it was originally known. The celebration of all things spooky originates from the ancient Celts' celebrations and is based on their 'Feast of Samhain'. The day became known as All Saints' Eve, All Hallows' Eve, or Hallowe'en. 

All Saints' Day, 1 November, is said to be the day when souls walked the Earth.
Scotland’s Ghost Trail features a collection of places believed to be haunted by soldiers, sailors, pipers, dogs and even trains so visitors can enjoy some fright-seeing on their next trip to Scotland.
Malcolm Roughead, the VisitScotland chief executive, said: "Scotland is THE place to be at Halloween with our atmospheric landscape, creepy castles, haunted historic houses, superstitions and bloody history. This time of year brings a huge tourism potential.
“But ghosts are not just for Halloween – spirits are said to haunt these locations year-round so it is important for us to extend these festivities from one night only and capitalise on the public’s fascination with things that go bump in the night.”

Scottish spectres include:
The Green Lady of Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle’s most famous ghostly resident, the Green Lady, is thought to have been a serving girl to none other than Mary Queen of Scots. The story goes that the girl was watching over her mistress one night when a fire caught hold in the Queen’s room. The girl managed to save her Queen but lost her own life to the flames. Her ghost is said to have haunted the castle ever since.

The Ghost Road, Dumfries & Galloway

The A75 through Dumfries & Galloway is reportedly one of Scotland’s most haunted, with sightings of strange creatures from screaming hags to ghostly horse and carriages.

Ubby of Skaill House, Orkney

Built on an ancient Norse burial ground, it’s no wonder Skaill House is described as a supernatural hotbed. The mansion’s most famous ghostly resident is Ubby, believed to have once been the man who built the small island in the nearby loch.

The Ghosts of Culloden, near Inverness

The bloody Battle of Culloden – the final conflict of the Jacobite Risings – was one of the most harrowing battles every fought on British soil. On 16 April 1746, 1,500 Jacobite soldiers were slain in less than an hour. On the anniversary of the battle, some of the Ghosts of Culloden are said to reappear, including a tartan-clad soldier, lying wounded on the ground.
Battlefield of Culloden

The Headless Drummer, Edinburgh

As night settles or dawn draws in, the ghostly sound of drumming has been heard reverberating around the stone fortress of Edinburgh Castle. Legend has it that the sound is made by the Headless Drummer, and if his ghost ever appears in plain sight, it foretells disaster for the castle. 

The Phantom Piper, Dumfries & Galloway

Echoing out of a dark cave, on the jagged coastline at Clanyard Bay near Stranraer, the faint sound of the bagpipes has often reached the ears of nearby sailors. The source is said to be the Phantom Piper, who is said to have invoked the fury of the cave’s resident fairies by entering with his loyal dog and playing his pipes in their domain. After the sound of his pipes had faded away, only his dog came tearing out alive, but without any of its hair.

The Green Lady of Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire

Step inside the Green Lady’s room at Crathes Castle and feel the chill run down your spine. Said to be the ghost of a servant who fell pregnant out of wedlock, the Green Lady has been seen pacing back and forth from the fireplace, sometimes cradling an infant in her arms. A grisly discovery in the 1800s adds a sinister twist – the remains of a woman and child were uncovered beneath the hearthstone of the very same fireplace.

Crathes Castle

The Ghost Dog of Rosslyn, Midlothian

In a tale that spans centuries, Rosslyn’s phantom ghost dog is said to have been a war hound that was slain at the Battle of Roslin in 1303. After the battle, the ghostly apparition of the huge dog was seen by the resident soldiers, and the man who killed the dog’s owner died of terror within days. Nowadays, people sometimes speak of hearing a ghostly howling echoing from the woods that surround Rosslyn Castle’s ruins.

The Grey Train of Dunphail, Highlands

Travelling along the now long-gone Dava Railway line, people have reportedly seen a fearsome ghost train charging along, blazing with light and hovering two feet above the tracks. Spotted in the 1920s and 1960s, there’s little explanation for the apparition, except for one story – 30 years earlier a train filled with cattle caught fire at Dava Station, killing the animals on board.

The White Lady of St Andrews Cathedral, Fife

Dating from 1160, St Andrews Cathedral has more than a few stories to tell. One ghostly apparition is the White Lady who glides along the cathedral walls before vanishing into a tower. This tower has its own curious history, the story goes that in the 1800s stonemasons were repairing the cathedral and discovered a sealed chamber in the tower. Inside were several coffins, including one containing the body of a young woman wearing white gloves.

Lifeline for Barrier Reef deserted island

There are plans underway to bring Barrier Reef ghost island Dunk Island back to life.

Following a direct hit by Tropical Cyclone Yasi back in 2011, Dunk Island was abandoned and left to disintegrate by its former owners.

Now, Hotel Management Australia reports, purchase contracts have been signed by an Australian property developer to restore the ruined resort as a premier destination along the Great Barrier Reef coastline via a new technology-driven eco-resort.

Property Bay Pty Ltd, headed by co-founder Tim Sommers, has unveiled its Dunk Island Revitalisation Plan. Its centrepiece will be a ‘carbon positive’, five-star, low-rise 160-room resort with multiple restaurants, swimming pools, a day spa and many other amenities including a championship golf course and conference centre.

In addition, the island’s real estate offering will include luxury villas, up to 500 beachfront eco-suites and apartments featuring solar panels and water tanks. The existing airstrip will be extended to cater to direct flights from Cairns and Townsville as well as Brisbane and Sydney.

The island will also feature a 730-hectare environmental protection precinct – of which three-quarters will be protected in perpetuity.

Beginning with a $155 million) capital raising – partly funded through crypto-currencies – the island’s new developers are aiming to clear the island and begin construction in the first quarter of 2019.

According to the developers, Dunk Island will be highly technologically driven and eco-friendly upon its reopening, operating on its own green-themed economy. Plans call for a zero-emission property with integrated water-sensitive management plan where rooftop water can be harvested as well as drawn from constructed wetlands and grassed swales, with buffers to protect nearby marine zones.

Among the technology available will be self-driving buggies to transport guests around. Artificial intelligence will also feature heavily via a number of fully automated and self-service systems.

A Blockchain-managed “utility token model” will operate as the island’s economy, with guests exchanging tokens for goods and services. Good “green” behaviour such as recycling, turning off lights and reusing linens will see guests rewarded for their positive energy footprint.

“Dunk Island, and surrounding palm-fringed Mission Beach is an incredibly idyllic area, where rainforest meets reef – with this project we intend to bring significant tourism, and in turn jobs, to the local community,” Sommers said.

Dunk Island is located around 4km off the Queensland coast near Mission Beach and is two hours’ drive south of Cairns.

Sunday 28 October 2018

V for value food in Victoria

Sometimes you really don't want a three-course meal with a bottle of wine. A sandwich can be good; or a quick snack. 

Twice over the past three days in Victoria I have come across fun meals that cost under $20 a person - which is ridiculous value nowadays. 

First let me introduce you to the Golden Flake - an old-fashioned fish and chippery at St Leonards on the Bellarine Peninsula.

There is a wide choice of fish from flake to flathead, served the old-style way in grease-proof paper. We opted for King George whiting x 2, a serve of chips, a couple of battered scallops and two soft drinks. 

We took our booty to the beach, 100 metres away, and took in the views across the bay to Melbourne as we dined in style. 

Not the most calorie-conscience meal, but downright delicious with super crisp batter and moist, flavoursome butterflied fish fillets. The chips were perfectly golden. 

A throwback in time, for sure, but one well worth sampling. Our bill for two was $40. 

Tonight, I had a two-course feast that proved even cheaper. And in trendy South Yarra, to boot. 

I sat down at Bamboo City for a solo meal of pan-fried prawn and chicken dumplings (six for $7.50 including a superbly spicy Sichuan dipping sauce), a bowl of barbecued pork on dried noodles for $10.50 and a green tea for $2.50. 

The dumplings were maybe a tad chewy but oh so yummy, while the pork was moist and tender and came with some crisp broccoli.

In researching Bamboo City online, I came across a 20% discount voucher (valid until the end of the month) so my feast cost me just $15.50 - a ridiculous bargain.

Not surprisingly, they were doing a roaring trade on takeaways for Menulog and Uber Eats. 
Golden Flake1387 Murradoc Rd, St Leonards VIC 3223. 

Bamboo City,  49 Toorak Rd, South Yarra VIC 3141. 

# For a change, the author paid for all his own meals 


Saturday 27 October 2018

Lovers of crime movies have a new US destination

Fascinated by crime? Add the Mob Museum, The National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, to your destinations when heading for Los Vegas. 

The Mob Museum (it seems to shy away from using the word Mafia) boasts that is offers an interactive journey through fascinating true stories—from the birth of the Mob to today’s headlines. 

The Mob Museum contains hundreds of artefacts and immersive story lines. 

After a major refurb earlier this year, the Mob Museum highlights include a Crime Lab, Use of Force Training Experience, and Organized Crime Today exhibit as well as The Underground, a basement-level Prohibition history exhibition featuring a speakeasy and distillery. 

Since opening in 2012, The Mob Museum has accumulated numerous accolades, including being named one of TripAdvisor’s Top 25 US Museums. 

Daily tours of the underground distillery are held daily at 5pm and as well as including sampling a variety of distilled spirits, participants receive an in-depth explanation of the distillery equipment and distillation process and learn about Prohibition and its impact on distilled spirits. 

In The Underground exhibition space guests learn about Prohibition-era bootlegging and rum running. Prohibition shut down thousands of breweries and distilleries across America, but it could not eliminate the public’s desire for alcohol. It simply forced the brewing and distilling of booze into the shadows, which contributed significantly to the rise and proliferation of the Mob in America.

Friday 26 October 2018

Global award for Australian fizzicist

House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr
House of Arras winemaker Ed Carr was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championships in London for his contribution to the development and success of the sparkling wine industry.

Carr was the only non-Champenois winemaker to receive the award; an important recognition of the quality of wines from the House of Arras, which sources all its fruit from Tasmania.

Carr said it was a great honour to receive the award among his peers at the ceremony.

“Getting up on stage to accept this particular award is extremely special because to me, it represents the pinnacle of recognition for our wine quality that we could scarcely envisage back in 1995," Car said. "That's why this is so immensely gratifying and exciting.”

House of Arras was started in 1995 as a project to develop a world-class Australian sparkling wine.

By 1998, it was decided that fruit for these wines would be sourced entirely from Tasmania.

Over the past 23 years, this concept has evolved to a range of traditional method sparkling wines based on the concepts of Tasmanian origin and winemaking that includes extensive maturation on yeast lees.

“As we have progressed on this journey with House of Arras, we became increasingly amazed at the longevity of the wines, and are now at a point where we can fully express this age with our current release labels," Carr said.

“Personally, it is extremely satisfying to craft such premium wines and I look forward to releasing future wines which will further express our ever growing resource and expertise of sparkling winemaking.”

Carr is Australia's most decorated sparkling winemaker with more than 34 years’ experience in the Australian wine industry.

Starting at Accolade Wines in 1994, his unmatched expertise in the Australian sparkling wine scene has resulted in the highest accolades at both domestic and international wine competitions. Since its inception, House of Arras has won 86 trophies and 225 gold medals on the wine show circuit.

He has also been crowned Winemaker of the Year twice; once by Gourmet Traveller Wine magazine and the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology.

The CSWWC is one of the most respected, comprehensive and rigorous international sparkling wine competitions in the world, judged exclusively by renowned fizz experts Tom Stevenson, Essi Avellan MW and Dr Tony Jordan. You'll find my review of the Arras EJ Carr 2004 Late Disgorged here:

Tuesday 23 October 2018

World's longest bridge now in operation

The world’s longest bridge and tunnel sea-crossing, the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge, will officially open to the public on tomorrow.

At 55 kilometres long, the bridge is 20 times longer than San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and is the first major combined road and tunnel sea crossing in the Greater Bay Area.

The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will act as a hub for multi-destination travel within the Greater Bay Area, which includes nine cities in the Guangdong Province and two Special Administrative Regions.

The bridge will also shorten the journey time from Hong Kong International Airport to Zhuhai from four hours to 45 minutes.

Spanning the sea from an artificial island near Hong Kong International Airport to Macao and the mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai, the bridge contains enough steel to build 60 Eiffel Towers and is designed to last 120 years, two decades longer than the lifespan of most major sea-crossing bridges.

HKTB Regional Director - Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Andrew Clark said the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge will reinforce Hong Kong’s position as Asia's gateway and foster further economic and tourism development.

"The Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge will be a fantastic tool to further enhance the destination's tourism offering by putting a wealth of diverse cultural attractions, including the stunning ruins of St. Paul’s in Macao; the Statue of Fisher Girl in Zhuhai; the Kaiping Diaolou; and the Seven Star Crags in Zhaoqing," he said.

When entering Hong Kong, the first port of call is Lantau Island, home of the city’s international airport; Disneyland; and an enthralling and beautiful destination in itself.

Visitors can ride the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to the Big Buddha statue and Po Lin Monastery, before taking a walk along Wisdom Path, a peaceful and spiritual trail featuring carved wooden pillars. For an authentic cultural experience, visitors can also explore nearby Tai O Fishing Village, with its distinctive stilt houses.

The mega-project is set to become an instant landmark for Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area and has already been named by The Guardian as an architectural Seven Wonder of the Modern World.

For more information visit

A cross-border bus service is available to take travellers across the iconic new bridge between Hong Kong, Macao and Zhuhai, for more information speak to a local travel agent. For more information on Hong Kong visit or

Australia's Red Centre gets a nod from Lonely Planet

Global travel authority Lonely Planet has chosen The Red Centre, Australia, as one of the world’s Top 10 Regions for next year in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2019, released this morning.

Best in Travel 2019 is Lonely Planet’s 14th annual agenda-setting collection of the world’s hottest destinations, experiences and trends for the year ahead. 

The travel yearbook highlights the top 10 regions, cities and countries that Lonely Planet’s experts recommend that travellers experience in 2019.

The Red Centre, Australia, is ranked fourth on the book’s list of Top 10 Regions 2019.

“At the spiritual heart of Australia’s Red Centre is the country’s most recognised natural wonder, Uluru,” Lonely Planet says.

“In 2019, this sacred site is finally closing to climbers, almost 150 years after explorers decided to ‘conquer the rock’. 

"Instead, visitors will find that this World Heritage site – recognised for its outstanding natural and cultural values – conquers them.”

“Learn about the unique world view of the traditional custodians of this place,” the book encourages, “and see the stars and the desert with new eyes. Explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta (Ayers Rock and the Olgas), Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) and Alice Springs nearby.”

There are the usual weird and wonderful Lonely Planet choices on the lists; including the industrial Chinese city of Shēnzhèn and Zimbabwe in the top 10 nations list.   

Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Regions for 2019 are:
1. Piedmont, Italy
2. The Catskills, USA
3. Northern Peru
4. The Red Centre, Australia
5. Scotland’s Highlands and Islands
6. Russian Far East
7. Gujarat, India
8. Manitoba, Canada
9. Normandy, France
10. Elqui Valley, Chile

Top 10 Countries 2019
  1. Sri Lanka
  2. Germany
  3. Zimbabwe
  4. Panama
  5. Kyrgyzstan
  6. Jordan
  7. Indonesia
  8. Belarus
  9. São Tomé and Príncipe
  10. Belize

Top 10 Cities 2019
  1. Copenhagen, Denmark
  2. Shēnzhèn, China
  3. Novi Sad, Serbia
  4. Miami, Florida, USA
  5. Kathmandu, Nepal
  6. Mexico City, Mexico
  7. Dakar, Senegal
  8. Seattle, USA
  9. Zadar, Croatia
  10. Meknès, Morocco

Monday 22 October 2018

Enjoy Little Havana in Sydney

Cuba is one of the most fascinating travel destinations on earth - although it is about to be over-run by thousands of US cruise ship passengers. 

Travel junkies looking for a Cuba light experience can head to Bungalow 8 in Sydney to enjoy some tastes of Cuba without leaving home. 

Bungalow 8 is being transformed in to a tropical Cuban paradise until December 29 with bookable cabanas, Bacardi mojitos on tap, bottomless packages and a line-up of Cuban entertainment including La Fiesta Thursdays.

Little Havana's official opening party is later this week, so pop along for plantain chips, grilled chorizo, fried garbanzo beans or empanadas (not all strictly Cuban, it must be said). 

Book a cabana and enjoy bottomless mojitos and a Cuban feast menu for $69 per person for two hours. 

You can sample the menu for free during La Fiesta Thursdays while enjoying live music. 

Bungalow 8 is the social hub of King St Wharf with absolute water views.

Sunday 21 October 2018

Peanut butter with a difference

I love peanut butter. On toast, in a sandwich or as the major component of a satay sauce.

So when Bega announced a new style of peanut butter my ears pricked up.

Apparently, the new Bega Dark Roast Peanut Butter is different because the nuts are roasted at a higher temperature, giving a darker, richer flavour.

Available in both crunchy and smooth varieties, the new product is making its way into major supermarkets right now.

The blurb says Bega Dark Roast Peanut Butter "uses Hi Oleic Peanuts as they have a higher monounsaturated fat content than ‘regular’ peanuts". That means good fats allow the peanuts to stay fresher for longer and gives them extra crunch.

The bad news, for me anyway, is that each serve offers over half of the healthy daily nut target (30 grams). I'm over target already after three slices of toast for breakfast.

"We are thrilled to launch Bega Dark Roast Peanut Butter and we’re confident that it will satisfy consumers’ palates," says Barry Irvin in the press release. Although it is not explained who Barry is some Googling discovered he is the Bega executive chairman. I'm sure he's a good bloke, too.

"Although we’re offering a delicious and robust new variant, Australians can still enjoy the original, never-oily, never-dry Bega Peanut Butter they have been for decades,” he adds.

I actually preferred the high-intensity new version, which retails for $5.70.

Saturday 20 October 2018

New luxury ocean-view eatery to open in Phuket

The Nai Harn is one of the chicest beachfront addresses in Phuket, tucked away in the south of the Thai island, away from the maddening crowds.

Now the Nai Harn is set to open a new luxury rooftop dining experience overlooking the ocean.

The new eatery, to open next month, will be known as Prime @ Rock Salt and will serve only 20 diners per sitting. It is designed a venue for guests and visitors to celebrate special occasions.

The Nai Harn, Phuket’s only member of Leading Hotels of the World, is a gastronomic destination in its own right and Prime will be located on the roof of the already popular Rock Salt eatery.

Highlights will include sunset dinners and private events for small groups, utilising a wood-fired oven and high-end barbecue grill.

“Prime @ Rock Salt is a new dining destination for Phuket and you could not ask for a better setting," says hotel GM Frank Grassmann.

“Combining the stunning setting with an exceptional menu, Prime is set to become the ultimate setting for unforgettable evenings, including romantic dinners and exclusive events."

Highlights will include the Nai Harn's home-made smoked chorizo sausage fired in a furnace, succulent KlongPhai/chicken,and yoghurt-marinated Bultarra lamb.

For an intimate feast, couples can share a 270-day Black Onyx Angus côte de boeuf, cooked over flames and oak chips, or indulge in barbecued-glazed short ribs, slow-cooked for 48 hours then finished in the wood-fired oven.

An extensive selection of fine wines – hand-picked by wine critic James Suckling – is available.

Prime joins beachfront Rock Salt restaurant; Cosmo Restaurant and Bar and Hansha sushi and sahsimi bar as Nai Harn dining options.

I stayed here last year - and it is an outstanding resort in all aspects.

For details see


Friday 19 October 2018

Matching your own wine against the best in the world

You take a whole lot of risk when you match your wine against some of the finest in the world in a blind tasting in front of wine lovers, winemakers and the media.

There is always the chance that your wine could be completely overshadowed; with your guests much preferring its rivals.

It is a risk that the team from Stoniers Wines on the Mornington Peninsula have been taking for several years with their annual SIPNOT tasting (not be confused with greasy shock-rock band Slipknot).

SIPNOT, the Stonier International Pinot Noir Tasting has been held in Sydney, London and Hong Kong over the past two decades and was this week back in its spiritual home of Melbourne.

A large audience tasted 12 pinot noirs blind and a panel of experts, including Stonier chief winemaker Mike Symons and James Halliday, led the discussion along with Burgundy aficionado Philip Rich who potificated with erudition before asking for comments from the assembled tasters.

We sniffed and swirled and sipped wines from France, the US, New Zealand and Australia (the Mornington Peninsula, Gippsland and the Macedon Ranges but none, surprisingly, from the Yarra or Tasmania) and tried to make sense of what we enjoyed and what was what.

The northern hemisphere bottles were from 2015, the southern hemisphere wines from 2016.

What we found was a considerable blurring - ever more evident - of the lines; the bigger wines at these tastings used to be from Central Otago, the more ethereal offerings from Burgundy. Winemaking, it seemed, on this night anyway, is trumping terroir.

The wines ranged in price from $700 for an Olivier Bernstein Clos de la Roche Morey-Saint -Denis Grand Cru, and $450 for an on-trend and ripe Sylvain Cathiard Aux Thorey Nuits-Saint-Georges Premier Cru, to $55 for the Stonier 2016 Merron's Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula and just $40 for the Charteris Pinot Noir from Central Otago.

Seldom has the value offered by Australia and New Zealand producers been so starkly illustrated.

My favourite trio (my taste generally being towards paler pinots) were the elegant J. Christoper Sandra Adele Pinot Noir ($100) from Oregon; the outstandingly aromatic and soft Stonier wine and the balanced but juicy Bergstrom Silice Pinot Noir ($125) from Oregon.

Never before in my life have I favoured US wines in a blind tasting; and my choices were far from representing the mainstream. I found the Garagiste 2016 Terre de Feu (another Mornington offering), the second-best-value behind the Stonier.

Symons said the wines were chosen to provide "an interesting mix of pinot styles from around the globe". They did their job admirably, sparking interest and conversation in equal measure.

Bravo Stonier Wines; it's well worth checking out a bottle of their Merron's Vineyard, which looker even better the following day when tasted a couple of degrees cooler.

# The writer was a guest of Stonier Wines

Thursday 18 October 2018

A little taste of Tasmania - in Melbourne

There’s a little taste of Tasmania to be found in a small side street in the Melbourne suburb of Hampton.

Homesick Tasmanians, or Melbourne gourmets, can stock up their pantry with eatherwood honey and scallop pies at the Tasmanian Grocer in the Bayside suburb.


Customers come in search of Tasmanian staples: cheeses, chutneys, raspberry jam, and cool-climate wines. They also demand quail eggs, salmon sausages, and abalone.

“I like to think of it as a sort of embassy for Tasmania,” owner Samuel Caccavo explains.

“Everything here is beautifully sourced from Tasmania. All the amazing spirits, all the amazing honey. It’s the taste of Tasmania, absolutely beautiful, and quintessentially Tasmanian.”

Now in its fifth year, the Tasmanian Grocer is also a family business.

It’s part of the extensive business dealings of an entrepreneurial Tasmanian clan, whose interests include construction, seafood, and artisan spirits.

With the Tasmanian Grocer, the Caccavo family has come full circle – back to where it all began.

Samuel’s grandfather, Ralph, at the tender age of 21, opened a small deli in Liverpool street, Hobart, before expanding his business to a fleet of trucks ferrying dried foods to restaurants across the city.

By the early 80s, Ralph had added supermarkets – his two well-known ‘Ralph's Super 7’ stores – to the business. Then, 20 years ago the family took a leap into the seafood industry, focusing on abalone exports to China.

While the Tasmanian Grocer is just a small part of the family’s business dealings, it provides a valuable outlet for their own products, which are sold alongside those of other boutique producers.

Brand Tasmania reports the shelves are stocked with hand-crafted spirits from the family’s Devil's Distillery, which was set up in 2015.

There is also the family’s olive oil on the shelves - sourced from an olive grove at Campania.

The Tasmanian Grocer is at 2 Willis Lane, Hampton VIC 3188. (03) 9521 8435.

Feel free to spray paint this hotel room

Spray painting on a hotel room wall would normally get you locked up.

Now, in an Australian first, Art Series Hotels is challenging its guests to grab a spray can, mask up and leave their mark on the walls of three of its properties.

From October 15 to December 30, a white-washed room at The Blackman and The Olsen hotels in Melbourne and The Johnson in Brisbane will be transformed into a collective canvas as part of a participatory art project.

The Colour Your Stay project will rely on guests to help create an ever-changing mural and become part of a shared experience.


The collaborative art project follows the award-winning No Robe campaign, which asked Art Series guests to strip nude and strike a pose, and the mischievous Steal Banksy that encouraged art theft.

A pioneer of the Australian street art and stencil movement, Luke Cornish (aka ELK) will lead the project for Art Series. In a nod to each of the hotels namesake artist, he will create a different artwork at each hotel; portraits of John Olsen, Charles Blackman and Michael Johnson, that guests are called on to complete.

On check-in hotel staff will share instructions and guests can register to participate. A mixture of spray cans and paint brushes, a gown, mask and gloves will be available for guests to use in the room, with each person given two minutes to unleash the artist within.

Challenging the "look but don’t touch" restriction of conventional gallery culture, the stark white interior will be transformed as hundreds of collaborators leave their mark.

Cornish says of his involvement in the campaign: "I’m thrilled to be working with Art Series Hotels on Colour Your Stay. Their dedication to supporting urban art and all of its wonderful satellite genres is a passion I share and I’m really excited to see what we create together with guests."

Director of Marketing Ryan Tuckerman says: “Supporting the arts and delivering unique art inspired experiences for our guests that are personal and bold sits at the core of the Art Series Hotels brand.

Luke Cornish was the first ever stencil artist to be named a finalist in both the Archibald Portrait Prize and Sulman Prize. He uses up to 85 layers of carefully hand-cut acetate in each work. He then sprays layer upon layer of aerosol paint until his images bear a striking photographic resemblance in a new form of hyper-realism.

Cornish uses the tools of a street artist to create his works.

Guests who share a photo on Instagram with the tag #colouryourstay will go in the draw to win a night on Art Series plus a signed ELK drawing.

To find out more visit or call 1800 278 468. Colour Your Stay packages start from $189 per night.

Wednesday 17 October 2018

One-stop tasting spot in Margaret River

Craft Beers? Tick. Wines? Tick. Spirits? Tick.

The home of Black Brewing in Wilyabrup, Margaret River, has a new name in Caves Road Collective and is a one-stop tasting shop.

The facility is home to Black Brewing Co, Dune Distilling and Ground to Cloud Wines and aims to quench thirst, hunger and the search for an authentic Margaret River experience.

While Black Brewing Co beer will continue to be brewed on site by the same team under the same brand name, the change of the overall site name to Caves Road Collective represents the broader appeal of the destination. 

West Australian owners Stewart Sampson, Kristin Kestell, Rob Johnston and James Paterson took over what was Duckstein Brewery in late 2015 and have steadily grown the product offering. 

“We're a passionate bunch of locals, driven to deliver uncompromising quality, and believe the new venue brand better reflects this,” said managing director Sampson. 

“Since taking over the amazing location on Caves Road we've steadily improved the venue and product offering with the intention of creating incredible memories.”

Visitors can drop in for a beer or wine tasting, a lunch by the fire or on the deck in summer, enjoy late-afternoon bar snacks, a sampling of gin from Dune Distilling, a few Black Brewing Co beers with mates in the beer garden, a game of pool, or a four-pack takeaway!

The Caves Road Collective experience now includes:

Caves Road Collective restaurant: the restaurant is headed by Chef Hayden Vink and features local seasonal ingredients. 

Black Brewing Co.: Brewers Shannon Grigg and Adam Brookes have a range that includes lager, IPA, Bao Bao Milk Stout and Fresh Ale. 

Dune Distilling: The first offering is a gin. More to follow with 
two new stills on the way from the Netherlands. 

Ground to Cloud Wines: A range of wines including chardonnay, a semillon sauvignon blanc blend, cabernet sauvignon/merlot, syrah, and rosé. They have not got their act together and their website is not operational. 

Star Japanese chef signed for new culinary festival

The Curated Plate, a new four-day food festival is set to make its debut on the Sunshine Coast on August 8-11, 2019.

Aimed to be a celebration of the relationship between the chef and producer, the festival will bring together the region's finest produce with leading Australian and international chefs.

Local experiences - from food trails to farm tours - will feature in the program.

Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa

Chef Zaiyu Hasegawa (above) from the two Michelin-star restaurant, Den, in Tokyo, will join the festival in a collaboration with Sunshine Coast chef, Daniel Jarrett of The Tamarind.

Den was this year named the Best Restaurant in Japan and 17th in the world. 

Rising star Hasegawa is known for "Japanese cuisine with quality and creativity" (below).

The full festival program of events and talent line-up will be revealed in March, 2019.

"The Sunshine Coast has long been a home to some of Australia's greatest produce and some amazing restaurants," Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said.

"This new event will be a fantastic way to showcase our region and profile our local award-winning food producers and restaurateurs.

"We look forward to welcoming guests to our beautiful part of the world and invite them to discover what makes us such a great destination for fantastic food.”

Simon Latchford, CEO of Visit Sunshine Coast, said: “The Sunshine Coast is one of Australia's premier regions for quality produce - it has more than 740 restaurants, 400 food tourism experiences, six dining precincts, 13 craft breweries, some of the best farmers markets in the country and provides much of Queensland's fish, seafood, fruit, vegetables and poultry exports.

“While our beaches and year-round attractive climate might be the primary reasons for visitors choosing the Sunshine Coast for their holiday, the fact that we can deliver such high-quality food from paddock to plate is becoming an increasingly significant attraction for discerning travellers.”

“We invest in local events because they deliver a strong economic return for the tourism industry”.

For Curated Plate event details and travel packages, visit

Tuesday 16 October 2018

"Big" new beer project for boutique booze producers

Tasmania’s Moo Brew and Sydney’s Archie Rose Distilling Co. have joined forces to produce a Barrel-Aged Stout. 

The Moo Brew Imperial Stout has been aged in Archie Rose Single Malt Whisky and ex-Bourbon oak barrels, weighing in at an imposing 10.8% alcohol/vol.

“It’s big,” Moo Brew head brewer Dave Macgill said.

Thirty whisky barrels were sent straight from the distillery in Sydney to the brewery in Hobart. This quick turnaround, from draining to refill, ensured a sturdy dose of spirit was bestowed upon the brew.

Made in time for Sydney Beer Week, the Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout is expected to improve with age.

“We encourage people to enjoy this beer now, but those partial to cellaring will be rewarded” Macgill said.

“This stout has a rich, dense palate thanks to the ex-bourbon barrels and Archie Rose whisky, high residual sugar and specialty roasted malts.”  

“We love the opportunity to collaborate with brands that think like Moo Brew,” said Archie Rose Master Distiller Dave Withers.

“Innovation and experimentation is a huge part of what we do at Archie Rose, which is why we were thrilled to work on this project.” 

The Moo Brew x Archie Rose Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout will be launched at the Archie Rose Distillery on Wednesday, October 31, during Sydney Beer Week.

is will be available for public purchase from the Moo Brew/Moorilla cellar door from November 1. 

Sunday 14 October 2018

Paws for thought: Australian state wants you to take your furry friends on holiday

The Australian state of Victoria is launching a campaign to encourage visitors to bring their furry friends with them when they travel. 

Visit Victoria is putting short breaks in the paws of travellers' dogs with what it says is the world’s first tourism campaign optimised for dogs.

The campaign, developed by Clemenger BBDO, highlights how dogs love the quality experiences of regional Victoria as much as much as their pet owners and non-pet owners alike.

It is the first digital tourism campaign designed to stimulate dogs’ sight and sound, featuring content curated by local pet-fluencers. 

An extension of the recently launched Your Happy Space regional Victoria marketing campaign for humans, Your Dog’s Happy Space aims to get tails wagging with a short-break away.

Leading dog behaviourist and pet psychologist Dr Kate Mornement said that trip away together not only saves money on the costs of a kennel but can have positive wellbeing benefits for both human and pet.

“A short break away can have many of the same physical and mental health benefits for a dog as it would their owner,” Dr Mornement said.

“A new environment is not only stimulating and enriching for a dog but quality time together with a weekend away provides an opportunity for physical exercise, further develop social interaction, strengthen the bond and relieve stress.

“Just like humans, a holiday can be a really enjoyable experience for dogs.”

Dogs are widely considered as a barrier to experiencing a weekend away for the 65%t of Victorians who own a pet so the campaign will highlight the diverse range of quality pet-friendly experiences.

Regional Victoria’s natural beauty provides the backdrop to a host of accommodation, cafes, restaurants, pubs, wineries, breweries and activities that welcome fur babies and their owners.

Visit Victoria Chief Executive Officer Peter Bingeman said that Your Dog’s Happy Space will encourage even more locals to explore regional Victoria.

“Instead of putting their pets in an expensive pet hotel or arranging care, we know that the 65% of Victorians that do own a pet would love to travel in Victoria with their extended family," he said.

“Not only does pet friendly travel and accommodation make intrastate experiences more accessible, it’s also a great way to build awareness of the incredibly diverse offerings across the state.”
Visit to research your next "pawfect" short break to regional Victoria.

Friday 12 October 2018

Katnook Estate 2013 Odyssey: a special wine that deserved to be cellared

There are couple of reasons that make the new-release Katnook Estate 2013 Odyssey special. 

The first is that this is the 20th vintage release of the Coonawarra flagship, the second that it was the last Odyssey made to completion by founding winemaker Wayne Stehbens, who sadly died last year. 

The multiple-award-winning cabernet sauvignon is made only in outstanding vintages from specific rows of terra rossa soil. 

The 1991 Odyssey was the inaugural vintage, released in 1996 to commemorate the centenary of the first vintage made at Katnook’s woolshed in 1896. 

The name Odyssey reflected the ongoing journey of Katnook with its roots in the past and sights on the future. The aim was to make a timeless Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, one that would stand alongside the world’s best.

The 2013, from a warm vintage, is a wine that offers intense fruit married to powerful French and American oak. It is all about richness and concentration and, ideally, it needs several years in the cellar. 

Stehbens made Katnook's first vintage and headed the winemaking team until his sudden death, making him one of Australia’s longest-serving winemakers. He was just 63 but had been Katnook winemaker for 37 years.
The $110 price tag underlines that this wine is something special; one 1 of just 53 wines listed in the 'Outstanding' category of the Langton's Classification of Australian Wine. 

For details visit