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Thursday 31 January 2019

Angove family snaps up top McLaren Vale vineyard

The Angove Family has expanded its vineyard holdings in McLaren Vale with the acquisition of the Angel Gully Vineyard in the sub-region of Clarendon.

Previously owned by Primo Estate, the 12.7-hectare vineyard sits high above the small town of Clarendon. With an elevation of over 280 metres above sea level, it is mostly dry grown, planted predominately to shiraz and has what Angoves describe as "a history of producing wines of finesse and elegance".

With vineyards in McLaren Vale tightly held, the purchase is something of a coup for Angoves. 

"The vineyard is truly unique and simply stunning," says Victoria Angove. "It has good mature shiraz vines that are just coming in to their prime at 20 years of age. The cool sub-region of Clarendon has always produced fine wines that stylistically we love and we are looking forward to making wine from this beautiful site.

‘We have a long-term plan in place for our McLaren Vale grape growing and wine-making and the Angel Gully vineyard will contribute to driving the next phase of our fine wine-making.’

The vineyard will be re-named Angels Rise.

After 30 years: the day the music dies

Australia’s most famous chamber music event will close in November 2019 after 30 stellar years of music, wine, food and friendship.

Tickets to the 30th and final Huntington Estate Music Festival go on pre-sale in mid-February, with remaining tickets available to the general public on March 1.

Family-owned and -operated Huntington Estate winery will celebrate 50 years of operation in 2019.

Owners Tim and Nicky Stevens said they have reluctantly decided to end the festival in its prime in order to focus on the core business of growing grapes and making wine. 

“It’s been a privilege to partner with Carl Vine and Musica Viva Australia to host the Huntington Estate Music Festival in Mudgee for the past 13 years,” says Nicky Stevens, festival CEO and general manager of the winery.

Bob and Wendy Roberts established Huntington Estate in 1969 and, with Richard Tognetti and the Australian Chamber Orchestra, established the festival in 1989; the first of its kind in Australia.

Since 2006, the Stevens family has presented the festival, with Carl Vine AO as artistic director, and Musica Viva providing the artistic content. Fine music, wine, local produce and a beautiful countryside location have proved a winning combination for audiences, musicians and critics alike.

Discussing the reasons for the change Tim Stevens said: “An event of this stature and duration requires weeks of intensive preparation. Our barrel hall is transformed into a concert hall, the packing shed into an art gallery and the grounds into a restaurant and bar.

"Presenting 10 concerts across eight days is exhilarating but exhausting for all concerned. Running a small business is already more than a full-time job, and we have taken the decision that the grapes, the wine, our young children and staff must come first.”

Beyond 2019, Huntington Estate will continue its long association with chamber music as an active wine sponsor of Musica Viva, Opera Australia Foundation and the Omega Ensemble, and by supporting music development in the community of Mudgee.
Huntington Estate Music Festival will run on November 16-17 and November 20-24.
Go to or call (02) 6373 3825. 

Wednesday 30 January 2019

Excuse me: Have you misplaced your plane?

It would seem rather careless to lose an entire commercial aircraft, but a McDonnell Douglas MD-87, has been sitting idle at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport for almost a decade. 

Airports officials want the owner to come forward and claim their aircraft - and pay back taxes - but no one seems certain who that owner is. 

CNN reported that airport director Elena Mayoral recently submitted a notice to Spain's official state bulletin noting the plane's "obvious state of abandonment".

Authorities looking to get rid of the craft must first navigate a bureaucratic maze - as the last owner of the plane apparently went bankrupt. It is not clear, however, why liquidators failed to take possession. 

The current market rate for an MD-87 is reported to be close to $US5 million - but this plane has been left to rot. 

Picture: El Pais
The aircraft used to belong to Saicus Air, an airline that ceased operations in 2010. 

The Saicus logo is still on the aircraft's side, though the plane operated for several different airlines throughout the course of its existence, including Iberia and Pronair, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported. 

Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, commonly known as Madrid–Barajas Airport, is the main international airport serving Madrid. At 3,050 hectares it is the largest airport in Europe by physical size, along with Paris–Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Tuesday 29 January 2019

Take the new Hello Kitty airport train

Japanese people are obsessed with the Hello Kitty theme.

On a trip to Japan in December, I was asked in all seriousness by Japan Railways West marketers, if a Hello Kitty airport train would appeal to Australian businessmen.

I had to advise that I thought not. Cue much shaking of surprised heads. My admission that it would appeal to younger travellers only slightly eased the awkwardness.

Now, months after Japan's first Hello Kitty Shinkansen bullet train ran for a limited time, a new Sanrio-themed train begins service this week.

The Haruka Shinkansen train runs to and from Japan's Kansai International Airport, outside Osaka, and the city of Kyoto, which is the former imperial capital of the country.

The train's exterior features Hello Kitty dressed in traditional Japan attire and colourful flower designs.

The Hello Kitty theme is limited to just one of the Haruka Direct Express Trains, which will be driven on a different schedule each day (and not every day). 

The trip will take about 80 minutes in total and will stop at Tennoji and Shin Osaka along the way.

Be careful on the water: another Phuket tourism boat incident

I am a huge fan of Phuket as a tourist destination, but after taking a speedboat trip from Krabi to Phuket last year I would have to think again about repeating that exercise. 

Another tragedy was narrowly avoided this week after over 40 tourists were rescued from a stricken speedboat which eventually capsized.

Phuket tour speedboat Aphitada 1 took on water and then capsized off Koh Dok Mai (below: pic The Phuket News).

The tourists and five crew members on board were rescued by passing boats after the captain called for assistance.

The boat was on a tour around Maithon Island and Phi Phi Island. It 
had departed Chalong Pier with 45 people on board. 

Tourists were later put on another boat to continue their trip to Phi Phi. The cause of the capsizing is being investigated and is not thought to be weather-related.

Phuket is still struggling to rebound following a boat accident which claimed the lives of dozens of Chinese tourists last year.

It prompted the cancellations of thousands of bookings from China and island-wide inspections of all marine tour operators. More may be needed. 

Monday 28 January 2019

You could be hit by a flying fatty. Why everyone needs travel insurance

I'm always stunned by the number of travellers who say they don't need travel insurance. 

No matter how careful you are, no matter how safely you drive, or how good you are at being aware, some accidents are just that "accidents'. And they can be costly. 

Just ask British woman Jemma Joslyn, who is suing tour company Thomas Cook, claiming she was "almost crushed to death" when an obese woman landed on her on a hotel water slide.

Joslyn is taking action against the operator claiming there were no safety precautions in place at the hotel to monitor who was coming down the slide.

The mother-of-two, who apparently was not insured, has also accused Thomas Cook of providing "appalling" aftercare.

Joslyn was on the first day of her holiday at the Liberty Hotels Lykia in Olu Deniz, Turkey, when the incident happened.

She said she had just come down the slide when a woman crashed into her, feet first, and was travelling "around 30 miles per hour".

She was rushed to a local hospital with internal bleeding, liver and kidney damage, fluid on the right lung and five cracked ribs. No laughing matter. 

She said she had to spend £5,000 ($10,000) on "lifesaving surgery", which a friend helped pay for. 

It is not clear, however, why she is suing Thomas Cook and not the flying fatty who hit her. 

Thomas Cook issued a media statement saying: "Both our UK-based welfare team and our in-resort team have been in touch with Ms Joslyn on several occasions following this accident. We also arranged for her parents to fly to Turkey to be with their daughter."

A spokeswoman said a duty office arranged flights for the parents free of charge, plus transfers and for them to stay at the hotel where the children were staying.

She said she could not comment further as the case is with a legal team.

Sunday 27 January 2019

Do you expect a full refund if your flight hits turbulence?

Air New Zealand went above and beyond by giving full refunds to all passengers on a domestic flight that hit severe turbulence earlier this week. 

Granted, the turbulence was more than you would normally expect - one passenger said the flight resembled a vomitorium. 

Emergency services were on hand to help travellers when Air NZ flight NZ5715 touched down after flying from Christchurch to Invercargill after the plane was hit by 180kmh crosswinds.

An Air NZ spokesperson told local media all passengers were offered a full refund, and the option of attending a debriefing with the crew.

There would be a lot of airlines going out of business if many follower Air New Zealand's admirable, but in my view unneeded, offer. 

Saturday 26 January 2019

British Airways make a bollocks of their celebration

It was all too predictable.

British Airways has a hard-earned reputation for incompetence and rudeness. (I haven't flown with them for decades since I politely asked for a packet of peanuts and was sternly told: "Just wait!").

Now BA has come under fire from customers who tried - and failed - to buy ultra-cheap seats in a special centenary sale.

The reason: the airline's website failed to cope.

How many times would that have happened with special offers like this?

Angry would-be flyers said they got to the very final stages of booking the £100 long-haul flights only to get an error message.

Many took to social media to air their frustrations, believing the website had crashed.

BA customer services staff responded to a number of complaints, insisting its IT department was prepared for a rush of bookings and was ready to deal with any common faults.

But they admitted to customers: "Not all website faults can be foreseen unfortunately, and it's very disappointing this affected you today.

"I know it's frustrating but the influx of customers trying to get on take advantage, can sometimes result in the site being overloaded."

But any moron in a hurry could have predicted increased demand for such an offer.

The sale, marking the airline's 100th anniversary, offered long-haul flights for £100 each-way as part of a return trip.

The offer ran across four days with 100 seats up for grabs each day.

Customers were invited to visit the site at noon each day to find out the two destinations on offer and book on a first-come, first-served basis.

Customers said they got to the very last stages of booking £100 flights to Rio de Janeiro or Barbados when the website went down.

BA denied the website crashed (right!) but said that due to such high volumes of traffic, a very small number of people couldn't immediately access the page and were asked to refresh.

People wait with their luggage at Heathrow Terminal 5 in London, Britain May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Neil Hall

This is the same airline that stranded 75,000 passengers over a holiday weekend in 2017 due to "computer issues".

In July, 2018, BA cancelled and delayed flights out of Heathrow with "IT issues".

Every traveller's worst nightmare: a stinker in the seat next door

Every time I fly I cross my fingers.

I cross my fingers and pray that I get a seat with enough leg room. That I don't get sat next to someone who spills over the arm rest into my space, and most of all I want to flying gods to save me from a travel companion who stinks.

American Airlines has attracted flack this week for its decision to remove a family from a flight when other passengers complained about their body odour. I'm with the airline on this one. If they stink, or keep farting, kick 'em off.

The Michigan family were seated on a flight from Miami to Detroit on Wednesday when cabin crew asked them to step off the plane, travel websites reported.

The airline said several passengers, along with crew members, had complained about their smell.

It said the family were provided with hotel accommodation and meals, and re-booked on a flight the following day.

Yossi Adler, his wife, Jennie, and their 19-month-old daughter, complained to the media and denied they had body odour, saying they took baths every morning.

The 36-year-old business consultant from Southfield, Michigan, accused the airline of singling out his family because they're Jewish. Which sounds ridiculous considering how many Jewish people fly every day in the US without incident.

American Airlines insisted that body odour, not religion, was the reason for its actions.

A spokesman said: "The Adler family were asked to deplane Wednesday evening after multiple passengers, along with our crew members, complained about Mr. Adler's body odour.

"Our Miami airport team members were concerned about the comfort of our other passengers due to the odour. Our team members took care of the family and provided hotel accommodations and meals, and re-booked them on a flight to Detroit Thursday morning."

Hopefully they had a shower before flying.

Combine wine tastings with visits to a pop-up art trail

Visitors to Margaret River in Western Australia can combine wine tasting with satisfying their artistic curiosity when the Margaret River Region Open Studios returns from April 27 to May 12.

More than 100 painters, sculptors, illustrators, jewellers, print makers, glassblowers, ceramicists, photographers and furniture makers are participating in the sixth annual Open Studios, and 24 artists are throwing open their studio doors for the first time.

From Busselton to Augusta visitors can meet artists in their home towns, often off the beaten track, for a behind-the-scenes art experience.

Margaret River Region Open Studios chairman Jim Davies said the 16-day event ticked many boxes in providing art lovers with a memorable experience.

“This year's artistic line-up includes many old [and young] favourites, plus a number of artists new to the event, so it's perfect for both first time and regular visitors,” he said.

“There really is something for everyone, whether it be learning about creative intentions and techniques, sharing ideas, admiring art, exploring out-of-the-way back roads, or owning a piece of art created by an artist you have had the opportunity to meet.”

Local artists are the stars of the show and talent this year includes respected names such as Leon Pericles, Rachel Coad, Rebecca Cool, Lauren Wilhelm, Ian Mutch, Christian Fletcher, John Streater and John Miller.

The work of some of the artists is available exclusively from their studios.

Glass guru Gerry Reilly will be providing glass-making experiences, glassblowing and showing how to 'blow your own bauble'.

Ian Thwaites will give woodworking demonstrations and Nalda Hoskins will share how she makes glass beads and jewellery.

Margaret River Region Open Studios is free to attend and bookings are not required.

To find out more visit

Thursday 24 January 2019

A hotel brand with a point of difference

Several times a week I receive press releases about new hotels, new hotel brands, or new hotel chains.

Most claim to have a serious point of difference - but rarely live up to the hype.

An exception to that rule is the Hotel Indigo brand, which specialises in highlighting the history and culture of the region in which each of its hotels is based.

The Indigo in Shanghai is a good example.

News today, then, that Indigo Phuket Patong has officially opened its doors and is offering a special opening deal for Aussies.

The package deal includes accommodation and breakfast for two people starting at $160 with a $42.00 credit per day to spend on food and beverage, plus two complimentary cocktails at The Cloud Rooftop Bar and late checkout at 3pm.

Located in North Patong, Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong is minutes from the famous Patong Beach, shops and entertainment hot spots.

Designed by Habita Architects, Indigo Phuket Patong is deliberately designed to appeal to those with a passion for architecture, art, food and music.

"Guests have everything they need to experience Patong’s history and culture on-site as well as off-site within walking distance," said hotel general manager Simon Douthett.

"Whether you’re after a tropical holiday, a romantic getaway or an entertainment filled-stay, the Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong caters for your every need.

“The hotel is a destination in its own right. Patong has a rich history as a fishing village and this purpose-designed hotel represents the arts of fishing and culture with an intricate and brightly painted décor.”

Hotel Indigo Phuket Patong has a 24-hour fitness centre, pool areas, dining experiences and a casual street-front tiki bar with 180 guest rooms designed to mirror Patong’s vibrant tropical forests, fishing village heritage and nightlife.

There are also nine Oasis pool rooms that allow guests to plunge into the pool from their own private terraces.

The hotel also has a Muay Thai boxing ring and professional trainer available, where people of all levels can practice Thailand’s traditional combat sport.

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Pentridge: From prison cells to wine cellars

Cells in D-Division of the notorious former Pentridge Prison are about to be given a new lease of life – as cellars for discerning lovers of fine wine.

Pentridge Cellars, owned by self-confessed wine enthusiasts Paul Tardivel and Michael Woodworth, has a limited number of cellars available for those keen to capture a unique new way to store their favourite drops.

Located within the bluestone walls of the historic prison precinct in Coburg – former residence to such infamous criminals as Squizzy Taylor, Mark ‘Chopper’ Read and Christopher Flannery –the private wine cellars will be equipped with racking, temperature control, ambient lighting and security, including CCTV.

The owners say custom finishes and features can be incorporated into each cellar to create a truly personal space.

“These spaces in D Division were used to hold prisoners right up until the closure of Pentridge Prison in 1997,” says Tardivel.

“Now we’re giving wine connoisseurs the opportunity to own a little piece of history and a wonderful space to house their collection.”

Each cellar is able to house up to 2000 bottles, dependent on the type of racking and storage selected, and it’s anticipated some people will purchase concurrent cellars for commercial collections.

“The cellars are made of about 500mm-thick bluestone walls, which in itself keeps the wine at a cool and stable temperature,” Tardivel says.

“We have added a state-of-the-art climate-control unit to ensure an absolute year-round stable temperature and humidity, which are the key elements required for perfect cellaring conditions.

“The unique history of the building itself aside, you would think that it had been purpose-built for its second life as a wine storage site.”

Cellar owners will have access to their space at all times using a swipe card, and can bring guests to the cellar to showcase their collections.

Pentridge Cellars says it will also offer comfortable common areas for owners and their guests, and plans are underway to offer larger spaces for events.

Prices start at $115,000, with each of the wine cellars sold with its own strata title.

“We see this as a really exciting opportunity for wine collectors to have a safe, climate-controlled and beautiful environment to keep their most valuable bottles.

“And, with development continuing throughout the precinct for the next couple of years, it won’t be long before owners can drop by their cellar for a bottle of wine and take it along to one of Pentridge’s restaurants to have with dinner.”

Pentridge Cellars is located at 4 Wardens Walk, Coburg. For more information, visit

Tuesday 22 January 2019

Fun and games? Get thee to the aquarium

An aquarium may seem an unlikely party venue, but Sea Life Aquarium in Melbourne is bringing back Friday night fun with drinks and live music starting from February 8.

To be held on selected Friday evenings, Sea Life Melbourne’s 18+ soirées allow guests to roam the whole aquarium – from the 2.2 million-litre Oceanarium to the Penguin Playground – at their leisure.

Tickets include a cocktail and canapés on arrival. Lounge bars set up in various locations throughout the aquarium have beer, wine, sparkling, spirits, soft drink and juice available for purchase.

For those interested in expanding their knowledge of marine creatures, Sea Life Melbourne’s expert team of curators are hosting talks about some of the most interesting residents of the aquarium.

A selection of light bites and sweet treats can be purchased, along with more substantial meals such as buttermilk-chicken fillet burgers, Wagyu beef cheeseburgers and tempura cauliflower tacos.

Billed as being "perfect for after-work drinks or a date night", Sea Life Nights is one of Melbourne’s most unique evening experiences. For bookings and further information, visit

Monday 21 January 2019

Police seeking volunteer drunks

A US Police Department was over-run by volunteers keen to get drunk as a skunk. 

The Kutztown Police Department in Pennsylvania, was looking for members of the public willing to drink to excess to help train officers in field sobriety tests.

The roles were filled almost immediately. 

"We have an overwhelming response for this," read a police statement. "And at this point we have enough volunteers."

The department set a few stipulations when it made the original request. Participants for the training exercise had to be in good health, with a clean criminal record and no history of drug or alcohol abuse. 

They had to sign a waiver, and they need a sober companion prepared to take care of them afterward.

And, of course, they had to "be willing to drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation."

Hopefuls both young and old were unhappy with the requirement that participants would have to be within the ages of 25 and 40.

Kutztown (above) is a college town just down the road from Allentown, made famous by Billy Joel. 

The sobriety test training won't take place until April. 

Sunday 20 January 2019

Welcome to Bonvoy; a brand name chosen by committee

Chosing a brand name can be fraught with danger. 

Often, decision by committee ends up with a name that is different but no one can remember. What is a Tiguan, for instance? 

Or the name chosen turns out to be rude in another language. Remember the Mazda Laputa anyone? Or the Iranian detergent Barf. 

Marriott Hotels has just come with a new name for its new loyalty brand, replacing current loyalty brands Marriott Rewards, The Ritz-Carlton Rewards and Starwood Preferred Guest. 
It's a doozy: Bonvoy. Short, no doubt for bon voyage. But clunky and hard to remember. Certainly more difficult to recall than Rewards. The logo, too, is pretty terrible. 

The press release says: "Marriott Bonvoy is built on the belief that travel enriches us all and has the power to enrich the world. 

"Marriott Bonvoy launches on February 13 when the logo and branding begins rolling out across all consumer touch-points, including on property, marketing and sales channels, digital, mobile and co-brand credit cards bolstered by a multi-million-dollar global media campaign starting in late February."

So they are spending millions to switch from Rewards to Bonvoy. So glad I am not a shareholder. Social media response has been largely negative, with one person Tweeting: " I would think this is an April Fool's joke except it isn't April 1."  
“Marriott Bonvoy marks an evolution in travel because it represents more than a loyalty program,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Global Chief Commercial Officer, Marriott International. 
“Marriott Bonvoy is a travel program designed to bring to life our extraordinary portfolio of global brands in 129 countries and territories, while also providing endless inspiration for members to keep traveling and pursuing their passions.”
Linnartz added: “Represented by a simple, bold and modern logo, Marriott Bonvoy is welcoming and optimistic."  Hmm. Not convinced Stephanie. The French say "bon voyage" when people are leaving on a journey, not arriving at a hotel. 
The launch of Marriott Bonvoy will introduce two new names for previous elite status tier names: 
Marriott Bonvoy Titanium Elite (sounds like a nasty hospital treatment) and Marriott Bonvoy Ambassador Elite (definitely another name selected by a particularly inept committee).
So welcome to Bonvoy (which sounds to me like a name a bogan couple would give to their unexpected child). 
PS: Tiguan is a combination of the German words for tiger and iguana. 

Saturday 19 January 2019

A free wine masterclass in the Hunter Valley

Leading Hunter Valley producer Hungerford Hill is offering a free treat to wine lovers over the Australia Day long weekend.

Hungerford Hill chief winemaker and general manager Bryan Currie (below), the man behind the Hungerford Hill, Sweetwater Estate and Dalwood brands, will host a complimentary Aged Wine Masterclass at the cellar door.

The tastings in the Epic tasting room will feature a range of aged Hunter wines, including some exclusive museum stock - and all the wines featured  will be available to purchase on the day.

There will be two tasting sessions on Sunday, January 27 - at 11am and 2pm - and it will be a case of first in, best dressed . 

Bookings are now open on (02) 4990 0715. 

Friday 18 January 2019

Cruise line unveils a new Champagne experience

Oceania Cruises has unveiled an exclusive Dom Perignon Experience in La Reserve, its floating high-end restaurants on board the Marina and Riveira.

This unique dining experience afloat pairs six courses of fine food with four different expressions and vintages of Dom Perignon Champagne.

“This is a totally new concept that is exclusive to Oceania Cruises," said Bob Binder, president and CEO of Oceania Cruises.

"We worked with the team at Dom Perignon to pair the perfect champagnes with the perfect flavors and the outcome is spectacular. Marina and Riviera restaurants will be the only places in the world for travelers to enjoy this exclusive Dom Perignon experience."

Created by the culinary team at La Maison Dom Perignon in conjunction with Oceania Cruises’ culinary team, the dinner is offered to a maximum of 24 guests a night.

“We created this dinner to be sophisticated, memorable, a little bit decadent, but also a lot of fun. After all, champagne is all about celebration,” said Binder.

The menu features Scallops “Rossini”, mole negro and roasted pineapple with Dom Perignon 2009; Brittany blue lobster in yellow curry broth and coco foam, and black truffle risotto with aged parmesan with Dom Perignon 2006; seared Wagyu beef sashimi-style, sautéed arugula, blood orange-soya jus and caviar perlita and a French AOC cheese plate, blackcurrant pepper paste and thyme flower with Dom Perignon Rosé 2004 and Sakura tea “Geisha flower” ice cream and lemon caviar paired with Dom Perignon 2009.

“We’ve gone exceptional lengths to pair the flavors of the dishes and the accompanying vintages to bring out the best in each other, and even surprise the palates of our dinner guests, said Bernhard Klotz, vice-president of culinary operations for Oceania Cruises.

The Dom Perignon Experience is currently available for all Riviera voyages and will be introduced aboard Marina from January 31. Reservations are required, and the cost is $US295 per guest not including gratuities (why not, for heaven's sake?)

Reservations may be made via travel agents, directly with Oceania Cruises, or on board at the Specialty Dining Desk located on Deck Five of both ships.

Yalumba unveils new regional wine range

Yalumba is to unveil a new regional wine range in tribute to company founder Samuel Smith. 

Yalumba will launch Samuel’s Collection; described as "the gateway to Yalumba’s premium wine portfolio" on March 1. 

It is 170 years since Smith planted his first vines in the Barossa, and Yalumba is releasing Samuel’s Collection "in honour of his spirit of independence". 

The collection of fine wine, with an RRP of $28, will celebrate Yalumba’s heartland and its heritage with seven wines showcasing varieties and blends iconic to both the Barossa and Yalumba.

Samuel’s Collection will include Barossa Shiraz, Barossa Shiraz & Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Bush Vine Grenache, Barossa Grenache Shiraz Mataro, Eden Valley Viognier, Eden Valley Chardonnay and Eden Valley Roussanne.

“Samuel’s Collection celebrates the legacy established by Samuel Smith 170 years ago when he planted some of Australia’s first grape vines here in Barossa,” said Yalumba executive director of marketing Nicky Gameau.

“The wines in this collection showcase Yalumba’s Barossa style, a favourite across the world, and are wonderful complements to different foods and occasions.”

Yalumba head of winemaking Louisa Rose said: “Understanding that wine drinkers are seeking more youthful, generous and fresher wines, we have crafted Samuel’s Collection to fit this style, while still showing the hallmarks expressed in the Yalumba wine-making philosophy.”

Samuel’s Collection will be the first wines to feature the new Yalumba Clocktower iconography which will now be present across all brand material.

All Samuel’s Collection wines will be sustainably grown and vegan friendly.

Thursday 17 January 2019

An Australia Day weekend celebration of beers and ciders

The Southern Highlands Beer and Cider Festival offers a great chance to get out of Sydney and enjoy some refreshing beverages on the iconic Bradman Oval in Bowral. 

The inaugural events is being run by the Southern Highlands Food and Wine Association with 50 stalls set to showcase local producers and the Southern Highlands region.

"The festival is a true celebration of Highlands, Australian and New Zealand craft beers and ciders," said association president John Scott. "There will be over a 100 different brews to taste and enjoy in a relaxed family friendly atmosphere."

Festival goers can samples the efforts of grassroots brewers as well as emerging industry icons. 

Event organiser Tanya Taber said: "Event lovers are also invited to bring a chair and unwind while enjoying an array of local food producers and with their new favourite ale as a jam-packed line-up of local artists take the stage both Saturday and Sunday of the Australia Day long weekend."

The Bradman Oval will showcase not only beers and ciders but local spirits, wines, cheeses and  meats with several local cafes and restaurants having food stalls. 

The crowds will also be entertained all weekend by local artists. Gates open at 10am each day on Saturday and Sunday on January 26-27  and close at 6pm. 

Entry for children under 18 years of age is free.

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Take the train to Niagara Falls

Visitors to Canada can now catch a train to Niagara Falls.

A new Go Rail Service launched last week in Ontario runs between Toronto and Niagara Falls.

The week-day train service, added by Metrolinx, will offer one daily train trip from Niagara to Toronto and back each day, costing passengers $19.80, with additional services flagged for the future.

The new train service makes experiencing Canada's most iconic natural phenomenon even easier.

Here are five ways to explore the falls:
MistRider Zipline to the Falls
Experience an adrenalin rush on the new MistRider Zipline to the Falls.Four parallel ziplines travel 670 metres through the river gorge, offering panoramic views of the American and Canadian Horseshoe Falls. 

Journey Behind the Falls
The sound is like thunder, the sight awe-inspiring! Take a journey deep below and behind the heart of Niagara and stand in the mist where the mighty Horseshoe Falls tumbles from 13 storeys above.

Hornblower CatamaranTake a boat cruise to 'soak' up a view of this natural phenomenon. Don your mist poncho, climb up to the observation deck of a Hornblower cat and tour the Great Gorge, American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls, all from down below.
Niagara HelicopterDiscover Niagara and the historical surroundings from an eagle's-eye perspective on a heli-tour. Fly as close as possible to the thundering water on your personal tour.

Skylon TowerIndoor and outdoor observation spaces at the tower allow visitors to take in the scenery from 235 metres above the action. Stay for lunch and marvel at the natural wonders of Niagara Falls and beyond, with views stretching for almost 130km. 

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside: Coogee hotel reimagined

The Sydney beach suburb of Coogee has always tended to be overshadowed by more boisterous Bondi, just down the road.

Now there is a new luxury accommodation option in Coogee with the re-opening of TFE Hotels' Adina Apartment Hotel Coogee after a multi-million-dollar refurbishment.

Just 200 metres from Coogee Beach, the hotel offers 86 newly-renovated studios, one-, and two-bedroom apartments with free wifi, fully equipped kitchens and laundry facilities.

Adina Coogee's lobby and conference rooms have also been transformed, while a modernised gym, pool and hidden courtyard garden area are inspired by the local environment.

Sydney city just 10km away, although public transport from the area is weak. Catch a bus, or call a cab.

“The refresh of one of our most popular Adina Apartment Hotels in New South Wales coupled with its unbeatable location near the beach provides guests with the ideal place to base themselves when visiting Sydney, holding meetings, or even having a staycation,” said TFE Hotels' Chairman Allan Vidor.

For more details see:

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Enjoy a glass or two of wine - and do some good at the same time

Wobbly Boot vineyard in Tasmania's Coal River Valley describes itself as Australia's most dog-friendly cellar door - and hosts a wide range of events to raise money for animal welfare organisations.

Wine and Woofs is Wobbly Boot's quarterly fundraiser for wildlife rescue and animal welfare organisations. It is a day where dog lovers gather to celebrate with wine, food and music - all for a good cause.

There are three fully-fenced off-lead areas: Maeve's Vineyard (named after resident woofer Maeve) is a large area for medium-to-large dogs, The Orchard is for small dogs and Elsa's Vineyard is a quiet zone for older and less active dogs.

The next Wine and Woofs is this Sunday, January 20, from noon to 4pm.

There will be food Manneken Eats, live music with Stacey Loukis and Grant Woodward, and dog art with Penny Ruthberg.

Visiitors are invited to bring a picnic, rug, chair and shade. Barbecue facilities will be available and wine, craft beer, cider and soft drink will be on sale.

Entry is $10 per person with kids and dogs free.

The charity being supported this weekend is Ten Lives Cat Centre. Dogs helping cats! 

Wobbly Boot has so far raised over $35,000 for the Devils in Danger Foundation, Wombat Rescue Tasmania, RSPCA Tasmania, Dogs Homes of Tasmania, Ten Lives Cat Centre, ROAR, Brightside Farm Sanctuary and Pets in the Park.

Monday 14 January 2019

Treasury in; Jacob's Creek out

Treasury Wine Estates (TWE) has been announced as the official wine supplier for the Australian Open 2019 - on the opening day of the tennis tournament.

TWE, taking over from long-time partner Jacob's Creek, will supply a range of premium Australian wines to many of the restaurants and food outlets across Melbourne Park, with a special showcase within the vineyard precinct at Grand Slam Oval.

The tournament offering is led by Victorian winery St Huberts from the Yarra Valley, who will host The Stag tasting room within the Grand Slam Oval. 

There will be tastings each day of the tournament, some of which will be hosted by winemaker Greg Jarratt.

"We are delighted to announce Treasury Wine Estates as the official wine supplier for the
Australian Open,” Tennis Australia’s Chief Revenue Officer Richard Heaselgrave said.

“We look forward to bringing a traditional cellar-door concept to life at the Australian Open and showing off some of TWE’s world-class wines to the world.

“Fans can enjoy amazing Australian wines at the AO, all matched to the many and varied food options across the site and supporting the ongoing work we’ve done over the past three years to bring our expanded food and hospitality vision to life.”

TWE Deputy Chief Marketing Officer Angus Lilley said: “We’re thrilled to share some of Australia’s most loved and renowned wines with visitors to the Australian Open this summer. 

“It’s extremely exciting to showcase wines from across the portfolio including Penfolds, Wynns and Seppelt. Our on-site activation will be led by St Huberts The Stag, a range of wines which embody the very best of Victorian winemaking and continue to see strong growth and popularity in the market.”

The Vault – St Hubert’s The Stag Tasting room will provide a full cellar-door wine tasting experience in the heart of Grand Slam Oval.

TWE will serve a range of wine from across their portfolio - including iconic Penfolds Grange in a number of the Australian Open’s premium restaurants.

Pot smokers happy to also enjoy a drink or two

The legalisation of marijuana in American states has not damaged liquor sales, a new survey shows.

Observers expected that the marijuana legalization trend in the US would impact liquor sales, but that hasn't been the case in the three states where spliffing has been legal the longest.

Overall industry trends remained consistent, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, which did the study. Spirits sales went up in the three states — Colorado, Oregon and Washington state — although wine and beer stayed on their mixed to negative course, CNBC reported.

"At this point, we've seen no impact on spirit sales from legalised recreational marijuana," said Chris Swonger, the DSC's CEO.

The council analyzed per-capita alcohol sales in the three states for the two years prior to marijuana being legalized and up to four years after using state-level alcohol tax receipts and shipment data. Sales of spirits increased in all three states, from 3.6% in Oregon to 7.6% in Colorado.

Wine sales were up in Colorado and Oregon, but down in Washington state. Beer sales, which have been losing market share to spirits and wine over the last decade to begin with, were down in all three states.

"The trends in alcohol have been fairly consistent regardless of whether or not you have legalized recreational marijuana in a state or not," said David Ozgo, the council's chief economist.

The study found that overall sales of spirits, wine and beer were roughly flat. Colorado was up 1.7%, while Washington state and Oregon were down 0.2% and 0.5%, respectively.

Ten US states and Washington, DC, have legalized recreational marijuana. Several more are considering legalisation in 2019.

Saturday 12 January 2019

Cruise nightmare as tummy bug strikes

It is every cruise passengers' worse nightmare; massive a ship full of sick people, a journey cut short. 

Royal Caribbean Cruises has this weekend cut short a sailing of the giant Oasis of the Seas to the Caribbean after almost 300 people complained of suffering from gastrointestinal symptoms.

The ship returned to its Florida base after the number of passengers suffering from the sickness bug rose to 277.

Royal Caribbean spokesman Owen Torres said: "We think the right thing to do is get everyone home early rather than have guests worry about their health."

Although no consolation to those currently suffering, the number of cases of shipboard gastrointestinal outbreaks is on the decline, and was significantly down in 2018 compared to the previous year.

Last year just 547 cases were recorded on 10 cruises by the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program.

An outbreak is classified when at least 3% of passengers and crew fall ill. It is unclear what caused the outbreak on the Royal Caribbean liner.

The Oasis of the Seas carries up to 5,400 passengers and over 2,000 crew.    

Friday 11 January 2019

Getting up close and personal with baby turtles

Heron Island, off the coast of Queensland, is one of the best places on earth to observe Baby Green and Loggerhead Turtle hatching season. 

From January until May, and undeterred by human presence, the hatchlings emerge from their sandy nests between 25 to 50 metres from shore and make their way to the reef, just beyond the water’s edge.

Positioned on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is a protected habitat and national marine park for the turtles that return each year from October to December to nest on the island sands, upon which they themselves hatched up to 30 years earlier.

Heron Island General Manager Tony Barradale says: “During turtle-hatching season the babies' journey to the sea is an imprint on the environment to them so they know to return to these sands as mature adults, it’s therefore very important that they’re permitted to make their own journey to the water without assistance or hindrance.”

Located on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef, Heron Island is 72km off the coast from Gladstone. 

Naturalist guides on Heron Island lead educational tours for observing the hatchlings each evening, the best time to view the turtles hatching. The optimal time to view turtles is two hours each side of the high tide.

Bed and breakfast turtle-hatching packages to Heron Island start from $347 per night, based on double occupancy, including daily buffet breakfast, a turtle gift, turtle talk and snorkelling trip for two. 

A variety of accommodations options are available including tropical garden and reef view rooms, beachside suites and a beach house. For bookings and enquiries call 1800 875 434 or visit

Thursday 10 January 2019

Resort offers optional puppy cuddling activities

Think of the perfect spa package; then include cuddling a puppy as an optional extra.

Sunrise Springs in Santa Fe in the US, is one of the first health resorts to offer interactions with puppies as part of a package.

The Santa Fe destination spa’s snuggling services aren’t just about making humans happy, but about helping the puppies learn, too.

Sunrise Springs has partnered with Assistance Dogs of the West (ADW) - a non-profit organization dedicated to training service dogs for those in need - to create the on-site Puppy Enrichment Centre, currently home to eight puppies training to be service dogs, USA Today reports.

Puppies training to be service dogs require lots of socialisation, so they are prepared to calmly handle any situation when they are older. This is where Sunrise Springs steps in. The spa resort uses its puppy play and cuddling packages as a way to help both humans and dogs.

ADW executive director Linda Milanasi says humans get a chance to lower their blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels, while increasing oxytocin levels by interacting with the puppies through spa programs like Upbeat Canine Play and Puppy Preschool. And the service dog students get the opportunity to socialise and learn basic commands from a variety of friendly faces.

Sunrise Springs’ puppy activities are among the resort’s most popular features.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to have the puppies here and to support such an important program,” general manager of Sunrise Springs Mara Bouvier told USA Today

“Our guests rave about their experience, no matter what age the puppies are. To see them from newborns to six-months-old, in all stages of development and learning, is often the highlight of their stay.”

The puppies are pampered, as well. All of the little dogs’ activities are supervised by trained ADW professionals, and when the canines aren’t learning from guests, the puppies can often be found eating, playing on the resort’s property or resting in their luxurious accommodations.

For those who prefer feathers over fur, Sunrise Springs also offers interactions with pet Silkie chickens. 

Now an airline wants you to tip its flight attendants

In the United States, just about everyone has their hand out for a tip. 

Your waiter/waitress (justified because they are on ridiculously low wages), your hotel porter, the person who shows you to your seat at the baseball. 

Now an ultra-budget airline under fire for not paying its crew enough, wants passengers to tip flight attendants to boost their take-home pay.

Frontier Airways, an ultra-budget airline based in Denver, Colorado, began encouraging tips on January 1, when a message was first issued via a digital payment tablet that said: "Gratuities Are Appreciated!"
Frontier said it will no longer require flight attendants to pool their contributions and will allow them to accept personal tips from customers ordering food and beverages.
Passengers were offered the choice of a 15% tip, 20% tip or 25% tip. 
'We appreciate the great work of our flight attendants and know that our customers do as well, so (the payment tablet) gives passengers the option to tip," said Frontier spokesman Jonathan Freed. 
If Frontier appreciate their staff so much they might want to try paying them a living wage.
How long will it be before Jetstar staff in Australia hold out their hands for a tip for having poured a cup of coffee? 

Wednesday 9 January 2019

A new way to explore the beauty of Tasmania

There is a new way to discover the beauty of Tasmanian from above. 

Above and Beyond now operates scenic seaplane flights and charters from Kings Pier Marina, Franklin wharf, on Hobart’s waterfront.

The eight-seat (including the pilot) de Havilland Beaver is an amphibious aircraft, which means it can land both on water or land – so travelling just about anywhere is possible.

Tasmania is world famous for its natural beauty and spectacular landscapes. Now, Above and Beyond is providing the rare opportunity to experience this remarkable island from the air and touch down in some spectacular locations.

From a quick 25-minute ‘city scenic' flight to the remote south-west wilderness or sunny east coast, Above and Beyond says it aims to provide its customers with an experience they will never forget.

City Scenic: After taking off from the heart of Hobart’s waterfront, this scenic flight will give you a bird’s eye view of the city, before heading south to follow the River Derwent’s western shore as far as North West Bay. From here, the journey heads east to the rugged cliffs and white sandy beaches of Bruny Island. The flight then heads back up the river’s eastern shore, reaching the famous Tasman Bridge and experiencing views of kunanyi/Mt Wellington. Flights finish with a river landing and return to dock at Franklin Wharf.

Three Capes Panoramic: This scenic flight departs from Franklin Wharf and heads south-east to the spectacular Tasman Peninsula. From here it takes in the famous Three Capes from a perspective that very few people get to experience. A touch down at Port Arthur to view the UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict site and its surrounds from the water. Flights then make their way towards Cape Raoul and return to Hobart with fantastic views of the city and kunanyi/Mt Wellington.

Scoot opens the doors to one of Asia's least-visited countries

Laos is one of the least-visited nations in Asia but budget airline Scoot aims to make it more accessible for all travellers.

Scoot is offering "new route" launch fares to Vientiane and Luang Prabang from today until January 22 starting from $189 from Perth, $199 from the Gold Coast and $209 each way from Sydney and Melbourne.

Bags and food are extra, of course, but these prices via Scoot's Singapore base do include taxes.

The thrice-weekly flights depart Singapore at 0900 on Monday, Thursday and Saturday, arrive into Luang Prabang at 1110, and then on to Vientiane by 1300, and depart Vientiane at 1350 to arrive back in Singapore at 1800 (all local times – with no domestic flight available between Luang Prabang and Vientiane)

Scoot has timed its launch flight for April 1, just in time for an arrival for Lao New Year celebrations.

Lee Lik Hsin, the Scoot CEO, said, “We are thrilled to welcome Laos to our network. We are confident that the addition of Vientiane and Luang Prabang will boost Scoot’s proposition as a network carrier offering refreshing travel opportunities for those seeking authentic experiences off the beaten track."
Luang Prabang (below) is a UNESCO-protected town encircled by the Phou Thao and Phou Nang mountains. Visitors can take a hike, go caving or trekking, or sail on a relaxing sunset cruise down the majestic Mekong River.

Vientiane, the administrative capital, is rich in history with French influences obvious. Visitors can take a leisurely tour around town in a songthaew (open share bus) or visit Pha That Luang, the historic Bhuddist Temple dating back to the 1500s.

The three-times-weekly flights operated with Scoot’s A320 aircraft are due to commence on April 1. The routes were transferred from sister airline SilkAir, making Scoot the only airline offering direct Singapore-Laos flights from April 2019.

Luang Prabang and Vientiane are the first two of several new destinations Scoot will be adding to its network this year.

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