Book, stay, enjoy. That's

Thursday 30 July 2020

The many faces of Cradle Mountain Lodge

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge is one of my favourite place on earth; a Tasmanian retreat that offers both luxury and wilderness.

There are two restaurants on-site and an Alpine spa, with activities including cheese and wine tastings and afternoon high teas (in normal times). 
The highlight of any stay, however, are the wildlife and the wonderful wilderness walks. The resort is is right on the edge of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. 

 I hope these photos, taken this week, speak louder than words. 


Wednesday 29 July 2020

No mask; no flight. Airline clamps down.

Full marks to US airline Delta, which is cracking down on imbeciles who refuse to wear masks when flying.

Delta Air Lines has already banned over 100 recalcitrants from flying and has turned one flight between Atlanta and Detroit around after multiple passengers refused to wear face masks.

Delta currently requires its passengers to wear face masks while on board a flight, except for when they’re eating a meal or drinking.

Guests can receive permission to take off their masks if they have a specific medical condition. But the airline will not take their word for it. Passengers must complete a medical pre-screening process to receive clearance.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said: “We take the requirement to wear a mask very seriously. Customers who choose not to comply with this or any other safety requirement risk losing their future flight privileges with Delta.

"So far, there have thankfully only been a handful of cases, but we have already banned some passengers from future travel on Delta for refusing to wear masks on board.”

Bastian added: "We implemented a new procedure because we've had some customers indicate that they have underlining conditions that makes wearing a mask dangerous for them," Bastian said.
This entails a 'virtual consultation' with a medical professional by phone who will determine whether it is a genuine medical issue.

"The customer will talk to the doctor before they get on the plane to actually have it validated that they indeed cannot wear a mask."

Icon red wines get their day in the sunshine

Penfolds do it with the annual release of their Collection and Wynn's Coonawarra Estate do it with Wynnsday. 

Now Grant Burge Wines are nominating one day of the year in which they will be releasing their icon premium red wines to the market as part of their vintage release program. 

August 27 will be the date that the outstanding 2016 Meshach Shiraz and and Shadrach Cabernet Sauvignon - two of Australia's finest reds - are released, along with six others including the 2018 Filsell Shiraz. 

Grant Burge chief winemaker Craig Stansborough held a Zoom tasting with several wine and lifestyle writers this week to launch the idea and preview the Filsell, Shadrach and Meshach. 

I did my Zoom tasting from a hotel room in north-west Tasmania - the joy of the post-Covid experience.

Craig's image was a little shadowed and Zoom refused to let me speak to the other tasters, but the experience worked well. 

Fortunately for both drinkers and the Burge team, 2018 and 2016 were standout years that produced "elegant and structured wines that have great length and splendid natural acidity," Stansborough said. 

The 2016 Shadrach ($115) has already picked up a swag of show awards and is a classic southern Barossa Cabernet Sauvignon, both stylish and complex. 

The 2016 Meshach ($230) is named in honour of Grant Burge's great-great grandfather and is dark, chocolatey and spicy. One for the cellar, although it opens up when decanted. 

The Filsell Shiraz ($48) is the bargain buy, judiciously put together with classic Barossa characters and some assertive vanilla oak. I'm drinking this again tonight. 

The rest of the range includes the 2017 Nebu Cabernet Shiraz, 2017 Abednego Shiraz Grenache, Mourvedre, 2018 Balthasar Eden Valley Shiraz and 2018 Corryton Park Cabernet Sauvignon. 

For details visit   

Tuesday 28 July 2020

Taking some rails less travelled in Europe

We may all be in travel lockdown right now, but what better time to do some research on your next European holiday destination?

When we all get back to normal you might want to consider some delightful travel
discoveries to be made by taking roads less travelled. 

Here are five delightful historic and gourmet destinations that are easy to get to
using the excellent European rail network and a Eurail pass.

Ljubljana: Slovenia’s under-rated capital (above) is one of Europe's prettiest and most accessible cities. Home to just under 300,000 people, nearly all its major attractions are found along the banks of the delightful Ljubljanica River. Over 2,000 years old, Ljubljana is reminiscent of Prague before it was discovered by the masses and is dotted with cafés, riverside eateries and markets. It is home to museums, galleries, theatres and some excellent value bars and restaurants. Much easier to get to than you might imagine, Ljubljana is just a two-hour luxury bus ride from Venice. Where to stay: The chic Hotel Vander Urbani has just 20 rooms, a rooftop pool and is tucked away on a cobbled side street.  

Ericeira: A fishing village that’s popular as a weekend destination for Lisbon residents,
Ericeira has undergone recent development although the waterfront area retains its rustic
charm with traditional blue and white-painted cottages overlooking the Atlantic ocean and
the fishing fleet. The town is known for its surf beaches – surfing is a popular pastime - and
eateries, where you can feast on local sardines and bottles of crisp Vinho Verde. Ericeira is
just a 30-minute drive from Lisbon and even closer to the National Place in Mafra and the
scenic village of Sintra. Where to stay: The Hotel Vila Gale is a top address. 

Lausanne: The fourth-largest city in Switzerland sits across Lake Geneva from the French
town of Evian les Bains and is home to the International Olympic Committee. A large
student population makes for lively nightlife and arts communities centred on the Flon
district. The city traces its history back to Roman times and there are trains daily from Gare
de Lyon in Paris. Cross-lake ferries serve Evian, Montreux, Geneva and other interesting
lakeside communities. Where to stay: Why not treat yourself to a night or two in one of the
grandest hotels in Europe: the Lausanne Palace?

Bruges: One of the most under-rated cities in Europe, this city in north-west Belgium is
known for its many lovely canals, classic cobbled streets and medieval buildings. Small
enough to wander around on foot, visitors will love the towering Gothic buildings and the
ultra-chic Canal St Martin district. Enjoy some moules/frites in the Markt, the pretty Market
Square. Where to stay: The luxurious Hotel Van Cleef is in the historic old part of the city
and is a member of the Hip Hotels group.

Dubrovnik: Still a relatively small town, Dubrovnik in Croatia can be overwhelmed by cruise
ship passengers during the summer season but is an absolute delight at other times of the
year. Stroll the winding streets of the Stari Grad (Old Town). This Dalmatian destination has
been transformed in twe decades from a war zone to the new Nice - a magnet for Europe’s
beautiful people. It is known for its magnificent seafood (above). Where to stay: Despite the challenges of the global coronavirus pandemic the 5-star hotel Rixos Premium Dubrovnik has just opened its doors. Formerly known as Hotel Libertas, it is located in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Dubrovnik and has 310 luxury rooms and suites overlooking the Adriatic Sea. 

# The writer was a guest of Eurail (last year). 

Monday 27 July 2020

Winemaker opens wine bar - and it is a ripper

Tamar Valley winemaker Ricky Evans is a glutton for punishment.

The former Bay of Fires winemaker, now out on his own with Two Tonne Tasmania Wines, recently opened a wine bar in downtown Launceston.

While Covid-19 has made life difficult in terms of numbers, l’m pleased to be able to report that Havilah - which he operates with partner Chanel Parratt - is a triumph.

There’s a terrific list of wines by the glass including Hughes & Hughes and Small Island Wines - and many more by the bottle - featuring names like island locals Chatto and Stargazer; interstate standouts like Timo Mayer and Ravensworth and worthy imports from sustainable producers in Europe.

The food is simple but delicious: a range of domestic and imported cheeses; some excellent charcuterie sliced on a unique pink machine, and some hot dishes like marinated crunchy eggplant and lamb polpette.

There is a lot of wine knowledge on offer to guide the beginner - and a buzzy friendly vibe.

Havilah is at 178 Charles St, Launceston. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from 4pm. A

Sunday 26 July 2020

A new luxury hotel on the Dubrovnik Riviera

Brave timing, but a new luxury hotel has just opened on the Dubrovnik Riviera in Croatia.

The five-star Rixos Premium Dubrovnik, formerly the Hotel Libertas, has just reopened after a  €20 million renovation. 

Located in one of the most picturesque neighborhoods in Dubrovnik, it is being promoted as one of the finest places to stay in the medieval city.

Featuring 310 luxury rooms and suites, Rixos Premium Dubrovnik is built into a cliff in a secluded bay. 
Dubrovnik's popular Old Town is a 15-minute stroll away. 

Facilities spread over 14 cascaded floors include three bars and restaurants, a 2000 sqm spa and a large indoor and outdoor pool. 

There are sea views from the rooms, bars and restaurant terraces. Around the building, a series of stone terraces step down and provide direct access for guests looking to swim in the sea. 

A casino provides "fun and entertainment" in the evening. Hmm.

The three restaurants are overseen by executive chef Ozgur Donteras, including Umi Teppanyaki, the only Japanese show restaurant in the Dalmatian region. 

The renovated Anjana Spa spreads over two floors with two saunas, steam room, an igloo, Turkish bath, Himalayan salt room, shock pool, large indoor and outdoor pools and an extensive gym. 

Room rates start from £250 for a double room including breakfast. The Dubrovnik Rixos is part of the multinational Rixos Group which is part of the Accor hotel brand. Rixos hotels are currently located in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Croatia, Switzerland, Russia and Kazakhstan.

Saturday 25 July 2020

New "wellness" resort for Geelong

Geelong is set to lose a conference centre and gain a wellness resort. 

The Salvation Army has sold the Geelong Conference Centre (below) to Melbourne-based developer BEKL for an estimated $6.4 million.

The 1.6-hectare site adjoining the East Geelong Golf Course currently includes seven conference rooms, 46 accommodation suites and a restaurant, guest lounge and bar surrounded by botanical gardens.

BEKL is run by Katherine and Eva Liu, daughters of property developer Han Biao Liu, who founded Amazon Property Group.

“We identified a huge gap in the market, given the region is lacking in small, high-quality accommodation providers with a focus on experiential accommodation, especially where wellness is concerned,” managing director Katherine Liu said.

“The development will herald the return of this venue as a significant economic asset for the region and a key destination for locals and visitors alike.”

BEKL is currently in talks with several hotel operators and expects to name a partner within the next few months. 

The wellness-themed boutique hotel will focus on providing guests with a farm-to-table gastronomic experience, drawing on ingredients sourced from the local Bellarine Peninsula region.

Friday 24 July 2020

McWilliam's wine brand saved

McWilliam's - one of the most famous wine brands in Australia - will live on. 

McWilliam’s creditors today voted to secure company’s future with KPMG administrators 
confirming that "creditors of McWilliam's Wine Group have voted in favour of the Deed of Company Arrangement (DOCA) put forward by global capital and asset management firm, Prcstnt Asset Management (Prcstnt)".

“McWilliam’s creditors have voted to accept the re-capitalisation proposal put forward by Prcstnt and  this is an extremely positive outcome for all involved, especially in the current challenging economic environment," Gayle Dickerson, Restructuring Services Partner for KPMG Australia. 

"Not only will unsecured creditors likely receive full repayment of their debts owed, it preserves ongoing employment for all McWilliam’s staff and a possible return to existing shareholders.”

KPMG Australia Restructuring Services Partners Gayle Dickerson, Tim Mableson and Ryan Eagle were appointed as administrators to McWilliam’s Wine Group on January 8, 2020.

Prcstnt  is expected to assume full control of McWilliam’s by October 2020.

McWilliam’s Wines Group is an unlisted publicly owned company with a history dating back across six generations of family ownership.

It has an extensive product range marketed under a portfolio of owned brands, including McWilliam’s and Mount Pleasant with production in the Hunter Valley and the Riverina. 

Thursday 23 July 2020

Seeking out some bargain buys among the new Penfolds collection

The Penfolds Collection 2020 to be released on August 6 includes new Penfolds g4 (a rather idiosyncratic blend of four vintages that retails for an ambitious $3,500 a bottle) and the 2016 Penfolds Grange (now $950 a bottle and surely set to burst through the $1000 mark with the 2017 in 12 months' time). 

“Not playing to flagship favourites, but the 2016 Grange may politely nudge the classic 2004 and 2010," says Penfolds chief winemaker Peter Gago. 

Since 1844, Penfolds has played a key role in the evolution of Australian wine making with a history and heritage that reflects Australia’s journey from colonial settlement to the modern era. 

The good news for consumers is you don't have to spend a fortune to enjoy a little Penfolds style and swagger. 

Here are four of the new releases that could make up a mixed dozen for less than a bottle of Grange. 
The major mention must go to the 2018 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz ($100), a release that commemorates the 60th anniversary since it was first made in 1960, by Max Schubert. 

Harmonious, balanced and focused, this wine demonstrates why Bin 389 remains one of Australia’s most popular collectable red wines. 

This is a big, but balanced, and archteypical Penfolds. Brambly and intriguing and judicicously oaked. One for the cellar and a seriously good buy.   

“Put simply, Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz manifests all that is Penfolds … a wine that so many of us have grown with," says Gago. "This style extols the wisdom of blending, as it does the synergies afforded by varietal and sourcing freedom.” 

The 2019 release of Bin 311 Chardonnay ($50), a blend of fruit from Tasmania, the Adelaide Hills and Tumbarumba, might be  biggest bargain in the collection. It is a too-cool-for-school cool-climate chardy that ticks all the boxes. More than the sum of its parts.

"This wine now confidently struts across a wider cool-climate stage," says Gago. "An awakened and enlightened blend.”

The 2018 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz ($50.00) is a ripe, generous and unmistakably South Australian blend of fruit from the Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Padthaway, Wrattonbully, Fleurieu, Robe, Mt Lofty Ranges, Adelaide Hills and Langhorne Creek. 

The perfect present for anyone from overseas wanting to know what a quintessentially Australian red wine is like.  

The 2020 Bin 51 Eden Valley Riesling is even more affordable at $40 a bottle. It is a lovely, fresh and zesty wine for immediate enjoyment. 

Some excellent wines here, and many of them no more expensive than some arrivistes with very little provenance. 

Hotel branding continues to mystify guests

Is it just me who is easily confused?

I have no idea about the minuscule differences between a Hyatt, a Park Hyatt or a Grand Hyatt.

And I really couldn't pinpoint the varying levels of service between Accor brands Pullman, Swissôtel and Grand Mercure.

Marriott Hotels - the folk who delivered Bonvoy - are now joining the confusion game in Australia by adding JW Marriott hotels to places to stay branded Marriott and Courtyard by Marriott.

This will follow a $35 million re-brand of Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa into the JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa (below) in December, 2020.

Apparently that is hugely good thing because the press release says: "Upon completion of the renovation, the resort will be elevated to a new standard of luxury to appeal to the discerning traveller seeking a tropical retreat near the Gold Coast’s iconic beaches".

It will be the first JW Marriott hotel in Australia, says Sean Hunt, area vice president for Australia, New Zealand and Pacific for Marriott International.

“The opening will signal the continued expansion of our luxury footprint in Australia as we continue to see strong demand within the luxury travel segment here. The JW Marriott brand, with its distinctive luxury philosophy, will resonate with these travellers, who seek exceptional, thoughtfully-crafted services and experiences.”

As someone who essentially wants a comfortable bed, hot water, fast wifi and quick room service, I rarely find hotel rooms "resonating" with me - but it is obviously an on-brand buzzword.

With a total of 223 rooms and suites, JW Marriott Gold Coast Resort & Spa will offer a choice of ocean or hinterland views.

The property’s six food and beverage venues will include two feature restaurants, lobby lounge and bar, pool bar, a new Japanese whisky bar and a signature JW Marketplace.

For further information on the JW Marriott brand visit

For information on Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa visit

Wednesday 22 July 2020

Australia's iconic train journey makes a return

Australia's most famous train - The Ghan - will soon be back on the rails between Adelaide and Darwin.

Following a temporary hiatus due to Covid-19, the recent easing of South Australian and Northern Territory border restrictions means The Ghan is set to resume on Sunday, August 30, departing from Adelaide.

Journey Beyond CEO Chris Tallent, said it was great to see The Ghan bounce back following the global pandemic.

“The Ghan has been part of Australian rail history for 90 years and has survived a world war, the Great Depression and various pandemics, so it's great to see it back in action once more,” Tallent said.

“We understand many Australians have forgone holidays or had to change their plans and we are pleased to be able to start helping them experience their long-awaited travels.

“We have introduced JourneySafe, an initiative to enhance guest and crew safety on all Journey Beyond experiences and give guests peace of mind when travelling with us.

“We have altered dining arrangements and we'll be practising physical distancing and doubling-down on our already stringent hygiene practices.

“The easing of border restrictions has come just in time to help people from the southern states enjoy a beautifully warm dry season in Darwin.

“With international travel still a way off, this is a great opportunity to better explore the beauty of Australia while enjoying our trademark hospitality.”

The Ghan is a two-night, three-day journey from Adelaide to Darwin or a three-night, four-day journey from Darwin to Adelaide with stops in Alice Springs, Katherine and Coober Pedy. 

The Ghan is all-inclusive of premium food and wine, Off Train Experiences and crew services. 

Exclusive online offers have been released including the two-night Ghan trip from $1899 and the three-night Ghan Expedition from $2649 per person.

To book on The Ghan visit

Secret sadness of Masterchef fan favourite

MasterChef Australia fan favourite Sarah Clare was bravely hiding a secret during the broadcast last weekend of the program's final "Back To Win" episode.

Clare (above with Poh Ling Yeow) made a final fashion statement with her 60s styling but had kept secret the fact she has had to close her Tasmanian restaurant - Ilha - permanently.

The double whammy of being on MasterChef duty and the Covid-19 pandemic proved too big a hurdle to overcome. 

Gordon Ramsey with Sarah Clare
Clare had decided several weeks ago that Ilha would not reopen in the her hometown of Cygnet - but only made an official announcement this week.

"Ilha restaurant Cygnet would like to thank all of the amazing people who have supported us in our endeavour and so it is with a heavy heart that we have had to shut our doors," she said on Facebook.

"When one door closes, however, another opens and we have some exciting dinners in our future!"

It is understood some pop-up feasts are on the agenda.

Clare appeared in season 10 and season 12 of the popular cooking show and sourced much of her wardrobe from the Dusty Mermaid retro shop in Geeveston. 

The news is not all bad for the hamlet of Cygnet, however, with The Conservatory at The Old Bank now open seven days, the Red Velvet Lounge open six days a week and doing dinners Friday and Saturday nights and Port Hole Cafe having replaced ill-fated Tangelo. 

Locals can also chose from Port Cygnet Japanese Dinner, Ashcraig Farm Thai, three takeaways and two pubs. The Port Cygnet Wood-Fired Bakery reopens on Friday and the Port Cygnet Cannery is doing pop ups and events. 

Tuesday 21 July 2020

Calling all beer lovers: go small this Saturday

This Saturday will see lovers of craft brews from fans across Australia coming together to say “Cheers to Indie Beer”.

Indie Beer Day will feature a nationwide synchronised toast at 7pm (AEST), to celebrate resilience, survival, and easing (in some states) of Covid-19 restrictions. 

Breweries and pubs across the country will hosting celebrations (both physical and virtual), launching beers, and offering special deals to help us raise a glass to independent brewers. 

“With restrictions eased in most states, we need Indie Beer Day now more than ever," said Independent Brewers Association (IBA) general manager Kylie Lethbridge. 

"We need the people who love and support indie producers to give our industry a much-needed boost in every way. 

Many indie breweries are located in regional areas, so the loss of regional tourism and pub closures has hit them hard.

“Whether you’re buying takeaway beers, ordering your indie mixed pack online, having a small gathering with mates or heading to your favourite local for drinks, make sure you ask for indie beer and raise a drink with us at 7pm on the 25th.”

Sydney’s Northern beaches will hit party mode as Modus Operandi celebrates its sixth birthday with new brews, top food, and tunes, while in Queensland, newly established Straddie Brewing Company will be launching their Point Lookout Lager, and Bribie Island Brewing Company will be reopening their doors for the first time since lockdown. 

Over in South Australia, Little Bang Brewing Company is showcasing 21 indie beers on tap from around the country. 

From Margaret River to the Top End and all the way down south in New Norfolk, Tasmania, there are events scheduled. 

For more information and to find a map of participating venues, go to

Monday 20 July 2020

Why Helloworld travel agents stores are vanishing

Franchises attached to travel agency group Helloworld are shrinking at an alarming rate.

Helloworld has revealed that 125 of its franchise stores have closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The stores have shut over the past few months since border closures and lockdowns began, and represent about 5% of the agent network.

The company made the revelation as it announced it had raised $50 million in new equity.

In an update to investors, total turnover value was revealed as being only a fraction of pre-pandemic levels, although numbers are gradually improving and the company has said it expects to see a sizeable increase in bookings from September.

With some domestic travel resuming, corporate business bookings have started picking up.

Helloworld suspended franchise and marketing fees for a full year from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, to help struggling franchisees but that has not prevented several from falling over. 

"The company's diversified businesses, which include a mix of domestic and international leisure travel, corporate travel and wholesale travel operations, are positioned to benefit from a recovery in 2021 and 2022," Helloworld said in a stock market filing.

Helloworld says the money raised will see the business through to the end of 2022, assuming no change to the present operating environment. Helloworld has more than 2300 travel agents in its network right now. 

Sunday 19 July 2020

Fiji Airways extends lockdown

Fiji Airways will not be flying passengers anywhere until at least the end of August - and perhaps longer.

The airline said the deadline could be further extended, subject to current border closures and travel restrictions.

"The cancellation of August services allows us to prepare and position a new updated international schedule for deployment as soon as practical," said Fiji Airways CEO Andre Viljoen.

"Whether this will be in August remains to be seen, but we are encouraged by the recent move to Phase 2 for Fiji in its response to Covid-19, as well as a travel framework which allows for the creation of specific 'air corridors' with certain countries."

Fiji is hoping a so-called 'Bula Bubble' can be agreed with main tourism markets Australia and New Zealand, Travel Mole reported.

"This framework provides a clear path forward for the two countries to seriously consider opening borders to Fiji, thereby stimulating travel demand," Viljoen said.

The current international flight suspension doesn't impact Fiji Air's cargo flights and Fiji Link domestic services, which continue to operate.

The glamour of gamay; the beauty of Beaujolais

I am always amazed that Australians do not drink more wines made from the gamay grape.

The structured but usually lighter-bodied reds made from gamay are perfect for the Australian lifestyle - and producers including Sorrenberg, Sinapius, De Bortoli Yarra Valley, Rising, Eldridge Estate, Timo Mayer, Punt Road, Meadowbank, Two Bud Spur, Ochota Barrels, Farr Rising and others make good examples.

In France, gamay can produce wines of distinction in both Beaujolais and the Loire Valley, but its value in export markets was reduced by the popularity over a couple of decades of Beaujolais Nouveau - an undistinguished "drink-now" style deliberately made light bodied and fruity.

Entry level wines are usually labelled AOC Beaujolais, Beaujolais Villages and then the 10 Cru Beaujolais regions tend to produce wines with more body, dark cherry and pepper notes; these are usually produced by using whole-berry maceration.

From north to south the Beaujolais crus are: Saint-Amour, Julienas, Chenas, Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie, Chiroubles, Morgon, Régnié, Brouilly, and Côte de Brouilly, which can produce wines of great intensity.

Wine merchant and importer Randall Pollard recently sent me some very enjoyable Beaujolais from Chateau Thivin, a benchmark Côte de Brouilly producer, which is known for producing structured wines that can comfortably be aged.

Chateau Thivin is owned by the Geoffray family, who are working towards organic certification and have barred herbicides and insecticides from their vineyards and tend to use older oak vessels for maturation.

The 2018 vintage wines I sampled were all excellent; US importer Kermit Lynch describes them as "handsome, virile, earthy, and an aristocrat".

For everyday drinking, the Thivin Beaujolais-Villages Vignes l'Ecussol 2018 ($36) is a winner; a single vineyard wine from 50-year-old vines under screwcap that strikes the right balance between style and rusticity; freshness and elegance.

A step up is the Thivin 
Côte de Brouilly Les Septs Vignes 2018 ($55) made from fruit grown on volcanic soils, bright purple, grippy and minerally while retaining youthful succulence.

The Thivin 
Côte de Brouilly La Chapelle 2018 ($62) is a classic higher-altitude wine concentrated and structured.

Order the Beaujolais wines here: 

Saturday 18 July 2020

New Zealand invites the world to give 2020 a second chance

New Zealand's indigenous people - the Māori - welcome the New Year on Tuesday. 

Matariki is a special occasion in the New Zealand calendar signified by the Matariki cluster of stars reappearing in the Kiwi night sky. 

According to the Maramataka (the Māori lunar calendar), the reappearance of Matariki in the night sky brings the old lunar year to a close and marks the beginning of the new year. 

This year, New Zealand is inviting the world for the first time to virtually to share this moment and "see in the New Year" together.

By joining a live streaming from one of New Zealand’s most famous stargazing locations - the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve - people from across New Zealand and the globe are invited to join together for a moment in time.

Under the stars, viewers will be taken on a journey, with host Israel Dagg, to understand the story, myths and legends of Matariki and the significance of this moment in the year.
The live stream will be happening on July 21 NZT at 05.30am. 

In Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, there will be more than 100 events celebrating the event. 

The capital city, Wellington will celebrates with spectacular light projections and live performances. And in the South Island, celebrations will include community hangis, workshops and performances.

An Australian wine hits the high notes

Turn the sound system on loud, but not too loud. Depending on your taste put on a Saint-Saëns piano concerto, or perhaps the Righteous Brothers doing a Phil Spector wall of sound classic. 

Pour yourself a glass of the Yalumba 2015 The Caley - a wine that builds and reaches a perfect layering - and you have a magical musical/vinous combination. 

Yalumba, Australia’s oldest family-owned winery, has just launched the 2015 vintage of its icon wine; and it is an instant classic. 

The Caley is a tribute to Australia’s own unique red blend: a dark, precise and refined melange of cabernet sauvignon and shiraz. It is the fourth vintage release since the inaugural 2012.

For more than a century, cabernet/shiraz blends have been a focus at Yalumba and The Caley is billed as a "super claret". 

Winemaker Kevin Glastonbury has hit all the right notes with a wine of texture and harmony - that given more vintages will challenge Henschke Hill of Grace and Penfolds Grange as the outstanding Australian red. 

Fifth-generation proprietor Robert Hill-Smith said: “Over 171 years, Yalumba’s journey has been all about vision, fortitude, survival and innovation: about looking onward and upwards.

"In this modern wine world, we need to stand up and be counted. We should no longer hide our light under the canopy.”

This release of The Caley is a blend of 74% Coonawarra cabernet and 26% Barossa shiraz and while it is crafted to spend many years in the cellar but is already shining - and offering rewarding drinking in its youth. 

"It was a terrific vintage that gave us ripeness, generosity and richness,” said Glastonbury. 

“When you taste The Caley 2015, it’s almost as though the three previous releases are rolled into one. It has the fruit purity and tannin profile of the 2012, the structure of the 2013 and the generosity, and approachability, of the 2014.

“The 2015, however, stands alone. It’s a star in its own right and a seriously good cabernet sauvignon/shiraz.” 

The wine is named in honour of Fred Caley Smith, grandson of Yalumba’s founder Samuel Smith. He was  a horticulturist who had a profound impact on the development of Yalumba’s orchards and vineyards. 

He is best remembered for a ground-breaking research journey he undertook in 1893 and 1894 to the USA, UK, Europe, the Middle East, Sri Lanka and India. 

Fred’s detailed and poignant letters to his father, sent home every few days, were collected and kept in the Yalumba archive.

Yalumba The Caley 2015 is available at and at fine wine retailers for $365. It is beautifully presented in a display box. 

Established in 1849, Yalumba is Australia’s oldest family-owned winery. 

Friday 17 July 2020

Major boost for Kangaroo Island

Kangaroo Island Distillery and Founders First Ltd (FFL) have revealed plans for a $3 million development for the distillery. 

A new world-class distillery and a must-see tourism destination should open in spring 2021 according to the timetable. 

Llcated in Cygnet River, the new development will visitors an immersive experience and boost tourism following recent bush fires. 

The project will create 20 jobs during construction and around 25 ongoing jobs for the region once completed.

The development will be completed in two stages, starting with the construction of the distillery. 

A third still will be added to increase the production capacity for the domestic and export
market of the award-winning gin, vodka, and the soon-to-be-released single-malt whisky. 

The new distillery will include a spirit tasting room and education space, which will overlook
production areas.

The existing cellar door will be upgraded to focus on serving visitors KIS spirits and cocktails in the native botanical garden that is home to over 75 native species used in the making of the botanical driven gins including native juniper, coastal daisy bush, anise myrtle, and lemon myrtle.

Founded by Jon and Sarah Lark in 2004,  KIS is proudly one of Australia’s most awarded gin brands and was the first dedicated gin distillery in the country. 

In March this year the business was were acquired by Founders First, which specialises in supporting and growing independent craft brewery and distillery businesses.

The Larks will both continue as chief distillers and brand ambassadors. 

Sarah Lark said: “This will enable us to offer more educational and interactive experiences.
People will be able to have the opportunity to learn the art of gin making and creating cocktails from our KIS range in the new space.”

Thursday 16 July 2020

Check out a new collection of luxe villas

There is something special about staying in your own private villa.

You have privacy, the ability to whatever you want to do when you want to do it, and staff to cook and clean for you should you require them.

Elite Havens, an Asian leader in high-end holiday rental vacations that is part of the Dusit Thani group, has just launched its new Signature Collection for when travel returns to normal. 

It comprises a selection of villas and chalets in destinations such as Phuket, Koh Samui, Bali, Lombok, Sri Lanka, India, Japan and the Maldives. 

Each villa or chalet is said to boast prime locations, world-class facilities and impeccable service. 

Some havens come fully staffed with in-villa teams while others are supported by highly trained service staff and a remote concierge. 

Villas that are staffed with in-house teams include the services of a professional chef experienced in local and international cuisines. 

For a villa or chalet to be considered as part of the elite Signature set, it must fulfil strict criteria such as stunning locations and views, spaciousness, design-centric architecture, highest quality interiors, high-end facilities, superior comfort level, unique touches, and exceptional service. 

Check out I'm certainly tempted. 

Two little girls lost their winemaker father - now they need your help

Esme and Clementine Dell tragically lost their winemaker father Vaughn in May.

The 39-year-old died from a heart attack, leaving behind his wife Linda Morice and their two young daughters.

The former basketball player and Australian Rules players started Sinapius wines at Pipers River in 2005, buying the former Golders vineyard.

The couple, who started dating as teenagers, built up a massive reputation for quality.

Now Langton's is holding an auction to raise funds to ensure the future of the two girls remains bright.

"We are still deeply saddened and missing Vaughn immensely but also very driven to keep things going," said Linda.

"I’ve had some great help from the industry with Joe Holyman and Peter Dredge both stepping up to help me with the wines. Hopefully, with their guidance, I can continue to produce amazing wines as well as Vaughn has done.

"Now Langton's are running a fundraising wine auction to raise funds for the girls future." 

Holyman, Dr Edge, Jansz, Dalrymple. Josef Chromy, Delamere, Bay of Fires, Bream Creek, Pressing Matters, 10 Minutes by Tractor, Lost Farm, Apogee, Chatto, Holm Oak and Tolpuddle are among the wineries donating. 

There are some amazing wines listed at and the auction closes on Sunday, July 26.

A trust account has also been set up to help the girls now and in the children’s future - Linda Jean Morice in trust for Esme and Clementine Dell (BSB 087-728, Account 97-768-6325).