Saturday, 19 June 2021

Meet Australia's most unlikely wine tourism destination

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For full details see:

Friday, 18 June 2021

Impressive start for new Seppelt winemaker

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Five-star hotel delivers six-star experience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Details of Adelaide's new five-star hotel unveiled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

d'Arenberg Wines buys into the spirits business

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lift your spirits in the Byron Bay hinterland


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

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

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

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

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

Call (02) 6684 7961 or visit

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Kyoto is calling all Nintendo fans

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

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

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

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

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

In 2020 Nintendo was named Japan’s richest company. 

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

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

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

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

East Coast wine festival expands to over 50 events

Tasmania's Great Eastern Wine Weekend is now the Great Eastern Wine Week with a program of over 50 events scheduled. 

The popular festival will now run from September 3-13, encompassing two weekends of tastings and events. 

This year marks the seventh year and a major expansion. The festival is recognised as a significant contributor to the island state’s regional tourism economy and is supported by the Tasmanian Government through Events Tasmania.

“As we enter our seventh year, we are immensely proud of our achievements in promoting not only the wine but the excellent diversity of regional produce, experiences, chefs, cooks, caterers, providores, restauranteurs and communities of the East Coast," said Glenn Travers of Craigie Knowe, chair of the East Coast Wine Trail.

"From humble beginnings in 2015 when the Great Eastern Wine Weekend was a concept developed by RACT Destinations and Freycinet Lodge, the Great Eastern Wine Week has evolved into a ‘must do’ wine and food festival, positioning the East Coast of Tassie as one of Australia’s aspirational wine and food destinations.” 

Great Eastern Wine Week comprises 50 satellite events hosted by local cellar doors, restaurants, cafes, local producers and even a three-day walk on Maria Island, creating a full program of long lunches, degustation dinners, wildlife adventures, walks and wine tastings.

The highlights will include: Mingle with the Maker at Freycinet Lodge; Discover Freycinet Vineyard with Claudio Radenti; Trail, Shuck & Cheers at Boomer Creek and a Plumm glassware tasting at Craigie Knowe (above).

Spring Vale, Devil's Corner, Overtime, Milton, Ironhouse and Gala Estate will also be hosting events. 

Some something different try Dine with the Devils at East Coast Nature World or a Great Eastern Wine Cruise with Wineglass Bay Cruises.


Images: Mel Ferris and Puddlehub

New guide for wine-loving visitors to West Australia

Heading west to taste some wines?

Wines of Western Australia, Wine Australia and Tourism Western Australia have created a new online and interactive wine tourism guide called The Wine Adventurer designed to inspire and inform international and domestic visitors and help them plan trips into the state's many and diverse wine regions. 

Eight wine regions are featured in an easy-to-navigate e-brochure that includes each region’s unique wine tourism experiences and hero wine varieties.
The Swan Valley, Perth Hills, Peel, Geographe, Margaret River, Blackwood Valley, Southern Forest and Great Southern each have a section  with practical information such as driving distances, climate, harvest times, soil types as well as tips on what to eat, where to stay, what to do and must-see attractions.
The 60-page guide features more than just wine, there is a cross section of experiences including, authentic regional dining, art and museums and cosy vineyard stays like at Mandoon Estate in the Swan Valley (above)..
From the accessible Swan Valley, an easy 25-minute trip from Perth CBD, to an epic road trip of 4.5 hours to the Great Southern, The Wine Adventurer is a very useful resource.

Launching The Wine Adventurer,  Wines of WA CEO Larry Jorgensen said it is the first detailed wine tourism guide of its kind in Australia.
“People love visiting wine regions and The Wine Adventurer makes it easy for them to discover and find information about WA’s wine tourism experiences  in one place, and it’s interactive, so if they want to book or find more info they can click through,” Jorgensen said.
“The Wine Adventurer is designed to work with wineries that have a unique bookable experience such as a wine flight tasting, vineyard tour, barrel room wine and food pairing, or a degustation lunch.
“There’s assistance through Wines of WA to help wineries create bookable experiences and be featured on The Wine Adventurer.
“For the international travel industry, it’s an important tool that raises awareness of WA’s wine region experiences, and it makes it easier for them to start incorporating wine experiences into itineraries driving visitors into the regions once borders reopen. 
“It’s also an excellent resource for businesses that service visitors such as cellar doors, visitor centres, attractions, restaurants, accommodation providers and for media writing about WA’s wine regions.”
There is a supporting media kit and media library of stunning imagery and video by renowned south-west photographer Frances Andrijch. 
Jorgensen said that Wine Adventurer would be updated bi-annually to remain accurate and relevant.
The Wine Adventurer can be found here on and at here

Monday, 14 June 2021

A remarkable 50-year wine journey of inspiration and innovation

When local doctor Kevin Cullen and his physiotherapist wife Di met with their friend Dr John Gladstones in the 1960s to discuss the possibility of a wine business in the sleepy surfing haven of Margaret River they were on the first steps of a magical, inspired and innovative journey. 

Earlier this month their daughter Vanya Cullen and her team celebrated 50 years of excellence that has encompassed a movement to organics and then biodynamics, early adoption of screw caps, a carbon-neutral winery and a largely self-sufficient restaurant.

Cullen Wines is today globally recognised as a beacon of eminence with the Kevin John Chardonnay and Diana Cullen Cabernet blend regarded as being among Australia's icon wines. 

Under the slogan "quality, integrity, sustainability" Cullen is now firmly established as an icon.

A celebration dinner and three days of memorable tastings marked the milestone. 

In many ways, though, not a lot has changed at all over half a century. The wines remain a work of art, with inspiration coming from the instinct of Vanya and winemaker Andy Barrett-Lennard. 

"The wines remain artisanal - there is no recipe," says Vanya Cullen. "Each year's wines depend on what the fruit looks like when it makes its journey from the vineyard to the winery." 

Instinct, emotion and the beautiful setting - as well as the biodynamic calendar - all play a large role in what emerges in bottle. There is also an essence of hospitality.

Yet before their conversation with Gladstones, Kevin and Di Cullen had planned to plant lupins, not grapes on their land at Wilyabrup. 

No one in Margaret River really knew much about grape growing back in 1971. Kevin Cullen said the work was "1% inspiration, 99% perspiration". The business, now a global brand, did not break even until 1994, the year Kevin Cullen died. 

The Cullens had six children, while Vanya is the figurehead all play some role in the business. Former winemakers including long-serving Trevor Kent were part of the 50th birthday tastings and lunches/dinners in the Biodynamic Wine Room. 

Today, Cullen is the only biodynamic and carbon positive winery in what is now a booming wine region. A remarkable 90% of the food served in the restaurant is grown on site. A worthy legacy. 

Those of us lucky enough to attend the tastings - I was honoured by be invited - worked through myriad wines that have been made biodynamically since 2004 and carbon positively since last year. The first "orange" wine - Amber - emerged in 2014. 

The use of amphora and biodynamically made barrels are among the latest innovations and the wines remain universally savoury, textural and stylish across the board; wines of balance, poise and layering. 

Lucky tasters got to sample semillon/sauvignon blanc blends back to 1995; Amber vintages, Mangan vineyard reds, early cabernets back to 1977, cabernet merlots and Diana Madelines 1995-2019; Vanya cabernet sauvignons, chardonnays and Kevin John vintages from 2002 to 2020.

As is typically the way with Cullen, the tastings were beautifully structured and timed to allow maximum appreciation. Detailed tasting notes; another time, another place.

Across the cabernet blends and Diana Madelines there are different blends, different oak regimes, different vintages and closures, but a symmetry of style; and among the Kevin Johns a familiar energy and texture and the constant vineyard influence.  

Maybe just open a bottle of Cullen and toast a half century of excellence. 




Sunday, 13 June 2021

Meet the new one-stop shop for gourmet goods from West Australia

Imagine a one-stop indoor market where you can taste and buy the best of West Australian produce, wines and beers while enjoying entertainment and the chance to visit local glassblowers, woodworkers, indigenous artists and other artisans. 

It is still a building site, but the potential of the $50 million Origins Market in Busselton was obvious when I visited last week with curator and co-ordinator Louise Cashmore. It will be a big drawcard for both locals and tourists en route to or from Margaret River. 

Origins Market will open in November and aims to showcase leading local providores, while also offering a shopping and dining destination. 

Origins is calling on local producers, makers, growers and artisans passionate about food and West Australian artisanal products to become involved. 

Busselton is one of Western Australia's fastest-growing regional centres and is just 10 minutes from the Busselton Margaret River Airport ,which is soon to receive direct flights from Melbourne. 

It is located in a bustling new retail hub that already sees more than 25,000 weekly visitors. 

Over 100 curated West Australian growers, producers, artists and creators will come together under one roof, all sharing the market’s ethos of sustainability and connection to the land. Local Wadandi elder Wayne Webb is among the consultants.

“For the past few months, I’ve been busily connecting with farmers, producers and artisans across the state to share the Origins Market story and unearth new talent who are ready to take their vision to market,” says Cashmore (below).

The idea has been inspired by some of the world’s best gourmet markets – like London’s Borough Market Barcelona’s Mercado de La Boqueria. 

“Busselton is experiencing a steady population increase, particularly in young families and working professionals. When the new airport is operating as a gateway to Margaret River and beyond, we’ll see further growth in tourist numbers and Origins Market will showcase a taste of what this region has to offer,” says developer Allan Ercig

Attractions will include offshoots of Homestead Brewery and Mandoon Estate wines - both also owned by Ercig - deli operators, a fishmonger, gelato maker, cheese maker, coffee roaster, vegan and vegetarian options and even an active and observable beehive. 

There will also be interactive stalls, hands-on workshops, pop-up restaurants, communal tables and local food trucks.

“Nobody knows the finest local products better than those based in the region of their origin, so we’re calling on West Aussies to nominate their favourite local produce and makers too, to ensure we can truly advocate to have the best of the West,” Cashmore said.

For details see

A sharp idea: how to Covid colour code your picnic or barbecue

In these very different Covid days it is a stroke of genius to be able to colour code your cutlery at a picnic or barbecue.

I'm red; you are blue and your mate (who recently visited Victoria and is not the most reliable dude around) is green. No confusion. No risks. 

The latest release from Victorinox (the Swiss Army Knife people) is a range of Swiss Classic tableware in vibrant colours, made from dishwasher-safe stainless steel. Swiss designed and made. 

The tomato and table knife ($10.55) comes in red, navy blue, black, green, pink, yellow and orange.

This knife is designed to deal with gnarly fruits and vegetables, while the table fork ($13.95) comes in red, pink, orange, green and black and the table spoon ($15.95-$17.95 is available in the same colours and the coffee spoon ($13.95) is either red, pink, green or black.

I liked them a lot. The range is available now at

Thursday, 10 June 2021

Massive deal for Adelaide Hills craft booze producers

The craft drinks business is booming and fast moving Mighty Craft has announced the acquisition of Adelaide Hills Distillery, Mismatch Brewing, Hills Cider and the Lot.100 venue. 

Mighty Craft managing director Mark Haysman (below) announced the purchases of the businesses and the 84-hectare Lot 100 property in the Adelaide Hills.

As part of the $47 million transaction, the businesses’ co-founders Sacha La Forgia, Ewan Brewerton, Steve Dorman and Toby Kline will be retained to drive growth for the brands.

The combination aims to transform Mighty Craft into a producer, wholesaler, and retailer, as well as create one of the largest craft spirit producers in Australia and the potential to be a leading player in the craft whisky market.

Haysman is excited by the cross-market opportunities that will be created by the enlarged craft beverage portfolio, bringing the required scale, synergies, and profitability to the Mighty Craft business.

Haysman says that having the highly specialised production and management from the Adelaide Hills-based businesses in Mighty Craft to help integrate the brands, from a production, distribution, and sales and marketing perspective, was an essential part of the deal.

"This merger wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Sacha, Ewan, Steve and Toby and we warmly welcome them to the Mighty Craft team," he said. "They will guide us through this transition, ensure alignment of both our interests and people, and drive growth for all our brands.” 

Adelaide Hills Distillery’s founder and head distiller La Forgia said he was excited by the opportunities for growth and profitability.

“We’re thrilled to be part of an incredible team that champions the growth of the Australian craft beverage industry," he said. "Their knowledge and team will give us a unique position to grow; not only with our current portfolio but also our emerging whisky offer that will now be part of one Australia’s largest craft spirit producers.”

Mighty Craft, formerly known as Founders First, also includes craft brands Ballistic Beer Co (Qld), Sauce Brewing (NSW), Slipstream Brewing (Qld), Brogan’s Way Distillery (Vic), Torquay Beverage Co (Vic), Foghorn Brewery (NSW), Jetty Road Brewery (Vic) and Darwin-based Seven Seasons, which was started by former Port Adelaide footballer Daniel Motlop.

It's a deal! Calabria purchase of McWilliam's Wines deal finalised

                                           Andrew Calabria and Scott McWilliam

Calabria Family Wines’ purchase of McWilliam's Wines is now complete.

Calabria family patriarch Bill Calabria announced the finalisation of the deal in a letter to associates.

"Both of our families have a rich heritage, contributing much to the Australian wine industry 
and the Riverina wine region," he said. 

"While the recent acquisition closes a difficult period for the McWilliam family, I speak for everyone in the Calabria family that we aim to respect their many contributions to the growth of Australian wine and champion the unique attributes that have made the McWilliam’s name celebrated around the world.

"Since our own founding 75 years ago, the supportive relationships with our Riverina neighbours have always been an important part of our journey, not least with the McWilliam family.

"The McWilliams were instrumental in helping my father, Francesco Calabria, in establishing our vineyard and winery. I know that it’s in this spirit that Frank, Michael, Andrew and Elizabeth are proud and honoured to be working with Scott McWilliam and the rest of the family to bring both of our businesses together in the best way possible.

"Over the next four weeks, our focus will be to integrate each McWilliam's Wines business department into our own - from production and sales to marketing and operations. We aim to align all systems to work together, while both brands maintain their unique identities.

"Our ultimate goal is to ensure we are both on a path to prosperity. Combined, McWilliam's and Calabria have over two centuries of winemaking experience and excellence - and it’s our goal to give the utmost respect to that.

"While these businesses will continue to operate as two entities, both families will work together - stronger as one."

Andrew Calabria and Scott McWilliam

Wednesday, 9 June 2021

Check yourself in to one of Sydney's best addresses

Regular readers will remember I was enthused last month about my stay at Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour. 

Now that hotel has launched a new self check-in experience for guests, delivering a seamless modern check-in process for guests.

A first for Sofitel hotels nationally, guests of Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour can now check in, pay and receive their room key through a new digital kiosk. 

The hotel owner, Dr Jerry Schwartz, said he is excited to champion the evolution of the check-in experience.

“The self-service trend is leading the way to a future which prioritises convenience," he said. "We are investing in improved technology that enhances digital guest experiences. 

"With the advancement in this process, we're catering for travellers who are wanting a new revolutionised experience which is fast and efficient. However, this does not replace the traditional landscape of hotel processes where guests prefer a personal touch, which we love to deliver when checking guests in.” 

So take your pick. 

The self-service model and the convenience it implements extends to the in-room experience with Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour implementing the Order Up platform. This platform allows guest to order in-room dining items through a QR code located bedside. 

With this technology in place, hotel employees are less transactional and can focus on establishing genuine connections with guests.

Enjoy some museum wines in the heart of a museum

Fancy a night at the South Australian Museum, some fine older wines and some good tunes? 

Bottles of wine are being brought up from cellars and dusted off in preparation for the pop-up event RESERVED wine at the South Australian Museum on Friday, June 25.

No fewer than 15 South Australian wineries will be serving reserved, museum release, back-vintage, cellar-door-only and hard-to-find wines from 5.30pm to 8.30pm.

Listen to tunes from a local DJ while you sip wines from Bec Hardy Wines and Pertaringa, Bleasdale, Chateau Yaldara and 1847 Wines, Gatt Wines, Hentley Farm, Kirrihill, Karrawatta, Knappstein Wines, Levrier by Jo Irvine, Loom Wine, Schild Estate Wines, The Pawn Wine Co., Thistledown Wine Company, Woodstock Wines and Zonte's Footstep while enjoying exhibits in the Mammals and Pacific Cultures Galleries.

Chief executive of the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) Brian Smedley says he is excited to be hosting pop-up wine events again.

“We’re thrilled to once again be able to bring a selection of South Australia’s best wineries from our regions to the CBD after a brief event hiatus due to COVID restrictions,” he said.

Bec Hardy will be pouring the 2016 Pertaringa Over the Top shiraz.

“This wine acknowledges the very best site, climate, vines and production techniques, hence its name,” she says. “The 2016 museum release showcases how amazingly well this McLaren Vale shiraz develops with a few years in the cellar.”

To accompany aged drops will be tasty bites served up by the team at the South Australian Museum. Food is included in the ticket price which is $20 + booking fee. This also gets you a Great Wine Capital wine glass to keep and two tasting tokens to be redeemed by any of the wineries.

Once your tasting tokens have been redeemed, wine will be available for purchase directly from the wineries by the half-glass, the glass, the bottle or to be packaged and taken home.

RESERVED is presented by the South Australian Wine Industry Association (SAWIA) and Adelaide a Great Wine Capital of the World, and celebrates 2021 the Year of South Australian Wine.

Visit to book your RESERVED ticket.

Tuesday, 8 June 2021

Take your cruise ship and go away

Not everyone is happy to see the cruise industry make a return to European ports.

In Venice, the first major cruise ship arrival in more than a year was met by protesters out in force, Travel Mole reported.

The visit of the MSC Orchestra (above) - ironically from an Italian-owned cruise line - reignited long-time tensions as it was circled by demonstrators in small motorboats.

Protesters argued that cruise ships bring "hit and run" tourism that bring minimal benefit to the city.

MSC Orchestra set sail from Bari with fewer than 1,000 passengers marking the return of cruise ships to the city after nearly 18 months.

The Italian Government has vowed to remove cruise ships from Venice lagoon to a new dock but a new permanent home for cruise ships could take years.

Cruise Lines International Italy said that Venice's economy had suffered a €1 billion hit due to Covid-19.

"We don't want to be a corporate villain," said Francesco Galietti of CLII.

"We don't feel we should be treated as such. We feel we are good to the communities."

The Government has said it will issue a request for proposals soon for bids to construct a terminal outside the Venice lagoon, while a temporary dock will not be ready until at least next year - and possibly much longer.

Monday, 7 June 2021

What do "use by" and "best-before" dates really mean?

Should you throw out that unopened packaged cheese because has passed its use-by date? 

Next time you’re about to throw food in the rubbish, you should double check the dates on it first. 

Food safety experts say some labelling is confusing – and you could be throwing out food that is actually still perfectly safe to eat.

Today is World Food Safety Day (who knew?) an annual call for the production and consumption of safe food for the benefit of people, the planet and the economy. 

It aims to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks.


Dr Alison Jones, a food technologist from the University of New South Wales School of Chemical Engineering, says that food labelling can be confusing and stresses the fact that use-by and best-before dates are very different.


“Food manufacturers are responsible for determining the type of date marked on their products to help give consumers a guide as to how long the food product will last before it deteriorates,” she says.


“This is particularly important in determining the quality, nutrition and microbiological safety of food.”


use-by date indicates that the safety of the product cannot be guaranteed after the displayed date. Food should not be eaten after its use-by date, and it is illegal for retailers to sell food after its use-by date for health and safety reasons (something many supermarkets ignore).

Foods which display use-by dates are commonly those where the health and safety of the food cannot be guaranteed after a certain date, and often where the spoilage is not clearly discernible before consumption, for example, fresh pasteurised milk, chilled ready-to-eat foods or deli meats. 

Best-before dates indicate that the product may suffer some loss in quality after the displayed date - but may still be safe to eat. That’s provided its packaging is intact and/or it has been properly stored since food can spoil prematurely if it has been subjected to factors including temperature abuse, physical damage, broken packaging, high humidity.

Most foods which display a best-before date should still be safe to eat for a little time after, and retailers can still sell food after the best-before date provided it is still fit for human consumption.

Foods that commonly carry best-before dates are those which do not support the growth of pathogens or, in the case of fresh meat for example, where a later process such as cooking will destroy any bacteria that might be present.

Examples of foods that usually have a best-before date are shelf-stable foods such as retorted canned products and pouches, low-water activity foods such as confectionary, tea, freeze-dried coffee, sugar, salt, cereals and dried fruits. Other examples include acidic fermented products such as yogurt or sauerkraut or frozen products.

If products require special storage conditions in order for the date markings to be effective, then manufacturers can provide specific storage condition statements on the packaging. This is compulsory in the case of a use-by date where specific storage is essential for the health and safety of the product – so it’s important to keep an eye out for these.

So how long is a food still safe to eat after its "best before" date?

That very much depends on the food – the best advice is to look for signs of deterioration, spoilage and/or damage such as mould, slime, rancidity, off-flavours or odours, staling, gas-production or broken packaging.

As a consumer, you should also follow any of the manufacturer’s specific storage instructions to ensure the best-before and use-by dates are effective.

If you can get to the Middle East, you can fly to Phuket

Emirates will resume four weekly services to the Thai holiday island of Phuket from July 2 as the destination reopens for international tourists.

Thailand will allow vaccinated travellers to enjoy quarantine-free travel on the island - but there will be no flights from Australia in the immediate future.

The Dubai-Phuket route will be operated with a three-class  777-300ER offering premium services in first and business class as well as economy class, Travel Mole reported.

Emirates flight EK378 will depart Dubai on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3am, arriving at Phuket International Airport at 12:30pm the same day.

The return flight, EK379, will depart Phuket at on Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays.

Flights to Phuket can be booked by visiting where all details on mandatory documentation required for non-Thai nationals can be found.

Emirates has been gradually rebuilding its global network and has resumed passenger services to over 120 destinations, allowing travellers to connect to the Americas, Europe, Africa, Middle East, and Asia Pacific via Dubai.

The airline has also recently introduced contactless technology to ease the customer journey through Dubai airport.

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Vincent: a dangerously decadent slice of Paris in Perth

It is a very good thing for me that I live on the other side of the continent to recently opened Perth wine bar Vincent. 

If Vincent was close to Cygnet I would be a whole lot fatter - and a whole lot poorer. 

The European-styled wine bar and bistro opened in January and on Thursday night it was buzzing - while the rest of the Perth suburb of Northbridge gently snoozed. 

I felt very much at home as Vincent is a very close replica of two of my old Paris hangouts: Juveniles and Willi's; a selection of wines by the glass, many more by the bottle, good, simple bistro food and snappy, intelligent wait staff.

Like at Juvenile's and Willi's the vibe is very laid back - but when we ran out of sliced baguette to accompany our rather delicious charcuterie plate, replacement bread arrived within seconds, as if by osmosis.

The wine list of over 200 bottles has a focus on France, particularly Burgundy and Bordeaux, and Italy, but also includes some very good small producers from across Australia and New Zealand, from Tasmania's Pooley to Margaret River's Hoi Polloi.

As for the blackboard menu think dishes like steak tartare, ricotta gnudi, and pork and veal meatballs with a bean cassoulet. Simple. Satisfying. 

The chicken liver paté and duck rillettes on the charcuterie plate were spot on.

I'd like a little more choice in the wines by the glass, which clearly move fairly quickly, but Vincent is a "must visit" for any wine lover who finds themselves in Perth between Wednesday and Sunday. 

The website warns: no bookings; no cash. 

Vincent, 465 William St, Perth. 

Gourmet highlights unveiled for Dark Mofo

Probably the best time to visit Hobart is during Dark Mofo's annual Winter Feast, where visitors can eat and drink the finest produce from Tasmania's gourmet artisans. 

Crackling fires, live music, warming comfort food and a range of delectable drinks will be on offer on the Salamanca waterfront for five nights from Wednesday, June 16 to Sunday, June 20. 

Returning for its eighth year, the Winter Feast is a contemporary take on pagan solstice celebrations and is the hedonistic hub of the Dark Mofo festival. 

Continuing the event’s long-running 'cooking with fire' theme, the 2021 Winter Feast will host more than 80 stalls offering a diverse array of ethically-sourced Tasmanian produce.

Winter Feast food curator Jo Cook said this year’s event would feature a range of returning favourites alongside 30 first-time stallholders - including several exciting new collaborations which emerged during the pandemic.

“We have many stallholders who are thrilled to return with new and delicious menus, and a whole lot of stallholders who will be showcasing their products for the first time,” she said.

“There's rare-breed beef from regenerative farms, free-range pork from small producers, filter-feeding bi-valves such as fresh oysters and mussels, octopus from Bass Strait, Maria Island arrow squid, scallops from the east coast, and a variety of Tasmanian-grown mushrooms and other vegetables.

“Mona’s Heavy Metal Kitchen has gone vegetarian, and teamed up with other local businesses Annapurna, Urban Bounty and Tunnel Hill Mushrooms," Cook said. "There's also plenty of plant-based foods including desserts like ice creams, apple pies and marshmallows; and a massive range of exciting new-release spirits, craft beers, wines, ciders and low-sugar soft drinks.” 

All Winter Feast stallholders are going completely cashless this year, meaning all transactions will be digital for the first time. 

New measures have also been introduced to ensure the event complies with Covid protocols, including capacity restrictions. Patrons are advised to arrive early, and allow extra time to buy tickets and enter the site - there may be a queue. 

Patrons will also need to check in with the Tasmanian Government’s ‘Check in TAS’ app, individually or as a group. 

Visitors will need to be seated while at the venue, except when browsing stalls and buying food and drink.

Additional seating will be available both indoors and outdoors. Limited standing drinking and dancing will be permitted, but patrons may be asked to take a seat if things get too crowded. 

A number of stages across the Winter Feast precinct will host live musical performances, with the program to feature King Stingray, Boil Up, Baba Bruja, Claire Anne Taylor, Son Del Sur, Arauco Libre and many more.

The venue for the festivities is Princes Wharf No.1, Castray Esplanade, Hobart waterfront