Thursday, 28 October 2021

Auckland and the Scenic Rim grab global attention

New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, and the Scenic Rim region of Queensland are the only Australian and New Zealand destinations featured in the newly released Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2022.

The book is the 17th annual collection of the world’s hottest destinations and "must-do" travel experiences for the year ahead, and features lists of the top 10 countries, cities and regions to visit in 2022. 

ChrisZeiher, Lonely PlanetSenior Director Trade Sale and Marketing, said Auckland deserved its place as the No.1 city destination. 


“This is an amazing recognition of Auckland and its surrounding attractions," he said. "Within the city’s boundaries there are 53 volcanoes, more than 50 islands, three wine regions and numerous beaches that make this a truly exciting and vibrant city.


“There is so much to discover or rediscover in Auckland and this recognition, especially now as people start contemplating travel again, places Auckland as the number one city on the map.” 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says: Lonely Planet’s promotion of Auckland as the best city in the world to travel to in 2022 is a fantastic acknowledgement of what Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer. It will give a real boost to Auckland’s tourism and hospitality sectors as they start to recover from the Covid-19 lockdowns and borders reopen.  


“It is also a reminder to Aucklanders and New Zealanders of the treasure trove of places and experiences we have on our doorstep. Seeing Auckland through the eyes of an international traveller is one way to understand how breath-taking, exciting, creative, and full of energy our region is.


“Knowing it is top of the list for travellers around the world, Aucklanders and New Zealanders have the first chance to explore and rediscover everything Tāmaki Makaurau has to offer.”


The book lists top five Auckland highlights including West Coast beaches, Hauraki Gulf Islands, Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland Art Gallery and volcanic cone climbs (top image).


Close Kiwi neighbours The Cook Islands - one of the world’s smallest countries – claimed the coveted spot as the No.1 country to seek out in 2022.


The Scenic Rim in South-east Queensland, meanwhile,  was named No.8 region in the world to visit.

Just an hour from Brisbane and 30 minutes from the heart of the Gold Coast, the Scenic Rim stretches from Canungra to The Lost World, Beaudesert to Boonah, Tamborine Mountain to Kalbar. 

It is home to the ancient World Heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests, historic national parks, charming towns and villages, adventure parks, farm stays, craft breweries, boutique wineries, ecolodges, tantalising gourmet experiences, world- class camping and glamping. 


“After bouncing back from the 2019 Black Summer bushfires with a raft of new attractions and a renewed focus on sustainability, the Scenic Rim in Queensland is primed to become of Australia’s low-impact tourism power players,” says Zeiher. 

“It’s such an untouched and diverse eco-based Australian destination. From the amazing food and wine to the incredible rainforest and bush walks and memorable places to stay, this is an unexpected pocket of Australia that has it all.”


Highlights of the region noted by Lonely Planet include Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, Australia’s newest Great Walk in The Scenic Rim Trail by Spicers, ecolodges Nightfall Wilderness Camp and Mt Barney Lodge as well as the six national parks.


The lists comprise:

Top 10 Countries: 1. Cook Islands, 2. Norway, 3. Mauritius, 4. Belize, 5. Slovenia, 6. Anguilla, 7. Oman, 8. Nepal, 9. Malawi, 10. Egypt.

Top 10 Regions

1. Westfjords, Iceland, 2. West Virginia, USA,  3. Xishuangbanna, China, 4. Kent Heritage Coast, UK, 5. Puerto Rico, 6. Shikoku, Japan, 7. Atacama Desert, Chile, 8. The Scenic Rim, Australia, 9. Vancouver Island, Canada, 10. Burgundy, France. 

Top 10 cities

Auckland, New Zealand, 2. Taipei, Taiwan, 3. Freiburg, Germany, 4. Atlanta, USA, 5. Lagos, Nigeria, 6. Nicosia/Lefkosia, Cyprus, 7. Dublin, Ireland, 8. Merida, Mexico, 9. Florence, Italy, 10. Gyeongju, South Korea

Thumbs up for Slovenia, Vancouver Island, Burgundy, Dublin and Florence, all among my favourite destinations. Thumbs down for Lagos. Seriously? 

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022: $27.99 is available at all good book shops 

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Thai Airways opens up Phuket for Australians

One travel destination I simply cannot wait to get back to is Thailand.

Beautiful beaches, spicy seafood lunches on the sands, a glass or two of cold beer and maybe a massage or two.

Thai Airways today announced non-stop flights between Sydney and Phuket, Thailand’s premier beach destination, three times each week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday from December 8.

Flights will depart Sydney at 9.30am and arrive in time for cocktails at 2.40pm.

Flights have also resumed between Sydney and Bangkok and from November 17: four flights weekly are scheduled.

Flights to/from Melbourne are scheduled to resume in April 2022.

Beyond Thailand, flights have resumed or will soon resume to Europe and Asia, including to destinations like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Milan, Brussels, Zurich, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Singapore and many more.

It is terrific to break a trip to Europe with a night or two in Bangkok.

Flights to India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will resume in January 2022.

From November 1, Thailand will allow Australian passport holders to travel to Thailand quarantine-free.

Stone the crows! Cannabis treatments are all the rage

Regular readers will recall Anantara Chiang Mai’s resort restaurant launching what it said was "a healthy and nutrition-rich cannabis-infused menu".

Now that same innovative hotel group is promoting a range of healthy spa treatments featuring cannabis products. 

As Thailand is preparing to reopen its borders to international guests, Anantara Spa has unveiled a Thai first addition to its signature treatment menu with the launch of cannabis-infused spa treatments.

Coinciding with the decriminalisation of certain elements of the cannabis plant, Anantara Spa is harnessing the restorative and anti-inflammatory compounds contained in cannabis and bringing the traditional healing properties of cannabis into modern wellness practices.

Rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and pain reducing properties, the medicinal purposes of cannabis have been brought back to the forefront of alternative therapies. 

Cannabis has been utilised across central Asia for centuries. 

Among the offerings are:
  • The perfect antidote to long haul flights, the Restful Slumber Journey including a cannabis-infused aromatherapy massage, cannabis salt-infused foot bath and a relaxing cup of CBD-infused tea.

  • After a day of sightseeing or adventures, the Cannabis Stress-Release Journey unfurls tense muscles knots using a cannabis herbal compress ball, or Luk Pra kob, which has been known in Thailand for centuries.

  • For top-to-bottom pampering, the Head to Toe Calming Journey combines a scalp massage with foot reflexology to melt away tension. 

The treatments are available at Anantara Spas across Thailand including the Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort, Anantara Chiang Mai Hotel and Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort (above).

For more information see

Tuesday, 26 October 2021

Winemaker does his bit to help homeless youths

Matt Burton from Gundog Estate is one of Australia's most talented young winemakers. 

Not only does he make excellent wines using Hunter Valley and Canberra-region fruit under the Gundog Estate label, he also collaborates with Seville Estate's Dylan McMahon for Yarra Valley wines under the Burton & McMahon brand.

It turns out Burton is also a winemaker of generosity, working with community partner Path 2 Change, an organisation aiming to break the cycle of youth homelessness in the Newcastle region. 

Over 1000 bottles of the 2019 The Lived Experience Shiraz were produced by Burton, who is donating 100% of profits to Path 2 Change. 

"With our usual fundraising and work experience activities disrupted by Covid-19, we needed to get creative," Burton says. 

The wine has a hand-drawn label symbolising the journey of young people from struggles with broken homes and families to support, freedom, and hope for the future.

"We are donating 100% of profits to Path 2 Change who will use these funds to support local disadvantaged and homeless youth," Burton says. 

“The past two years have been tough for us and most others in the region. But through our work with Path 2 Change, we know that disadvantaged and homeless youth are doing it even tougher. 

"Their needs have escalated significantly, and Path 2 Change now has more clients on their books than ever before.” 

Path 2 Change Chief Executive Officer Jennifer O’Sullivan said: "Young people are also experiencing increased mental health challenges and are at a higher risk of suicide due to isolation, in addition to already being disconnected from family and social supports. 

"Our young people are requiring more support than ever during this time.”

Gundog Estate formed a partnership with Path 2 Change back in September 2018, and since then the boutique wine producer has supported the charity's work through fundraising at wine club events and at Gundog’s two cellar doors.

The one-off wine is available for sale at $35 a bottle and in six packs for $210 online or from the Gundog Estate cellar doors.


Hawaiian Airlines to return to Australian skies

Hawaiian Airlines will resume its five-times weekly service to Sydney from Honolulu in December, the airline has announced. 

Hawaiian halted the service at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020.

Hawaiian will restart Sydney flights on Tuesdays and Thursday through Sunday starting from December 15, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper reported.

"We are thrilled to reconnect Hawaii and Australia and have been encouraged by the public's response to Australia's national vaccination program," said Andrew Stanbury, regional director for Australia and New Zealand at Hawaiian Airlines. 

Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are currently permitted to enter Australia but Australians able to travel overseas.

“Hawaii is a hugely popular holiday destination for Australians, and we know many people have been keenly waiting to take a Hawaiian vacation,” Stanbury said. 

“We are looking forward to safely welcoming our guests back on board to enjoy the authentic hospitality we know our guests love and have missed.”

This latest restoration of Hawaiian service follows an announcement from Governor David Ige last week that starting November 1, Hawaii would welcome back vaccinated travellers. 
In addition to non-stop flights o Hawaii, the carrier’s extensive US domestic network allowing them to travel to 16 US mainland gateways – including new destinations in Austin, Orlando, and Ontario, California. 

Hawaiian will continue to operate the SYD-HNL route with its 278-seat, wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft. 

Glass House takes out Tasmanian wine list honours

Hobart eatery The Glass House on Brooke Street Pier took out the honours at the second annual Tassie Wine Stars event this week.

The waterfront venue, which describes itself as "a dining bar", was crowned the 2021 Judges' Choice Tasmanian Wine List of the Year at the celebration of all things Tasmanian at Tamar Ridge cellar door in Rosevears.

The Glass House is known for elegant cocktails, Tasmanian-inspired shared plates and 280-degree water views.

The wine list includes sparkling wines from House of Arras and Belbonne; table wines from Stargazer, Kate Hill, Domaine Simha, Stoney Rise, Marco Lubiana and Tolpuddle, as well as benchmark pinots from Two Tonne, Small Island, Hughes & Hughes and Apsley Gorge, as well as a range of interstate and imported standouts.

I was honoured to be one of the judges.

The award event brought together Tasmanian wine producers, local wine trade and hospitality representatives along with visiting interstate wine trade guests.

The Old Bank of Geeveston in the Huon Valley took out the 2021 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year - Regional Venue , while Tasmanian Food & Wine Conservatory in Sassafras was awarded the 2021 People's Choice Tasmanian Wine List of the Year, as voted by Tasmanian wine lovers.

Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies commended the 2021 Tasmanian Wine List of the Year winners as well as each of the finalists.

"Tasmanian hospitality operators have experienced a very challenging year," she said. "To have such a strong and diverse list of finalists demonstrating their unwavering support for our local wines is outstanding, and we thank them all.

"These awards are all about recognising and rewarding venues that are doing great things to support local wines - it’s not about having a big wine list or only Tasmanian wines on the list, but about having a focus on Tasmanian wines, appropriate to the individual venue's size, location, style and cuisine."

At the same event, the VinØ ("vin zero") Program Awards recognised the sustainability practices of two wine producers.

As part of Wine Tasmania’s VinØ Program, which helps wine producers measure, improve and report their sustainability and management practices, two awards were announced at the event.

Southwood Wines in Kellevie, east of Sorrell, was announced as the VinØ Program Most Improved Producer while Waterton Hall in the Tamar Valley is the VinØ Program Champion of 2021.

The VinØ Program is a comprehensive, user-friendly resource, focused on key areas of vineyard and winery management including soil health, biodiversity, waste and water management, biosecurity and emissions reduction.

Nelson Mandela’s former home now a luxury boutique hotel

Want to stay somewhere special when you visit Johannesburg? How about sleeping in the former home of one of the greatest men of our generation: Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela? 

Before his death, the anti-apatheid icon and South Africa’s first black president owned three home: one in Qunu, the village where he was raised; the second in Soweto and the third in he leafy Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, where he lived until his death in 2013. 

The Nelson Mandela Foundation in conjunction with the Motsamayi Tourism Group has converted his last home into a luxury boutique hotel that is dotted with Madiba memorabilia.

It was here that the great leader - an inspiration to millions - hosted the likes of Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton. It later became the headquarters of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. 

Sanctuary Mandela offers guests nine rooms capable of hosting up to 18 people and offers retreat spaces for reflection and healing. 

Sally-Anne Grinter, the hotel’s operations manager, describes the experience in these three words: reflection, peace and freedom.

Officially opened last month, Sanctuary Mandela rooms start at around $AU400 a night. 

The presidential suite was Mandela’s old bedroom and there are two meeting rooms, a restaurant, bar, swimming pool and a lovely garden. 

The bar and restaurant are open to the public. 

Grinter says the Nelson Mandela Foundation wanted the property to be self-sustainable instead of standing vacant. 

Accoutrements include replicas of letters Mandela wrote during his lifetime, historic photographs and artworks. 

The green chair at the entrance is the original chair he sat on while reading his daily newspaper under a tree.

Some of Madiba’s favourite dishes, including oxtail - which he ate a boy - are on the menu. Other dishes are traditional to South Africa, like the Nguni sirloin steak and Cape Malay-style fish. 

Cook Xoliswa Ndoyiya, who prepared meals for Mandela and his family for over 22 years, is part of the team that cooks in the restaurant. 

My favourite Johannesburg hotels are the grand The Saxon, coincidentally where Mandela wrote his autobiography, and the delightful boutique Ten Bompas. The Maslow Hotel and the Radisson Blue Gautrain in Sandton are other good options, but Sanctuary Mandela sounds special. 

Bookings are required before visiting the restaurant or bar. For accommodation bookings or more information visit the website.

Would you pay $78,000 for this special bottle of whisky?

You'd need to be a very keen whisky fan - and probably the holder of a black American Express card - to be tempted by a new release from The House of Suntory.

The Japanese distiller has just introduced a tiny quantity of limited-edition Yamazaki 55 whisky to Global Travel Retail, available at a recommended retail price of $US60,000 - tfat’s $78,000 for Australians. 

Bottled in 2020, Yamazaki 55 is the House of Suntory's oldest release in its history and pays tribute to the founding family of Japanese whisky.

Yamazaki 55 will be available to select Global Travel Retail outlets with bottles to be found in London, Paris, Hainan, Hong Kong, Taipei, Amsterdam, Seoul, Delhi, Istanbul, Dubai and Singapore.

Beam Suntory will donate $5,000 for every bottle released in this year's 100-bottle collection to The White Oak Initiative, a group committed to the long-term sustainability of America's white oak forests.

Yamazaki 55 is a blend of single malts, featuring components distilled in 1960 under the supervision of Suntory's founder Shinjiro Torii and then aged in Mizunara casks; and in 1964 under the direction of Suntory's second Master Blender Keizo Saji and then aged in White Oak casks.

Suntory's fifth-generation chief blender Shinji Fukuyo worked closely with third-generation Master Blender Shingo Torii to create Yamazaki 55.

The resulting liquid "features a deep amber colour; robust aroma redolent of sandal wood and well-ripened fruit; sweet, slightly bitter and woody palate; and slightly bitter yet sweet and rich finish" - says the press release. My sample obviously got lost in the post.

Manuel González, marketing director Beam Suntory, said: "We are extremely proud to have the opportunity to offer travellers something as unique and exclusive as Yamazaki 55, the oldest-aged expression from the House of Suntory.

"This highly limited-edition product will be showcased in some of our best House of Suntory locations, and it will be amplified by an integrated activation campaign. We are committed to growing Global Travel Retail by reinforcing our innovative offering and bringing the best premium shopper experience to life for our customers."

'Yamazaki' is engraved in calligraphy on each crystal bottle, while the age marking is accentuated with gold dust and protected with lacquer. The bottle's opening is wrapped in handmade Echizen washi paper and bound by with a Kyo-kumihimo plaited cord, a traditional craft from Kyoto.

Each bottle is enclosed in a bespoke box made from Japanese Mizunara wood and coated with Suruga lacquer.

Monday, 25 October 2021

Walking, or running, in Sydney sunshine


I no longer run very much. Unless someone is chasing me. 

Which doesn't happen very often. 

But I do remember from my days living in Sydney that the city is a runner’s and walker's paradise. 

From the Bay Run and the Bondi to Coogee Walk to the Pool to Pool Run that takes you past some of the city’s most renowned sights, here are some suggestions from Destination NSW. 

The Bay Run

Just a 10-minute drive from the city centre in the inner western suburbs, this 7km loop around the shores of Iron Cove Bay links the suburbs of Drummoyne, Russell Lea, Rodd Point, Haberfield, Leichhardt, Rozelle and Balmain. It’s one of the most popular harbourside running tracks in Sydney, traversing the natural course of the cove and never more than 20 metres away from the water. The predominantly flat, well-maintained track is a local favourite, regularly frequented by cyclists, dog walkers and pram pushers. A recently added 500-metre extension for cyclists and pedestrians has just been opened to offer more space for everyone.

The Bondi to Coogee Coastal Walk

One of Sydney’s most iconic tracks (above), this 6km run starts at the southern end of Bondi Beach and follows the coastline to Coogee via Tamarama and Bronte. Though the course is not particularly long, you’ll encounter stairs, hills and narrow parts along the path, as well as plenty of locals who take a more leisurely pace, taking two hours or so to complete their walk. You can choose to tackle portions of the track, then reward yourself with a dip in the water at one of the beaches and pools along the way including Clovelly, Gordons Bay, McIvers Baths, Wylies Baths and Giles Baths. For those looking for a further challenge, continue onwards from Coogee to Maroubra, another 5km stretch. 

The Manly to North Head Walk

On the Northern Beaches, a string of sandy beaches stretching north from Sydney, start this 10km stroll at the lagoon near Queenscliff, then head towards Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, admiring the cliff faces. From the path at the Shelly Beach carpark, you can begin your ascent to North Head - this run is a little more challenging due to the steep incline. Reach the Fairfax Walk at North Head for spectacular views across Sydney Harbour Heads. This paved track, ideal for a run, starts at the end of the North Head Scenic Drive and circles around the top of North Head, encompassing three lookouts. 

The Pool to Pool Run 

A perfect way to start a Sydney summer’s day, this invigorating run will have you sweating then swimming to cool right off. You’ll also pass some of the city’s most beloved spots. Starting at the pretty-as-a-picture North Sydney Olympic Pool at Milsons Point, this run will take you over the Sydney Harbour Bridge, along the Cahill Expressway passing Circular Quay. You can jog past the Sydney Opera House and then sprint into Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, finishing at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and Andrew Boy Charlton Pool in a pocket alongside the garden for a recovery splash in the striking outdoor pool. 

Ch-Ch-Changes work out well for Oakridge Wines


Wine lovers are often concerned when one of their favourite producers is sold. 

More so when an independent winery is snapped up by a business conglomerate. 

What will change? Will corporate toe-cutters strike?  

There were certainly fears for the future direction of Yarra Valley icon Oakridge Estate when, at the start of the year, it was sold to Endeavour Drinks which was then part of Woolworths.

Endeavour has since demerged from Woolworths, prompting further questions. 

Winemaker David Bicknell (above) describes it as "a tumultuous year" - but reports all is well aboard the good ship Oakridge. 

"Importantly, the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same," Bicknell says in a media release. 

"We have been granted the autonomy and given the backing to get on with making Oakridge what it should always have been - wine focused and appropriately resourced. 

"Winemaking technique is unchanged, the team is intact and the will and spirit to make good wines are stronger than ever." 

For details see     

An experiment: Will fine spirits age better when stored on the water?

Will fine spirits age better when stored on the water?

French company Maison Ferrand's newly operational Barge 166 will be used to conduct "dynamic aging" experiments on spirits.

Maison Ferrand has the world’s first floating ageing cellar, BARGE 166, on the banks of the Seine just outside Paris. The vessel will house premium rum, whisky and Cognac.

A 73-year-old river barge is the new home to around 1500 barrels of fine spirits.

The canal boat is located on the river bank in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineux.

It is the culmination of two years of research and development by the Cognac-based fine spirits producer, Drinks Business reported.

The project involved a complete structural rebuild of the vessel in order to make room for the barrels. The boat’s engine had to be removed.

As well as Maison Ferrand’s own cognac and rum, Barge 166 will age collaborations with select spirits partners including Mackmyra Swedish Whisky.

The barrels will be studied closely to analyse the impact of dynamic ageing in the boat’s very humid cellar, which is expected to see significant temperature variations. Consumers will also be able to buy and personalise a barrel.

The Freycinet-style barge has been designed to house approximately 1,500 custom-made 30-litre barrels.

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Meet the world's largest observation wheel

Ain Dubai, the world's largest and tallest observation wheel, was finally set in motion this week.

Located on Bluewaters Island, it is one of the most anticipated attractions in the United Arab Emirates and has been planned since 2013, the Khaleej Times reported.

Passengers can board one of 48 luxurious cabins, each able to carry up to 40 guests. At any one time there can be up to 1,750 people on the wheel.

One complete rotation of the wheel takes 38 minutes and locals says it is "steady as a rock".

At 250 metres, the Ain Dubai is almost twice the height of the London Eye.

The previous tallest wheel - the Las Vegas High Roller - stands at a height of 167.5 metres.

Workers from over 10 countries came together to create Ain Dubai, with the steel wheel structure produced across the UAE, South Korea and Germany.

The UK, France and Netherlands provided key engineering and project management expertise and Ain Dubai was built using the two largest cranes in the world.

The observation cabins provide 360-degree views of Dubai and over the waters of the Arabian Gulf and landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. 

Construction began in May 2015 but the opening was delayed by the Covis-19 pandemic.

Cool-climate, elegant and affordable: a rare wine trifecta

The phrase "cool-climate" and the word "elegant" combined are often wine industry code for "expensive". 

Not so with the new Quilty & Gransden range of wines from Cumulus Vineyards in Orange - a region that is just about as cool climate as it gets in New South Wales. 

The Quilty & Gransden range - five varietals in all - is promoted as "premium quality, affordable wines". It is certainly rare to find wines from Orange which retail for just $15 a bottle. 

The single varietals comprise a 2020 sauvignon blanc, a 2019 chardonnay, and a 2018 merlot, shiraz and cabernet sauvignon using estate-grown fruit managed by Orange region vigneron of the year Russell Quilty and Nuffield Scholarship recipient Martin Gransden.

“Our purpose is simple; we want to get as many people drinking the great wines from Orange as we can," says Cumulus Vineyards CEO Tim Jones. 

"Quilty & Gransden wines are an affordable entry point for people to enjoy the elegant wines that Orange is becoming famous for."

Vineyard manager Quilty says: “The wines from Orange are outstanding, but they should also be affordable.”

All the grapes for these wines are sourced from 25-year-old vines that sit at a cool 600 metres above sea-level where the fruit enjoys intense, high-elevation sunshine, resulting in flavourful medium-bodied wines. 

Viticulturist Gransden says: “We are not interested in making big, heavy alcohol wines, we want to make elegant, food-friendly, savoury wines.” 

At $15 a bottle all represent reasonable value but it was the cabernet sauvignon, pleasingly medium-bodied and varietal with blackcurrant flavours and subtle oak, and the crisp, tropical and refreshing sauvignon blanc that stood out for me. 

“Shiraz, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon and merlot are the varieties that people like to drink here,” says Gransden. 

“We think that our core offering coupled with Orange’s reputation for producing quality wine will really be appealing to consumers.” 

It's certainly nice to see a wine range named after those who grew the fruit rather than the name of a vineyard or a winemaker. 

“We decided to name this range after Russ and Marty,” says Jones. “They are two of the most talented vignerons in New South Wales and have spend a combined 30 years looking after our magnificent vineyard.

“Orange is one of Australia’s most exciting wine regions, but the majority of wines from here are too expensive for everyday consumers.”

See for details. 

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Perth's Murdoch precinct to gain an international hotel

The fast-expanding Murdoch Health and Knowledge precinct in Perth will be home to a new-build Courtyard by Marriott hotel.

Marriott International has signed an agreement with local developers Hesperia to introduce the Courtyard by Marriott brand to one of Western Australia’s fastest growing commercial and residential catchments.

"We are thrilled to be working with Hesperia to bring the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Perth," said Richard Crawford, vice president for hotel development, Australia, New Zealand, and Pacific.

"Murdoch is a large-scale health and knowledge precinct and the signing of Courtyard by Marriott Perth, Murdoch further underscores Marriott International's continued effort in expanding into urban growth corridors outside of Australia's capital cities."

Located 10 minutes from Perth CBD and 25 minutes from Perth Airport, Courtyard by Marriott Perth Murdoch will offer proximity to existing institutional and corporate demand generators including Western Australia's largest tertiary hospitals, Murdoch University, the South Metro TAFE Campus and one of Perth's fastest growing districts.

"With two Courtyard by Marriott hotels already open in Australia, and five more in our pipeline, it is very satisfying to see the Courtyard brand gaining such momentum here," Crawford said.

Hesperia director Kyle Jeavons said the hotel will be a perfect alignment with the precinct.

"The Courtyard by Marriott will deliver an inviting experience that is suitable for the precinct and the broad range of users it will attract," Jeavons said. 

"When selecting the right mix of partners for a complex mixed-use project such as this, it is essential to align with groups that share our philosophy in customer service and hospitality and we're pleased to be bringing the Courtyard by Marriott brand to Perth."

The hotel is slated to feature 150 guest rooms, feature an all-day dining restaurant with a semi-open kitchen concept, a café and bar. Additional plans call for a well-equipped fitness centre and one meeting room, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and wireless internet.

Marriott International currently operates 35 hotels across Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific, with 26 hotels in Australia, and several expected to open by the end of 2021, including Melbourne Marriott Hotel Docklands and The Tasman, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Hobart.

Facial recognition technology may remove the need for passport checks

European rail operator Eurostar is set to begin trials of a new biometric identity verification technology that promises seamless travel across national borders.

Created by identity, payments and data protection developer Entrust, the new system will allow travellers to register their face and passport ahead of travel for a touch-free journey through border checks, Travelmole reports.

No more passport scans. The way of the future?

Passengers embarking at London’s St Pancras International will use only their face to check in for their train, having registered their passport and facial image before travel. 

Using the Entrust Seamless Travel Solution, passport data will be automatically sent to UK Border Force to check.

The initiative is the first move into travel for Entrust, which said its technology meant travellers could also dispense with boarding passes and the need to show documents multiple times at different checkpoints.

It said: “The Seamless Travel Solution follows all regulations, does not retain personally identifiable information and encrypts all data in transit and at rest for maximum user security.

“Each traveller using the service can receive the option to store their digital travel credential on their personal mobile device, but this is not required.”

Gordon Wilson, Entrust’s vice-president identity verification, added: “As citizens of the world begin to travel again, now is the perfect time to bring this solution to the market.

“We are confident that the Seamless Travel Solution will help launch the world into a new era of travel, allowing travellers to feel safer and experience less hassle, while also enabling operational efficiency to both border agencies and the entire travel industry through digital transformation.”

High-speed Eurostar serves London, Paris, Brussels, Lille, the South of France and many more European destinations.

Friday, 22 October 2021

New Champagne collection offers the colours of Asia

Champagne Pommery has officially unveiled its 2021 World Collection: Céleste. 

As today is World Champagne Day, and as many wine lovers are already looking at buying Christmas presents, the new collection is worthy of attention. 

After choosing artwork that saluted Australia, South America, Japan and Africa in previous years, Pommery has chosen Asia as its next destination. 

he Celeste collection features five limited-edition bespoke gift boxes. 

The custom-created artworks draw inspiration from traditional Asian design, featuring colours embellished with ornate gold and silver foil patterns. 

The five-wine range includes the much-vaunted Pommery Grand Cru Royal 2008 vintage. 

The 2008 was a great one in Champagne and Pommery Grand Cru Royal vintage is blended from seven grands crus and has excellent ageing potential.

Maison Pommery is renowned for creating the ‘brut' style of champagne in 1874 under the reins of Madame Pommery. 

The cuvées available in the Céleste range are  the Brut Royal NV, Brut Rosé NV, Brut Apanage NV, Apanage Blanc de Blancs NV and Grand Cru Vintage.

It is a tough job but I will be tasting them over the next few weeks and updating this blog with my notes. 

The 2021 Céleste limited-edition range will be exclusively available through Qantas Wine from the end of  October, followed by all major stockists from mid-November 2021. 

A special treat for Perth wine lovers

Update: now sold out. 

Calling Perth wine lovers. 

If you are missing out on this weekend's UnWined Subiaco event there is another smaller, more personal tasting coming up in November. 

Cellar Door in the City at Roberto's on Bennett will run on November 20-21 - with the Sunday already sold out. 

Winemaker Gavin Berry from West Cape Howe (left) will be joined by Mike Kerrigan from Hay Shed Hill, Gill Graham from Mount Trio Wines and John Waldron from Risky Business for a casual event with canapes from 2-5pm. 

It will be an opportunity to taste over 50 wines from the four wineries, chat with the people that make them and also have access to one weekend only discounted prices.

Tickets are now on sale. 


Go small; go Yarra Valley

With restrictions easing in Melbourne today for those who are fully vaccinated, members of the Yarra Valley Smaller Wineries Association have brought forward their reopening dates and will be offering a range of experiences to Victorian wine-lovers - including picnics, tastings and new menus.

As the Yarra Valley is technically within Metropolitan Melbourne, the extended lockdowns have been particularly challenging for boutique wineries across the region, with many losing close to 90% of their direct cellar door sales over the past two years.

Members of the association are relieved to welcome guests back to their family-run cellar doors from today but all guests will need to provide proof of vaccination and check into each winery as per government regulations.

Some of the re-opening dates vary, so check before you travel.

Among the members are Steels Gate Wines cellar door and restaurant at Dixons Creek, which produces classic Yarra Valley varietals, as well as interesting Iberian wines including graciano and bastardo; Yering Farm Wines, a small, single estate winery, orchard and sheep farm; and Sutherland Estate, run by a former barrister and a former ballerina.

Others include Soumah of Yarra Valley (above), with outstanding wines, an authentic northern-Italian Trattoria and luxury accommodation; family-owned Warramunda Estate; boutique operation Whispering Hills, Brumfield Winery, Killara Estate with breath-taking views; Boat O’Craigo; Kellybrook Winery; Tokar Estate; Seville Estate; Seville Hill, Elmswood Estate and one of my personal favourites Mandala Wines, as well as Payne’s Rise.

For those looking for a feed as well as a wine tasting, Steels Gate Restaurant offers European, Asian and Indian fusion dishes with many of ingredients coming straight from the on-site garden; while Trattoria d’Soumah has a new menu for summer which will include antipasti boards, mains and wood-fired pizzas.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Celebrity chef has big kitchen plans

Celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita is striking out on his own again with the launch of Alba in Noosa Heads,  Queensland, in late November. 

Kuuvita established his reputation at Sydney's iconic Flying Fish from 2003 to 2011 before launching several venues in Fiji and most recently manning the pans for eight years at  Noosa Beach House at the Sofitel. 

A protegé of the late Tony Bilson, the chef of Sri Lankan heritage has a global reputation and is a well-known TV presenter. 

His new restaurant will be called Alba by Kuruvita and will encompass a café and pizzeria, cocktail bar, restaurant, providore, cooking school and event space. 

His signature dish, snapper curry, will be back on the menu. 

Situated on Alba Close and built on the site of the original Noosa White sand quarry, Alba is the Latin word for ‘white‘. 

The Alba Chefs Kitchen will be a creative space for cooking classes, private chefs‘ tables, and a complete studio kitchen.

Kuruvita's childhood experiences cooking with his grandmother in Sri Lanka inspired him to become a chef and incorporate spice and tradition into modern cuisine.

His three cookbooks, Serendip, My Feast and Lands of the Curry Leaf and five series of TV shows have further expanded his reputation. 

Alba by Kuruvita will be a relaxed all-day bar that offering that evolves into a stylish restaurant and cocktail bar as the day progresses. 

“It is really exciting to be building a new venue again from the ground up," Kuruvita said. "Working with the designers and developers - it is going to be a beautiful destination. 

"I wanted Alba to have a diverse range of offerings – there’s something for everyone! There’s a great opportunity to keep the surrounding community happy with the café, take-away wood-fired pizza and a boutique providore. 

"A stylish bar and all-day menu will draw golfers straight from the 18th hole at the bottom of the road, while the dining room will offer either intimate dinners or open up for large events."

Kuruvita is also excited by the cooking school. 

"I can’t wait to start on a cooking school and chef’s table program," he says. "We’ll even be able to hire the space out as a wired studio kitchen with camera solutions. It’s a chefs dream!”

For full details see

Also new in Noosa are an Italian offering, a creperie and a revamped favourite. 

Sydney's Italian institution Lucio's is set to reopen an Aperitivo bar and river views at the Noosa Marina in late November. The restaurant will be run by Lucio Galletto's two children, Michela and Matteo, and Matteo's wife Dieuwke Albertsma, who was a chef at Lucio's for seven years.

Flo's Creperie has recently opened in Noosa Junction with a range of savoury and sweet crapes and some vegan offerings. There is also a  cocktail menu.

Long-time favourite Rickys Noosa, meanwhile, has recently completed an extension of its restaurant, creating more space and even more absolute Noosa River frontage.

For more Noosa info visit 

A bath and a half for everyone

The quirky and eclectic village of Daylesford is known for farmgate trails, wellness warriors and holidaymakers looking to escape the big city for the perks and privacy of the countryside.

Daylesford and neighbouring Hepburn Springs are also well known for their hot springs and spas.

In the midst of the madness that was 2021, two of Australia’s most highly awarded accommodation operators embarked on a journey to build Australia’s best outdoor baths in Daylesford.

David and Mani  Penman are the operators of Clifftop at Hepburn and Samurai Villas, which featured here a few days ago. 

“We learned early on that its all about the bath," says David Penman.

"Bathing isn’t just about intimacy and comfort…there are real health benefits too. Immersive bathing increases body temperature and enhances the flow of oxygen.”

Clifftop at Hepburn offers a decadent choice of indoor and outdoor baths, from stone to blackwood, bronze, copper and stunning terrazzo marble. 

Clifftop’s new Samurai Villas boast a 2.6-tonne outdoor stone behemoth carved from a massive boulder (set in one of the state’s best Japanese gardens) and the new Precarious villa will showcase a camphor laurel wooden bath with fibre-optic lighting inlaid in resin (below) – the only bath of its type in the world.


And the Penmans are not resting on their laurels. There’s plans in hand for one-of-a-kind outdoor baths built on gigantic ethically-sourced logs weighting up to 20 tonnes each…and there is also talk of a treehouse with a bath!

For details and bookings see 

Why art lovers will be descending on Oslo

A new building has transformed Oslo's skyline and this Friday the new Munch Museum will open its doors. 

The new museum and gallery is being billed as "one of the highlights in Norwegian cultural life". 

The 13 floors are dedicated to the famous expressionist painter Edvard Much's life and art. 

The distinctive museum building, designed by Estudio Herreros, has been specially designed for major art exhibitions.

Visitors will be able to see no fewer than four versions of the iconic painting The Scream in the new facility. 

Covering 26,313 square metres and 11 galleries, the museum is tailor-made for the world's biggest collection of art by Munch, as well as works by other Modernist and contemporary artists. 

Edvard Munch was born in Løten, Norway, in 1863 and was active for more than 60 years. He is regarded as one of Modernism’s most important artists.

His best-known work is The Scream (above), painted in 1893, which is one of the most iconic paintings in modern art. Other famous pieces include The Girls on the Bridge and Madonna (not that one!).

Munch died at his home in Oslo in 1944, shortly after his 80th birthday.

The four versions of The Scream will be displayed in a rotunda, each for one hour at a time as part of the permanent exhibition. 

"The Scream is more relevant now than ever in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic," says Maren Lindeberg, head of press at the museum.

"The Scream has come to reflect our collective anxiety and fear of the global virus. Sometimes the effect is humorous, like when the Scream-figure is depicted wearing a face mask and carrying hand sanitiser." 

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Meet Adelaide's newest gourmet destination


Discover Adelaide's new gourmet destination: Garçon Bleu, a French eatery due to open on November 4. 

With elevated city views from its location on level nine of the new Sofitel Adelaide, the 90-seat restaurant aims to serve accessible French cuisine . 

Garçon Bleu's dining room boasts an open kitchen, an extensive wine wall, and an up-lit oyster and raw seafood bar. 

Executive head chef overseeing creative direction is Justin Dingle-Garciyya, who was classically French trained under Raymond Blanc at the two Michelin starred Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Oxford. 

He has worked at some of the world's best five-star hotels and resorts including for Aman Resorts and Jean Georges Vongerichten. 

“While Garcon Bleu honours the techniques of French cuisine, it colours outside the lines, delivering dishes that are modern in creation," he says. "We are making French cuisine more accessible and fun, and we are excited to present our unique take on it.”

Working alongside Dingle-Garciyya is Chef de Cuisine Gianni Delogu (above), who has previously worked at Melbourne restaurants Vue de monde and Grossi Florentino

Menu highlights include; twice-baked cheese soufflé with mushroom velouté and pickled shimeji mushrooms; Adelaide Hills 'Buzz Honey' glazed duck breast, duck leg bon-bon with an apricot and carrot puree and sauce a l'orange and sous vide Southern Rock Lobster tail, grilled watermelon and dessert lime with a bisque emulsion.

The menu includes a vegetarian offering to cater for the growing vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian markets.

Sommelier Trevor Maskell has curated a selection of French and Australian wines with several by the glass.

They range from Domaine Jean Dauvissat Chablis and Ministry of Clouds Picpoul to labels like Henschke. 

Get up close and personal with Canada's polar bears

Everyone loves a polar bear. 

And the good news for thousands of polar bear lovers is that live bear cams will be active throughout Polar Bear Week from November 1-7. 

Cameras will be capturing every moment of the annual polar bear migration from Churchill in Manitoba. 

Polar Bear Week allows real-time access to these magnificent creatures in their natural habit, as they wait for the sea ice to form in order to migrate across the Canadian Arctic.

Or come on a virtual Tundra Buggy trip in Churchill to see the polar bears as they wait for winter sea ice to form on Hudson Bay. 

A Tundra Buggy is a low-impact, all-terrain vehicle specially designed to operate in the harsh conditions found in the Arctic with minimal environmental impact. 

The height of these buggies enables them to navigate through small streams and snow drifts and keeps the guests inside safe.

Find out full details here at Polar Bear Week or access streams at