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Tuesday 31 May 2022

Go behind the scenes of a Margaret River wine icon

Vasse Felix, one of the star names of the magical Margaret River wine region of Western Australia, is this year celebrating the 50th anniversary of its first wine: the 1972 Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon Malbec, created by founder Dr Tom Cullity.

Now called the Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine has been produced every year since 1972 and just one bottle remains from its first year of production. It is now on display in the Vasse Felix Vault Museum.

The Estate has come a long way since its pioneering days as the first winery in the Margaret River region and is now one of Australia's drawcard winery destination experiences, with its own restaurant, cellar door and art gallery. 

Winemaker Virginia Willcox (above) produces a range of uniformly excellent wines for the owners, the Holmes a Court family. 

Visitors can take a journey beyond the cellar door during The Cellar Experience, a historical tour of Vasse Felix, including visiting the old vines. The tour includes exclusive access to The Vault, home of the Vasse Felix wine museum, for a special tasting of cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay with charcuterie. 

Hugely popular, and recommended, Is the Vasse Felix restaurant for a three-course lunch, showcasing fresh local produce paired with wines, including a glass of back-vintage cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay as enjoyed during your tasting.

Or make a full day of it with the Cape to Vine Day Trip, which includes a regional walking tour, a private tour of Vasse Felix, a tasting of the wine collection, and a food and wine pairing at the restaurant. 

Discover more at

Mix luxury and gourmet experiences in Phuket


Looking for a Phuket resort that also offers a range of gourmet experiences? 

Put The Slate into your diary for next time you are travelling to Thailand. 

Not only does the resort have a unique ambience created by leading designer Bill Bensley, it also features a unique restaurant that is recommended by the Michelin Guide, as well as offering cooking classes and serious wine choices. 

Located at Nai Yang Beach - not far from Phuket Airport - The Slate is within walking distance of food stalls, beach bars and massage options; meaning guests can combine a luxury retreat with some authentic Thai experiences.

The laidback vibe is another bonus. 

The Slate has an impressive collection of suites and villas, including pool villas and the spectacular Bensley Suite, all surrounded by pools and gardens. 

The Thai cuisine at Black Ginger is a standout, along with Sunday brunches at Rivet restaurant.

Black Ginger - worth a visit even if you are not staying at The Slate - appears like an ancient Thai village floating above a floodlit lagoon and is only accessible by raft. 

It is a delightful setting where chef Anongrat “Piak” Meklai uses locally-sourced ingredients and contemporary cooking techniques to reimagine authentic southern Thai recipes. 

Choose from a degustation menu or a la carte and dishes including sun-dried baby prawn with shredded mango tossed with cashew nut; spring rolls with crab claw meat and pork strip; crab meat curry with cha plu leaf accompanied by rice noodle; pork belly with soy sauce Phuket style and Massaman braised beef in thick spiced peanut curry, potato and onion. 

There is a wide array for curries and stir-fries from which to choose. 

With some Californian chardonnay and a taste of Argentine malbec, this was among the finest dining experiences of my recent Phuket visit. 

There are several other wining and dining options on site; perhaps a private tasting in The Cellar, with a high table, six stools and a global selection of wines. 

There are a range of cooking class options to choose from for those who wish to enjoy Thai food at home. 

Food Pilgrimage includes a visit to a local market to select herbs, vegetables and spices before a gourmet cooking session - a self-cooked lunch. 

Unique and whimsical design - based around Phuket's tin mining history - is one of the keys to The Slate's popularity.  

As a member of the Design Hotels Collection, every aspect of the resort is intended to be uplifting and invigorating, from the visual impact of original artworks and installations, which can be explored in a QR code-enabled ‘Art Journey’. 

Coqoon Spa, meanwhile, showcases a customised selection of organic essential oils for its wide range of treatments.

Activities range from yoga to Muay Thai, flowering arranging or snorkelling lessons, or simply strolling along the shores of Nai Yang Beach. This is also a resort where the service never misses a beat, thanks to Thai-speaking Swiss-born and raised GM Claude Sauter, who took over during Covid.

“It is an honour to be appointed GM of The Slate and to work alongside [owner] Khun Moo, who is a truly iconic figure in Phuket’s tourism and hospitality industry," Sauter said. 

"She has successfully created one of the most breath-taking resorts in Asia, which successfully weaves her family’s life story with Bill Bensley’s design and the finest five-star hospitality. 

"As the world starts to travel again, I look forward to ushering in an exciting new era at this outstanding resort, and creating exceptional experiences for all our guests.” 

For details and bookings visit

# The writer flew with Jetstar, which has resumed regular direct flights from both Melbourne and Sydney direct to Phuket.

Monday 30 May 2022

East Coast Tasmania events to chase away the winter blues

Tasmania's East Coast comes alive in winter with a range of events and festivals to help lift the chill.

Among the highlights is the Bay of Fires Winter Arts Festival, which is celebrating its 10th birthday in 2022 and will be held from June 10-13. 

The Panorama Hotel, St Helens, will be the venue for the opening ceremony and gala exhibition, a makers market, a traditional smoking ceremony and exhibition of previous winners.

The 2022 Arts Trail ‘Secret People, Secret Places will begin on Saturday, June 11. 

For more information and the full program visit 

Further south in Bicheno, family-friendly celebration of light Bicheno Beams (above) returns for a second time. 

In 2022, two different light shows will be presented on alternate nights. 

The show runs from July 1-31 in Bicheno Lions Park. See

The Great Eastern Wine Week is a 10-day festival to be held from September 9-18 celebrating boutique wineries and local businesses along the East Coast Wine Trail.

Thailand lifts all quarantine restrictions

Thailand will scrap all remaining quarantine measures for visitors from Wednesday. 

It is a move the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) believes will boost tourist arrival numbers.

It means unvaccinated travellers will no longer require any quarantine on arrival in Thailand. They must, however, show a negative test taken within 72 hours of their departure.

All foreign tourists must still register for the Thailand Pass before entering the country. 

"Fully vaccinated travellers must prepare a vaccination certificate and health insurance coverage worth at least US$10,000," a Government spokesman said. 

"Unvaccinated [or partially vaccinated] travellers must show a negative rapid antigen or RT-PCR test result taken within 72 hours of departure."

TAT reported that arrivals rose to about 20,000 per day from May 1-May 21 after the Test & Go scheme was scrapped, The Nation newspaper reported.

The largest number of visitors came from Singapore (45,961), followed by India (34,582), Malaysia (16,410) Vietnam (14,003) and Cambodia (13,917).

TAT governor Yuthasak Supasorn expects about 500,000 foreign arrivals per month from now to September, mostly from India, the Middle East and Asean nations.

That number could rise to 1 million per month in the October-December high season when arrivals from the US and Europe surge.

Image: Dino Rovolis  on  Scopio

Big plans for key Yarra Valley site

The developers behind two ambitious tourism projects in regional New South Wales today unveiled plans for a new Yarra Valley development.

Winarch Capital’s Cedar Mill Group has acquired a 100-acre site on the Maroondah Highway in the Yarra Valley for its third purpose-built outdoor amphitheatre and tourism project, expected to open in 2024 at a cost of up to $200 million.

It follows the previously announced $235 million redevelopment of Morisset Golf Course, to be known as Cedar Mill Lake Macquarie, with plans for a 30,000 person concert venue, cafés and restaurants, accommodation and Australia’s largest aquatic park. Construction is underway.

Last August, Cedar Mill Group also announced the purchase of one of the Hunter Valley wine region’s most premium development sites, in Pokolbin, for its second purpose-built outdoor amphitheatre and tourism project, expected to open late 2023 at a cost of about $150 million.

A premium wine tourism destination, the Yarra Valley already hosts over six million visitors per year.

Plans for Cedar Mill Yarra Valley, which is just over one hour's drive from Melbourne central, include a 300-bed hotel, conference and function facilities, three restaurants, 20 boutique villa units, tennis courts, a lake and gardens precinct, arts and craft village, and outdoor amphitheatre to host live concerts and events from major local and global touring acts.

The plans include local growers and operators providing boutique goods and dining experiences inspired by the local agricultural produce along wiith winemaking, distilling and brewing.

Winarch Capital and Cedar Mill Group managing director Paul Lambess said: “This strategic purchase is the beginning of our rollout of multiple sites in Victoria, as we are currently doing in NSW.

"This marks the first interstate purchase that will begin our realisation of a national and international network. All venues will include world-class and purpose-built amphitheatres that the Cedar Mill brand will be known for.”

Development plans for Cedar Mill Yarra Valley will be lodged in the coming months, with the construction phase estimated to create over 500 new jobs and inject upwards of $200 million through build costs, job creation, supply chain and consumption over the next two years.

The Cedar Mill group are actively searching for future Cedar Mill sites across Australia, their PR team reports.


Are you ready for a $44 bottle of sparkling fruit juice?

Would you be willing to pay €29 (that's $44 in Australia) for a bottle of alcohol-free wine? 

Leading French wine brand Barton & Guestier, part of the Castel Group, is betting plenty of people are.

The fast-growing "no-lo" sector of the wine market is to be premiumised with the launch of the Nectarose brand, due to go on sale from the end of the year at €29 per bottle.

What is basically organic grape juice is 0.0% ABV and has natural rose aromas, with carbonic gas added to balance the palate with its 50 g/l of residual sugar.

At this price “the positioning is that of alcohol-free Champagne,” wine industry newsletterVitisphere reported Petra Frebault, marketing manager for the Barton & Guestier brand as saying.

Interestingly, the range will probably not be released in France.

Designed for the export market, Nectarose “targets seawater therapy centres and spas whose female clients want to treat themselves”, as well as “women who like sport and want to reduce their alcohol consumption," said Frebault with impressive sexism.

“This is a niche market,” said Barton & Guestier's sales director, Philippe Marion.

"Alcohol-free is very much associated with the lower end of the market in the United States, so we need our positioning to be unmistakably premium to reach out to consumers who want to treat themselves.”

Good luck with that Phillipe.

Barton & Guestier started making wine in Bordeaux in 1802 and now exports wine to over 130 countries. Its showpiece is the Chateau Magnol (pictured above). 

Sunday 29 May 2022

Hapless airlines cut flights at a time demand is surging

Air fares have gone through the roof as the whole world wants to travel again post Covid lockdowns.

But major airlines have been caught short by the renewed demand - with some still cutting their schedules at a time when more people than ever want to fly.

American carrier Delta is the latest airline to trim its northern summer schedules, citing labour shortages and supply chain issues as the reason for its inability to run full schedules effectively.

To avoid potential disruption (and underline its incompetence) Delta will slash 100 flights a day during the summer, Travel Mole reports.

The cuts will last from July through to August 7.

The cuts will affect flights that Delta serves across the US and Latin America.

Weather, vendor staffing, increased Covid case rates are contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups,” Delta said in a statement.

"More than any time in our history, the various factors currently impacting our operation - weather and air traffic control, vendor staffing, increased Covid case rates contributing to higher-than-planned unscheduled absences in some work groups - are resulting in an operation that isn't consistently up to the standards Delta as set for the industry in recent years," Chief Customer Experience Officer Allison Ausband said.

High demand for flights has seen average fare prices surge, but the airlines can't get their acts together.

Other carriers - including JetBlue and Alaska Airlines - have cut schedules to minimise operational issues. Shareholders - and potential customers - should have serious questions.

Bumbling Boris wants to bring back pounds and ounces, inches and feet

Boris Johnson's public persona sits somewhere between pompous party-loving prat, and mendacious grifter.

I'm assured, by a friend who went to school with him, that his private persona is even worse. He is, however, as master of deflection. "Look over there."

Viewed from afar, Bonking Boris would appear to hanker for the 1950s, when toffs took charge and proles knew their (subservient) roles.

The British Prime Minister's latest jolly wheeze to put the great back in Great Britain is to bring back imperial measurements.

He clearly hopes this deflection will please Brexiteers and deflect away from that little disaster.

Local media reported the Conservative Party hopes the move could shore up support in pro-Brexit regions after Government popularity took a hit amid revelations about lockdown-busting parties at 10 Downing Street.

Britain currently uses a mix of imperial and metric measurements, with speed limits in miles per hour and milk and beer bought in pints.

The Sunday Mirror reported that Johnson is expected to announce next week that British shops will be allowed to sell products measured in pounds and ounces to coincide with celebrations for the Queen's 70 years on the throne.
“As the British people have been happy to use both imperial and metric measurements in their daily life it is good for the government to reflect that now we are free to change our regulations accordingly,” the newspaper reported a Government source as saying.

Since 1995, goods sold in Europe have had to display metric weights and measurements. And since 2000 - when the EU’s weights and measures directive came into force - traders have been legally required to use metric units for the sale by weight or measure of fresh produce, which became a recurring issue for Eurosceptics about Brussels’ alleged interference in the "traditional" British way of life.

While it is still legal to price goods in pounds and ounces, these have to be displayed alongside the price in grams and kilograms.

During the 2019 general election campaign, Johnson pledged that he would bring back imperial units in shops.

He claimed that measuring in pounds and ounces was an “ancient liberty” as he heralded a “new era of generosity and tolerance” towards traditional measurements.

Only three other countries, the US, Myanmar and Liberia, use the imperial system on a daily basis.

But what could be more British than confusing the hell out of tourists by using two sets of measurements side by side? 

Saturday 28 May 2022

Bottle of whisky sells for almost $2 million

A bottle of whisky sold at auction this week for almost $2 million - but it is no ordinary bottle. 
The world's largest bottle of whisky, containing 311 litres of 1989 Macallan single malt, was auctioned in Edinburgh, fetching £1.1million. 

Containing the equivalent to 444 standard-size bottles and standing taller than the average Scotsman, it was among the most expensive bottles ever sold.

The bottle - known as The Intrepid - was certified by Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest. 

The Macallan whisky was matured in two casks at the distillery’s warehouse in Speyside, Scotland.

The bottle was sold to a private international collector, who wishes to remain anonymous. local media reported. 

The bottle is a celebration of 11 explorers, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

“For me and the whole team The Intrepid project has always been about more than money," said entrepreneur Daniel Monk. "This was a passion project to celebrate the life of my late father, Captain Stanley Monk, who was himself an explorer and achieved many amazing things during his life.”

The sale will provide money for several charities. A dozen 50cl bottles and sets of miniatures containing the 1989 Macallan were also auctioned off.

Founded in 1884, the Macallan is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. 

Cashed-up travellers ready to splurge post-Covid

Luxury travel is set to boom in the second half of 2022 in the wake of Covid-19 with more travellers looking at private aviation services, large villas and boutique hotels. 

A new report by GlobalData: Luxury Travel Market Trend and Analysis of Traveller Types, Key Destinations, Challenges and Opportunities, 2022 Update reveals that as luxury travellers resume travelling both domestically and abroad they may begin to seek experiences that are more immersive and more exceptional than in previous years.

“With travellers determined to make up for lost time, 2022 could see an increase in holiday budgets for luxury travellers, with an uptick in demand for ‘once in a lifetime’ adventures," says Hannah Free, Travel and Tourism Analyst at GlobalData. 

"According to a GlobalData poll, when respondents were asked if their holiday budgets had changed due to Covid-19, 16% reported that their budgets were ‘a lot higher than pre-Covid-19’, while 12% of respondents stated that their budgets were ‘slightly higher than pre-Covid-19’.”

Despite the demand for luxury travel, there is a growing demographic of socially conscious, high-net-worth consumers who are rejecting overt displays of wealth in favour of inconspicuous and responsible consumption. 

Their approach to luxury is driven by ethical living, artisanship, authenticity and sustainability.

Experiences are the new currency for these holidaymakers, who seek self-fulfillment through greener travel and eco holidays, while wanting to ‘do good’ for people and the planet. 

If luxury travel brands ignore this trend, it could put them at tremendous risk of total disconnect with an audience who are looking for sustainable options, GlobalData says.

“While Covid-19 has changed many aspects of luxury travel, there are still several defining features which sets the sector apart from mass-market tourism," Free says. 

"This includes hyper-personalisation, exclusivity, unique experiences, intuitive service and the ever important ‘human touch’ element.”

GlobalData offers data, expert analysis and innovative solutions in one platform for industries including the healthcare, consumer, retail, financial, technology and professional services sectors.

Friday 27 May 2022

Airline targeted by cyber criminals

Indian budget airline SpiceJet was this week the victim of a ransomware attack by cyber criminals.

Flight schedules were thrown into chaos by the attack.

SpiceJet said the attack “had a cascading effect on our flights leading to delays.”

The airline says the issue has now been rectified and flights are operating normally.

The disruption left hundreds of passengers stranded across the country with several flights grounded or delayed by several hours.

SpiceJet says it is currently working with cybercrime investigators.

SpiceJet is the second-largest airline in India, operating a fleet of 102 aircraft serving over 60 destinations.

Winter Feast to feature some of the best of Tasmania

Tasmania's Dark Mofo festival is back - and so is the Winter Feast on the Hobart waterfront. 

A huge number of Tasmania's best artisan producers have signed up the June gourmet event. 

“Human beings have been gathering over food to celebrate the end of the winter months for thousands of years,” said new Winter Feast food curator Amanda Vallis.

“One of the things I love about living in Tasmania is the distinct division of seasons, and so I think the Winter Feast is particularly suited to our way of life here.


“We also have an incredibly rich and diverse community who call Tasmania home, so the Winter Feast is a beautiful way to showcase all of the different cuisines that we are lucky to have access to here in Tasmania.


“The last few years have reinforced to me the importance of gathering together for events like Dark Mofo, particularly gathering together over food. It’s something I don’t think any of us will take for granted ever again."


Dark Mofo has announced more than 80 stallholders that will operate at this year’s Winter Feast, including 25 first-time stallholders from across the state like Utizinger Wines from the Tamar Valley, Callington Mill Distillery from Oatlands, La Cantara Artisan Cheeses from Smithton, and Hobart-based OCA Brazilian Inspired Food.


Vallis said the theme for this year’s event was the ancient Roman winter solstice ritual of Saturnalia.


Princes Wharf I's outdoor deck area will be transformed into a roaming Saturnalia-inspired feast, featuring antipasto-style dishes presented by Sirocco South, Roman-inspired honey-spiked desserts by Queens Pastry in collaboration with Tasmanian-based Italian mamma Giuliana White, and the feast’s hero pork dish - handcrafted by guest chef Giovanni Pilu in collaboration with Meat Mistress.

Another "culinary highlight" of this year’s Winter Feast will be the collaboration between palawa kipli project manager Kitana Mansell and guest chef Jo Barrett, with the pair to serve mutton bird grilled over fire with a variety of accompaniments that showcase native Tasmanian ingredients.

Having tasted mutton bird before, I will pass on this "treat". 

The 2022 Winter Feast will also offer a series of special activities for kids, between 4pm and 6pm each night. 

The City of Hobart Dark Mofo Winter Feast will run for five nights, from June 15-19. Ticket prices will be $10 on Wednesday, June 15; $20 on Thursday 16, Friday 17 and Saturday 18 with free entry on Sunday, June 19. See

A uniquely Australian coffee, or complete bunkum?

Fast food people McDonald's are the masters of self-promotion.

And now the people from Maccas are seeking to grab headlines by launching "a uniquely Australian coffee" at their McCafe outlets.

Launched this week, the new drink is called an Australiano and blends coffee with chai and “native wattleseed” in a product advertised as “coffee fit for an Aussie”.

I call nonsense.

No Australians I know add wattleseed to their coffee. And no real coffee lover would go to McDonald's for their caffeine.

Sounds and smells like a publicity stunt to me.

Here's the blurb: "The ‘Australiano’ is Australia’s answer to the Americano, featuring flavours of Australian wattleseed, chai and McCafe coffee".

An Americano, for those not in the know, is what freedom-loving, gun-toting folk call a coffee "made with hot water and espresso". A long black, in other words.

The Australiano is billed as being for a
 "limited time" (probably to see if it tanks or not) .

An ad campaign will reportedly run across TV, radio, digital and social mediums.

McDonald’s group brand manager Lancy Huynh said: “Despite being a nation of coffee connoisseurs, we haven’t had a coffee to call our own. As a champion for Aussie coffee culture, McCafé wanted to right this wrong and craft a blend that Aussies can proudly put their name to.”

OK Lancy. Whatever you say.

Thursday 26 May 2022

Big guns banking on zero-alcohol wines

Let's be brutally honest. Most zero-alcohol and low-alcohol wines are pretty dreadful.

Despite claims to the contrary, many of them simply do not taste like wine.

But industry global big guns Accolade are betting they can do better.

In announcement that got a lot of traction in Britain and South Africa, but flew under the radar in Australia, Accolade has announced it believes it can do better its rivals with a new label called &Then (which, let's be honest, is a dreadful start).

Accolade says &Then is "driven by a desire to elevate the experience of drinking zero-alcohol wines".

It describes the zero-alcohol chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon as "a visionary new collection from South Australia’s cool-climate vineyards" that is "bottled using a revolutionary new de-alcoholising technology".

The result, Accolade says, is "a premium drinking experience and a credible wine alternative that tastes better than any other zero-­alcohol wine on the market".

A pretty confident claim.

Apparently, &Then’s proprietary de-alcoholising technique, The Zero Tech X technology, treats the wine more gently than other de-alcoholising methods.

This, it is claimed, ensures more of the aroma, body and flavour of full-strength wine is retained.

The process also requires fewer sugary additives compared with existing de-alcoholising methods.

The two varietals will be shortly followed by a "Provence-style" rosé, and a Blanc De Blancs sparkling.

The proof, as ever, will be in the tasting.

&Then will be available from June in 750ml format bottles with an RRP of £8 across retail, pubs and bars in the UK.

No news yet on an Australian launch date.

The Tasman links with local drink producers


Full marks to the Tasman Hotel in Hobart for championing and showcasing local Tasmanian products.

The Tasman, a Marriott Luxury Collection Hotel, has just announced exclusive partnership with two of the Apple Isle's high-profile beverage producers: distillers Lark and wine producers Two Tonne Tasmania. 

Hobart-based Lark is home to Tasmania's first single malt whisky and is Australia’s first certified carbon neutral distillery. The Lark team has created The Docks Lark Single Malt Whisky exclusively for the hotel.

“The Lark Single Malt Whisky was matured in ex-port casks, then finished in muscat casks, offering a cosy and heart-warming dram with just a touch of the unexpected," says Jodie Dawe, Lark's senior distiller. 

"The result is akin to running into a charismatic old friend and realising that your night will now be long and filled with whisky and tales, equal parts familiar and fantastic." 

Jodie has a way with words. 

“At the heart of Lark is community, people and place, and the opportunity to share this with The Tasman, just metres away from Lark's first distillery in the heart of Hobart, was the perfect collaboration," says Jason Whalley, Lark's head of marketing. 

"Both partners share a passion for authentic local culture, championing community artisans and unearthing the stories behind the island’s most celebrated talent, spotlighting the importance of the island for both global and domestic luxury travellers."

Lark Distilling also has a personal connection with the legacy of The Tasman site, as Bill and Lyn Lark, co-founders of Lark, used to work in the former Lands Building that now houses The Tasman. 

Ricky Evans, meanwhile, sources fruit from the Tamar Valley, East Coast and southern Tasmania for his Two Tonne ranges. 

He has created a sub-regional pinot noir blend specially curated for The Tasman, drawing on a smaller barrel selection of Tamar Valley fruit. 

"This exciting partnership embodies the very best of a small producer teaming up with a reputable hotel brand, making local Tasmanian wine-making accessible,” Evans says. 

The Docks Lark Single Malt Whisky and Two Tonne Tasman Pinot Noir will each be presented with a unique co-branded design, incorporating The Tasman’s rope graphic – a nod to the hotel’s nautical history. 

Hotel guests will also have exclusive access to both cellar doors - "an extension of the hotel’s commitment to showcasing the epicurean experiences that make Tasmania unique".

This partnerships are the first of many between The Tasman and a network of local Tasmanian producers. 


Why the Yarra Valley wants to warm you up this winter

The winemakers of the Yarra Valley are offering some warming winter experiences with their Fireside Yarra Valley Festival in July. 

The fourth edition of the festival will feature a range of activities for vinophiles and gourmets across a 16-day period from July 9-24.

Events will celebrate the season with the region’s finest wine and food on show against a backdrop of moody skies, crisp (or maybe chilly) nights, and open fires.


This year’s headline events include gourmet collaborations from Bente Grysbaek and Seville Estate and Tom Sarafian and Jayden Ong Wines, as well as the Local Legends Long Lunch,  which brings together some of Yarra Valley’s pioneering wine producers, including Yeringberg, Seville Estate, St Huberts and Yarra Yering at the the new Hubert Estate

“We’re excited to team up our friends from some of the region’s oldest and most awarded wineries for this special event and show off our new home,” says St Huberts business manager Tony Layton.


The itinerary includes winemaker dinners, fireside brunches and wine masterclasses to suit all palates and budgets.


Visit to explore the calendar of events. 

Wednesday 25 May 2022

Hotel offers put a spotlight on the lure of Laos

Laos is a fascinating-looking Asian nation that has long been on my "to visit" list. 

As Laos reopens to travellers with a lifting of all entry requirements for vaccinated travellers, Avani+ Luang Prabang Hotel (above), has launched a new three-night package for those wanting to stay on the banks of the Mekong River. 

Regular readers will recall I was impressed with recent stays at two Avani+ properties in Thailand.

Luang Prabang is a UNESCO World Heritage site with French colonial influences from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

It also features a lively night market, temples, pagodas and the climb up Mount Phousi for the best views of the city.  Visitors will also see orange-robed monks walking the streets, collecting donations for their monasteries. 

Avani+ Luang Prabang is constructed around a swimming pool that acts as a resort centrepiece to a  heritage hideaway. 

The reopening package starts from $US110 per night in a deluxe room for two people and includes a minimum of three nights' accommodation with breakfast for two and return airport transfers, one sunset boat cruise with Mekong Kingdoms; one sunrise alms-giving experience and 20% discount on Anantara Spa treatments.  

Accor, meanwhile, is the largest international hotel operator in Laos, with hotels and resorts under the Sofitel, MGallery, Pullman and ibis brands in both Luang Prabang and Vientiane. 

The Sofitel Luang Prabang (above) was originally built as a French Governor's residence in the 1900s, and is a UNESCO-protected boutique hotel with 25 suites, each with an outdoor bathtub or pool in a private garden. 

Nearby, 3 Nagas Luang Prabang – MGallery has just 15 rooms and suites in a restored teak wood building, while Pullman Luang Prabang sprawls over 16 hectares of landscaped gardens with views of the surrounding hills. 

The administrative capital during French rule, Vientiane is the largest city in Laos. Located in the heart of the city next to the Nam Phu Fountain, ibis Vientiane Nam Phu provides a base from which to explore the nearby historical monuments, Mekong Promenade and night market.

Luang Prabang and Vientiane are connected via a high-speed railway, with journeys taking less than two hours.

Accor is offering travellers to Laos a 10% discount and complimentary breakfast. Travelers can book the 'For the Love of Asia' offer for stays at Accor hotels across the country until December 31. 

Wine drinkers do their bit to help save koalas

Winesmiths - one of Australia's best quality cask wine brands - announced today that $25,000 has been raised for the Australian Koala Foundation through the sale of specially marked Winesmiths Dry Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon packs over the summer. 

One dollar from every specially marked pack sold has been donated. 

"With a focus on sustainability and in the spirit of our ‘Sacrifice Nothing’ ethos, we wanted to prompt consumers to think about their wine choice and their impact on the environment," said Winesmiths senior brand manager Lisa Antoney.

"The Australian Koala Foundation really looks at changing the relationship people have with nature. Conservation efforts not only benefit koalas, but our population as a whole. 

"At Winesmiths, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our impact on the environment. By packing wine into two-litre soft packs instead of glass, we save approximately 1.8 million metric tonnes of emissions each year.

"We recycle 100% of our wastewater for re-use on our vineyards, which equates to around eight Olympic pools of water saved each year."

The chair of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart OAM, said the money raised would go towards the newly announced Koala Kiss Project.

"The project outlines an ultimate vision of the 'Great Koala Trail': approximately 2,543 kilometres of uninterrupted conservation and prime koala habitat from Cairns to Melbourne, connected at 'kiss points'," Tabart says. 

"Kiss points are the points where intact sections of koala habitat come close to each other, but remain separated by divisions of cleared land. 

"If we achieve contiguous habitat, then all creatures great and small could traverse through the bush unthreatened.

"Humans could walk under this trail of gum trees with koalas happily in the branches overhead.

"Funding for projects is always important, but having our message spread to wine lovers around Australia will enable more people to think about the conservation of the koala and some of the bigger issues, like deforestation and water management.”

Winesmiths will unveil their next Sacrifice Nothing project later in 2022, with the objective to continue to bring awareness and much-needed funding to important sustainability causes.


Winesmiths two-litre wine casks are available in most liquor stores. RRP $16.

Fancy owning a cruise ship?

Ever fancied owning and operating your own cruise ship?

Two cruise ships from the failed Crystal Cruises fleet are heading for sale by auction.

Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony (above) are to be offered for sale in a sealed tender process in the Bahamas.

Bidders are required to post a 10% deposit with their bid by June 7, Travel Mole reports.

The Supreme Court Commercial Division in the Commonwealth of the Bahamas published the official notice of sale.

The ships have been impounded in Freeport since February 5, due to the collapse of parent company Genting Hong Kong.

Winning bidders will be informed by June 14 and have seven days to complete the transaction.

Several bidders have reportedly shown interest in the ships, along with Crystal’s polar and river vessels.

Genting recently sold three cruise ships for scrap that were part of its Asia-based Star Cruises brand.

Tuesday 24 May 2022

Meet the new [yellow tail]: made in Chile, destined for China

Australia's biggest wine export brand, [yellow tail], has launched a Chilean-made range for the Chinese market to sidestep China’s punishing tariffs on Australian wine, Chinese wine website Vino Joy News reports.

The fruit is understood to have been sourced from one of Chile’s biggest producers, Santa Carolina, and the range will be called [yellow tail] World Series, Vino Joy said.

The move follows the move by another Australian wine giant, Treasury Wine Estates, to bypass tariffs by making Rawson’s Retreat wines in South Africa for the Chinese market.

Penfolds, with previous huge sales in the Chinese market, has revealed plans to launch its Chinese-made Penfolds wines in second half of the year.

The [yellow tail] range for China includes four varietals: cabernet sauvignon, shiraz, merlot and chardonnay.

In an email to Vino Joy News, Libby Nutt, general manager of marketing and export sales, said: “We have a fantastic and loyal consumer base in China, where [yellow tail] wines have been available since 2007.

"We are excited to launch [yellow tail] World Series so we can continue to offer consumers everything they have come to expect from the [yellow tail] brand - great wines full of flavour, from a brand with a fun and vibrant personality.”

[yellow tail] is owned by the Riverina-based Casella family.

The wine will be sold at RMB 53 (US$8) a bottle on China’s leading e-commerce platform, or RMB 318 (US$48) for a case of six.

Toronto gourmets have a cause for celebration

There is much excitement in multicultural Toronto, with local gourmets celebrating the news that the city is the first Canadian destination to get a Michelin Guide

Destination Toronto and Mayor John Tory made the announcement.

Mayor Tory says he hopes the Michelin Guide will help spread the word about Toronto as a culinary destination to travellers around the world. 

"This is an exciting moment for our city as Toronto will become the first Michelin Guide destination in Canada," Tory said. 

"This further bolsters our reputation as a world destination for food and cuisine. Our diverse city, along with the many renowned chefs who call Toronto home, have helped us get to this point and to be able to showcase all of the wonderful restaurants." 

I'll be visiting Toronto soon and hope to check out a couple of the city standouts. 

"For the first time in its history, the Michelin Guide lands in Canada, and our inspectors are excited to experience the impressive culinary landscape of Toronto," said Gwendal Poullennec, international director of the Michelin Guides.

The inaugural edition of the Michelin Guide Toronto will be released during Canada's autumn 2022, with a selection of restaurants receiving honours.

# Air Canada offers daily direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney. From June 6 to September 5 (Monday, Thursday and Saturday), Air Canada will increase its service to twice daily from Sydney to Vancouver. 

From July 3, Air Canada's Brisbane-Vancouver direct flights will resume four times per week. Direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver are also available on Qantas. 

Internal flights are available throughout Canada from all major cities, in addition to Via Rail train service.

For more details on visiting Canada, see

Prankster punks puzzled passengers

It is an old stunt - but a good one.

Passengers flying into London’s Gatwick are being perplexed by a huge sign near the runway - clearly visible from the air - that says: “Welcome to Luton”. 

The large, white lettering seen in a field is a work by Youtuber Max Fosh, Travel Mole reports. 

Luton is another airport in the London region but it is about 100km away from Gatwick. On the other side of the city.

Reminds me of the in-flight announcement on my Jetstar flight from Melbourne last Friday. 

“Welcome to your flight to Sydney,” passengers were told. Which prompted guffaws as we were heading to Hobart. 

The Gatwick prank is not the first.

A ‘Welcome to Perth’ rooftop sign was once placed near Sydney Airport and a ‘Welcome to Cleveland’ sign was once familiar to those flying into Milwaukee.

Monday 23 May 2022

Discover a Phuket hideaway retreat with amazing views

Regular visitors to Phuket tend to have a favourite beach area to which they return. 

There is Patong for party lovers, Kata, Karon, Surin or Kamala for those looking for a more chilled vibe. 

I'd like to suggest another alternative for those looking for great views, a relaxed atmosphere and some delightful local experiences. 

Family owned and operated Sunsuri (above) is located at Nai Harn Beach at Promthep Cape, just 10 minutes from Kata but a world away in pace. 

Here you feel like you are in Thailand, rather than a resort enclave.

The resort offers stunning sunset views because it is in the deep south of Phuket Island, on a hillside but just a short stroll to an unspoilt beach and local shops and food stalls. For lovers of nightlife, busier Rawai is just a short tuk tuk ride away.

The hillside location means Sunsuri rooms and villas offer superb vistas of the ocean and the local lake (popular with walkers, joggers and cyclists). 

Nai Harn Beach is recognised as one of the best beaches in Phuket (SeaBreeze is a lovely little cafe) and there are also several massage options. 

Sunsuri's location means it is a little cooler than resorts on the waterfront. It offers modern facilities for couples, honeymooners and families. 

Older guests might need to use shuttle buggies to get around as the resort is spread across a wide area and features a few climbs.

When fully operational (as an independent hotel Sunsuri was badly hit during Covid), the hotel features 128 rooms with eight buildings and 22 pretty sensational pool villas (below) are designed in a contemporary Thai style.

Each of its accommodation units has a wide balcony with views and the rooms are very spacious (starting from 45 sq.m). 

There are two restaurants, two bars, a wine cellar, five swimming pools with a kid’s area, slide and 4-metre diving platform. 

There is free high-speed wifi Internet access throughout the hotel (much faster than in suburban Sydney or Melbourne), a spa, games room, a lounge for early arrivals and late departures, a fitness centre, recreation and sport activities and free bicycles for guests.

There is a talented kitchen team equally adept at Thai, fusion and European cuisine. 

There several local attractions, which include some lovely off-the-beaten track beaches, a delightful local temple and the waterfront Rawai fish market, where you choose your dinner and a chef cooks it for you. 

For full details on the hotel see: 

# The writer flew with Jetstar, which has resumed regular direct flights from both Melbourne and Sydney direct to Phuket.