Saturday, 23 September 2017

New venture for wine's perpetual-motion man

There are seldom enough hours in the day for global wine industry player Martin Krajewski.

A self-made man, the English son of Polish immigrants, he owns wine businesses in France and South Africa and is casting glances towards Australia for the second time.

He recently sold his Bordeaux business, Chateau de Sours, to one of the world's richest men, Chinese billionaire Jack Ma. He's close to Ma and is helping him as a consultant.

The sale of Chateau de Sours, home of one of France's most vaunted rosés, enabled Krajewski to concentrate on his impressive Grand Cru St Emilion estate, Clos Cantenac, and his South African venture; Aristea.

Krajewski, who worked with former Penfolds Grange maker John Duval on the Songlines/Bylines business in Australia, also owns Chateau Seraphine in Pomerol and has recently invested in a private distillery in Norway called Oslo Handverksdestilleri.

The former owner of a recruitment firm in the City of London is a major figure in the world of contemporary art and is casting covetous glances at cool-climate vineyards in Tasmania.

Like many of the super-rich, Krajewski is down to earth and humble with few airs and graces. He's been a friend for a while now, and our most recent meeting was at a pub in La Perouse when he hit Sydney to promote both Chateau de Sours and Clos Cantenac, both of which are distributed in Australia by Robert Oatley.

Now he and his business partners - Florent Dumeau, a leading oenologist from Bordeaux, and Matt Krone, a local winemaker whose family pioneered sparkling wines in South Africa some 12 generations ago - have released their first Aristea wines.

"The aim of Aristea is to produce exceptional wines which speak of their terroir and reflect the Cape itself, from its harsh landscape to its raw beauty," Krajewski says.

"Even the name, Aristea, reflects one of the many plants found only in the Cape which requires the brutality of fire to allow it to flower, and then for just one day."

Aristea owns no vineyards but draws on long-established relationships to source some of the best fruit from around Stellenbosch.

For its market début, Aristea has released a 2016 chardonnay and 2015 cabernet sauvignon from Stellenbosch but there are some MCCs - Méthode Cap Classiques - in the pipeline, needing a few more months on the lees before they are released.

The launch in London early this month proved a success, with quantities already limited. For those interested go to or

"These wines are the result of four years of very hard work, struggle and careful planning, but it has been well worth the long wait as they 'sing' a new song about South Africa and it's wonderful promise and for that Matt Krone, Florent Dumeau and I are happy and grateful to have experienced the long journey together," Krajewski said.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Somewhere sophisticated, sexy and safe to stay in Johannesburg

If I am staying in much-maligned Johannesburg then boutique hotel Ten Bompas is my accommodation of choice; budget permitting.

The helpful staff, brilliant location and chic surroundings make Ten Bompas my home away from home in this vibrant, edgy African city.

The hotel is situated in a tranquil garden setting in the upmarket neighbourhood of Dunkeld West and is close to the business and entertainment hubs of Rosebank, Hyde Park and Sandton.

There are just 10 rooms at this leafy oasis and personalised service is a major drawcard for me at the all-suite hotel and restaurant complex.

Each suite is furnished individually and there is an unmistakable European vibe (the owners also own a property in France).

The inspiration behind the name of the Ten Bompas restaurant Winehouse is a painting of Amy Winehouse by Joanna Flatau a Poland-born artist living in Paris.

The owners of Ten Bompas first met Joanna in Lagrasse, Languedoc, where they purchased her iconic painting for the quirky hotel eatery.

Space, meanwhile, is a contemporary event and conference centre designed for Ten Bompas by award-winning architect Enrico Daffonchio.Wrapped in glass and steel, the interior of SPACE is a blank canvas, allowing users to customise their functions and events.

There are all the luxuries you'd expect from a boutique hotel; security, a swimming pool, gardens and same-day laundry.

All suites comprise a separate lounge with guest toilet, workstations and wood burning fireplaces, a large bedroom with king or twin beds and full bathroom and steam room.

Each suite leads on to a private garden or terrace and free high-speed wifi in all rooms, lounges and public areas.

Ten Bompas is part of the Design Hotels portfolio and is at 10 Bompas Road, Dunkeld West, Johannesburg. +27 11 325 2442. Rates start from $4000 a night (under $400) and are inclusive of breakfast, complimentary in-room mini bar, hot beverages and laundry service. 

# Winsor Dobbin visited South Africa as a guest of Amarula and was assisted by South African Airways.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A hotel bothers to ask guests what they really, really want

Hotel rooms and facilities often seem to designed by some strange creature who has never spent a night away from home. 

Stupidly placed lights, unworkable showers, uncomfortable pillows, power points that need to be accessed by climbing under the bed, ridiculously expensive wifi and so many more issues. Anyone who spends more than a few nights away from home has encountered them. 

So it was nice to hear about a hotel that actually bothers to ask its guests what they actually want. No surprise that hotel was the uniformly excellent Rees Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand. 

In preparation for launching its new luxury Rees Residences, general manager Mark Rose wanted to gauge what former guests thought and surveyed 5000 - who didn’t hold back on their feedback.

“So often we think we know what people want, but when you actually go to the market you actually find out – and some of the results were surprising” says Rose.

Top hotel and room amenities combined and ranked in order were: 
1. Free high-speed wifi, 2. Complimentary breakfast 
3. Car parking, 4. A room with a view, 5. Daily housekeeping. 

The items and amenities that made the least favourite list were the in-room Bible, turndown service and complimentary magazine selection. 

The survey identified a parochial preference for ‘Linden Leaves’ when it came to a choice of bathroom amenity brands in order of popularity. The Kiwi brand beat international rivals L'Occitane en Provence, Hermes and Molton Brown.

Many guests were surprised to sight condoms in a mini bar and thought hotel shower caps were “very 1980’s”.

Taking all these passionate responses into account, Rose says The Rees Hotel will now have fresh eyes and inspiration when it comes to deciding on which amenities and in-house comforts to provide guests.

Turn away now, unless you have an black Amex card

I love to dream about holiday destinations. Particularly exotic ones.

And when it comes to exotic, it would be hard to beat Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort, which sits on Quirimbas Archipelago off the northern coast of Mozambique.

Untouched, remote and exclusive, the African island hideaway measures just one kilometre long and 300 metres wide and boasts white powdery sands and azure waters.

And for those who have oodles of cash to splash, Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort has just launched Naturally Exclusive, a rare opportunity to enjoy the tropical paradise with a hand-picked selection of your friends and loved ones.

Naturally Exclusive offers a luxurious setting perfect for gatherings, intimate weddings or special occasions for the family.

The island accommodates up to 24 guests in 12 luxury villas, each with its own private plunge pool boasting endless views of the ocean.

Chefs are on hand to create breakfast, lunch and dinner menus; including traditional Portuguese-accented seafood.
Guests are offered a feast on the beach or an evening sail on a traditional dhow.

The region is part of the Quirimbas National Park, renowned for its coral reefs, and whale, dolphin and dugong populations.

Resort buildings are designed in tribute to the surrounds, with sustainable materials used wherever possible. Recycling and conservation are major trademarks.

How do you get here? A three-hour flight from Johannesburg's OR Tambo Airport and a 45-minute helicopter ride should do it.

The Anantara Medjumbe Naturally Exclusive opportunity costs $12,900 per night, for a minimum three-night booking, including accommodation for 24 guests, full-board dining created by personal chefs, and a selection of non-alcoholic drinks, house wines, beers and spirits.

Actually, that doesn't sound so expensive at all. If only I had some credit left on my cards. 

For more information about Anantara Medjumbe Island Resort’s Naturally Exclusive offer, visit

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Discover one of the most romantic getaways in Asia

Sala Phuket, one of Thailand's leading independent hotels, is located on one of Phuket's quietest and cleanest beaches but is just a 20-minute drive from the international airport. 

It is regarded as one of most romantic hotels and is a popular wedding destination. No wonder. The setting is simply stunning.

This deluxe pool villa resort features private swimming pools in 63 of its 79 rooms, villas and suites, along with beautiful daybeds and outdoor showers. You can enjoy complete privacy if you opt for in-villa dining but you'd miss out on the spectacular sunsets from the poolside Sala restaurant.

There is a wide range of traditional Thai and western dishes on offer, with the signature Kanom Jin dish; rice noodles served with spicy red coconut curry slowly simmered with daily market fish and infused with ginger, kaffir lime leaf and shrimp paste.

The vibe here is chilled with Sino-Portuguese architecture combining with modern five-star facilities; a beachfront bar and, during summer, rooftop dining, offer cool spots for a cocktail or glass of wine from the award-winning list.

Mai Khao beach is great for a sunset stroll – and is often almost deserted. If you want to really get away from it all and spend some quality time with a loved one, then this is a perfect location.

Activities on offer for couples include snorkelling, elephant trekking, cooking classes and yoga, while on-site facilities include a gym, library, business centre, sea kayaks, bicycles, two beach-front pools, steam rooms, while there is high-speed wireless internet for those who simply must stay in touch.

Accommodation choices in this tranquil sanctuary include the signature pool villas and one- and two-bedroom pool suites and, as a special treat, guests can enjoy a long-tail boat day trip to the limestone cliffs of Phang Nga.

My bet, however, is that most guests will not want to leave their own little slice of paradise. 

Sala Phuket, 333 Moo 3, Mai Khao, Thalang, Phuket. +66 7633 8888.

The writer travelled with assistance from Singapore Airways. SIA has operated services to Australia since 1967 and has grown from twice-weekly flights to Perth and Sydney to operating 126 weekly flights from six Australian cities. Alongside its regional wing, SilkAir, and low-cost carriers Scoot and TigerAir Singapore, SIA provides Australian travellers with access to a global network of 131 destinations in 36 countries through the world-famous Changi Airport hub, including Phuket. 

Airline flies its environmental credentials

British Airways has entered a partnership to design a series of waste plants that convert household waste into renewable jet fuel to power its fleet. 

I've been no great fan of BA's service in the past but this partnership with Velocys, a renewable fuels company, is part of the airline’s plans to develop long-term, sustainable fuel options. And that has to be a good thing.

The first plant will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household waste per-year, destined for landfill or incineration, including nappies, plastic food containers and chocolate bar wrappers, and convert it into clean-burning, sustainable fuels. 

This will contribute to the airline’s commitment to reduce net emissions by 50% by 2050.

As well as helping the airline industry reduce its carbon emissions this initiative will also significantly reduce the amount of waste going to landfill. The United Kingdom still sends more than 15 million tonnes of waste per year to landfill sites which not only damages Britain's natural environment but also releases further greenhouse gases affecting climate change.

The planned plant will produce enough fuel to power all British Airways' 787 Dreamliner-operated flights from London to San Jose and New Orleans, Louisiana for a whole year. It would be the first plant of this scale. 

The airline plans to supply its aircraft fleet with increasing amounts of sustainable jet fuel in the next decade. 

The jet fuel produced at the plant will deliver more than 60% greenhouse gas reduction, compared with conventional fossil fuel, delivering 60,000 tonnes of CO2 savings every year. This will contribute to both global carbon emissions reductions and local air quality improvements around major airports.

For details on British Airways see

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Sorry gentlemen. This gourmet tour of Italy is not for you.

I just received notice of a new tour that sounds like hell to me. Private shopping in Rome with an Italian fashion journalist; private tours of the Hall of Mirrors and the Vatican.

Fortunately, I am not the target market for the Tastes of Rome & Sicily Tour, which runs from September 6-16 next year. 

For a start I am the wrong sex. This is tour is aimed squarely at ladies only. Ladies who like to shop, eat and drink. Ladies who are single.

Put together by Andrea Powis of Travelling Divas, who specialises in "high quality, high value and experiential travel for women" this tour for a maximum of 12 "combines the glamour and sophistication of Rome, with the beauty, culture and divine wine and food of Sicily".

It's a good idea really; showcasing two very different sides of a fabulous country. 

Attractions that sound much more up my street include a vintage Vespa tour of Rome, cocktails and canapes at the rooftop bar of the Sofitel, and a catered picnic in Borghese Gardens.

Exclusive access to wineries in Sicily and exclusive dining experiences, with wine pairings including at two Michelin-starred restaurants, also sound up my street, but alas...

There will be at least one man involved: Uncorked & Cultivated's Master of Wine, Peter Scudamore-Smith, a wine expert with impeccable contacts.

Hotels are "a mix of five-star glamour in Rome to divine, luxurious old-world hotels in Sicily, with sweeping views of the sea and inland at a renovated Locanda".

For full details and pricing, check out:

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Days of wine, food and chamber music

It's one of Australia's iconic festivals: a combination of fine wine and chamber music in the country. 
The Huntington Estate Music Festival in Mudgee runs over two weeks; the opening weekend on November 18-19 and the full festival from November 22-26. 
World-class chamber music concerts are held in Huntington Estate's intimate barrel hall, while wine and food are served in the lovely winery grounds before, during and after concerts. 

Concerts are held over long, lazy days and at night. 

The line-up for the 26th festival comprises a mix of international talent and outstanding Australian musicians performing some classics of chamber music.
Tickets include a full music, food and wine experience and start at $175 for the opening night. They are also available in two-, four- or eight-concert packages.

The setting and atmosphere are promoted as "rustic, relaxed and unpretentious" with a stage made of wine crates and pallets, and a backdrop of a wall of barrels holding maturing red wine.
Concerts are held late mornings (followed by lunch) and evenings (followed by dinner).
Afternoons can be spent exploring the lovely town of Mudgee and its cellar doors, galleries, cafés and shops, enjoying bush walks or indulging in a restorative afternoon nap prior to the evening concert.
For more information and tickets, go to

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Surprise winner of Australian retirement destination survey

A new survey has produced a surprise winner as the best retirement destination for Australians. 

Malaysia topped the 2018 Global Retirement Rankings released by global publication

Kuala Lumpur
The rankings compare and contrast the world's best retirement havens across 10 categories.

Malaysia scored strongly across the board, performing well in the cost of living and healthcare categories and topping the categories visas and residence, healthy lifestyle, ease of fitting in and entertainment and amenities.

"We have more of a social life here than we ever did back home; here everyone is always out and about, it's easy to meet up with people," says expat Cyndy Fenner-Smith who retired from Sydney to Penang with her husband Mick.

Georgetown, Penang 
A high-rise apartment that looks and feels like high-end Sydney costs less than a house to rent in Dubbo and everything from eating out to travelling around is a fraction of the cost of the similar activity in Australia.

Not only are people friendly and helpful but expats can talk to them in English-a legacy of a time when Malaysia was part of the empire, the report found.

The healthcare system is so good and affordable it attracts over a million medical tourists a year. 

Malaysia is currently home to around 200,000 expats. 

"I honestly can't think of a retirement haven I've visited that offers you so much ease, convenience and comfort; and I definitely can't think of another place that offers it at such a low price," says IL executive editor Eoin Bassett.

An in-depth explanation of Malaysia standing in the ranks of the IL Australia's 2018 Global Retirement Rankings, the six other best retirement havens in the world, and information on how the rankings are compiled is available at: Best Places for Australians to Retire (

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

New landmark to tower over Bangkok

The Thai capital of Bangkok is to get its first city observation tower, a 459-metre-high tower that will rank among the top 10 world's tallest towers as well as being the tallest observation tower in South-East Asia.

Artist's impression

The tower is being jointly built by two foundations, the Bangkok Observation Tower Foundation and the National Identity Foundation, after the Thai cabinet gave approval for the country's new landmark project to proceed.

The cost of construction, totaling approximately US$138 million is being funded by more than 50 private sector organisations who are contributing to the project.

Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, the Bangkok Observation Tower is set on a 6,400 square- metre land plot owned by Thailand's Treasury Department and leased to the Bangkok Observation Tower Foundation for 30 years.

The Foundation is required to deliver ownership of the tower and all other structures on the land to the Treasury Department when the construction is completed in 2019.

The tower has been enthusiastically embraced by Thailand's tourism sector as a much-needed addition to the nation's tourist-pulling attractions and as a catalyst to investment and employment in the sector.

"The tower is the most important new addition to Bangkok's rich array of tourism magnets and one that will attract people from around the world, said Ittirith Kinglake, president of the Tourism Council of Thailand.

Historic Tasmanian vineyard property gets a makeover

It's all change at one of Tasmania's most historic vineyard properties: Craigie Knowe outside Swansea on the east coast of the Apple Isle.

Just over 40 years since the first vines were planted, there is a new range of wines and new cellar door that was officially opened last weekend.

Glenn and Sandy Travers purchased the winery in 2013 after coming to Tasmania on a holiday and have given the property a complete makeover, including planting new vines and converting the former winery into a rustic tasting facility with comfortable al fresco seating. 

Visitors are invited to enjoy a gourmet vineyard plate, cheese board or chocolate and wine matching experience and have a chat to the owners while tasting.

Craigie Knowe Vineyard was established in 1979 by then Hobart dentist John Austwick, who planted five hectares but sold the vineyard in 2009.

A subsequent owner left the vineyards unattended in 2011 and 2012, giving the Travers family lots of work to bring things back up to scratch.

The property also includes a circa 1842 sandstone and bluestone homestead, as well as the pioneering vineyard while the Travers family also source grapes from a nearby vineyard.

Craigie Knowe was one of several properties farmed by the pioneering Amos family, who accumulated significant holdings in the Cranbrook area. The homestead was built by James Amos (1804-1864), and it sits on the highest point of the Swan valley floor, on a craggy knoll that in Gaelic was termed Craigie Knowe.

"We, along with our son Alex, have worked hard to bring the vineyard back to health and vitality," says Glenn Travers. "Our wine is now made off site (by Matt Wood of Spring Vale), allowing us to concentrate on our vines so we can bring you the best wine possible."

The range includes outstanding estate 2015 pinot noir and 2016 riesling, along with an excellent pinot gris, a pinot noir rosé and a lighter pinot noir, all from 2017, under the entry-level white label.

Craigie Knowe is at 80 Glen Gala Road, Cranbrook, Tasmania. 0499 901 109.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Head to outback Australia for a different holiday experience

Outback tourism in Australia is growing in popularity with a new $5 million cabin, caravan and camping resort announced for just outside the frontier mining town of Broken Hill. 

Out of the Ordinary Outback, which has five other properties and owns Tri State Safaris has announced it will open its sixth accommodation property in March next year. 

Overlooking the Barrier Ranges and Sturt desert, 13km east of the town of Broken Bill, the cabin, caravan and camping park will surround the historic Mt Gipps Hotel, which was built in 1890 but closed in 1987. 
Work expected to cost $5 million is underway to restore the former hotel, which will boast a bar, restaurant and reception when the resort opens. 
Landscaping work and cabin construction has started on the Barrier Highway property, which will also feature a swimming pool and facilities for campers and caravaners. 
The popular Outback Astronomy tourist attraction, which offers guided views of the stars at night, is just 4km away.
News of the resort follows twin announcements in March this year that Out of the Ordinary Outback had bought a Broken Hill motel to rebrand it as The Argent and that it would also build a new $750,000 hotel and conference centre at another of its properties, Copper City Motel, in Cobar.

The Mt Gipps Hotel property was purchased last year by Out of the Ordinary Outback owner and passionate bush lover, Scott Smith, who dreamt of reviving the abandoned building for the enjoyment of holidaymakers keen to explore rural and remote Australia. 
“The old Mt Gipps Hotel is a beautiful heritage building that was crying out for some love and care so our plan to make it the handsome centrepiece of this new outback resort," Smith said. 
"We will breathe new life into the building and add colour and interest for holidaymakers travelling through the far west of New South Wales. 
“Guests at the Broken Hill Outback Resort will be able to stay amongst the vast frontier country for which the outback is famous, with its big skies and never-ending horizons, and with Broken Hill just a 10-minute drive away.”
A new website for bookings at the Broken Hill Outback Resort, which is more than 500km from the nearest city of Adelaide, will be launched later this year.
Launched in October, 2016, Out of the Ordinary Outback encompasses outback tour company, Tri State Safaris, The Argent motel in Broken Hill, Warrawong on the Darling tourist camp and cabins at Wilcannia, the White Cliffs Underground Motel, Cobar’s Copper City Motel, the Ivanhoe Hotel, and an Out of the Ordinary Outback visitor centre in the centre of Broken Hill.
For information visit or call 1300 688 225.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

After 91 years, a family winery aims to make a national splash

Giovanni Patritti started making wine in the Adelaide suburbs 91 years ago. Today, Patritti Wines marked its official launch into the contemporary Australian market. 

Patritti unveiled a range of six wines under the Merchant Series label with premium wines from McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills, new label designs, screw caps and a $24 price point at the Commercial Drinks trade event in Sydney. 

The PR blurb says that: "Inspired by the adventurous spirit of Patritti’s founder, Giovanni Patritti, the labels feature photographs and stories depicting the family's 91-year history."

Those labels feature old family photos, including one of Giovanni with former world heavyweight boxing champion Primo Carnera, who became a long-time family friend. 

Giovanni Patritti migrating to Australia from Piedmont in Italy in 1925. He believed he was on his way to America to meet his sister. Instead,  he landed at Port Adelaide

Without a word of English, he quickly started supplying European-style table wines to other ‘new Australians’.He soon became known as John and established his own small winery in the Adelaide suburb of Dover Gardens. 

Today, Patritti is the last remaining 100% family-owned suburban winery in Adelaide. The family also owns two vineyards in McLaren Vale and crafts its most exclusive red wines from these vines.

The Merchant Series wines are aimed at engagement with millennial wine drinkers who, the company says, seek authenticity and credibility from brands.

Patritti’s Merchant Series has launched with a range of six wines; Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from the Adelaide Hills, and GSM, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon from McLaren Vale, all retailing for $24 per bottle.

Look out for extensive consumer advertising across print, social and digital channels. For more details on the family see

Thursday, 7 September 2017

New lounge option at Melbourne Airport

Stuck at Melbourne Airport for a few hours and need a lounge in which to relax and do some work? 

Members of Qantas and Virgin Australia's frequent flyer schemes, and those flying business class are already sorted, but there is definitely a demand for a pay-as-you-go lounge like the new Marhaba lounge opening next week. 

Marhaba's lounge is located in Melbourne Airport’s Terminal 2 and the facility is available to passengers departing Melbourne on any airline. Prices start from $75 for four hours. 

Marhaba is an Arabic word used in the Middle East as “Hello”, and the Marhaba lounge should not be confused with the Marhaba organisation that is a support group for LGBTIQ Muslims.   

The new lounge features comfortable seating for 200 guests, a quiet zone for relaxation, shower facilities, buffet cuisine from around the globe and a selection of Australian

Coffee provider Hudson Coffee is also on site in the lounge, preparing fresh coffee from its dedicated barista bar.

Open daily from 6 am to midnight, the lounge also offers free wifi and Marhaba has linked with the world’s largest independent lounge access provider, Priority Pass, giving its members access to the lounge. 

It is also working with a number of international airlines, providing complimentary access to select passengers flying with those airlines.

Melbourne Airport is the second busiest in Australia and one of the most important travel
gateways in the country with more than 33 million passengers in 2016. 

Passengers wishing to use the Marhaba lounge can make online bookings at or simply walk in and pay for access on the spot.

Slovenia's capital is one of the most romantic destinations on earth

Slovenians like to joke that their tiny country is the only one with the word "love" in its name, while the name of its capital, Ljubljana, means “the beloved”.

It's a happy coincidence, then, that Slovenia is a popular destination for both romantic weekends - and weddings.

For a start, Ljubljana is a storybook-cute city that can be traversed on foot.

On the banks of the Ljubljanica River, the city boasts cafés and quirky art nouveau architecture, and honeymooners can explore the streets of Ljubljana Old Town, walk along the city's charming canals and bridges, or tour Ljubljana Castle.

At the central market you can pick up fresh fruit and vegetables from the local farmers. From the market, hop on the funicular that takes you to Ljubljana Castle for a magnificent view of the Ljubljana basin and the city.

Foodies can also enjoy a range of gastronomic delights in the capital - including the unique local sausages - joined together under the name Taste Ljubljana.

For such an attractive city, it is remarkable that Ljubljana has not previously had a five-star hotel.

The brand-new InterContinental Ljubljana, the tallest in the city,  features a wellness and spa centre with an indoor pool and panoramic view, as well as a rooftop restaurant serving international and local dishes.

The city centre is only a 10-minute walk from the hotel, while Ljubljana train and bus station is 750 metres away. 

For details see Visit Ljubljana's official tourism website: 

New taste sensation in southern Tasmania

Visitors to Tasmania have yet another gourmet option with the opening of the Taste House at Woodbridge, 30-minutes south of Hobart.

The Taste House is the new venture at Woodbridge Smokehouse, an artisan business known for producing some of the finest smoked seafood in the world.

Visitors can enjoy traditionally-smoked ocean trout and Atlantic salmon direct from the smoker, which is just down the road from Grandvewe Cheese.

The Woodbridge Smokehouse is set on a 25-acre apple orchard. Traditional hand-smoking processes using a mixture of local hard woods (including the apple orchard shavings) create delicate and distinctive flavours.

Foodies are invited to discover the unique taste for themselves by dropping into the tasting room to sample the award-winning fare.

The Taste House is open daily 10am-4pm, noon-4pm on Saturdays, and by appointment on Sundays.

The setting – with its stunning water views - provides an irresistible backdrop to a tasting table with products including a new salmon spread with lemon and crackers.

On Thursdays and Fridays there is a ‘Go behind the Production’ tour (for groups of 4-8 with bookings essential) to reveal the finer details of the purpose-built smokehouse and processing facility.

Guests can see how a small team with over 75 years of experience between them follow long established traditions to fillet, brine, smoke, and hand slice the fish.

Tours last approximately an hour and cost $45 per person including tasting samples. A liquor licence has been applied for.

The Taste House is at 59 Thomas Road, Woodbridge, just past Kettering and the Bruny Island Ferry turn off.

For tour bookings or general inquiries call (03) 6267 4960 or visit

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Brilliant Orange Wine Festival Aims To Run Like Clockwork

There is no doubt that the small town of Orange, in Central Western New South Wales, is one of Australia's most exciting cool-climate wine regions. 

Orange will once again celebrate its cool climate wines this spring with the 2017 Orange Wine Festival Formerly Orange Wine Week) running from October 13-22. 

The festival, which runs from October 13 to 22, comprises no fewer than 80 different events aimed at showcasing not only for the region’s vineyards and cellar doors, but also for the restaurants and gourmet produce for which the area is renowned.

Highlights of the festival program include: Wine in the Vines, a day-long wine discovery and roving lunch through vineyards and cellar doors; the Orange Wine Show, with tastings and masterclasses on regional characteristics; and the Wine and Food Night Market in Robertson Park, where more than 50 food and wine stallholders will showcase their wares.

Winemaker Justin Jarrett from See Saw Wines 
There will also be indigenous cultural experiences, special dinners and lunches, food workshops, live music and family-friendly events, as well as the launch of local winemaker William Rikard-Bell's new Rikard label.

Think wine labels like Philip Shaw, Printhie, Patina, Angullong, Ross Hill, See Saw, Mayfield, Heifer Station, Angullong, Brangayne and Colmar Estate. 

The Vino Express, launched for the first time in 2016, is back again for the 2017 festival. The train, which departs from Central Station on Friday, October 20 and returns on the Sunday evening. 

Otherwise, Orange is a 3.5-hour drive from Sydney over the Blue Mountains. At an elevation of 600 to 1000 metres, it is the highest wine-growing region in Australia and is regarded as the premier cool climate wine region of New South Wales. 

For details see 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Melbourne hotel appoints four-legged ambassador to greet guests

Melbourne's Park Hyatt has a new brand ambassador - an 18-month old Labrador called Mr Walker. 

Mr Walker was trained to provide assistance and companionship to people with low vision or blindness by Guide Dogs Victoria, but turned out to have a personality better suited to hospitality work. 
Park Hyatt Melbourne's first canine ambassador has a larger-than-life personality best suited as an ambassador dog, where his affectionate nature will truly be able to shine.
Mr Walker will work for Park Hyatt Melbourne hotel manager Brett Sweetman, who is also his official foster carer.
“We are very proud to be able to count Walker as part of the family, and confident that he will make everyone feel at home here at Park Hyatt Melbourne,” said Brett.

Daily activities for Mr. Walker will include using his notable people skills to bring a new level of comfort at Park Hyatt Melbourne, where he will be able to greet guests with a warm, furry welcome. 
Guests will also be able to take their morning walks with Mr Walker or visit him at the hotel lobby, where he will be lounging on his custom-made Tasmanian Oak bed, or share their own photos of him by using #BarkHyattMelbourne.
I've stayed in Canadian hotels with canine ambassadors - and several US Hyatts have greeter dogs - ut Mr Walker is the first in Australia, to my knowledge. 
Park Hyatt Melbourne has 240 guestrooms, of which 24 are suites and include the opulent Presidential Suite. 1 Parliament Pl, East Melbourne VIC 3002. (03) 9224 1234. 

On the right track: a different food and wine experience in the Riverina

The Riverina is one of Australia's finest food bowls - but is rarely visited by gourmets. 

Cruise Express, an Australian cruise agency, hopes to change that with a unique four-day trip by heritage train over the October long weekend.

Timed to coincide with the Taste Riverina Festival, which celebrates the region’s fine wines and abundant produce, the Long Weekend Rail Adventure starts in Sydney on Friday, September 29, 2017, when the privately chartered heritage train departs Central Station, complete with buffet and compartment cars from the 1930s.

Hauled by the 62-year-old, 4204 ‘Streamliner’ locomotive, the train will stop for lunch at the 139-year-old Junee Railway Station Café and for afternoon tea in Narrandera – the gateway to the fertile Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area - before arriving early evening in the Italian-accented foodie haven of Griffith.

Accommodation will be at the Grand Motel or Quest (or similar) for three nights.

The next day brings a visit to Corynnia Station, a working sheep and cotton farm where the group will enjoy lunch sourced from local produce. After free time in Griffith, an exclusive, wine-paired dinner follows at the iconic McWilliam's Winery, with the event co-hosted by Princess Cruises.

Day three will offer a morning sightseeing tour of Griffith followed by a special ‘farm to fork’ lunch at Piccolo Farm, where guests will take part in a farm forage and a cooking demonstration and enjoy lunch featuring paired wines and fresh local ingredients harvested by hand on the farm. 

An indulgent afternoon of wine tasting will follow at Calabria Family Wines and De Bortoli Winery – both pioneered by Italian migrants. Griffith’s Italian origins will be savoured at dinner with a private dining experience at Zecca Handmade Italian which offers seasonal, regional Italian food, using fresh, locally sourced produce and wines.

The final day of the tour on the public holiday, Monday, October 2, will see guests rejoin the heritage train for the day trip back to Sydney, with a stop to visit the Temora Aviation Museum for a barbecue and private aerial display of ex-military aircraft.  A late-afternoon stop will be made at Goulburn before the tour ends mid-evening back in Sydney.

Including seven meals - two with local wines - and daily sightseeing, the three-night Long Weekend Rail Adventure is available from $1790 per person, twin-share, or $1990 for solo travellers, representing a low 11% supplement.

Call Cruise Express on 1300 764 509 or visit