Saturday, September 26, 2009


Steve wasn't one of the student workers at the wholesalers. He wanted to be one though as he thought that they were a better class of people. He was right of course.
He simultaneously had a chip on his shoulder through jealousy and would emulate his 'heroes' through mannerisms, speech and interest in wine. His role models were Roger and Geoff. Initially they made fun of Steve but eventually became his friend. Steve ate a lot (he ate his sanswhiches in the toilet)and actually smelled of roast mutton. I wondered at this but once, on visiting his home where he lived with his parents, I noticed that the house and inhabitants all smelled of roast mutton. I think that they lived on it. Steve started up a large collection of fine wines. He did this in the way a stamp collector does - not to use them but just to have them. He sold it all off later when he joined the B'Hai church.

Friday, September 25, 2009


NODROG KRATS was the reverse of Gordon's name. I remember this because he used to have a name plaque on his desk. This was in the small office that he shared during the week with flash Ray and nice Ivan. The office area was only about 20 ft by 14 ft and had 3 desks in it. Perhaps Gordon thought that the others would forget his name.
On Saturdays and after Gordon went home at 5PM his desk was used by hairy truck drivers while they pretended to be totalling up their accounts. In reality they were rifling through Gordon's drawers and would reverse his name. I can't remember how they did that, perhaps the name plaque was made up of removable letters. I do remember though that in the morning when Gordon came in he would have to reverse the letters while complaining about the morons who worked on Saturday. The Curmudgeon could have modelled himself on Gordon. He was the archetypal grumpy old man.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Last night at the wine tasting group I am part of we had a selected members choice evening where 6 members brought along wines from their cellars.
It was a mixed bag but interesting nevertheless.
The three white wines were:
Mt Rosa 2003 Central Otago Pinot Gris.
Now I'm not a Pinot Gris fan but this was OK, almost Alsace style in style. At least it was inoffensive.
An Alsace Gewurztraminer was next - Rollie Gassmann (Alsace) Stegrebende Rorschwihr Gewurtztraminer 1996. It was disappointing. It was herbaceous, sweet, turpine and generally unusual. Forgettable.
Craggy Range Glas Nevin Gravels Waipara Riesling 2008 was next. This was good. Fresh and sweet but with a nice acid edge.

The reds were better.
Keith Tulloch Hunter Valley Kester Shiraz 1999 was first. This looked like a much older wine but was sweetish and very very drinkable. It was old-style Aussi winemaking, unfiltered and with loads of character.
Next was Andre Brumel Les Cailloux (Chateauneuf du Pape) Cuvee Centenaire 1998. This was the wine that Parker gave a perfect (100 out of 100) score to. It was perfumed, tarry with a sweet viscous finish. A real treat and if more affordable one to buy (it costs close to $300).
Last was Henscke Keyneton Eden Valley Shiraz Cabernet 1998. A great wine - sweet, plummy with a very long palate. Being from Eden Valley (higher than Barossa) it has a nice herbaceous edge and is a bit like a NZ wine.

Its good to try different wines like this even if I didn't like all of them. It shows the diversity of wine.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Tony was unusual. He still is in fact which belies the fact that he is highly placed in the education 'industry' and has just completed his PhD. He could be said to be eccentric. Wikipedia says:

"Eccentricity is not, as some would believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd."

Certainly Tony wasn't too concerned at what the crowd thought, a trait which usually got us thrown out of parties and at least once got Richard and I beaten up.
Tony started at the wholesalers before me and recommended me to the management. They didn't fire him so they must have thought I was OK. Tony and I shared a full-time job by splitting up the days of the week and attending University on our days off. He was studying 'Classics' - Latin, Old English, Norse Mythology etc - so you can imagine the sort of classmates he had. I think though that there were only about 3 of them as it wasn't the most popular degree course. I think that his studies added to his strangeness. I remember once that he made a suit of cardboard 'armour' and marched up and down in it. A customer's little boy peeped out to the warehouse and saw Tony doing this. Tony could belch on demand (another social skill that helped to get us thrown out of parties)and when he saw the little boy he let rip with a roar-like burp. The boy burst out crying and ran back to his mother who gave us some pretty strange looks. I imagine that the kid is still traumatised.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Peter was one of the longest tenure student workers at the wholesalers (apart from Geoff). This was because he attended University longer than the others. He didn't end up with a PHD or MA like Tony, or Honours like Richard and Geoff- in fact he didn't end up with a degree of any kind even after 7 years (full and part-time) study. He enjoyed University and funded himself through it by working at the wholesalers. Law studies were followed by Education studies, then Architecture, Art History and finally History. Collectively he had enough units for a degree and a half but not in any one discipline. Peter was lazy. And a daydreamer. At University he had 30 girlfriends. Not real ones. They were different young women that he took a liking to and gave them that status. A good plan this was but lacking in the crucial tactic - telling them that they were his girlfriends. He was shy you see.
At the wholesalers Peter graduated from front of shop selling person, to warehouseman and finally to truck-driver. In most other trading organisations this is the reverse order of a tiered employment structure but not at the wholesalers. Truck drivers were the elite (see post on Richard). When he graduated to truck driver Peter was able to do his shopping, laundry and day-dreaming on his delivery rounds but also took it one step further by attending his lectures as well. The delivery truck was often parked up by the University during lecture time. (Parking was always at a premium around the University but a delivery truck could stop just about anywhere).
Steve ( not the one with the big shoes) was jealous and was always out to 'pot' Peter and tried his best to expose him (more about Steve in a later Post). Peter was too clever for Steve and also as he was basically a nice bloke and got all his work done and more the management weren't too worried.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


Richard was part of the elite at the wholesalers known as the truck drivers. They were sort of like The Praetorian Guard, being part of but separate from the organisation with a 'hot-line' to senior management. The elite status enabled them to do their shopping on the delivery route, go to the laundromat to do their washing, have two hour lunches around the bays watching the planes take off and land. They used to return about 4PM which was the busiest period in those days before the changes to the Sale of Liquor Act. Wholesalers had to close at 6PM so the 4 to 6 period was hectic. Truck drivers used to sit at a desk and 'balance their takings' while sucking on a beer or, in Richard's case a rum and coke or a Sherry taken from Bruce's private stock. If Bruce had worked Saturdays though I'm sure that Richard would have been out there polishing the customers shoes.

Richard adopted the persona of a truck driver very well. Black singlet, shorts, big (unlaced) boots and body odour all matched him perfectly. The overall look was so good in fact that his sister-in-law who was being hassled at University by some jerks enlisted Richard's help to sort them out. Imagine the scene on a quiet midweek morning in the august surroundings of the law library in the Hunter building when a burly, unshaven and mean looking truck-driver strode in and demanded that the chief jerk Sandy step outside for a minute. Richard won the day (just like Robert said he used to do at school - protecting the family) He should have been a soldier or a mezze-Capo in the Sopranos.


Last night we had a bottle of Mt Difficulty Long Gully 2007 Central Otago Pinot Noir. It renewed my appreciation of Central Otago wines which had slipped of late. The overblown fruit bomb concoctions from the (too) many producers has disappointed and I have been looking to Waipara and Martinborough to find the best of New Zealand Pinot Noirs. The Mt Difficulty single vineyard wine is right on track. Big and rich it however opens up with breathing to show a fine delicacy. Some nice tobacco, black cherry and minerality all combine to a balanced flavour. This was great drinking and would have cellared well for a few years. It is expensive though (about $80) so I won't be buying a lot to cellar but it was well worth the experience.

I put on Bill Evans Trio 'Time Remembered' CD while we were drinking the Pinot. This CD compilation is a take-out from Evans' 'The Complete Riverside Recordings' and is a selection of some of his most moving and lyrical renditions of classics. The recordings are from 1962 and 1963 when he returned to perform after the death of his friend and bass player a year or so earlier. 'Danny Boy' was my mother's favourite and Evans gives this a long 10 minute beautiful rendition. All through the selections is a feeling of skill and accomplishment with a nice seamless mix of piano, bass and drums.

The opening up of the Pinot Noir with the balance of fruit, wood and tannins seemed to blend sinuously with the cohesive play of the three musicians. Both understated to some degree but with a lurking power that was seductive.

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Les had an acerbic wit that could have easily won him a punch on the nose from some customers if it hadn't been supported by keen intelligence and good wine knowledge. Les was also crazy which made him fit in well at the wholesalers along with the other strange individuals. Les is now very highly placed in the health system and very well respected being a hard worker and very dedicated. Despite the mad antics the student workers at the wholesalers redeemed themselves with an encyclopedic knowledge of the beers, wines and spirits sold and had a great work ethic - getting the job done without fuss. This Bruce knew and obviously balanced the vast consumption of top notch wines after hours with this.

Friday, September 18, 2009


I know that I said to Richard that I'd leave the truck drivers to him but Robert is a special case. I don't think he told the management that he was Richard's younger brother, fearing that after two older brothers working at the wholesalers they wouldn't want another of them. Robert was employed as a part-time truck driver, working Saturdays and holidays. When Richard left Robert became the number one driver (previously he was known as 2nd driver). This was a big promotion for Robert and went to his head a bit. When I volunteered to be the second driver having previously worked in the shop, Robert saw fit to educate me in the ways of trucks and to pass on his vast experience (Tonka toys I think). Robert took over the 'big' truck which was a long flat-deck that made an impressive hissing noise when the air brakes were engaged. I drove the smaller Bedford which didn't require a HT licence to drive it. When things were slow, which was usually Saturday afternoons Robert and I would go out in the big truck together. After I nagged for a while Robert relented and let me drive it. He was such a fuss-pot and so pedantic in his instructions that I deliberately did the wrong things. I thought it was better to not tell him of my history of running people over (see previous post)as it might freak him out. When we were driving down from Victoria tunnel to the Basin Reserve I remember Robert telling me to swing out wide at the corner in order for the long truck tray to get around. I of course ignored this and cut the corner, bumping over the footpath. Robert's look of dismay was well worth seeing. I don't think anyone was standing at the corner but then I hadn't quite mastered using the mirrors so I wouldn't know.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Joel was unusual and, unfortunately a tragic figure.
Essentially a loner, Joel kept to himself and plodded on with his duties which (unfortunately) most people left him alone to do so.
Joel was a Storeman which meant that his responsibility was moving boxes of alcoholic beverages from one place to another. Joel's methods of 'storage' were rather unique and often involved transferring the contents of one carton to another carton without marking the contents on the second carton. This was kind of like a lucky dip or Santa's Christmas box. There were advantages like when I purchased a case of Yalumba Shiraz to discover later that it contained a dozen of Chateau Cos d'Estournel 1973, a really decent 2nd Growth Bordeaux. I feel sorry though for the person who did the opposite.
Some things that Joel did were:

Ran the hot tap over his hands, at scalding temperatures, for ages while washing them.

Had the electric pallet jack (a walking type of fork-lift) pressing him up against the wall while he had his fingers on the reverse drive - all the time the machine was crushing him. I heard a plaintive "can you help me mate" and rushed over to free him.

Walked to an from work from one side of the city to the other.

Stored pallets of beer or spirits randomly so that often the most wanted and popular items were buried at the back.

Sadly Joel is no longer with us which is a shame as he definitely added to life's rich tapestry.


Roger is a friend of mine who was one of my workmates at the wholesale wine & spirit business.

Roger was crazy and probably still is even though he has a responsible job in Government.

Here are some of the things Roger did:

At Te Horo beach one night when we were having a bonfire/BBQ casually said that we should take cover as he had thrown a box of sparklets (the CO2 cylinders used in soda dispensers) into the fire. We ducked as they successively exploded sending burst metal cylinders flying like shrapnel, each one capable of taking a head off.

Pillioned us down Taranaki Street to Courtenay Place on his motorscooter. There were 3 of us.

Made a bomb and blew up a neighbours front door.

Dropped full cartons of Nederburg sparkling wine off the mezzanine floor down to the warehouse below. The trick was to see how many corks blew off. The top of the carton was opened and, if the carton fell perfectly even and hit the floor square then at least half of the corks would fly straight up.

Set fire to a kitchen at a party we had gatecrashed by lighting Bacardi 151 (75% alcohol spirit).

Would set his stereo blasting from his house in Wadestown, drive across the valley to a reserve and listen to the music which he said sounded marvellous, particularly Arthur Brown. Did this several times until the police followed him to the reserve and said that the neighbours were complaining.

Made a blowgun out of PVC piping and fired lollies at a traffic cop sitting on his bike across from the wholesalers causing the traffic cop to fall off his bike.

Much, much more.
Posted by THE CURMUDGEON at 4:05

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The best boss I ever had and one whom I have modelled my management skills on was Bruce Campbell at Murray Roberts & Co in Wellington. Bruce was a great people person and very tolerant of his staff (he employed Richard after all). Actually Richard (Ritchie-boy)was a favourite of Bruce's. They had some things in common and both had a liking for either Findlaters Dry Fly or William's & Humbert Dry Sack sherry. Bruce used to lead by example so if you saw him out in the yard sweeping up rubbish you knew that you'd neglected your duties. He never said anything but the fact that the boss was picking up rubbish was an inducement for you to take over the broom.
Anyway, as I said Bruce's favourite tipple was Findlaters Dry Fly sherry and he used to have a couple at the end of the day, sitting at his desk which had a view down the length of the shop. In those days wholesale wines and spirits stores were not completely self-serve apart from the wines selection. Counters ran the length of the shop with spirits and liqueurs on shelving behind the counters. Beers in cartons came down rollers behind the counters, below the shelves.
One day when Bruce was out we dressed up a life-size, blow-up 'Harvey Wallbanger' doll in Bruce's old cardigan and sat it in his chair. (Harvey Wallbanger was a cocktail creation featuring Galliano Liqueur). We made a hat out of newspaper and put on 'Bruce's' head and stuck a half-full bottle of Dry Fly in his cardigan with a glass in front of him (see the photograph which is from a 35mm slide so is a bit fuzzy). There actually was an uncanny resemblance to the real Bruce who had a large girth and a bald head. It was side-splittingly funny to see the old regulars come in to pick up their usual tipples and call out 'Gidday Bruce' to the figure in the office. They probably assumed that the lack of a reply was due to the sherry.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It has been suggested that I write some posts on basses to spice up this blog.
That is of course kind of like casting Peewee Herman in a Rambo movie to 'toughen it up" but hey, what the hell - here goes.

To musicians a 'jam' generally means that people turn up with lots of fruit and sugar and boil it up in the kitchen out back. The best results are to be had when they all cram through the doorway at the same time thereby blocking it.Bass players don't generally get to help out at 'jams', but the fun part is trying to get through the doorway while everyone else is crammed there.You need to be listening carefully to the muffled sounds of squashed musicians (usually fiddle players) at the bottom of the 'jam'. I also cheat and watch the hands of the guitarist who is stirring the mixture. I know all their recipes so it's pretty easy to follow along.
The word 'jam' means slightly different things in different types of music. Jazz jams generally involve using raw sugar and non-uniform shaped fruit. Folk/Cajun/acoustic/Texan jams generally involve individuals bringing in wild swamp berries and cacti which only they know where to find them. The result tastes like crap but is sure interesting.
Traditionally Rock jams often involved a Damson plum - Grapefruit type of progression or a 12 jar blues (using blueberries). Modern Rock jams seem to involve cooking up instant jam mixtures available from the supermarket. Bass jams are not popular and are usually made from pumpkins,watermelons and unusually shaped turnips - not to everyone's taste. Usually they are stored well at the back of the cupboard until the use by date is exceeded.
Well that's it for now, I hope that this was helpful.


"Good try, The Wine Guy, but that post was by you!!!
May the angel of The Lord strike you down (if The Lord is actually in control and not a ficticious character like spiderman)!" Richard (of RBB)

Richard the well known atheist and God declaimer has seen fit to call up vengeful angels to attack me. How bizarre is that!
What really worries me though is that it might well be working.
This morning my toaster threw my toast out and on to the floor not once but twice. The second time the fridge colluded and arranged for the toast slice to go under it.
The cat wouldn't get out of bed and ignored me.
The microwave caught fire.
The computer shows up a warning that I am being attacked by a virus.
Holy hell!

Thursday, September 10, 2009


I have been very impressed with the quality of Hawkes Bay red wines from recent vintages. Gone are the days when the offerings were thin, green and weedy, being poor imitations of lesser Bordeaux styles.
The better wines from recent good vintages knock the socks off their Australian counterparts and, now and then give the French heavyweights a run for their money.

A recent comparative wine tasting of French and Hawkes Bay 'clarets' proved that (on occasion) NZ red wines can foot it with the best. The tasters included Australian wine writer James Halliday and USA's Elin McCoy along with seven local winewriters.

Up against six Bordeaux wines including Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2005 and Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2005 were six Bordeaux-style wines including the Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels 2005, the Sacred Hill Helmsman 2005, Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 and Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2005.
Four Hawkes Bay Gimblett Gravels wines were placed in the top six of the tasting, with Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels 2005 outright winner.
The top 6 wines based on scores from the 9 winewriters were:

1. Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels 2005
2. Chateau Lafite-Rothschild 2005
3. Sacred Hill Helmsman 2005
4. Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
5. Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 2005
6. Trinity Hill The Gimblett 2005

The wines tasted and prices were:

Chateau Cos d'Estournel (French) RRP $400

Chateau Haut Brion (French) RRP $1,650

Chateau Lafite Rothschild (French) RRP $2,000

Chateau L'Eglise Clinet (French) RRP $1,350

Chateau Mouton Rothschild (French) RRP $1,650

Chateau Troplong Mondot (French) RRP $600

Blake Family Vineyards Redd Gravels (NZ) RRP $75

Craggy Range “Sophia” (NZ) RRP $50

Mills Reef Elspeth Cabernet Sauvignon (NZ) RRP $40

Newton Forrest Cornerstone (NZ) RRP $40

Sacred Hill Helmsman (NZ) RRP $70

Trinity Hill The Gimblett (NZ) RRP$30

An outstanding result and hopefully one that will be noticed.
Californian wines were put on the map when a group of French winewriters compared some of the best French wines with some of the best USA wines with the USA wines winning out (see the movie Bottle Shock). We have to be careful though in not getting too excited as one tasting albeit with respected and experienced tasters does not mean that we have yet made the grade but the world should start to take notice. Hopefully the prices won't be pushed up too much after this.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


We all love them, even the old ones (although it is more appropriate to call them women).
Last night we were invited to go to the 'Give it a Girl' concert (thank you Lindsay) featuring some of NZ's greats.

Debbie Harwood was first up. She seemed pretty nervous for such an experienced performer and was a bit disappointing in her presentation although she never has impressed as a great singing talent. She is however a great organiser and got this line-up together ( and was probably the energy behind 'When the Cats Away'.

She was followed by Shona Laing who gave a solid performance although you couldn't help feeling that she was wondering what she was doing in a line-up of essentially 'pop' performers.

Margaret Urlich was next and was definitely a step up. Apart from looking bloody good for 50 (sorry, sexist I know but honest), her voice is still great and she really carried the songs well.

Next up was a knock-out surprise. Julia Deans from Fur Patrol who apart from being striking with flaming red hair showed herself to be a very accomplished and confident performer - funny, gutsy and in control.

Julia introduced Sharon O'Neill who seems to have shrunk over the years. Either that or she used to always have big hair and stilettos. (Apropos of nothing I have rolled around on Sharon O'Neill's shag-pile carpet in her house she once owned in Northland Wellington). Apart from looking a bit diminished she was still able to belt out her classics.

After a break, Julia introduced nervous newcomer Lisa Crawley whose very young age belies her talents. One to watch I think.

OK. So far so good. Some bits were a bit pedestrian but generally the feeling was good and that newzild still has it.

Next up was Annie Crummer. Wow! She took the whole show up several notches. Bursting out on the stage with an outstanding number that was seamlessly integrated with the backing band that she virtually claimed as her own. What a star. Her voice which she had some problems with a couple of years ago was amazing. Powerful but with fantastic clarity. I've always admired her and last night confirmed that.

After Annie's single stint (each performer did 3 songs each) the whole group lined up and took turns with their own standards but this time supported with backing vocals by the rest. Fantastic. How come the Kiwi blokes can't do this (they need a male version of Debbie Harwood I guess to organise it)? Even in the line-up of eight vocalists (the seven plus backing support singer who was with the band) it was Annie Crummer's and Margaret Urlich's voices that stood out. They really seem to complement each other. Its a shame that we haven't had Good run of those together over the last 20 years- apart from 'When the Cats away' that is.

The band was very, very good.

It was a great night out and looking around the audience even an old bugger like me was comfortably in the middle of the demographic. I saw a few old faces I recognised including an old girlfriend of mine (don't tell her-indoors) and all looked like they were having a good time.

The wine? Crap, except for the Deutz which is always a very reliable stand-by when there's nothing else decent at a Pernod-Ricard dominated bar. Sky City for some reason have decided to do away with the bottle pours from their excellent portfolio (Montana Reserve, Stoneleigh, Church Rd etc) and gone to just offering the 175ml offerings of Montana (very ordinary) range. Wankers!.

Fortunately we had a pre-concert drink at a tapas bar in Federal st (forgotten the name). This place has an excellent wine list which is all Spanish or Spanish-influenced wines (Chilean etc). The tapas menu is great. We had a glass of Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Tempranillo each. Great!. Hawkes Bay can learn from this wine style.