Saturday, March 26, 2011


Years ago, about 1984 I had a flat in Onehunga. It was a neat little two bedroom villa (one bedroom for me, the other bedroom for the wine cellar). As a kind of housewarming I aked some friends to come around and not to bring anything as I had a bottle of wine to open. Some were sceptical and brought along a bottle of wine or some beer anyway but they needn't have. The bottle of wine I had was an Imperial - 6 litres (8 bottles) of Claret (Bordeaux). It was a good BBQ/party with enough red wine to get everyone happy. The wine as I remember was pretty good. It wasn't a top Bordeaux, it was a shippers label but still had richness and depth. Wine in large containers keeps and ages better than in smaller bottles.

I wish it had been this Imperial of 1947 Cheval Blanc

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


.... of drinking cheap wine.
Over the last year I have taken to seeking out cheaper variants of my favourite tipple - wine. I have pounced on supermarket 'wine sale' offers, scoured the internet for best deals and dropped my expectations as to what my wine of choice delivers. All OK to a point and I have sometimes enjoyed the discoveries. I have even written enthusiastically in previous post about some of them. Overall though it has been somewhat disappointing. A couple of months ago I made the decision to drink less and drink better. I have cut down my wine consumption by a half and increased the cost of the individual bottles I drink by roughly twice. I have a good selection of cognacs, malt whiskies and various other interesting liqueurs at home but hardly ever touch them and rarely drink beer other than the refreshing one after a round of golf or a period in the garden so my alcohol intake has been reduced by half as well. It is pretty much as what I have always believed and known - that well made wine from careful vineyard selection, low cropping and with the use of the correct techniques and materials delivers an intensity of flavour and character that cannot be replicated by mass production. I guess I have been spoiled over the last 30 odd years by my access to some of the world's greatest wines but hey, life is short we should enjoy what we like. I think I'll give cutting down to a third consumption and increasing the average cost by a factor of three a go. This of course might put a dent in the cognac and whisky stocks and might necessitate buying a bottle of Tia Maria or Kahlua and a bottle of vodka to make 'The Dude's' White Russians but its worth a go.

'The Dude' Lebowski

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Northland gets a bad rap. Admittedly a lot of it is deserved with tourists getting their vans stolen or broken into, newspaper reports of violence and recidivist drink driving and of course the electric puha.

But Northland has a hell of a lot of other things to offer. For one it is beautiful. The Bay of Islands, Whangarei Heads, beaches, coves, forests, towns and even Whangarei itself with its parks, gardens and waterfront are well worth a visit and a stay.

Yesterday we went to the 15th Opera in the Garden,  a wonderful event held on an avocado orchard at Glenbervie just outside of Whangarei.

This event, put on by Opera North raises money for charities, in this case Hospice and showcases local talent with a couple of guest artists. This years guest artist was the incomparable Helen Medlyn. What a star! We have seen her perform before in NBR NZ Opera performances but seeing her on stage here was great. She performed some excellent operatic pieces (Flower Duet from Lakme, Habanera from Carmen, Barcarolle from Tales of Hoffman etc) and, in the second half showed another side with a selection of Noel Coward numbers. The woman has talent that's for sure and engages the audience superbly. It was a great day out with a wonderful setting in the gardens of the Kennaways on their avocado orchard with hot and sunny weather. We didn't take any wine as drinking during the day under the sun is not advisable , taking sparkling water (soda stream at home is a great investment) and eating Central Otago peaches.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I went to Auckland on the weekend to meet up with Geoff and to go and see Roxy Music perform at Villa Maria winery. It was well worth it.

I liked Roxy Music in the early '70's. They had the combination of sophistication with a bit of an edge. The band and style of music preceded the New Romantic period by about 10 years and was a refreshing alternative to the (very good) R&B and rock music that was prevalent in 1972 and thereabouts. I had seen Brian Ferry perform a couple of years ago and, while still pretty good was overshadowed by Joan Armitrading who shared the bill. Geoff convinced me to go to the Roxy Music show because the original band members (drummer, guitarist and saxophonist) were going to be there. I'm glad that I did. The show was pretty good. The performances were just as I remember from the early albums and time and experience have only improved the musicianship of Andy Mackay (saxophone) and Phil Manzanera (guitar). New additions to the band (saxophonist and percussionist, keyboards and guitar) underscored the original artists and helped not hindered. The only downside was a pre-recorded film sequence that overrode the big screen images of the band. I would rather have seen the band members rather than the film sequences (especially the nubile dancers at the back of the stage. Sue (of RBB) would call me a creep for saying that but hey - I'm male OK?).
The early acts were Nathan Hayes and his band including his brother on guitar and then Don McGlashan. Both were superb and demonstrate what talent we have in New Zealand. On one of McGlasan's extended numbers Haines joined in on saxophone and it was magic. The setting was Villa Maria's Mangere winery and vineyards. There is a natural bowl formed by a volcanic crater where they set up a big sound stage.

We sat on the grass bank under some trees (it had been raining heavily on Saturday and early Sunday so bad weather was threatening). Fortunately the rain held off even though it got a bit cold. I was dressed in my Northland gear - shorts and Hawaiian shirt - but being a bloke wouldn't admit I was a bit cold and getting inquisitive stares from wimpy Aucklanders who were kitted out in jackets and hats.
Roxy started out a bit limp but three songs in played a stunning rendition of If There Is Something  from their first album which was a great vehicle for McKay and Manzanera to do their magic. For the next couple of hours we were treated to some Roxy Music classics and good Brian Ferry cover versions (Jealous Guy, Like a Hurricane) that were better than the recorded versions. Later they played some of the dance hits from later albums which got the women up dancing.

This didn't bother me for a change as, being on a sloping bank the inconsiderate tarts didn't obscure my view. The audience age spread was fifties, forties and thirties. There didn't seem to be many young ones. Roxy Music relaesed their early stuff in the very early 70's, disbanded, rejoined and progressively released stuff in the late '70's and '80's all up over a 15 year period. This was shown in the audience demographic.

Being a concert at a winery the wine offering was good. They sold White label, Cellar Selection and Reserve wines. We opted for a bottle of Reserve Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009 and a bottle of Reserve Marlborough Chardonnay 2007 (we came by bus) and these were as you would expect, very good. The Chardonnay was still very much alive with a great balance of fruit, wood and nice leesy character. The Pinot Noir was a fruit bomb that needs time but was just the thing to drink as it was darkening and becoming colder. It was a great night out catching up with an old friend.