Archive for September, 2008

New Wine Magazine

September 26, 2008

Looking for a different slant on the world of wine?

Check out Sommelier Journal who is about to celebrate its 1st year anniversary.

Their home page describes the magazine as follows:

  • – “Whether you’re new to the business or you’ve been in the industry for years, Sommelier Journal brings all the up-to-date information a professional needs every month. From the latest trends to overviews of wine regions, from recommendations of interesting, food-friendly wines to wine news, Sommelier Journal is the Essential Guide for Wine Professionals.”

September 25, 2008

photo credit ©Allan Johnston 2008

What Do You See? 

Here is New Zealand photographer Allan Johnston’s philosophy that guides his eye when creating the stunning images of New Zealand wine country. Below is a comment from an earlier post:

  • – “I have used the natural and man-made lines in the landscape to draw your eyes into the photograph and lead you somewhere, such as a road or row of vines. What you see beyond the lines, nobody knows, as we all see something different, to take away a different piece of my world and what I see.”  Allan Johnston

It is interesting to listen to people I have met over the last few years selling New Zealand wine. It’s true everyone sees something different.

One told the story of visiting an old world winery and how their guide was so excited to show them the new lab. I guess when your winery looks a bit like a small oil refinery, the lab is pretty important. These certainly exist in all wine regions.

At the next stop it was all about the vines, this one is easy to understand. They drink their own wine.

Another compared the challenges a parent would have sharing time with a small family versus a large one and suggesting the more vines the more diluted the care.

While traveling after lunch one day to a hillside vineyard in Waipara Valley I saw something myself. While I remember the calmness of this location, it was this comment by Vivian Pharis of Torlesse Wines, that really caught my attention:

  • – “by the time these grapes are harvested, each vine will have been touched by human hands at least five times during this vintage”

Photo Dick Pharis Torlesse Wines

That’s a lot of love going into the grapes, imagine the wine!

Some one else might see real estate play.

Potential to go on and on is real.

Allan is right, we all see something different and that is why evenings with wine, food and friends are so enjoyable. Everyday we have the opportunity to experience something special. We just have to stop and look.

What do you see?

The New Zealand Wine Journey

September 10, 2008

Many years ago I saw a ROM exercise machine in a ski shop in Aspen and it seemed like something right out of the movie “Back to the Future”. ROM is a highly specialized, $14,615 retail, Range of Motion exercise machine that will provide a complete workout in four minutes. It has nothing to do with wine, it is the typical steps a ROM purchaser goes thru that is the inspiration for my story.  I recently saw a ROM ad and thought there are similar steps for most people who are learning about New Zealand wines and foods. (the ROM ad is at the end of the post)

Ten Steps Most People Experience in Discovering New Zealand Wine

  1. Aware New Zealand is a country in the Southern Hemisphere.  
  2. Encounters a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, most likely from a high volume producer and enjoys the experience.
  3. Continues to passively explore other and similar offerings.
  4. Plateaus out at this level for some time.
  5. Revealation! New Zealand has so much more to offer, like Napa or Burgundy, has many facets of people and places. Moves beyond ratings and learns from retailers and sommeliers to explore and trust own palate.
  6. Discovery process begins – Sauvignon blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Bubbles  – all handcrafted by individuals.
  7. At this point, learns in the global wine business “family” is used by some of the largest wine companies in the world. Not bad – not good. Just an indicator that change is often taking place and highlights a marketing need to be authentic. The exception of course is when you can visit and look the winemaker in the eye, you know you are in the right place. This is goal – to discover the people and places.
  8. Expands awareness of varietals, people, regions, terrior, foods and travel experiences. This extends the joy.
  9. Now amabassador for “All Things New Zealand” especially food, wine and travel.
  10. New era of enjoyment from sharing these New Zealand stories.

I first saw the ROM about 20 years ago, my New Zealand story began in 1984 when I met my wife Leslie.

I am at step ten. Where are you?

Exceptional handcrafted wines of New Zealand for enthusiasts across the USA. Wines for food, friends and memories.

Here is the ROM ad.







Do Winemakers Drink Their Own Wine

September 9, 2008

Torlesse Wines June 2008

One of the things I like about working with Kym Rayner at Torlesse Wines is Kym is someone who marches to his own tune. We were talking about his Pinot Noir one time and he commented he drank it quite frequently and had a pretty good idea about the wine and how it worked with food.

It was a comment that I shared one day with a wine buyer and who replied it was a good comment. She then proceeded to share her story about being with several wine buyers in her community when a visiting winemaker was asked the question:

  • “So, what made you start making better wine”

Imagine being in the room as the maker of the wine was asked this question. The reply is fascinating as he smiled and acknowledged it was not only a reasonable question but a good one too. He simply said:

  • “I started drinking more of my own wine and realized I had to step it up”

From this reply it is safe to assume that not all winemakers are into it to the same level. This creates a significant challenge for consumers to know who is drinking their own stuff vs. who is crafting for ratings and reviews.

This is why I commented earlier about seeking to know more by asking these questions:

  • – who grew the grapes
  • – who made the wine
  • – what can you tell me about them

This will quickly let us know who is connected to the wines in a store or on a restaurant list, like those winemakers who drink their own wine.

We learn who really has passion for wine on their own terms. Torlesse Wines and  Kym Rayner are a great combination, creating distinctive wines.  

Allan Johnston’s Photo Exhibit

September 8, 2008

Here is a little news from Allan’s Johnston about his upcoming  photo exhibition at Amisfield winery. 

  • – 15 Sep 08 Amisfield Winery Exhibition of Central Otago Vineyards for CureKids 

“We all have a voice, however, we use it in different ways to convey a message. I’ve found my voice via a lens. For me the best way to communicate a message or tell a story to the masses, is with the camera.  

photo credit ©Allan Johnston 2008

This body of work and exhibition is not just about promoting Central Otagos wine and vineyards industry. It’s about helping CureKids raise money to prevent life treating sicknesses.  

As an artist, this exhibition is to embrace the simplicity that we find in the natural lines of the Otago landscape and the way we see it.  

Simplicity, can be a hard thing to achieve at times and every where we look we see lines, whether it be a road running though a vista or a row of vines. Let your eyes flow through and be lead by the simplicity of lines in the images in this exhibition.  

I have used the natural and man-made lines in the landscape to draw your eyes into the photograph and lead you somewhere, such as a road or row of vines. What you see beyond the lines, nobody knows, as we all see something different, to take away a different piece of my world and what I see.”  

Thank you to all the sponsors:  




Alpine Choppers  

TradeScans  —

Kelp Design        

Nikon NZ  

Thank you for your time and consideration in this matter.

“Make life an adventure”

Sir Ed Hillary

Critically Acclaimed

September 2, 2008

There was a junk mail flyer in the recent Sunday paper for a national chain store with the headline “Critically Acclaimed” wines from $6.99 to $15.99

Time magazine had an article some time ago about Top Trends – one was a return to “Authenticity”. There is even a book titled Authenticity and it is surprising to see how many products have evolved and now need to make a claim to be either “authentic or real”.

What is going on?

It seems we need others to tell or reassure us what is real, authentic or critically acclaimed. Nowhere is this more true than in the world of wine. Other people’s comments, scores and reviews have reduced our ability to say one or the other:

  • – “yes, I like this”
  • – “no, I do not like this”

 Is it we have given up the joy of discovery and learning?

Yet we seem capable of going to the movies before the Academy Awards are announced and deciding if we like the movie. Same for music, Grammy Awards certainly spike sales but we know before the awards if we enjoyed the tune.

Awards and recognition have been with us forever and are everywhere. From ancient times to everyday county fairs, it is only natural they exist as a source of entertainment. For some reason the fear of choosing wine baffles me.

Why is this?

Can someone shed some light why we need experts to tell us what to buy?

Is the language of wine out of balance and in need of something else?