A piece of Auckland's liquor history opens as Gin Room
28 August 2015 While some bars try to cram old world authenticity into a brand new bar, the Gin Room, now open in Vulcan Lane, Auckland, was authentic before it even opened.
The small bar, sitting above the old Queens Ferry Hotel, has been a private venue for a number of years before being mothballed with all its original fittings and furniture. All new owner David Coombes had to do was a gentle refresh, add a stunning back bar of 30 rare and specialty gins and two of the best cocktail bartenders in the country, James Millar and Barney Toy, to create a slightly scruffy, but totally desirable establishment. Multi-award winning bartender Barney Toy loves the space. “We’ve made a point of using the exiting furniture and fittings to keep that feeling of an authentic 1920s ‘speakeasy’ gin bar. “We want it to be a cool space to sit and have a quiet cocktail, not a raging party – it only seats 40, so we’re saying, if there’s nowhere to sit, we’re full, come back later.” The cocktail list is features twisted classics, with Toy’s eye for quirky touches and additions of rare or unusual ingredients. The bathtub gin sour is their take on infusing and blending gins. The Coconut Ramos is the classic gin fizz updated with coconut water. The Singapore Sling is not twisted, but it’s an unforgettable classic. The bar is cocktail focused so to make it accessible, they’re offering a $12 Martini, on average house cocktails are $16 -18, but go right up to $50 for something special. Wine is available for the uninitiated, but kept simple at one brand per variety. Likewise for beer. For food, the Gin Room also brings back the old-school French-café staples like Croque-monsieurs and Croque-madames. The Gin Room is now open and will undoubtedly makes it’s niche in the busy Auckland bar scene as the place to get that perfect late night cocktail, away from the madness, with some old world values. Check it out at 12 Vulcan Lane (upstairs), from 5:00pm til late.
It's time to put your best bottle forward
19 August 2015 Entries are open for the 2015 Air New Zealand Wine Awards, a competition which celebrates excellence in New Zealand winemaking and is widely considered to be the country’s most prestigious wine competition.
“This is the 40th year New Zealand Winegrowers have managed the Awards”, said Chris Yorke, New Zealand Winegrowers’ Global Marketing Director. “They are an iconic event in the industry calendar and this longevity cements the Awards’ reputation as the best wine competition in the country.” The judging of the Air New Zealand Wine Awards will take place from 2 to 4 November in Auckland by an independent judging panel consisting of some of New Zealand’s most prestigious and experienced wine judges. The Air New Zealand Wine Awards are owned and organised by New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation for the country's 1,600 grape growers and winemakers. Entries are open to wineries from 10 August to 18 September. For more information visit www.airnzwineawards.co.nz
Wine Thief steals last position in Chardonnay Collection
19 August 2015 You’d be forgiven for thinking that one vineyard site can only produce one super-premium wine, but Sacred Hill’s Rifleman’s Vineyard in Hawke’s Bay proves this theory wrong with its 2014 Chardonnay Collection. One Vineyard. One winemaking team. But three distinctly different Chardonnays that all sit in Sacred Hill’s top tier, Special Selection.
The much anticipated release of the 2014 Sacred Hill Wine Thief Chardonnay, alongside the iconic 2014 Riflemans Chardonnay and the unoaked 2014 Virgin Chardonnay, heralds the completion of the Sacred Hill Chardonnay Collection. Perched high atop the dramatic cliffs which tower over the Tutaekuri River, Rifleman’s Vineyard is strikingly beautiful and has earned an enviable reputation for producing top quality fruit. The neat rows of Chardonnay vines were among the first to be planted by Sacred Hill 25 years ago and is now one of the few remaining blocks in New Zealand to remain ungrafted on original heritage Mendoza stock. Sacred Hill founder and Managing Director, David Mason says the Chardonnay Collection epitomises Sacred Hill winemaking. “There’s always been a little bit of magic about Rifleman’s Vineyard and this comes through in the wines. The quality of our Chardonnay this year is fabulous so to see these three wines lined up for the first time is a thrill for the whole team.” Senior Winemaker Tony Bish reveals Rifleman’s Vineyard holds a special place in his heart. “The fruit from our Riflemans vines is pristine, particularly from the exceptional 2014 vintage, so we wanted to showcase the vineyard in all its glory with three completely different wine styles. It’s a winemakers dream to work with Chardonnay that has such incredible purity, focus and intensity.”
Top judges fly in for wine awards
10 August 2015 Two highly respected international wine personalities will be joining this year’s judging panel for the country’s premier wine competition, the Air New Zealand Wine Awards. Mark Protheroe heads up the beverage operations for the Grossi group of restaurants in Melbourne, Australia. Mr Protheroe has an impressive list of achievements to his name. Last year, he was awarded Sommelier of the Year by The Age Good Food Guide and was one of three national finalists in the Gourmet Traveller Restaurant Best RestaurantsGuide. Mr Protheroe is currently on the national executive for Sommeliers Australia, studying for his Master Sommelier qualification and acts as a mentor for a number of Australia’s up-and-coming Sommeliers. Ronny Lau, from China, is an independent wine critic and has been the co-chairman of the Shanghai International Wine Challenge since 2011. He is a regular wine and spirits columnist for 10 different publications in Hong Kong, mainland China and Malaysia. He has written six wine books and is the editor and author of two wine books for the Greater China Wine Critics Association. Leading the 26-strong judging panel, which includes some of the best and most experienced wine judges in New Zealand, is Chair of Judges, Michael Brajkovich, Master of Wine. “We are thrilled to have Mark and Ronny on the judging panel this year,” says Michael. “The international judges bring their expertise to the competition as well as discovering our style of wine and what is available here. This is important for New Zealand wine makers and the industry as a whole.” Judging for the 2015 Air New Zealand Wine Awards will take place from 2 to 4 November in Auckland. The gold medal winners will be announced on 10 November, and the ‘best of the best’ trophy winning wines will be revealed at a black tie dinner in Nelson on 28 November. The dinner will be attended by New Zealand’s top winemakers and industry figures to celebrate the people and the wines that make the New Zealand wine industry what it is today. The Air New Zealand Wine Awards are a celebration of excellence in New Zealand winemaking and are widely considered to be the country’s most prestigious wine competition. New Zealand Winegrowers, the national organisation for the country's 1,600 grape growers and winemakers, has owned and organised the competition for the past 40 years. Entries for the 2015 competition open to New Zealand wineries on 10 August. For more information visit www.airnzwineawards.co.nz
Wine and design combine for WOW
7 August 2015 The new release of Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2015 and Brancott Estate South Island Pinot Noir 2014 both feature designs from New Zealand designers as the company continues its partnership with World of WearableArt (WOW) Awards Show season.
Having supported WOW since 1998 and released limited edition bottles annually since 2012, this year’s WOW Series showcase Into the Blue and Rosebud. The 2015 limited edition bottles represent each creation through unique bottle sleeves and coincide with the launch of the World of WearableArt Awards Show season, running from 24 September to 11 October in Wellington. Patrick Materman, Chief Winemaker for Brancott Estate says; “We are constantly creating new expressions of wine to enjoy. WOW is much the same through their celebration of innovative design. Together we are putting New Zealand wine and design on the world map.” Dame Suzie Moncrieff, Founder of WOW, says "We’re excited to be able to bring our designers creations to life through these beautiful bottle designs." The Brancott Estate WOW Series will be available for a limited time from 1 September 2015 from leading liquor retailers in New Zealand (RRP $17.29).
Helmsman heads Sacred trio
7 August 2015 The release by Sacred Hill of the eagerly anticipated 2013 vintage of its Helmsman, Brokenstone and Deerstalkers wines marks the first time since 2010 the three wines have been released together. Sacred Hill founder and Managing Director David Mason is confident the threesome exemplifies Sacred Hill’s Special Selection philosophy.
“These wines illustrate every aspect of what we strive for in our wine making,” says Mason. “From the beginning we all agreed these wines would only be produced in outstanding vintages, when the growing conditions came as close to perfection as nature allowed. “What is in the bottle is not only the result of the vintage but also the Gimblett Gravels vineyard site, the maturity of the vines and the accumulated knowledge and work of the vineyard and winery team.” Bordeaux versus Gimblett Gravels blind tastings of previous vintages of Special Selection flagship Helmsman, a Cabernet Sauvignon-powered blend with Merlot and Cabernet Franc have put Helmsman among the best of the best. The 2013 vintage is rated by those who have tasted as the best yet, already attracting a 100/100 rating from one critic. It is joined in the line-up by Brokenstone 2013, a Merlot dominant blend with small quantities of Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and the Deerstalkers Syrah 2013. Sacred Hill Senior Winemaker Tony Bish says the 2013 vintage was quite simply a gift. “The wines are profound with a purity and depth of flavour and intensity that reflects the quality of the harvest. The Merlot was dense, rich and aromatic, the Cabernet Sauvignon ripe and intense with wonderful structure, the Syrah floral and spicy and the Malbec was the most impressive we’ve ever seen.” “When the fruit from the vineyard is close to perfection, it’s all about minimal handling to preserve harmony and depth and make sure what is in the bottle is the purest expression of the vintage.” Bish says all three wines will have unprecedented staying power, delivering rich rewards to those with a cellar and some serious self-control.
Hickin toasts 40 years with Jacob’s Creek
7 August 2015 Bernard Hickin, Chief Winemaker – Australia, for Pernod Ricard Winemakers, has announced his intention to retire. Hickin joined the business (then G Gramp & Sons) in 1976, the same year Jacob’s Creek officially launched. He will remain with Pernod Ricard Winemakers until June 2016 as International Winemaker and will assist with the transition and focus on various winemaking projects within the Pernod Ricard Winemakers portfolio.
Bernard was appointed Company Chief Winemaker of Australian brands in 2006, and then Jacob’s Creek Global Chief Winemaker in 2010. Throughout his 40 years in winemaking, Hickin has made many significant contributions to the business and its brands. He was instrumental in the progressive moves to sparkling wine production and varietal labelling, and has worked passionately to produce an enviable global portfolio of wines for Jacob’s Creek. Hickin will be succeeded by Ben Bryant, a talented Australian winemaker who joined Pernod Ricard Winemakers (then Orlando Wines) in 2000. Bryant has since held a number of pivotal winemaking, operational, marketing and brand development positions, including Chief Winemaker for Wyndham Estate. Commenting on his appointment, Bryant said: “I have inherited not only a world-class brand in Jacob’s Creek, but a world-class team of passionate winemakers who have worked tirelessly to make the brand what it is today – and I look forward to joining them on the next stage of the journey.” Frankie concludes: “Our business has to consistently evolve to keep our offering fresh and on target for both our drinkers and trade customers. Enlighten is just one way to keep people in the game – on both sides of the coin.”
Newbie named Bartender of the Year
4 August 2015 He’s only been in New Zealand for six months, but talented 34 year old Serbian, Predrag Jovanovic, has been named NZ Bartender of the Year. The 34 year old battled it out against the best bartenders from around the country during the NZChefs National Salon, held in Auckland last week. Predrag, a hospitality management student at NZMA, one of the ACG Tertiary & Careers Group training providers said the event tested his skills in Wine and Beverage Service, Classic Cocktails and Innovative Cocktails. “This is the first time I’ve ever entered a bartending competition. Winning this title means a lot to me because it will improve my chances of landing a managerial role in New Zealand and help build my reputation in the hospitality industry here.” Predrag spent eight weeks training for the competition, putting in huge hours every week on top of his NZMA diploma studies and the 20 hours per week he works at Ascension Wine Estate. Much time was spent developing his award-winning innovative cocktail, ‘Homage’. Inspired by the speakeasies and the end of prohibition in America. The drink was a mouth-watering mix of dark chocolate, Marsala wine and chip-infused rum. This, teamed with his classic Sidecar and Margarita, and his top-notch wine and beverage service skills proved to judges Predrag had what they were looking for – excellent product knowledge, exceptional technical ability and outstanding bartending skills – and he came up trumps in all three categories. The title was one of many top awards that went to NZMA. Hospitality student Yang Qian (Joe) took out gold medals and Best in Show for both the Classic Cocktail and Innovative Cocktail competitions, and NZMA Cookery tutor Ganesh Khedekar was awarded gold medals in his Petit Fours and Celebration Cake events. General Manager – Tertiary, for the ACG Tertiary & Careers Group Mark Worsop is delighted with the results. “Our great results at the NZChefs National Salon reflect the investment we have made in our people, our resources and our products – but most importantly, it reflects the quality of our training and the calibre of our students and graduates,” said Mark.
The white can returns
4 August 2015 Steinlager will commemorate the 110th anniversary of New Zealand’s inaugural rugby tour of the UK, in which the team, affectionately known as the Originals, won 34 out 35 games on tour and put New Zealand on the map by rolling out limited edition white can. Featuring four limited edition designs, each can will tell a special tale from the remarkable Originals tour that earned the All Blacks name 110 years ago. Ben Wheeler from Steinlager says: “Just as our emerging nation believed in them back then, New Zealand still believes now. We’re really excited to have the white can back, and we hope New Zealanders will enjoy it too.” The can was also available in 1987 and during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
Craggy Range releases wines from Te Muna Road
4 August 2015 Two wines from Craggy Range’s Te Muna Road Vineyard in Martinborough that Chief Winemaker Matt Stafford believes are some of the “finest wines Craggy Range has seen to date” have been released.
‘Te Muna’ translates from te reo Māori as ‘secret place’ and Stafford believes the latest single-vineyard gems, The 2013 Craggy Range Pinot Noir and the 2014 Craggy Range Riesling are of such quality the area wont remain a secret for much longer. The Te Muna Road Vineyard, just 7km east of Martinborough township, comprises two distinct terraces. The higher terrace with very old stony clay-infused soils is perfect for producing the vineyard’s renowned Pinot Noir and is also home to a small planting of Riesling vines. In 2013, the Te Muna Road Vineyard experienced its warmest start to summer on record. With exceptional growing conditions and just enough rainfall to keep the vines refreshed through until harvest, the grapes were picked in perfect condition. Then in 2014, the vineyard experienced the earliest harvest to date, at least two weeks earlier than normal. A mild spring set a bountiful crop which was sensitively moderated through multiple passes of fruit thinning to ripen the fruit. “The combination of naturally low crops on our maturing vines and the warm growing season in 2013 resulted in a Pinot Noir that has wonderful depth and beauty. The 2014 Craggy Range Riesling show “a pale straw wine with green hues. Intense aromatics of orange blossom, lime peel and jasmine. Fresh and pure flavours on the palate with a lovely phenolic backbone providing length and textural interest”.
Bit of background…… Craggy Range is a family owned winery established in 1997 named by U.S. publication Wine Enthusiast magazine as New World Winery of the Year for 2014. It is situated in the shadow of the spectacular Te Mata Peak in the premium wine growing area of Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. Based on the single vineyard philosophy of winemaking, Craggy Range was the first in the Southern Hemisphere to make single vineyard wines from multiple New Zealand regions with grape varieties matched to place. The winery produces a portfolio of quality wines including the iconic Prestige and Family collections, as well as Limited Editions all reflecting the place and the people. The grapes, grown in exceptional winery-owned New Zealand estate vineyards in Hawke’s Bay, Martinborough and Marlborough, are selected for their special soils and unique climates producing wines of character, quality and authority. The architecturally inspired Giants winery complex and vineyard is also home to the Craggy Range Cellar Door and the award winning restaurant Terrôir at Craggy Range
New chief winemaker begins work
4 August 2015 Wendy Stuckey, an internationally recognised winemaker, has is now installed as Chief Winemaker of Constellation Brands NZ, taking over from Darryl Woolley, a pioneer of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, who has retired following a successful 30 year career in winemaking.
Ms Stuckey joined Constellation after seven years at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Washington, USA and, prior to that, at Beringer Blass/Fosters in Australia. Sam Glaetzer, President Constellation Brands NZ, says “Wendy is a highly sought after winemaker with a comprehensive list of prestigious achievements, a superb palate and absolute attention to quality. We are elated she is now on board and know that with Wendy in the lead our winemaking as we continue to expand and grow.” “It has been a privilege to work with Darryl and to witness his skill and expertise. Kim Crawford and Nobilo are the top two New Zealand wine brands in North America which is a tribute to his talented leadership,” says Mr Glaetzer. Ms Stuckey is based in Marlborough.
Auckland provides for Queenstown’s Future
4 August 2015 Queenstown hospitality business, Future Bars, has taken over existing Auckland establishments Bar 151 and United Kitchen. Located in Ponsonby, the businesses will continue to trade ‘as are’ for two months until they’re revamped, re-branded and re-launched as part of the Future Bars portfolio.
Future Bars, owner of iconic Queenstown bars Minus 5 Ice Bar, Rhino’s Ski Shack and the newly invigorated Little Blackwood, is dipping its toes into the Auckland market for the first time, while also taking on the foodie market for the first time. Although clearly “pumped” by the start of their Auckland endeavour, co-owner James Ace acknowledges they’re entering into an “extremely competitive” market. “We’re a small business with a massive vision and want to be up there with the very best in the industry,” he said. “We’re ready to take on the big boys and see Auckland as a natural progression for us. “It’s important to get this right but we’re confident we’ve got the experience, the drive, the flair and the passion to make this a success.” “Ponsonby fits us like a glove - it’s buzzing, there’s a great vibe with a mix of locals and corporates and lots of businesses close by that complement us perfectly,” said James. As part of the company’s future growth strategy, James headed to Auckland earlier in the year to seek out potential sites and was “stoked” when this opportunity popped up. “The timing was perfect – it’s a wicked venue and spot-on location so it all just clicked into place,” he said. “The restaurant aspect of the takeover’s really exciting; all our directors have previous experience in restaurants so we’re pretty comfortable with it,” said James. “We plan to introduce our concept over the next two months, gather feedback and listen to what people are saying, then aim for a re-opening in November, just in time for summer. “We’re playing around with the idea of opening up the two premises, rather than keeping them separate, so it’ll be an all-encompassing venue with food, cocktails, craft beer, wine and music.” The 12 existing staff at the Ponsonby establishment are being retained including the venue manager and head chef. The company recently celebrated 10 years in business since launching Minus 5 Ice Bar, a Queenstown ‘must-do’ featuring over 18 tonnes of crystal clear ice architecture. Neighbouring Little Blackwood, freshly re-branded from Queenstown institute The Boiler Room is an imitate venue with a big personality, centred on cocktails, wine and canapés. Both venues open up the opportunity for events and functions to spill out onto Steamer Wharf, a unique venue in its own right. The internal atrium has space for live music, additional food and beverage services as well opportunities for theming and production, tapping into Queenstown’s growing C&I market. Just a few minutes’ walk away is Rhino’s Ski Shack. Tucked away off Queenstown Mall, the bar has quickly become the resort’s top après ski destination with casual drinks and eats. The company’s also heavily invested in events, brand management and activation, consulting on everything from creative design to digital marketing and signage. Its out-of-the-box ‘pop-up bar’ package has been popular with world-class events such as the BMW New Zealand Golf Open. All three Future Bars co-owners are fully invested in the Auckland venture. Managing Director James works alongside creative manager Jason Whalley and general manager Burt Haines. “While we work our magic, pop in and see us at Bar 151 and United Kitchen as we’d love to shout you a bite to eat, beer or cocktail in exchange for your thoughts and feedback,” said James. “We’re very excited to be rubbing shoulders with some of the very best in the business and believe our new offering will absolutely complement our neighbours.”