June finished with a five day, four city trip to Ireland to promote Beaujolais wines with a series of masterclasses. We did Cork, Dublin, Galway and Limerick. Here I am with Phoebe and Christina, my fellow travellers, and Mick, who showed us some good spots in Dublin.
The Gilda, at the fab Fish Shop, where we ate and drank well.
This was an amazing meal at Aniar in Galway.
Limerick, our last stop.
Then we had a Beaujolais magnum party at Magpie, with some cool folk.
At the beginning ion July I met Nat in Hong Kong, and we had a great time exploring.
This was at a natural wine bar: La Cabane.
At the International Wine Challenge dinner we celebrated the winners, including a special award for Rosa Kruger, the viticulturist behind the Old Vine Project in South Africa.
Then a brief trip to Portugal with Cork Supply to witness the cork harvest in action. Screw cap lovers look away now!
Then it was off to Ontario, Canada. The trip began with a brief but fabulous holiday living the Canadian dream in Muskoka. My friend Nicole and her family were taking a break in their lake front cottage, and along with Thomas and Mary Bachelder and Mackenzie Paton (who was interning with Nicole’s dad at Lifford), we had a fun few days.
Then in Toronto I hosted a Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers Pinot Party at Gifford, and also (pictured above) a tasting of interesting wines for the Grape Witches at Paris Paris.
Then it was time for i4C, the cool climate chardonnay celebration held each year in Niagara. I’m pictured here retrieving a football that someone had kicked into the Ravine vineyard.
This is the vineyard at Flat Rock – you can see the lake in the distance. At i4C itself there were some great events and tastings, and it was a lot of fun.
Back in London and my new book arrived!
And we had an epic party at Greg Sherwood’s place for no particularly good reason. Pictured: me, Gareth Birchley, Greg and Neal Martin.
August also saw my first visit to the vineyards of New York State, for an extensive 10 day trip that included some down time at the end in New York City.
We caught up with Pascaline Lepeltier and Nathan Kendall who are making Pet Nat from hybrid grapes.
Drinking unicorn natural Alsace Rosé in the Ten Bells. Part of the action packed exploration of some of the city’s best drinking and eating spots.
And we stopped off to taste at the fab Red Hook winery in Brooklyn.
Back in New Zealand in late August, and Nat and I spent a couple of weeks looking after Takaki Okada’s baby lamb Gabi. It was a slightly surreal but very cute experience.
We had a weekend away in Golden Bay. Among other things we went back to the magical Pupu springs, and explored the source of the Rikawa and hiked to the Wainui falls.
We stayed in this brilliant van at Golden Bay Hideaway, which had an outdoor bath.
Flying out of Blenheim you almost always get amazing views of the Marlborough wine region.
In September I spent a weekend in Sweden, doing a talk for the Swedish Association of Winewriters, and then heading to Gothenburg to visit Wine Mechanics, an urban winery and wine bar.
The big highlight of September was Cape Wine, the trip-annual event that sees everyone descend to Cape Town for a celebration of South African wine. This year was the best yet. So many good wines. The Cravens (above) show the spirit of fun that was embodied by the Zoo Cru stand, who decided to adopt an 80s theme.
The beautiful Banghoek Valley in Stellenbosh.
Smileys on form. Such cool wines.
One of the highlights for me was being able to take part in an amazing tasting of old Cape wines.
Thrilled to have made it onto the wall at Duncan Savage’s new winery.
Then, at the beginning of October, it was back to New Zealand, a trip that started with judging for New Zealand Wine of the Year in Auckland.
Some of my fellow judges – a fine crowd.
I then spent some time in Hawke’s Bay, visiting an interesting selection of producers. Pictured above is Tony Bish in his urban winery.
Then it was off to Marlborough, where I spent a lovely few days exploring the Wairarapa, or Wellington Wine Country as it is now known. These were some new Pinot discoveries.
Then back to Blenheim again. This is the view from a hike in the sounds.
Here I was one of the judges of the Marlborough Wine Show.
And here we’re in the judges’ dinner.
At the beginning of November, I had a short break in Montreal. I went to the RAW wine fair, caught up with the Grape Witches, and then for the next few days hung out with chums Claude and MC eating and drinking. Above is restaurant L’Express, where we lunched one day.
This basically sums up the drinking part. Lots of good wine to be found in Montreal.
And then on a whim I decided to visit my mate Burns in Verona. It was a wonderful couple of days: perfect weather, a beautiful city, and some great eating and drinking.
November also sees Tranche 1 of the International Wine Challenge. A good week.
A memorable meal in Chinatown with Daniel Primack.
And possibly meal of the year at the Ledbury.
And in terms of what was drunk, the Bojo Nouveau evening gathering at Terroirs probably topped it, draining unicorns and cool things off their fab list.
A beautiful four days in Porto. Treve Ring was out to research a story on Cha Camelia’s tea plantings in the Minho, so I joined in, hanging out with Dirk Niepoort, Vitor Bento and others.
November ended with a visit to the Veneto, where I spent time with Masi, and learned all about making wine with semi-dried grapes.
There was also some time visiting Canevel, in Prosecco country.
And in December, I travelled to Argentina, spending time with the wineries in the Penaflor group, including Trapiche in Mendoza, and El Esteco in Salta.
This is an old pergola-system Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.
I also spent time in Buenos Aires, and took a day trip to visit a winery they’ve established in a new coastal location near Mar del Plata, called Costa y Pampa.
December finished with a flurry of eating and drinking, including a wonderful dinner at Noble Rot with some astonishing wines. A fitting end to an event-filled year. Here’s looking forward to 2019, and who knows what this next year will contain. I’m grateful still to be here, to have good friends, and a job I really enjoy.