I've always liked the word convivial, which is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "relating to, occupied with, or fond of feasting, drinking, and good company". And here is where we will share all things related to feasting, drinking and good company - with a little travel thrown in for good measure. Consider it our "at the table" section where you can find food and wine pairings, recipes, restaurant reviews, travel tips, and more. And once we get started we hope that you'll share your table - photos, friends, travels, and wine pairings with recipes. Welcome to our table, please make yourselves comfortable.
During the planning phase of my first trip to New Zealand, Martin Cahnbley (Planet Wine) and I were discussing which wine regions I should visit. I said that I really wanted to go to Central Otago, Marlborough, and Martinborough. Martin insisted I add Hawke’s Bay to that list. He said there were some very small, very innovative winemakers there that I needed to visit. I was not happy with his suggestion.
New Zealand is an immensely beautiful country, but it’s also difficult to get around for someone like me who does not like driving on the other side of the road. And this was a road trip – five flights within New Zealand and driving myself from winery to winery. Including one harrowing drive from Wellington to Martinborough over a mountain in the rain while gripping the steering wheel so hard my hands ached. Visiting Hawke’s Bay would mean arriving on a Friday night and visiting wineries on a Saturday and Sunday. This was also in late January when most Kiwi’s are enjoying their last days of Summer holidays before school begins. I didn’t think it would work.
I didn’t want to go for other reasons too. In all my wine studies and tasting experiences, somehow, I got Hawke’s Bay and over-ripe Merlot burned into my brain. Just like we all have Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc seared into our palate memory, I had Hawke’s Bay and Merlot forever intertwined. I was insistent on not going. Martin was very insistent on my going. That’s when I said, “I am NOT going to f***ing Hawke’s Bay!” Martin laughed at me and my ignorance, told me to relax and he would set me up for visits with two people I just HAD to meet before I left New Zealand.
Martin set me up for an appointment on Saturday afternoon with Tony Bish, former winemaker at Sacred Hill winery, who now owned his own winery and wine bar, Urban Winery in Ahuriri in Napier. Tony is still a consultant and shareholder at Sacred Hill but left to focus on his true passion, Chardonnay. Tony told me that the idea for starting out on his own came while on a trip with Rod Easthope to South America to watch the All Blacks play. Rod had been the winemaker for Craggy Range and had come to a similar decision while on the same trip. During that trip, both had visited wineries using concrete eggs and both now use them in production. Martin had set me up for a Sunday morning visit to Easthope Family Winegrowers. If they were up for a Sunday morning visit, well then, I could do it too. A visit to Hawke’s Bay offered appointments with two well respected and internationally renowned winemakers who struck out on their own and used innovative winemaking technics. How could I resist?
I’ll write separate Blog posts about my visits with Tony and Rod in coming posts. I wanted to make this post about opportunities that come along that completely change your plans – and for the better. I had started out my trip to New Zealand not really being able to define Mondiale Wines and Martin had kept telling me I needed a vision and had to define it. Not until my last two visits of the entire trip, with these two amazing winemakers, having met their families and learned more about them did I find my vision. My perception about wines from Hawke’s Bay had completely changed and maybe I could help others discover that there are truly unique wines coming from visionary winemakers in a place that deserves discovery. As I sat outside with Rod to eat lunch just before catching my flight back to Auckland, I said “you know, I didn’t want to come here. Martin made me. I am so glad he did.”
Welcome to our world of wines. I'm often asked what the word Mondiale means and how to pronounce it. Mondiale translates from French or Italian as global or world. Pronouncing it probably varies, but I say "mon" like Monica, "di" like delight and "ale" like all. Mon-dee-all. It doesn't really matter how you say it, just as long as you can find this website and explore our world of wines.
Right now, our world of wines is focused on three family-owned boutique wine producers in New Zealand. I've spent most of my career focused on the wines of France and Italy. I've studied for the two most prestigious and challenging wine qualifications in the world and I earned an MBA in Wine through studies in France, Chile, Australia and the US. I have travelled the world in pursuit of those studies, but I had not been to New Zealand.
I’ll admit that I find most of the wines from New Zealand that we see here in the US tend to be large volume producers of Sauvignon Blanc. I had sold several of them during my wine career and have been known to consume plenty of those wines myself. I've also worked with and enjoyed drinking some of the top producers of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in New Zealand, so I knew there were some distinguished boutique producers to be found there. I knew from my research and wine studies that New Zealand was home to some innovative wine making and growing practices and maybe they might be open to a different approach to the US market.
So I called up a friend of mine, Martin Cahnbley, who owns Planet Wine in New Zealand and asked him if he knew of any great producers who might be interested in the US market. Martin imports unique producers of beer, wine and spirits from around the world into the New Zealand market and knows a lot of producers in New Zealand personally. Martin, like me, enjoys introducing his friends to each other. I met Martin in the Institute of Masters of Wine study program in Bordeaux and we immediately became friends. I had always been interested in his business model and knew I would like to do something similar in the US market.
With Martins help and guidance, in January of 2018 I visited nineteen wineries in thirteen days and fell in love with New Zealand – the wines, the food, the people, the landscape, the culture. New Zealand had it all. In coming blog entries I'll explain more about those visits, the wines and people I met along the way.