Wines to chainsaw and chop wood by.

I subscribe to the thought that a household can’t have too much firewood on hand. Fortunately my neighbour, an aborist , also thinks the same. As soon as one pile of logs has been sawn and chopped to size, another pile re-appears overnight. Rumpelstiltskin like.

Despite it being February and the height of summer, cooler weather never seems to be too far away – especially in the hills when the morning Kawarau river mist rolls down the valley.


Should you need reminding about the need for firewood, there is a beautiful book that captures the rhythmic seasonal craft of a woodpile. Norwegian Wood by Lars Mytting  looks to be a wonderful fireside read detailing the selection, felling, sawing, chopping, stacking and burning logs. Axes, splitters and saws are also comprehensively covered but to my mind there is a new chapter to be written. We all know that a glass of wine is mandatory to really enjoy a fire but the missing link here is matching a wine with the activity of sawing, chopping and stacking.

For health and safety reasons it is important to note that drinking wine and operating machinery with fast moving parts or wielding tools with sharp edges is not a good idea. I  can personally attest that turning up to the ED with a firewood related injury is traumatic enough without having to explain the circumstances of being under the influence as well.

The sharp-of-eye will have seen that the saw of choice is a Stihl MS370 with a 20″ bar. 15 years of going strong and likely to be an inheritance item should the adverts be based in truth.

After breathing in a couple of hours worth of wood-chip, sawdust, two stroke exhaust and bar oil, turn off the chainsaw and enjoy a glass of Syrah. I’ve found that some Waiheke Syrahs have that wonderful dusty road minerality on the nose with cedar resin and cigar smoke notes. On the palate you’ll need a good balance of acidity and fruit to offset the extra ingestion of wood-chip and bark tannins. Rich dark fruit with white pepper and spice finish will also be recuperative and calming after the saw session. Syrah is also a wonderful accompaniment to chocolate, should you be looking for a post-cutting rounds treat. A nice example of this style of Syrah is the Dunleavy ‘The Grafter’.

Of course the hard work starts with the log splitting. Engage the core, sight the target grain, relax the shoulders and fast hands should result in that satisfying thwock as the log falls neatly in half. Well that is the objective…

Old school splitter and axe are the way to go with the nice straight grain logs but on occasion the job requires the mechanical assistance of a log-splitter. In the instance that you are reduced to the old school manual work, I’m a firm believer in nature’s own sports drink as a reviver. A well-crafted dry of or off-dry Riesling with lemon/lime notes, refreshing acidity and long finish is a great way to replenish the spirit and body. A very good example of this would look to be the Archangel Riesling – congrats to the Archangel team with the latest Cuisine tasting results.

When it comes to stacking the firewood, there is an entire science and technique that eclipses my modest efforts so I won’t post images of the firewood stack at our place. Once stacked and drying nicely, it is entirely appropriate to stand back and survey the results of all your hard work. The wine match with this one? Well frankly, that wine is a beer…..



The forager got foraged

The other night I was startled to hear a pretty large animal clumping through our small orchard. It was dusk, going on dark and so I was hoping it wasn’t too fearsome. I had a fair idea what it was as I had seen a young fallow deer (spiker) in the open that same morning but being that close and that time of day did give me a start.

IMG_0663 (002)Throw forward to the next morning and I received a text at 5.45 am from Tony our neighbour saying that a deer had just been shot. ‘James is sorting some deer meat out in the shed if u are keen.’ Well at that time of day there is keen and there is keen – but there is certainly more reward in dressing a deer carcass than the rabbits I had been shooting lately so I sharpened a knife, grabbed the meat saw and popped on over.

Nothing like starting the day with a warm, but mercifully eviscerated deer. James the Culler has spied a mob of three fallow deer from the house and bowled over one of them. Now James is a keen hunter and the poor beastie had little or no chance but it is odd that the deer were so low in the valley at this time of year – and in the open. Anyway, not to look a (ahem) gift horse in the mouth, we had the carcass broken down before breakfast and there’s a nice bit of venison in the freezer. Perhaps an option for Christmas dinner?


Later in the day I discovered that our heirloom apple trees had been thoroughly foraged and at least 50% of our crop had been stripped by the dusk-time prowler. Karma can be a bugger eh?

On an altogether different note, I recently had the pleasure to meet Rosie and the team from Coal Pit Wines and they kindly gave me a bottle of their 2016 Reserve Tiwha Bennett Pinot Noir to enjoy with our other Coal Pit Rd friends. Personally I think that the marketing and design team have nailed the label and packaging design. As one of 600 bottles I’m sure that the wine quality will match the presentation – can’t wait to share it around.

NB/ background theme is purely coincidental and not linked to the theme at the top of this post (much).


Sometimes the fastest route is not a straight line

For anyone relying on the weather to reach their end objective knows that nature always has the whip hand. This was evidenced yesterday during the Wakatipu Yacht Club race to Walter Peak. Although we had a glorious day with a light southerly there is never a straight forward course when you hit the water. Certainly life is made easier when you can see the breeze line and how the opposition is faring across the race track but sometimes the decision is made to go right when the fleet has decided to go left. Observation and experience, communication and graft do help with those decisions and at times you do need to split from the pack to reach the finish line first.

Course setting and routing are at times counter-intuitive. For those who are following the Volvo Ocean Race can observe this first hand. The grand circle routing means that the fleet spends a lot of it’s time sailing away from the destination to get into the better sailing conditions – further means faster in this case.  Deciding to take a longer route rather than pulling the trigger to sail straight to the finish can take a strong nerve and many a navigator has lost sleep over the ‘what if’ scenarios.

Regardless of the outcome, there is nothing quite like messing about in boats. Should nature turn too fickle there is always the option to drop the ‘iron spinnaker’ and motor home before the beer and food runs out.

For those who are results oriented-  yes, the good ship Chaos took line honours on both legs of the race, outward and homeward.

Lunch was a delicious chorizo and cheese pita bread with wholegrain mustard and home grown rocket washed down with an ice-cold Heineken. Happy 50th Stewie.homeward walter peak 1711

Winter in Spring

This time last week I was woken by a frost fan in the valley at 1.30 am. Looking out of the window the night-time land and skyscape blended together into a deep mid-winter ghostly white. The frost fan might have been on auto and kicked into gear once the temperature dropped to a critical temperature. Frost fans are susceptible to ice, wind and fog; the blades ice-up and can make life tenuous for anybody in the immediate vicinity should the machine decide to shake itself to bits. Having had the pleasure myself of being turned out of the hammock to attend to the frost fans of a frosty Central night, you don’t want to think too long on the ‘what if’ scenarios. In any case, at full noise the machines are too windy, cold and noisy to contemplate lingering around the fans for long. Anyhow, the fans are an essential part of the frost fighting arsenal – one that you don’t mind losing sleep over when it comes to protecting the season’s crop.

It does seem that the local grape-growers escaped this bitter but brief return of winter as a strong sou’westerly weather pattern set up shop for a few days to blow away the snow and hold the frosty nights at bay. Happy to report that the region is back up to temperature now with 23ºC + days forecast for the next week or so. Check out the ‘go to’ website for viticulturists and sailors alike:

Incidentally, this winter in spring storm happened at the same time last year – this shot was taken at the end of October 2016 on the Queenstown flight path approach over Gibbston. The frost fan may, or may not, be the one mentioned above.

Just in case you think that I’ve taken off my weather-spotting anorak, I haven’t. This next photo was taken off St Clair beach in Dunedin the very next day. A small front passing over the area dropped the temperature by 10ºC in a matter of minutes as the wind clocked around 180º from nor’west to sou’east. Photo credit M.


St Clair 1711 (2)

Bluffed in Bluff

I have to say that Bluff is not all that it’s cracked up to be – it’s much, much better. Situated at the south of the South Island, you can’t find a port-side town that reflects the weather as much as Bluff. I’ve had the pleasure of sailing to and from Stewart Island from Bluff a number of times (mostly on the good ship Huia, a Noelex 25) and regardless of the weather, Nature is always right there in your face. Saturday’s weather was sublime with a very light northerly. Regrettably, I didn’t get on or in the water and my quest for a taste of kai moana was thwarted by the empty pie warmer. The taste of the famous Bluff oyster will have to wait for another visit; perhaps May 26, 2018 when the Bluff Oyster festival is back on.

Another highlight of the trip was visiting Motorcycle Mecca in Invercargill.

I have often wondered what a flying merkel would look like. These guys have the definitive version. Here is The Flying Merkel.

Check out all the chrome on the post-war Indian as well. 1200cc’s and a single seater so a whole lot of power without having to share.

The other gem pictured is a 1974 Ducati 750SS – my claim to fame is that for a brief moment in time, I owned a GT version of this bike. The Super Sport is a much rarer collectible piece of machinery.

The trip down memory lane is well worth the entry to Motorcycle Mecca in Invercargill and Bluff is always worth the visit – don’t let a sunny day put you off!

Travel around Central

In my new role as a wine business consultant, I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel around Central Otago and further afield.

It is great to see that the weather has really started to warm up and that the sub-regions are well into bud-burst.

In these postings I’ll look to share tasting notes, wine images and wine thoughts.

These images were taken October 2017 on Felton Rd and the old Bendigo Rd.