Mastering life’s courses for running, wine, and business school

Life experiences and interests from abroad

Unconventional Signage April 6, 2008

Filed under: Personal — emccan2 @ 8:03 am

I digress from the typical blog topics to share some unconventional signage in the bathrooms around Queenstown.  The first is the sign for the ladies room at the Kawarau Bridge Bungy Jump site.  Don’t worry, I just went to watch the bungy jumpers.  Heaven forbid I get up the nerve to do such a thing.  But skydiving, as you can see from my other post from today, was a different story.




The next signs are from the men’s room at the Sofitel Hotel.  I didn’t just happen upon these pictures on my own.  My travel companion cleared the way for me to sneak in a few pics while the stalls were not being used.  To plaster these women on the walls of the bathroom in the Sofitel is quite brash for this upscale hotel chain, and I give them accolades for doing something different. 


 Now, to wrap in a little something about wine for this post.  I dined at the Bezu, which is just behind the Sofitel on Beacon street and had the most lovely Sauvignon Blanc of the trip: Vavasour ‘Redwood Pass’.  As you might have seen from my earlier post, this was my #1 rated Sauvignon Blanc of the trip. 


Full Circle

Filed under: Travel — emccan2 @ 7:24 am

I returned back to Dublin Saturday evening after flying for over 20 hours from Auckland to LA to London and then finally back to Dublin.  I began my trip around the world on March 9th and in 21 days made a full circle back to Dublin.  Here’s the details:

  • March 8:            Dublin to London, London to Shanghai
  • March 9-14:      Travel around Shanghai visiting businesses and sightseeing
  • March 14-17:    Byron Bay for Ann and Adam’s Wedding
  • March 17-20:    Nelson, Abel Tasman, Marlborough
  • March 20:          Christchurch stopover
  • March 21-26:    Queenstown
  • March 26-29:    Auckland and Waiheke Island
  • March 29:          Fly to LA
  • March 30:          Fly LA to London then home to Dublin

Looking through this list, it seems like a pretty intense trip, but actually it was one of the most relaxing vacations.  The reason being is that no activities, other than in Shanghai and Ann’s wedding were planned in advance.  This allowed for endless options and wild spontaneity – as seen in the pictures below.  Next up on the travel adventures is Durham, North Carolina for the Duke University Rugby Tournament.  Hopefully, this time no one will end up with any black eyes.




At The Sweet Spot – New Zealand Wine Travel March 30, 2008

Filed under: Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 4:54 pm

To quote an article in today’s Economist, “At the Sweet Spot”, I was able to witness first hand the wine industry explosion happening throughout New Zealand.  The article talks about how the New Zealand wine industry is experiencing a boom: it just exceeded the wool exports in value and is the country’s 12th most valuable export.


Over the past two weeks, I have been traveling across New Zealand along with Rich, another devoted wine lover, to discover the small production wine growers’ outstanding Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs. After all the tasting, I have boiled down my top 5 Sauv. Blancs and Pinot Noirs below.  This list is based on my personal preferences, not from any ratings or awards.  Fortunately, for The Taste in Queenstown, I was able to sample multiple wines at one location thanks again to the wonderful Enomatic Wine machine. 

Top 5 Pinot Noirs:

  1. Amisfield
  2. Herzog
  3. St. Clair 
  4. Rockburn 
  5. Waitiri Creek

Top 5 Sauvignon Blanc

  1. Vavasour 
  2. Wither Hills 
  3. Alan Scott Wines
  4. Amisfield – Lake Hayes
  5. Seresin

Other notable mentions go to Amisfeld Riesling and Rose, Church Road Chardonnay, and Moana Park Ice Wine. 

While the New Zealand wine market is booming, the massive continent 1,200 miles northwest of NZ (Australia) is suffering from the worst droughts in history and are seeing acres of dried up vines.  The areas hurt the most are in North-west Victoria, and of the 7,000 wine growers in Australia, it is anticipated that around 1,000 will be forced to leave the industry because of the draught.  When I was visiting the wine regions in the Barossa and Hunter Valley, the drought was noticeable, but the impact hadn’t quite set in.  With the drought I wonder if New Zealand will become the next Australia in terms of growth and exports.  As much as I love my Shiraz and Cabernet, I wouldn’t mind seeing this trend surface and gain access to some of the smaller New Zealand wines that aren’t currently exporting their wine outside the country.   


The New World of Wine in New Zealand March 22, 2008

Filed under: Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 6:40 pm

The diversity in activities as well as wine are clear as one travels through New Zealand’s south island from Nelson to Queenstown.  After just one week in the south island, I have enjoyed gorgeous weather, spectacular landscapes, and magnificent wine and cuisine.  The Nelson region provided a much more relaxed atmosphere where I kayaked along the Abel Tasman National Park, starting at Kaiteriteri bay.

  img_1221.jpg  img_1224.jpg

The water was so clear and blue and the view up to the mountains was particularly beautiful.  More outdoor adventurous are soon to come in the adrenaline-rushed town of Queenstown.

As for my wine experiences thus far, I visited two major wine regions near Nelson.  One is just west of Nelson and the other is due east in Marlborough.  According to, “The longer, cooler growing conditions in the Southern regions promotes stronger and more vibrant fruit flavors together with higher acidity levels. Well over two thirds of Sauvignon Blanc vines are to be found in Marlborough.” To the east, I stopped at Neudorf and Himmelsfeld.  cabsav2001sm.jpgBoth produced excellent Sauv. Blancs, but Himmelsfeld’s wines in particular showed unique, aromatic characteristics that are the outcome of care and consistency of the winemaker, Elizabeth Eggers.  Beth was kind enough to give us a tasting of her range of wines, which included a “cool climate” Cab and Chardonnay unlike any I’ve ever tasted. 

To the east of Nelson, in the popular region of Marlborough, there were far more stops on the wine trail on the drive to Christchurch.  Focusing on recommendations and notable vineyards in this region, there were 5 cellar door stops including: Allan Scott, Hanz Herzog, St. Clair, Cloudy Bay and Huia.  All of Herzog’s wines were splendid, including their Pinot Noir, which was unexpected for the region.  My favorite Sauv. Blanc from this mix was Huia, but could have tied with St. Clair.  Since Marlborough is know for their Sauv. Blanc, it was hard to distinguish a clear favorite when all of them are so good.  What I consistently found, aside from Herzog, was that most of the Pinot Noirs were a little too tannic for my taste and tended to be more earthy and burgundian than the California Pinots I love.  However, I am yet to explore the Central Otogo region, which is known for their Pinots.  From the few I have already tried around Queenstown, I have a feeling that I will find some new gems in the Central Otogo region I will need to keep my eye out for when I get back to Ireland.


An Aussie Style Wedding

Filed under: Personal,Travel — emccan2 @ 8:24 am

img_1150.jpgLook at that volume!!  I never thought my hair could reach such heights, but Denise at Overhaul Salon proved me wrong.  Don’t mind the painting of the woman behind me – it’s all part of the cool Aussie image.  This photo was taken the morning of Ann and Adam’s wedding, when the bridesmaids met to get our hair done for the wedding.  As you’ll see, mind ended up in a classic french twist – nothing like what you might have thought by the looks of this photo.  The whole wedding weekend was perfect and actually rather relaxing with champagne before the ceremony, heavy hors d’ouevres through the reception to allow for pleasant mingling amongst guests, and an American-style brunch on Sunday with shrimp and grits, bloody marys, pancakes with Aunt Jemima Syrup and Starbuck’s coffee.  The rehearsal dinner was also a treat, as the theme was an Australian bbq, including Sue’s (Adam’s mom) famous Shrimp on the barbie.

What really made the weekend so special was that I was able to share it with my two best girlfriends from high school, Natalie and Ann (my toe tattoo buddies).  img_1189.jpg 


Even though much time has passed since seeing them, we were able to instantly reconnect and have a wonderful time together.  I couldn’t have imagined a better start to my Aussie and New Zealand adventure! 


A Dynasty Uncovered March 16, 2008

Filed under: MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 12:52 pm

I’ve made it out of Shanghai and am enjoying the warm weather of Byron Bay, Australia.  Tomorrow, I head out for New Zealand, where a world of new Pinots and Sauvignon Blancs are soon to be discovered.  The trip to Shanghai was unbelievable – beginning with the speedy magnetic train that gets you from the airport to the center of Shanghai – to the smog filled sky that blocks the beauty the country is developing.  During the trip, my classmates and I enjoyed excursions to various global companies and spent an afternoon with Communist leaders at the China Executive Leadership Academy Pudong (CELAP). CELAP is a Shanghai-based national institution that assists in developing China’s senior leaders and executives across the government and state-owned enterprises.  The building itself is breathtaking, having just finished construction in 2005. 

dynasty-wine.jpgOf course, I could not have gone to China without sampling their wines, so while at dinner on Sunday evening, I purchased a bottle of Dynasty wine to compliment our family-style meal.  The wine was described as a Dry Red Wine, but honestly, it was far from that.  To be fair, I will simply say that the Chinese have a way to go to compete in the developing wine market.  My friends who were brave enough to sample the wine also felt that the wine needed a little extra care and development, and after one sip, decided to stick with the Tiger Beer for the rest of the evening. 

Now that I’m on my way to New Zealand, I will be overwhelmed with fantastic wine from this relatively new wine growing region.  I hope to enjoy many Pinot Noirs, but anticipate that I’ll find some new gems as I explore around the islands. 

A quick note on the wedding festivities I have engaged in the past few days.  The wedding was absolutely breathtaking and delightful.  The setting in Byron Bay, the east coast of Australia, couldn’t have been more perfect, and the company, along with Ann and Adam’s friends and family made the experience so genuine and inviting.  It was such an honor to be part of the occasion and to see the union of two people who are meant to spend their lives together.  Once I have my photos loaded, I’ll share them some great pics of the wedding.


From Pinyin to Shiraz to Pinot Noir March 7, 2008

Filed under: MBA,Travel,Wine — emccan2 @ 10:30 pm

Tomorrow marks the beginning of a whirlwind tour of China, Australia and New Zealand.  The majority of the time will be split between China and New Zealand, with the highlight of the trip being a weekend in Brisbane for Ann’s wedding.  I can’t wait to reconnect with my best girlfriends from high school, Natalie and Ann, and do some much needed catching up.   

My time in China will be concentrated in Shanghai, where I, along with 60 other Full-time and Executive MBA students will be meeting with companies and exploring the cross-cultural opportunities of doing business in China.  We have some free time scheduled in, so I hope to do some exploring also.

Being the wine adventurer that I am, I will be scoping out the wine scene of these 3 incredible locations.  I was fortunate enough to tour Australia in June and visited the Barossa and Hunter Valley.  This time, however, I will be focused on the great Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand’s wine regions.  But, I’m not going to hold off on my wine exploration until I head to Australia and New Zealand – I am going to try to make it to a wine bar in Shanghai to sample some pinyin (Chinese for wine) to see how Chinese “grape liquor” compares to my Californian standards. 

 I’ll be sure to keep the blog updates along my way.