Sunday, July 20, 2008

Business: Melbourne Style

For the first time in my 27 years of international business, I spent $400 on taxi fares rushing to meetings in Sydney and Melbourne over a two day sprint.

I escaped the political demonstrations in Malaysia to find a jubilee of traffic jams in Sydney: the Pope had arrived.
At my first meeting in Sydney, I'm greeted by a Jack Russel Terrier mix, who grabs the most expensive tie I own and starts pulling. (In Texas, they'd just cut it off with scissors -- here, they send in the dogs.) I left with the order.
After a morning meeting Saturday with our new reseller in Melbourne, MindSystems, we head to a restaurant to feast on fresh oysters, lamb brains, raw steak tartar and “wagu” Kobe beef at the Wine Room in St. Kilda. Then, it's off to the wine country on Mornington Peninsula, town of Mt. Eliza. We follow the coastal road – Melbourne is situated at the back of a very large bay. We pass Canary Island Date Palms and Protea “bottle brush” trees that rise as tall as 4 story buildings.

MindSystems is a true "order maker" and a true value added reseller of business graphics software solutions. They have the formula. I'm looking forward to working with them.

First stop is Morningstar Estate – picture perfect for weddings. We pull into the driveway where grazing sheep catch my eye. This is what we need at the Blue-Merle Vineyard for weed control and dog control. (Our shepherd needs something to do – so not only would a pair of sheep keep Bluey occupied, they keep the weeds down and don’t eat the vines.)

The winery has a tasting room, restaurant and hotel , and I’m thinking this is the place to stay on my next trip to Melbourne. Especially since MindSystems is located just down the road. From the terrace, you catch glimpses of the bay. My first thought: mildew.
“I don’t like red wines,” says our pourer, a young man of 23 years.
“How’s the mildew around here?”
“I’ve never heard of a problem.” Yeah, right.
The pinot is drinkable. The cabernet-merlot blend is not. According to Derek Barton, author of “Australia’s Best Wine Tours” which I purchased from one of the many book stores in St. Kilda, the peninsula is known for good pinots. We head outside to the vineyard. I’m struck by two things: the way end posts are supported (see picture), and the pruning. The end posts are not put in at angles; rather, they are straight, given extra support by another end post placed at the top. (See the picture.) The pruning method is to prune back to a single shoot, which stretches across the cordon wire. This is to control vegetative growth in this challenging microclimate (surrounded by water).

Whereas Morningstar Estate is a beautiful castle, our next stop across the road is a bohemian hole in wall with attitude, the Under Ground, where the yard is littered with barrels and the grounds could use a good cleaning. This is the place to have fun and to talk with the winemaker who describes in great detail the challenges of mildew and the pruning techniques. I notice they are using the breathable, oxygen permeable plastic drums, which are reputed to allow wine to age with a slow oxidation process similar to barrel aging. The winemaker concurs with the assessment and gives me the name of the Flextank supplier.

We enjoy sampling the sweet muscat wines, and I am especially keen on trying the Duriff, which they have named “Dr. Duriff.” We know this back home as Petite Syrah (no, it is NOT petite shiraz, mate), which is a thick, dark, chewy, big wine – of which we have a barrel full back at the Blue-Merle vineyard, maturing nicely. Dr. Duriff does not disappoint, and I purchase a bottle to bring back to the artisans of Blue-Merle Country. Next stop, New Zealand.

When you go:
Place to stay: Novotel, St. Kilda. Located about 5 miles or so from the Melbourne City Center, along the bay. Jog along the beach in the morning. Enjoy breakfast and a “flat white” coffe at the racer’s café (where all the cyclists hang out).

Lunch or Dinner: Melbourne Wine Room The George. 125 Fitzroy St., St. Kilda. Tel: (03) 9525-5599. Reservations recommended. Everything delicious. Ask the waiter what’s good the day you go.

Morning Coffee: Racer’s Café, St. Kilda

Sails on the Bay. Restaurant. Despite being located right on the beach with a bay view, the food is good. 15 Elwood Foreshore, Elwood, Victoria.

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