The “Around Australia in 80 Sips” juggernaut rolled into Southern California last week as a precursor to Australia Day. I was recruited to help pour wine to teeming (but hip) hordes of Southern California Aussie wine lovers so I headed over to the Pacific Design Center (aka: “The Blue Whale”) in West Hollywood. This is a building so cool and trendy that I was surprised they let me in the door, but the security guy took a look at the R.M. Williams boots I was wearing and declared me “hip enough” and let me into the building.
Making my way past furniture showrooms with footstools priced somewhere around the GNP of an emerging fifth-world nation, I arrived at the third floor digs housing the “80 Sips” extravaganza and met all the people from Wine Australia, Bottle Notes, and the other partners sponsoring the event. They’d divvied up the wines regionally around two rooms, and I was fortuitously stationed in the GSM section of the Barossa Valley table, right next to Adam Dromi, one of the biggest supporters of Oz wines in the USA.
Adam’s an old friend who works at the Wine House, leading his clients out of the dank aisles of overpriced Bordeaux and twisting their arms (when necessary) to convince them to discover the glories of Oz wine. Quite often he leads them in the direction of Torbreck, so we worked well together as a tag-team cheerleading section for the Barossa Valley that night. In addition to Torbreck, we poured wines from John Duval, Glaetzer, Chateau Tanunda, and others. The table was jam-packed all night long, barely giving us enough time to dart over to the Wolfgang Puck-catered buffet to wolf down charcuterie and cheese that might have been paying tribute to the influence of Australia’s Italian immigrants.
Partway through the VIP segment of the evening, a guy in a suit and another guy with a big camera slung atop his shoulder asked if it would be okay if they filmed in front of the table for a little bit. Why not? Mr. Suit commenced to speak to the camera for awhile and then they cut away to me pouring The Steading for an attendee wearing a suitably parched look on his face. I had my wits about me and fortunately remembered the two most important things they teach you in wine school: 1. Make sure that the label faces the camera at all times. 2. Never look directly at the camera. As the shooting ended, they thanked me and the crowd re-swarmed the table and we went back to singing the praises of Barossa Valley blends.
And then my Android got busy. It seems that the video they were shooting was going live to news broadcasts back in Australia, and friends there were watching. That must have been my 15 seconds of fame, woo-hoo!! It was a swell event, with a good time had by all.
A couple of nights later I could be found pouring Woodcutter’s Shiraz and The Steading at a Digital Start-Up Shootout event, part of DigitalAustralia. The venue was a little more roll-up-your-shirtsleeves in style than the tres chic Blue Whale, but absolutely perfect for its day-to-day use.
This totally wired workspace in a loft-like setting in mid-City Los Angeles was the perfect setting for a confab of some of the most tech-savvy venture capitalists in Los Angeles. The idea was that they’d be plied with food and drink (Torbreck and Cooper’s) before being presented with elevator pitches from five different Australian tech start-up companies. Each of the entrepreneurs had nine minutes to tell the panel of five judges why their company should receive funding from the VCs, or enter partnerships with larger companies. The ideas were fascinating, and if I were the one doling out the venture kale I’d probably have invested in all of them (good thing I didn’t have the company credit card with me). The ideas were solid, very marketable, and were all things that may have been Aussie in origin but international in scope.
The prize for winning was a month’s free rent at the loft space, but everybody won because the Oz tech industry got some exposure and the start-ups made some potentially valuable connections. Most importantly, the attendees got to enjoy some great Australian wine along with food that might be found in any loft office space….tortilla chips and salsa! Okay, Wolfgang Puck it wasn’t, but it was a memorable evening all around, putting everyone in the mood for Australia Day.
We wish you a happy Australia Day wherever in the world you happen to be celebrating. Please cook a snag on the barbie and raise a glass of Aussie (preferably Torbreck) in honour of this celebrated day!