Music Machinations

Sometimes life gets so busy, and we forget or delay what we know we should do. Take time to exercise, find time to relax, go to the beach more, appreciate your partner more, listen to more music, read another book. We all know those feelings, and we all fall short of our own ideals sometimes. Then along comes a catalyst. Unplanned, unsolicited, random, yet irrevocable. So I won’t waste time apologising for lack of Blogs, possible no-one cares anyways. But yesterday a catalyst arrived, so here I am. Through Facebook, a message arrived from a friend of friend connection, asking if I would make a pledge to buy a CD for the benefit of Ralph Bennett’s family, as he is terminally ill with cancer. Ralph is a kiwi musician journeyman, legendary blues guitarist, song writer, and general good bastard. He made an album many years ago called Fat n Sassy, so there’s the connection. I saw the poster for a promo tour he was making in a Saloon Bar (that’s right folks, a Saloon Bar, and we’re not talking hair dressers!) in Wairoa, next to one of the best Cafe’s in the country (yes, really!), the East End Cafe. See the doorstep below;


The owner of these two utterly unique establishments is an old friend of Ralph’s. When I got back to Napier, I mentioned this poster and Ralph Bennett to Garry, a very dear friend and musical encyclopaedia, and bugger me he had a Ralph Bennett vinyl album in a box he had just unearthed from the bowels of his cellar!


Then to top of a rather bizarre week, one of my fellow South America trip companions names his 3rd born son Ralph! Does make you think huh? Anyways, the pledge was done, two CD’s heading my way, one for Garry. But the musical fuse was lit, and I spent a couple of hours wandering the net. Fast forwarded my way through some of the Grammy’s, and hauled up when I saw Beck win Best new Rock Album. LEGEND! So tonight whilst I write, its Morning Phase on the headphones. One word. Wicked! The track Heart is a Drum beautiful. A glass (ok, a bottle) of Sacred Hill HALO Syrah 2013 is liquid velvet.

So here’s another reminder from the East Coast, Mahia style;


Not just a road safety message from a small rural community, but a potent message to us all. Slow down. Take time for the real pleasures of life. Wine, food, friends, music, laughter, kindness.

Ka kite ano



Latest News

Well lots happening on the Fat n Sassy project! We are about to feature in a Chardonnay promotion by Glengarry, and will be in all 18 stores by the end of this week. Awesome! Great review in Viva a couple of weeks ago by Jo Burzynska, with this Chardonnay beauty making her top 12 winter wine recommendations. Rocking out in Wellington too, with loads of restaurant listings happening. Back at the winery, we are well through the malo-lactic ferment process for the 2014. This is when malic acid is converted to the less acidic lactic acid by clever bacteria. This softens and enriches the wine, adding that important element of Fatness! The barrels look brilliant, and the 2014 will be as good or better maybe than the 2013 your enjoying now.

Looking back, my last blog was about the beginning of the South America trip with my winemaker friends. Following an epic night or two in Buenos Aires, we headed over to Mendoza by plane, across 1200km of desert. Mendoza is a high altitude wine region at the foot of the Andes, and is totally spectacular. There are no foothills, so the mountains soar majestically straight off the desert planes. The vineyards are well spread out, but there are heaps! Argentina is the 4th largest wine producer in the world, so its a BIG industry. Lots of history, amazing vineyards and some totally mind blowing wineries, some with significant European investment. Malbec dominates of course, but there are other great reds with the Bordeaux varieties at play, and a few good whites too. about 92% of wine consumed is red in this latin american country though, which is perfect with their big steak cuisine. A few more of Richard Brimers great photos attached.

Cheers all, Tony

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South America and Fat n Sassy Project

There is nothing like a trip to a distant country and culture to get the mind really working, and last years trip to Argentina and Chile was a great opportunity for creative thinking. I gathered a group of close friends, three other winemakers, a wine retailer and Richard Brimer, legend photographer. We kicked off with the All Blacks playing Argentina at Le Plata, just out of Buenos Aires. Awesome atmosphere, especially where we were in the general admission area, mixing it up with the locals. From here we went back to the city for a late degustation dinner at Aramburu, a stunning restaurant in the seedy part of town called Constitution. Amazing food, wine and service, we had a very long evening enjoying the ten courses matched to South American wines. Sheer brilliance. The small independent winemakers featured strongly here, getting the thought process cranking. Here’s a few pics Richard took.L1070670L1070672L1070584L1070603

Advintage Launches ‘Fat n Sassy’ Chardonnay

This Thursday 8th May, online wine retailer specialist Advintage Wines in Havelock North are launching Fat n Sassy Chardonnay 2013. Owner John MacPherson is a self confessed Chardonnay nut, so he is very excited about this event. This hand crafted wine has already attracted scores of 93/100, 5 Stars and 18/20 by distinguished independent critics. That’s because its Fat. And Sassy! Beautiful Mendoza Chardonnay was fermented in French oak barriques and skillfully blended to achieve this rich, textured and layered wine. The natural acidity provides a long lingering finish with citrus hints. This is a seriously good Chardonnay at a great price, Mac will be dealing out at $19.99 a bottle. Come along for the fun, and a taste of a sensational new brand.

Chardonnay is king!

Bone Crusher Bay

Bone Crusher Bay

Hi! Just back from a glorious couple of days on Mahia Peninsula, one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. This view is from our section, and its a launching spot for boaties with a bit of courage and local knowledge. I guess its not called bone crusher for nothing!

The time away was great for a bit of thinking and dreaming. My family and I aim to build a house here in a few years, and this got me thinking about the ideal cellar to build into it. Its a non negotiable to have a cellar, and this is all good with the family. I have no doubt it will double up as a larder extension, as Karryn is right into her preserves, relishes and pickles etc.

So if anyone out there has a great idea for an under-house wine cellar design, let me know.

Cellaring wine is one of the most rewarding things to do. I know it can be tricky, depending on where you live, but if you can find a cool dark place that is least subject to temperature change as anywhere in your house, then thats the place. Nearly all wine improves with time, at least a year or two, and for the more robust wine styles, often 5 to 8 years makes a huge difference. there’s many a time when I have opened a cellared bottle that I paid about $20 for back in the day, only to enjoy a $40 wine experience as a result of cellaring. it’s also great for giving you options as to what to pair with a meal, or a special occasion. So take the time to find a suitable place, or build a cellar, and enjoy the rewards!

Cheers Tony

Richard Brimer- Legend Photographer

Fat n Sassy Chardonnay

Fat n Sassy Chardonnay

Bish wines are a wonderful collaboration between winemaker Tony Bish, and photographer Richard Brimer. Richard has over 30 years experience photographing vineyards and wineries around NZ, and has been my closest friend over this time. we worked vintages together, raised kids, endured life’s ups and downs, and remain the best of friends today. I asked Richard to do a bottle shot for me, and as you can see, its thinking outside the square. This will get edited, cropped, glare removed etc by clever dickies at Photoworks, but you can see the idea. While this first release is resting from the trauma of bottling, we are quietly getting together some great material to bring life to this brand. I know you will enjoy Richards work as much as this first wine release, Fat n Sassy 2013 Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. Cheers, Tony

Great news. The first Chardonnay under Tony Bish is about to hit the bottling line – 2013 Fat n Sassy Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay. Rich, creamy and delicious, this is a feisty example of what Hawke’s Bay is renowned for. It will have a few weeks to rest in bottle, and then gradually become available through selected outlets around New Zealand.

This wine has been sourced from a vineyard in the Dartmoor Valley Hawke’s Bay, and is made from the renowned Mendosa clone of Chardonnay. This clone gives whats called colloquially “Hen & Chicken” fruit set, which means you get tiny small berries along with bigger normal berries on the same bunch. this is caused by some issues at flowering, this clone is real sensitive to any cold spells during flowering. (Did you know that grape flowers are hermaphrodite, so self pollinate? So no bees required!). But what it means to us Chardonnay fans, is really intense flavours, as those little berries pack a lot of punch with their high skin to juice ratio.

Next blog i will talk about the winemaking side, which is heaps of fun!

Cheers for now, Tony

Fat n Sassy is bottled!

Fat n Sassy is bottled!