Misha reports on our recent trip to the tropical islands of Fiji
There wasn’t too much reaction from people when Andy and I said we were off to Fiji, however there were quite a few raised eyebrows when we added that it was not a holiday but a business trip! After a forecast of 130 km/hr winds, dealing with a power blackout in Cromwell on the morning we were leaving, a road-closure due to falling rocks on the way to Queenstown airport, we finally made it onto our plane and flew to Nadi (pronounced ‘Nandy’). Our first night was at the Novotel Hotel near the airport where we spent most of the night – with the help of Duty Manager Seramana – dealing with wine stained clothes in our suitcase after a bottle of our Reserve Pinot Noir broke in our suitcase. Our luggage must have taken quite a drop to break such a well packed bottle!
Our first Fiji event was a Sunday Misha’s Vineyard wine lunch for over 40 people at The Pearl in Pacific Harbour near Suva where Chef Ben Tedrick prepared a multi-course Seafood Lunch matched to our range aromatic white wines. The local seafood is amazing – with a combination of tropical flavours of coconut and fruit combined with shellfish and fresh caught local reef fish. The lunch was finished with our Pinot Noir paired with some imported cheeses – all absolutely delicious! We stayed overnight at The Pearl which boasts a great view out across to Beqa and Royal Davui Islands.
Next we went for a quick visit to the Suva HQ of our Fiji distributor, Victoria Wines, and were shown around by the lovely Liam Hindle who established the company over 20 years ago. Then it was off to Nausori airport where we were flown to Laucala Island (pronounced “Lothala”) by the island resort’s private plane. Laucala Island has been listed as one of the hundred most beautiful hotels/resorts in the world by Hideaway Hotels which ranks them as a 7 star resort! The island was originally owned by publishing magnate Malcolm Forbes, but the island was sold to Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz in 2002 who has spent millions redeveloping the island and creating an extraordinary luxury retreat opening in 2009.
General Manager David Stepetic, who has nearly 20 years of experience with the Four Seasons Group, oversees the island’s 370 staff – and with only 25 luxury villas (and never all occupied at the same time), it gives you some idea of the level of service that’s provided!
Laucala Island has its own farm which produces a large proportion of the food it requires – from vegetables to poultry, a world class 18-hole golf course, a spa and various restaurants to eat and drink – all of that for their few but discerning guests. Our stay on Laucala Island involved training of the large hospitality team one afternoon which the team thoroughly enjoyed – especially when it came to trying all the wines! We then we hosted the first wine dinner that Laucala Island had ever held – an inspired idea from Kylie Hole, the delightful Australian F&B manager. The dinner was for 18 guests and it was held on a long table on the outside colonnade of the Plantation House – a spectacular location overlooking the palm trees. We can’t tell you who was at the dinner, but suffice to say the island attracts the rich and the famous!
Executive Chef Martin Klein, a Frenchman who has worked at some of the world’s top restaurants, had planned our 10 course dinner menu to perfectly match each of our range of wines. Andy and I had hand-carried several bottles of our latest Reserve Pinot Noir, Verismo 2010, so that our guests were also to try our latest Pinot Noir which has been getting ratings of 96 and 97 points! It was an incredibly successful evening and one we’d love to repeat! The next morning we awoke in our Plantation Villa (all 190 sq metres of just the interior space) and went down to one of our outdoor pavilions on our private beach where Eggs Benedict and mimosas were served by the staff – after all it was my Birthday! Then strolling up the beach came a group of Fijian musicians singing Happy Birthday, Fiji style!
We (very) sadly had to leave Laucala island and firstly by boat, then by plane, headed back to Nadi and settled into the Fiji Beach Resort & Spa (operated by Hilton) for the next few days. During our time in Nadi, we spent a lot of time with ever-smiling Joyce Kumari who does sales/marketing with our distributor Victoria Wines. Joyce accompanied us over the next few days to various training and tasting events which included the stunning Intercontinental Hotel, the luxurious Sofitel, and of course the fab Fiji Beach Resort/Hilton.
We also visited the two Nadi based retail wine shops of Victoria Wines and met the teams there. Our final night was an informal wine dinner at the Sofitel Hotel in the V restaurant! Amazingly we ran into several people we knew at the dinner who were staying at the Hotel and had seen the Misha’s Wine Dinner advertised including John Lowther, the General Manager of Panprint, who print all of our wine labels!
We did manage the odd few hours here and there soaking up some beneficial rays and the odd cocktail but really most of our time there was for business – no really – it was!