Misha and Andy have just returned from another great week working with our customers in Fiji
This is our third year of visiting Fiji – something we do just after harvest at Misha’s Vineyard. The change of climate, change of pace and being able to work “island time” has such appeal as our busiest month ends and winter settles across Central Otago.
Our Fiji schedule is generally a combination of visiting some existing customers, visiting potential new customers and hosting some consumer wine dinners to show our range of wines to locals and resort guests. We also manage to get a few hours of R & R which, in such a wonderful location, is a very important part of our visit!
We are very privileged to have Victoria Wines represent us in Fiji. They have the most incredible team who work very hard to present wines to the many resorts, restaurants and bars – and also have the best wine shops in Fiji. Sajeda and Joyce had our plan well prepared and we began our week of activities with visits in Denarau Island to the Sofitel Hotel where we had hosted a wine dinner last year, The Radisson Blu where we were staying this time, and to the Hilton Fiji Beach Resort where F & B Manager Sooraj has implemented some quite big changes since we met him in his debut week last year. It was great to spend time with them and get an update on the changes within the resort industry in Fiji, the growth in tourism and changes in wine consumption and taxes! We also did an update training session with the Victoria Wines team in Denarau. While we were expecting to see quite an impact from the recent Cyclone Winston, it seems the swerving path of the cyclone spared most of the major resort areas on the main island while it did wreak havoc in some of the outer islands.
The Rhum-Ba at Denarau Yacht Club was the venue to meet with Tony Acland – GM of the famous Captain Cook Cruises in Fiji. The team at Captain Cook Cruises provide a range of cruises from day trips to 11 nights aboard and the wine selection is an important part of the experience. Tony was delighted with what he tried and added Misha’s Vineyard wines to the list immediately!
We did wine training with some of the serving team from Radisson Blu – in preparation for them serving our wines at the Signature Blu wine dinner later in the week. F & B Manager Ryan Henshaw joined in as we gave an overview of the New Zealand wine industry, a little about Central Otago and then a look at some cool climate varietals while tasting some Misha’s Vineyard wines. While Misha did tell them they could spit the tastes as they were due to go back to work – no-one did – they were enjoying them too much!
We ventured south to the Coral Coast and Pacific Harbour – a 2 ½ hour drive from Nadi. Again we were surprised not to see any damage from the cyclone but again its path had spared the coast from major damage. First stop was to The Pearl – where two years ago we hosted a lunch, then last year hosted a dinner in their new restaurant, Seduce. We were delighted to meet Jonatha Ramacciono who we had previously shown wines to at Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva. Jonatha has been appointed F & B Director at The Pearl and proudly showed us around the amazing new wing of the resort which features a very modern foyer/reception, a lovely 250-seat brasserie overlooking the water, a 400 seat Convention Centre and 132 new rooms. The Pearl of course has Misha’s Vineyard wines in the well-chosen wine list!
During the week we hosted the first ever wine dinner at the amazing Nanuku Auberge Resort – where we also stayed. The welcome ceremony said it all – a drum and conch horn to greet us – then a walk down to the lawn overlooking the sea escorted by Fijian warriors to meet “the Chief”. Our accommodation was in a magnificent villa overlooking the lush vegetation and the sea. We had a private pool – but the not quite enough time to relax as we had staff training booked for the afternoon. The Misha’s Vineyard Wine Dinner in the evening was meticulously planned by F & B Manager Logan Miller and was for 30 guests – mostly locals from Suva – and prepared by celebrity chef Jacques Reymond of French, Australian and Fijian fame. It was a wonderful night – including great food and an amazing impromptu singing performance by one of our guests. A huge thanks to the GM Mark, Logan and the whole team at Nanuku Auberge for such a memorable visit.
Our only venture off the main island was a short boat ride from Pacific Harbour to visit Beqa Island where we were hosted for lunch by Dieter Kudler, GM of the Beqa Lagoon Resort. Dieter is the ultimate in island resort GM’s – relaxed, friendly and with a sparkling sense of humour. We had a great time talking wines, islands, guests and menus. We hope we can get back out to Beqa again soon.
Back to Denarau and our now familiar “home” at Radisson Blu – where we were truly treated to a great stay by GM Gerard Knight and his team. We had a great Friday night out at Waitui – the new adults-only Beach Club of the nearby Sofitel Resort where F & B Manager Jason Blackburn explained the facilities which include its own pool, bar, gym, restaurant and relaxation areas where adults can be separated from the more family oriented areas of the resort. What is great is that you don’t need to be staying as guests to use it. For a fee you can visit for a day, as a local or from another resort. Also the monthly themed dinner makes a great night out for locals from Denarau and Nadi.
Saturday was our final dinner in Fiji – and it was quite a night. We had 36 guests to our Misha’s Vineyard Wine Dinner at The Radisson Signature Blu restaurant which the team had set up with a gold mining theme to commemorate the gold mining history on our vineyard. There were also grapes to stomp on arrival – and a fire on top of a barrel to toast marshmallows while sipping Misha’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. Executive Chef Brent Assam, (who won Australian Chef of the Year 2014) not only served an amazing meal, but then topped it with a theatrical performance preparing dessert at each table in front of the guests. It was just a memorable evening with everyone delighted they had been part of it. F & B Director Jack Mcnamara then got behind the bar himself and treated Misha and I to a very welcome Espresso Martini Cocktail – it was finally a time to and relax and enjoy some Fijian hospitality.
It was sad to have to leave Fiji and come back to winter at home – but we are already looking forward to next year – same time!