Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book launch with a difference - The Wild Bunch

The launch started in the normal manner with the publisher, Belinda Cooke CEO New Holland Publishers NZ, welcoming us all as follows:

We’re privileged to be holding this event in such a suitable and comfortable venue as the New Zealand School of Food & Wine and our special thanks for her generosity in enabling this go to founder and director, Celia Hay, and to her culinary students who have prepared the delicious food and the sommelier students who are serving us the great wines for this evening.

A particular welcome to those winemakers who have been able to join us this evening, and our thanks to all of the wineries that are represented in the book, who have generously supplied their outstanding wines for us to enjoy.

And now it is my pleasure to introduce the person who is the driving force behind this evening and of course the book we have all come here to celebrate – she’s that ‘perfect advocate’ of the New Zealand industry, as Tim Aitkin MW refers to her in the foreword to The Wild Bunch.

Joelle holds a special place in the history of New Holland Publishers, as she was the very first New Zealand author we signed up, some 14 years ago. That was for her very first book, The Under $15 Wine Guide, which hit the bestsellers list several times. We went on to publish 5 more annual wine guides with Joelle, and she published several more with Harper Collins. We were also proud to work with her on the gorgeous coffee table book Celebrating New Zealand Wine, which was a finalist in the then Montana book awards and a winner of an international Gourmand award. So we’re very pleased that she has returned to the New Holland fold for this, her latest book.

In all Joelle has published 13 books, but prolific as that would seem, it’s not her day job, and as many of you will be aware, Joelle is first and foremost a journalist, and her award-winning wine writing can be found in DrinksBiz magazine, which she edits, NZ Winegrower, The Dominion Post, Christchurch Press and Waikato Times. She also finds time to teach her at the New Zealand School of Food & Wine.

Joelle then spoke to us:

“The thank you list always comes first at events like this one and the biggest thank you has to go to those members of The Wild Bunch who are here tonight – the Brajkovich family, the Babich family, members of the Nobilo family, Terry Dunleavy (founding editor of NZ Winegrower and an inspiring wine activist) as well as Gordon Russell from Esk Valley (part of Villa Maria ) and the Goldwater family…

Thank you to my publishers, especially to Belinda Cooke, whose calmness and clarity helped me to bring this book to fruition and through one particularly sticky stage – during which she helped me to reconceive it along lines that had been in my mind for many years. Speaking of which, when was it that Jeanette Goldwater and I had the conversation which first set me on the path to wanting to write profiles of some of my heroes in New Zealand wine…. It must have been at least eight years ago now and I still don’t feel that I have even scratched the surface of the heroic tenacity that those featured in this book have shown – despite 80,000 words and several years in its conception.

The first lines were written about five years ago but most of it was of course written far more recently over the past year – woven around my teaching work at the NZ School of Food & Wine, around editing and writing Drinksbiz magazine and my weekly wine column which features in “Your Weekend” magazine in The Dominion Post.
What I’d like to say is just how inspiring and humbling it has been to write this book about a bunch of people who have remained so focussed on what they believe in.

So up until now, apart from the truly outstanding wines we were drinking, the launch had gone pretty much along the lines of most launches - the publisher welcomes those present and introduces the author, the author thanks the publisher and others who have helped with the book.
We then all have another drink and head for home.
Not this time.
Joelle then lead a panel discussion with winemaker Gordon Russell from Esk Valley in Hawke’s Bay; Nick Nobilo from Vinoptima in Gisborne and wine activist Terry Dunleavy.
For 30 minutes we listed with great interest to these industry veterans discussing and debating such questions as what's the biggest change you've seen in NZ wine since you began? If you could swap places with anyone for a vintage anywhere in the world, where and who would it be?

What is your ultimate wine, food and music combo? And where would you go to enjoy it? What's the biggest challenge going forward for the NZ wine industry today?
It was riveting stuff and I could have happily listened for hours especially as while we were listening we were being plied with wonderful finger food by Celia Hay's culinary students and stunning wines by her sommelier students. All done with style and professionalism.
What a great night. Certainly a book launch to remember, a book launch with a difference. My congratulations to all concerned.

Below are a selection of photographs taken during the evening.
Ross Spence, Michael Brajkovich, Martin Cahnbley, Milan Brajkovich

David Babich is GM of Babich Wines , and his father Peter Babich, 'senior citizen of the NZ wine industry'
A couple of veterans - Terry Dunleavy and Bookman Beattie

Student preparing food for us

Belinda Cooke, New Holland Publishers, wine importer Martin Cahnbley, author Joelle Thomson

  Among the many key wine industry figures present I noticed were Gordon Russell, Esk Valley winemaker, Cathy McKeown – Pernod Ricard NZ,  the Goldwater family:
Kim Goldwater, Jeanette Goldwater, Ken Christie.,Gretchen Goldwater, our host 
Celia Hay – NZ School Food & Wine, Sonja Arnich of Epicurean Wines,  
Peter Babich, David Babich, Maureen Babich, Nick Nobilo, Kari Nobilo
John Mackinder from Vinoptima, Terry Dunleavy, founding Editor “NZ Winegrower”, from Kumeu River Wines - Melba Brajkovich, Michael Brajkovich MW, Milan Brajkovich, Cynthia Daly of Restaurant & Catering News, Mark Youngfrom Vintners NZ, Ross Spence and Adrienne Spence, Puneet Dhall of Dhall & Nash Wines, food & wine writer Vic Williams, Yvonne Lorkin, wine writer, Hattie Thodey from Villa Maria and Kathie Bartley, wine consultant. Apologies to those I may not have seen.

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