Our Festivals

Chicago, USA 

6-9 September 2023 

What a wine and food extravaganza!7 Premiers Crus Burgundies of Vosne-Romanée

This festival was a French Wine Experience to really savour set in the beautiful and historic city of Chicago.  Members were treated to a spectacular tasting of Mature Wines (one dating back to 1903) by Stuart Leaf; dinner with fine Rhône wines in Michelin starred Sepia restaurant; cruising on the Chicago river and closing with a tasting of the 7 Premiers Crus Burgundies of Vosne-Romanée hosted by the highly respected Allen Meadows (Burghound).

Attending the Chicago French Wine Experience in the beautiful, historic, third largest city in the United States, was amazing.  The hotel was located on the Magnificent Mile giving members the perfect venue for sight-seeing.  Two of the festival’s highlights were a tasting of mature wines conducted by Stuart Leaf and Allen Meadows’ Burgundy Wine Tasting.

The opening night Meet and Greet Dinner at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Hotel began well with a delicious glass of 2008 Bollinger La Grande Année Champagne, to welcome members, and was followed by fine Bordeaux wines and an exceptional dinner that was prepared by Chef Moreno, who was inspired by dishes from Charlie Trotter.  It was a memorable evening from start to finish.

On Thursday, Society member Stuart Leaf directed a Mature Wine Tasting, which proved to be incredibly interesting. Stuart selected a varied assortment of wine varietals and spirits. While the selection of the wines alone was an enormous undertaking, that was only the beginning of the activity.  In the morning organisers Andrew Jones, Charles Schurhammer and Stephen Hipple met Stuart in the hotel kitchen to open every bottle of wine to check whether they were acceptable for tasting – only one was unacceptable!

Andrew Jones (l) and Stuart Leaf (r)

Patti Hipple’s takeaway from this tasting was the older, more mature wines, evolve with unique characteristics in both nose and taste.  All of these wines possessed earthy aromas and flavors due to chemical reactions occurring among the sugars and acids and best appreciated by those with a more developed palate.

Thursday night’s dinner was at Sepia, a Michelin starred venue and Wine Spectator 2022 Best Award of Excellence restaurant. The theme for the evening was fine Rhone wines. Chef Andrew Zimmerman created a scrumptious dinner which showcased locally sourced ingredients and delightful wines from the Rhone Valley – which were a notable contrast to the more mature wines tasted earlier in the day.

On Friday members could enjoy some free time with a relaxing cruise on the Chicago River.  Dinner that evening was at Les Nomades, one of Wine Spectator’s top 11 restaurants for wine lovers. The theme was uniquely different this time with each meal being paired with a distinctive grape variety from various French wine regions.

Les Nomades

Saturday was the big day! The tasting of Burgundies led by highly regarded Burghound, Allen Meadows was remarkable.  Meadows expertly guided members through tasting seven of the 15 Premier Crus Burgundies of Vosne-Romanée from the excellent 2015 vintage.  Vosne-Romanée Burgundies are sought after because of their spice. The wines were drinking very well but to last for many years to come, while continuing to improve. 

Allen Meadows (centre) with festival guests

At the Saturday night Black-Tie Gala Dinner the Burgundy theme was continued with Allen Meadows’ counsel. The Chicago Branch selected the appetizing menu for these wines.  All of the dinner courses were paired nicely with exceptional wines. It was another great festival thanks to the extensive planning and organization by Andrew Jones, Charles Schurhammer and Stephen Hipple. Most importantly the festival was all about enriching friendships while enjoying fine wine and food.

Saturday night Black-Tie Gala Dinner

See Wine Food & Friends Issue 146 for the full article by Patti Hipple, Omaha Metro.



New Forest, England

20-21 September 2023  

A wonderful retreat to the English countryside!New Forest

The “pick and mix” nature of this festival proved popular with a total of 43 members signing up for all or part of this annual event as well as attracting members from the Americas as it linked nicely with the Queen Mary 2 cruise which departed from Southampton and headed across the Atlantic to New York – making a similar journey to André Simon back in 1934.

Our two-day New Forest event was based in the Balmer Lawn Hotel, a family-owned hotel on the edge of Brockenhurst with direct access to the New Forest and its freely grazing ponies and cattle – giving our members the chance to enjoy the beauty and pleasures of the natural surroundings.  Evenings of fine food and wine were enjoyed at both the Balmer Lawn hotel and also in the historic Grand Hall of the Rhinefield Hotel.  A visit to Beaulieu was also on the agenda with a tour of the Palace House, home to the Montagu family since 1538, and of course the iconic motor museum.

New Forest Guests

The AGM and Members’ Forum were held on 21 September.  The latter encouraged members to express their views on the way forward for the Society.  Stephen Harrison, leader of the EA Development Working Group (which was formed to ‘make change happen’) made a presentation on ‘Strategy for Growth: Progress Update’.

New Forest Beaulieu

New Forest AGM

Thanks were given to Isabel Sinclair, the chair of the Wessex branch, for organising this event and to the team at Balmer Lawn who did a great job in hosting this event.

Isabel Sinclair

See Food & Wine Issue 148 for the full article by John Nicholas, EAZ Chairman.


Sydney, Australia

18-22 October 2023

Sydney turned on its magical weather for the APZ Festival attended by a small but enthusiastic group of 22 members from six different countries with the majority from Australia.  Being a small group meant that attendees were really able to benefit from dining in more select venues not normally available to larger groups including Oncore, Pilu and Tetsuya plus lunch at the weekender of Branch President Jim Anderson.

Wednesday’s opening night’s reception was at the host hotel, the InterContinental, setting the tone for the festival as, due to a timing issue, we began with two hours of sparkling wine rather than one! From there we moved on to what was probably the highlight restaurant of the week, Oncore, the Australian outlet of English chef Clare Smyth’s celebrated London restaurant, Core, which has three Michelin stars. Oncore has the equivalent in Australia. We enjoyed a lavish dinner with a wine pairing of Australian wines concentrating mainly on South Australia. The food, wine and service were impeccable.

All days began with a late start thus allowing for a good rest and recovery period. The next day featured a trip to a French bistro in Mosman where we tasted a range of different wines from Western Australia with our lunch. These wines were presented by Michael Tamburri, a Perth wine merchant better known to us as the Chair of the APZ and Past Chair of the Society.

In the evening we went to Pilu, an Italian restaurant by the sea at Freshwater where we sampled the wines of Tyrell’s from the Hunter Valley presented by one of the great names in Australian wine, Bruce Tyrrell. The food was a little disappointing, given the restaurant’s reputation, but the wines made up for it.

The following day we walked over to the Art Gallery of New South Wales for two brief curated tours of exhibits in the new and old wings of the gallery. Our lunch was a joyful occasion with food from the gallery restaurant, Crafted by Matt Moran, washed down with plenty of good Aussie wine.

We concluded the day with a tutored wine tasting of Victorian wines presented by Annette Lacey MW in The Australian Club. This was a fascinating tasting and, suitably refreshed, we took the coach to the Public Dining Room restaurant on Balmoral Beach. There we enjoyed choosing our own food paired with wines selected by Annette, who also spoke about the wines.

Saturday was our last day and thanks to the kindness of Branch President, Jim Anderson, we travelled  to his weekender in the exclusive and expensive suburb of Palm Beach. We were treated to a wonderful tasting of Tasmanian wines chosen and presented by Greg Melick, the owner of Pressing Matters winery. Tasmania makes some great Riesling and Pinot Noir and we had some of the best.

That evening our gala dinner was at the long established and much-admired Japanese fusion restaurant, Tetsuya’s. An extravagant tasting menu accompanied a pairing of Tasmanian wines. We were delighted to be joined by members of the local branch and others who had arrived for the APZ’s AGM to be held the following day. The festival was a memorable experience showing the best of Sydney, its restaurants, and a diverse range of Australian wine. The festival concluded with the presentation of the André Simon Gold Medal, the Society’s highest award, to Immediate Past Chair, Michael Tamburri.

Chris Bonsall, Hon President

Mornington Peninsula, Australia

October 24-27, 2023

Victoria branch welcomed 12 members from around the world to enjoy a four-day festival post-tour capturing the best of Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. Festival goers experienced a blend of heritage cityscapes, rich wine country and seaside charm together with some of the best wine and food the region has to offer. 

The tour commenced in fine style on Tuesday evening with tour participants joining Victoria Branch members at their legendary André Simon 7s black tie diner to pay tribute to our founder André Simon and commemorate the remarkable 90th anniversary of our Society and 87th anniversary of the Victoria Branch.

This dinner was hosted at Victor Churchill. Boasting a storied history dating back to the 1870s, Victor Churchill transformed the craft of butchery into an art form. Opening as a restaurant in 2022, they rocketed up the culinary ranks achieving a coveted ‘one chef hat’ status in their first year of operation. Here we experienced French influenced food expertly paired with old and new world wines drawn exclusively from IWFS wine guide 7 out of 7 vintages. This included a 2009 Château Gruaud Larose and 2010 Domaine de la Janasse Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Cuvée Chaupin paired with dry aged O' Connor Côte de Boeuf, and a 2009 Château Guiraud, Sauternes which was a wonderful match with a burnt Sherry & caramel tart with crème fraiche.

Wednesday commenced with a visit to Veneziano Coffee Roasters. We were met by world barista champion, Pete Licata, who explained Melbourne’s extensive coffee culture and the finer points of coffee tasting and then lead the group on a tour of the extensive facility.

Lunch was held in the private room of iconic Melbourne seaside restaurant Donovans. Here delicious food was paired with wines drawn exclusively from the wine regions surrounding Melbourne.

After an hour’s drive we arrived at the Mornington Peninsula, one of Australia’s most prized wine regions. Known for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula is home to more than 200 primarily family-owned wineries and several of the country’s leading restaurants.

First stop on the Peninsula was Moorooduc Estate. Here Kate McIntyre, Master of Wine and 2nd generation winemaker at Moorooduc Estate, provided an extensive introduction to the wines, winemakers, and terroir of the Mornington Peninsula, all set against the picturesque backdrop of her family's vineyard. 

Dinner on Wednesday was in the intimate ambiance of Audrey's private dining room, here we savoured an elevated yet authentically Peninsula dining experience. At this ‘one chef hat’ restaurant, our seafood dominated menu was accompanied by a NV Jacques Selosse Initial Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut Champagne and an exceptional Peninsula sourced wine selection curated by Sommelier Virginia Selleck.

Thursday commenced with wine tasting at Yabby Lake. Yabby Lake Vineyard is in the sub-region of Moorooduc and well known for growing high quality Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Following a busy morning of wine tasting, taking in sweeping vineyard views, we sat down to a beautiful yet simple, produce-driven menu at Yabby Lake restaurant paired exclusively with Yabby Lake wines. The 2017 Yabby Lake Bock 6 Pinot Noir being simply divine and possibly wine of the tour.

Dinner on Thursday night was at Moke in the quaint seaside town of Flinders. For our dinner, award-winning chef Michael Cole, showcased a bespoke menu with emphasis on culinary expression and high-quality produce. Once again wines were drawn primarily from the Mornington region supplemented with an astonishing 2008 Cédric Bouchard Roses de Jeanne 'Les Ursules' Blanc de Noirs Champagne.

Friday morning tested the wine tasting stamina of the group with tastings at two wineries. First up was Avani. Established in 1998 by Sashi and Devendra Singh, Avani produces minimal intervention premium cool climate wines from biodynamic vineyards located on the Peninsula and in Gippsland. Their wines include Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris (including a range of skin contact wines).

Next was Stonier, one of the four original vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula, founded in 1978 on breathtakingly beautiful land in Merricks. Due to its success in world competitions, Stonier, is responsible for much of the high-profile of wines from the Peninsula. Decanter awarded the Stonier 1997 Reserve Pinot Noir, Best New World Red Wine of the Year. At the 2001 International Wine Challenge in London, Stonier won the Trophy for Best Chardonnay and Best White Wine of Show for its 1999 Stonier Reserve Chardonnay. Our tasting and tour was led by new co-owner Rebecca Drummond. Rebecca skilfully educated us on the history of Stonier, its wines, and its recent challenges. Happily, Rebecca and her brother recently purchased Stonier from corporate ownership to return it to family ownership and reorient its focus back to quality over quantity.

The final meal of the tour was lunch at Merricks General Store. A historical icon on the Mornington Peninsula and favoured spot for locals. Here we were treated to a bistro-style lunch, taking in the charming gardens and relaxed atmosphere.

The menu here is French leaning, perfect to pair with two Mornington Peninsula Chardonnays and two Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noirs, with the 2018 Merricks Estate Pinot Noir being the wine of the lunch.

After the trip back to Melbourne, it was time to say some sad farewells to people that were now good friends.  It was such a wonderful introduction to this region but most importantly, we learnt that it is not just the local terroir that makes this region special, it is also passionate people and their focus on quality that together deliver outstanding results. 

Erik Lehnacker, Victoria