Friday, September 18, 2015

Villa Maria Masterclass

Prior to this masterclass, Villa Maria has always been one of our favourite drinking Sauvignon Blancs, from Malborough, of course.  Of course, up till then, we only went for the most basic of the range, the Private Bin SB, which to my knowledge retails around RM90 or so a bottle.

The masterclass, organised by Asia Euro Wines, held at Samplings on the 14th, showcased 7 different types of Villa Maria Wines, which I of course, didn't know existed.  Of course, we'd have been much happier to attend the masterclass at the Winery itself....

Anyway, to be honest, most of the narrative here is quoted verbatim from the notes provided, as there is not much point in reinventing the wheel.

Mr Simon Fell, Winemaker of Villa Maria cellars conducts the masterclass.

We started with the Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc MARLBOROUGH 2014.  As I said this has always been our drinking wine, so it is a familiar one, and is crisp, floral and zesty.

The climate in Marlborough has high sunshine hours, but temperatures during the growing season are regulated by the cooling ocean influence. In 2014, all Sauvignon Blanc grapes were harvested between early March until mid April.
This particular wine hails from Wairau & Awatere valleys and is totally from SB grapes.

Next we had Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, MARLBOROUGH 2014

The epitome of the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, with aromas of passionfruit, and fresh herbs. The palate is powerful and juicy, displaying vibrant grapefruit notes . The 2014 can be stored until 2017.

The Awatere and Wairau valleys offer a variety of mesoclimates & different flavour profiles - essentially a 50% blend of the valleys, capturing the spectrum of Marlborough.

VARIETY: 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc, MARLBOROUGH 2014

A classic Wairau Valley style bursting with the trademark ripe fruit characters found in this sub region. The nose displays pure and powerful aromas of peach, grapefruit, blackcurrant, and underlying fresh aromatic herbs like rosemary and lemon thyme. The palate is concentrated with an enticing array of gooseberry, melon and guava flavours, balanced by a fine thread of acidity, and a savoury refreshing finish.

Grapes are machine harvested at night so fruit is cool to retain aromatics and freshness, fruit is destemmed, crushed, and pressed before cold settling.

The fruit for this wine comes from a combination of vineyards with varying soils predominantly from the Southern Valley tributaries of the main Wairau Valley.

Single Vineyard Taylors Pass Sauvignon Blanc MARLBOROUGH 2013

Lifted aromatics of gooseberry and passionfruit lead into a pure and concentrated palate with snow pea, nettles and subtle minerality. This classy Sauvignon Blanc showcases finely woven acidity and textured complexity providing a long lingering finish.

The picturesque Taylors Pass Vineyard is located on the meandering Awatere River in Marlborough.

Moving on to the reds,  Private Bin Pinot Noir MARLBOROUGH 2013

The perfumed aromas of red cherry and bright berry fruits - hallmarks of Marlborough Pinot Noir - abound on the nose, whilst on the palate the wine displays succulent fruit with complex spice, wild herb and savoury elements.

The 2013 vintage was warm and fruit was harvested in pristine conditions from the last week of March until late April. Due to the warm days, regular tasting in the Vineyard was ensured to capture the flavours at their peak.

Cellar Selection Pinot Noir, MARLBOROUGH 2013 which displays a fragrant bouquet of dried herbs, red cherries and subtle smoky notes. On the palate the wine is concentrated with juicy red berry fruit flavours, integrated acidity and fine grainy tannins.

The fruit for this wine originates from a diverse range of vineyard sites in both the Awatere and Wairau valleys in Marlborough. The 2013 vintage was warm and dry, although quite mild temperatures throughout the summer months resulted in pronounced aromatics and ripe tannins.


This outstanding Pinot Noir is a blend of fruit parcels from our single vineyard sites. Deep red hues lead to a perfumed bouquet of red and dark cherries, wild berry and subtle spicy notes on the nose. The wine displays intense purity with an elegant and refined palate displaying richness and generosity. The complex palate is layered and balanced, complemented by fine silky tannins encasing concentrated fruit characters, all hallmark traits of classic Pinot Noir. This wine will age gracefully and offer intrigue with bottle maturation.

The wine can be cellared till 2020. Just in time to celebrate when Malaysia achieves her developed nation status.

For more information, contact

Su Ling Lee
Senior Marketing Executive
Asiaeuro Wines & Spirits Sdn Bhd
DID : +603-78832855 | FAX : +603-78832928 | Mobile : +6012-9464393
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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Starwood Pacific Annual Charity Run - RUN TO GIVE 2015

Community Service Announcement:

Get fit and give back to the local community in KL, Langkawi and Sandakan

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – 1 September 2015 - Starwood Hotels & Resorts in Malaysia will be organising the 2nd annual charity run, Run to Give, held simultaneously on 11 October 2015 across destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi and Sandakan. Associates and guests from Starwood hotels in Malaysia will be slipping on their running shoes and racing for a trio of good causes. This year, each run is also open to members of the public.

Run to Give 2015 builds on the success of last year’s inaugural Hotel Charity Runs held in 92 different locations across Asia Pacific with more than 20,000 Starwood associates coming together to raise close to USD 228,000 for local charities. The Hotel Charity Runs are unique in each location and were organized by different Starwood properties in various locations; some joining hands for the first time to organize such a large-scaled event.

Run to Give 2015 in Malaysia
In Kuala Lumpur the run sets off from Bukit Jalil Park. Organized by Starwood’s five hotels in the city - Aloft KL Sentral, Four Points By Sheraton Puchong, Le Méridien KL, Sheraton Imperial KL, The Westin KL with the National Kidney Foundation (Malaysia) as the charity partner, associates and the public is invited to the 5km run to contribute to a worthy cause.

The KL edition of Run to Give is also affectionately known as the ‘Fancy Hat Run’ with participants encouraged to wear hats during the run. Dining vouchers will be awarded to selected winners in the Fun, Stylish and Creative categories. In addition a mobile clinic will be on-site offering free health screening for participants. Children are also invited to bring along teddy bears which will be donated to a local shelter home.

Charity Partners: National Kidney Foundation (Malaysia)Run Distance: 5kmParticipating Fees: RM50 per person inclusive of a T-shirt Contact: Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur at +603 22637746, or email to
Open for registration from now until September 20, 2015

Starwood properties in Langkawi and Penang are also participating in ‘Run to Give’ including The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort Langkawi, Four Points by Sheraton Penang and Four Points by Sheraton Langkawi, The Westin Resort & Spa Langkawi and the soon-to-be-opened St. Regis Langkawi. All Starwood hotel guests along with members of the public are encouraged to take part and contribute to a carnival-like atmosphere in tropical Langkawi.

Charity Partners: SARF (Starwood Associates Relief Fund)Run Distance : 5kmParticipating Fees : RM35 per person Contact: The Westin Langkawi Hotel & Resort at +604 9608888 or email to

Across in East Malaysia, Run to Give in Sandakan will feature Starwood properties - Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan and Le Méridien Kota Kinabalu - with charity partner Sandakan Kinabalu Pink Ribbon Association. The Association is a non-profit organization that aims to increase awareness of breast cancer in Sabah, also offering support and counselling to patients and their families.
The 5km run circuit follows Sandakan’s heritage trails, showcasing the area’s local attractions during the run and participants are encouraged to wear a spot of pink in honour of the designated charity. Special prizes are awarded for the top three most creative outfits. Additionally, the first ever 10km run will take place in Sandakan Town and will offer a sterner test for more seasoned runners. Surprise gifts are on offer for the top five in the Men’s, Women’s and Student categories. There will be also be an exhibition on breast cancer awareness.
Charity Partners: Sandakan Kinabalu Pink Ribbon Association Run Distance: 5km & 10kmParticipating Fees: RM60 individuals, RM40 for students, RM55 group of minimum 15 persons. Includes t-shirt, finisher medal & digital certificate
Contact: Contact Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan at +6089 244888, email to or drop by the hotel to collect the registration form.
Participants can also register online at
Open for registration from now until September 27, 2015

Hurry over and sign up for a good cause today! For more information on the Runs, do visit

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Mid Autumn Festival In Saujana Hotel

Well, since technically, we don't HAVE autumn in Malaysia, I'd probably refer to it as our "pre monsoon festival", basically the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar.  Every year, these cylindroids (I've been combing the net to find the name of the geometrical shape of a mooncake, or cake, for that matter...CYLINDERS always seem long, and since a low cube is a cuboid, I thought I'd take the liberty of calling the geometrical shape of a mooncake, Cylindroids) goodies packed with all sorts of assorted goodies flood the market, earlier and earlier in the year.  Back in the day, when life was all so simple then, we had a choice of lotus paste, red bean paste, or nuts, with any possible combination of egg yolks. perhaps giving it a total of 8 permutations.

These days, if you don't come up with some new fandangled flavour, woe betide !!!

Ah, but we learn in Saujana that not all mooncakes are round, for in Chinese folklore, there are 3 symbolic shapes, the "heart mooncake" representing the OLD MAN OF THE MOON (no, not Michael Jackson), who keeps a book of records of all new borns and their future partners.  It would save a whole lot of heartbreak if he accidentally let slip this almanac on earth...

The Oval mooncake denotes the legend of the Lady of the Moon, who stole and consumed an immortality pill (as opposed to a birth control one) from her husband, the Great General Hou Yi, which begs the question, what was he doing peddling immortality pills?  Were they blue?  Depending on which version of the legend you read, another one says that the General's wifey drank it (it was an elixir, not a pill..) because some blardy recalcritant soldier was going to steal it (the pill or elixir is only good for one dose, ie one person). so in order to prevent the villain from becoming immortal, she telan-ed the whole thing herself, and floated up to the moon.

The round mooncake, which actually is all I've seen so far, symbolizes China's revolt against Mongolian rule by sending hidden messages of conspiracy.  No, there were no such messages hidden in the yellow musang king mooncake, although the media review was held on a day when yellow was the color du jour.

The packaging for the mooncakes are in these red and brown boxes, which can double up as a wine case after you've whacked all your mooncakes.

The brown box which can contain 8 mooncakes, can also carry 2 wine bottles.

The Baked Skin Mooncakes come in the following variety:

  • Pure Lotus
  • Low Sugar White Lotus & Single Yolk
  • Diced Chicken Ham & Mixed Nut
  • Pandan Lotus Paste & Single Yolk
  • Sweet Corn Lotus with Single Yolk
  • Red Bean
  • Creamy Milk Tea
  • Black Sesame Lotus with Single Egg Yolk

To pre-line our stomachs before the sugar rush, we were treated to some lovely dim sum, created by their new Ti Chen Executive  Chinese Chef, Chef Sam Lu,.

Pan-fried Yam Cake.  Absolutely Yammy, Ooops, I mean yummy.  Crispy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside.

Deep-fried Beancurd Skin Rolls with Sweet and Sour Sauce - I always like beancurd skin rolls in dim sum, but I can't say I liked the sauce which I felt overpowered the roll itself.  But then again, that's me, I barely ever dip my dim sum into the brown dipping sauce.

Back to more traditional fare, Steamed Fish Balls which were nice and springy.  It's not easy to get nice springy fish balls.

Steamed Signature Chicken Dumplings "Siew Mai" - I have to say that pork free version is rather good, so much so I doubt I can actually tell the difference.

Stewed shredded duck with rice vermicelli (by which the shredded duck meat is stewed for approximately 4hours with shiitake and dried shrimp).  This was indeed a pleasant surprise, because it really is quite unique.  Usually not a mee hoon fan, I loved this dish, the flavours of whatever stock it was permeated and was absorbed into the meehoon.

And finally, dessert, ..... A picture speaks a thousand words, and many mooncakes speak even more.

Chef Sam Lu and Chef Yau Kim Yew with their masterpieces.


Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Executive Set Lunch, RM50, At Urban, Istana Hotel

It's been awhile since I stepped into the Istana, and I'm not referring to the one where His Majesty resides, but the hotel, once an iconic epitome of luxury and 5 stardom... fast forward like 15 years, (I remember there was a famous Italian restaurant there, and a discotheque, (the youth of today would probably ask, what's a discotheque?), a swanky new casual dining place called URBAN exists on the lobby level.

We were invited to taste the executive set lunch, (which we actually had for dinner), priced at RM50 net, for lunch time only.  You get a starters, from a choice of 3, mains, from a choice of 5, and dessert from a choice of 3.  And coffee and tea.  Which in this day and age of the shringgit, is actually rather good value for money, if you are looking for comfortable surrounds and fairly reasonable pricing.  Hey, let's face it, walk into any semi decent joint, you're easily forking out RM30 for lunch per person.

To start, the Caprese salad, which was a simple salad with buffalo mozzarella, leaves and tomato...

or the Salad Nicoise, which has seared tuna, a hint of leaves, actually a generous portion of seared tuna, green haricot Kenya Beans, Anchovies and egg...value wise, I think this salad definitely is the winner.

Or the Caesar Salad, which looked the most pedestrian of the lot, with a few leaves of presumably romaine, croutons, shaved parmesan and the Caesar salad dressing.

For the mains, the Ballotine of Chicken and Truffle, which looked good,  and would have been my first choice had I not been meated out over the previous few days.  Mushroom Puree, Asparagus, Pommes Mouseline, Golden California Raisin and Morel Jus.  However, as pointed out by several insta followers, the meat in this shot does look rather rare.  These were the dishes for shooting, I can assure you the real deal (Mr Pure Glutton sitting next to me offered me a slice) was properly cooked.

Spicy Chilli Prawn Pasta... I had a sample of Sharon's, and it was good.  Very aromatic actually, you could smell the chilli and oil, always a good combination.

I had the threadfin fillet, (Kurau), which was nicely seared, and skin was nice and crispy, though I generally do not like my food drowned in sauces.  The tangy hollandaisical sauce did complement the fish well, although its actually celeriac puree, with a chardonnay orange butter. The ball was a crab meat beignet.

Since we were such nice guests, we had a lovely raspberry palate cleanser, which was really very good, but no, it's not part of the set lunch.

Classic Beef Burger,  which looks enormous, and would be far too filling for me at lunch, not to mention the generous serving of french fries that accompanies that gargantuan patty and bun.

There is another main, for the vegetarian, Roasted Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagna, fresh tomato, sweet pepper, courgette, olives, eggplant, fresh mozarella, capers, olive oil and fresh herbs.  I love it when they tell you all the ingredients like that, which basically means you can replicate it at home.

For desserts, a choice of Crispy Custard, which is essentially a creme brulee, I love the fact that it has real vanilla beans in it,

Silky smooth baked custard, with a lovely layer of perfectly caramelised sugar.

...or for the chocolate lovers (there always HAS to be a chocolate based dessert), the Urban Chocolate Fudge,

Exotic Fruits With Basil Sorbet ...Hmmm, righteeho then, I guess papaya is exotic in certain parts of the world, esp in Europe.  But that aside, the other berries did look rather.  Exotic, I mean.

For reservations, call 03-21419988 x 3691