This month we chat to The Flying Winemaker himself – Eddie McDougall! The charming face behind one of Hong Kong’s best wine hangouts can be spotted on screens all over the world in his very own travel television programme on TLC, and you’ll find him dashing from Macau to Hong Kong spreading the wino love!
We chat to Eddie about how and why he started The Flying Winemaker, what his favourite Hong Kong spots are and what his favourite wine and food pairings are…
How did you get started in the wine industry and how did you start ‘The Flying Winemaker’?
Being an urban winemaker, I had a different start in comparison to other winemakers. I sort of fell into this life and I couldn’t be happier that I did. I was waiting tables as a poor student in Australia when a table I was waiting on left behind a practically full bottle of wine… I had a taste and fell in love. I then moved back to Hong Kong and became the winemaker at The 8th Estate Winery, the first winery in Hong Kong.
After three years at the 8th I decided I wanted to make my own mark in the wine industry and opened The Flying Winemaker. The rest in history.
Do you have a daily routine? What do you do on a day-to-day basis in your job?
Luckily, life doesn’t leave much time on the table for me to get bored. Most mornings start with changing my son’s nappy and having a little quality time with him before making my way to the espresso machine and diving into a slice of vegemite on toast. The early parts of my week start at home-base in Macau with a couple of early morning Skype calls with the executive producer of my TV series based in Los Angeles.
I am very focused on the making and distribution of my wines from Australia. Outside of harvest time, I am out meeting customers, hosting events, and doing tastings around Australia and Asia. Somewhere in between, I find time to write my articles for Time Out Hong Kong and tasting notes for my monthly TOP12 collection of wines. Throughout the rest of the week I work in Hong Kong. On the ferry over I manage to digest and catch up on a bucket load of emails. Its great for gathering my thoughts and work goals.
Upon arriving in Hong Kong, it’s always mayhem. My day fills up pretty quickly with shooting a new web series, heading to RTHK to talk on my regular radio segment, planning and hosting events around the region, teaching classes, hanging out with my WineExplorer members and on the odd occasion hosting wine tours. My card may as well say “Professional Schedule Crammer”!
What are your top tips for budding entrepreneurs/aspiring sommeliers?
It takes a lot of courage to opt out of conformity. You need to be willing to get slapped down and walk away from opportunities and be ok with that. As much as every entrepreneur thinks they are a bit of a one-man-band. As a small company though, the truth is you ARE who you SURROUND yourself. So be prepared to man up and surround yourself with people that are better, smarter and more experienced than you in various skills.
What are you top 5 favourite wines?
This is a difficult one!
- Mas Martinet from the Priorat region in Spain
- Vietti, Roche from the Barolo region in Italy.
- Xanadu Cab Sauv from Margaret River, Western Australia
- Domain Tempier, Bandol, Rosé from Provence
- Armand Rousseau, Chambertain from Burgundy France.
What are your favourite wine/food pairings?
- Thousand year old preserved egg, with a slice of pickled ginger and a glass of spicy Shiraz from Australia or the Northern Rhone Valley – can you tell I am a Hong Kong boy or what?!
- Grilled Kobe Beef sirloin with a massive Amarone
- Cantonese crispy skin chicken with fried garlic and chillies with a rich Viognier from Condrieu
Is it tough to stay healthy and fit when you work in the wine biz and where do you go to workout?
I love to run, I can’t stand staring at a screen in the gym. When in Hong Kong, running up Magazine Gap Road to do the Bowen Road loop is just awesome at sunset. More recently I have started a 6am kayaking regime with a bunch of local Macanese fishermen. Being outside is best for me.
What’s a fail safe wine to bring as a gift to a dinner party?
Ruinart Champagne – between $490-600 it’s a great wine, with killer packaging and distinctive bottle shape. If it’s good enough to be an amenity at The Mandarin Oriental, it’s good enough for a party gift.
What’s your ideal weekend in Hong Kong?
Start Saturday morning with a sleep in, read the paper, then take my wife and son to Brew Brothers for a late morning coffee. After that we cruise around and catch up with family and friends for lunch. Then in the evenings I love to cook up a storm with plenty of friends, lots of wine and a good game of pictionary on a chalk board wall.
Sundays for me need to involve sun and water activities, whether it’s going to South Bay Beach, getting on a junk boat, hopefully teaching my son how to swim or just chilling by the pool. When the sun is down it means couch time and watching a TV series that my wife and I are following – House of Cards anyone? Do I like Doug Stamper, do I hate him? I still don’t know!
What are your favourite local hangout spots?
I am huge Congee fan and I love the Lotus Garden in Happy Valley for a good hearty bowl. Away from this I like chatting the night away at my good friends roof top bar Fu Lu Shou. Otherwise, watching sport at the main bar in the Foreign Correspondence Club is a given.
Tell us about your first crush and first kiss?
Tell my wife to look away now! My first crush was in primary school and it was my music teacher’s daughter, who happened to be in my class. Scandal, I know. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was shaking in my boots every time she walked past, talked, or sat next to me in the playground.
The first “real” kiss was at the ripe age of 11 at a school social in Australia. I think a Backstreet Boys song was playing at the time. No regrets here!
What’s your biggest dating disaster?
Luckily no disasters big enough to write about… publicly.
What do you think makes a girl Sassy?
Being adventurous, excited by meeting new people and always up for a challenge.
What’s the best date you’ve ever been on?
The best date I have been on was of course with my now wife, as it took me 15 years to rustle up the courage to actually ask her out. Looks like playing the long game worked out though… score!
Where in Hong Kong do you go for grooming?
I see a lady called Doris Ho, whom I followed from ii Salon in the Prince’s Building to now Xenter in the Entertainment Building. She’s awesome!
What are your favourite local boutiques and stores in Hong Kong?
I find shopping in Hong Kong a little too overwhelming and I easily get sucked into to impulsive buys. I do most my clothes shopping in Australia, Italy or London when travelling. If I am shopping in HK, I tend to hit the Uniqlo’s, Lane Crawfords and my local tailor friend for suits and jackets.
What are you future plans for The Flying Winemaker and where do you hope to be in 5 years time?
The plan, and what is already in motion, is continued regional growth. The wings on this baby are starting to flap beyond HK borders and we are beginning to see a lot more of our activities in other parts of the world like Singapore, Bali, Australia, Taiwan, China and more. The business now has transitioned from a standard winemaking brick and mortar retail business to something much bigger. The next 12 months will do a lot to determining exactly what that something is.
However, the heart and soul of this business is always the winemaking at the core, so expect to see some amazing collaboration wines between myself and some other famous winemakers from around the world. Watch this space!
What’s your favourite thing to do in your spare time?
When I stumble upon some I will have to tell you! In truth, when you have a young son and a brilliant wife this answer is pretty easy. On that note, I better go catch my Ferry!
Find out more about The Flying Winemaker here.
All images in this article were taken by the talented photographer Darren LeBeuf – get in touch with him at email@example.com.