I first met Mick De Garis six years ago when we, alongside Charlie Whish were washed up on the potentially barren and treacherous shores as judges at the inaugural New England Wine Show. How wrong could we all have been! Now Glen Innes is a cold and lonely place for the uninitiated. The town is perched (that's real estate speak) at 1062 metres down the Black Range below Guyra in North Eastern NSW on the junction of the Gwydir and New England Highways. Even though the population is allegedly 8,793 souls, on the many occasions I've driven through GI over the years, this vast majority has successfully avoided me; even though with a Celtic name like Doyle and a beardy all of my own, you'd think they'd welcome me with outstretched, hairy arms. At least, unlike Armidale, I am faintly proud to report here that it is almost impossible to find a true Glen Innes local wandering about Meade Street in their slippers after mid-day. Nevertheless, they must be about the place somewhere. All I can think of is that with that elevated, spirited population representing 8.279 persons per meter, (that's Severn Council tourism Regional development speak) a lot of their activities in such a cold climate, must be conducted behind closed doors. And that seems only right and proper and very, warmly Celtic. I'd heard of Mick before that fateful show meeting of course. He was creating quite an impression at Roseworthy several years before my own attempt at breaching the ramparts of that peculiar citadel, and his name as winemaker cropped up alongside a long series of fine wines over the decades. In fact, unlike me, he has a distinguished future spread out behind him which includes being shouted at for over a decade by the Mouth of the Hunter, mastering the cellar at Cellar Masters and, more recently, controlling his wrath as Chief Winemaker at Rothbury. More importantly for Charlie, me and the New England Wine Show, he is very much in demand as a skilled palate in shows on both sides of the ditch. He is also a very personable chap who has an intrinsic charm complimenting his open and gregarious nature alongside a warm way with words which impresses the lads and ladies alike. What's more, he remembers everyone's names and their relationships to each other and does so with the quiet confidence of a trusted family dentist. With his immaculate manners and private school background, it is obvious to all that Mick and I have a lot in common. Even though he is substantially older then me, (I still have my own teeth) he is an exceptionally fine fellow who has well and truly earned his date with destiny on the Bloodwood celebrity stool.