Joelle Thomson is a journalist, wine writer and author who lives in Wellington and is the author of 16 wine books (published by New Holland and HarperCollins). She has the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s highest qualification, the Level 4 Diploma and has taught levels 1, 2 and 3 for the NZ School of Food & Wine and judged at wine shows since 1995 in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. She loves the great outdoors. She trained in journalism at Wellington Polytech’ on an old fashioned typewriter in 1989. Her turangawaewae is the South Island.

I consider myself a columnist with a particular specialty in wine and food, I have been writing about wine for The Nelson Mail since 2000 and about food and beverage since 2015. I write for several publications and taste many wines each week, some are sent as samples by wine companies, some are from our cellar, some we buy and others dinner guests bring along to share with us. I will publish tasting notes for most of them. I am a member of Wine Writers of New Zealand and devout lover of all styles of food, wine, beer and whiskey.

Wine journalist and published author, Phil Parker has a wine career involving both writing and hosting Auckland region wine tours. He established Auckland’s original boutique wine tour business, Fine Wine Tours in 2001. Phil writes a regular monthly column for Auckland’s Ponsonby News, plus a quarterly medical industry glossy magazine wine column. He has also written freelance articles for the NZ Herald and Homestyle magazine, plus he regularly posts wine related stories on his blog.

Aaron Ballantyne is the Head Chef at Hopgood’s & Co in Nelson. He has been crafting beautiful multi-award winning food at Hopgood’s since 2007 and along with Chef patron Kevin Hopgood, has elevated the restaurant to Cuisine Two Hat status. Aaron and Kevin also mentor young chefs ensuring anyone who works with them gains skills that will set them on a path to success somewhere in the world. Aaron is kindly supplying recipes for Top Tastes.

Simon Wood, the son of the late NZ wine merchant and writer Hugh Wood, has been involved in the NZ wine and beers industries in retail, consultancy and writing on and off for 25 years. He lives in the idyllic small Waikato town of Te Aroha with his partner and their 2 rescue cats. His mother Bev is a children’s and travel writer who also used to write wine columns.

In the early days in my hometown of Hamilton the dining experiences were limited to milk bars or tearooms. Now we have a large array of excellent cafes and restaurants from fine dining to cheap and cheerful and everything in between. Besides food and wine, reading, writing and talking, travel is a great passion and has led me to try many strange and wonderful dishes from one side of the world to the other. And I love it all.

Previously a succuessful restaurateur in Wanaka and Auckland, Angie is now a well known wine industry professional with a reputation for wearing killer high heels. Having spent the past ten years working with many outstanding New Zealand and International brands, she is currently the National Sales Manager for Prophet’s Rock Wines from Central Otago.

Ray Toms has been a member of the Taupo Winetasters Club for what seems like decades, his passion for wine saw him become a member of the Scenic Cellars tasting panel that selected fine wines for the business under its previous ownership. Since he retired he has taken up travel and photography as hobbies to add to his love of wine. ray now reviews wines and tell stories for Top tastes too.

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