Sep 25, 2016

Vertical_ Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail, a review

Sideways was an over the top, pretty funny lost weekend buddy road trip story, and one that had a significant impact on the wine industry (for better or worse). Rex Pickett’s sequel ‘Vertical' continues a similar type of story but aims higher than it’s predecessor and will have you reflecting on ones own human condition, and in most all ways succeeds, other than it probably will not change the wine industry (a good thing).

Vertical starts of a little like Sideways meets the Hangover. The story goes through basically three stages with a ray of sunshine at the end. A hell of a good time with drunken debauchery and the start of a long road trip which then goes through a period where it spirals into falling apart to a lone dark stretch fighting openly with personal and physical demons to the final destination. The final ray is the reconciliation of mother and son. Touching enough to bring a tear with an emotional rawness that will make some bleed.
Confessing that the book sideways has not been read here but the movie has been seen and often discussed.
Rex Picket uses the first person lens of his alter ego, Miles Raymond and is quite the wordsmith. Another confession... Had to use the word dictionary in the back or the book a few times.

The premise is that Miles wrote a book about the boys weekend in sideways called Shameless and shortly after a movie by the same name makes him a huge celebrity with all the fame and wealth that goes with it. His sidekick Jack has had the reverse fortune and is divorced with a child and on the skids. Both have a serious drinking problem and not in a good way. Miles concocts an idea on how to fulfill his mothers wishes to leave the nursing home and go live with her sister in Wisconsin via the International Pinot Noir Celebration in the Willamette Valley and everyone's favorite two wino's hit the road again. This time its in a handicap van with Miles' disabled elderly mother, her pot smoking nurse, and his moms poorly behaved dog Snapper in tow. Sounds like a bloody good time ay? Well, at times it is, but at other times, well, it is soul searchingly sad.

So off they drive. Passing through Santa Ynez they stop at their old haunts including the now bustling Hitching Post where Miles is treated like a rock star. At every stop the wine and food is comped as vintners thank him for their booming Pinot sales in the wake of ‘Shameless' and even with his invalid mother in tow, Miles and Jack find plenty of star crossed women along the way to satisfy their lust including a couple of Spanish women on a ‘Shameless Tour’ of the Santa Ynes area. Once they discover Miles’ identity they both are more than willing participants in a weekend fling up in Paso Robles. This is the fun part of the journey. It soon turns tense and dysfunctional (OK, more dysfunctional). This is where the story takes on a dark quality that at times is uncomfortable to read.

The last part of the book follows the buggered relationship between Phyllis and Miles as they travel to Wisconsin. This gives ‘Vertical’ a conclusion that may split readers on the satisfaction of how the story comes to it’s end.
For those who are curious there is clearly plenty of room for a third book to be written.

Oh and on the question of whether this book should be made into a movie... Yes! 

Happy Wine Adventures,


Note to reader : The book I am reviewing here is Vertical- Passion and Pinot on the Oregon Wine Trail--not to be confused with an earlier limited edition run known simply as "Vertical

Sep 11, 2016

Pinot Paradise 2016

A few Saturdays ago, ok quite a few, I attended a Pinot Noir technical session on Santa Cruz Mountains AVA put on by the Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrowers Association.

Putting you on the pathway to Pinot Paradise. Who doesn't love a good Pinot Noir? Well it seems now days Pinot Noir is easy to find and often quite inexpensive but good ones are not as easy to find as one would think so checking out this Pinot centric region was going to be fun.

Pinot Noir Technical Session at Hotel Paradox
Saturday, May 21
John Bargetto acknowledging Ken Burnap 
Learn and discover! This session was from 8:30am to 11:30am and featured an engaging program around geology and soils, regional history and all with a winemaker panel to kick-off regional exploration. During this event as we tasted and talked about an array of Pinot Noirs from the oldest mountain American Viticulture Area (AVA) in the United States. The ticket price was also reasonable $45.

Held at the lovely Hotel Paradox in Santa Cruz, California in a well sized and comfortable meeting room. The morning started out with the first session being done by area icon and Pinotfile Ken Burnap founder of the Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard. Ken told the story of how the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA was designed. Ken was a big player in how the AVA came about. He explained how he and David Bennion (co founder of Ridge Vineyards) spent years studying the region and the way the fog would behave creating a defined and predictable pattern.

Next up was the engaging John Bargetto of Bargetto Winery.
Bargetto Winery is the oldest continuously operating winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains and is currently run by the third generation of this family winery. Bargetto Winery, an American story. 

John talked about the Regan Vineyard (pronounced 'Ree gan') that has nearly 40 acres planted to twelve different varietals and clones. A special vineyard that is one of the largest and most diverse in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 
As part of the session we had the opportunity to taste a Pinot Noir from Bargetto and also a Pinot Noir from the Regan vineyards made by MJA Vineyards. This was a very eyeopening tasting as the grapes came from the same vineyard but the wine could have been from different parts of the world. Both lovely tasting wines but bearing no resemblance to each other. One very much an elegant Pinot, the other more robust with heavier mouth feel.

Next up was three tastings from different wineries using the Muns Vineyard. We tasted wines from Muns, Left Bend and Thomas Fogarty Winery's. The Muns Vineyard sits atop the Santga Cruz Mountains facing the Monterey Bay at an elevation of 2600'.

The next tasting of the session was of the Lester Family Vineyards. This gentle sloping vineyards is located in Corralitos where a strong maritime influence provides for long cool maturation time. The wineries we tasted using the Lester Family Vineyards were, Big Basin, Martin Ranch and Sante Arcangeli Family wines.

The final group of wines have grapes sourced from the Coast Grade Vineyards. The Coast Grade Vineyard is located in Bonny Doon and was planted in 2008. Residing at an elevation of 1,238 to 1,350 feet on a southwest facing slope that is also heavily influenced by the Monterey Bay. The wineries we tasted were Beauregard Vineyards, Big Basin Vineyards and Partage Wine Company.

This casual yet informative (and very affordable unlike some other Pinot events) session on the Santa Cruz Mountan AVA and Pinot Noir was a wonderful overview of the region, the grape and the lovely wine that is produced by multiple wineries. The similarities and the differences were interesting and delicious from this interesting region which certainly has its share of good Pinot Noir.

Happy tasting Adventures,


Aug 21, 2016

Artisans of the Barossa

Up in the Barossa Valley? Tasting wine but starting to get hungry? Oh what to do? Do what we do...

Head on over to Artisans of the Barossa. With a fantastic setup that features, Hobbs of Barossa RangesJohn Duval Wines, MassenaSchwarz Wine CoSons of Eden and Spinifex.

Artisans of Barossa was originally formed in February 2006 by this group of six producers with different winemaking styles making fine small batch wines. In a region renowned for its long lunch this is a great place to experience and adopt the philosophy. With a menu that has stuff for the foodie type and some good wholesome food for those of us that want something to eat everyone will be happy.

They are open everyday and late on Fridays for that end of the week get together.

We usually head on over and enjoy a taste and a feed with a spectacular view and friendly knowledgeable staff. The wines are well worth the visit and the wonderful food is a fantastic bonus. The fact that it is a beautiful place with a spectacular view of the valley is truly icing on the cake.

They offer Premium tastings in the Artisans Lounge every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. These tastings can be organised during the week by appointment by contacting the Tasting Room on 08 8563 3935 or via

To make a booking or for further information:
(08) 8563-3935
Bookings essential for groups of 8 or more.
11.00am to 6.00pm daily, including Public Holidays.
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
cnr Light Pass & Magnolia Rds Tanunda SA 5353
So if you are in the Barossa Valley, head on over to Artisans of the Barossa and check it out. The good people at Artisans of the Barossa will take you through a great tasting and introduce you to the wonderful tradition of the long lunch.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Aug 6, 2016

Wine accessories for fun and function, CapaBunga!

There are a ton of fun and functional wine accessories on the market. Recently we were sent some to play with and try out. Not being ones to typically use these types of things it was an opportunity for us to have some fun. We received three different products. The products came from Capabunga (click to see)

The first accessory we tried was the CapaBunga CapaBubbles. A cap to keep your bubbles, well bubbly. We found it to easy to use and performed well. We unfortunately did not have the discipline to wait a whole week to see if it does as claimed but for a few days it was perfect. Here is what they say and other than the week statement have to say we continue to use it regularly.
Buy here

  • Transform your sparkling wine bottle into a screw cap     
  • Keeps your wine and bubbles fresh for up to one week
  • Simply clip the base around the bottle neck, then screw on the cap for an air-tight seal
  • Easy to use, instructions included on packaging
  • Great gift idea

Next was the bottle reusable caps for resealing your open bottles.
These are way cool for use outside when you want to keep nature out of the open bottle. Easy on and off and means there are no gnats swimming in the wine.

Putting the cap on fully is the key to safe lay down non leaking wine storage. We tested a bottle 3/4 full in the refrigerator, put the cap on and then laid it out on the counter with the cap over the sink and let the bottle come up to room temp. No leakage! The only issue we had was with a bottle that we did not put the cap on properly. 

Finally we come to the fun accessory. The CapaBunga Unique Wine Glass Identifiers and Name Tags Slogans. These inexpensive entertaining wine glass identifiers offer a double opportunity. First off there is the entertaining slogans that come imprinted on the silicone ring. Then there is the opportunity to turn them over and create your own snarky slogans or just simply put names on them for your guests. 

  • 6 Unique Slogans for each member of your party or tasting event.
  • Write on, wipe off, reuse.
  • Made with Silicone for easy cleaning and durability.
  • Slips around the base of any stemmed glass.
  • A personal name tag for your drink - Designed by Capabunga

Some fun accessories that we continue to enjoy. They even have other accessories that take care of cheese, aerators and pourers. We even used them as Olympic rings as we sipped Moscato while watching the opening ceremonies.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Jul 31, 2016

Jim Barry Wines Clare Valley South Australia

It was a cold wet wintry (I said wintery) day and there I was in front of this famous name in wines from Clare Valley South Australia, a member of Australia's First Family of Wine, and about to go in to meet with young winemaker of the year from last year and taste some truly iconic wines. So how did I get here? To help frame how this came about let me share a little story that starts in 2009...

Nov 2009 - Early in my fine wine consuming (different than the regular wine years) I was tasting wine at cellar doors in the beautiful Clare Valley of South Australia with friends, and came across a very special high end wine that was sitting in a discount bin because it's label had been stained by wine (bottle broken in a case). It was half price and although still almost double my usual purchase price range, I had been told by someone I trusted that this was the deal of a lifetime (maybe a slight exaggeration). In a moment of weakness or perhaps some divine intervention I grabbed a bottle and purchased it.
Carefully packing it in the suitcase for the journey back to California where it remained in storage hidden away till Dec 2015. This was a special bottle (read, expensive).

It's December 2015 and for a special occasion I opened one of those bottles of wine that is always waiting for the just right time. You know those special bottles that you bury deep in storage to age a bit. The ones you had to remember not to let die a slow dusty death. The special occasion was my wife's birthday. The night started with bubbles at a top Carmel tasting room Caraccioli Cellars and then off to the lovely Grasing's for a nice dinner, which is where I revealed the special bottle. Kiwi and his wife were going to be included in experiencing this special bottle (really wished I had 2). I can hear some, ok most of you saying 'oh just shut up and tell us what it was.

(Que snare drum) All the way from the Clare Valley in South Australia I shared with Kiwi and Mrs Kiwi, my wife and myself (oh and a little sip for Toby our somm mate) the Jim Barry Wines 2007 Armagh.

Look, critically this was not supposed to be one of the best vintages, but let me say bollocks, this wine was simply magnificent. A truly beautiful wine. Click on the link above for our thoughts.

Here we are in 2016 heading to Adelaide South Australia again and one of my favorite things to do is attend the master classes at the National Wine Center. This trip it happened to be Jim Barry Wines. The person leading the master class was none other than last years young winemaker of the year Tom Barry. A cracking night with good wine and some good conversation lead to a, 'see you later next week at the winery'.

So that's how it came about that here I am in the Clare Valley at Jim Barry Wines. Excitedly in we go and meet up with Tom Barry and we taste and talk about all things wine. We spent a lot of time tasting and talking about a group of wines that Tom is really proud of (he is proud of all their wines).
They are not what you may think. Tom really wants to have the entry level punter taken care of with quality wines at very affordable prices.

All four star wines starting at $19 Aust and up to $22 Aust. The Classic Cover Drive, The Barry Brothers Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon and the Lodge Hill Shiraz. Fantastic value for some great go to wines to share with friends or on any night of the week without breaking the bank. We were impressed. Of course not one to turn down wine we continued to taste through the entire range all the way to the Iconic Armagh. The 2012 Armagh is a very special wine and although it gets no stars as the price point is up there, but for those that can afford it, you will not be disappointed. Again this is a truly magnificent wine. While drinking with Tom, Peter Barry came out to say g'day. I had met Peter in San Francisco at an Australia's First Family of Wine event in 2015 and it was nice to reacquaint.
Great wine to be enjoyed at Jim Barry Wines in the beautiful Clare Valley. Thanks to Tom and Peter for being great hosts. 
Jim Barry wines is a must stop by if you are in the area. 

Happy Wine Adventures,