Nov 26, 2017

Talking smack about caps vs cork conversation...

I cannot tell you how many times we hear some wanker spewing ignorant information to impress someone at a tasting room. Occasionally we have heard enough, drank enough or are not being supervised and we engage the afore mentioned wanker.
Recently while out tasting through some new releases at a local winery, one of the customers asked the pourer if this particular winery had any wines under screwcap. The response from the tasting room staff got my attention, not only because it was wrong, but by the absolute certainty and disdain with which this opinion was dispatched.

So what was the response? - Not only do we not, we would never consider using scewcaps, as they choke the wines and do not breath at all. They make the wine all funky and don't allow any aging at all. What he was referring to was post-bottling “reduction,” unpleasant off odors and flavors created by the mix of oxygen and sulfides.

Natural corks have been used to seal wine bottles for about 300 years. The application introduced the concept of “aged wines,” because of cork’s oxygen permeability. So the big problem is that Oxygen ingress is highly variable due to the varied properties of the natural nature of cork. The impact of oxygen transmission rates can significantly affect wine aroma and color which are influenced by oxygen exposure in the bottle. Too much oxygen decreases fruity aromas and increases oxidative aromas. New Zealand’s signature varietal Sauvignon Blanc is one of the most sensitive to oxygen, perhaps explaining the Kiwis’ early adoption of screwcaps. Red wines are less affected.

Look, we could not care less what closure is on a bottle of wine unless it has had a negative affect. Some of our favorite wines have caps and some have corks.

Bottom line is, get some facts before spreading more misinformation. Casual tasting room staff can be a real deep well of misinformation so please choose them wisely and try to give them a good information book to reference or tell them to maybe say "I don't know".

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Nov 16, 2017

58 Eiffel Tower, Paris

58 Eiffel Tower ...

Ever thought about how wonderful it would be to dine high up in the Eiffel Tower?

So had we, and twice in the last month or so it happened. First time Kiwi Chris and company chose the Jules Vern restaurant for their dining experience. This was their story. 

Ours groups experience was different yet very similar other than more affordable and slightly less fancy French fare.

I had chosen to dine at 9pm at restaurant 58 Eiffel Tower for my groups dining experience. This allowed us to be at dinner when the lights went off. Each hour after dark the lights sparkle. Quite spectacular!

A few comments. Expedia has quite comprehensive instructions and directions but there are some gaps that caused some moments of confusion. Like where the checkin locations were. We were not the only ones a bit lost. But once in line for the elevator all was super smooth. 

We arrived at the restaurant and were escorted to our dining tables. Bubbles were poured and the dining experience was soon underway. 

Look, this experience was heavily anticipated and as such had all kinds of pressure to be an amazing evening. So how did it stack up? 
With its wall-to-wall windows, the restaurant offers a breathtaking view over the Trocadéro, Palais de Chaillot and the beauty of the Eiffel Tower's structure. Views are good from any table and sunset is simply spectacular. 
The food is excellent and not too 'foody' so a regular bloke can enjoy a good feed.  Oh and by the way the desserts will not disappoint. 

The food, the wine and the ambiance were all on point and the true test. Would we do it again? In a heartbeat. 

So look at some of the photos below and don't hesitate to book your own dinner at 58 Eiffel Tower when in Paris. 

Happy Travel Adventures,



Nov 5, 2017

What are the best wines for a party?

So the answer to this question is another question. What kind of party and who are you inviting? Whats your price range per bottle? Is it for wine ponces or bogans or something in between? If its for ponces... good luck. Bogans, who cares, get some popular grocery store stuff on sale. They wont know nor care.
For a nice afternoon gathering with friends with cheese and cured meats, perhaps some baklava and bruschetta for finger foods that pair nicely. So for your friends that like wine and are open to try new things and are not too hard to please its pretty simple we think. Bubbles to start is simple with some Cava or some Prosseco. To start the still wine afternoon its hard to beat a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Also for some variety are Gruner Veltliner and Assyrtiko. For bubbles a Cava from Spain or a Prosecco from Italy. Next as the whites are flowing introduce a couple Malbec's from Argentina. Finally as things are moving along put out the Australian Shiraz or Shiraz / Cabernet.

Good drinking good value (****) affordable wines are available in all these groups. These wines are not the norm in the USA and will be encourage great conversation and expand most regular wine drinkers range.

Cheers and enjoy your soiree.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Oct 22, 2017

A taste of Paris, yum!

Ah the smell of pastries in the morning. We arrived in the lobby of the Hotel and met up with our other Viking guests all eager to get 'A taste of Paris". We were loaded on a fancy little bus and whisked away towards our gastronomic adventure.

The first stop was just as you would imagine. A wonderful bakery called Carton, located at 6 rue de Buci. We could have spent days here tasting all they had to offer. Making a decision of what to get was almost impossible. The final agreed upon selection was an amazing chocolate eclair. Mmmmmm mmmm good. 

The first impulse was to continue to buy and eat everything we could carry but were reminded we had a number of places to go and to curb the desire to stuff ourselves.

The walking between stops was also wonderful. We stopped and looked at and learned about many interesting places along the way. Some amazing old buildings and places.
One was a famous old Restaurant Le Procope founded in 1686. It was an amazing facility and hope to enjoy a meal here on a future visit. The Le Procope is the oldest café in Paris and after taking a peek inside and at the menu, the prices look quite reasonable for such a place and the ambiance looks amazing.
Next stop was a fruit and veg shop on a corner in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Here we tasted some of the most delirious cherries I have ever had. 500 grams later I had to use every bit of self restraint not to get another kilo!

As we explored this area in Paris we were amazed at the history and the warm feel of the streets. In the years after World War II, Saint‑Germain‑des‑Prés was known primarily for its cafés and its bars, its diversity and its non-conformism. The bars were a popular destination for American soldiers and sailors after the war.

After those amazing cherries it was not just any Macaron store but the world famous Pierre Hermé, home of the worlds best Macarons. Macarons are not the only treat they make. Some of the most artistic and beautiful deserts ever made reside here. We all selected our flavor Macaron and continued on our way.

Our next stop was at Tomat's Epicerie Fine (fine grocery). This magical off the beaten track store, which smells of olive oil and pepper, depending where you stand, is tucked into a tiny cobble stoned courtyard. Some interesting discoveries were woven vines of bright red Espelette peppers, pots of chestnut honey, silver containers of finishing salts (including black and white truffle), chutney, juices and blue bottles of Azzurra mineral water from the Dolomites. Interesting wines and one that had been aged under the ocean for a year.

There are mustard's, olive oils, crackers and foie gras too. The selection is large enough that you can outfit yourself with gifts for friends at home, aperitifs in your Paris apartment, and a hostess gift for a friend. We tasted some lovely wines and some foie gras blended with duck pate as a pairing. Such a cool place and did I mention it is off the beaten path! 

Our final stop was at Le Pré aux Clercs. A charming bistro at the corner of the Rue Bonaparte and Rue Jacob, in the heart of Saint Germain des près. 

We enjoyed a wonderful charcuterie board and some wine. We also enjoyed just sitting and watching Paris wander by.

It was a hot and muggy day in Paris but we all really enjoyed the wonderful samplings the city had to offer. The Viking tour guide was fantastic and we all agreed it was a special day. We would all do it again in a heart beat.

Happy Travel Adventures,


Oct 15, 2017

Paris, Le Meridien Etoil with Viking River Cruises. and Mum...

Paris, Le Meridien Etoil with Viking River Cruises.
and Mum...

We arrived in Paris at the Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle late afternoon and were met by our Viking River Cruise Concierge. Within a few minutes we were on our way to our hotel, the Le Meridien Etoile.  Once there we were taken care of by our Viking River Cruise host who got us all our rooms as well. Speaking of getting rooms there was some issues with married couples getting twin beds and single people getting king bed rooms. 
Personally we had to deal with my 90 year old mum being on a different floor (can you say nightmare) and started with twin beds but managed to get a king room after a while of working with the hotel direct.

 I had talked specifically about this with our Viking contact that setup our Cruise. We had a similar situation with our airline tickets. Our first set of tickets had us on different flights!

The Le Meridien is a very nice hotel close to the Arch de Triumph. Nice clean rooms and a great breakfast. Had a couple of late night dinners at the bar which was pretty good also. The room issue was a Viking booking problem, even after two calls prior to leaving on the trip, specifically about us  traveling together with my elderly mother in different but adjacent rooms.

While all the rooms were very nice the mix ups were poor and for me personally the mishandling of my two rooms was very problematic.
We headed to our rooms upon arrival and after settling mum into her room we told her to stay in the room relax and watch some tv for an hour or so or take a nap. We wrote down our room number (with the 1 in front for dialing) so she could call if needed.  We had a quick check in to see about another tour and headed back to the room.

About 1.5 hours later after showers there is a knock on our door. One of the hotel staff found mum wandering the halls. She left her room, could not find our room, went to go back, keys did not work (she was going to the wrong room) went to the front desk, got new keys still could not get in (still wrong room) got lost in the halls and when found by a hotel staff member could only hand him our room number, which she could not find as I had added a 1 in front of it for calling room to room. Luckily the porter was savvy enough to realize that.
The hotel could not figure a way to get us together so we took to writing instructions for everything which helped but still many, in hindsight and having survived, many more funny events happened.  It was interesting that the group seemed scattered all over the hotel. This posed no issues other than for us with my mum. 

One classic was at breakfast. Mum we will get you and go to breakfast at 8 ok. Ok. 
Next morning at 8am mum's not in her room. Panic as we race to breakfast hoping that she is there. I ask the concierge if her room number had checked in (had to check in by room number for breakfast)   No that room has not checked in. But I gave my room number a went in to be sure. Yep. There she was eating fruit with a cup of coffee. 
Asked why she was there. She said she was hungry and they had given her coffee when she had asked for tea and there were no scrambled eggs today. Did you look under the silver lids? Why would I do that? (She also had a habit of when asked for coffee or tea, she would answer, yes please) Not sure who's room number she used as she couldn't remember.

The Le Meridien Etoil Hotel was a very nice place with a good bar, good bar food and a great breakfast. It rates a 'Good, would go back' on our scale. The booking issues were a Viking short fall, but I'm not convinced the hotel did all they could.

Happy Travel Adventures,


Oct 8, 2017

Fine dining, Jules Verne Eiffel Tower Paris

Travel adventures from European trip #1 Kiwi gores to France.

Some places are obvious points to visit in Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower. Doing the tourist visit is fantastic and a must do, but you really should delve a little deeper.  This goes for a number of things. Paris is known for its gastronomy, and so what better way to indulge in that than indulging on or in I guess, one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

You enter on a private elevator on the Pilier Sud and you arrive at one of the premier restaurants in Paris – the Jules Verne.

Located on the second level of the famous tower if offers commanding views of Paris, including the Seine, Arc de Triomphe, and the infamous “Aweful Tower”.

We booked well in advance for our dinner via the website  Reservations are a must, and for good reason. 
At €190-230 for a five or six course meal, plus wine, it is not a casual event, but possibly one of those once in a lifetime events. I mean after all you just traveled half way around the world so why not?  
The wait staff are fabulous, with every request met with good humor and professionalism.  We asked to change tables a couple of times as others opened up to get a better / different view with no problem or eye rolling. 

We ordered several bottles of wine from their 'manual' of wine choices!  All were amazing and the sommelier was extremely helpful.

The food kept coming!  Not a meal but an experience!  Small bites to a delicious main course for all.  The first four courses were fixed menu items with marinated sea bream, duck confit and lobster!  Veal, chicken or fish for the main, and desserts to die for.  Most interesting of all, a spork! Still giggling over that strange utensil. 
And with more wine.  Did I mention the wine?!

Plan to spend some time at Le Jules Verne, have a great meal, soak up the ambiance and extraordinary views, and leave satisfied, with fond memories that will last a lifetime.

Happy Travel Adventures,



Oct 1, 2017

Jet lag... Just don't even...

Oh the places we have been!
We recently talked about staying healthy and not catching some disease during your flights. Jet lag is the other down side to long haul air travel. Once you cross a couple or more time zones during flight it is on the table. Well worry no more.

Having traveled half way around the world at least 40 times between us in the last couple decades we recon we have some sound advice to offer. At least how we survive and maybe, just maybe, our experience my benefit you as well.

So here goes. Most of our survival practices are relatively simple and some seem to be obvious once mentioned but its surprising how few people actually make a conscious effort.

Rule number one is be and stay hydrated. Yeah yeah you say. I always drink water. OK, that may be true but do you drink it in a way that keeps jet lag at bay? Probably not. Here's the deal. Not only do you need to be optimally hydrated 'before' you get on the plane, staying hydrated on a plane takes effort. The super dry 5-20% humidity is in stark contrast to most normal ground levels of 50-80% means you need to be consuming way more water than normal. Constantly sipping and if like us you like to enjoy the hospitality of the more professional airlines and imbibe in the alcoholic offerings you need to double the number of ounces water to alcohol to keep up. While no double blind, scientific experiments have been done to verify this, as stated earlier, this has been tested dozens of times.

One of the other biggies is napping. Here is the scenario. You have been travelling for 24 hours and you arrive at your destination in the am sometime. One of the biggest mistakes is to succumb to the desire for a nap in the mid afternoon. Just don't! Hang in there and stay awake until a reasonably normal bedtime. When in doubt allow for no more than a 10 hour sleep. Ideally a similar length to what you normally would have at home. This help getting you system into a normal rhythm. Just do it! for a couple days.

So Kiwi Chris puts it most eloquently - Maybe I’m lucky, maybe I’m special. Jet lag and I have had many meetings, and we have an agreement. I win. I have read many articles about how to counter the effects of long distance travel, and I here add my two cents. First – drink on the plane. Well, if it’s free I feel its rude not to. Watch a movie, take an Advil PM, and Bob’s your Uncle.

On landing set your watch/phone and live by the new time. Eat at the new time. Drink at the new time. Just because it’s 6 am at home doesn’t mean you can’t have a glass of wine in Paris! Honestly that’s the key. Mental strength of not saying to yourself its bedtime at home. OK, drink a big glass of water and go out, keep moving. If you sit, you’re out and you lose.

Next day – repeat and you are good for the trip!
On the way home its different.      Call in sick. 

What are some of your solutions to avoid Jet lag?

Happy Travel Adventures,