Feb 12, 2017

Luxury accomadation Allegretto Vineyard Resort in Paso Robles

Visiting Paso Robles is always a treat. More great restaurants in the area than one could eat at in a month. More great wines to taste than one could get through in a year and the icing on the proverbial cake is the number of great places to stay. One of those great places to stay is the Allegretto Vineyard Resort

Our first experience here was when we were attending the Paso Robles Cab Collective Event, The Judgement of Paso in 2016. Staying at the resort was fantastic and although we did not get a lot of time to explore or enjoy all that was to be offered, we knew we wanted to return and take it all in.
The timing of that happened when we were invited to the cool and exciting Garagiste Festival. With the need for a place to stay and my wife not as into all the wine stuff, it was decided to mix wine tasting and a resort style mini vacation together. Everyone would be happy. Hopefully...

We checked in early on Friday afternoon and quickly settled in. It was a beautiful afternoon and so we decided to walk around and get a look at the entire site. With a pool area in the back and boche ball courts on the side, a way cool little Chapel as well as scattered seating areas all amongst a thoughtfully and beautifully done series of gardens and vineyard. Inside the courtyard are numerous seating options and a tasteful fountain in the center. There are some fire pits as well for when it is cool enough for the beauty of a flame.

Wandering inside there are a number of rooms for events and special dinners or meetings, as well as the larger conference or seminar type rooms where we had the Cab Collective Judgement Tasting.

With a number of lounge areas with comfortable furnishings and massive fire places that are just wonderful to sit and enjoy with your favorite wine or a cup of coffee.

The restaurant can serve both inside and out and the large bar has a good selection of drinks. I had a tasting flight of the house wines and it turned out to be not only delicious but twice as large as a normal tasting pour!

That evening we had dinner there at the restaurant and really enjoyed some delicious food and a bottle of Daou Cabernet. The atmosphere was energetic and the guy playing guitar and singing songs was just perfect. A very lovely experience. Later that evening we had arranged to meet up with our friend Dawn from ATOD Magazine (look for some collaboration in the future) in the bar but ended up just staying at our table and talking the night away.

Next morning we lazed around before heading off to the Garagiste Festival (one not to miss). After we came back to the hotel we enjoyed lounging in one of the comfortable lounge rooms and walking around the grounds. Later that night it was off to Buona Tavola for some amazing Northern style Italian food and paired with some great Italian wine.

Next morning while I enjoyed some quiet reading writing and coffee my wife enjoyed some pampering at the Spa. The Spa at Allegretto is a quaint boutique spa with six beautifully appointed treatment rooms, a gentle infrared-detox sauna and a lounge patio. They have a number of offerings but my wife had the INTERMEZZO S 50 minute stone Massage. They also offer 80 and 100 minute versions as well. Of this massage they say ; Melt your tension away with warm scented spices and elemental basalt stones that radiate their warmth into the surrounding body tissues and muscles, increasing blood circulation, as well as decreasing stress, tension and tissue stiffness. Deep comfort for the body and mind. 
Here are her words on the experience...

My SPA experience by Catherine.

What better way is there to complete a relaxing, romantic weekend than with a quick trip to the spa? After checking in to our room at the Allegretto, we spent some time touring the facilities and discovering all this beautiful resort has to offer. While sitting outside, sipping wine and planning our weekend away, we discovered some free time on Sunday morning and I quickly ran into the spa to see if they had any openings to squeeze me in.

As luck would have it, they did! After a quick review of the spa menu, I scheduled a 50 minute Intermezzo Stone Massage for Sunday morning (a little earlier than I would have liked but beggar’s can’t be choosers). Plus, this would allow us to go to brunch before we had to leave for home.
Sunday morning arrived (early as expected) and I hopped out of bed and pulled on some yoga pants and a t-shirt. After a quick kiss for my sweetie, I dashed down to the spa to check in. I was greeted by my masseuse and led to a beautiful relaxation room to complete some paperwork to identify my smell preferences (no floral),
problem areas (ticklish feet) and areas to focus on (neck and shoulders)… all the standard stuff.

Once the paperwork was taken care of, I was taken to a changing room and given a plush robe and slippers to change into before being led to my
treatment room.

The spa has six treatment rooms, all beautiful and designed to relax and provide comfort to patrons. I was impressed and so very thankful for the peacefulness.
Once the door of the treatment room closes, outside noises do not intrude. Not once during my treatment did I hear footsteps in the hallway or voices. I was truly able to leave the outside world behind and appreciate my time. I left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and can’t wait to visit this beautiful spa again!

Mission accomplished! A wonderful couple days in a beautiful resort accommodation that kept everyone happy. Looking forward to many more future visits.

Happy Travel Adventures,

Feb 5, 2017

#WW Il Moro D.O.C Sicilia Nero d’Avola

We do enjoy (most of the time) when wine shows up in the mailbox for us. Sometimes its accompanied by the literature we ask for on our 'Submitting Samples' page instructions and sometimes its not. This was a wine that showed up a little while ago without any associated information.

We searched it out and have included the website info and description as well as our own observations (in blue).

Giuseppe Jacono founded the cantina at the end of the 19th century. The Jacono family has been active in vine growing and winemaking ever since Vittoria was Sicily’s epicenter for exporting wine to France. Since then, this familial vocation has been safeguarded and handed down over generations, with the shared desire to establish a name for the family’s wines on an international level.

Valle dell’Acate has continued this tradition, specializing in the cultivation of the most prized and productive autochthonous vines, creating superior wines, including the crown jewel of Sicilian winemaking: the Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.

Gaetana Jacono
 Valle dell’Acate is one of the most well-known and active vineyards in southeastern Sicily. The company is run by Gaetana Jacono, part of the family’s sixth generation of winemakers. The vineyards extend over 100 hectares, most of which have been replanted from 2001 to the present day with local and international vines.

Valle dell’Acate (literally “Acate Valley”) is located in the historic Bidini domain, amid the winding hills of Valle del Dirillo.

BLACK SOIL: this red wine is Valle dell’Acate’s crown jewel, and has earned Italy’s vaunted DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) status. Black land These vineyards are located roughly 120 meters above sea level, where the earth is extremely dark, almost black in color. Soil has a medium density tending towards compact, with a fair proportion of small, dark stones. These vines are roughly 20 years old, and produce a Nero d’Avola wine called Il Moro, which is well- structured and marked by strong hints of small red fruits like blackberries, raspberries and black cherries, as well as dark chocolate tannins that are at once powerful and enjoyable.

Our observations are similar but...

Il Moro D.O.C Sicilia Nero d’Avola

Produced in: C. da Bidini – Acate (RG) – eastern Sicily
Appellation: IGT Sicilia Rosso, from 2012 Il Moro D.O.C. Sicilia Nero d’Avola
Grape Variety: 100% Nero d’Avola
Methods of growth: Espaliers and cord, 5.000 plants/hectare
Production per hectare: 5800 kg
Harvest period: The second half of September
Aging process: Wood and steel vats and bottle-aged for at least 9-12 months
Alcohol level: 13.5%
Color: Intense ruby red
Dark deep color of ruby red and an interesting brick at the edge.            
Aroma: Cherry and raspberry fruity and a spicy background, nicely balanced.
So yes we quaff some cherry, but also some darker fruit like plum. This is a nice aromatic wine.
Flavor: Full, warm and elegant, very persistent, with typical austere, but polite, tannins.
A medium body wine that has a nice feel on the palate with good balance and fine but grippy tannins that give a medium long finish. 
Best paired with: Meat dishes, Nebrodi suckling pig, game meats and roasts, grilled meats and filets. Highly recommended with aged D.O.P. ragusano cheese.
Went beautifully with home made lasagna.
Serve at: 16°-18º C
                 60º - 64º F (not room temperature)

Overall really enjoyed this wine and rated it a 7 on our scale. Since we did not get any actual info the price point is a bit of a guess but we believe it gets ****. 

Happy Wine Adventures,


Jan 29, 2017

Napa Valley cheeky tasting tour. #WineThursday

Ah, the dawn of day two in Napa Valley. Ok not exactly the dawn but it was still morning and the tasting rooms were only just about to open.

First stop this morning was to be the Orin Swift tasting room in St Helena. A cool little shop front on the main street. We arrived and the tasting room was already busy with happy tasters. The wines were worth the wait. Orin Swift wines have a bit of a cult status. They are quality wines that get your attention throughout the entire range validating that cult status. We enjoyed the atmosphere and the experience as well as the wines. A cool place to stop, and all around there are places to eat and shop. So if you can, stop on in and tell em we sent you. Cheers.

Heading south we pulled into Hall winery. Have enjoyed a number of Hall Cabernets over the years and was looking forward to getting stuck into a full on tasting. Pulling in the entrance one is reminded of Donny Darko by the enormous shiny metal rabbit sculpture (maybe its just me) and then the diametrically opposed building styles.
Both very beautiful but oh so different. Where a lot of wineries build new facilities to look like the old stone buildings of the past not here at Hall. The Halls acquired the historic Bergfeld winery in 2003 and with it the beautiful old building. This building was finished being renovated in 2013. In 2009, HALL became the first winery in California to be distinguished as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Gold certified fully-sustainable production facility by the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® Green Building Rating System.  Since then, they have also received another prestigious award of LEED® Gold Certification for modern Tasting Room & high-tech Production Facility. Check out the photos to see the contrasting beauty of this engaging complex.

We enjoyed our tasting of the range of Hall wines in the modern facility with floor to ceiling glass window walls overlooking the members area, the vineyards and the hills in the distance. The tasting started with a bonus (read extra) pour of the 2015 HALL Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. So we were not really prepared to be drinking a Sav Blanc in Napa. Nor were we prepared to actually really enjoy it, but enjoy it we did. We tasted Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and through  the range of amazing Cabernets that have such a solid history of awards and accolades. Exceptional wines in an amazing space and great experience led to the joining of the wine club. An extreme rarity for us but one I could not resist. Looking forward to spending a lot more time here and exploring the past and the future of Hall Wines. Look for some future Hall winery adventures from the inside!

From Hall we continued south to picturesque Peju Province Winery. This was a Thursday and we had a 30 minute wait for a tasting. Again we wished we had booked ahead. As we enjoyed a look around we were given a nice glass of bubbles to help keep us happy, a nice touch. When we were called we headed upstairs with three other couples to enjoy our tasting overlooking a barrel room. We had chosen the Classic Tasting at $35 each. With that we tasted the Sauvignon Blanc and Provence before moving on to three additional wines of our choosing off the list.

The Provence is intended to be a fun and versatile wine although we were told it takes quite a bit of finesse to yield the final blend. Slightly more than half of this proprietary blend is comprised of white varietals with the balance of the profile determined by the addition of barrel aged red wine. A very interesting wine and one of two bottles purchased. The other a straight up Cabernet. I mean after all this is Napa. A very nice facility and an enjoyable tasting experience other than the thirty minute wait. So the moral of the story is to plan ahead and book and enjoy a relaxed tasting experience.

With that we were heading back to Monterey for the New Years weekend. Summing up this spur of the moment cheeky tasting trip to the Napa Valley. Lovely! We had a very nice time and enjoyed some beautiful wines in some amazing places. It reminded us that we need to come back more often and that in the future, as much as the spontaneous trip was amazing we probably need to also plan ahead if we want to taste at a lot of the places up here.

The problem with all this booking ahead and having to plan, is that it puts pressure on you to make sure you hit your times correctly and to pay attention to the geographic locations of where you want to go. It can easily take 45 minutes to go from one part of Napa Valley to another. Mix in a lunch with somewhat unpredictable time lengths and all of a sudden the carefree day of tasting turns into a stressful job of planning and time management that require you to account for delays with traffic, herding cats and any number of other issues. So plan ahead and give yourself time to enjoy the experience.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Jan 15, 2017

Napa Valley cheeky tasting tour. #WineWednesday

So its a 8pm on Tuesday night and you and the wife have the rest of the week off, what to do? First check with your partner in crime to see if he and his wife are up for an adventure. Nope, working was the answer. So in a moment of possibilities it was decided to get up early enough that driving to Napa we would arrive at the first stop at opening time.

The next morning was upon us and we left mostly on schedule. As we traveled north on Hwy 1 we made good time and a Starbucks stop was allowed. Back on the road in no time and traffic was kind. We were quickly over Hwy 17 and heading towards San Francisco. Crossing the spectacular Golden Gate bridge only slightly behind schedule.

So where was the first stop? We had not yet decided. I know, I know. Only thirty minutes away from Napa and no first stop had been settled on. As we drive over the bridge we started the planning.

First stop we decided was to be the spectacular
 Gloria Ferrer Winery
Figured bubbles would be a good start! Now although it was a sunny day, being the middle of winter and mid morning we knew it would be a little too cold to enjoy all the beautiful views from the balcony so chose instead to be seated at the #1 table inside the very nice interior tasting area. We opted to enjoy a glass each of the 90+ Point bubbles tasting flight and a delicious cheese plate (brunch).

An Extra Brut Reserve Cuvee, Royal Cuvee Brut and a delightful Demi Sec. What a special experience in a lovely classy setting. A great start to the cheeky tasting tour but just as we were agreeing on that we noticed something strange on the tasting menu. An Aussie Flight! Well I could not leave without finding out what the story was there. Turns out that Katnook Estate from Coonawarra South Australia is in the portfolio. These three great Coonawarra Cabernets are not to be missed. Who knew, Coonawarra Cabernet in Napa California! These wines are a great expression of the classic and unique characteristics of the Coonawarra wine region. So our first stop was a beauty and with bottle of Cabernet purchased we were now faced with the second stop decision.

What a beautiful winters day driving through Napa Valley.

Our next stop was to be the Castello di Amorosa. Figured we would go to the north end and work our way back as we had yet to secure a place to stay. The Castello di Amorosa is a 13th century styled Tuscan Castel that is visually amazing. What would the wine be like? Well we did not have high expectations given the touristy theme park kind of setting. The place was packed. Did these people not know it was Wednesday! Crowds aside we lined up to purchase our tasting package (yes, lined up just to purchase a tasting or a tour). Yes you purchase a package and then go to the area for that package. Ok so I'm a bit of a tasting snob and I'm not a fan of the tasting crowd experience so decided on the $40 Reserve tasting in the Il Passito Room and as it turned out, a great choice.

The Il Pasito Room is a cool space. The tasting started with a lovely Pinot Gigio. Guided through our tasting by the lovely Ciara we tasted into the reds. So how were the wines you ask.
Well they were all decent to good until I tasted the Il Barone. This stunning wine was a real game changer.

Tasted a couple other very good wines but was totally smitten by the Il Barone so purchased a bottle to go. If you get a chance, go visit the Castello di Amorosa and have the Reserve tasting and a good look around.

As we were leaving we made a couple calls for tastings but were turned down as they were booked up and there were no slots open. What! This was a Wednesday! Note to self book way ahead next time. Oh wait, this was a last minute trip...

As we were going south we saw the Freemark Abbey sign and whipped on in. Wine I had not tasted before. Just what we were looking for. We tasted through the range and were impressed with the consistently good Cabernets. A nice facility and good wine at reasonable prices by Napa comparisons. Purchased a bottle of the 2012 Bootleg Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine was selected as I felt it was the best balance of price and taste.

We had made no reservations for anywhere to stay but had reached out to a couple places we have social media contact with. Some standard discounts were offered but nothing the regular deal seeker did not get. As we left and headed south through Napa Valley the misses jumped onto Priceline and scored a great deal that was about half the price of the offered deals. This meant we were to be in Napa for another day. Woo hoo!

We had a simple but wholesome meal at the Trancas Steakhouse. A delicious steak sandwich and a French Dip both with fries that really hit the spot at a very reasonable price.
We retired relatively early so as to be in the best shape to embrace the day ahead.

To be continued...

Happy Wine Adventures,


Nov 27, 2016

Getting our Grüner on at Hahndorf Hill Winery

Just like your first real kiss or that first love, the first time I tasted Grüner Veltliner I was never to be the same again. I had been kissed and my heart (palate) was hooked. It was the debut White Mischief Grüner Veltliner (a fruit-driven, less dry style) from Hahndorf Hill Winery in Hahndorf South Australia in the beautiful Adelaide Hills. I was immediately smitten with this beautiful wine. In the years since that first sip I look forward with anticipation to heading back to Hahndorf Hill Winery every year to taste the new vintage and see what else is on offer as well as enjoy a wonderful ChocoVino experience.

The most important grape variety in Austria, Grüner Veltliner achieved worldwide awareness and popularity at the end of the last century. It is a fertile variety and therefore requires a deft touch in the vineyard with things like yield regulation. It grows especially well in deep loamy soils, does not like dryness and is sensitive during flowering. Grüner Veltliner delivers all quality levels - from light, acidity-toned wines to the highly ripe Prädikat wines. The site and the yield are crucial to the quality. Spicy, peppery versions are preferred and so are versions yielding stone fruit notes. Grüner Veltliner is capable of producing very fine, full-bodied wines well capable of ageing. Until I was introduced to this wonderful wine by Larry at Hahndorf Hill Winery and in an instant I was hooked.

Having been unable to source healthy Grüner plant material in Australia, HHW (Hahndorf Hill Winery) in 2006 was able to import three different clones directly from Austria, which all passed successfully through the quarantine system. Then in 2009 they imported a further three clones again from Austria, making a total of six clones of Grüner that were planted in their vineyard.

In 2010 they released their debut vintage, which they affectionately named GRU. This was the first production of Grüner Veltliner in South Australia (and the second within Australia, the first being Lark Hill, a year earlier, in the Canberra wine region).

In addition, the HHW GRU Grüner Veltliner 2015 was selected to represent Australia at the prestigious Six Nations Wine Challenge 2016, where it was (not surprisingly) awarded a Double Gold Medal.

At Hahndorf Hill Winery they now produce four different styles of Grüner Veltliner - a classic style, GRU Grüner Veltliner; a more fruit-driven style, White Mischief Grüner Veltliner; their reserve style, GRU2 Grüner Veltliner and soon (maybe already) will be releasing a late harvest style called Green Angel.

Winemakers like to tell you that their wines go with everything but in the case of HHW Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s (Adelaide Hills soon) best known white wine, it’s true. Short of Sunday roasts and large juicy steaks you can match it with practically anything. At first glimpse, that umlauted ü in Grüner may give off a tongue-twisting impression. But the name is actually simple to pronounce, it's "Grew-ner Velt-leen-er". Really, if Pinot Grigio and Cabernet Sauvignon easily fly off the tongue, then certainly Grüner Veltliner will. Or just join us and call it Grüner.

This wine has a lovely fresh aromatic citrus quality on the nose that carries to the palate with a mouth filling citrus and stone fruit combination. With the almost perfect amount of acid that makes your mouth water and beg you to drink some more. Before you know it the bottle is empty. What a lovely wine that at *** earns an 8+ on the scale.

As I mentioned early in the piece, I look forward every year to tasting the latest from Hahndorf Hill Winery and the Grüner is a major reason. Ok, and the great staff that also provide a wonderful tasting as well as the ever amazing Chocovino experience that are really icing on the cake.

Happy Wine Adventures,