Jan 27, 2012

Vineyard and wine facts!

As wise and knowledgeable and all knowing as we are, about, well about stuff ,including the wine industry, occasionally some smart rear end will catch us off guard with a useless question about quantities of grapes per Salmanazar or some such nonsense. So to avoid the inevitable, of getting into an awkward dressing down of said smart rear end, we decided to put pen to paper, er well, finger tip to keyboard, and get the stupid questions out of the way. Now all we have to do is respond to said stupid questions with, “What! You didn’t read our blog?” and all is answered.

Vines need about 3 years to start producing and about 5 years to be mature. Different varietals mature and produce at different rates. The following are approximations for Cabernet Sauvignon using a 5’x8’ spacing in the vineyards of the Napa region.

How many tons of grapes per acre? Valley: 4 tons – Mountains: 2.5 tons
How many pounds of grapes per acre? Valley: 8,000 lbs – Mountains: 5,550 lbs
How many pounds of grapes per vine? Valley: 7.3 lbs – Mountains: 5.0 lbs
How many pounds of grapes in a bottle? 2.5 lbs
How many bottles of wine per vine? Valley: 3 bottles – Mountains: 2 bottles
How many gallons of wine in a standard barrel? 59 gallons (always stuff in the bottom that you don’t want)
How many cases of wine in a barrel? 21 cases
How many cases of finished wine in a ton of grapes? 60 cases
How many bottles of wine in a ton of grapes? 720 bottles (we know our math skills are amazing)

How much does an oak barrel cost?

French $500-$1500

American $300-$700

Hungarian $400-$900

Customizations can increase these costs

How big can a wine bottle get?
Capacity (Liters) followed by the number of standard size bottles contained:
Standard (.75) 1
Magnum (1.5) 2
Jeroboam (3) 4
Rehoboam (4.5) 6
Methuselah (6) 8
Salmanazar (9) 12
Balthazar (12) 16
Nebuchadnezzar (15) 20
After all this talk about numbers, the real question (not the stupid one) is– do we you like the wine? No matter how many tons, pounds, clusters, barrels or gallons it takes it’s all about whether or not it’s any good! So enough with the math questions.........



Kiwi & Koala
Oh by the way, just so you know, the censor would not let us use the term, smart ass, and made us use ‘smart rear end’ instead of the more common term smart ass. Can you believe that, they wouldn't let us use smart ass?

Jan 21, 2012

Tasting Tip! Color or Colour, as it’s spelt in English.

Drinking wine is easy, fill up the glass and chug it down, wow feel the rush! Now that’s one way to consume wine but it’s not really in the spirit of things! If your pounding the plonk (rapidly consuming wine), whether you knock it back or sip and swirl, all things being equal and the same quantity consumed, the end result is the same right? Right, so look, if you want to get more knowledgeable about wine and therefore potentially enjoy it more; make getting to know it a more conscious choice.

So that being said, it’s not necessary to crawl in a gunny sack and jump in the deep end. Periodically we will be posting a tasting tip. If you miss any tips don’t spit the dummy, just search 'Tasting Tips" on the Blog Post Archive. Nothing too poncy, just some basic stuff so you can understand what the wankers are on about.

So let’s get to it! Visual observation is pretty much the first thing you should do; Fill the glass about one-third full and hold the glass by the stem as this limits the influence of heat from your hand warming the wine. Now concentrate on the color, intensity and clarity. Each requires a different way of looking at the wine in the glass. The true color of the wine is best judged by tilting the glass and looking at the wine through the rim, to see the variation from the deepest part of the liquid to its edges. Intensity can best be gauged by looking straight down through the wine from above. Clarity or whether the wine is brilliant, or cloudy with flotsam, is most evident when light is shining sideways through the glass.

Color: Color gives clues to a wines character. Wines based on Cabernet tend to show darker colors, looking toward purple, instead of the ruby tones associated with Pinot Noir. 

Intensity: Intensity relates to appearance. When evaluating appearance, intensity describes the concentration of color. The more concentrated and opaque a wine's color the higher its intensity. Common descriptors for color intensity are pale, medium or dark.

Clarity: Referring to the amount of suspended particulate matter in a wine, clarity is described in terms of the wines reflective quality; brilliant, clear, dull or hazy. An obvious or pronounced haziness may signify spoilage, while brilliant or clear wines are generally sound.

Pick up a few clues like this and you will be poncing it up with your wanker mates in no time.

Never forget that tasting wine is supposed to be fun.

Now that’s a tip!



Kiwi & Koala

Jan 15, 2012

Wine Tasting Etiquette / Oh behave!

We can attest to the fact that a great tasting room experience can make mediocre wine much better and that conversely a poor experience can make good wines not very appealing. Most tasting room staff are fun, congenial, and ready to serve and afford you a good tasting experience. Just as you have expectations of attractive, er we mean competent tasting room staff it is probably fair for them not to deal with Wally wanker, his cork dork mate or just as bad the know it all wine ponce!
You are out and about to taste and experience their wine, not to educate them. Taste and enjoy, or not, but be polite. Telling stories of other places you have been with the best wine in the world is also not cool. For the enjoyment of all keep your most fascinating facts to yourself and try to just enjoy the different tastes, people and places.
There is also the plan for the day. Making some plans and preparing, can make a huge difference in the outcome of the day. Plan your winery route. Three to four wineries are about all that should be attempted. That way you can take the time to enjoy the experience and take in the views. A designated driver is just mandatory. Eat something before you go. Koala recommends Vegemite sandwiches, as it has all that vitamin B. Take a stock of bottled water and make sure you drink one between every tasting room. One to two ounces of water for every ounce of wine is optimum. Just make sure you take the bathroom situation into consideration. In other words go before you get in the car kids! 
Packing a picnic lunch is also a great way to sit and enjoy some of the great views and picnic areas that a lot of wineries have. The other option is to plan a lunch along the way at some interesting local eatery. A lot of wineries now serve food so check that out as well.
Please don’t wear heavy perfume or cologne as one of the primary senses is smell and it will affect everyone, including your own tasting experience.  Smelling Paris Hilton every time you put the glass to your nose is no way to go. In addition and along similar lines guy's don't were tank tops! We know you just want to impress the ladies with you're guns but having you're hairy pit's exposed every time you raise your glass is a definite down grade of the tasting experience. Hate to have to explain why someones pit caught fire again.
Take along a cooler or Styrofoam container to put your wine purchases in as you don’t want to cook your valuable treasures before you get home. Even wrapping your bottles up in the jackets you started with in the morning and don’t need in the arvo helps. If you find a wine you like purchase it, and if you get great service, let the winery know about it.

Oh and by the way quit whinging about tasting fee's. Look if the bottle's you're tasting run $25 - $45 by the time you've had half a dozen tastes you have consumed about a third of a bottle or so. Look do the math if a business is to continue to stay in business covering costs on the lead item (tasting) is a good idea. Most times it runs at a bit of a loss but that is where most places offer the buy a bottle or two and wave the fee. So if you like one or think a friend would like one or even sometimes its just a great looking label. Buy some!

One of the most overlooked facts of tasting is that the dump bucket can be your friend. No not in the 'Sideways' drink out of it kind of way (Koala just threw up a little in his mouth). Even good wine may not be to your liking, and as such it is perfectly kosher to dump what’s left in your glass into the bucket. This will allow you to be ready for the next wine and also help keep the over consumption at bay.

At the end of the day just remember that the tasting room staff have been dealing with wanker's and ponce's all day and you may not be as funny as you think (unlike us). Kiwi recommends that if one of your party has over consumed and is sharing too much with strangers, take that as a sign to dump them back at the hotel or call it a day! At the very least take a break and have something to eat and relax a while. The goal is to go taste wine to discover your next favourite or a least some wine for a dinner or event (dinner at home even) and buy some, not just to get pissed.
So don't be afraid because with a bit of planning and some common sense a good day of tasting is on!

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Jan 11, 2012

Big or Small, does size matter?

We have had this discussion a number of times while consuming copious amounts of wine (not all at once, the conversation that is). Where are the best tastings to be experienced. Is it from major corporate wineries or husband and wife wineries, millions of cases to hundreds of case?. What makes for the best wine tasting experience? Do you go to a large winery or a small winery? Wineries come in all shapes and sizes, and while many feel its all about the small wineries, we recon you can't fully experience wine tasting without stopping in at some of the big name wineries as well. Now not all big name wineries are owned by international corporations, some are just successful multi generational family wineries that have earned their size.

Take a tour through one of the big production wineries, try a wine and food pairing, maybe even indulge in a little caviar to go with your tasting. This is one of the areas that a large outfit can better cater to the lavish over the top kind of tasting because of their size. They have the resources to provide the Caviar and Champagne deam type of experience more readily than a small Mum and Dad size shop.You can of course take the time to uncover a small tasting room and meet the owner/winemaker and hear the stories of their struggles and celebrate their success. Both offer unique experiences and neither should be excluded. At least that's our belief! Although we both tend towards the more personalized experience that a smaller winery offers, we also appreciate the wonderful pampering and grandiose experience of the larger more opulent wineries as well.

We have visited both by choice and have a relatively even balance as it turns out. One thing to be aware of is that some of the cellar doors that look like small producers are actually producing tens of thousands of cases. Again this is not a condemnation or criticism, just a point that sometimes its often hard to tell the difference. Who knew?

Actually meeting and talking with the people who day in and day out have their hands on all aspects of a winery, offers some very in depth up close and often times humorous insights, into what goes into getting their wine to your glass. This is also a nice way to put some faces to your wine purchase and often then allows for the repeating of some of those insider stories with those you share your wine with, and appear more poncey, er we mean knowledgeable! It is also a way to connect at a more personal level that can become a long term place to get your wine from.

The flip side of the small winery is the grandiose palace that offers a luxury experience and makes one feel part of the 1%. Let's face it, its not that bad being catered to with fine wines and food with all the trappings of the rich and famous. As a bonus some of these places are visually stunning and offer beautiful buildings and landscapes to enjoy. Often times they have good or even great wine. Some of the best wine we have ever had come from this type of winery. The facility tours can be awe inspiring when you look at the amount invested in infrastructure and equipment, let alone the costs of all that new oak and then the value of the maturing wine.
The prices for all this decadence varies as much as the qualities of the experiences and it is all about what you feel is worth it. Also these adventures vary based on the day. Having had a magical experience at one ostentatious tasting room one New Years day a couple of years ago Koala took Kiwi and some friends back a few months later and was a bit disappointed. Paid for the more expensive experience and receiving something less enjoyable. Just goes to show that even those with elevated social status such as us, swing and miss occasionally and why recommendations are just that. No guaranties!

So whether you want a large winery experience or a small intimate one is up to you. Mostly the experience comes down to the people you interact with, so whether it's big or small may not matter. We are going to try to balance the places we go and experience all the wine world has to offer and to give everyone something to follow.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Jan 9, 2012

Paso Robles 46 East (mostly)

Its Winter and the sun is shining and the birds are singing and, well, today (Saturday) is the day we visit Paso Robles and check out a few large style tasting rooms and give them the once over. So we know, you want to know, why we picked the wineries we did. It was a very scientific and deeply thought out approach. Koala spit out names and Kiwi said no, yes, no, yes, yes, and we will see how it goes.
We decided to start at Vina Robles because it was on the right side of the road and the first one we came to as we headed out on Hwy 46 East. The facility is quite large and a bit intimidating and although there is plenty of parking it’s a bit of a walk into the tasting room. But take your time and enjoy the short stroll and appreciate the view as it is very nice. As you enter the facility it is large and spacious gift shop and specialty wine related food area. Moving thru to the tasting area it is also very open with very high ceilings and lots of room although the tasting bar is not large and is a bit dwarfed in the large space. We were greeted warmly by Anna and told of our tasting options, a standard $5 and a Reserve $10 with an optional Artisan Cheese pairing for an additional $5. We chose the Reserve, passed on the cheese, and got to it.
There were six offerings starting with the 2008 Creston Valley Petit Sirah. We did not particularly care for this one mostly because as the tasting note said “lingering chalky tannins on the finish” so for us a 5 with ***.
Next was the 2008 Signature, 83% Petit Verdot, 15% Petit Sirah, 2% Cabernet Sauvignon. A step up for the better with a medium bodied wine that had good balance and nice finish. A 6 for us with ***. There was also a young lady wandering around with slices of 1/4" thick cut Harris Ranch Beef with some horseradish sauce on bruschetta style bread. Yum! Nice surprise and very  very good.
The 2008 Suendero with 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Petit Verdot was again a step up. A elegant wine with bright fruit and soft long finish. This was a 7 with ***. Anna our tasting assistant was quite knowledgeable about the various estate vineyards and regions the grapes were sourced from and had some interesting facts about the winery and is operations.
So next up was the 2007 Syrée with 79% Syrah, 21% Petite Sirah. This was a nice full bodied wine with ripe dark fruit a full mouth feel and an earthy under tone with a smooth finish. We both felt this was a solid 7 with ***.
The 2007 Syrah Ryan Road is 100% Syrah and we both thought it was to be our favorite. A good example of a Paso Robles full bodied ripe dark fruit Syrah with good tannin structure and a long finish. We both agreed it was a solid 7 with ***.
The final taste was the 2007 FORE Petite Sirah 100% Petite Sirah. Wonderful intense ripe dark fruit with some peppery spice nicely balanced to have a great mouth feel with nice acidity with a lovely finish that hangs on just long enough. Kiwi 7, Koala 8 with ***. This was Koalas favorite and so a bottle was purchased and Kiwi violated the wife rule of one bottle per winery and purchased one also but then added a bottle of 2007 Syrah Ryan Road.
Our overall impression of Vina Robles is; a must stop in if you’re in the area to try for yourself. Don't forget to tell them Kiwi and Koala sent you! This winery makes some very good boutique style wines that are well priced and very enjoyable. The tasting experience is complemented by the staff who were friendly and knowledgeable enough for all but a ponce (probably had someone there that could handle those one of those as well) The only thing we taught them was what the derivation of the word FORE in golf was. 
Next up was the former Meridian a little further out on 46 East which is now called Cellar360 since the reorganisation of the Fosters Group. Also a bit of a hike to the tasting room. We took the opportunity to picnic in the lovely gardens. A nice setting that left us eager to taste the limited release Black Label wines from Meridian that we had heard of as reasonably good wine at very good prices. However under the newly structured operation that is Cellar360 that choice was limited. The tastings, standard and premium were a mix of options that appeared to be randomly selected. With a choice of  two sets of 5 shovels and being told to take a pick we were a bit, well confused. The tasting room staff tried to help but also seemed to struggle to covince us of what option to take. 20 wineries and 50 wine brands makes up Treasury Wine Estates (only some of which are available in the tasting room) of which Cellar 360 is a part of. The tasting was disapointing and well, just not worth really going into. As Kiwi so eloquently put it the experience was like a Dickens novel “Great Expectations”. Or as Koala put it less eloquently "an underwhelming tasting experience". Nothing over a 4 for us here.        Nuf said, moving on!
So further out on 46 East we went to one of the more iconic tasting rooms in the area Tobin James Cellars. It has quite the reputation for being an energetic cowboy bar with a nonstop party atmosphere and pretty good wine for tasting! The reputation is relatively accurate. We walked in and the place was jumping. With one long standard bar a rectangular tasting bar that is serving all the way around and a three sided bar, a lot of people can be taken care of at any one time. We found a spot open at the three sided bar and the tasting staff girl was quick to get us set up and started on our first taste. There is an extensive list to taste from with Pinot Noir, Malbec and Barbera to Zinfandel, Cabernet, Syrah and some blends.
The girls were quick to give us a taste of what they thought we would like based on our comments from the last taste. What can we say we had a great time and most all the wine is quite good (5-7) and nearly all is *** priced. We enjoyed the 2007 Dusi Zinfandel and Kiwi opened bottle at home later in the week, a good drop (7)! We would like to give you a taste by taste account, but the account got, er shall we say corrupted!
Look if you’re in the area and are up for a good time and would like a taste of some good wines then stop by and enjoy one of Paso Robles good ole boy wineries. The Tobin James winery is a guaranteed fun time with some good wine. This is a must visit.
We need a more disciplined approach next time!

At this time Kiwi and Koala had completed their mission for the day and the girls were asked what they would like to do. So a drive to the west side (46 west) to the top of the mountains for some beautiful views of Morro Rock and the ocean ensued. It was mentioned at this time that there was some nice winery in the area that they would like to see. As it turns out what we were looking for is in Napa! But by chance we found a great little gem, Epoch. Apparently it was their one year anniversary and tasting was free! Sweeeet! It was small and lively and reminded Kiwi of tasting rooms at home with a very modern contemporary feel with views of rolling hills, although no sheep, but they did have a shag rug by the fire (could hardly keep him off it). We were quickly welcomed in and the tasting staff were attentive and friendly and could speak to the wines quite well. At one point in time one of the tasting girls went out to the door to welcome in a couple that were frozen by the door looking for an open spot at the bar. She brought them in found a spot and they were off. Thumbs up from Kiwi and Koala for a job well done young lady tasting room person! We also had the pleasure of hearing some of the history from Jenna and discovered what an amazing heritage this winery has taken in and how proud
they are of it. An interesting and intriguing story. We are looking forward to following their progress and tasting the upcoming releases of wines. Oh yea, you want to know how the wine was. Well good. Since it was a bit late in the day and we had had a Tobin experience just prior it would probably not be fair to get too detailed. So that being said we all had a great tasting room experience with good wines and great service and we both purchased wine. An energetic tasting room with lots of great help behind the bar. A bit off the main road but well worth a visit. We will be back though because we believe this is worth a proper look, er taste.

As we headed home we decided to stop for dinner and as we came into Paso Robles we pulled up at Buona Tavola and thought why not! Great choice, and although we were early we were welcomed in and seated. We engaged the staff in a wine discussion and took their suggestion and had a nice Super Tuscan to go with dinner. The appetizer plate of three different types of Allesina Salamis and prosciutto with cheeses and dips was fantastic, as was the artisan breads and the olivata spread.
Two orders of the prosciutto wrappe Fillet Migion special, a salmon and a pumpkin tortellini were consumed. The food tasted excellent, was well presented and delivered in a timely manner. A Crema Di Vaniglia Della Buona Tavola desert with extra spoons, a Cappuccino and a Limoncello finished of a great meal. We will be back to eat here again that’s for sure!

So that was our day! Kiwi and Koala would like to thank their better halves for putting up with their wanker behavior, their tosser comments to the tasting staff, and their poncey attitudes.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Jan 6, 2012

New Years dinner with Bistro Moulin

We have had some requests to rate our dining and wining (food and wine) experience on New Years Eve.
Sounds great, lets do it we thought! Then as we actually thought about it there were some serious gaps in our recollection as well as some forgotten information that would be pertinent for those with enquiring minds. So as we struggled to reconstruct our evening we decided it may be better to just give an overview on this one (note to selves, take notes, steal special menu's and take pictures of all wine bottles). We started the evening at the house of our hosts and sipped on a couple bottles of Champagne (no idea what it was but it was good) before heading out to the restaurant.

So we apologise to Bistro Moulin if we forget to compliment you on something because we had hard drive failure of the head.
There was a group of 7 that much we are sure of. There was 3 regular bottles and one magnum of wine consumed at dinner, again consensus of memories. We had the early seating 6pm (for future reference book early if you want the later seating 8 or so we think) although due to some confusion that was tied to potential other New Years Eve restaurant choices we arrived for our 6:30pm seating (oops) but were treated as if we weren't wankers.

The menu was a fixed four course with 3 or 4 choices per course. Collectively the group were just as much food wankers as wine wankers, so to manage to please us all was quite impressive. Not only that the food was all very much enjoyed. At least as far as we can remember. The restaurant is small and cosy and has a nice friendly feel and the staff were attentive, pleasant and on the ball even if we were not. To quote someone who summed it up nicely "Lovely, warm, cozy French Bistro, with welcoming hosts."
As far as our wine, it was very good (it should be since we brought it with us). We started with a 2001 Justin Isocoles Magnum. Well balanced soft and yummy. The 2001 has reached its peak, we think, so drink what you have now. If you need help just call!
Next up was a young to the palate 2005 Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel. Although it was quite good it definitely needs more time in the cellar as it seemed somewhat harsh in comparison. Given extra time and attention in the glass helped a lot. Being a thirsty bunch it was on to the next bottle, a lovely gem from Del Dotto, a 2008 Rutherford Estate Cabernet from Napa Valley. This wine was full with flavors of dark fruit and a lovely balanced finish. Thoroughly enjoyable wine! We then finished off with a wonderful surprise from down under from Yalumba in the Barossa Valley. Harold Obst - The Signature 2004. This wine was a Cabernet and Shiraz blend that was deep and intense but was very very drinkable. Lovely Cabernet fruit with some intensity provided by the Shiraz all blended together in a well balanced yet powerful wine (swirled not shaken). A great way to end our dinner.
As a note the staff changed our glassware each time they opened a new bottle. Not a common thing but it should be. Two thumbs up (or maybe should be seven). We would 'recommend' you stop by and enjoy the offerings of Bistro Moulin and tell em we sent you!

Back to the house to continue with some more good wine and some dessert. First up was a couple of bottles of 1998 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateauneuf du Pape. Now given the amount of wine consumed to this point our judgement may be a bit sus, but this was exceptionally good wine, we're pretty sure, yea, no. Look we really did enjoy it and as we have had it before and thoroughly enjoyed it we are sure we are right! There was another Tablas Creek but do not remember what and a Spanish wine Torro or something. We will have to get back to you on those!

So there you have it! New Years in a nut shell, or an empty wine bottle!

Happy Wine Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Jan 1, 2012

2012 The beginning

As the sun set on 2011 we know we, like many of you, can’t believe the New Year is here.
Monterey Bay Dec 31st 2011

When the ball dropped or the fireworks ended or whatever the tradition is in your part of the world when the clock struck twelve on December 31st, people everywhere cheered and wished each other a Happy New Year. For some, this event was no more than a change of a calendar and an excuse to party. For others, the New Year symbolized the beginning of a better tomorrow and the chance to do this New Year better than the last.

What do you want to do this year? More to the point what do we want to do this year? Well we want to go to places we have not been and eat at restaurants we have not eaten at and drink great wines we have not had and tell you all what our adventures entailed. Along the way meet new friends and experience new tastes and create some great memories so that this time next year we will have a ton of stuff to reflect on!

So, if you look forward to a good year ahead, follow our adventures and spread happiness by sharing with your friends the wonderful and enlightening commentary of Kiwi and Koala.

New Year wishes to all. CHEERS!  Kiwi & Koala

New Years Eve 2011

Magnum of 2001 Justin Isosceles
1998 Chateau de Beaucastel, Chateeauneuf du Pape x 2
Tablas Creek 2005
Esprit de Beaucastel
Yalumba Harold Obst -
The Signature 2004

Del Dotto 2008 Rutherford Cabernet

The wines of New Years 2011 !

What a way to finish off the year!

Oh wait, there was more.........