Feb 29, 2012

A Quick visit to Napa

Kiwi (sans Koala) was invited to partake in a limousine ride from San Francisco to Napa over the weekend. Who could say "no" to that? The organizer’s goal was to travel to Napa, up Highway 29 to St. Helena and down Silverado Trail visiting six wineries. Even to Kiwi that seemed very ambitious! Kiwi is no Koala, but six is a lot for one day.

We had wanted to visit a couple of high end spots, but they were not available. Silver Oak had no openings (there were eight of us) and Shafer was closed on weekends - ??? Not to mention that if they were open the tasting fee was $45 each. A bit steep. So with no real plans Kiwi called Bell Winery in the Yountville AVA. to ask if they could accommodate us and that we would be there in the hour.

Kiwi has been a club member of this small boutique winery since 2004 and was reminded again of why. The service was outstanding, and the four year old facility was beautiful yet not ostentatious. The group got a private tasting of their best wines, all of which were a strong 6 to 7+ and *** to **on the Kiwi and Koala Scale. All loved the 2005 Clone 6 Cabernet (8, **), and two of the group joined their wine club.
This was the trip highlight and the reason we did not make six wineries!
A must on a Napa wine trip. Tell them Kiwi and Koala sent you.

So with two hours well spent on some fabulous wines, it was off to St Helena for lunch – burgers at Gott’s Roadside. Great burgers and the line to order was a testament to that. Kiwi was very satisfied by the jalapeno stuffed Texas Burger!

We were soon on our way to our next stop – Robert Keenan Winery  in the Spring Mountain District AVA. The road was a transmission killer for most, and almost for our limo. A windy trek up some 2,000 feet. The building was dark and cold, with no wine "energy",and a small tasting area, but the wines were good, just not great or memorable. Non-reserve can also be found in your local Safeway store if you are lucky. The general consensus was that the wines were tight and needed more time in the bottle (we were drinking current releases 2007 and 2008 reds) and/or decanting. Everyone was swirling their glasses to get to the full flavor hidden deep in the wine. Kiwi was unimpressed and thought that that if you are pouring $95 wine it should be ready to drink. There is so much potential here in the 2008 Mernet ( an interesting 50-50 Cab/Merlot blend) and the 2007 Cab reserve that I think we missed. Kiwi 6 but if you are patient possible 8’s.

Last stop Rutherford Hill Winery in the Rutherford AVA. Always a favorite and never disappoints. Lively atmosphere in the tasting room, with plenty of help and information available from the friendly, knowledgeable staff.
Again we were tasting reds only, and their Terlato family 2007 Bordeaux blends "Peaks" selection was excellent (6-7, ***). This includes "Devils Peak", "Angels Peak", and "Cardinals Peak".
Angels’ Peak follows the traditions and methods of the Pomerol region which is known for its fruit forward wines dominated by the Merlot grape. Devils’ Peak follows the traditions and methods of the St. Émilion region, which is dominated by Cabernet Franc, some Merlot and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. Cardinals’ Peak follows the traditions and methods of the Margaux region, which is comprised of a blend principally of Cabernet Sauvignon, with some Merlot. This wine is full-bodied and has the most structure and deepest color of all of the Peak wines. 6-7 and ***.
The 2006 Luke Donald Claret also did not disappoint (6+, ***), and Kiwi’s favorite of the day a 2007 Terlato Cabernet Sauvignon 7+, ***. A rich cab with intense fruit and staying power on the palate. Another recomended stop an tell em Kiwi and Koala said hi!

So three wineries and out. But that was plenty and we still had time (and functionality) to get back to San Francisco for dinner at Hillstone. A good yet pricy steakhouse on the embarcadero. They were  known for not having corkage fees, but that has changed. However, Kiwi thought the two free corkages we got for our party was pretty good, a $50 value. The Hawaiian rib eye (medium rare) was excellent, and the chef was good about substituting side dishes for many of us.

So if you find yourself in the Napa region, you can be overwhelmed by the choices, but don’t get caught up too much by the flashy corporate wineries. There are many good (and expensive) major players to be sure, and you should visit them, but also many more smaller, friendlier, and interesting wineries that are worth a taste.

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 22, 2012

Leftovers? What to do?

Someone asked the other day about what to do with an unconsumed half bottle of wine. Now this question really took us back, as neither Kiwi nor Koala has really had to deal with this problem (we have a tendency to complete the job once we start). Now from time to time we have helped out others as it turns out but we had to really think hard to remember when that was. But since this is an area in which we are a little short on experience, some research was in order to confirm what we thought we knew. So for those of you who have this issue read on!

First off, what we know is exposure to oxygen is what drives the process of a wine degrading. That being said you should at a minimum re-cork your bottle as soon as you’re done and put back in the wine fridge. Now you can also put it into a smaller container and fill it to the top and seal (little to no air). Again you should put into a cooler or cold environment as bacteria grow fast in warm a kitchen (70̊F) environment and hardly at all in the fridge. Even still after about 48 hours the wine will head downhill. At least regular wine of the 10-15% alcohol content will. The Ports etc will go at least two weeks or so.
There are also a number of gadgets and tricks to achieve the removal of air from the half empty bottle.  One such device is called a Rabbit (not that rabbit you deviants), which allows the user to easily pump out the air in the bottle creating a vacuum thereby extracting the nasty oxygen and preserving your wine for tomorrow. We have not found this to be very effective. A lot of commercial places use inert gas sprays to displace the air with nitrogen or argon. These odorless and tasteless gases do a good job of preserving the wine for a number of days and can be purchased at your favorite wine store. Some of the wine bar tasting facilities use a commercial system that never allows for the air to get to the wine by injecting the inert gas into the bottle and there by displacing the wine out into the dispenser and into your glass. Wines in this type of dispenser systems can last for 60days or more although the price point is not for the weak of wallet. You can buy a can of this and use it to help preserve your wine for a few more days.

Another solution is to invite those happy little Vegemites, Kiwi and Koala over, to help consume all your wine so there is no wine leftover to worry about!

So there is another insightful public service to help reduce your environmental impact (wasting of wine) courtesy of Kiwi and Koala!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

By the way, don’t use old wine (open for more than a few days) for cooking. Don’t cook with it, if you won’t drink it!

Feb 18, 2012

A Bottle with Valentines.

For those of you who read the adventure “Paso Robles 46 East(mostly)" you will be a bit familiar with Epoch Wines. As you may remember we were not in the best shape to make public judgments about the wine that afternoon and so we didn’t. However we did purchase some based on what we believed to be good value. So February 14 was Valentines Day and Koala was preparing his famous (or soon to be) rack of lamb for dinner. The biggest decision of the evening was what wine to go with this potentially amazing meal. The wine fridge stock has a price range from $12 -$280 with most in the $30-$100 range. There was a wrinkle in the process though, as the dinner was for three, with one not drinking and the other a discount shopper. What to do, as Koala wanted a nice wine to enjoy with his lamb but not wanting his guest to feel awkward with expensive wine (expensive is a personal perspective or budget).
While rummaging through his wine fridge he came upon a bottle of Epoch 2009 Estate Blend. Its comprised of 60% Syrah, 19% Grenache, 9% Tempranillo, 8% Zinfandel and 4% Mourvedre aged for 20mths in 38% new French Oak.  To quote the makers “The five different varieties form a cohesive, expressive wine with great texture.” Koala would agree and found it to be a great companion to his expertly prepared Rack of Lamb.
A 7 and as memory has it a **** purchase. Note to us “must go back to Epoch”. Road trip!

Happy Hallmark Days! Cheers,
   Kiwi and Koala

Feb 12, 2012

Beginner to Expert Tasting Tip!

Beginner to Expert is a bit of a stretch, more like blend with the crowd Wine Taster in a Matter of Hours the Kiwi and Koala way! This is a “learn from our mistakes lesson”.
When first going wine tasting you hear a lot of strange terms. When you get in deep you're bound to hear lingo to use when you're around other people who are into tasting. Everything we do has a vernacular that is somewhat unique to it. As far as wine is concerned, there is a very distinct lingo among wine ponces. If you don't have a sense of the wine lingo, you're going to feel really lost when you’re around other people who are obsessed with the stuff. Learn this lingo and the behavioral requirements so you don’t look or sound like a cork dork. Trust us, not knowing can sometimes be embarrassing.
For instance, when you drink something and it leaves a taste in your mouth, you call it an aftertaste. In wine circles, there are two terms to describe what you, used to define, using one: aftertaste and finish. The aftertaste is still the taste that remains when swallowing, but the finish is defined as the residual flavors and aroma of a wine on the palate after swallowing. You might not think there's much of a difference there, but there’s enough of a difference to warrant the existence of two terms. The general rule of thumb is, the longer the aftertaste lingers in the mouth (assuming it is a pleasant taste), the finer the quality of the wine. Hence the description; the aftertaste or "finish" is the most important factor in judging a wine's character and quality. Great wines have rich, long, complex aftertastes.

The ways of behaving at the tasting room are addressed in the following links; See

       Kiwi and Koala

Feb 7, 2012

A visit to Talbotts on River Road

We decided that while most folks here in America were preoccupied with some version of football we would sneak out and have a taste at some unsuspecting tasting room in central California along the River Road Wine Trail in the Santa Lucia Highlands. How would we select the lucky or maybe not so lucky establishment?
It was to be first on the right after the turn off. Just that simple and arbitrary. Who might that be, well the lucky Cellar door was TalbottVineyards. Originally known just for their Chardonnay (Specifically their signature Diamond T) they are now just as well known for their Pinot Noir. But really, should they be? Let’s find out!
As we slid into the parking lot we were determined to find out, was the reputation of quality really deserved or just a marketing masterpiece that had the Wine xyz magazines falling in line singing their praise. Lucky for you all, we at WineWalkabout are not yet famous enough to be recognized and as such, usually get what anyone would get, and that is what allows us to pass on what is most likely to happen to you, if you choose to go, where we have been. Or something like that.
So as it turns out there are two distinct tasting lists; the standard and the reserve. The price range is also distinctly different. But sometimes in life you get what you pay for. Simple as that; Good, better, best!

After being welcomed in to the tasting room and the tasting options clearly explained both of us decided on the premium tasting. Two Chardonnays and three Pinot Noirs.
First up the 2009 Diamond T Chardonnay. Made from grapes from the original Diamond T vineyard planted in 1982 on a mountaintop in Carmel Valley. A crisp clean wine with sharp apple notes with a subtle minerality and a balanced acidity. A 7+ and **(*** if you are wine club member). Next up the 2009 Cuvée Audrey. Soft yellow fruits with a nice subtle acidity, typical of a quality traditional Chardonnay. A solid 7 and **. Next it was on to the Pinot Noirs with first up the 2009 Diamond T Pinot Noir. A bright looking wine with rich color, light to medium body with nice cherry and plum notes with an easy finish. Solid 6 and **, ***with membership. This was followed up with 2008 Cuvée RFT, Pinot Noir. With nice bright color and a lovely full mouth feel and with notes of ripe dark fruit and spice and a soft well balanced finish. Solid 7 and **.  Last but not least was the 2009 Cuvée Sarah Case Pinot Noir. This wine is sourced from the Sleepy Hollow Vineyard and is the best of what this vineyard has to offer. A bright medium bodied wine with notes of cherry and plum, it has nice soft spice notes and a smooth balanced finish. A 7 and **.
Koala managed a sneak peek of the barrel and production facility which showed an efficiently used and spotlessly clean facility which may go some way to explain some of the well presented wines.

The young lady in the tasting room was knowledgeable enough to inform us of most things important about Talbotts history and current production information and articulate enough to keep our attention. We each purchased a bottle of the 2009 Diamond T Pinot Noir (VALUE- Kiwi was tempted to purchase the Cuvée RFT, but the price point was in favor of the Diamond T)) and a bottle of the 2009 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir(extra VALUE) which was later consumed whilst watching the aforementioned football game on DVR (so we could fast forward most of the game and watch the commercials) with bbq'd vegetarian polish sausage (you know, made with turkey).
So while we only uncovered what some may have expected, the wine xyz magazine editors can sleep well knowing that WineWalkabout's Kiwi and Koala validated their ratings.
So if you find yourselves in the River Road area looking for some wine to taste, we 'recommend' stop by Talbotts and tell them WineWalkabout sent you! Be sure to ask what the thing hanging over the back door is used for.



Kiwi & Koala

Feb 2, 2012

Sometimes it Happens. A series of fortunate events. Grey Wolf.

No, not what you’re thinking, stay with us here! I was performing some parental duties and in the process took the opportunity to catch up with an old friend as I was driving thru Paso Robles. A nice tasting while sitting in the sun sounded good. The weather was way too nice to miss this chance.  Sometimes we forget just how amazing winter weather in California can be, sunny and 70deg.
The chosen location? “Grey Wolf Cellars" This winery and tasting room is located on Highway 46 West, 2.5 miles off of Highway 101 in  Paso Robles, California. Family owned and operated, the winery facility and tasting room lie on approximately 12 acres of land overlooking rolling hills, pastures, and oak studded meadows, formerly known as Green Valley.”

As they caught up a little tasting was in order. The young lady was quick to get us setup and started with what we wanted off the list. First off a little “Roumours” Varietal: 50% Marsanne 50% Roussanne. A light fresh crisp wine with nice floral nose. Next up “The Dance” This savory, medium/full bodied Bordeaux blend is very interesting with good dark fruit and subtle oak notes. Last was “Innuendo” A Pinot Noir that is smooth and subtle with nice balance and easy drinking. This by the way is what they did. After the taste, two glasses of the Innuendo were purchased, and me and me m8 went outside and enjoyed the wine and conversation in the lovely picnic area with the calm company of a yellow lab and a small dog that probably had ‘C’ size batteries inside. There were two other wines for tasting on the list and all the wines but one were **** and the other was *** so all are great value and well worth the stop. We 'Recommend" it.

Happy Travel Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Grey Wolf. Stop by Grey Wolf and tell them Koala sent you and enjoy a tasting in a converted 60 year-old farmhouse or outside in the picnic area. Koala also purchased a bottle of Innuendo **** and a solid 6.