Mar 31, 2012

Do yourself a favor and Just go taste!

Wine tasting is fun! No really, its a great way to hang with friends and enjoy the adventure that is finding new wines for the next event or dinner party. Its also the best way we know of finding wines you did not know you enjoyed.

So our suggestion is to taste whatever and whenever you can. Don't get too focused on varieties, because they taste very differently in different regions and under the guidance of different winemakers. And don't start looking for "typical", because that's just a measure of how much something corresponds to your preconceptions. Just taste and enjoy the experience. Taste anything that the tasting room is pouring.

Region sometimes makes much more difference than variety, and producer will sometimes trump both. Dont fall into the trap of 'I don't like Zin or I don't like Petite Sirah. You never know until you have tasted.

It's not that we're wino ponces, but we have spent a countless number of vacations, weekends, day trips, overnighters and afternoons in various wine-producing regions of California and the world sipping and slurping. Not only do we both consume a variety and quantity of different wines, we talk about them, read about them, and try to understand them. Ok, mostly we drink and talk but we do it a fair bit. One thing we have discovered over the years is that a good wine is a good wine no matter where from or what varietal it is.
 One or both of us have been to;
  • Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, including the Russian River Valley.
  • Central Coast of California from Santa Cruz to Santa Barbara and all regions in between.
  • California Central Valley.
  • Wine regions of South Australia and Victoria.
  • Wine regions of New Zealand (north and south Island).
  • Italy
  • While we have not been to WA, NSW, France, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Ukraine, South Africa or South America  :(  we are still waiting for the business-trip fairy to bless us with the right occasion (one coming soon?).  But we regularly sample wine from all these regions in preparation for those trips in the name of research!
So speaking of research, head on out into the wine world and taste some strange and new wines, as well as some of the regular ones and of course some of your favorites and just enjoy the Adventure!
You never know what wonderful wine some tasting room may have waiting for you that may blow your socks off along the way. Don't miss out on what could possibly be your next new favorite!

Happy Adventures,

Mar 20, 2012

Koala goes walkabout!

Just recently Koala was wandering the Central Coast of California and decided that while out and about that he would take the opportunity to look for a few likely candidates for a future tasting adventure with Kiwi. Which Central Coast you ask? Well the one encompassing San Luis Obispo and surrounds. This often overlooked wine region is comprised of three viticulture areas: the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley and Avila Valley. This excursion was specific to the Edna Valley. Looking around you see small, mostly family-owned wineries hand-crafting primarily Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but also Syrah, Grenache, Viognier, Zinfandel and more. There are also some larger producers who make some noteworthy wine as well.

Koala has tasted in this area in the past, and as best as his memory can be recollected, quite enjoyed some of the wines. The area is a visual delight and some of the tasting rooms are very cute. There is also a distinct pride in the region and what they are trying to produce from it. From the proud history of the first vines planted in the area about 40years ago at the Chamisal Vineyards. To the small family owned Kynsi that enlisted the services of barn owls to recover the area from a plague of gophers and on to the big promotion of SIP certified and state of the art solar powered Tolosa. The wines tasted from this region have some unique characteristics and are well worth exploring (note to us, lets go).
We’ll be heading back for an adventure of epic proportions to give you the inside scoop on some of these wineries. With a little bit of schmoozing we hope to get some inside info into the goings on in the vineyards and the winemaking process that set some of these wineries apart from the crowd.

   Kiwi and Koala

Mar 15, 2012

Cap, Cork or Glass Closures? You Choose!

So recently while selecting something untried to drink, an Italian Sangiovese it was, with the point being to try to expand our drinking selections. When the bottle arrived I exclaimed “oh! It has a screw cap” (ok brilliant observation, right). At this moment Kiwi says “I wasn't aware you were a closure snob”. Well as it turns out I am only a little bit of a closure snob because I do generally prefer the natural cork (hopeless romantic) over any other means of sealing wine into a wine bottle, although screw caps can be so darned convenient. To prove a point, just the other night I had by choice, a Justin Vineyards bottle of Orphan which has a screw cap, with no hesitation or trepidation. If that is not enough proof, I am also very fond of Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet / Shiraz, which is also sporting a screw cap (as do a bunch of my favorite Aussie and Kiwi wines), so there!
But all this leads us to the question at hand, “what is the best closure for wine?” This has been an ongoing industry and consumer discussion for a while and we don’t think it will be solved during this discussion or anytime soon, as it has a number of complexities, most of which only science and the market will settle, but here are some of our ideas (oh come on you didn't think we were going to leave without giving you our two bobs worth did you?).
Look here are some simple thoughts (don’t go there). The natural cork has history and it gives ceremony to the opening of a bottle of wine. It makes you wait just a little longer giving you time to think and anticipate the coming delight. Cork is a natural, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material that is generally obtained through an environmentally friendly harvesting process where the trees are not cut down to harvest cork, rather the bark is hand harvested every nine years. Cork oak trees can live up to 200 years. Totally sustainable! It also comes with a 1% (That's a cork industry percentage) possibility that it could ruin a good bottle of wine. We have been told by those in the wine industry and with some personal experience that it is probably closer to 3-5% and we would mostly agree with that but think it could be as high as 5-8%. The cork grade quality has a huge influence on this number.  
Now the same opening scenario can be said for the synthetic cork except it is made from petrochemicals, is generally not biodegradable and historically rarely recycled. They are not sourced from a sustainable product. The long term seal of the artificial corks has also historically been poor, so long term aging is potentially perilous. The current versions have evolved to a point where the seal issue seems to be no longer a problem. One of the leaders in the synthetic cork manufacturers is Nomacork. They seem to be on to something. They have improved the manufacturing process whereby 100% of the waste is recycled in one way or another and a variety of other manufacturing advances that improve not only the closure performance but also its use of water and raw materials. With the newer processes a wine maker can even pick their own amount of O2 transmission.
Now screw caps are very convenient. You don’t need any special tools to open, and they are not susceptible to tainting the wine. The latest testing indicates it’s also the most stable capping method for the consistent maturing of wine although very very slow. Now there are some options for the screw cap closure that do have a slight influence over the wines ageing process. This may or may not be of much importance as winemakers disagree on the importance of O2 transmission through closures. But Screw caps are not made from a sustainable product either and they are not biodegradable. They do have an advantage of generally being a little less expensive. They are also being made from recycled aluminium.

Now one of the newer kid's on the block (2002) is making some waves. PROCORK, having all the advantages of cork with out the issues according to the literature and according to those who have adopted it. The first production was done in 2002 in the Yarra Valley on the edge of Melbourne, Victoria Australia and was then shifted to Barossa Valley and even Coonawarra South Australia. The sales pitch is all about a thin 5 layer membrane technology. Applied to cork it prevents cork taint, TCA and other taint compounds from entering the wine. This 5 layer coating is claimed to allow the optimum amount of oxygen into the wine, so that the wine can develop in a consistent, natural way. There are a lot of top notch folks who have adopted this closure giving it a growing foothold in the industry.

One of the newest kid's on the block is the new Alcoa Vino-Seal glass closure. With a design similar to a decorative decanter stopper, Vino-Seal was developed as an alternative to traditional wine stoppers. Vino-Seal or Vino-lok uses an inert o-ring to provide a sterile seal as its way of preventing contamination or oxidation and it is recyclable.
In a one-year independent test recently conducted by scientists and wine experts from the prestigious Geisenheim Institute for Applied Enological Sciences and the Oppenheim/Rheinhessen State Teaching and Testing Institute indicates that Alcoa CSI's Vino-Lok closure system meets parameters for technical as well as taste performance compared to traditional wine closures.

We will see how this shapes up over time.
So what is the decision? Well that's a good question that as it turns out really as best we can tell has no clear winner. Even the quality of the bottle can affect the seal of the closure just to add another risk to the seal. What we did find is that everyone has an opinion, and that the science is mostly science and does not quantify the positive effects on the wine only O2 transmission or specific chemical problems like taint. 

We have not experienced the Vino-Lok yet, we haven't been fans of plastic corks in the past but more recent experiences have been fine. We do tend to favor natural, and coated corks, but our buying and drinking habits are not affected if its a  reconstructed cork or screw cap. Unless we are are derailed by a tainted cork we don't much care, even when it’s a surprise!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala
No  you  shut  it,  no  you  shut  it,  no  you  shut  it!

Mar 12, 2012

Carmel Valley Adventures Joyce Vineyards.

Situated in a store front adjacent to a couple other tasting rooms (we’ll get to them soon enough) Joyce Vineyards tasting room has a friendly atmosphere and a fairly roomy tasting bar with an open feel. There are two distinct tasting offerings, The Premium Carmel Valley Estate Wines and the Premium Monterey County Wines. While there is a distinct price point difference between the two don’t make the mistake of assuming one is better than the other. They are different but both have strong pedigrees.  The first taste for the drinking duo was the 2010 Carmel Valley Joyce Vineyard Pinot Noir. A delightful bright, light and elegant Pinot Noir. It made both of us stop and savor!  What you say, Kiwi and Koala stop and savour! Those two usually go at it like two drought stricken Galahs at a billabong! But no you read it right, we savoured it!

Mostly all 6+ and *** for the Carmel Valley and 6+ and **** for Monterey County Wines with both having a 7 or two among them. Talking with Russell Joyce it was apparent that they put a lot of science into their wines but more importantly there is also art and soul! We have some disagreement as to whether it should be heart and soul, art and soul or art, heart and soul but never the less both Kiwi and Koala enjoyed the wine on offer at Joyce and would recommend this as a must try for Carmel Valley!

Tell Russell Kiwi and Koala said, you beauty!

Kiwi & Koala

Mar 10, 2012

Carmel Valley Adventures Georis.

 On what was an amazingly beautiful Californian winter day of 70deg the Georis tasting area is a must stop. For the pure pleasure of being able to sit outside and enjoy the afore mentioned amazing day. Located in beautiful Carmel Valley in Monterey County it is hard to be in a better location. There’s a bird cage full of Budgies and other small cockatiels. There’s umbrellas with Tibetan Prayer Flags all in a lovely garden setting with small water features. The two choices are in flights and are the basis for your wine tasting experience. The first choice is a mix of whites and reds with the second being all reds. A plate of engaging cheeses and breads is also included. The choice to order some pizza and other foods is also on offer. (the staff forgot to get ours started). Sitting there enjoying the day with friends and loved one's in such a great setting drinking wine is hard to beat.

A very nice experience in a beautiful environment with good wines, all 5 plus and good value at *** and ****, but Georis really is a must stop on a nice day just because it is so pleasant and is such a great setting.

So pick a warm sunny day and go enjoy Georis, we 'recommend' you do! Hope you get your pizza, they looked good.
Happy Tasting,

Kiwi & Koala

Mar 9, 2012

Carmel Valley Adventures at Taste Morgan

The Taste Morgan Tasting room was our stop. Located in the Crossroads Shopping Center it seemed like a reasonable place to gather and create a starting point for a day in Carmel Valley. It’s situated in the shopping center in a nice little store front and or only $5 you get to indulge in 5 selections of what they have opened that day. The tasting bar is large enough for about six people or eight if your all on a fist name basis (or would like to be). There is also a couch and a couple of chairs in a group for a more relaxed casual taste while you wonder what the minions are up to. There is also some nice cork screws (no, reeeeally nice) for sale along with a collection of other wine related and brand name items. But enough with the bla bla bla and on to the reason for the visit, the wine!

Their estate vineyards have definite credentials as do their source vineyards. This shows in their wines, mostly Chardonnays and Pinot Noir’s, they all present themselves nicely with 5-7’s and ***. The only fly in the mix was a mix of Port Varietals that although started with promise on the nose fell flat on the pallets of our tasting dynamic duo.
Morgan vineyards have the politically correct and tree hugger adored, organic certification but more importantly, (at least to Koala) was the sustainable designation of their vineyards. A nice place to start a trip down the Carmel Valley and a worthy first taste. Tell em WineWalkabout said “g’day”.

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Mar 8, 2012

Cellar Doors and the like.

So as you wonder about the options for tasting new wines and where to go, the more you think about it the more possibilities there are. There are more places to taste or drink wine than you can shake a stick at! Some may be a little ordinary, but may lead you to that next favorite wine. Some places may seem less than enticing and some are overwhelming or amazing but you never know what may come to pass, so never fear because the crew at WineWalkabout are flat out like a lizard drinking, doing your dirty work and trying them all. You can just relax and follow our adventures and gather from them what you will.

So here is a list of some of the places where we have consumed in the past and where we will be consuming in the future.

Cellar Door's; Tasting Room's; Wineries; Barrel rooms; Vineyards; Wine Tasting / Bars; Restaurants; Events; Wine Maker dinners; Wine seminars; Wine Festivals; Airplane hangars; Industrial Sheds; House’s; Decks; In the Desert; At the yacht club; At the beach; On a lake; By a lake............ Ok as we have discovered the list is brain distressingly long so this will do it. You get the idea. We will be doing it all and over time and with each visit, give you the scoop!


Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala