Apr 30, 2012

WineWalkabout at Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2012 the Trilogy!

Sunday morning arrived and I with my intrepid band of drinkers and foodies headed out to the Pebble Beach Food and Wine, Lexus Grand Tasting in Pebble Beach. Arriving a little early at Spanish Bay they caught the shuttle over to the event. Arriving a good 30 minutes early, our band found themselves at the end of a line of a couple hundred eager excited people waiting to get in. The event was close to a sellout, and probably with door sales, sold out or very close to it. A couple of minutes before the hour the crowd which had now grown to, well a lot, maybe 1,000-1500, were allowed to start entering.

The process was fairly well orchestrated and within minutes they found themselves being handed their very own engraved Pebble Beach Food and Wine glass as they entered the 66,000 sq ft tent. Entering the tent is a bit overwhelming as there are so many wine and food stops one could make. So like kids in a lolly shop, off we went, and while 3 hours seems like a lot of time, it’s not. I had done some homework and had a list of a half dozen wineries that were of interest. Not just for tasting but also just to say g’day. This is one of those events that spitting discretely is a skill that would serve one well. However having said that, and not having that skill, it is also a place full of people who you may not want to see with wine stains down your shirt. Small tastes, small tastes. Don’t taste anything that you already know, go for the new. That was the mantra.
 It was hard because there are so many familiar and great wines at this event. There are also hundreds of new ones to experience. There are also quite a few, who do not offer tasting of their wines other than at events like this. So that is a good reason to track them down for a taste or two. There were 300 wineries represented from all over the world as well as some premium beers, Vodka and Rum. The thirty or so Chief’s had all kinds of tasty nibbles to sample, and due to the fact there were so many of them, there was rarely much of a line to get yourself something good to chew on.
So I was off and flat out like a lizard drinking, trying to taste and explore as many wines as possible, while trying to stay focused on the mission and without ending up needing assistance. Look there were many good and great wines at the event, and in the near future we will be doing some up close and personal reviews of what they have to offer.

As this is being written, WineWalkabout is trying to arrange to visit some of these producers of fine wine and not only tell you about the wine they have on offer, but something about their vineyards, winemaking philosophy, and the people themselves. So stay tuned. (Teaser alert... Pisoni wines from Monterey County, Hunt Cellars from Paso Robles for starters)

While $200 seems like a chunk of change to taste some wine and have some snacks, fancy as they may be, but this truly is an amazing afternoon and worth the price of admission.

So mark your calendars and see you all there next year!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Apr 26, 2012

WineWalkabout do Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2012 part deux!

As Saturday morning rolls around we are OK with the fact that they are not planning on engaging in any drinking activities. This morning we are taking the girls and dropping them off to see “Cook like a rock star” with Anne Burrell. Having seen Guy Fieri last year I was sure they would enjoy the show. So like the attentive considerate gentlemen that they are they accompanied the girls to the event and waited in line with them. Acquiring them some water from the Fiji Water people and delivering delicious and tasty strawberry, blueberry and raspberry samples from the Driscols table while they waited. Come on everyone say “aww”. Yeah yeah, so at the scheduled time of the event start we were all still standing in line (having already been waiting for over 30 minutes). Now most events let you in about 5 minutes prior to start and by 5 after its go time. This event let them in 10 minutes after the scheduled start time, so a good 45 minute wait. Leaving the girls to enjoy the show we decided to enjoy a good size cup or many small cups, depending on availability, of coffee at the inn at Spanish Bay. Finding said good size cup they found a nice spot across from an open fire and quietly enjoyed their coffee while planning an adventure for when the girls came out of the show in approximately 30 minutes. It was shall we say an unexpected and disappointing surprise that the girls called 45 minutes after the scheduled start (remember they went in 10 minutes late) to say the show was done. Now while the girls were thrilled with the show and thoroughly enjoyed it, we were a little disappointed in that the event was less than half of the hour and fifteen minutes that was advertised and paid for. The other thing that’s a bit annoying is that you can buy the book for the chef you paid to see while you wait, but they will not sign it at their event. No, after the 30 minute rush show Ms. Burrell was out the back faster than a tick off a sheep’s back in the dip trough. You have to buy the $200 ticket to the Lexus Grand Tasting for that day to get the pleasure of waiting in a queue to get their signature. Now this got us to the Grand Tasting the previous year, but this year the Saturday event was sold out, so how was one to get the book signed?
To be fair to Ms. Burrell, the timing of the show is handled by someone other than the celebrity. They are just shuffled from one thing to another and a handler gives them the “start now”, the “hurry up” cues and the, “we need to be somewhere else” hustles.
That being said a 30 minute show instead of a 75 minute show is significant and we were not impressed. Besides we had not come up with an adventure for the day yet and now the pressure was on! So with hot chocolates all round, some fast thinking, and almost as fast as the girl’s event we had a plan. By the way the hot chocolates were deemed a, 9 on the Official Winewalkabout scale and ****.

The adventure for the day was a nice drive along the spectacular coastline and then to the Pebble Beach Lodge for lunch at the Stillwater Grill overlooking the Pebble Beach Golf Links 18th green, and a walk around. The lunch was good with either fish and chips or burgers ordered. The seating was lovely, the service was excellent and the view was amazing. Adventure success was completed with a walk around the grounds and out to Stillwater Cove to take in the amazing view. A great finish to the day.

Stay tuned, next up Lexus Grand Tasting on Sunday!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Apr 23, 2012

The Humble Corkscrew

First some history from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A basic corkscrew
A sommelier knife
A corkscrew is a kitchen tool for drawing corks from wine bottles. Generally, a corkscrew consists of a pointed metallic helix (often called the "worm") attached to a handle. The user grips the handle and screws the metal point into the cork, until the helix is firmly embedded, then a vertical pull on the corkscrew extracts the cork from the bottle. Corkscrews are necessary because corks themselves, being small and smooth, are difficult to grip and remove, particularly when inserted fully into an inflexible glass bottle. The handle of the corkscrew, once upon a time was often a horizontal bar of wood attached to the screw, allows for a commanding grip to ease removal of the cork. Corkscrew handles may incorporate levers that further increase the amount of force that can be applied outwards upon the cork.

Koala has his personal favourite home version which an Estate style and quite posh.

A twin prong cork puller

Kiwi is more into the modern Rabbit style, sleek and effective.

Winged corkscrew

"Here's to the corkscrew - A useful key to unlock the storehouse of wit, the treasury of laughter, the front door of fellowship, and the gate of pleasant folly" ~ W.E.P. French

Whatever you choose to open your bottle, and there are dozens of choices, just enjoy your wine!



Apr 20, 2012

WineWalkabout do Pebble Beach Food and Wine

Ok, we can hear the surprise now! How on earth did Kiwi and Koala get past security and into the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event? Well if we told you the whole story we wouldn’t be able to use it again. So aside from all the cloak and dagger, we used the cover of an Aussie and a Kiwi who just happened to be wandering through. This is a world class event, and we generally are a couple of misfits in the crowd. But as it happens there seems to be a general balance of cork dorks, wankers, tossers and ponces from all walks of life and from all over the world, so a couple extra foreigners just blend in. Lucky for us!

So as the fog of the weekend leaves our brains here are some thoughts, insights and comments, from the viewpoint of a couple of blokes at the ball.

Starting on Wednesday evening, The Pebble Beach Food and Wine event is just like a five day Aussie bbq with your mates! Tons of drinking, eating and drinking. Yes we did mention drinking twice and that’s where the similarity is strongest, and about where it ends, other than it’s like a five day bender. While the afore mentioned bbq also has you eating too much, it has none of the panache or swank, of this epicurean event. With some 300 wineries and 50 celebrity Chef’s, Stella Artois, Patron and Belvedere, posh cars and dozens of special guests, it is the who’s who and what’s what event to attend, in the magical surroundings of Pebble Beach and Spanish Bay. For as little (perspective is everything) as $100 you can join a couple hundred of your newest friends and attend one of the “seminars”. We use this term loosely as although you will undoubtedly learn something, it’s more about fun and stories with some facts and education just sprinkled on top. Remember camping with your Dad as a kid? Well as a reminder of those days there is also the 66,000 sq ft Lexus Grand Tasting (food as well) tent where for $200 (2012) you can taste and taste and taste!

While the event starts off Wednesday evening with the exclusive Founders dinner at $2,000 a ticket (by invitation only) we started our adventures Friday with “Santa Lucia Highlands’ Royal Court: Pisoni and Friends”. Basically, Gary Pisoni and some of his winemaker friends that use his grapes. There was a vertical and a horizontal of the lovely Pinot Noir produced by these different wine makers from the Pisoni vineyards. This is also where Gary Pisoni introduced the diagonal tasting concept. More on this new find when we visit Gary and his family in a couple weeks. If you have never met or seen Gary Pisoni in action you should take every opportunity to. He is driven with a passion that is second to none and surrounded by passionate family (son Mark is the grower, Jeff is the wine maker, Mom does the books) and friends. He is educational, inspirational and quite entertaining. They also make Pinot Noir's second to none! At the conclusion of the event the panel was all very generous of their time and stayed to talk with any and all.

With a couple hours to kill between “seminars” Kiwi and Koala tried to get lunch where only ticket holders were allowed to go. Koala found Sue from Adelaide (Koala’s home town) gate keeping at the restaurant and thought that was their chance to eat lunch, as he heard that the Rosenblooms were not going to make it. “Hi Sue, Mick, Mick Rosenbloom, two for lunch” said Koala. Unfortunately Sue did not get any amusement from either, the Mick and Sue reference (Crocodile Dundee) or the fake name attempt or the co-winki dink of sharing the same home town. So Kiwi took Koala’s bashed ego to find lunch.

The next event was “Beyond Cabernet, Ribera del Duero a region on the rise”, a collection of wines from various producers in this region of Spain. A good (read also large) sampling of the region with wonderful big Tempranillo taste. Tempranillo has some of the structure of big reds like Cabernet Sauvignon but with an aromatic profile that is very unique. This was an area that was somewhat new to Kiwi and Koala, but one we will be on the lookout for in the future. The Drink Ribera Brand Ambassador, April Cullom, was very well spoken and knowledgeable about the region and the wines and took all the time we wanted to answer our questions. 

Look, we have tired index fingers, so for now, we're off like a bucket of prawns in the sun, and we will catch ya later with more thoughts and adventures from Pebble Beach Food and Wine.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Apr 15, 2012

Herman Story Paso Robles.

One beautiful sunny Californian winter day, Koala drops his car off at the mechanic for a service, and decides to walk around Paso Robles just because. Because why you ask, well, because it was such a lovely day to wander for an hour and just enjoy and breathe. As chance would have it about a hundred yards (90meters) down the road Koala nearly walked into a sandwich board sign that said “open wine tasting”. Well what were the options? Only one that Koala could think of, go in for a taste. He did not want to let anyone down.

The surprise find was Herman Story Wines. It is a cute little tasting room a few blocks off the beaten track at 1227 Paso Robles Street. Warmly welcomed into the tasting room by the young lady and gentleman behind the counter, one felt immediately at home. Next up was the welcome from the resident dog, a German Short Haired Pointer who will love anyone who will play ball. Did Koala mention the dog came over the counter to greet you personally? Wish we could remember his name.

This is a small production winery that takes a no nonsense, non poncey attitude to the wine making and tasting process. Some may say, even a little wacky and off center, which is probably taken as a complement and should be. This attitude is carried through to their labels and tasting notes and everything in between. 

The wine however is not to be taken lightly. These are some serious wines. No really!

There were four wines on offer for tasting, a white, and three reds. All, were a good drink!

Rather than go thru each offering, Koala is just going to tell you about his choice, and more later, when Kiwi can also share. This way maybe we can talk with the wine maker and get you some inside scoop!

In the meantime here is some info from the website. We normally would not do this but the unique way this is written begs for sharing. Make no mistake this is a bold, full bodied, dark berry, spicy wine with a nice minerality and a strong yet elegant finish. Koala thinks that a couple years in the bottle and this may be a “go to” for “rack o lamb” night! A 7+ and ** now and, maybe an 8 with a little time.

2010 Larner
65% Syrah, 35% Grenache  /  234 Cases Made – $42.00 Retail
Vineyards:100% Larner Vineyard
I know what you’re thinking; “what happened to the Larner Syrah and Larner Grenache? What’s up with this blend of the two?” Well, here’s the thing; I had every intention of making both wines, I really did, but as I was tinkering in the cellar I noticed that the blend was just better than either of the two wines alone. I’m not much of a stickler for rules, I’m just out to make the most exciting wines possible, so at the expense of doing a 10 year vertical tasting of Larner Syrah, I decided to go for what felt right. Think of it as cake and ice cream, both are pretty awesome, but put them together and, bam! you get a la mode. This is the best Sunday drive ever. It starts at home with smells of cranberry granola, ripe raspberry, coco dust, and cherry 7up, and moves into the country with scents of fresh lumber and cut hay, sassafras, orange blossom, bark and potting soil. The palate brings the drive back to the kitchen with flavors of chicory coffee, black pepper, rhubarb pie and hibiscus tea. Truly a journey worthy of a day.
(DRINK NOW: 2 Hr Decant, CELLAR: 6-8 years)

This sounds like a description that we would write. Okay, maybe not as sarcastic as we would write, but good just the same.
Koala 'recommends' you “go check Herman Story out”. It’s worth it! Tell’em Koala sent you!

Kiwi & Koala

Open Thursday – Sunday from 11AM – 4PM and they would love to see your shining face there.

Apr 10, 2012

Wine partner “Salami”

For those who remember our recent Adventure in Paso Robles CA, you may remember us mentioning “Allesina”(now Alle-Pia) . We had contacted Allesina to compliment them on the salami we had had while dining at Bouna Tavola and had received an invite to take a look at facility of this relatively new producer of fine cured meats when in the area. Koala just happened to be in the area.

 Arriving at the facility Koala was greeted by Alex Pellini, the right hand man to owner Antonio Varia, Chef and Owner of “Buona Tavola” Restaurants in San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles. They have a small operation where everything is tended by hand with a meticulous focus on quality and consistency. Alex Pellini, Chef Varia’s nephew, came over from Italy in 2009 to help with the restaurants and has been instrumental over the last year in the creation and supervision of the salami production. Alex has implemented state of the art Italian environmental control systems and uses careful supervision and timing to ensure perfect taste and consistency. They use only fresh, natural pork that comes from a local supplier. No hormones or antibiotics are used. Nearly all their products are locally sourced and all are USDA inspected and approved.

It is quite the small business success story, given the economy that they have started this operation in, and the fact that an expansion is in the works due to increasing demand for their wonderful tasty salamis, is a testament to that success.
Koala was really impressed with the taste of a variety of these salamis (everyone he tasted). So a lovely appetizer ordered at a restaurant has Koala enamored with the fine culinary offerings of Antonio Varia and his crew at both his restaurants and his fine cured meats.
Koala would like to thank Alex for giving of his time and for the free sample of Finochiona salami that will be paired with some lucky wine and cheese. Oh, and maybe some lucky Kiwi. Bon appetite!


Kiwi and Koala

They recently changed their name from Allesina to Alle-Pia to better honor Chef Varia's mother.

New Name - Alle-Pia

Maria Pia Alle-Pia was Chef Varia's mother. We named the company Alle-Pia as a tribute to her.
"I was very close to my mother and she passed away in 2010. It was our tradition in Italy to make salami each winter with our entire family. I thought using her name would be a nice way to honor her memory."

Apr 6, 2012

Look Before you Leap (into the wine barrel)

So, remember when Kiwi said to not get caught up in the big wine names and try the smaller guys?  I know, as a regular reader of Kiwi and Koala, you were avid readers of “Kiwi Visits Napa!”  
So here’s the thing.  Kiwi and Koala have learned a few things.  Don’t get caught up in the allure of the big wine names with their big prices.  Because that is what happens...you get caught.  And don’t start a sentence with preposition.  
Looking to augment his wine collection (AKA, fridge), Kiwi visited the local Safeway, as they were having a great sale.  Probably should have brought along Koala, or at least an iPad.  They offered a reasonable selection, with very nice discounted prices, so Kiwi recklessly purchased six bottles of a variety of wines that he would not normally buy (anywhere).  Now the selections were from nice wineries, well known, well established, known (at some point) for great wines.  Three Napa cabs were purchased as part of the stash -2007  Silver Oak Alexander Valley,2008  Darioush, and 2008 Cakebread Cellars.  All priced * on the K&K scale.  
Upon arriving home, proudly toting the new selections, Kiwi opened the Parker ‘s Wine Buyers Guide, and Wine Spectator on line to verify the awesomeness of the wine he had purchased at great prices (for them).  Note to self, don’t do that.  Or do it before you buy.  Or at least taste before you buy to make an informed decision. A decision based on your first hand experience and not based on folklore or the hope that this vintage is as good as one before. Looking before leaping!
To be fair, the wine still remains unopened, waiting for that special occasion for which it deserves.  It might all be great.  But based on the reviews Kiwi read, and price, this wine would not have been purchased (not good value).  Nothing close to 90 points from anyone.  As Robert Parker states of Silver Oak  “the wines hit their zenith in quality in the 1980’s through the 1990’s”…then…”quality became increasing irregular”.  Not inspiring words.  Kiwi hopes the 2007 and 2008 vintages were good years and will update this post when brave enough to pop the corks and give them a taste.  
So, do a little research, or taste before you buy.  More to follow.  Happy tasting!

Kiwi and Koala

Apr 3, 2012

Crikey! What is that in your wine!

Summers come and go so it’s good to be prepared.

There you are sitting on the patio of some nice little wine bistro having a glass with a chosen companion on a lovely summer day and what do you hear? Plop, plop! The sound of ice cubes being dropped into a glass of wine! Are you kidding me! Ya bloody Galah! Ice, really?

A chunk of ice took out the Titanic! The ice age took out the dinosaurs! Back away from the ice cubes!

This practice is highly frowned upon by the wine ponce, although we are told by our parents that it used to be a common practice during those long hot outback summers. Also understand that along with ice a dash of 7-up (lemonade for the colonists) was a lovely addition to some Chablis (no, not going there).

But hang on Wal. What's really going on here? It's hitting triple digits (38c) and whether you have a Shiraz, Chianti, Pinot Grigio or a Sauvignon Blanc, it is going to warm up quickly if you don't get on with it and knock it back. So what is a responsible wino to do? Drink beer out of a frosty mug. Okay, maybe not the first choice. But there is at least one solution you can use.

First off get an ice bucket with ice (not for in the glass!). Put the bottle on the ice or actually in it for 5 min to get it cooled down then on it to keep it cool. Once cooled appropriately, keep the bottle more in than out for whites, and more out than in for reds. You should pour smaller pours so you don't have to pour it down your throat before it warms.

What if you have ordered a nice bottle at a restaurant and when you get to taste it, it’s too warm? Ask them for an ice bucket and duplicate the above home remedy.

What about your temporarily abandoned glass of wine you left on the patio while you went off and got more nibbles.

Well kids, you have some choices to make. You could try to get it back in the chilled bottle and well, imagine all the funniest videos you might get out of that attempt. You could just as easily use a funnel (think tools). You could top it off with some colder fresh wine. Better yet don't leave wine in your glass to get hot ya drongo!

We know wine tastes better at specific temperature ranges and that is the idea behind the ice bucket. You can come up with any way you like to achieve the same result. Wait, is that ice cubes plopping? KOALA!!!

Don’t worry too much, your wine, your taste buds, your choice! Just don’t let Kiwi catch you!

 Kiwi and Koala