Jul 30, 2012

Napa’s Chimney Rock Winery

The entire postcard photographer’s association was out trying to capture the magnificent day. Koala was out getting his tasting on! As you drive along the beautiful Silverado trail in Napa Valley California there are many many worthwhile stops for wine tasting.
One of which is Chimney Rock.
The interesting Cape-Dutch style (their words) facility was established in 1990 and has a very nice warm feeling tasting environment. The first 75 acres of vines were planted in 1980 and the first released vintage in 1984. From 1991 -1997 the vine’s were replanted after phylloxera visits the vineyard. The new vineyards are planted with the knowledge of what was and what was needed to make it better. In 2000, the Terlato family joined forces with the Wilsons. In 2004 The Terlato family assume full ownership. Being there and tasting the wines it is easy to see why Chimney Rock has been named Estate Winery of the Year a couple of times.

The staff was engaging and knowledgeable and gave a lot of background on the wine’s, vineyards and the winery. A very pleasant stop with some very good wines. The tastings were offered in a variety of flights and Tom made sure Koala was sipping to his heart’s content. The selection of the day for Koala was the 2009 Galaxy, a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon Napa County, 35% Syrah Sonoma County and 15% Merlot from Napa County. Approachable full mouth feel with layers of dark berry fruit, with touches of mocha and soft tannins. A lovely drinking wine that Koala gives a 7 plus and **.
Tasting Room is open seven days a week from 10:00am until 5:00pm with the exception of some holidays (New Year's Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day).

If Kiwi promises to behave, Koala is bringing him here. Nice place, good wines with a variety of price points, with friendly knowledgeable staff. It was a pleasure tasting there and Koala gives them a 'recommend'!

To happy tasting!

Kiwi & Koala

Jul 25, 2012

Bella oh Bella!

 How’s cruising on a 47' Luxury Italian Racer / Cruiser sailing yacht for your personal pleasure. Sailing on the beautiful Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary in California. Sound good?  Then Bella on the Bay is for you. Take one of the most beautiful places on the planet and add the magic of having someone sail you around in the middle of it all on a beautiful yacht. Some days this could be indescribably magical and others it may just be fantastic! TripAdvisor rated as the #1 tour in Monterey and 5 out of 5 stars.  Doesn’t get any better than that!
Captain Christian is a one of the most welcoming, enthusiastic, friendly people you will ever meet. Right off making you feel like his boat is your boat.
Oh yeah!
Sailing on Bella with friends and family is a fantastic experience with Captain Christian immediately putting everyone at ease and making sure everyone is comfortable with the adventure. He makes sure everyone knows what to expect and addresses any concerns. The boat is big enough to feel comfortable and small enough to be a thrilling ride even with mild wind. The sea life was great and views were spectacular.

Come visit me in Monterey California.
Bring drinks, snacks and be ready to relax, whether you want to go sailing for a few hours or charter his boat for a night or weekend its up to you.
During a recent adventure, Kiwi and Koala and friends (yes, we do have some) had some great wine and cheese with crackers and Alle Pia Salami (we love this stuff) and we are generally well stocked.

Sailing in Monterey Bay is a beautiful experience particularly when the weather cooperates and the whales, dolphins, seals and otters all show up and welcome you to the bay.

A great way to spend a morning, afternoon or? Custom arrangements are Captain Christian’s forte. We were treated like royalty (we are in some circles) and had an absolute blast.
We may have to make this an annual event. A Must Do whether you are living in or just visiting the Monterey area.  Tell captain Christian WineWalkabout sent you!

Adventure on!

Kiwi & Koala

Jul 24, 2012

Napa’s Pine Ridge Vineyards

So as you awake to the sun shining and the birds singing in the beautiful area of Napa California, the need to go wine tasting is just undeniable. But where to go when you have what seems like a million choices. Go back to some old favorites or roll the dice and find new tastes?

In this instance a bit of both. Pine Ridge Vineyards it was to be. Having become a little familiar with Pine Ridge Vineyards via twitter, Koala decided to pay a surprise visit to the tasting room and see what one may expect. Let’s face it, recommending Facebook friends and twitter followers you’ve never met is not a good practice. Located in the Stags Leap District on the famous Silverado Trail at 5901 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 93401, 800.575.9777, the place is easy to find.
First a little history from their web site -  “Established in 1978 by Gary Andrus who was inspired by the illustrious wines of Bordeaux, believed in the Napa Valley’s potential to produce wines of similar stature. He planted the property’s original namesake vineyard on a steeply terraced hillside flanked by a dramatic ridgeline of pine trees in the Stags Leap District. Gary’s pioneering efforts with this first vineyard were met with tremendous success as the Bordeaux varietals he planted – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot – thrived and produced wines of great distinction. In the following years, Pine Ridge continued to acquire exceptional vineyard sites across the region. Today, the Estate’s 200-acres span over five renowned Napa Valley appellations – Stags Leap District, Rutherford, Oakville, Carneros and Howell Mountain.”

Ok, done with history and into the present to see if the wines are really any good. Short answer - yes! There are some choices to make when it comes to your tasting experience. A tasting of current general release wines, an appellation specific tasting, a taste on the terrace that includes a chef-prepared sampling platter of artisan cheeses and local meats from the Fatted Calf Charcuterie and the 5x5 with food and wine pairing prepared by Pine Ridge Vineyards Winery Chef Janet Sheehan and you will get to enjoy this tasting experience in the recently renovated Cellar 47 room.
Koala went for the Appellation tasting which currently is the 2011 Sans Barrique Chardonnay, the 2007 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2008 Staggs Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Fortis. Koala could ramble on about each wine and its smells and tastes but better yet go taste for yourself and know you will enjoy the experience. All the wines present themselves well and anyone would be welcome on Koala’s dinner table. 

The facility has a display vineyard that is really good with different varietals and trellis styles to see in a beautiful setting. The picnic grounds are top notch and the only caveat is that you consume Pine Ridge Wine. That is easy to do! Over all a beautiful facility with great wines and an excellent display vineyard and a great tasting experience with Jennifer who was knowledgable about the history and the wine.
Koala’s bottle of choice purchased for the day was the 2007 Fortis. A truly lovely drinking wine that Koala puts at an 8 and *. Ponce note “drops onto the palate easy and says have some more”.

Next time in Napa Koala is looking forward to taking Kiwi here if he’s behaving!

To happy tasting!

Kiwi & Koala

Jul 20, 2012

Southern Latitudes Wines, Carmel

So who knew that in the cute little town of Carmel by the Sea is a great source for wines of the southern Hemisphere (they have since moved to Carmel Crossroads Shopping Center). Oh look the name of the store ‘Southern Latitudes Wines” is representative of what they sell! Sometimes we are a little slow on the uptake.

Southern Latitudes Wines also does a tasting flight of select wines that they sell. The tasting menu consists of 5 or 6 wines and changes every other day. They offer 2 ounce tasting pours. Generally, the full series of 5 or 6 wines costs $11 - $15 for the flight.

We scoped out the selection exclusively featuring the wines of Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, South Africa and Chile. With our best wanker attitude in place, and our vast consumption expertise of Australian and New Zealand wine, we were looking to be critical of anyone pretending to have a great selection. No pretenders here! Not only were there a nice selection of wines, but some of the one’s they have, are in our humble opinion are truly bonza! There were a number of “hey check this out” moments. We made a mental note of wines to purchase before leaving but the next order of business was to have a taste of the day’s offerings. The tasting was a very interesting selection from all regions except South Africa and Kiwi and Koala enjoyed the adventure. The unanimous Fair Dinkum favorite from our taste was a full bodied 2009 Cabernet from Vasse Felix in Margaret River from Western Australia a 7 and ***. All the other tastings were ****.

After finishing our tasting we went to grab our wine selections only to find that one we both had on our list had just been sold out. Ouch! Note to us, select wine’s and put behind counter as minimum purchase (in case you buy one or more of the tasting wines) then taste. Kiwi and Koala were being conscious of the amount of walking to come so only three bottles each were purchased. Look for future reports on our selections.
The Southern Latitudes Wines Shop is at 235 Crossroads Blvd Carmel, CA, 93923

Open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 am - 6 pm, closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

For you Aussies that want to send your American mates an Aussie wine gift this is the place to use. You order online and it shows up to their house. Brilliant! They do the same for the Kiwi's as well.

All in all a great place to get some good Southern Hemisphere wine at good prices from the Southern Latitudes!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Just some of the great **** selections and there are a also ***, ** and * selections as well.

Jul 18, 2012

Koala’s Dinner Extravaganza

Looks bloody good mate!
For those who have been following our Kiwi and Koala Adventures you may have noticed our liking for a good rack of lamb. Koala has been bragging of his aspiring chef expertise in making a great (Koala’s opinion) rack! So after some planning and re-planning the first Kiwi and Koala Rack of Lamb Extravaganza dinner was held.

A very select group of culinary (read hungry) experts were assembled and Koala was to serve his soon to be famous and sought after Australian Rack of Lamb, paired with some great wine. Or as Koala called it, a brilliant rackalamb barby and some bloody good plonk!
The basic meal plan Koala put together was to be all about the lamb.  Everything else would be kept relatively simple to achieve this. Now cooking a fancy dinner for one or two people is one thing, but to cook for six (imagine even more Koala), well it turns out that it’s a bit more than just more food as chef Koala found out. Although the fire extinguisher was not actually needed there were moments. Koala likes to trim his rack (ok easy on the rack jokes) quite a lot but there is still some fat dripping to deal with. As it turns out one rack drips some fat but three large racks drip ten times as much! Holy bushfire Skippy!

Someone get the hose.....
The event started with hors d’oeuvres of brie on water crackers and a plate of pineapple sausage to distract the guest’s from the nutter on the BBQ.
The companions on the plate with the rack of lamb were simple green beans done in the oven with some aussie extra virgin olive oil and cracked pepper and a couple pinch’s of garlic sea salt. The potatoes were cut up Honey Gold potatoes also oven baked with aussie extra virgin olive oil and cracked pepper and garlic sea salt. Some Italian Pugliese bread was also on the table.

Koala wisely did not attempt a dessert but chose instead to turn that task over to the dessert guru. Per Koala’s request, personal servings of a not too sweet little number were prepared. Individual servings of trifle with fresh blueberries, raspberries and strawberries were delish.

The wine selection for the evening included a delightful 2009 Schild Estate Barossa Shiraz from Australia and a bigger 2009 Luca Laborde Double Select Syrah from Uco Valley in Mendoza Argentina. Look for a separate review of the wines coming soon. Just know that both were very good.

The Rack of Lamb was delicious, as was the entire meal and the wines were well complemented by the food, or was it the food being well complimented by the wine. Either way a successful event and an encouragement to maybe do another of even larger scale. Stay tuned!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Jul 14, 2012

Kiwi and Koalas WW

The WW for this last week was a very pleasant surprise as it is amazingly inexpensive and yet very drinkable. This great combination spoke to the question of being able to drink good affordable wine on a regular basis. Penfold's 2009 Koonunga Hill. The winemaker notes are: “Koonunga Hill is a multi-district shiraz cabernet, based largely on Barossa, McLaren Vale and Coonawarra fruit. It is a classic Penfolds maturation-style wine where fruit complexity and vivacity, rather than oak, are brought to the fore.”
This is an easy drinking wine that works by itself or with food. The lovely berry fruit flavors are nicely balanced with a hint of spice on the finish. A solid 6 and **** on the Oficial Kiwi and Koala Rating Scale. Not only is this **** but it is actually under $10! A case of this provides a very nice go to for drinking at home. This is a very hard to beat wine for the price and drinkability combination. A great drop to pull the cork on when ya mates drop by for a drink.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Jul 12, 2012

Smells good, funny flavour but!

Most people can fairly easily define the look or color of wine as it’s easy to say its yellow’y or redish or pupleish or its bright or dull (no not like that wacky cousin). There is, wow could read the paper thru this or it’s like bloody ink! The area of aromas and taste are definite game changers for most as the number of terms start to multiply and are seemingly quite often evasive.
There are a number of different terms that are used to define flavor in wine. As you swirl the wine in your glass all the aromas (smell Koala smell) are released and as you inhale through your nose with vigor a myriad of little chemical compositions give your smell meter a bunch of triggers that are reminders of things you have smelled before. Nice things like licorice or cherry or peach and sometimes smells that are less likely to make you salivate like dust or wet blanket or forest floor. The list is almost as long as the things you have smelled and according to some scientific research from somewhere, we can’t remember, from 5-10,000 smells.
Now when it comes to taste well some say “we” don’t have any. Oh wait that’s another story.
Taste is fairly simple if you are to believe the experts. The standard current belief is that the tongue can only really taste four flavors - salty, sour, sweet, and bitter. There is also a fifth flavor that some can taste, "umami", which is related to MSG. What wanker came up with that term? Now with taste there are still a lot to be noticed or detected. Things like tannin'sacidity and residual sugar and perhaps alcohol, are things that you not so much taste but detect. These four things do not have specific flavor per se but they meld together to offer impressions in intensity and complexity, soft or firm, light or heavy, crisp or creamy, sweet or dry, but not necessarily true flavors like fruit or spice.As you continue to sip if it’s a red wine you may start to notice some fruit flavors like – berry, plum, prune or fig; perhaps some spice – pepper, clove, cinnamon, or maybe a woody flavor like oak, cedar, or a detectable smokiness. If you are sipping a white wine you may taste apple, pear, tropical or citrus fruits, or the taste may be more floral in nature or consist of honey, butter, herbs or a bit of cut grass. There is one thing to remember here though as to try to detect any of these smell's and flavors is that you perceive things a bit different to everyone else. We all are tuned a little different so we may or may not detect every thing that the pro's do. 

The difference between serious wine drinkers and serious wine tasters is the focus and systematic approach to tasting wine with an objective description of what they taste. Kiwi and Koala try to be somewhat systematic (open, pour drink, pour, drink start again) but perhaps not as systematic as some.
The serving temperature of wine is quite important if you are to get access to the aromas and flavors hidden within. So, red wines approximately between 60-65 degrees, and white wines between 45-55 degrees. Some veritals have needs outside these basic ranges and so check with the expert for that particular bottle. If you live in a house that is around 70 degrees, maybe put it in the fridge for 10 minutes before serving it, this is a red wine. And if you have had a white wine in the fridge for a couple of hours, maybe pull it out 10-15 minutes before you serve it. Below are small sampling of the basic descriptive terms used to describe wine that begin with the letter ‘B’, courtesy of wikipedia.

  • Baked : A wine with a high alcohol content that gives the perception of stewed or baked fruit flavors. May indicate a wine from grapes that were exposed to the heat of the sun after harvesting.
  • Balanced : A wine that incorporates all its main components—tannins, acid, sweetness, and alcohol—in a manner where no one single component stands out.
  • Barnyard : A generally more negative term than "farmyard" used to describe certain off flavors in wine, often caused by the bacteria brettanomyces.
  • Big : A wine with intense flavor, or high in alcohol.
  • Biscuity : A wine descriptor often associated with Pinot noir dominated-Champagne. It is sense of yeasty or bread dough aroma and flavors.
  • Bite : A firm and distinctive perception of tannins or acidity. This can be a positive or negative attribute depending on whether the overall perception of the wine is balanced.
  • Bitter : An unpleasant perception of tannins.
  • Blowzy : An exaggerated fruity aroma. Commonly associated with lower quality fruity wines.
  • Body : The sense of alcohol in the wine and the sense of feeling in the mouth.
  • Bouquet : The layers of smells and aromas perceived in a wine.
  • Bright : When describing the visual appearance of the wine, it refers to high clarity, very low levels of suspended solids. When describing fruit flavors, it refers to noticeable acidity and vivid intensity.
  • Buttery : A wine that has gone through malolactic fermentation and has a rich, creamy mouthfeel with flavors reminiscent of butter.

Those are but the tip of the iceberg but you get the picture. For a few giggles we will soon give you a list of some of the more strange and unusual descriptions.
So learn and remember some of these terms and enjoy ‘talkin poncy’ with your mates next time you taste!

To happy tasting!

Kiwi & Koala


Jul 7, 2012

Cellar Door at Mt. Difficulty, NZ

Situated in Bannockburn outside of Cromwell, and a nice drive from the Queenstown/Arrowtown area along the Kawarau River is Felton Road, home to several world class wineries.
For this adventure I chose to visit Mt. Difficulty, partly because I had tasted (aka drank) a 2006 Roaring Meg earlier in my travels, and partly because it has a really cool name.  To paraphrase a quote from the movie Johnny Dangerously, "you do know your name is an adverb, right?"

The real 'difficulty' was raising Marino sheep on the steep, rocky slopes of the mountain.  And nothing speaks the Southland like a merino jersey (USA translation – sweater, Aussie translation - Jumper).  But get rid of the sheep and plant grapes in that unforgiving landscape and now you have a New Zealand trifecta!  Great wine, LOTR country (Lord of the Rings for those ring neophytes), and Gold country (gold rush of the 1860’s).  Did I mention it is beautiful as well?

Bannockburn enjoys a semi continental climate with hot summers, and long cool autumns.  Along with soils of clay and gravel, these are excellent growing conditions for Burgundy grapes.  Pinot Noir excels here, as well as Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.  OK, you got us.  Riesling is from Germany in the Rhine region.
Travelling with friends, we arrived at the cellar door to be greeted by Cheryl.  The tasting area was new, and very inviting.  There is also a restaurant, although it was closed when we arrived.  We loved the cost of tasting – “a gold coin” – ($1 or $2).

Cheryl started us of on the Rieslings – a dry and a sweet.  Both were delicious (7 and ***) and we came away with a couple of bottles.  Good for drinking now (with friends!) or cellaring for several years. 
But I had really come for the famous Central Otago Pinot Noir’s so we dove right in!  First up the 2010.  Very nice, but also young.  Showed lots of promise so Kiwi took one home for safe keeping (7 and ***).  Then the 2010 Growers Series Packspur.  Wow, loved that, an 8 and **.  Still young and again, I took one to be sure it would be OK down the road.  Well someone has to check on stuff like that and don't worry that Koala bloke is there to help!

Time was short, and the sun was turning the hills and valley golden around us, but still Cheryl was able to rustle up a cheese plate for us and opened a 375 ml bottle of 2009 Pinot noir.  Delish! What a difference a year in the bottle made. 
From the facility, the service, to the view and the great wine, this Kiwi was happy.  And happy Kiwis buy wine.  You should too!
So if find yourselves down near Felton Road stop in to some Cellar doors and have a taste.

Make sure you stop by Mt Difficulty and tell em we sent you!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Jul 6, 2012

Kiwi and Koalas WW

This week’s WW is a 2009 Wrath McIntyre Vineyard PinotNoir, Santa Lucia Highlands. This wine was a very nice drink and is a solid 7 and *** on the K&K scale. This WW won out mostly due to the fact that is tasted so good and has a reasonable price point. To quote the Wrath Wines web site “Balanced, silky, rich and luscious, our 2009 McIntyre is one of the most intriguing and complex Pinot Noirs we have ever produced.” We are not going to argue that point.
The vineyards that supply this wine have quite a history. “The site was first planted in 1973 to Pinot Noir by the McFarland family. Purchased by Steve McIntyre in March 1987, it has been intensely upgraded and subsequently certified as sustainable. Of the 80 acres, 60 are planted to vines and 20 are set aside as a wildlife corridor. This vineyard has the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Santa Lucia Highlands. 100% pinot clone 115.”

Wrath Winery Tasting Room

Open Fri-Mon 11- 5PM. Located at 35801 Foothill Road (at the junction of River Road) in Soledad, CA, 5 minutes west of Hwy 101. 831.678.2212

 A very good wine that was silky smooth to drink and very much enjoyed. We will be headed back to Wrath Wines to talk with the wine maker and get the scoop!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala