Nov 30, 2012

WineWalkabout visits Two Hands in the Barossa Valley

A trip to one of Australia’s most iconic wine regions, the Barossa Valley, would not be complete without a visit to what has become one of the most recognized brands for consistently great wines in Australia.  Two Hands Wines was founded in early 1999 by Michael Twelftree and Richard Mintz and they have wine on anyone who is anybody’s Top 100 lists globally. To that point, in November 2012, Two Hands was named in the Wine S, something’s annual Top 100 for the 10th consecutive year, an achievement that has never been equaled by any other winery the world over.  Definitely no small achievement! 
It was Koala’s good fortunate to find himself talking with Micheal and Matt Wenk after a long lunch one Friday. Michael talked about the Two Hands philosophy to showcase the diversity of Australian Shiraz by highlighting regional characteristics and allowing the fruit to be the primary feature of the wines. How Two Hands takes a very personal approach with each parcel of grapes, no matter how big or small. The wines are carefully guided through the viticulture and wine making process with a very hands on approach by Michael and winemaker, Matt Wenk. The passion Michael has for the regional approach to vineyards and wines is immediately put on the table and is hard to argue with once you have tasted his wines. Premium fruit is now sourced from six of the finest Shiraz growing regions in Australia, and Two Hands work closely with their own vineyards and band of growers to ensure the full potential of each vineyard is reached. These wines are truly amazing! They also use a barrel program that is not common. Next visit Koala plans to allot more time a get a peek into the wine making process so stay tuned.

The Cellar Door is located in the Barossa Valley off a gravel road in a beautifully restored farm house. They also do VIP tastings in what they call the Bake House, which is immediately adjacent to the Cellar Door and dates back to the 1850’s. On this occasion Koala took advantage the fantastic weather and sat out on the Cellar Door deck with a tasting conducted by Cellar Door Manager Shannon and his staff. Being out on the deck was a great spot to enjoy the day and the view with some awesome wine and nibbles, and if one so chose, a wood oven pizza.

In November and December they host exclusive Lazy Long Lunch experiences every Friday commencing 16 November until 14 December 2012 and if you are to be in the area don’t miss out.
Look, Koala may not be most unbiased judge of this place as he has been a fan of these wines since the ‘2005 Ares’ changed his perceptions about how good a wine can be, but don’t let that deter you. The Two Hands Cellar is a highly ‘Recommend’ and the long lunch is a “Must Do”.

While enjoying your wood oven pizza tell Michael and Matt Koala says g’day!

Now that's getting into your work Matt...
Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Nov 28, 2012

WineWalkabout visits The Lane

The white wine taste Tully poured for Koala.

Koala recently attended an event at The National Wine Centre in Adelaide South Australia called Friday Uncorked.As it turned out the Friday Uncorked event he attended featured the wines of The Lane Vineyards from the Adelaide Hill’s with none other than John Edwards himself doing the Master Class. The wines were fantastic and John was educational, entertaining and kept everyone’s attention. Telling the story of their first land purchase of twenty acres and how they have grown to over two hundred. He talked about the overall philosophy of The Lane and provided an interesting and relatively comprehensive overview. Koala thoroughly enjoyed the class that John put on and the conversations they had. If you ever get a chance to hear John speak don’t miss out. That being said Koala arranged to head on up to the Cellar Door to continue the chat and to have a look around.
The beginnings of The Lane started as John Edwards searched for two years for land with the just right situation, orientation and soils he wanted for his vineyard. When he walked through the old farm gate on Ravenswood Lane he believed that this land would be the realization of that dream. This combination of knowing what he wanted, an exhaustive search and a bit of luck provided the perfect property for the grapes he was to plant.

Tully with 5,000 litre French Oak
The first wines were produced under the Ravenswood Lane label in 1996 and were to reward John’s vision and belief in the ‘terroir’ with some great wine. That early success then led to a seven-year joint venture with the Hardy Wine Company under the Adelaide Hills brand Starvedog Lane. John left the joint venture in 2005 to fully pursue his dream and the potential of his vineyard by producing single vineyard wines in a new, state-of-the art small batch winery at Ravenswood Lane.
Medium size Basket Press
After a fantastic tasting conducted by Tully of most all of The Lane wines, Koala was given a tour around the facility. Tully left no corner out of the tour and Koala was very impressed by how efficiently this facility was laid out and by how clean it was. Every part of the facility flowed into the next and each part was very organized. This philosophy even carries over to the quality of their waste water including utilizing an ozone generator to sterilize barrels and tanks rather than using chemicals. This result’s in ‘cleaner’ waste water that is treated on-site in an aerobic system, polished and then returned to the vineyard as irrigation water. This process was selected because there is no interaction with groundwater or surface flows using this method.

Input coordinates to see the Vineyard.
While making great wine The Lane Vineyard also believes that wine labels should be authentic and reveal something specific about the identity of where that wine came from or as they say 'a genuine sense of place' or what the French call 'terroir'. What on the label The Lane Vineyard call, ‘the grain of truth’. On the labels of The Lane you won’t find your usual back label inscription, instead they use geographical coordinates called 'longitude and latitude' to pinpoint which vineyards the grapes came from. You can input the coordinates into Google maps and see the vineyards. This is just one example;
The restaurant at The Lane has one of the most beautiful views of the Adelaide hills and has received many accolades from numerous sources like, Gourmet Traveler Restaurant Guide 2013, SA Life and People’s Choice. There aren’t too many wineries that can boast a restaurant within the vineyard and fewer still which open for lunch seven days a week. The food is matched to the wine so you really can’t go wrong, and if you just want to graze there are plenty of plates to share while taking in those amazing views.

The Adelaide Hill’s Wine Region is producing some amazing wine and The Lane Winery is a leader in the region.

Koala rates The Lane in the Adelaide Hills of South Australia a “must do” for the wine, for the food and for the place!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Thanks to Tulley for a fantastic taste and tour.

Nov 22, 2012

Olivers Taranga, McLaren Vale

This cellar door in South Australia was recently named the best Cellar Door in McLaren Vale. How could I resist the temptation to be the judge of that (behaving like Kiwi). In an effort to uphold our mission I stopped in to visit OliversTaranga Cellar Door.
Greeted by one of the vineyard dogs I entered and started the judging. What a cute little tasting room with all sorts of history on the walls. The ‘Workers Cottage’ was built on the Oliver family property ‘Taranga’ in the early 1850′s. During 2006/07 the cottage has been restored by 5th and 6th generation Oliver family members plus many, many helpers.
While enjoying the wine offerings I was fortunate enough to meet Corrina Wright the sixth generation making wine at Olivers Taranga. Having gone to school for a while at the wine maker learning Mecca of UC Davis (among other places) near world famous Napa Valley, she has earned respect at a young age. Corrina serves on a number of industry boards and her commitment to the wine industry in Australia was rewarded with a position on the inaugural ‘Future Leaders- Succession for the Australian Wine Industry’ program in 2006.

I had a great tasting and a fantastic chat with Corrina. Look, I'm not the only one who can judge and ‘Recommend’, so you go by and say hi to Corinna and make up your own mind. I did, and loved it!

The cellar door is open for tasting and sales 7 days a week, 10am- 4pm.

So stop on by and tell em we sent you.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Nov 19, 2012

Walkabout, Tilbrook Estate

Located in the historic Adelaide Hills town of Lobethal, in the old Onkaparinga Woollen Mill is the home of one of the smallest “grape to bottle” wineries in the Adelaide Hills, Tilbrook Estate. Don’t be put off by its small size. James hand crafts some wonderful wines in the style of, and drawing inspiration from, the classic French wine regions of Burgundy, Champagne, the Loire and Alsace. James Tilbrook and his wife Annabelle planted their first eight acres in 1999 after being involved in wine making as far afield as Oregon in the United States.

James tries to allow the vineyard to do the talking and to interfere as little as possible with the winemaking process. “Wine should be a reflection of place if at all possible” says James.
With the advent of warmer weather, it’s time to fire up the wood fired brick oven. With a new page called “Menu” under the “Visit our Cellar Door” page. This lists what is offered, including their popular Adelaide Hills Gourmet platter and of course, those great Wood Oven Pizzas to enjoy while sitting in the lovely courtyard area.

With the famous Lobethal Markets starting back up now is the perfect time to visit Tilbrook Estate for some good wine and food and check out the market and make a day of it in the Adelaide Hill’s.

The Cellar door is open during the week 10 – 3, weekends 11 – 5, closed Wednesday. If you would like to go and see them outside these hours please give them a call at 08 8389 5318! 1 Adelaide Lobethal Road, Lobethal SA 5241.

Koala ‘Recomends” you stop by and say hi to James.

Happy tasting,

Kiwi & Koala

Nov 16, 2012

Walkabout 2012 Nepenthe Adelaide Hills

One of the bonues for those who like beautiful scenery and the simple pleasure of a picnic, as well as wine, are the opportunities for enjoying said picnics at wineries. One of those that have a great spot is Nepenthe in the Adelaide Hills. While visiting the area with his parents Koala stopped by the Cellar Door for a taste. The drive up to the Cellar door and the adjacent picnic area though the vineyards is beautiful. The picnic area makes for a fantastic spot to enjoy the beauty of the Adelaide Hills.
Aside from a great location, the tasting room / cellar door is bright and inviting. Tasting through the wines of Nepenthe was a delight starting with the 2011 Nepenthe Sauvignon Blanc, a lovely crisp clean and easy to drink wine. Koala diligently worked his way through all the offerings. Look, it’s a tough job but we are committed to it for the benefit of all.

While discussing wines and Koala’s travels, the Cellar Door manager popped her head around the corner with a “I know that voice”. It was a definite case of ‘it’s a small world’. She had met Koala in San Luis Obispo, California a few months earlier while Koala tasted some Sextant Wines where she was pouring.

Koala would ‘Recommend’ you go for a drive into the beautiful Adelaide Hills and swing into Nepenthe and enjoy some of their wonderful wines, buy a bottle or two and partake of picnic with your favorite person. You will be glad you did.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Nov 13, 2012

WineWalkabout Cardinham Estate Clare Valley (updated)

With my brother doing the driving, it was off to the Clare valley for an overnight whirlwind trip.

Sometimes the Adventure is who you meet, and not what you find. Sometimes the stars align and its both. Its times like these that the Adventure can become more than the sum of its parts.
This story really begins a couple of months earlier at a cellar door in the southern Clare area. A lovely young lady, we will call her “Kim”, recommended a cellar door just on the north side of the town to my brother. Needless to say a good time was had by all. Now while not on my radar for the area my brother was adamant about going there. Younger siblings do sometimes have valuable information on occasion (who knew).

Truly not off the beaten track and just a very short distance north of Clare on the right hand side of the road is Cardinham Estate.

As you enter the gravel drive and pull up in front of the cellar door the impression is a family winery doing the best they can with what they have. Now while this description sounds like just an average winery as it turns out, the statement is true, but the results are amazing. It turns out they had one of the highest rated Rieslings in the world in 2003 to prove the point (current one is pretty bloody good to).

The original vineyard was purchased by Fred Dinham (Grandfather) in 1981 and the property has been managed and expanded on by Noel and Heather Smith ever since. Their two sons Scott and Shane, with the support of their families, have learnt the trade over the last 20 years and are now taking the reigns of the family business into the future.

Cardinham Estate was originally founded by Fred Dinham as a single vineyard of 60 acres in 1981 now known as the Home Block. By the 1990's the whole family had started to work on the property, which now included the Stradbrooke vineyards.

Cardinham Estate is now made up of four separate vineyard sites totalling 160 acres. Vineyard plantings date back to the 1860's and continued right up to recent years.

The Alexandria, 1860's Muscat, is a wine of unique qualities and magical offerings made from one of the oldest vineyards in Australia. Almost defying description it’s an amazingly smooth and magical Muscat. Noel told the story of some bloke who described it as “angels pissing on your tonsils”. Got a little queasy over that description.
We got to spend a fair amount of time with Noel over a two day period with Jazz the dog never too far away. Noel is a classic Aussie of an era gone by. He tells it as he sees it, and his opinions are out there for all to listen to. He tells of good times and bad and of how much work making wine is, and of the fact that in some ways the Estate should be called Chateau ANZ (bank). But you never get the feeling that he would want to be doing anything else.
His stories are colourful and engaging and paired with his wine makes for a magical experience. Not one to go in for bragging and flash, his philosophy is to let the wine speak for itself (unless you ask). We think someone should shout from the mountain tops about how fantastic some of these wines are.

There are some fantastic upcoming vintages that Noel was kind enough to share. Watching Noel pour wine from a 4” tap into a glass was very entertaining (great valve control). I was sure some were to be bottled immediately they seemed so ready but Noel was adamant that they needed more time to be the best they could be. This no wine before it's time, stubborn approach to producing wine, that is the best they can make it and not just “ok” must surely be why their 'current release' Stradbrooke Selection Shiraz is a 2008. This was my selection to purchase and I give it an 8 and is ***.

I could go on and on about each of their award wining Rieslings, their fantastic Cabernets and the unexpectedly bold yet elegant Stradbrook Shiraz and a host of other fantastic offerings, but the long and the sort of it is you just need to go there and taste them for yourselves. I highly 'Recomends' you go experience their great wines and maybe if you are truly lucky, experience the Noel factor.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala
Yeah it was that good!

Nov 12, 2012

National Wine Centre South Australia

Situated on the edge of Adelaide's stunning Botanic Gardens the National Wine Centre of South Australia combines bold architecture and a series of conference and meeting rooms.It also features a number of outdoor terrace areas with views of the centre's courtyard and adjacent Botanic Gardens.

The National Wine Centre offers a number of wine events for the general public to enjoy and although not generally public Koala thought he should attend an event to experience first hand what was going on. He was told that he could enjoy the best wines Australia has to offer at Friday's Uncorked, a free entry event run fortnightly. There was also a Wine Master Class that occurred in conjunction with the Uncorked event but you had to book and it was not free. Koala went ahead and booked so as to bring you all the inside scoop!

As it turned out the Friday Uncorked event he attended featured the wines of TheLane Vineyards from the Adelaide Hill’s with none other than John Edwards himself doing the Master Class. Koala was up for the challenge having signed up for the Master Class and was immediately confronted with the cost. Having attended numerous wine maker / owner exclusive classes over the years usually ranging in price from $75-$150, this price came as a shock…. $20, yes that’s it twenty dollars! These classes are definitely not intended to generate any income.
Fantastic value!
The wines were fantastic and John was educational, entertaining and kept everyone’s attention. Telling of how they got lucky with their first land purchase of twenty acres and how they have grown to over two hundred. Along with delving deep into the wines he talked about the overall philosophy of The Lane and provided an interesting and relatively comprehensive overview.

The class was very intimate and only accommodated twenty people. The room acoustics made for a lively setting and was attended with enthusiasm by a diverse crowd.

After the class Koala attended the free open to the public Uncorked event where people could purchase glasses of The Lane wines and listen to some acoustical guitar and have some nibbles. There were a couple hundred people enjoying good wine both inside and out in a great location.

There are also meals at the winter wine dinners and the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of chocolate and wine pairing at their wine classes.

A fantastic facility with great events and really everyone should go and enjoy. Oh yeah and learn to!

Koala rates National Wine Centre of South Australia a “must do”!

Happy learning,

Kiwi & Koala

PS. Go visit The Lane for great wine and food!

Nov 7, 2012

Koala goes Walkabout 2012 With United Airlines

All air travel is not created equal.

Leg one United Airlines San Francisco to Sydney 747-400.

Traveling between California and Adelaide Australia has become a tale of two types of journey. Having made this particular journey a few times over the last twenty years, and once or twice a year for the last ten years it was really a shock that this flight felt and looked like the one's from twenty years back. In fact I'm pretty sure it was the same plane from all those years ago as threadbare as it was. It was missing most of the paint on the nose and the left front window of the cockpit was broken when we arrived in Sydney (don't know if it was cracked when we left SF).

In the last fifteen years the carrier has alwas been either Air New Zealand or Qantas, with Air New Zealand winning out as most used, due to them having the cheapest flights. It has been many years since United Airlines  has been the carrier. A few years ago a United Mileage Credit card was acquired to collect airline points / miles to make this trip more financially accessible. Having a bunch of airline points / miles to use one would of thought that this would give you a step up. Not so fast international traveler. The amount of points / miles is (since the Continental merger a year or so back) is double what it used to be unless you take the most zig zag flight path possible. Compare 17 hours travel time to 48 hours travel time. It is almost impossible to use them in any way close to just buying a ticket, and the routs you have to take and the amount of time sitting in airports is simply a way to fill less desirable seats. Simply put, using points makes you a second class traveler.

Traveling on the rout from San Francisco to Adelaide Australia, it has been many many years since one of these routs came without a personal viewing screen and about a hundred movies and Telly shows to choose from, so it was qite a shock when transported back in time to the 80's. There were also no power outlets to plug portable devices into or recharge your obligatory I-product either.

As part of this step back in time experience, the food was not of the standard one has come to expect either. There was a glimmer of hope as the wine choice was a Fox Grove Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon that was not a bad drop.

This travel experience barely rated an 'OK, Yeah thats it, OK'. That is all, move on, there is nothing else to read here.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi and Koala

Nov 1, 2012

Tasting treat at Tablas Creek

There are many wineries that make a good wine every now and then and there are some that make great wine once in a while, and then there are a handful of wineries that make good and great wine consistently season after season. One of those that do good and great season in and season out is Tablas Creek Vineyard.  On a recent WineWalkabout Paso Robles tasting tour (with special guest Frog) Tablas Creek was pulled from the hat as one of the stops. On what was a lovely warm to almost hot Saturday afternoon we all rolled up to the tasting room to give their wines the once over and critique. As it turned out Frog has been a long term club member as he believes that Tablas Creek is his French Rhone Connection. We were very impressed with Frogs French Rhone collection but in our typical irreverent attitude we figured we would be the judge of that, and so in we went.
A fairly large with clean modern style tasting room greets you as you enter. Our little group were directed into a side room bar for tasting which although open to the main room felt a bit like a private tasting. Kiwi figured they heard our snarky commentary before we went in and wanted to get us half way out. The tasting room lady who drew the short straw and got to deal with us did a fantastic job of educating us about the history of the winery and the philosophy behind the wines, as well as some of the technical stuff. The wines were, well they were what we were told they would be. Great!
Tablas Creek has an interesting history that we will just quote from their website so as not to misstate the information. “Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The families created a partnership in 1985 and in 1989 purchased a 120-acre property in the hilly Las Tablas district of west Paso Robles for its similarities to Châteauneuf du Pape: limestone soils, a favorable climate, and rugged terrain.
The partners imported the traditional varietals grown on the Perrins’ celebrated estate, including Mourvèdre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Counoise for reds, and Roussanne, Viognier, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc for whites. These imported vines passed a rigorous 3-year USDA testing program, were propagated and grafted in our on-site nursery, and used to plant our organic estate vineyard.”
Frog was very up on this history and over a cool canteen of water imparted some additional history and some interesting stories. Cool canteen you ask, yes cool canteen. Tablas Creek takes the organic, green and carbon footprint stuff pretty seriously and one of the neat things they have done is provide their visitors access to a cool drink of filtered water in stainless steel canteens that they then clean each night and reuse saving the landfills from copious amounts of discarded plastic bottles. Tablas Creek Vineyards received their organic certification in January, 2003 and continue to explore how to better respect their place as evidenced when they began farming much of the vineyard Biodynamically in 2010. Look go to Tablas Creek Vineyards and taste their wine and experience their hospitality and talk to them about their vineyard practices and the why’s of how they make their wine and experience a premium winery with a unique story. Look, don’t take our word for it just go and enjoy good and great wine from a premium winery or to quote one of those Wine something magazines "a world class winery that excels at so many things". Go on, get out there and tell em WineWalkabout sent you! We recommend you do(Frog to)!
Located at 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446 and open daily from 10:00AM to 5:00PM.

Happy Travel Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala