Oct 26, 2013

WineWalkabout WW

This last week, one of the favorite wines consumed at the dinner table was a 2008 Petite Sirah from Peoples Wine Revolution. This wine was just as the PWR motto would suggest. Ruling class wine at working class prices. This of course is exactly what WW wines are meant to be and this one did not disappoint. While enjoying the wine, this is what was discovered; there were notes of dark purple and black fruits like black cherry, blackberry, plum with undertones of coffee, dark chocolate and vanilla. Nice balance, good acidity and nice concentration. It went beautifully with the Italian sausage and mushroom spaghetti sauce and whole wheat linguine noodles. A great drop and rated a 6-7 and ****.
Go by and check out the PWR website and get some of their wine for yourselves.

Bea's Knees 2008 oakville2008 Bea's Knees Petite Sirah El Dorado County, California Our 2008 “Bea's Knees” is a blend of Petite Sirah (86%) and Zinfandel (14%) from the Sierra Foothills, a region unlike any other in California due to its elevation and granitic soils. Petite Sirah and Zinfandel are two of the varieties that excel in these hills.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala


Oct 22, 2013

Salinas Valley Food and Wine year three.

This was the third year of the Salinas Valley Food and Wine Festival. Year one was, well, not great, but it was year one and the ball was rolling and that was a win. Year two made some great progress, particularly with the VIP experience, as it moved into the very nice Steinbeck Center. This year, it moved the VIP's into the exhibit center of the Steinbeck center which was very nice and added a great feel, and we were hopeful of year three being the best yet. In one way it was (exhibit center), but for those that paid the big bucks for a VIP experience, it was a big disappointment, and a serious overcharge for what was received. The street fair portion was spread over three city blocks, designed to include as many downtown businesses as possible, but in doing so spread things a bit thin. But by most accounts, as a general street festival the event was well received and attended. 

There was a car show and a number of bands. A farmers market and a series of food trucks (food for sale). Cooking demonstrations, arts and crafts for sale, and even a beer booth. While putting wine tasting tables inside local businesses must have sounded like a good idea, and in some cases it does work, trying to taste wine in an environment with strong perfume or food and beverage odors is a complete bust. The big disappointment was at the VIP experience.

First: Let’s review a simple definition of VIP.

"A Very Important Person or VIP is a person who is accorded special privileges due to his or her status or importance. VIP may be used as a title in a similar way to premium."

That being said, to purchase a VIP ticket (over $90) to an event that has less to offer (six wineries) than the regular ticket ($40 and 15 wineries) is a bit counter intuitive, and as far as we could tell there was no exclusivity. Every winery that poured in VIP poured to the general public, where is the special privilege? The wine being poured was good to very good, but to have a lot less on offer than the previous year and cost more was a disappointing situation.

Last year, there were a lot more wineries, and this year there was no beer, Sparkling wine, Tequila or Vodka tasting and no cooking demo's. Only one of the Pre-event wine competition Gold Medal wines was being poured by a winery in VIP, probably because only one of the Gold winning wineries was pouring at all in VIP. There were four of the medal winning (gold, silver or bronze) Pinot Noir available to taste, but poured by a volunteer, who knew nothing of the wines, but to add insult to the situation you had to select only one, as that was all you were allowed to taste. No interaction possible with the award winning wineries or any of the judges. Most of the food ran out at about three o'clock which was aided (would have run out earlier) by a lack of plates and utensils at some stations, and the tasting was being wrapped up by 4:30. Again, for an event that was advertised from 12 - 5 it was falling short for the VIP's.

The ride home program provided by Cardinale Way was very nice, but again lacked solid promotion, and there was no real obvious sign up location exiting the venue. 
You look around and see some new cars parked down the side street, so you wander over to see if this was the ride home place. It was, and next thing you know you are being whisked away in a new Audi or GMC vehicle. This was a great service as there were no designated driver tickets for sale (again). So thanks to Cardinale Way for the ride it was very much appreciated.

I summary, for all the possibilities and the little steps forward, for a VIP ticket they would need to ask us back to give them a second chance, and unfortunately a theme heard from a number of VIP ticket purchasing attendees.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Oct 17, 2013

Don't wine about the cheese...

You have some folks coming over for wine Wednesday and you are looking to put on a bit of a spread. Some nice salami and some cheeses. Salami and cured meats is easy. Visit our friends at Alle Pia. A great selection of cured meat products to go with your favorite wine and any cheese. But what type of cheeses should you get to go with the wine? Well put the can of cheese wiz back on the shelf as there are a lot of choices, and of course that is the biggest part of the problem. What to choose? How do you figure out what to get without being a cheese ponce and getting the most off the wall cheeses that, well, most wont like very much. With the overwhelming number of cheeses available, lets keep it simple, and limit the choices to a grouping of somewhat mainstream options and some advice on how to make the proper pairings..

If you are having a lot of different kinds of wine, the firmer, sharper cheeses tend to work better with everything. Soft cheeses are little harder to match with wine but can be worth the effort. A good example would be a regular Brie. This will go well with a lot of white wines. Good solid bets for a wine tasting are three or five year aged cheddar, a cave-aged gruyère or other mountain-style cheese.
Usually one drinks red wine with hard cheese, and white wine with soft cheeses but that’s just a rule of thumb. Wine and cheese combinations, much like all other aspects of wine, are a purely personal decision. That said, there are some combinations that are naturally more pleasing to the vast majority, and a good source of that information is the place you purchase the wine or better yet, where you purchase the cheese. There you can taste the suggested cheese and at least make a somewhat taste assisted guess. Better yet find a cheese shop that has someone on staff that is a Sommelier, or at least has a vast experience with wine and cheese pairings as we did.

The good folks at Star Market in Salinas have you covered. We are sure there are a couple of others in the area but that's who has helped us out so far. We recently were directed to a lovely pairing for a citrus style Chardonnay. A yummy ossau iraty sheep cheese that was a big hit with the group.

Enjoy the possibilities and be a bit adventurous, because with a little help it can be a situation where the sum of the parts exceeds the whole (or something like that). 

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Oct 9, 2013

WineWalkabout WW

The WW this week is one that stood out from the rest for a number of reasons. First it was ***. Yes we know that WW wines should be ****. This was a special occasion as rack of lamb was the meal that needed a pairing. Also there are a vast number of *** wines in the wine fridge that someone needs to drink so why not. The special bottle this week was from Rutherford Hill in Napa Valley.

The 2009 Rutherford Hill Syrah was outstanding. This wine was a great representation of one of our favorite varietals with good structure wonderful dark fruit nose and flavor with a soft long finish. We do normally try to have less expensive wines for the at home dinners, but with a rack of lamb going on the table something of this quality was in order, and at an 8 and *** this turned out to be the perfect choice. A very lovely wine that would be more a home going out to dinner.

When you are in Napa, go on over to the Silverado Trail and visit Rutherford Hill, check out all their offerings and tell em we sent you!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Oct 7, 2013

Tasting Carmel Valley Wine Trail

When you hear of Carmel it is often times referring to Carmel by the Sea. Now Carmel by the Sea is a beautiful place, and as it happens also has a number of tasting rooms to break the monotony of walking around a beautiful sea side town, looking at all the stores and eating at all the great restaurants. But the Carmel we are referring to here today is Carmel Valley. Carmel Valley is a great place to visit and go wine tasting. Wine tasting you repeat in disbelief? Yes wine tasting!

The Carmel Valley Wine Trail is one of the lesser known wine tasting destinations that is very deserving of your attention. The Carmel Valley wine appellation was granted an official AVA designation in 1983. In Carmel Valley you will also find three championship golf courses, several world-class resorts as well as quaint country inns and many great places to dine, from simple and inexpensive to world class. The area has a lot to offer and you never have to leave the Valley if don't want to. Here is a LINK to some overview information of the Valley.

The Carmel Valley Wine Trail starts at the ocean end of the Valley  in the Crossroads shopping center at;
Taste Morgan. Next up as you travel into the Valley is Boete (pronounced 'bwah-TAY') and a little further in is Chateau Julien. As you go past the Laureles Grade on your left you are just a couple minutes from what is commonly know as the Carmel Valley Village.

Once in the village you can choose between about 20 tasting rooms. In the village you could walk to all the tasting rooms if you had a lot of time (a weeks worth of tasting). This is one of those places that requires multiple trips. One stop that will keep you in one spot all day is the East End Wine Row. A grouping of six tasting rooms, with five in a row and Cima Collina just 50 meters away in what used to be an old post office (very cool).
There are some lovely spots to just sit and have a taste or a glass and grab a bite, like Georis or Cima Cillina with their beautiful gardens. Spacious tasting rooms like Joyce and those with comfy couches like Holman. There are those nice and cozy tasting spots like Carmel Road and Joullian. There are a whole lot more (see Map) and most are well worth your time and taste buds.

Take a trip to Carmel Valley and enjoy this wonderful place and tell everyone we sent you!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Previous visits;

Taste Morgan


Carmel Valley Info Video

Georis Tasting area.

Oct 1, 2013

Merlot Month in Monterey California

Ok, it's Merlot month, not just here in Monterey but all over the world. It's also breast cancer awareness month, but we're wine guys (for this post). We just happened to be focused on Merlot's in our back yard, and our back yard is Monterey County. There 
are a few producers growing Merlot grapes and making a Merlot in our area, and so we decided to invite them all to submit to a blind tasting to find the best Monterey County Merlot. We know you are thinking, what a huge undertaking we were burdening ourselves with, but for the good of the wine drinking community we were willing to put in the hard work. While not everyone submitted, we're sure they have their reasons (busy with harvest) but for those that did, we felt it was a testament to the belief in their wine as good quality and value to their customers that they stepped up to the challenge.

Monterey County is considered one of California’s premier wine-producing regions (lots of their grapes go to Napa and Sonoma).  Monterey Merlot?, Isn't Monterey all Pinot Noir and Chardonnay?  Well as of a couple years ago there were 42 different varietals grown in Monterey County. While Merlot is not commonly grown in Mobterey County, a few small areas offer the terroir needed.

With both luxury resorts and quaint B&Bs, fine dining and beach burger stands it's no wonder that Wine Enthusiast named it 'California's Top Wine Destination'. It is John Steinbeck country with a furtile valley rimmed with beautiful mountain ranges, and spectacular coastal scenery including Big Sur, 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, Carmel by the Sea and Pacific Grove.  It also has the tourist (and locals) areas of Cannery Row and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Now you know that the Monterey area has a wide range of things to do and see, as well as 45 or so tasting rooms for wine-oriented visitors.  So let's get back to the topic of Merlot month in Monterey.

With bags on our heads (it was a blind tasting after all) we got stuck into it. The tough yakka of blind tasting the wines and picking a favorite out of the bunch. While discussing the process of picking the best we decided to pick a couple of extra favorites from the group for some added value to our readers. Kind of like the Miss Universe contest, a winner first runner up and two honorable mentions. We did say kinda!

Merlot. How would one describe Merlot? To Quote the Appellation America;


Madame Merlot, you’re a big gal, soft and smoky; how we love your full, curvaceous figure. But you are so much more than simply a voluptuous pinup girl from Bordeaux. You carry yourself with a demeanor of maturity always ahead of your age. Perhaps it is your ever amiable and generous nature that makes you the perfect companion for the acid-tongued Cabernet Sauvignon. You smooth the rough edges he’s so prone to in his youth, making him more presentable to polite society.

Who would not fall in love with Merlot with a description like that. It's no wonder that Merlot is often the gateway to red wine and yet is also the go to for those with mature discerning palates.

We went to great lengths to make sure that it truly was a blind tasting. The things we all knew;
1. We were tasting Merlot from Monterey County Wineries with tasting rooms.
2. We were to be tasting based on how we enjoyed the wine not just as a Merlot.
3. No one had any clue whose wine they were tasting. (one person knew who they all were, but not in what bags)
4. All bottles had their capsules removed and were brown bagged.
5. Necks were taped to conceal any cork identification, then were loaded into the wine refrigerator for proper chilling.
6. Bagged bottles were randomly removed from wine fridge by non drinking individual to be numbered and put in cooler for transport.
7. Non drinker pulled all corks out of view of the five tasters.
8. All wine was poured by non taster.
9. Wines were revisited at the request of individual tasters.
10. Each individuals ratings were cross referenced to the number on the bottle and tabulated.

A couple comments to begin;
There were some surprises! A serious disappointment! Some generally very close scoring between tasters.
Tasters, who were the tasters? Well due to some scheduling conflicts there were fewer than hoped but a group of five did the work. There was of course the Kiwi and Koala and our collector collaborator Frog and two of the better halves. The third better half was in charge of making sure we had no clue as to who's wine we were tasting, taking notes and tabulating scores.

Ok,ok already, so what are the results you ask? Again some very, very close votes.

Of the wines submitted these were the top four, Puma Rd Gold, Joulian Vineyards Silver and Galante Vineyards and Heller Estate Bronze.

We thank the wineries for submitting and these four will be scheduled for future stories on their wineries and other wines.

So as we head into Merlot month remember to go out tasting and pay special attention to the Merlot.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala