Feb 27, 2014

#WW Cow Girl Winery Hacienda

While out wine tasting recently in Carmel Valley California this delightful wine came to our attention. While tasting at the CowGirl Winery tasting room in Carmel Valley this was the wine that just seemed made for #WW, weekly wine or weekly winner or something for wine Wednesday, or hay, today ends in Y let’s open a bottle of wine.
The wine is a 2011 Red Blend, Hacienda. A blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. 

This medium bodied Bordeaux blend has deep ruby color and nice blue and purple fruit flavors with a simple but nice finish. Rated a 6 and **** this is a great any day wine.

There were only 412 cases of this wine made so head on down and get some before it’s all gone.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 24, 2014

Cowgirl Winery, Carmel Valley

Carmel Valley has become quite the place to go taste wine. While not at a winery most still provide great experiences and one of those is Cowgirl Winery. On a recent drive to the area a tasting was in order. How did we come across the Cowgirl Winery you want to know? Well recently at a tasting event in Salinas, Pigs Pinot and More, we were given a taste of their Chardonnay by Molly and invited to stop on by. There you have it, a tasting that generated a follow-up and ended in a sale.

On a spectacular winters day in Carmel Valley, Molly walked me through a tasting flight of the Cowgirl Winery wines. The flight comes with some local made bread from the Corkscrew Cafe and some nice Gouda cheese (must say it went fairly well with all the wines). The flight is the method they use for their tastings although you can buy a bottle of your favorite Cowgirl Wine and drink it there.

The tasting this day consisted of two whites (kind of) the 2012 Cowgirl Blush, a stone fruity light Rosé, the 2011 Cowgirl White, Chardonnay, a light clean style with nice floral nose and delicate yellow fruit and clean finish. The reds were the 2011 Hacienda (purchased). This is a blend of Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. This medium bodied Bordeaux blend has nice blue and purple fruit flavors and a nice finish. Last but not least was the 2010 Cowgirl Red. A Cabernet Sauvignon that is a nice fruit forward medium bodied wine that is easy to drink with a subtle minerality with slight stewed fruit quality. None of these wines have production over 500 cases.

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The wines were nice and all but the Cowgirl Red were very well priced at <**** making them all great anytime drinking wines. The Cowgirl Red was just *** still well priced. The wine was served in tumblers, which to a glass snob like me would not be my first choice. That having been said, it was somewhat appropriate given the decor, atmosphere and ambiance of this ranch - Hacienda type of setting which I was told, is the idea. Did I mention my tasting partner for the day was a chicken!

Tasting expert
One thing that was a little disappointing is the need to spend $100 (wine and or gift shop)to get your tasting fee waived. A little steep, perhaps (just an opinion).

A very nice casual western Hacienda type atmosphere and decor make this a great place to meet some friends, have a taste, buy a couple bottles and enjoy a sunny afternoon. So go on by and tell Molly we sent you, we recommend you do.

Hours of operation (Winter hours):
Mon-Thurs: 11:30-4:30pm
Fri-Sun: 11:30-5:00pm

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 20, 2014

2014 Paso Robles Rhone Rangers Experience

While we did unfortunately, due to some previous commitments, miss the Rhone Essentials Seminar and the Vintners Lunch, (next time) we did manage to attend the Grand Tasting & Silent Auction. We tried to taste the nearly 150 wines from 44 members [view the list here] of the Paso Robles Rhone Rangers, including the top single Rhone varietals and the best in Rhone blends, but alas we fell a little short.  During the Grand Tasting those that wished, got to bid on lots [view the silent auction lots] generously donated by Rhone Rangers member wineries to help support the Rhone Rangers scholarship fund.

You fell short you ask incredulously? Yes, we did. In our defense there were about 150 wines to taste, which we were up for, but only given two hours to do it in was pushing our tasting skills past the limit. Besides, there were so many good wines it was not a matter of getting through them all but in visiting as many new wines as possible and catching up with a few favorites. This we managed to do.
The event was held at the beautiful Broken Earth Winery on Hwy 46 East in a grand barrel room that was a great setting, although the noise level with about 500 people in there all talking made the atmosphere very energetic.

There was a very easy to follow layout and finding wineries was as easy as any event we have ever attended (nicely done). The tasty cheeses of Vivant were nicely spaced, were always accessible and were always topped up. Given how nice they were it was a grand effort on their behalf.
With decent stemware and plenty of water bottles to keep everyone hydrated, this was a comfortable well laid out and organized event, that made for a very nice afternoon tasting some very nice wines.

Wineries from Adelaida to Zenaida were pouring and wines based on Cardigan, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Rousanne and Syrah with all kinds of variations and different blends and styles making for an interesting and enjoyable tasting. The quality was overall very high and finding a favorite was near on impossible. We even went back and re-tasted a couple but no clear winner was found. Calling out our favorites may also not be fair to some of the wineries that we did not taste and so just know that we enjoyed most all of the wines and found that the overall price quality for most had them hitting above their price point.

Overall an event not to be missed but if you did, try to get your taste on at

Thanks to the good folks at Broken Earth Winery for their hospitality and to Tony from Halter Ranch Vineyard for getting us set.

    Happy Tasting Adventures,
     Kiwi & Koala

Feb 17, 2014

Movie Magic in New Zealand

A trip to New Zealand would not be complete without a day in Hobbiton. The movie set for some of the scenes from the Lord of the Rings movies and more recently the Hobbit Series. What sounds like a corny maybe take the geek kids is actually a very interesting Adventure and a visually beautiful place to visit.
If there has been any rain were your gum boots as otherwise your feet will get wet. Wandering around the area looking at the Hobbit homes and try to remember who lived where is a fun activity. The tour guides are well versed in all the stories from the beginning so even if you are not a big Rings fan this is still a great way to spend a day.

The Shires Rest Cafe offers a lovely setting to kick back and recoup with a great cup of coffee, beer or cider and a cracking sandwich or other meal item. Take in the environment of the nicely converted woolshed where you can relax on the balcony, enjoying the most stunning views of rural New Zealand. After a nice meal and some coffee we even got to watch a shearing demonstration and play with some lambs.

They have recently recreated, the Inn of the Hobbits as part of your tour. Not only that but now the Hobbiton Movie Set has launched ‘Evening Dinner Tours’, to begin on June 4 2014. The Hobbit homes have been fully wired, giving the Hobbiton Movie Set the ability to extend tours into the evening for what has to be a truly magical experience. The Hobbit homes and other iconic landmarks including the mill, the bridge, The Party Tree and The Green Dragon Inn will be lit and glowing in the night sky.

Check out their website and plan your trip to this magical place and experience a little New Zealand and movie magic we 'recommend' you do!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 13, 2014

WineWalkabout WW

The wine most worthy of mention this last week was this very nice drop from Grey Wolf Cellars in Paso Robles.The Label is one of the Barton Family Wines which comprise Barton, Grey Wolf and Occasional Wines. The wine is a 2011 The Territory. This is a blend of Zinfandel, Syrah and Petit Sirah and is fairly bold with a full mouth feel and a bit peppery. Although that may sound a bit bold it is nicely fruit forward and is a great drink by itself as well as with food. The Barton Family Wines have a great selection of wines that drink above the retail price point and we are going to be drinking more. This particular wine rates a 6-7 and **** and we recommend you stop in and try their range for yourself.

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 10, 2014

Adelaide Hills Adventure with Geoff Hardy at K1

After spending a little time with Geoff Hardy at the Uncorked event at the National Wine Center I was very excited to get the opportunity to spend some time with him at the K1 by Geoff Hardy property.

The property is at the southern end of the Adelaide Hills wine region and a little off the beaten track. As I followed the map to the property I drove by the spectacular Kuitpo Forest. The Kuitpo Forest Reserve covers an area of some 3,600 hectares, of which 60 percent is softwood plantation. The area is used for camping and hiking as well as many other activities.

Following the signs I turned off the paved road onto the gravel and was thinking that this was more off the beaten path than one might anticipate. Well I need not have worried as the entry drive set the stage for what is one of the most magical settings for a Cellar Door that I have experienced. This is not just my opinion as the Cellar door is also ranked as one of Australia's Top Ten Cellar Door Experiences by leading wine industry journals.
As you descend down the long driveway, you are greeted by a majestic lake and building.

The day I was there was rainy so my pictures are a bit drab but even in the rain this was a place that made you feel at home or at least that is, what you wished were home. After parking and as I walked to the Cellar Door the beauty of the location and the closeness of it were magnified. Walking up on the deck that overhung the lake just made you want to smile. I stopped for a minute in the rain and just took it all in.
The Cellar Door is a unique lakeside tasting room with the centrepiece of which is a hand crafted tasting bench made by Geoff from 400 year old Red Gum from his Limestone Coast vineyard. It is such a beautiful piece of timber and adds so much character to the tasting room and to the tasting experience. Absolutely beautiful.

In 1987, Geoff Hardy who is a fifth generation descendant of the South Australian wine pioneer, Thomas Hardy, finally found his ideal site for the production of cool climate grapes in the Adelaide Hills.

The vineyard became known as the K1 Vineyard as this unique groundbreaking site was the first commercial planting of vines in the Kuitpo (pronounced 'ky-po') region. Get it K (kuitpo) 1 (first).

Throughout his career, Geoff has been involved in the planting of more than 3,000 hectares of vines and has consulted to more than 200 different vineyards in Australia, France and Italy.

I was greeted at the door by Sebastian, Geoff's son, whom I had also met at the Uncorked event. Did you see Dad, said Seb as we exchanged pleasantries? I had not, although I did notice a Range Rover parked off an embankment.
Turns out that was Geoff out repairing some irrigation piping.

When you meet Geoff and shake his hand you quickly realise that these are the hands of someone who works them daily. Geoff is also a very focused individual and he believes that in order to produce high quality wines it is essential that the people involved are not only skilled, but also dedicated. Having met his winemaker Shane Harris, it is clear that the winemaker fits this profile. With 10 years of experience in the cellar Shane believes in earning his stripes, starting as a cellar hand and spending many long nights studying the science of wine in the pursuit of his winemaking goals.

After having been involved in the K1 winemaking since 2006, Shane was appointed Senior Winemaker in 2011.
Shane says he relies on the vines to translate the unique message of the vineyard into something tangible and sees his role as "not losing the message between picking the grapes and opening the bottle".

Seb set up the bottles for tasting in their spectacular tasting area on that amazing piece of beautiful Red Gum. A spectacular piece of Australia right there.

We started with some of the K1 2009 Vintage Sparkling and proceeded through the lovely 2013 Gruner Veltiner. Next up was a first as having never tasted this variety before. The 2012 Arneis. Arneis is a rare variety originating from Piedmont in Northwest Italy. After WWII Arneis almost became extinct as it is notoriously difficult to grow. Next the very nice 2012 Chardonnay, the impressive 2011 Riesling / Gewurztraminer and the delightful 2013 Rose finishing the whites with an amazing 2010 botrytis. After a bit it was onto the reds. Tasted 2010 Pinot Noir, 2009 Merlot, 2009 Shiraz, 2006 Shiraz, 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Tzimmukin. All these were very nice to extremely nice but the one that caught my attention was the Tzimmukin. In biblical times the fruit of the vine was handled in many ways to produce various styles of wines. One of the more intriguing wines created was the 'Tzimmukin', using slightly dried grapes to increase strength and longevity. At K1 they have tried to capture the essence of this ancient technique by slowly air drying their best parcels of Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon in baskets to produce a wine of intense flavour and complexity (purchased one of these for myself).

After an engaging, delicious tasting Geoff took me on a tour of the area. As we drove through the vineyards and around another of the lakes on the property, Geoff's love of the land and his passion for what he is doing is absolutely infectious. He is in tune with every vineyard area we went through and knows which ones the roo's are enjoying, which ones need some TLC and which ones are showing great potential for the coming vintage. For lack of a better description, it was such a cool experience cruising around the vineyards and checking out Geoff's new house and just generally hanging out. We even collected and delivered a case of wine while out and about. Geoff showed me the lake, beach and island where they have a summer event and paddle boat race that he said is one of his favorite events. We went to the storage shed and checked out the restored car that is used for parades and the like.

I asked Geoff what he may be doing if he were not doing what he does and the answer was designing golf courses or landscape projects. I also asked what he thought set the seed for this love of vineyards. He attributed it to the days of family picnics with 60-100 people in the vineyards having a great time. Those were the days and Geoff tries to continue those great events with events similar on the property. Can only hope to be able to attend some in the future as they sound fantastic.
Geoff also tells of how he got a green thumb early, when doing a trade apprenticeship he was growing vines on the side.

This is an amazing property with a magnificent cellar door in one of the most beautiful spots you could imagine and to top it off with great people and great wines makes this a 'must do' if in  Adelaide.

Geoffs vision is to bring the family together in the family business (check) and to get the best expression of the terroir into his wines (check).

A personal thanks to Seb and Geoff for taking time out of their day to let me hang. Brilliant!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Oh and Geoff's favorite color is blue!

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 7, 2014

Us? Cork dorks, wankers, tossers or ponces?

This is a conundrum that has plagued men for an eternity, ok, ok, maybe not all men and maybe not for eternity but it has occupied a little of our conversations from time to time.

To help you to garner some perspective from our stories it might pay to have a bit of an understanding of where we fit within those parameters. You know, are we Ponces, tosser's, wankers, cork dorks or somewhere in between?

First and foremost we love wine and most things surrounding it. We are not just Enthusiast's or Spectators, we are passionate about wine. But where do we fit on this list? You know, between the Ponce category and the Cork Dork.
While we are not close to being Sommeliers, we are not exactly neophytes either.  Although from time to time on an occasion or two, things may have come out of our mouths that may fit us in these categories it would not be the norm.
With no real formal training other than many a tasting seminar, blending seminars and master classes, we have also read a fair bit and we have practiced some. OK a lot, we practise a lot, but since we don’t remember ever describing wine as ‘blowsy’ we don’t think ponce is applicable. We do know that the flavors we taste in wine are not pieces of chocolate or tobacco for example stuffed into the bottle for flavor and although we have also been accused of having a couple roo's loose in the upper paddock we still believe that cork dork is probably not applicable either.
Now while we don’t necessarily subscribe to the idea that we fit into the wanker category, we have both been called that at some time or other although generally not associated with wine. Rest assured it was probably undeserved and it was probably just our sarcastic humour or perhaps a little down under snarkiness that was not understood. Probably as simple as calling a tall guy 'shorty', a red head 'Bluey' or a bald guy Curly. Although, now we think about it, it may have been while tasting next to this bloke who's wife was getting a bit loud and we may have said,  'the old trouble and strife is a bit of a show pony eh mate, time to reign her in ay'. About that time she spat the dummy and did her block... a n d  we were called wankers! Fair enough.

As far as tossers go we have been accused of that as well, and generally we like to spin a few for the gullible and the slow but most of all for the know-it-all. Stories of drop bears and croc's, stampeding Kangaroos at sunset and the central jungles of the never never. So for now tosser tag will have to do until we come up with a better description of our skill set of wit and wisdom.

Lets face it with New Zealand and Australia being so small and so close it only stood to reason that we would know each other as kids prior to meeting here in California decades later. Right? 
And yes we know that last sentence is full of crap but you may be surprised how many don't! 

With that being said follow our Adventures for some entertainment and enlightenment from a couple of tossers who plan on practicing a lot...

Stay tuned for stories from around the world....................

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Feb 6, 2014

WineWalkabout WW

The first wine of the year that grabbed out midweek attention is from Lee Family Farm a part of Morgan Vineyards in Carmel Valley California. The specific wine was, everybody gasp, an Albarino! Some of you are wondering why the gasp and some may be wondering, whats an Alberino. Albarino is a white wine and for those who know us hence the gasp. It's not that we don't enjoy white wine but for some reason 99% of the time when pulling something from the wine fridge it is red. For those wondering what Alberino is, here is a quote from the winery; Albarino is a white grape traditionally grown in Spain and Portugal. In California, it has been gaining in popularity as a refreshing, crisp, fragrant “alternative” varietal- suited to growing in moderate to warm climates and producing a delicious accompaniment to Mediterranean cuisine.

The 2012 Lee Family Farm Albarino has a twist top (who cares, FYI) and a pale straw color with white peach, mango, pineapple on the nose. On the palate lingering flavors of nectarine, spice and a good acidity. This is a light bodied wine which would go well with a variety of appetizers or with light summer fare (which it did).
The overall drinkability of the lovely drop is very nice and hits well above its price point and we give it a rating of a 6-7 and at $18 gets ****. Very good value!

Stop by Morgan in the Carmel Crossroads Shopping Center for a taste and tell em we sent you!

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Feb 3, 2014

Dawn moves her Dream!

This last Saturday the 1st of February, Dawn Galante moved Dawns Dream to Carmel. After almost three years in Carmel Valley the tasting of Dawns Dream wines will now be done on the Nth West Corner (sort of) of San Carlos and 7th in the beautiful Carmel by the Sea. It's actually just behind the building on that corner.

The new digs offer quite a bit more room, which will allow them more flexibility for entertaining their wine drinking friends, clients and customers. Dawn tells us she is also very hopeful of much more foot traffic and to expose more people to her wines. This new place will also give her the ability to have nicer, intimate and more frequent events for her customers.

The new tasting room is open daily from 1-6pm, seven days a week for now.

Go on by and check out the new spot, it’s very nice. Oh and tell em we sent you!

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala