May 28, 2014

#WW Wine review Idle Hour 2011 Tempranillo

This last week one of the wines that stood out from the crowd was this spicy Spanish number from Idle Hour Winery. The 2011 Tempranillo was one of our favorites when we went for a quick scope em out tasting a few weeks ago and could not resist purchasing a bottle.

The wines of Idle Hour are produced in small lots using sustainably grown grapes and they make the wine gently, using native yeasts, gravity flow and other traditional methods. Winemaker Anna Marie dos Remedios tells us that her wine making practice is, "We do as little as possible..." that each wine is different than the other, hopefully expressing the character and subtlety that each variety can offer while showcasing the differences between each vintage and expressing the terroir of the vineyards. In actuality, this type of winemaking is anything but boring, with vintage to vintage showing the not so good years and hopefully showcasing the best vintages by producing some truly lovely wines. This one fit into the later.

This tempranillo has really nice floral aromatics typical of the best of the variety and on the palate light black pepper and spice with plum and blue fruit flavours upfront with nice acidity and fine tannins making this wine very food-friendly. The wine has nice length in its finish. Paired with a meal of spicy thick cut pork chops, broccolini and BBQ roasted olive oil potatoes it was a great match and one we will seek out again.

Winner of a BRONZE MEDAL at the 2014 SF CHRONICLE WINE COMPETITION - 01/10/14 we rate it at 6+ and ****.

Head on out to one of the two Idle Hour tasting locations and enjoy the wide range of wines to taste and find your next favorite wine.

Happy Wine Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala

May 26, 2014

Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Tasting Rooms 5-8

We know you have read all about the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea in a previous article and are just waiting to read about the all the tasting rooms prior to purchasing your Passport (purchase here) and planning your own personal Carmel Wine

In numerical order off the list we rolled up our sleeves and put our big boy pants on (don't drink without pants) and set about getting the scoop. We had started at the top and these are the second four... Here is a link to the First Four.

5. Silvestri Vineyards

As one enters this lovely tasting room it becomes quickly obvious that Alan Silvestri not only makes great wine but also makes wonderful music. Turning film from just a visual art form into an emotional one through music. His filmography which is shown on a screen in the tasting room is just awe inspiring.
Planted in 2000 and the first vintage in 2003 the vineyards are located approximately 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean up Carmel Valley. This location is the key element in the terroir of this unique site. Alan likens the winemaking style to the classic French wine farm tradition. This involves labor intensive hands on techniques such as 100% barrel fermentation for the Chardonnay and small open topped fermentors for the red varieties. They try to use traditional methods to allow the expression of the terroir while taking advantage of modern knowledge about wine fermentation and aging. With your passport you get to choose four of the seven lovely wines off their list of estate wines.
6. Dawns Dream Winery

Dawns is the new tasting room in town having only recently moved in from the Valley. Located behind the building on the NW Corner of 7th & San Carlos the Dawns Dream Winery tasting room is spacious and inviting. You can even take your picture in the iconic bath tub that features on the wine labels. Our tasting started off with Dawns lovely Chardonnay and then a Pinot Noir Rose and we never looked back. Next up there is the three Daughters. Dawn has named her wonderful Pinot Noir's after her three daughters. With all three having different personalities but all so lovely it is hard to find a clear favorite (talking about the wine, stay focused). Although only producing for five years Dawn has a very experienced wine maker crafting her wines and this shows clearly with awards stacking up fast. In fact every pinot they poured was awarded a gold in the Pinot Noir Summit and all Medaled at the San Francisco Wine Competition. We also found out they do a lovely cheese platter to keep your hunger at bay. With such a lovely setting and feel as well as many award winning wines this is a great choice for a stop on the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea.

7. Scheid Vineyards

Located just a block off of Ocean Avenue on the corner of San Carlos & 7th, this roomy Carmel Tasting Room has a nice inviting feel to taste an array of Scheid Vineyards wines. Scheid not only makes wine for their own labels but also for Napa and Paso Robles wineries labels as well. They change up the tasting flights every month so there is always something new to taste. For just a few dollars more you can upgrade your Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea passport to a Reserve tasting. The 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon alone may be worth the extra. You can also mix up your passport tasting to just whites or just reds giving great flexibility to create your own tasting. So head on in for the Estate flight of four Estate wines that show the diversity of Monterey.

8. Manzoni Cellars

The business, as it is today, began in 1990 when the family converted six acres of land to vine rootstock. In 1999, with the planting of imported clones, the Manzoni Family turned their family tradition into a full-time passion. As Mark Manzoni told us, "They believe that their stewardship of the land, their purposefully small yields, and their detailed attention to every aspect of production results in a more flavorful, better tasting selection to grace your table." Producing just 300 cases these are truly small production wines. Because their production is so small they can pick at the exact moment the small vineyard is ready and not worry about a big difference in ripeness like in larger vineyards.
With judicious use of new French oak these wines are subtle yet full flavored and are well worth trying.
This quaint little tasting room allows for the perfect spot to enjoy these wonderful wines in an intimate setting that often allows you to have your wine poured by and talk with Mark Manzoni himself. Located on San Carlos between Ocean and 7th in the Paseo Courtyard.

Another group worthy of your tasting choice!

Happy Wine Adventures,

May 24, 2014

Summer's Top Secret Wine tasting trips in California.

 Summer is fast approaching here in California, and going wine tasting is a great way to enjoy those great weather days. There are a number of great areas to go here in California, and we have covered some and will be covering more as soon as we can. We will focus on a couple of the less well known areas first. You may be the first of the wine ponce group, to plan a trip to one of these not as famous areas, once you find out what is to be experienced.

Some folks find the thought of going wine tasting both exciting and intimidating at the same time. Given the strange language that is often used and odd behaviour so we see how this could be. But not to worry as there really is nothing to be intimidated by. Your money is as good as anyones.
So plan a trip with a mate or friends and just have a good time. Nothing to be concerned about except too much fun. Read THIS to help you get started.

These are a number of places to get started. So stay tuned as we type up a storm and get you started  planning a trip as soon as possible.

Wine, wine tasting, wine Adventures

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

1st one is River Road Wine Trail in Monterey County California.
2nd one is Wineries of Santa Clara Valley, California
3rd area is Wineries of Mendocino, California
4th area is Carmel by the Sea, California
5th area Carmel Valley, California

May 19, 2014

A day in the life of the Vineyard

Like sand through an hour glass these are the days of the vines. Last we left you in the vineyard we were pruning. Ok, we were not pruning but we were watching, listening, and learning. As we have said the work in the vineyard never stops. Since then we have been bottling and now it’s back out to the vineyard to see what’s going on. It is now a couple weeks into May here in California and we have met up with Mark Pisoni of Pisoni Vineyards at their beautiful Santa Lucia Highlands vineyard in Monterey California.

Currently the vines are growing like weeds and we are in the middle of flowering. These little future bunches of grapes are some of what will end up in your glass. As the vines grow the grape clusters go through set and then veraison. Veraison is when the grapes begin changing color and softening- it is the onset of ripening. It is then that the careful selection of the bunch’s to keep and the ones to drop will be made. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Each region, each vineyard and each variety has its own needs and the way the vines are treated to grow the best grapes for any given area have differences. With that in mind Mark Pisoni was gracious enough to tell us about what is currently going on in his family's famous Pinot Noir vineyards.

Early spring brings the period we call “great growth” in the vineyard, because the new shoots grow like gangbusters. Depending on temperatures, 40–80 days after bud break the process of flowering begins with small flower clusters appearing on the tips of the young shoots looking like buttons. Flowering occurs when average daily temperatures stay between 15–20 °C (59–68 °F). We sometimes imagine we can see the vines actually grow! This great growth creates a lot of work in and around the vineyard, including weed cultivation and shoot thinning. The shoot thinning is done by hand, and is like a post pruning. Once the shoots are a few inches long, Mark can begin walking the vine rows to make sure they’re developing well and also to look for signs of disease or nutrient deficiencies. With every pass through the vineyard there is shoot tucking and leaf pulling as well as general observation of the health of the vines. This continues almost daily throughout the growing season.

Once spring is in full swing one of the worries is the weather. Too much rain, high winds or excess heat can impair pollination and or set. In the SLH region rain fall typically ends in April and these dry spring conditions help to promote a good “fruit set”.

The largest challenges to set in the SLH are the very high winds that roar down the valley every afternoon.  These ocean winds keep the appellation very cool and a great spot for growing Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. But these fierce winds can lead to a “poor set”.

Once the crop is set the numbers of clusters are counted. Yes this again requires someone in the vineyard actually counting each cluster (bunch) of grapes. Of course, there’s not much that can be done about too few, but if you count more clusters than is believed to allow them to ripen properly, then the excess clusters are dropped to the ground right then and there. Again a lot of hand TLC.

To help show you what we clumsily just tried to explain watch this video we took while talking to Mark Pisoni in the actual SLH vineyards.

Thanks to Mark Pisoni for indulging us and being a great sport. We look forward to visiting Mark in the vineyards again to check on the progress. Maybe around veraison. What do you think?

Happy Wine Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

May 14, 2014

#WW Wine review Silvestri 2010 Syrah

While out and about tasting one afternoon we came across this little gem from Silvestri Vineyards in Carmel by the Sea and could not resist the charms of this lovely wine at such a great price.

This #WW Syrah is cold soaked before fermentation in small tanks where great care is taken not to over extract this intense grape. Silvestri uses a generous amount of aeration and rack and return pump overs to bring out the smooth side of this varietal. This wine goes directly to one half new and one year old barrels after pressing and there it ages for 14 to 18 months, depending on the vintage, before being bottled. 
The nose of this Syrah consists of red and black fruits with some savory and smoky undertones. The flavors in the mouth match the aromas and it has a smooth round mouth feel. It has a nice balanced acidity with very soft integrated tannins that bring it all together. This wine is great partner to any substantial food such as aged cheeses, BBQ or roasted meats or even poultry. This beaut of a wine is a great weeknight wine that scores a solid 6+ and ****. Go get yourself some before its all gone as with total case production of 290 cases it wont last.

Happy Wine Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala

May 12, 2014

Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea Tasting Rooms 1-4

We know you have read all about the Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea in a previous article (link here) and are just waiting to read about the tasting rooms prior to purchasing your Passport (purchase here) and planning your own personal Carmel Wine adventure.

In numerical order off the Carmel Wine list we rolled up our sleeves, put our big boy pants on and set about getting the scoop on each of these tasting opportunities to help you choose the ones you may want to visit with your first Passport. We started at the top and here are the first four...

1. Caraccioli Cellars:
Love bubbles? Then this is your stop. With a 2006 and 2007 Brut Cuvée and a 2006 and 2007 2006 Brut Rosé. But if bubbles are not top for you not to worry as they have some lovely Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with all their wines using the world class Santa Lucia Highlands fruit. The lovely McKenzi took great care of us but it is not uncommon for Scott Caraccioli himself to be there to pour your tipple. Caraccioli is family owned and family run and they released their first vintage in 2006 and produce approximately (for now) 3,000 cases.
They take their sparkling seriously and step up the French law where Champagne Houses in France must use  only the first 150 of the 180 gallons of juice extracted from each ton. Caraccioli Cellars raises the bar on this regulation further as they only use the first 120 gallons per ton and these sparkling wines are always a méthode champenoise vintage product. Nice ambience for an afternoon or pre dinner sip.

2. Figge Cellars
Hand made wine from Monterey. Peter Figge has a vision. Focus on vineyard designated wines that showcase the vineyard. He started in the vineyards in 1994 in Napa and then in 1995 was in the Barossa Valley. Got his masters in Viticulture and started work as the Senior vineyards manager for Franciscan wine group for the Central Coast (1997-2004). Went out on his own in 2004 doing vineyard management and consulting and shortly thereafter started Figge Cellars making his own wine.  In 2005 setup for crush and that was the first vintage. With two Chardonnays, two Pinot Noir's and a Syrah. All the fruit is either managed or consulted on by Peter and he is passionate about the health and quality of these vineyards. So much so that he proudly Labels his wine based on the Vineyards the grapes come from. Figge Cellars tasting studio is nestled in the Winfield an art gallery which allows for a unique experience to get some class in your glass and in you soul at the same time. Stop on by and share in Peters passion.

3. Galante Vineyards
Head on over to Galante Vineyards tasting room and Western Emporium to taste their Carmel Valley Estate wines. They just recently celebrated their 10th Anniversary in Carmel's first "Wine Tasting Room." Galante produces and is best known for some of the regions best Bordeaux's. They also have some excellent whites with the latest called Wagon Wheel White being highly rated. A cosy western style space that is full of cowboy western wine items to decorate your house with. Jack Galante's Great Grandfather J. F. Devendorf was the founder of Carmel about 1900.
Growing grapes on the Carmel Valley property since 1993 Jack built his winery in 1994 and started making premium Estate wine. Jack is often there at the tasting room to chat with guests and has a lot of stories of Carmel. They use a unique device to pour their wine with. Its a Centellino. This gives a gentle aeration to the wine and helps open it up in the glass for the utmost in expression. With a couple lovely whites and some of the best big reds around the Galante tasting room is a great place for the passe to gather for a sip.

4. Vino Napoli
The largest tasting room at over 3,000 sq ft and Italian influence all over, this is one cool place to taste. They feature three different wines for Wine Walk Passport holders. Ava walked us through their wines and we started with the 100% Chardonnay and the PÈPE “Vesuvio” which is a blend of Cabernet, Merlot & Syrah and with about 500 cases produced each year. Last but not least is a Erupzione which is a blend of 60% Sangiovese and 40% Malbec. The young Erupzione wine was put in 225 liter French oak barrels for a period of 18 months which aids in this wine drinking somewhat like a baby Brunello.
At Vino Napoli there is also a bar menu that has a good selection of nibbles to choose from. From a cheese plate to a great Caprese to 10" pizzas you can get that late afternoon hunger taken care of and with a double sided fireplace and many tables of different size this is a great place for a small group of 1-4 couples.

You really cant go wrong with any of these tasting spots but hopefully the information you read will help make the decision on which one may suit your wants and desires at this time.

Stayed connected for the next 8 visits by signing up for email updates.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

May 7, 2014

Wine Down Wednesday, Tarpys Roadhouse Monterey

What can one do on a #WW in Monterey? We recently experienced Tarpy’s Roadhouse Wine Down Wednesday. Tarpy's Road House is located on Hwy 68 just a few miles inland from Monterey.
The night we were there we had the pleasure of tasting with Joullian Vineyards and there were only three simple rules for the day: Sip, Savour & Celebrate Wine. Each week there is a different winery pouring.
Joullian offered tastes of their wine and Tarpy's offers those same wines at half-price by the glass and by the bottle. Hal from Joullian even brought along some 2013 Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc before it had been bottled (right from the tank, very nice). Additionally, dinner specials of the day compliment that week's featured wines making for a great dining experience. Guests there can also enter a monthly drawing to have a chance to win a dinner for two at Tarpy's and a basket of wine!

Its not just about the wine as the $3 and $5 tasty bits selections at the bar are great. Oh, and by the way the Sauvignon Blanc was fantastic, so head on over to the Joullian Tasting room in Carmel Valley and taste their wares.

This is a fantastic local event that happens every Wednesday from 5-7pm. Get on over and enjoy the wine, the food and the company.

Happy Wine Adventures,
Kiwi & Koala

May 5, 2014

Don’t be afraid!

We were shooting the breeze the other day (yes
over a glass or three) about periods of varietal rut.
There have been periods where both of us, at different times, just looked for Pinot Noir's (no, not influenced by Sideways). There was the Shiraz period for Koala as well as Cabernet Sauvignon. Kiwi became a Rhône snob, but that's another story.
Not only do we get into a varietal rut we sometimes get into a regional rut as well. What’s the problem with drinking what you like you may ask? Well, nothing, if you don’t mind missing out on a world of amazing wines! It also seems that there is a level of fear associated with the unknown of trying new and different things. Well that's the beauty of tasting is there is really not much at stake so therefore nothing to be afraid of.

Pull your head out and make an effort to seek out other varietal taste opportunities. Maybe you could make a point to try a different geographic area once a week or so and experience what the region is renowned for. Some wine stores have these types of tastings. Maybe one week something from France, then next week something from Italy and then to really mix it up head down under and try something from Australia, New Zealand or South Africa. You get the point, there are an endless (well almost) list of places and then regions within those places to taste and experience wine from. Just don’t get too enamored and climb into another rut ya drongo's!

Suspend your fear and enjoy the hunt.
Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala


May 1, 2014

Paso Robles 2nd annual CABs of Distinction

Paso Robles CABs of Distinction, was hosted by the Paso Robles CAB Collective (PRCC) from April 23 to 26 2014. The Cab Collective wineries from the area organized the event to host wine professionals, industry, media and consumers the last week of April in an effort to inform and educate about Paso Robles most widespread wine variety and arguably to put the region on the wine map in the first place.

Visitors to the Paso Robles wine region might be surprised (although they shouldn't be) to learn that Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varieties make up 55% of the acreage planted to wine grapes in the Paso Robles AVA.

Paso Robles has in recent years been celebrated for its Zinfandel and Rhône wines, with The Rhône Rangers as an organization really getting Paso wines on the map and in the press. However, Cabernet was there at the start. As much as we are big fans of these wines, it really was the Bordeaux wine Cabernet Sauvignon that was there at the beginning that started the wine party. We were now there to get the low down on what this young organization was up to to put Paso Robles Cabernet and Bordeaux's back on top.

Some info about the PRCC;
Formed in 2012, the Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective strives to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles AVA in producing superior quality, classic and age-worthy Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals to consumers worldwide. The PRCC seeks to improve awareness regarding the distinctive attributes of Paso Robles Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals through events, education and initiatives that confirm the appellation’s growing reputation for producing luscious, well-balanced Bordeaux wines that compete with like varietals on a global stage. By collaborating and sharing they plan to raise the bar across the AVA for Bordeaux varietals from site, vines, winemaking, production and marketing.

This year we attended the Cabs of Distinction media day on Thursday the 24th of April 2014 in the beautiful Ballroom of the Paso Robles Inn for the "Paso Robles Rises to the Global Stage" panel discussion. The discussion was moderated by Matt Kettmann, senior editor at the Santa Barbara Independent and contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast. He engaged and prompted four Paso Robles winemaker / owners to tell their perspectives on this, the most noble grape. The panel was made up of DAOU Vineyards & Winery Winemaker/owner Daniel Daou, Chateau Margene Winemaker/owner Michael Mooney, Halter Ranch Winemaker Kevin Sass, and Parrish Family Vineyard Winemaker/owner David Parrish. But wait, we did not just get to listen to them, they also provided a tasting of each of their wineries more recent best Cabernet Sauvignon (nice). The panel discussed issues of water, soil, root stock, vine clones, trellising, shoot thinning and canopy management as well as barrel selections and yeasts. It was informative, interesting and well done, and tasting some great Cab while listening was a big bonus. The discussion found a nice balance of detailed information and entertainment without us or any others resorting to eye rolling boredom. Truly well done!

After the morning session it was off to a hosted lunch at various locations. We were lucky enough to attend with winemaker / owner Ted Plemmons of Cass Vineyard and Winery. We enjoyed the comforts of the Cass Winery and had a great lunch. We ordered our meals off the restaurant menu, all the while discussing wine and vineyard questions and opinions with Ted and as a group.

Oh, and we drank a little wine as well. Lunch ranged from Crab cakes to salads, steak sandwich's, pulled pork and hamburgers from Ted's own beef. Quite the selection that the winery restaurant produced in no short order and in great style. Nobody left hungry or unhappy.

After lunch Ted led us all on a tour of the facilities and then it was into the vineyard for some Q&A. Ted was a knowledgeable and entertaining host and we had a blast hanging out with him at the winery. Can't wait to go back for a full tour and taste and to get more on the Cass Vineyards story (and Ted's as well).

We were then transported back to town via the comfortable Uncorked Wine Tours bus for the afternoon tasting of The Cabs of Distinction, again in the beautiful Ballroom of the Paso Robles Inn. This tasting could easily have been an all day event with the number of high quality wines being poured. (member wineries here). We also enjoyed talking with a lot of owners and winemakers while tasting their wines, which is always a little more enlightening. This was a tasting of good to great wines and a reminder of just how amazing Paso Robles Cabernet can be.

The day was not yet done as then it was off to Justin Vineyards for a pork BBQ dinner and social mingle with most of those that had attended the days activities. This was a lovely way to to get some nice social time with new friends from the day (including owners and winemakers) and an interesting study on what they chose to drink. We also got to see the newly refurbished tasting room and it was lovely. A great evening thanks to the crew at Justin Vineyards.

Paso Robles has almost since the beginning produced some world class Bordeaux, but with this group of driven people pushing the bar up across the AVA, the area is about to rewrite the awards books.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala