Sep 29, 2014

Wines of Danger

Why are these wines dangerous? Well its not so much that the wines themselves are dangerous, but the act of committing the time and money into the making and selling of them is. There's danger in starting your own label and these winemakers are putting all their money and effort into their wine and hoping against the odds that it works.

Even those that are winemakers or growers or have a full-time job at a larger winery can find it daunting to turn their own label into a success. Beside just making wine the packaging, selling and marketing are all time consuming and take expertise The goal behind the event (this year's was the second) is to help get some marketing exposure from media to the group of small producers using this annual trade and media tasting in San Francisco. That's one of the reasons that Sabrine Rodems, winemaker at Wrath Wines in Monterey County and owner of her own small label, Scratch, has put together a group of like minded label owners called Wines of Danger.

We have attended both and have become supporters for this movement. This years event was held at the lovely, Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant on 330 1st Street, San Francisco. The wines last year really got our attention and were of very high quality and this year was just as impressive. There is a level of excitement when talking to the individual who has it all on the line for what is by most standards very very small production. The total production starts in the hundreds of case range but in all cases (hey look, pun) the cases produced are in the single thousands.

The wines were again good to very good and generally had price points that were well below the quality enjoyment level making them great value. We tried our hardest to taste all the wines and even started by tasting just whites like the pros, but soon fell into tasting the range in front of us, If they offered to put it in the glass we felt obligated to taste it.

It was great to revisit with some of the people from last year and to taste and enjoy their latest releases and to meet new people who were pouring at the event for the first time. Take a look through the list and track these wines down and take an adventure with some Wines of Danger.

Sabrine Rodems the winemaker at Wrath Wines in Monterey County and produces her own label, Scratch is the driving force behind this group called Wines of Danger.

We are looking forward already to the third event!

Happy Wine Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Sep 24, 2014

#WW Chronic Cellars Purple Paradise from Paso Robles California

We are always on the lookout for a good drop at a great price. This weeks wine drank at home with dinner that rose above the rest was a cracking drop from Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles. This was a lovely drop that went with Lasagna and BBQ spiced pork chops as well. Probably would go with any BBQ style food as well as pastas.
We agree with the description in general (like we know best) although we did not find the marzipan in the flavor profile but who really is worried about that? This is a 6-7 wine and **** value.
We went through a tasting at the winery and there are a number of worthy wines that one should, ok could, take home and enjoy or share, that are great drinkers at great prices.

Go by Chronic Cellars in Paso Robles and enjoy the quirky atmosphere and labels as well as the wines and tell em you heard about them here. Cheers!

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Sep 15, 2014

Monterey is extra beautiful in the Fall

With summer in most places winding down where better for a weekend getaway than Monterey. Its late summer and coming next is autumn when the weather is often the best of the year. Its warm days and cool nights with spectacular scenery make it the perfect time of year for a getaway, and unless its a long weekend not very crowded. Take any given weekend and add a day or two to it and have yourselves a great mini vacation.

Heading out on Friday morning;
How to get here is of course determined based on the need to get here fast or enjoy the possible scenic drives. From the North its pretty much 101 South and exit the 156 to Monterey.

From the South there are two main options, Hwy 101 and Hwy 1. Hwy 1 is a spectacular drive but is also an all day adventure in of itself (perhaps another time). This rout is more suited to a stay of more than a few days. With that in mind the exit off of Hwy 101 coming from the South is one of three depending if you wish to taste wine on your way in or not. We would so here is the route we would take. Heading north on Hwy 101 take the Arroyo Seco Rd exit # 301. At the end of the exit go left over the highway and follow the signs to Paraiso Vineyards. They open Friday at 11am. Great spot to relax after your drive and enjoy some nice wines in a nice tasting room. Just up the road is Hahn Winery Tasting room with one of the best views of the valley from their tasting deck. Take a vineyard tour and have a taste. Once done here cruise up the road a bit and stop in Wrath Winery and enjoy some truly premium wines. Your next possible stop is at Luigis in Gonzales. Now you can enjoy a great late lunch at Luigis and then go on into the Monterey Carmel area to your chosen destination. There are lots and lots of choices from the big Hotel Chains and also some local gems, on the beach or in the valleys there are some great spots to stay.

Saturday morning heading out from your hotel base there are a variety of things to do, see and taste all over the area. We have to start somewhere so lets head on out to the rustic Carmel Valley and wander around the Village and grab a bite at the Corkscrew Cafe, Local or Cafe Rustica. Stop in to Joullian Vineyards charming tasting room for a taste of some great local wines and dont forget to go taste some organic wine that will make you a believer at Heller Estate Organic Vineyards. Since your in Cowboy Country stop on by the Cowgirl Winery for a fun tasting in a very country setting or drop in to the East End Row of wineries and enjoy a sampling of Joyce Vineyards or one of their neighbors.
While walking between tastings and lunch check out the art galleries and antique stores scattered around. Finish the day off with dinner at Wills Fargo, a Carmel Valley tradition for over 50 years. If something a little less country is more your style for dinner a stop at Bernardus Lodge for fine dining is on your way out of the Valley. With the high end Marinus Restaurant or a bit more casual Wickets Bistro to choose from this is a great option.

Sunday Morning is time to head into Carmel by the Sea. This is a magical little sea side hamlet that one cannot help but fall in love with. First stop the Carmel Chamber to get a  Carmel Wine Walk by-the-Sea wine tasting passport. This is a Wine Tasting Passport, that for $65 entitles the buyer to one $10 flight at any nine of the fourteen tasting rooms who are part of this experience (a $90 value that never expires).
Now as you wander and enjoy the sights and sounds you can stop from time to time and sample some lovely wines or bubbles at various locations around town. From the original tasting room of Galante Vineyards to the newest at Windy Oaks Estate you wont be disappointed. If you purchase a bottle at any of the passport stops they can set you up with dinner reservations and put a sticker on your bottle to eliminate the corkage fee ($20-25). The list of places to eat and taste in this little town is long and to date we have not found one we would not go back to so explore and get a recommendation from your favorite stop and enjoy. (Tasting Article on Carmel) Don't forget to wander down to Carmel beach for sunset!

Monday morning head out to the coastline and take a walk along the Pacific Grove trails from Lovers Point to Cannery Row. Explore the shops at Cannery Row and have a light lunch at one of the many nice restaurants. To end the Day stop at The Beach House for the early bird dinner starting at 4pm. Get there at 4 and enjoy the outdoor patio with one of the best views in Monterey.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to things to do, taste and see in Monterey.The season for a trip to Monterey will soon be here, so get those couple extra days off and have a wonderful trip to Monterey.

Happy Wine Adventures,
Sunset on Carmel Beach

Sep 13, 2014

What is the correct cellar temperature?

Room temperature is not the temperature of the room you are in...
How often have you been to a restaurant, bar, wine tasting or cellar door, and the red wine is way way too warm. Then when you suggest perhaps they might chill it down a bit, you get the condescending reply that reds are served at 'room temperature'. Its at times like these that our better half's usually grab an arm or kick us under the table as we sometimes on rare occasions have a tendency towards responding with either sarcasm or snarkiness or if the condescending reply is to pointed we may completely spit the dummy and start a lecture. Look, if we just spent $20 on a glass of wine we sure as want to enjoy it. If we ordered a bottle we always ask for an ice bucket to lower the wine temp. For those that know us it must come as a complete shock that we can be a bit picky about our wine, but sometimes it happens.
The temperature of wine as you drink it is fairly important if you want to get the best from it. While there is some dispute as to the exact best, there is a range that is fairly optimal  to best appreciate a wine, whether it be red or white.
Lets take a look at the term room temperature and where some of the miss conception comes in. A lot of people, even in the industry think that red wine should be at room temperature when drunk. Meaning put it on the shelf and when someone orders a red just pull it off the shelf and pour into a glass and drink, no matter what the temperature is. If you are pouring in a restaurant that is possibly about 75 plus degrees you are not doing the red wines any favors.

What's "room temperature," anyway? These days, it's about 73 degrees, which is a far cry from the room temperature of the drafty manor houses of a century ago, where many modern-day wine-drinking habits were born. Actually, 73 is actually way too warm for almost all wine. As a rule, white and sparkling wines are best served well-chilled (42 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit), with sparkling wines and lighter whites at the lower range of the scale and fuller-bodied, richer whites, such as Chardonnay, at the upper range. Red wines should be served at cool room temperature (56 to 65 F.), with lighter, fruitier reds (e.g., Beaujolais and Pinot Noir), at the lower range and fuller-bodied varieties ( e.g., Cabernet, Zinfandel and Syrah, at the upper range.

Certain conditions may dictate exceptions to these guidelines. On a hot days, for example, it's a good idea to slightly chill a full-bodied red to mitigate its alcoholic "heat," which is more evident as the wine warms quickly when the ambient temperature is high. As it is easier for wine to come up to temperature if you start too cool. Conversely, it may be advisable to serve an especially rich white wine at the upper temperature range to ensure its complex aromas and flavors can be fully appreciated, but again you can raise the temperature with the warmth of your hands if it comes a little too cool.

There is also some personal preference and in combination with wine type and style that need to be considered but the general range is fairly spot on.

So the term room temperature goes back a long way to a time when homes were drafty stone buildings and were generally very cold by todays standards. All that aside the fact is there is a temperature range that wine is best to drink in so pay attention to that and just forget the term 'Room Temperature'.

Happy Tasting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Sep 10, 2014

#WW DaVine Cellars 2012 Barbera, Santa Cruz

One warm and sunny Wednesday afternoon while in Santa Cruz California, a overwhelming urge for some wine came upon me (big surprise right). Knowing where there were some tasting rooms no time was wasted heading over. First one then another then a third, were all closed! AAAAARRRRGGGH... As I started to regain some sense of awareness from the devastated mental state I had been shocked into I saw a sign! No, not like a sign, but an actual sign that read' Wine Tasting OPEN'. An oasis in the desert? Almost... but more like an island. It was the tasting room of MJA Vineyards. This Hawaiian themed tasting room is the perfect place to sit and have a taste or a glass and to hear stories of coffee growing and roasting (story to come). You are welcomed with an aloha and the pleasantries just continue from there.

Marin Artukovich, owner of MJA Vineyards, who is most often found pouring the wine and stories in the tasting room tells of the decision to give his wines their own unique and peculiar names and even genders to help aid in being able to have repeat customers explain the ones they liked. Names like Lucky, Horny, Nosey and Chewy. While tasting, read each tasting note and as you taste and sniff enjoying the wine, determine if you can, whether the wine is of male of female gender. If you get it right, you may even get a second pour.

I tasted trough a range of wines that were all very good and on this day decide on a purchase of the 2012 DaVine Barbera. This lovely medium to medium full bodied wine has all kinds of blue and Black berry notes. All the fruit characters come through on the palate with some added plum and spice and soft integrated tannins, this is one tasty Barbera. With a wonderful round full mouth feel this is one easy drinking wine. Rated *** and a solid 7 on the official scale this one is a real beauty.
We will be going back for more. Go visit this neat tasting room in Santa Cruz and enjoy a bit of Hawaii and wine. Tell em we sent you!

Kiwi & Koala

Sep 7, 2014

So you want to rent a car in Italy?

So you want to rent a car in Italy? Lets start out by saying we did. We are glad we did. But just know we got a little lucky just by chance and we survived with only two tickets for the same offence at the same location ten minutes apart. Coincidence? We think not...

First off get your car rented and confirmed prior to leaving home. We also would recommend you go through an online operation that has a good reputation. Get your international drivers licence at the DMV. Before you decide you want to live it up with a luxury car for this big trip you need to think again. There were four of us and our luggage for just over two weeks and we were able to use the experience of some friends who had done it all before. Whats the big deal you ask, well the roads in Italy are typically very narrow. Narrow enough in many small towns that two smart cars cannot pass at the same time and its not a curb you will hit but a stone wall or building from a previous century. The four of us and our luggage fit in the Citroen Turbo Diesel equivalent of a Toyota Corolla. Did we mention it was a stick? Don’t drive a stick shift? You might be surprised to know that most Italians do and so the majority of cars in Italy are stick-shift (or manual shift) not automatic, including rentals. That means automatics often have a limited availability, and usually cost more. (Another good reason to book in advance!). We were fine with the stick. Motorcycles and scooters are also available for rent, but just don't. And never, ever try to learn to drive a scooter for the first time in a foreign city. You have been warned.

We should probably also say we did not drive in Rome. Best decision we made. What a nut house. Limited or hidden signage that was hard to find on foot and the typical traffic volume of a big city with the reckless abandonment of driving style usually reserved for a Costco parking lot.  Four lanes around the roundabout with no lane lines. Truly amazing!

Once you have received your car as a rule do not leave the lot before you make sure all your controls are set up in english. Did we mention get a car with GPS. It is a must. We had one in the car that we had the rental car guy change the language from Italian to English because we could not figure it out, and also we brought with us our Tom Tom. We recommend you do the same. Also get a good new map as a backup.

On the road in Italy, signs often won’t indicate north, south, east, or west; instead, they’ll use a city sign. So if you want to drive north from Rome, for example, you might look for a sign for “Firenze” or “Sienna.” As you might expect, this can be incredibly confusing for anyone not intimately familiar with Italian geography (especially when you get to smaller roads, which often indicate their direction with smaller towns and villages).

Roundabouts, intersections, and exits off main roads often have signs indicating restaurants, hotels, and sights of interest… but you’ll have to be a graduate of the Italian Evelyn Wood speed reading College to scan them all let alone figure out where you are going.Then there is the cadence of the driving. What we like to call "road rage" here, with other drivers seeming to be quite upset about your being in their way, is standard procedure on Italian roads, where they see it as a routine part of driving. For many Americans, your concept of courtesy will be seen by Italian drivers as a sign of weakness (we're not joking here)! You better be prepared to get on with it and it is not about speed its more about merging where there is only inches to spare. If you can fit you better go for it. As soon as you see a gap, go for it. Italians expect the unexpected and react swiftly but they're not used to ditherers so whatever you do, do it decisively.

The historic centres of many cities, towns and villages throughout Italy have ZTLs (Limited Traffic Zones). The zones in each place will have its own regulations. Some zones are restricted to certain hours, some to residents only, some to cars with certain permits. Just assume you do not have one and are not allowed in. Not all ZTLs are camera enforced, but in the regions near Florence , Pisa , Siena , Arezzo and Lucca , certainly are. The cameras like the signs are not always obvious. We walked into Luca as we had been warned and it took us a while on foot to find the signs that mention no entry without permit.

When travelling down the motorways (the only way to cover any distance) stay on the right unless you are overtaking (foreign concept to most Americans) or you may get a ticket for impeding traffic. Most motorways have tolls so you should carry €20-30 in coins to speed your progress through the toll booths. While you can pay with cash or credit cards, follow white signs to booths to pay by cash, blue signs to booths to pay by credit card, cash is the fastest. The lanes with yellow signs are for frequent users that have a telepass.

This series of cautions may make it seem a bit daunting and in some ways it is, but at the same time we would not have changed a thing. Dont drive in Rome. Drive in the country. Have two GPS's and a good map and a designated navigator to aid the driver and a backup navigator for when the inevitable happens. Allow a lot more time than you think for even just finding a park can take a lot of time, yes a lot of time. Get the smallest car you and your gear can fit in and carry a lot of coins for the tolls and parking meters and do your daily pre trip homework.

One more thing. The Italians are more than happy to give you directions. If your Italian is good you are set. If, like us both of your Italian words are not to be used in mixed company you get a lot of gesturing along with the most misunderstood words of our trip. Directions in the best Italian english blend with exaggerated hand gestures... Itsa easy, you cannota miss it ... yet we did most of the time.

Ciao Ciao enjoy your drive.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Kiwi & Koala

Sep 5, 2014

Shrimp on the Barbie, Kiwi style at Croad in Paso Robles

It's not that we race back to the same winery twice, but for Croad Vineyards we made an exception! We wanted to show off our new find to our American friends. Actually one is French-American, so  we could call this the "Kiwi, Koala, and Frog,". I give up.  No, that's a French line. Anyway, the owner of the winery, Martin Croad is a Kiwi (from New Plymouth) so having visited earlier in the year, showing friends that Kiwis could make, as well as drink wine seems a good a reason as any to come back! Besides we were in the area.
Another beautiful Paso day, and we were warmly greeted by Nicole in the tasting room.  She called Martin to say she had Kiwis in the house. He said great, I'll be right up.  Then she said one was actually an Aussie. We all heard him say "call security" over the tiny phone speaker (not that funny).
Soon we were basking in true Kiwi hospitality, sipping through his delicious red wines - 2009 Pure (syrah), Rei (cab franc, syrah) and Taranaki (Zinfandel and mourvedre). Later we were spoiled with his GSM. All were enjoyed (by some) with crackers dipped in Vegemite.  Yum.  Made Kiwi and Koala homesick.  Made Froggie sick.  It was all so good Kiwi joined the "Kia Ora" wine club.
We must have made a good impression because Martin invited us to their Summer BBQ the following night.  The two of us (Kiwi and Koala) being invited back rarely ever happens!  Resplendent in his Kiwi decal tattoo from Croad, Kiwi arrived with Koala and the significant others in tow. The place was humming, and the first pour was a New Zealand style Sauvignon Blanc. Delish, and refreshing for a warm summers day, overlooking the beautiful Templeton Gap.
Appetizers included a dish neither Kiwi nor Koala had ever had at home. Barbecued shrimp. Who knew. No, seriously never ever growing up had either one of us thrown shrimp on a barbie! Thanks to our good mate Paul Hogan that has now change the perception of Down Under BBQ's for ever. Then we all sat banquet style and enjoyed great BBQ fare with chicken pieces and pork ribs, meat falling off the bone. All accompanied with Croad Pure, Rei, Taranaki, and GSM wines. And least we forget a great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the Singing Orthodontist.
Doesn't get much better than that! 
Chris and Trev (Kiwi and Koala) would have stayed until Martin kicked us out, or the wine ran out, but luckily our better, smarter halves made us leave at a relatively respectable time.
For everyone visiting Paso Robles we 'recommend' a visit to Croad and to meet Martin. Nicole is awesome running the tasting room.  So belly up, dip a cracker in the Vegemite tub, and tell em Kiwi, Koala, and Frog sent ya.

Kiwi & Koala

And Frog

Sep 3, 2014

WW Drinking Thummerer Winery • Eger • Bikavér • Superior • 2009

While rummaging in the wine fridge looking for something, just not sure what, and came across this sexy little Hungarian number from our tasting in San Francisco with the Hungarian Road Show.

A Thummerer Winery • Eger • Bikavér • Superior • 2009

This wine comes from Eger, in northeastern Hungary. This a wine region is best known for its Egri Bikavér wine. Hungary's most famous wine overall, Bikavér (commonly called Bull's Blood) is surely the country's most famous red. The style is a complex blend of several dark skinned grapes and this is the flagship wine of the winery. Superior is only produced in the best vintages. It contains 50% Hungarian varieties and 50% international types. Alcohol content: is 14%. Acidity: 4.9 g/l and its recommended serving temperature is 16-18°C (60-65 deg F).

Bikaver (Bull's Blood) is always a blend of at least three types of vines of 15 approved species. This one has Lemberger (Blaufränkisch) – Cabernet Franc – Merlot. It must spend a minimum of 12 months in wood aging (usually Hungarian oak) and the wine after 18 months must be accepted by a standing committee before it can be released to the market. A nicely balanced wine with earthy tones and a slightly spicy character. Floral nose with wonderful juicy dark fruit and a beautiful softt body with well integrated tannins that add up to a pleasant and long aftertaste. The price is two for **** and is a 6-7 on the scale. This is a great wine for the price. No this is a very nice drinking wine at three times the price.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Sep 1, 2014

Cabernets in Monterey

Monterey County Wine: California Region Named Top Destination By 'Wine Enthusiast' Magazine 

In 2013 Monterey was given the above award and the wine world was put on notice. Even Wine Spectator could not resit the charms of this region with their own headline;"

Discovering the Monterey Coast

Beauty, adventure, great food and wine await

It appears the secret is out of the bag. Monterey is without a doubt a go to wine destination that has a ton of other stuff to do and see.

Monterey County grows over 50 different varietals of grapes and yet it seems that most of them go unnoticed or at least uncelebrated as premium wines. A number of people tend to think of Monterey wine tasting as one long procession of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and while that is a large portion of what is made and poured, it is far from all that can be savoured.

Now while we really do enjoy the wonderful Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that is made and poured in Monterey we also like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Sangiovese and Malbec as well as many other wines.With this last month being Cabernet month ( #Cabernet day is August 28th) we turned our attention to Monterey Cabernet and dinner time.

With Cabernet Day just done and dusted we at WineWalkabout decided that we would put all our favorite Monterey Cabernets on one page. We sampled (read drink) some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon poured in the local tasting rooms and we wanted to let you know about what we chose to drink with our meals and that most importantly we really liked.

The Cabernets that won our taste buds this year were;

Galante Vineyards.2011 Rancho Galante Red Wine.
Hahn Estate 2012 Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon Central Coast
Heller Estate Organic Vineyards 2012 Cachagua Cabernet Sauvignon
Joullian Vineyards 25th Harvest 2010 Joullian Cabernet Sauvignon

Go check out all the wonderful wines these guys produce but don't forget that in Monterey you can get great Cabernet.

Happy Wine Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala