Nov 27, 2014

30th Anniversary Edition of Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

We recently were given the opportunity to review the 30th Anniversary Edition of  'Windows on the World Complete Wine Course' by Kevin Zraly (Sterling Epicure, 368 pages, $27.95): (Buy it here for 30% off) This book was written by the guy who was at 25 to be cellar master at the famed restaurant on top of One World Trade Center in New York City. This is an incredibly comprehensive book. With things like weather, styles, terroir, pairing, history, regions and much much more. As it so happens the 2007 edition sits on the our bookshelf and has been a great reference book, albeit one that has not been as well used as it should have been.

 The style of the writing is clear and the organization is very inviting and unintimidating. The book also contains quizzes with page number references to get you focused on not just reading but learning. A cracking go-to guide to be sure.This book is great for the novice or someone who is well versed in wine and all that surrounds it. With some truly wonderful diagrams and charts to help explain some very complex things in a fashion that almost anyone will get this is a must have reference and all around good read for anyone interested in the world of wine. Did we say world? Why yes we did. With in depth information from wine regions from literally all over the world this is a truly comprehensive read. There are sections on our favorites like Australia and New Zealand as well as California and Italy. Ok anywhere that has good wine is our favorite but there are some we have not been exposed to before and now we want to.  Come to find out we still have a lot to learn.

"Kevin Zraly is the finest wine educator I have known" -- Robert Parker

This book is a great gift for your wine lover. That includes you! Simply stated "This book is for every wine lover, a must read" or in our wine rating this is a '9 and with our discount ****'.

So what are you waiting for, click on this link and get a few before they are all gone!

Happy Wine Education Adventures,



There is a sober in the book that lists the 72 workers who died on Sept. 11, 2001

Thanks to Kimberly at YC Media for Stirling Epicure for the privilege of reviewing this wonderful book.

Good Wine Hunting

Aside from the obvious reasons to go wine tasting you may be surprised by some of the reasons we go taste. First and foremost is the thrill of the hunt. Yes thats right 'the hunt'. A wine adventure, or as we are prone to calling a WineWalkabout! We love to venture out and hunt for the next amazing wine. You know, the excitement of going to new places to meet new people, to taste new wines and to find the next perfect one, or at least the next great one to amaze your friends with. It is often not a 10 on the scale but a great buy for good wine. 
Maybe it’s to say you went to this winery or that because of their reputation, and how just going there improves your standing with the cool wine group. Those are important to us because as most of you know we are shallow.
While finding the next fantastic wine is always a hope, what we believe should at least occasionally be the goal, is to find good wine at a good price, from good people trying to do a great job. Family owned small production wineries working hard to produce the best they can with what they have. Now we know this sounds like pre-election rhetoric about supporting the poor and middle class wine makers, but really, it’s not. This is not to say that these types of wineries don’t produce some magic wine but more often than not it is, well, just good. Rather than looking at this as a shortcoming, we believe that this is a great place to find unique and interesting good wines that are priced in the **** category and are very worthy enjoyable everyday wines. We need more Weekday Winners (WWs) that we don’t feel guilty opening or heaven forbid not finishing (ha ha fake out, we never have left overs).

The other advantage that hunting off the mainstream gives you is the element of pure surprise. The surprise you feel when out of the blue and off the beaten track you do taste an inexpensive wine that makes you say, strewth, bloody good drop that!
Every time you go to the wine fridge is your selection based on cost or rarity or can you just pull one out cause their all good and inexpensive.

Just one great example of cost / taste surprise.
Let ‘s face it we don’t all have the budget to open $100 plus bottles of wine every night for dinner or for that matter even $40-$50 bottles, so finding good enjoyable drinking wine for about $25 or less is a great find and a part of a responsible budget. Obviously, a low price alone isn't enough. The real surprise lies in finding fantastic quality and then looking at the low price. Of course neither of these surprises happen with expensive wines.
We can’t overstate the fact that there is a lot of good wine made in this price range and finding it is not that hard. But maybe it does take a little bit of a different focus while out tasting. You are perhaps tasting a little more for the mmmm factor not the OMG factor. In some ways just being able to open a bottle without thought to cost or occasion and just pour a glass, grab a book or watch the All Blacks thrash the Wallabies (again) is how wine is meant to be enjoyed. There should be no concern as to cost or availability or whether or not you may not drink the whole bottle before it turns, or share it with troglodytes that may not appreciate it the way you do. Simply relax and enjoy a good drop and enjoy the hunt as we do.Go and enjoy your WineWalkabout...

Happy hunting Adventures,


Kiwi & Koala

Nov 23, 2014

A visit to Alien Central, Bonny Doon Tasting Room

There are a lot of urban legend type stories about Randall Grahm and he has been called many things, ranging from mad man, wine industry's court jester, irreverent, creative, master promoter and genius. He has been inducted into the Vintners Hall of Fame and his book, "Been Doon So Long," won a James Beard Foundation Award.

In 2002 he held a mock "funeral" for the cork meant to herald support of scew caps which adorn his wines. After visiting his tasting room and tasting his wines some of these statements may be true, but in the end its about the wine. Come to discover we even share a common philosophy about getting started with wine drinking and starting a collection. "You shouldn't buy too much of any one wine when you are getting started".
The Bonny Doon Vineyard has enjoyed a long history of innovation, one of the first was to popularize Rhône grapes in California. But we digress, this is about a wine purchase.

On the day of our visit to taste the wines at the Bonny Doon Tasting room the one bottle rule was busted again. Yes there is a reasonable excuse if not a mandate, because that day there was a two for one sale was happening on one of the wines that were enjoyed. During this visit there were a couple wines that were purchase worthy but the 2012 Pinot Noir “Spanish Springs” got our attention and was a sealed deal with the two for one sale.
Rather than give you our tasting notes, here are the ones from the folks who are intimate with this wine. (in general we agree but we don't pick up all the nuances listed here)

In the nose, wild strawberry, mint, white pepper, anise and allspice. In the mouth, strawberry-rhubarb and beetroot, which is one of the fail-safe signifiers of Pinosity. This is a more delicate expression of Pinot, but one that is incredibly true to Pinot’s Platonic essence.

The Bonny Doon Tasting room is comfortable, relatively spacious and easy to find. The decorations are, well, eclectic and fun and the staff are pretty knowledgable. They are closed on Tuesdays but open from 11 - 5 everyother day of the week.except a few holidays that you can check out on their website.

To continue with a theme than runs all over the Bonny Doon tasting room and the website. This light and delicate Pinot Noir has 'doon' stole our hearts. Giving it a rating of a 7 and because of the two for one sale a **** purchase.



Kiwi & Koala

Nov 16, 2014

Some Random Tasting Room Advice

Can't say enough about this topic.  How often can a bad experience ruin good wine, and a great experience augment ordinary wine! Here at WineWalkabout have discussed this topic on numerous occasions.

For what it’s worth, every time we go on a little wine tasting adventure we notice stuff. And not just the girls and wine. OK mostly the girls and the wine, but that’s not the point. The point is we also notice when a tasting room attendant makes handling a busy room look effortless or look like the Keystone Cops or worse, the soup kitchen on Seinfeld.
As someone who is responsible for a tasting room, it is good practice to know the room dynamics, and to know what you need to, to work in your tasting room. Observe the way things are working behind the counter and most of all, observe and understand the customer experience. What is it that your customers will see, hear, and experience as they enter? Will they fall in love with your tasting room? Will the person they are interacting with win their favor and be a great ambassador for your wines. Let’s face it, the tasting experience has a positive or a negative influence on how your wine is perceived and the delta can be significant.

Here are some random bits of advice from us at WineWalkabout to better aid that potential love affair and hopefully as a side benefit, a more profitable tasting room. Stating the obvious, (you may be surprised by how many times this does not happen) look at, smile and greet everyone as they walk in the door as if they are who you have been waiting for. Cannot tell you how many times we have been greeted as an interruption to emptying the glasswasher being unloaded. Speaking of glassware, have glasses and tasting lists ready as well as your best rendition of “How to win friends and influence people”. Even if you are busy make a point to tell your new guest's that you will get to them ASAP.

Obviously you start serving the first in and up to the bar, but as the crowd builds and they come and go it’s a good rule of thumb to start with the person on your left and move to the right. Basically moving clockwise. And always keep going in the same direction.  Yes you can move anticlockwise if you want but have a plan and pattern that keeps you consistent.  There is nothing more irritating that being an "invisible" patron. Good wine becoming not so good! Often your staff will still have to multi-task, but if people have wine in their glass and can see that your staff or you are moving toward them they're more inclined to be patient. For the wanker that has endless information to impart, and just as many questions that keep you from serving all your patrons, give them the old, "Wow that’s interesting", or "that's a great question. Let me just pour some wine for our other guests and I'll be right back”. Keep moving and pouring and you'll be back to the wanker, er, customer, in no time.
Pay attention when visiting other tasting rooms and learn from them. It may even be to learn what not to do! Don’t force your staff to just parrot a script like a bloody cockatoo, instead teach them about your wines all the way back to the vineyard where the grapes came from, whether they are yours or not, what type of barrels you use. You know, the basics the casual cork dork will invariably ask to impress you and look like they deserve to drink your wine. We know there is a ton to learn but people are interested in vineyard stuff and barrel selection and some stories of why. Let’s face it we all like to converse with someone who is engaging and pleasant and who seems to know about the subject that we are asking about. It’s also great if there are some interesting stories of funny or insider things to share and allow people to connect with your wines.

Never have a bottle open too long, even with vacuum or nitrogen and argon systems. Vacuum systems a couple days is plenty and gas systems, well that is a big window depending on the system. Just don’t push it, it’s not a good representation of your wine. You never know if the person you’re serving is on a WineWalkabout doing a review of your wine and tasting room experience.  Make sure you pour an adequate amount of wine in the glass (we like a couple of ounces) but a solid one once pour is minimum! Less than this and accurately evaluating the color,aroma and flavor of your wine is difficult. Besides we feel screwed with that tiny half once pour (equals bad blogs, tweets and posts). Hard to get a good feeling when you feel cheated. If not enough is poured it’s also hard not to pick up some of the attributes of the previous wine. Rinsing the glass with water between pours is not the answer as it will probably hinder more than help.The surface tension of water makes it cling to the glass--which will water down the taste and it also changes the pH of the next pour. Neither of those is good. Just get a two once dispenser and pour light or better yet a one ounce and pour twice for us and once for those that have tasted too much!
Making everyone that comes into your tasting room feel like your favourite customer is a priceless and profitable skill.
When your tasting room gets busy, let your staff focus on making happy tasters! Happy tasters are more likely to open their wallets and bring their friends back! Happy tasting also makes for a more loyal and sticky(translate; buys your wine and recommends to friends) customer!



Kiwi & Koala
PS. We will get around to tasting fee's and the like, so stay tuned.

Nov 9, 2014

#WW 2010 Vasse Felix Cabernet, Margaret River Western Australia,

Winemaker Virginia Willcock spreading the word.

Margaret River is the major geographical indication wine region in southwest Western Australia, with 5,017 hectares under vine and over 215 wineries. Vasse Felix winery was established in 1967 by pioneer Dr Thomas Cullity and is the founding wine estate of Margaret River.

Margaret River area experiences the unique combination of a Mediterranean climate, maritime influence and perfect soils for viticulture. Together, these conditions are ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The low diurnal and seasonal temperature range means an unusually even accumulation of warmth. Overall the climate is similar to that of Bordeaux in a dry vintage. Although the region produces just three percent of total Australian grape production, it produces over 20 percent of Australia's premium wine market.

The winery is in sorts named after Thomas Timothee Vasse who was a French sailor who was washed of the boat during an expedition off Western Australia’s south-west cape in 1801. His disappearance documented by the French explorers in their records, unofficially naming the area ‘Unhappy Vasse.’Dr Cullity was hopeful that his vineyard nearby the fateful site would enjoy a better fate so he bestowed it with the name Vasse Felix (latin for ‘lucky Vasse’). Ironically, Felix was also the middle name of the expedition’s Captain Hamelin.

Hearing that winemaker Virginia Willcock of Vasse Felix would be at Southern Latitudes Wines in the Crossroads Shopping center in Carmel California pouring her wine we could not resist stopping by for a chat. Oh and of course a taste or three. Then maybe a glass or so. 
Tasting the two Chardonnays we were impressed. Tasting the Cabernet and well, bottles were purchased

This Margaret River benchmark wine has been made every vintage since 1972. 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec, 1.5% Petit Verdot, 0.5% Cabernet Franc and nurtured in 100% French oak for 18 months (51% new, 49% 1-4 year old)

Rumour has it that this Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon expresses the intense and succulent, yet refined and structured style for which Margaret River Cabernet is known. This was a great drinking well structured and well integrated wine. Great nose with violets, black currants, dark Chocolate and some vanila. On the palate the dark fruit is just delicious with blackberry being the one that stood out. Fine tannins and a long soft finish keeps you going back for more.

An 8 on the scale and ***.

Thanks to the ladies at Southern Latitude Wines for the invite (our local source for Southern Hemisphere wines) and to Virginia for putting up with our silly questions and constant begging for more wine.


Kiwi & Koala