Dec 27, 2015

Why go to Cambria? Black Cat Bistro...

Few places do a worthy Riesling. This is one of them. Who knew that in Cambria, the lovely coastal town on one of the many central coasts in California there was to be had a couple of worth the visit Rieslings. Now this is not to say that there are not a host of other great reasons to visit here, but when we get invited to try wine and its in a place we are enjoy visiting, there is no stopping us.
But then there is the question of where to eat? This time there was no question as the good people at Cutruzzola Vineyards (the reason for the visit, remember great Rieslings) hooked us up with lunch at their friends bistro.

So first off it was to be lunch at The Black Cat Bistro. The name of the Bistro comes from the poster hanging in the hallway. The story is it was won at a charity auction one evening after much Champagne was consumed. We like it already!
We have been to Cambria a few times and somehow not been here. We found the bistro to be warm, inviting and with a cozy euro feel in an intimate setting. We were in the front main room but there is a similar feel in each of the four spaces. We were immediately greeted by Marco upon arrival and settled into the corner of the front room by the fire place. The perfect spot to cozy up and observe the room.

The Black Cat Bistro opened in 2002 on July 4th in a building that was built in about the 1930's. The Black Cat Bistro is known for serving  local farm fresh food. The menu changes fairly often we were told as Black Cat Bistro consistently strives to provide seasonal, local produce and organically raised or sustainable dishes. The wine list was geared for pairing to that fresh food and the Black Cat has received the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for nine years in a row. Not surprising as it has a great collection of local and imported beverages to please almost all who choose to indulge in a tasty tipple (can't please everyone they say). Don't be mistaken in thinking that this means one of those long and overwhelming lists that you need a sommelier to guide you thru. No this list is a testament to being carefully selected and keeping it simple and precise. No War and Peace here.

Seating was comfortable and the service was seemingly telepathic. One of the things about restaurants that we believe, is that while many can do fancy, it is often how well they do normal that sets them apart. For lunch we had the lovely fish and chips paired with a local Tolosa Winery unoaked Chardonnay and a brilliant French Dip that set a new standard for beef sandwiches.

We were given a preview of the new dinner menu and given our wonderful lunch experience will be making an effort to have dinner here in the near future.

There are a lot of nice restaurants but few that have that lovely combination of warmth, great food, wine list, service and intimate romantic setting that the Black Cat Bistro does.

Thanks to Karen at Cutrozzola for making the arrangements to have lunch at this wonderful place. We give the Black Cat Bistro a hearty 'recommend'.

 Happy Wine / Food Adventures,

Dec 19, 2015

#WW Jim Barry 'The Armagh Shiraz' 2007

Jim Barry Wines is a family winery based in the Clare Valley South Australia. Jim Barry was the first qualified winemaker in the Clare Valley, graduating as the 17th student to gain a Degree in Oenology at the famous Roseworthy Agricultural College in 1947. The company was founded in 1959 by Jim and Nancy Barry.
We have visited the winery and have had the pleasure of chatting with Peter Barry in San Francisco. We met Peter who has been the owner manager for some time, while enjoying wines from The First Family of Wines group from Australia.

Back in 2009 Trev and his brother stopped in to the cellar door in the Clare Valley South Australia and had a great tasting of some impressive wines. They tasted such great wines at Jim Barry Wines cellar door. With some of Australia’s favourite wines like The Armagh, The McRae Wood, The Benbournie, First Eleven, Pb, The Cover Drive, The Lodge Hill Shiraz, The Barry Brothers, The Florita, The Lodge Hill Riesling and Watervale Riesling.  So good they could not resist purchasing a few gems to take with them.

The one that was the big prize of the group was the 2007 Armagh (got it heavily discounted due to damaged label).
The name of ‘Armagh’ was given to the area by the original Irish settlers who arrived in 1849, and named the lush rolling hills after their homeland.
Peter recalls hand watering the vines in the Armagh vineyard as a nine year old. “It was a very hot summer and the vines were struggling. We watered only the vines that looked dead from a 44 gallon drum on the back of Dad’s tractor.

Armagh is a prestigious wine of great distinction. A distinction which is well deserved. This wine delivers vintage after vintage. Surprisingly or at least to us, it does not seem to be as revered as we believe it should be to the general drinker. Maybe that is just our California impression. Recently while contemplating what wine was worthy enough to be served at a very special event the Armagh was uncovered. It was the perfect wine for the job. It even stopped the sommelier in his tracks...

For those that follow our wine reviews you will notice that this is a bit pricier that we usually write about. Yes you noticed correctly, not our usual every day tipple. This wine so impressed that it seemed simply just wrong not to stand on a chair and shout about how wonderful this bottle of wine was.

Some back ground on this vintage from the Jim Barry website.
"The 2007 growing season was the driest in 24 years,
meaning that vintage was much earlier than usual.
The Armagh vineyard was hand-picked in early

Variety: 100% Shiraz
Vintage: 2007
Region: Clare Valley, South Australia
Estate Grown: 100%
Harvested: March 2007
First Release: Vintage 1985
Oak Treatment: 15 months in French & American oak
Alc/Vol: 15.0%
Total Acid: 6.70g/l
pH: 3.37

The 2007 Armagh is deep crimson in color and perhaps even tending to be a little purple and probably due to the low-yielding vines, it had a powerful nose of cranberry, mulberry, boysenberry and with the underlying characters of cinnamon, cedar, black pepper and spearmint.
On the palate the Armagh really shows its true strength and with its current age has a silky tannin structure as well as the flavors of red currants, black cherries and blueberries that seduce your palate with undercurrents of earth and truffles that are just about perfect. This wine has a great finish to complement the wonderful flavor and power in this beautiful wine, all the while still showing finesse and restraint. On the scale it gets no stars but a carackin score of  9. One of our highest ratings ever!

There is no more Armagh in our cellars. This leaves us with a heavy heart. There is a regret that more bottles were not purchased in 2009 at that discounted price to be enjoyed again. To be pulled out with some poncy friends to upstage their fancy French or Napa wines and to show them what a truly great wine tastes like. The fact that it comes from Clare Valley is just our poncy twist!

Happy Wine Adventures,

Dec 6, 2015

Christmas 2015 with a Pavlova recipe! You're welcome...

It's that time of year when we start to think of year end celebrations and tipping a few here and there. Talking to family on Skype and realizing it's too late to send something to arrive before Christmas.

Christmas is a doubly happy time for most of us Aussies and Kiwi's as it is also the end of the school year and the start of the long summer holidays.

The beaches and caravan parks fill up with holiday makers, the airplanes, trains and buses fill with people travelling back for family gatherings.
We seem to be a people who love to move about, as if the magic of the Aborigines' 'Walkabout' and the spirit of the 'Jolly Swagman' himself lives on in us all.
Some of us are too far from home to make the trip (bloody expensive this time of year also) and so it is, at times like these, we fall back on family traditions and the urge to BBQ and drink beer and Sav Blanc is strong. It is summer after all, which is why not letting us leave the house in our thongs and budgie smugglers is the first priority for our significant others, not because they are concerned for our health and catching a cold but simply out of embarrassment.

We believe the phrase "smart casual" refers to a pair of black tracky-daks, or board shorts suitably laundered. We (one of us) also believe all famous Kiwis are actually Australian, until they stuff up, at which point they again become Kiwis again.
We also eat a little different due to the heat. One of the seasonal favorites (possibly invented by a Kiwi so as to have something to put slices of Chinese Gooseberry, commonly known as kiwi fruit) is Pavlova.
Check this out. You will love it...
The Pavlova is a dessert invented in Australia and named after the great ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Pavlova is a wonderful summer holiday dessert - and therefore makes a regular appearance on many Australian Christmas menus:

Eegg whites 1 pinch of salt
3/4 cup of castor sugar
1/4 cup of white sugar
1 tablespoon of cornflour
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
300 ml / ½ pints of cream
kiwifruit or strawberries for garnish

Get the oven up to 150°C, 300°F. Beat those egg whites to a foam, add the salt and beat again until soft peaks form which fold over when the beater is removed. Slowly beat in the castor sugar, beating well after each addition. Keep beating until the mixture is stiff and the peaks stand up when the beater is removed. Mix together the white sugar and corn flour. Lightly fold into the meringue with the lemon juice. There sure is a lot of beating here...
Line an oven tray with baking paper. Spread the meringue into a circle and pipe a decoration around the edge or swirl with a spoon if desired (for you show offs). Bake in a cool oven (80°C or 180°F) for 2 to 2½ hours. Turn off the heat and leave in the oven overnight to cool.
Top with heavy whipped cream and decorate with sliced kiwifruit, sliced strawberries, passion fruit, or just about any tropical fruit, just before serving. Literally all your favorite berries! Enjoy!!! You're welcome!!!

Christmas is a busy time of year with work parties and other obligatory gatherings as well as all those extra things you want to attend. That being said, we did manage to get together for our fifth annual WineWalkabout Christmas dinner in Carmel by the Sea and we dined at Grasings. We started the evening off at Caraccioli Cellars Wine bar and enjoyed the flights of world class bubbles and some lovely Pinot Noir while enjoying a great setting. Then it was off to Grasing's. With a bottle of Jim Barry Wines 2007 Armagh (drank spectacularly by the way) in hand we were ready for a feed. Once we were settled in and sipping on our crackin Aussie Shiraz we had a squiz at the formidable wine list. Then like the fun guys we are we decided to harass our sommelier Toby with a chorus of "what else you got?" just to be sure he was well trained and could take the pressure from some difficult customers. Toby brought us out a lovely Shafer Vineyards 2012 Relentless.

Grasing's was very nice and our two wonderful and delicious wines went exceptionally well with our incredible steaks and a wonderful evening was had by all. Thanks for taking care of us Somm Toby and the staff at Grasing's.

And so now it's the Christmas season and to help get the season kicked off proper we hope you enjoy this little bit of down under humor as we share a little down under singalong.

Firstly an explanation of some of the Australian words:-

Wattle - An Australian tree with yellow flowers
ripper - Good
g'day - Hello
Abu Dhabi - A distant country
ercky - Not very well
deco's - decorations
relies - relatives

Now we are ready to start singing 'Deck the Sheds' to the tune of 'Deck the Halls'. 

Deck the sheds with bits of wattle, fa la la la la la la la la
Whack some gum leaves in a bottle, fa la la la la la la la la
All the shops are open sundies, fa la la la la la la la la
Buy your Dad some socks and undies, fa la la la la la la la la
Deck the sheds with bits of gumtree, fa la la la la la la la la
Hang some deco's off the plum tree, fa la la la la la la la la
Plant some kisses on the missus, fa la la la la la la la la
Have a ripper Aussie Christmas, fa la la la la la la la la
Say g'day to friends and relies, fa la la la la la la la la
Wave them off with bulging bellies, fa la la la la la la la la
Kids and babies youngies oldies, fa la la la la la la la la
May your fridge be full of coldies, fa la la la la la la la la
Chop the wood and stoke the barbie, fa la la la la la la la la
Ring the folks in Abu Dhabi, fa la la la la la la la la
Pop the stuffing in the turkey, fa la la la la la la la la
Little Mary's feeling ercky, fa la la la la la la la la
Rally rally round the table, fa la la la la la la la la
Fill your belly while your able, fa la la la la la la la la
Joyce and Joany, Dave and Daryl, fa la la la la la la la la
Sing an Aussie Christmas Carol, fa la la la la la la la la

A Ripper Christmas 
one and all,

Nov 29, 2015

Wine party tips in time for Christmas


Don't be fooled by the title. These tips will work all year long. Throwing your first wine tasting party seems like fun until you start to sweat the details and worry about how you should do it. Simple things like what wines to select and what to pair with them starts to become a bit overwhelming very easily.

Having hosted a number of these over the years from informal small gatherings of just another couple or two to larger more formal affairs with total strangers. The one rule we try to stick to is, just keep it simple. No really. The biggest threat to your sanity is getting too many flavors or pairings and trying to juggle them all. One way to help keep things simple and tied together is to pick a theme. Again at least to start, keep it simple.

As an example of a simple theme pick a region and a type of wine. Lets say Claire Valley and Riesling in Australia as it is summer time or Cabernet and Paso Robles in the US as it is winter. Keeping in mind the wine experience of the invited group a gathering of like minded / experienced family and friends is a great start. Then are you going across the world or local? To start we would suggest local or at least relatively so for ease of procuring your wine and keeping expenses in check.

Then there will be the number of glasses needed based on the number of wines and people. Another reason to keep it simple for a while. Think about it. With 10 people you will need 10 white glasses and 10 red glasses. They do not need to be Riedel but good appropriate glassware is best.
Refrain from using water to rinse out the glasses after each taste. Instead use a small amount of the next wine. Also refrain from using water to cleanse the palate, instead use one of the cheeses or water crackers that will pair with the next wine, or if you are really serious some small cuts of un seasoned beef.

So what wine shall you choose? Up to you, but we typically like a two whites and three red kind of event using a region as a common factor. With this we like to do two of the same whites from different wineries and three reds of the same type from different wineries. This is a great way to show the difference vineyard location and winemaking style has on the same grape. A local wine shop can help out here or while at the first winery of choice where you are getting your first red and white ask where they would go to get a good contrasting version of the same wine type (this may lead to 3 whites and 3 reds).
Next up go to your local cheese shop once you have your wines selected and share the list with the cheese guy. Tell him to keep it on the conservative side but match a cheese or two to each wine color. Simple water crackers we feel are the safest but there are many choices in crackers. Don't stop at cheese and crackers though. Add some grapes, unseasoned almonds and some dried fruit. Resist the urge to get too creative with food. We can tell a story of a wonderful bruschetta that had us tasting only garlic for hours (seemed like a good idea at the time). Add some nice  Italian meats for after the tasting to simply enjoy with the tastings favorite wine and cheese.

Lastly don't forget the music and decorations for that touch of class and to just relax and enjoy your party.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Nov 22, 2015

#WW Hammersky Estate Grown Cabernet 2010

This week the bottle of wine that was a clear stand out, and worthy of some time at the keyboard was an elegant seductress from HammerSky Vineyards in the west side hills of Paso Robles. HammerSky Vineyards is, in fact, pouring some of the most intriguing wines found in Paso Robles. Vineyard owners, Doug and Kim Hauck, have moved away from red Rhône wines in favor of Bordeaux-centric, small lot, handcrafted wines of serious enjoyment. The wine is only one of a number of special things here. Originally from Newport Beach, Doug and Kim (who named the winery after their sons, Hamilton and Skyler) first made the beautiful old farmhouse on the property their own personal escape.

They then realized it would be an ideal hideaway for others who long to slow down and spend time among the vineyards. Guests can book nights in the amazingly beautiful farmhouse, which sleeps up to six people. There’s also a lovely and romantically charming renovated barn in the back, ideal for intimate weddings, family gatherings or perhaps a WineWalkabout tasting event among the vines.

The wine - HammerSky Estate Grown Cabernet 2010
100% HammerSky Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Adalaida / Willow Creek AVA

With a purple rim and stained legs. Aromas of black raspberry, black cherry, hints of cinnamon and vanilla bean. With a medium body that has rich textures of black raspberry, cherry and plum tart flavors with hints of mocha, vanilla and licorice. Seamless tannins nuanced with black fruit, wild berry black pepper and nutmeg unfold throughout the savory long sexy finish.

This is a nicely balanced and seductive wine that is impossible to stop drinking until the bottle is empty. If you are looking for an out-of-the-ordinary Cab, give this bottle a try. 56 cases were made and so finding one may be difficult. Not to worry HammerSky has made more and so try some of the current releases and find your new favorite wine. This wine earned a rating of 8 and **.

This elegant, rich and complex wine comes from a low-yielding vineyard that produced just 2.5 tons per acre, and the classy label even shows the amount of fog days.

The tasting room is open Thursday-Sunday or by appointment and the farmhouse is rented year-round. Doug and Kim Hauck, along with the friendly staff welcome you and invite you to indulge in their elegant romance that is HammerSky Vineyards.

Happy Wine Adventures,

This bottle of wine was given to us last year when having a tasting as a gift.

Nov 15, 2015

The case of our smoking tongues.

It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword. It has also been said that sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. While there may be some truth to these childhood phrases the harsh reality is that always being right is not always how to win friends and influence people and some people get offended and hurt by being corrected. It has also been said to never bring a knife to a gun fight.

The smoking gun is our smoking tongues that sometimes may not be building bridges but burning them down. Sarcasm and pointing out the obvious inaccuracies and misinformation some spew is kind of an unofficial pastime of ours. We know this is not polite public behavior but when the stupid are sharing misinformation like its gospel we sometimes cannot help ourselves. It only gets worse when they then argue with the first gently delivered corrections. To those we have corrected, to some of you we apologize. Ok ok, (wives looking over shoulders) we apologize to everyone even if we were right. Sorry, we apologize to everyone even if some of you deserved it... well you get the picture!

So what are some of the things that start this poor behavior? You know you are snarky when...

One question that often comes up when we meet people at wine events is 'Did you guys know each other before you moved to California?' The standard snarky response is 'You do know there is an ocean between the countries don't you?'
One of our favorites...
It seems like many people, including many 'wine experts', have a tendency to Frenchify the word "Meritage" by pronouncing its last syllable with a "zh" sound, as in "garage," the Meritage Alliance specifically states that the word should be pronounced to rhyme with "heritage."[ A correction that we just cannot seem to let slide. Often ends with a google search on the smart phone and sharing.
We have been overheard saying at some wine events that small town USA food and wine should often be called the Small town USA food or wine.
When growing up a teacher makes the comment 'would you allow me to be right once and a while'

Red wine has extra sulfites, thus causes headaches. Ok you are kidding right?
In the EU the maximum levels of sulfur dioxide that a wine can contain are 210 ppm for white wine, 400 ppm for sweet wines — and 160 ppm for red wine. Heck French fries have about 1900ppm and dried fruit 3,500. Regular soft drinks have about 400ppm.

Screw caps are for cheap wine... WHAT!
As we start the conversation or lecture as our wives call it, there is generally a complete ignorance as to the examples we use. Not sure if any of the enlightened ever change their viewpoint based on two cranky southern hemisphere blokes kindly sharing their knowledge.

At a fancy wine tasting as the sommeliers were wrapping up the  session and were soliciting final questions someone was heard to ask 'are you going to finish that?'

And one for the ages. Who, at a friends house, would send back the wine served them? Oh yeah that has happened!

Look, we are the first to admit we do not know everything. In fact there are tons of folks out there that have forgotten more than we will ever know. We are always listening to those behind the counter and who actually do the work. We read and attend stuff with the hope to learn more from those that know. The key is if we are unsure or do not know we don't spread the old wives tales around like they are facts.

So we are working on it, you know, trying not being right all the time and as we approach the end of the year perhaps a New Years resolution that keeps the ass part of smart ass out of the conversations may come into play...

Happy Tasting Adventures,

Nov 8, 2015

Torbreck and Simon "Fish" Fisher Shiraz

Recently I was at Torbreck having an amazing taste of some iconic wines when I was told the story of Simon "Fish" Fisher. A heart breaking and heart warming story all in one. A story that breaks your heart and renews your faith in humanity at the same time. It will bring you to tears, because of tragedy and triumph simultaneously.

I simply could not, not buy a bottle. This is just another reason to love this industry.

This is from the Torbreck Blog and website...
2008 Blog post...Simon Fisher was a top bloke. A larrikin musician with a cheeky smile, he was our Assistant Cellar Door manager until his untimely passing in August.
I thought it would be appropriate to name our newest vineyard in his memory. Planted to various clones of Shiraz that I have taken from our best vineyards, it will be a nursery of sorts to the best young Shiraz talent in the Barossa.

From the Torbreck website... Planted into the deep red loams of Marananga in the area immediately surrounding our new winery facility. I am sure that these vines in time to come, will produce some of our best grapes; and I know that during budburst every season they will be a reminder to us all at Torbreck of our lost but never forgotten friend Fish and his larrikin smile.

The Fish’s Shiraz, is named after Simon “Fish” Fisher who worked at our cellar door. His dry sense of humour and passion for wine endeared him to Torbreck staff and customers alike, until his unfortunate early passing in 2008.

This wine is a celebration of his life and is sourced from the vineyard bearing his name overlooked by the staff in front of the winery.

Torbreck Wine notes;

VARIETAL: 100% Shiraz

REGION: Marananga; Single Vineyard – New Winery Fish’s Block

VINES: Planted in 2007 – SAVII 56 clone

HARVEST: 4th April 2011 pH/TA: 3.79 5.49g/L ALCOHOL: 15%

FERMENTATION: Fish’s Shiraz is machine harvested and immediately transferred to the winery where it is destemmed into open stainless steel fermenters. It is inoculated with EC1118 yeast after 24 hours and then spends 6-7 days on skins. The juice is separated from the skins which are then basket pressed and transferred back to the free run tank. The wine is then transferred to well seasoned Hogs Heads for 16 months. The 2011 Fish’s Shiraz was bottled without the use of either fining or filtration on the 30th of July 2012. 0nly 120 Dozen produced.

All profits raised from the sale of this wine are donated to Fish’s favourite charity, The Royal Flying Doctor Service. To date they have raised just under $80,000 for this fantastic charity. This young mans passion for helping the Royal Australian Flying Doctor service is now carried on in his name by the good folks at Torbreck.

2014 Fish’s Shiraz is a bargain at $29.50 per bottle and available online - Torbreck Purchase Online
or as always at the Cellar Door. When you visit ask about this very special wine.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Nov 1, 2015

Rosé and the Kardashian effect...

Some of you are thinking what on earth does Rosé and the Kardashians have in common? Don't you mean Brangelina? Well, yes and no. Stay with us here for a bit.

Rosé (from French rosé; is also known as rosado in Portugal and Spanish-speaking countries and rosato in Italy) is a type of wine that incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. When making (most common style) rosé, the aromas and flavors are primarily influenced by the particular grape varieties used to produce the wine. The light, fruity character of many rosés come from volatile thiols (organosulphur compound) that are found as flavor precursors in the grape skins. There are a number of these and they are extracted from the grapes skin during maceration but are less likely to be extracted at temperatures below 20 °C (68 °F). So producers doing a "cold soak" maceration (with much lower temperature) to limit microbial and oxidative activity may extract less of these compounds. The stability of these aromas is very dependent on phenolics (there are others but) to protect these compounds from oxidation.

One of the reasons why rosés have such a very limited shelf-life is because of their low phenolic levels due to the very limited skin contact and extraction time. Usually within a year of production most wine experts recommend that rosés are consumed.

So there is a bit of info on Rosé. Now what is the deal with the Kardashians? It seems that 5-7 years ago people started buying and drinking rosé. Then something happened and for no apparent reason it became super popular. There are now a plethora of rosés available to choose from. The fact that as sales have soared in the last few years and they seem to continue to charm the 'wine drinker' with their seductive qualities, more producers are making them. Does rosé just have delusions of grandeur or is it actually grand? You can now buy the stuff in (increasingly expensive thanks to the cost of the glass) magnums, jeroboams and cumbersome nine bottle big methuselahs, rosé once had all the class of a hen-night out in a stretch limousine but has somehow become the latest pop culture golden child and just like that it is like a Kardashian. Popular, but with no real substance. Perhaps the influence of Gen Ys, Millennials and the hipster market, who have all embraced rosé are partly the cause.

And then there's the pop culture selling (to those that exist vicariously) rosé "en primeur" à la Brangelina, Their wine looked like it would be sold out before the wine has even been bottled, for all the world as if this pale-pink imitation of a real wine were a fancy first growth or a snooty limited-production burgundy, incredibly and seemingly presumptuous beyond reality. Get it... reality TV, just like a Kardashion.

So where is this rambling going to you ask. To be honest probably no where just like a discussion about the Kardashians.

Rosés can be beautiful wines but it seems with the mass popularity has come mass crap. It seems that at least three out of five we taste we would never purchase or even finish the glass and of the last two only one would be enjoyed.

So now rosé is also chic. And as always along with chic comes prestige, high prices and as with Brangelina, whose 6,000-bottle release of the first vintage of rosé from Château Miraval in Provence ($143.00 for a six-bottle case) sold out within five hours when it went online.

What started this rant? A bottle of rosé that was sent to be reviewed that was so pathetic that between four people the bottle remains more than half full. A situation we find more common with rosé than most other wine we receive of late.

The point we are trying to make is that just because something is super popular in no way makes it (or them) of any worth. Choose wisely...

Happy Wine Adventures,

Oct 21, 2015

Natura Wine

We received a package from Banfi Wines out of the blue a while back, which to our delight was a couple bottles of wine. Now before we opened the package there was a few moments where we were wondering what wine this may be as Banfi has a fairly large portfolio of labels.

For our drinking pleasure we received some NATURA wine made from the grapes of the organic vineyards of EMILIANA.

From the EMILIANA and NATURA website the story of the grapes... "Located in the main valleys vineyards of Chile, Emiliana is characterized by producing only organic and biodynamic wines, so that helps preserve the natural balance of life, human beings and the environment. Producing wines in this way makes these at the end more healthy, unique and of better quality. At Emiliana, the organic vineyards literally teem with life.  Vineyards buzz with various bugs, bees, birds and native wildlife that together provide a natural and effective defense against common vine-destroying insects.  Flowers and native plants thrive throughout the organic vineyards, providing another simple and cost-effective method of pest control and helping to counteract the detrimental effects of soil degradation.  The use of chemicals is shunned, in favor of natural compounds, such as copper and nitrogen.  Compost is sourced from spent grape skins and stems.  Emiliana’s Natura range, which celebrated its U.S. debut in 2006, marks the cutting edge of an altogether new category of wines made from organically grown grapes – a collection of superbly made, affordably priced organic wines crafted expressly for everyday enjoyment and, accessible to all. The Natura collection features seven varietals, three whites and four reds, all produced from hand-picked, organic grapes, harvested from certified organic vineyards in the prime growing regions of Chile’s Central Valley."

And so it was that we were about to taste a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Rosé made with organic grapes from Chile.

First off it was a nice warm California arvo so we cracked the cap on the Rosé. This is a light, light Rosé. Soft red berry fruit flavor with very little nose. This is best served a little warmer so the nose and flavors come out. But as an early arvo sip it is better at the cooler range. For the **** price (technically 8 stars) it is a good value drop that we rate a 5. According to the info vinification takes place in stainless steel tanks with gentle pump overs and delicate lees stirring. The Rose is aged for 3 months in stainless steel tanks and is filtered prior to bottling.

Next up it was into the Cabernet. This wine was definitely way more substantive with a nice aroma of dark fruits which carry to the palate with some red fruit having a secondary role. A medium body that has a light to medium palate weight with a soft smooth finish. Great value and bats well above its price point and at **** 's it rates a 6.

The story on this Cabernet is that the 'must' is transferred to temperature-controlled stainless steel fermentation tanks for a cold soak before undergoing alcoholic fermentation with gentle low-volume pumpovers. The wine then undergoes malolactic fermentation. 20% of his wine is aged in oak barrels for 6 months.

Overall good value and both bottles ended empty.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Oct 11, 2015

Winemaker for a day...

So recently while visiting home in Adelaide South Australia, an offer was put on the table to participate in tasting and making the barrel selection for the next bottling's and future release of Chardonnay. Oh, and yes it has been said one should not start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction. So where were we.

This sounds great I thought as this means now I can maybe influence the owner / winemaker with my finely tuned palate and worldly experience and help make this the best group of Chardonnays ever released by the winery. Seemed simple enough right? Which winery you ask? Don't worry I will let you know which Adelaide Hills producer it is in the end, just stay with me here for a bit.

The night before as the thrill of the impending tasting and decision making was upon me I started to have some doubting thoughts. What? One of the world famous WineWalkabout winos? Ah yes! Lets put into perspective, what has been and what was about to happen are two different animals. Or are they? Drinking wine and giving an opinion is something we all can do. Lets face it, every wanker, tosser and ponce can do that! The doubt comes about not because I am not comfortable giving an opinion, but because this time it could be used. It could actually have an affect on an upcoming release and with that, the economic connection and reputation, positive or negative, of a small family owned winery. Cue butterflies in stomach...

The big morning had arrived and it was into the car for the drive from the eastern suburb of Paradise into the beautiful Adelaide Hills and up to Lobethal on a chilly winters morning. Once the three of us were there and the fire was stoked and coffee and pleasantries were had, a discussion of the process (quite complex due to small volume to blend with) and the expected outcomes were discussed.

Having done blending and tastings before for slightly larger wineries, I had not considered that with an extremely limited amount of commodity, there was a process that made sure we used every ounce to maximum effect and there was sometimes nothing available for the previously used, let me try that last one again to be sure type of scenario. Talk about pressure!

We were preparing to determine the barrel blends for the Premium Chardonnay, the Reserve Chardonnay and a special Winemaker release.

Having tasted and drank many of the last 10 years of releases I knew that the norm was a lovely drinking Chardonnay for both labels and in some years just beautiful. Was this going to be one of the beautiful ones? Could I make the difference (not bloody likely)? Would my taste buds pick the perfect barrel combination that helped get the highest scoring wine in the history of the winery. No... that's just for the movies and books. My contribution was probably more along the lines of, does he ever stop drinking? I need some left to sell!

James and his assistant getting more...
So look, the pressure of trying to be the expert that actually could have a positive financial and reputation affecting influence changed the feeling of the game in ways that were previously not anticipated. It made me think about how some of us in the 'wine review / writing' brigade may not put a lot of real thought into just what we may be doing to those that are on the financial edge doing what they love. Of how some of the more influential wine writers can truly make and or break a family owned business. Look we try to tell it as we taste it, with an eye towards being kind and yet telling the truth. These thoughts were heady stuff coming out of a weekday morning tasting a few barrels of Chardonnay that will not see the light of day for another year.

I would like to thank James Tilbrook for his kind invitation and tolerating me tossing my opinion around like I had skin in the game. It was a wonderful experience to work side by side and compare the subtleties of our differing perceptions and on occasion our confirmation of each other. Cant wait to taste the these wines upon their release sometime in the future and I hope you like them as much as I did.

James measuring out the blend percentages of Chardonnay
Stop in and visit James at Tilbrook Estate for a bloody fantastic wine maker pizza and a taste of his latest releases. The cellar door is open 12 – 4 Monday and Friday, and 11 -5 Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays, plus most weekdays when James is present. – Please check to see if the sign board is out. On weekends and Public Holidays they serve (to die for) wood oven pizzas and local produce gourmet platters either in the courtyard on fine sunny days or inside amongst the barrels, when it is wet, cold or too windy.

James is a true artisan producer, growing the grapes, making the wine, doing the tasting trials, bottling it, and pouring in the cellar door. Go by, we 'recommend' you do.

Happy Wine Adventures,