Feb 22, 2015

Great Wines of Italy with James Suckling

Heading up to San Francisco there was a sense of excitement in the car. The reason, the opportunity to taste a bucket load of top class Italian wines and get to say g'day to James Suckling. Having spent some time in Italy and simply falling in love with the food and wine and almost everything in general, this was a way to fall back into those lovely flavors at the James Suckling Great Wines of Italy event.

The location was the Generals Residence on the hill overlooking San Francisco Bay at Fort Mason. While parking in that area is always a bit of crap shoot we were early enough in our excitement that we managed to get a great spot.

What a great setup to taste world class wine (other than parking). The Generals residence has the most spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay from three rooms with continuous windows facing the bay and on what was a spectacular California winters day (could have been spring).

As we entered the tasting area the fist word to cross our lips was one made famous by Steve Erwin 'Crikey', as in Crikey where do we start! With a few hundred or so top notch wines it is a little overwhelming for the average taster. But then again, we are not average, and so it was flat out like a lizard drinking! With our designated driver and our in-house formally educated Sommelier Dave to keep us in check we dove in with the enthusiasm of kids in a candy store (lolly shop).

There were magnificent Barolos, intriguing Chiantis, magical Merlots and many other wonderful wines and even a couple we had not tasted before.

With ample and mostly appropriate nibbles, a simply awesome view, and some amazing Italian Wines, the afternoon was a crackin wine lovers dream.

There were as stated some wonderful wines. The one that overall caught our attention was from Cusumano. Their nero d'avola was a beautiful medium full bodied wine that checked all the box's. The Cusumano Sicilia Tenuta San Giacomo Sagana 2012 is a wine for wine lovers and we feel it is worthy of a rating of 8+ and ***. A great wine at a very reasonable price.

Taste the wine then create music to reflect what you tasted...
Why this wine over any number of other fantastic wines? That is a good question as there truly were a ton of fantastic wines. We are not sure other than perhaps it was that it stood out by being a little different than most as well as extremely good. Probably did not hurt that Maria Leone and Phoebe were very gracious.

Having some many great wines to taste has its drawbacks. The next couple weeks means a regular wine gets treated very critically.

An interesting and entertaining (if not a bit poncy) part of the event was when James and his mate with a violin Rob Moose, the awarding-winning musician, serenaded the crowd with his violin putting the taste of wine to music.

One of our favorites for best overall
value. We got the Message in a
 Bottle Sting and we liked it 7 and ****.
A first class event and we look forward to attending more in the future.  After a chat with James we are also excited that there may be an Australian version in the future (call us).

We also understand that  most of the wines are still available through California's top premium wine merchant, K&L, who co-hosted the tasting.

A top class event, gracious host, magnificent wines in a spectacular setting. Brilliant! Cheers James.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Feb 16, 2015

Hearst Castle, a California Treasure.

Photo from the Hearst Castel website.

While enjoying an extended weekend in Cambria we took some time to go visit the world famous Hearst Castle. Oh what a magical place it is. On what was a beautiful California day in December (75deg) we ventured up the hill to the visitors center to start our adventure.
First off we headed for the ticket counter to get our wrist bands and tickets. Then we were off to watch a movie about some of the Hearst history via the movie 'Hearst Castle - Building the Dream'.

Don't miss the movie and don't sit too close to the screen. Also book ahead. We did just a couple days ahead of time and there were hundreds of tickets available for the regular tours and we were able to pick out tour time but by the time the big day had come almost everything was sold out.

William Randolph Hearst started building this fabulous estate on his ranchland in 1919. It overlooks the seaside village of San Simeon. He called the estate "La Cuesta Encantada" - Spanish for The Enchanted Hill.

After watching the movie, it was off to wait for our turn to get on our scheduled bus to take the 5 mile bus ride up the hill. The views going up the hill in all directions are spectacular. Not just the scenic California Coast but also the views as you approach the Castle. There is also a large population of wildlife to see. We recommend sitting on the right side of the bus for the ride up the hill.  The view is spectacular no matter where you are sitting but the right side seems to produce the most picture opportunities.

At the drop off you start to get a feeling for just how big this amazing place is. Climbing the stairs and looking up at this impressive building is breathtaking.

As you start the tour (Grand Rooms Tour) you gather around the fountain in front of the Casa Grande as the tour guide tells of parties and famous guests that attended the Castle. You can almost feel the vibe from this time gone by. How amazing it must have been to be invited to stay at the Castle with Hearst.
As you enter the grand social room on the ground floor of Casa Grande just as William Randolph Hearst’s guests did decades ago for cocktails, conversation, and to meet their host, you experience the massive room with all its historic Renaissance and Baroque tapestries and masterpieces, just as if you were invited (without the libations).

Wandering through this amazing building it is hard not to be left in awe at all the amazing detail as well as the amazing grandeur.

Roman Pool
At the end of the tour you are let loose onto the property to wander around and imagine you were there as a guest and enjoying the views and the splendor of this magical place. You can see the guest houses and the amazing pools, both of them. The Roman pool is just as it sounds and the Neptune pool is just the perfect place to be on a hot day with friends and some wine and food. Wait, we cant do that now. Got lost in thought there for a moment.
The Neptune pool went through a number of remodels to make it bigger and even more impressive over the years.

Look, if you have been to Hearst Castle you know how amazing this place is and if you haven't yet been, put it on the bucket list as its a 'Must do'.

Happy Wine Adventures,

Feb 9, 2015

Don't be the 'Wanker' at the Wine tasting

Or as you (if you are the one) may have heard a little later during a tasting event 'oh come on you bloody wanker, fair go' . For our USA friends it would translate to 'oh come on you dam douche let someone else have a go'.
Recently we had a couple of back to back large tasting events that were very good other than there were some that needed a refresher on manners. What makes this worse is that these events were filled with primarily industry and media types with some experienced punters mixed in to the crowd. In other words, people that really should know better!

While at these larger type events there are a lot of stations pouring, there are also a lot of tasters. So while a little waiting is to be expected, standing behind some wanker who is wind bagging their knowledge or opinion to the poor trapped individual who is pouring, is not what most are there for. Especially the pourers. Even more especially us! Well it is mostly about us...

Go ahead and ask a pertinent question or two about the winery, or the wine, but don't engage in the spewing of dribble about the history of the bung hole, or the story of some great wine tasted at some magical event that was way better than this (because self-importance is endearing). No one cares to hear that, and those waiting behind you are plotting your demise, Ya bloody raw prawn!
So the message here is keep your inane stories to yourself and be considerate of those around you, get your taste and some info from the pourer, ask a quick question and step aside ya ponce!

Another pet peeve is, and this is a bit of a organizer issue as well, is the bloody lamas who reach in around you and spit in the bucket. Now we know that spitting is an accepted and somewhat required practice at these events, but be a little couth about it and stop it ya bloody drongo's.

Some of you are not that good at it either, and crickey does the little missus spit the dummy when we come home with wine stains on our crotches. Organizers need to double or even triple spit buckets and not just in front of those pouring, but away from the wine station so that the spitter can get their wine ask a question and move away, access the wine and then safely spit it out. As an added suggestion make the tables with the spit buckets taller as well. This one change to the regular system would help with a number of issues.

While there are a few more things that we find annoying, sharing these two has made us feel better. So enough belly aching and being grumpy (he hates when we imitate him) and on to more great wine adventures!

Happy Wine Adventures,

Feb 1, 2015

#WW Hearst Ranch Winery 2011 Petite Sirah

While enjoying a little R&R in the Cambria area on the California Coast a trip to Hears Castle was planned. Arriving in the area early we looked for something to kill some time. Oh look just across the road on the beautiful San Simeon bay is the old Historic Sebastian's General Store where low and behold was a wine tasting room. It is the tasting room of Hearst Ranch Winery.
What were we to do? As if...

A really cool place and a nice tasting room was to be a predictor of a great tasting experience. With friendly staff and a nice range of wines it sure hit the spot.

At the end of the tasting a selection of wine was purchased and the other night for dinner one was opened. Over the years we have not been the biggest fans of this particular variety but in recent years there seems to have been a move to make it a more approachable wine.

The wine we opened from Hearst Ranch Winery was their 2011 Petite Sirah. This was one of the best Petite Sirahs we have had in a long time. Here is what the winery says about how their wine tastes.

2011 Petite Sirah releases seductive blueberry, coffee, blackberry and dried violet aromas with each swirl in the glass. The flavor profile is driven with black fruit and blueberry, wrapped up in a raspberry, clove and fine grained tannic finish.  

This is a sexy siren of a wine will just simply seduce you. Once you have tasted it you will just not be able to get enough and before you know it you will be a wreck of remorse lying on the floor! Ok maybe a bit exaggerated but just to be clear, we warned you that you will fall under the spell.

To discover this wine was a **** purchase was just amazing. Rating it 7+. With a price that makes it a great weekly winner and a taste that makes it a great go out dinner wine this one is a must have in the wine fridge to cover you for almost any occasion.

Happy Wine Adventures,