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,