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,