Gris, Grigio, Good Grief!

So Summer hasn’t quite arrived here in San Francisco, but I decided that I needed a little white wine.  I know I know, you’re thinking “Bratty!  What have you done!”  Those of you who have followed my antics over the years probably realize that I have an abnormal appreciation (er obsession with all things pinot (noir), so today I decided to stick with the pinot theme and taste some Pinot Grigio.  I mean Gris.

Normally, I run away and scream in horror when I see the words pinot and grigio together as they evoke a certain…Real Housewives of Nowhere  bad $5 wine swilling horror.  But, I’m happy to say that two wines from the Robert Oatley family are actually a lovely departure from the cheap Italian varietal.  Yes, I know there is good Pinot Grigio, but it’s just attacked and tortured by the bad.

So, starting with the 2009 Tic Tok Pinot Grigio, which retails for anywhere from $10-13, I found a light tropical touch on the nose, lemon and mango in the body, and a light refreshing texture.  The edge of baking spice rounds it out nicely.  There was a lot of grapefruit, lychee and nectarine fruit flavors and it had a nice weight without  being heavy.  It’s a lovely summer white, though  not a terribly complex wine, but at $10 average, it’s a great summer sipper for patio parties and BBQs.

After the Tik Tock, the 2009 Robert Oatley Pinot Gris, Adelaide Hills is a deeper golden hue, as it sits on the skins for longer to give depth of flavor and color.  This wine is richer than the Tic Tok and has pear and spice notes.  It’s a great sipper to replace your chardonnay!

Robert Oatley has been making wine in Australia for over 40 years, and the family has been around since convict days.  Pretty good for a prisoner, no?

I love a good pinot gris, especially as the weather heats up.  I challenge you to go out and find a great pinot gris to bring to you next party!

Thanks to Robert Oatley for providing me with this slurpalicious whites!






G’day mate! Drink for a cause.

Wow it’s been a wet weekend.  Fortunately we have been catching up on our drought ravaged region’s rain consumption, but Australia has not been as lucky.  If you haven’t heard, there are over 13 separate out of control wild fires (called bushfires in Oz) burning as we speak.  With Victoria being one of the most prolific wine producing regions in Australia, many well known names have been catastrophically affected.

Some of the many fires have been intentionally set, and many lives have been lost.  To benefit the Australian Red Cross, which is assisting with those 7000 people left homeless and over 300 people that have been killed by these fires, The Jug Shop has partnered with Crushpad to host a benefit this Friday, Feb 20th, at Crushpad in San Francisco.  for those of you that remember our own wildfires here in California, please try to make this event where several of Victoria’s greatest wines will be poured for your $30 donation.

Please RSVP HERE.  Advanced registration is essential.  No tickets will be sold at the door.

The event takes place on Friday Feb 20th at Crushpad – 2573 – Third Street in San Francisco

If you would like to donate additional funds or items to a fundraising auction, please email Dawn Lillington at


If you’d like more information regarding the fires and information on how to donate directly to the Australian Red Cross, please visit:



In South Australia I was born

Heave away, Haul away!
In South Australia ’round Cape Horn,
We’re bound for South Australia!

As you might have guessed, this post is about Aussie wines. A week ago, I was able to attend a fantastic tasting presented by South and The Jug Shop in San Francisco.

South is a wine bar in SOMA that specializes in wine & food from Down Under, and I love it. I’ve picked out my favorites (ok, fine, the wines I purchased) to write about, since there were so many to drink that night and I lost track of my tasting notes at the end! The Traveling Winemakers of the Country Vintner is a road show of Aussie offerings (with one New Zealand host for good measure). This wine event gave us Yanks an opportunity to taste some smaller production and country vintner examples in a fun format, at a small venue.

We tasted a large variety of wines, from five wineries from all over Oz – Pemberton and Denmark, way out Western Australia-way, over east to South Australia’s Adelaide Hills, a few clicks north to the Barossa Valley, then across the Tasman to NZ’s famed Marlborough district.

  • LOOSE END – Barossa Valley, South Australia

Loose End gets my Gold Star winner of the night award. Rob’s GSM blend was stunning and RIDICULOUSLY affordable! The 2005 Loose End GSM Blend retails for $16, and is a smooth ripe blend of 43% Grenache, 30% Shiraz, and 27% Merlot. For a full bodied red with dark fruit and spice, you cannot beat this for the money.

The other wine that Loose End poured was a classic Aussie Shiraz. Typically, I am not a huge fan of the Barossa Shiraz that we get here in the states, mainly because I find them over oaked and over manipulated. This was the exception to the rule. The 2005 Loose End Barossa Shiraz Viognier blend is fermented on 4% of Viognier grapes which gives this wine a beautiful aromatic quality and softens the hard edges you can sometimes find in Shiraz, and shows blackberries, chocolate and and earthly backbone.

  • Vinaceous Wines & West Cape Howe – Denmark, Western Australia

Vinanceous wins for Best Label Design. In addition, the content of those bottles were AMAZING!

The 2006 Vinaceous Red Right Hand blend of Syrah, Grenanche and of all things Tempranillo, was unusual. It showed as a juicy red, with some interesting spice and great body. I also enjoyed the Snake Charmer Shiraz. While more expensive than the Loose End, at only $24, this was an affordable wine as well.

The other label produced by this winemaker, West Cape Howe, had a lovely Unwooded Chardonnay that was really creamy and delicious without having that overpowering oak characteristic. I don’t drink very much white, but I really enjoyed this wine with its crisp & juicy flavors, topped with some mineral and citrus. For less than $20, you can drink this at a Barbie, a picnic, or at the beach.

I could go on for days here, but these were my favorites. Thanks so much to South & The Jug Shop for their hospitality and great wines! Please stop by The Jug Shop to pick up your own Down Under in a Box and if you’re in San Francisco, check our their tasting eventsHERE!