Speed tasting 2! Decibel New Zealand

Hawkes Bay New Zealand

Decibel Cellears 2009 Sav Blanc winemaker started in the music industry.

100% sustainable vineyards. All wine exported out of NZ by 2012 will have to be sustainable vineyards and winemaking practices!  That’s pretty cool.

Grassy classic NZ savvy.  But the flavors belie – it’s much calmer than a normal NZ sav blanc.  Nicely rounded, a touch of gooseberry, very nice acidity not overdone.  Nice river rock, chalk in there.  100% stainless fermented but lees are stirred and it gives a nice roundness to the pallate.

1000 cases, $16 a bottle. Total winner!  I’d buy it!  Lovely lemony fruit flavors in here.

D is for Dry!


Ok so Dry Creek is a region, but I wanted to be sure that everyone knew about passport.  Technically, it’s also a wine, so I’ll also tell you about Dry Lands Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

First, the Passport to Dry Creek
is coming up in April.  46 wineries open their doors wide, and showcase their best wines and hospitality.  Passport is a unique event, since there are limited ticket sales, and all of the wineries have amazing themes, food, and wines to share.  There will be themes galore including Alice in Wonderland, Western, Mardi Gras, Circus, and Belly Dancing. Most wineries feature live entertainment!

Tickets for the weekend are $120, and Sunday only tickets are $70.  While it seems spendy, the exclusivity of the event coupled with the small wineries that are open just fro the event make for an amazing weekend.  I went last year, and was delighted by the event.  this is a great alternative to the larger Wine Road events, as it is more limited and there are fewer crowds.  I hope I’ll see you there!

Next up is the 2009 Drylands Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.  We are having a touch of false spring here in the Bay Area, and it’s nice to have a crisp white to put me in the mood.  The wine smells of gooseberries and 7-up, and has ripe citrus flavors, and lime zest.  There is a touch of New Zealand grassiness, but it is very subtle.  I am really enjoying this wine, and at $16-19, it’s a great priced summer sipper.  I hope you go out and enjoy this as well!  STRONG BUY

I love Dry Creek, and I would pay any amount of money to enjoy my time there.  The wine however, was graciously provided by my friends at Benson Marketing.  Thanks!


Just say no to OAK!

WOW!  What a day.  The mercury has reached 90 degrees, in SAN FRANCISCO.  IN APRIL!  Mother Nature is sure ticked off.  The saving grace to this terrible heat wave is that I have been enjoying some very nice white wines of late.  Now, you probably know that I am a red girl through and through, and have been known to drink Pinot with my fish, but there is something so relaxing about a cold white on a red hot day.

When I got home from work, my house was an oven, and the last thing I could think of doing was opening a red.  So I made
myself some cold chicken salad, and cracked open a bottle of Kim Crawford Unoaked Chardonnay that I have had stashed in my fridge for a while.  The unoaked version of the classic white is my cup of tea.  I have long held the belief that we have destroyed a perfectly lovely white wine varietal by turning it the color of pee and adding oak essence to it.  I personally prefer the minerally citrus inspired dry and crisp light whites from France.  While this was by no means a light white, it was a refreshing change of pace.

While it goes through 100% malolactic fermentation, which gives it a rich and creamy mouthfeel.  Then, this wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks and never sees oak barrels, hence the unoaked label.   I tasted butterscotch, vanilla pudding, and tropical fruits as well as crisper citrus notes.  This was like eating a juicy green apple, and it was very refreshing on a hot hot day.

I know i’ll be buying it again if i can find it!  The Kim Cracford Unoaked Chardonnay retails for around $15-18, and can be found at BevMo and Wine.com among other places.  Examples of Chardonnay of this quality and style are why i have permanently cancelled my membership int eh ABC Club (Anything But Chardonnay).  I hope too will give some of these a try!


Free the Grapes! The New Zealand grapes!

Sunday, February 8th, is Waitangi Day Tasting at South Food & Wine Bar in San Francisco.

nz-wine-map1Since February 6th is the anniversary of the treaty of Waitangi, where the Maoris and the Brits agreed to British rule and create “New” Zealand.  Why it’s a British colony is slightly amusing, since “Zeeland” is Dutch for lands by the sea.  Oh well! While there is clearly controversy over occupied lands, much like our Native American history, we can celebrate this day for giving us the lovly wines of New Zealand. As such, The Jug Shop, my favorite Down Under importer here in SF has teamed up with South Food & Wine Bar, to present an afternoon of New Zealand New Releases, paired with delectable treats like the cheeses of New Zealand.

The soiree is from 2pm to 4pm, Sunday, February 8th at South, which is south of Market, and costs  the mere sum of $30.  I know what you’re thinking.  It’s a recession!  That’s too much!  Trust me on this – if you have never been to a tasting at South, it is well worth the cost of admission.  The quality of the food pairings and the amount and quality of the wines poured are worth more than the cost of admission, and the fun you will have with me, The Jug Shop, and the Kiwi producers is unmatched.

Hope to see you there!

Oh yes, if you are going, it’s Cash Only at the door so please RSVP to South Food & Wine Bar by phone or email

phone at 415.974.5599
email to info AT southfwb.com



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!


Pinot Envy indeed!

Last night I had the opportunity to attend a New Zealand Pinot Noir tasting of Calvert Vineyard wines at The Jug Shop. Being a pinot-phile, and planning a trip to NZ next year, this was a terrific opportunity for me to hone my Pinot tasting skills.

NZ is pumping out some amazing Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Noirs these days, and the Central Otago region, located on the southern end of the South Island has been cranking out some amazing examples.

The tasting offered three wines produced from the same vineyard, in a variety of styles, all from Calvert Vineyard. For you wine geeks, you can see a block map here.
Calvert Vineyard Block Plan

2006 Felton Road
This was the first wine we tasted, and right off the bat I tasted red fruit, cola, and cherry. It had an earthy backnote, with a hint of violets.

This was a fruit forward wine, and did not show immense oak.

2006 Pyramid Valley
This wine was ever so slightly different than the Felton Road, with it’s woody flavors and increased chewiness.

The difference was in the handling of the fruit, which was 100% destemmed and whole cluster fermented for 15 months in French Oak. This extra time in the oak added the texture and complexity.

2006 Craggy Range Calvert Vineyard
This is an example of an over extracted Pinot Noir done well; yes, it was a rich and bold wine, and not a delicate flower, but we all loved it and it clearly has a cult following if only 2 cases are imported in to the US.

These wines are difficult to find in the States, and I was happy to be able to take advantage of The Jug Shop’s tricky negotiation skills to taste these gems. I even left holding in my hot little hands, a promise of delivery for a three-pack of these treats. How could I ressit? With only 2 cases imported of the Craggy Range, it is an excellent opporutnity to do a horizontal tasting of some of the world’s hottest new growing regiosn.

Hey, if your wines were this good, woudln’t you keep them for yourselves? I know I would!