The temps are going up so it’s time to bring out some nice white wine. I picked up some wine last year when I was in Australia and New Zealand and want to open it for the right occasion. I also had to strategically remember which wines these were by scribbling over the SKU on the back with an orange highlighter.

Was going to visit some friends the other day for dinner, but we also had all afternoon to relax. I decided to grab the 2015 Redbank Pinot Grigio from Victoria. A relatively light wine with nice fruit and citrus notes. We enjoyed this perfectly while lounging by the pool on a hot spring day. It was nice, but nothing overwhelming that I would return to New Zealand to get. But, the perks of having friends with a pool — don’t have to wait until Memorial Day to jump in the water.




Pour Me Some White

Love my part time wine tasting gigs. Last weekend during one of them I had all whites.  Ironic because it was freezing cold outside because of the 15-20mph winds and mid-50 temps. But, I guess you can sip your pain away, right?

I was sharing the delights of:

La Marca Prosecco — one of my favorites. You cannot go wrong with this stuff. You can find it for $10-$15/bottle. Just crisp and and perfect bubbles with tiny hints of citrus. Need I say more?

Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc — I love the SB from New Zealand.  Gimme some grapefruit! This one was a bit milder than my favorite.  Awesome notes of citrus all around with a nice finish. Low teens on the cost.

William Hill Chardonnay — if you like (traditional) oaked Chard, this one’s for you.  It’s from the North Coast of CA and has some definite tropical fruit notes in it while giving you that oaked, buttery taste. This one runs in the mid-teens per bottle.

Sip on, my friends.


Take me to the wine section

Have been meaning to write about many wines over many months.  Finally getting to it.  So, here is a compilation. Hopefully you’ll head to the wine section to grab some.

A friend had this one open last week, Rosa de Arrocal, a nice Spanish wine. Such a deep red rose.  It’s made with tempranillo.  Some nice fruit notes, a tiny bit of rose (the flower) and then I could taste the tiniest, tiniest amount of bubble gum? That’s all I could place it as.  It was a phenomenal wine.  About $12.  I just love the color!



Next, Peach Canyon (Increbible Red) Zinfandel, from Paso Robles, CA. Side note on that.  I was working a wine tasting the other day and was pouring a Zin. A guy had to ask if it was Red Zin. All Zin that is wine is red. White Zin is not a wine.  If you put the word red in front of the word Zinfandel we have a problem/I do not want to associate with you.

On this label they are just noting that this is an incredible red wine.  So, very nice Zin that pairs well with many foods.  Not too heavy, some nice berry notes and a tiny bit of smoke (one of my favorites in wine).  You can usually find it for between $12-$15.

Also in this shot is one of my favorite inexpensive whites, New Harbor Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.  Has those nice citrusy notes that NZ SBs are known for.  Also the great easy-access (as I like to call it) screw tops that NZ uses.  Fairly dry and a bit acidic in a good way.  Prices range from $7-$10 normally.


Next…Shoofly Shiraz from South Australia.  A nice versatile Shiraz that can be enjoyed solo or with any food, really.  Lots or berries and spices on there.  Cost is around $12-$15.

Then the Silver Palm Chardonnay. This picture is from a couple months back and they have changed the look of their bottle recently.  I noticed that last weekend in the wine shop.  I’m not a big Chard fan, but did enjoy this one because it’s done in steel not oak. It’s crisp with some lemon and a bit of peach.  Price is around $15, give or take a few dollars.


Next is Gavi Masera.  This nice Italian vino was enjoyed at my friend’s place pre-dinner, or shall I better say while her husband was preparing (an amazing-to-be dinner). A very light, fruity wine, perfect for a hot summer day.  All tastes in the wine were very light and the color of the wine, almost water-like. Price is mid-teens.


Another new one was Rawson’s Retreat (yes that link does go to an Australian store, it’s like the US Total Wine). This was a Shiraz Cabernet, oddly enjoyed while eating Ethiopian food. This one is from Australia. Based on what varietals it is from, it had some nice berry notes to it and subtle spice.  It has been hard to find around DC.  I found it at a random grocery store I had been meaning to go into – Snider’s Super Foods – didn’t expect a grocery store in MD to sell wine!  Regardless, price is around $8-$10.


Now, Smith & Hook.  Enjoyed this after a friend told me to pick the wine for dinner from the wine rack. This one is a Cabernet Sauvignon.  I got some nice fruit and a chocolaty ending.  Bring it on!  The cost…looks like it can be $15-$18.


Such a kind answer from this wine.  A friend brought this to a party, the Denada Cellars Red Blend. She bought it at Trader Joe’s.  That means I need to cross the line into DC or VA.  Darn MD laws!  She said is was under $10. I give it fruit and leather.  Bring it on!


Had some friends over and one brought a Vina Eguia Rioja.  Normally I don’t reach out to riojas but this one is now definitely on my list. There are so many notes and flavors bouncing around your mouth when you sip it that you just need to get some to try it out.  Price range is $14-$18 (it’s so funny seeing the differences online).


Attended at Wine Wednesday at Whole Foods in Georgetown/Glover Park.  If you live in DC and you don’t know about this, tune in, as they don’t advertise it.  Every Wednesday from around 5-7pm, for $5 you get 5 wines and 5 food stations.  It is awesome!

So the great one there was Lolea Sparkling Red/Sangria.  They have it in ‘normal’ bottles but also in pocket size.  It was about $7 for the pocket size and was perfect to enjoy with food (after nibbling).  Tons of great fruit flavors and would have been even better on ice.


Now onto ‘real’ sparkling red.  This one is Italian and very dry — Piria Paltrinieri. Minerally and acidic.  Unique, worth trying, but not your traditional sparkling red.  Around $20.


And another…Bench Cab Sauv. Overall great taste.  Some cocoa, long finish.  So smooth.  Price is $25, per the bottle.


Hope some of these caught your attention and you head to your wine store/wine section to pick them up.

Mudbrick Vineyard, Waiheke Island, NZ

The final stop on our Waiheke Island tour was Mudbrick Vineyard.  We started the tour with being handed a glass of their Sauvignon Blanc.  How nice!  (Per the site — Intense aromas of passionfruit, gooseberry and freshly cut grass. The palate is concentrated tropical and citrus notes with juicy acidity and a long polished finish.)


We walked around and learned about the history, the grapes, etc.  While checking out these physical grapes, we were handed a glass of their Syrah.  The pepper notes were very present.  (Displays aromas of plum, blackcurrants, black pepper corns and camphor. The palate has concentrated dark fruits, liquorice and spice with plush round tannins and a long pure finish.)


All this while having an amazing view!  Can I have a ride?  Apparently these swing by often.


We finished off in the tasting room with a taste of the Merlot/Cabernet Blend.  Home run!  I knew I still had two cities to visit on my trip but I had to take one with me.  Wow, what a taste.  (Displays aromas of plums, cassis, dried herbs, pencil shavings and dark chocolate. The palate is refined and elegant with soft powdery tannins and a long classic finish.)  Side note, pencil shavings?  So many great ‘things’ you can add to wines.  Besides the pencil being far out, the fact that it’s a shaving.  Do you get the sharpener ready and compare?  Love being wine lovers.

New Zealand Wine and Beer Stop, Wild on Waiheke

As part of the wine tour we also got to enjoy some brew.  We stopped at Wild on Waiheke, which has the Waiheke Island Brewery and also the winery.  We primarily had the beer at this one but also had a sip of vino.


For the wine we had a sip of their Sauvignon Blanc. A nice traditional one that you get from NZ.

For the brews we had quite the spread. We enjoyed a taste of all of them while hearing the history of the brewery and all about the brewing process.

-Baroona Original, 4.7% ABV.  Based on the German Kolsch style, the use of famous NZ grown Saaz B (Motueka) hops gives this beer its distinctive grapefruit peel aroma.  Baroona is brewed from 90% pilsner malt and 10% malted wheat and is top fermented. — nice and cris,p just like it should be.

-Whard Rf. Wheat Beer, 4.5% ABV.  Based on the Bavarian Hefe-Weizen style, brewed from a 50/50 blend of Pilsner malted wheat, very lightly hopped with Pacific Hallertau and fermented with authentic Bavarian yeast.  Like many classic wheat beers this product is unfiltered and has the authentic clove and banana aromas. — definitely had the banana, not good for me.  I like having banana flavor from the fruit or in some tasty bread.

-Matiatia Malt Beer, 7.2% ABV. Based on the new American Imperial Pale Ale style, this beer’s high ABV makes it perfect as an after dinner beer or nightcap.  The palate is rich and full with notes of toffee and chocolate, balanced with generous additions of NZ grown chocolate, balanced with generous additions of NZ grown Cascande hops for a lingering resinous finish — heavy, couldn’t take more than a sips.  Could taste what they said and definitely wouldn’t want it as a ‘main’ beer.

-Apple Cider, 5.5% — Brewed on site alongside the beers and make from Hawkes Bay Granny Smith apple juice and fermented with their top fermented ale yeast culture.  The cider starts fermentation at a high gravity and is then cooled down once it reaches 5.5% ABV.  This rapid halt to the fermentation leaves plenty of residual apple flavour and just the right level of sweetness.  The aroma and flavour are both full of fresh apple notes and a lingering finish. — pretty good!  And the sweetness is not overbearing.

-Hauraki Gulf Ginger Beer — non-alchohol.  ‘Nuf said.



Another great place to check out.

Olive Oil Tasting, New Zealand

As part of our tour on Waiheke Island, we got to visit an olive grove to learn about the olive industry in New Zealand.  The place we checked out was Rangihoua Estate, which has been around since the late ’90s.


We learned about the entire olive oil making process from picking the olives through processing them to putting the final product in a bottle.


After that we got to sample!  Some of the oils were very nice, some, for my taste were ok.  Overall, great experience learning about everything and adding to the wine tour day.

New Zealand Winery #1, Stonyridge Vineyard

When in New Zealand, one must visit wineries!  Right outside out Auckland is a little island, Waiheke, that has plenty of wineries to visit.  We found a wine tour, Taste of Waiheke, to take part in that took you to wineries, an olive oil tasting and a brewery.  Great!




After leaving the ferry we got on a nice bus and sauntered our way to winery #1, Stonyridge Vineyard.  Very nice castle-like look.  This winery is “dedicated to producing the finest Cabernet blends in the world (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) using traditional winemaking.”

Upon arrival we stood just outside the vineyard, right near some olive trees, and learned about the history while enjoying some of their delectable Airfield, a mid-price Bordeaux-style red.


After that were served an amazing lunch!  They whipped up this great nicoise-like salad for me vs. a quiche because of my lactose intolerance.  This was awesome.  Enjoyed that with some very nice Sauvignon Blanc.



Beirut, Auckland, NZ

Another night, another restaurant.  Asked for another suggestion from the concierge and this time because of what we were looking for, the restaurant suggestion was Beirut, which is contemporary middle-eastern food.


After pouring over the menu, we opted to split several small dishes and opted for:

Za’attar: kale, thyme, coriander, sumac, goat’s cheese

Fattoush: watermelon, beetroot, cucumber, orange blossom, parsley

Bubba: burnt eggplant, black sujuk, toasted sesame, black cabbage

Skate:  fermented apple water, bees wax, pine oil, onion ash, batarekh, white radish


All were amazing.  The bubba just melted in your mouth.  The radish wasn’t my favorite in the fish dish (skate) but the rest of it was great.  Love this kind of food!

Fuga Japanese Brasserie, Auckland, NZ

On the second night in Auckland, opted to go for some Japanese fare.  Found a place right around the corner from the hotel, Fuga Japanese Brasserie, that wasn’t busy.  It was also pretty hidden/subtle.  When we walked in, we were definitely in the minority, which likely meant it was not common for tourists to check this place out.  Makes it all the better.


The table opted for some sake and Japanese brew.


Went for some pretty basic food options that night.  Some nice soup (it was cold out that day), fresh salad, sashimi and nigiri.


Pretty good, though the fish didn’t have any outstanding flavor.  The service was a bit slow, but very nice.  Good choice overall.




Depot Eatery, Auckland, NZ

First night in Auckland, received a suggestion from the concierge to not walk more than 100 feet outside front door of the hotel to this place called Depot Eatery for dinner  They don’t take reservations so you just either get there early or wait patiently in line.


We were fortunately there on a weeknight so it wasn’t too crazy but still had to wait.  Once we got a seat, we got to sit at the bar, which makes it more fun.  While looking over the menu of course it was necessary to grab a drink.  There was wine on tap.  Awesome!  Always love trying that stuff.  It was perfect.


Then, they bring you white bean hummus and pita bread to nibble on while picking food.


While looking over the menu we asked for suggestions from the bartender.  It was the kingfish.  Ok, sold. The description was Kingfish belly w/ eggplant kasundi, lime & toasts.  We chose that and Brussels sprouts  — ‘not your mothers’ w/ ‘Otello’s’ pancetta & walnut crumbs.



There was nothing left on either of these plates.  Amazing food.  So glad this restaurant was recommended and can totally see why it has a wait.