South Africa: This Year’s Hottest Wine Destination

South-African-VineyardWith stunning scenery, excellent restaurants, and exceptional wines, South Africa’s Western Cape has become a must go wine destination. Add the American Dollar presenting a favorable exchange rate to the South African Rand, and the Western Cape’s proximity to Cape Town, arguably Africa’s most beautiful city, and it’s easy to see why South Africa is this year’s hottest wine destination. Stellenbosch along with nearby Franschoek, Paarl and Swartland dominate the wine production on South Africa’s Western Cape. Some must-see wineries include the iconic Klein Constantia estate known for fashioning excellent Sauvignon Blanc as well as Vin de Constance, one of the world’s greatest dessert wines; Black Pearl, Mary-Lou Nash’s pearl of an estate for fabulous Shiraz; Edgebaston, the source of David Finlayson’s very impressive age-worthy Cabernet Sauvignons; Rustenberg, the home of the John X. Merriman which might be the best Meritage offering anywhere for the money; Eagle’s Nest, an upcoming star for Shiraz and Viognier; Downes Family, outstanding producers of incredible Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc; and Barista, a leader in the burgeoning Pinotage market.

Don

Long Island Wines: No Longer a Best Kept Secret

Long Island Wine CountryFor more than forty years Long Island has been a budding wine region and increasingly a source of excellent red and white wines from traditional European varietals. With soils and a climate similar to that of Bordeaux, we should all be wondering why it took so long for anyone to plant vines there, especially on the island’s North Fork, the warmest and sunniest spot in all New York State. And why has the rest of the nation been deprived of these wines, many of which are truly world class?

Although the total Long Island acreage under vines remains relatively small and densely concentrated on the island’s North Fork, Long Island’s some 50 commercial wineries turn out a dizzying array of red and white wines that are snapped up by local restaurants and the hordes of summertime visitors to the Hamptons and other East End vacation spots. Hence, the reason the rest of the country has been so long deprived of Long Island’s wines. Chenin Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Syrah and plenty of blends from a litany of varietals abound and attest to both the quality and variety of wines to be found on Long Island. But change is on its way. More and more Long Island wineries have begun allocating some of their production to national markets. Here are some Long Island wineries to look for.

Bedell Cellars: Excellent Merlot and Bordeaux style reds. Musée is the winery’s Top Performer.

Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery: Noble wines as the name suggests from Long Island’s oldest winery (formerly Hargrave) dating to 1973.

Lieb Cellars: Sustainably farmed award winning Pinot Blanc and Merlot are stars.

Paumonok Vineyards: First rate Chenin Blanc along with a fine collection of other varietals.

Pellegrini Vineyards: Excellent Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.

For anyone visiting New York City, why not leave the din of Manhattan behind for a day or two, drive east onto Long Island and head to the island’s North Fork where fresh air, light sea breezes, warm sunshine, and plenty of good wine awaits?

Don

What’s New in Italian Wine?

Tuscany - San GimignanoItalian wine often gets overlooked with the proliferation of New World wines invading the market, but Italy continues to be a source of new and interesting wines.  Although much of what is new in Italian wine stems from recent releases rather than new wineries, there is no shortage of the latter.  And many first time Italian wines to our shores may indeed issue from centuries old wineries.  After all, what are a few centuries to Italy?

Most intriguing to me from Tuscany are the 2012 Rosso di Montalcino and 2010 Brunello di Montalcino wines from Le Potazzine Gorelli, both of which are a home run.

Equally compelling are the organic wines from newcomer Monterotondo.  Monterotondo’s 2010 Chianti Classico Riserva positively sings from the glass.  It invokes the fecundity, purity and everlasting charm of Tuscany.

Not to be outdone, Alesandro Sderci’s Il Palazzino Chianti Classico estate has recently released the family’s outstanding 2010 Chianti Classicos.  Sderci also introduced Bertinga, an elegant Tuscan Cabernet blend, to the U.S. for the first time with the 2008 vintage.

Lest we think southern Italy the neglected step child, there are plenty of exciting wines flowing from the fabled Amalfi Coast as well as the hinterlands of Campania and points south.  Benito Ferrara, Caggiano, and Colli di Lapio make some of the best red and white wines in southern Italy.  Colli di Lapio’s outstanding 2013 Fiano di Avellino and 2010 Taurasi Vigna Andrea might be the two best white and red Campanian wines to start and finish a meal, though every wine from the diminutive Colli di Lapio estate merits seeking out.  White and red wines from Benito Ferrara and Caggiano stand out as well.

Don

Don’s April Collector Series Top Pick

fore-family-vineyards-carneros-pinot-noir-2009April’s Collector Series Top Pick belongs to an up-and-coming boutique California producer, Fore Family Vineyards.  The 2009 Fore Family Vineyard Napa Carneros Pinot Noir is a mere 208-case production and a true family affair.  I am tough on Pinots and rather particular about the ones I drink. With that said, the graceful, mouth-filling 2009 Fore Family Vineyards Carneros Napa Pinot Noir captures the essence of what draws people to Pinot Noir – elegance, complexity, and flavor.  For this reason, Fore Family Vineyards’ 2009 Pinot Napa Carneros shines and earns this month’s Top Pick.  Enjoy!

Don

Don’s April Premier Series Top Pick

donati-family-vineyard-paicines-claret-2012I really enjoy drinking good Bordeaux and the growing number of delicious Claret/Meritage offerings coming out of California. Claret, the English term for Bordeaux (an enviable union of Cabernet, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, etc.), and Meritage, California’s more familiar name for Claret, always seem to offer more in the way of balance and complexity than straight varietal offerings from any single grape, and often at a more conducive price. Add the blessings of two great vintages and this month’s Top Pick becomes a toss-up. Donati’s 2012 Claret might be the best value in California Claret or Meritage on the market, as it offers plenty of delicious fruit along with excellent purity, body, and balance. At the same time, the 2010 Château Barreyre makes many overpriced, big-name Bordeaux seem wimpy and under-endowed. At 15% alcohol, it over-delivers and proves to be a crowd pleaser. Given its size and structure, the 2010 Château Barreyre is likely to continue to evolve. So, what’s this month’s Top Pick? I opt for the 2012 Donati Claret as this month’s Top Pick for immediate consumption, but you can be sure I will be stashing away the 2010 Château Barreyre for drinking later this year and next. In the interim, don’t miss this month’s exceptional white wines – Morgadio Albariño Rias Biaxas and Tamellini Soave – two of the very best wines from their respective appellations.

Don