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

Celebrating Malbec World Day

Manos-Negra-Malbec-DayToday is Malbec World Day and after searching my wine stash for a Malbec, I was surprised that I didn’t have a single bottle of Malbec. All I found was a Meritage from California, that included Malbec grapes in the blend and several Bordeaux blends from France that also included Malbec grapes. With no Malbecs to celebrate with, I had to go out at lunch and pick up a couple of bottles, one for drinking today and the other for my wine stash.

Argentina produces 70% of the world’s Malbec grapes and the hilly northwest region of Mendoza is perfect for growing Malbec grapes. I love a good Malbec from this region so today, I am drinking a 2010 Manos Negras Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina.

Cheers,
Kristina

Great California Wine Bargains

Zin GrapesIn the past decade, the number of California wineries has exploded, and with that explosion came a plethora of superior-quality bargain wines.  Although California has suffered through years of drought and small crops, the proliferation of new wineries, coupled with greater attention to viticultural areas other than Napa and Sonoma, means that wine enthusiasts don’t need stacks of $100 bills to enjoy quality wine.  Boutique and family-owned wineries are mostly behind the Golden State’s wine bargains.

Cambridge Cellars is one of the newest wineries in California’s wine scene, and the Cambridge Cellars’ Limited Series of wines stand out as bargains.  The winery’s 2013 Limited Monterey Chardonnay constitutes extraordinary value as does the Cambridge Cellars Limited 2013 Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both sell for well under $20.00 a bottle.

Donati Family Vineyard in Paicines, California, fashions top-notch Cabernet Sauvignon and Claret, with the latter featuring an exceptional blend of Bordeaux varietals.  Donati’s 2012 Claret exemplifies the high quality one can acquire at an affordable price. While many California Meritage wines sell for  $50.00 and more, Donati’s Claret is a veritable bargain at $22.00.

Fore Family Vineyards, which strides the Napa/ Lake County border, turns out award-winning wines from Napa, Carneros, and Lake County.  The Fore Family’s 2009 Napa Carneros Pinot Noir exemplifies the exceptional quality emanating from dedicated family wineries in California.  At just under $40.00 a bottle, it may not be in the reach of every Pinot lover, especially those in search of the Holy Grail of Pinot Noir at $15.00, but it tops many $50.00 and $75.00 Pinots.

Napa Cellars crafts classic Napa Valley wines at incredibly affordable prices. Whether it’s Napa Cellars’ 2013 Sauvignon Blanc or the winery’s award-winning Chardonnay, Pinot, Noir, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah or Zinfandel, I am hard-pressed to find better quality and consistency in Napa Valley for under $25.00.

Pietra Santa in California’s Cienega Valley produces extraordinary Sangiovese along with many other varietals.  Although renowned as a producer of Sangiovese, Pietra Santa also excels lately with Pinot Noir, Cabernet, Merlot and various white varietals.  Pietra Santa’s recently reviewed 2010 Sangiovese earned 91 Points from Wine Enthusiast and it can be purchased for $18.00.

Don

What’s New in French Wine?

Wine & CheeseWhat’s new as well as what’s great about French wine today is not so much about what new French wines there are as it is about how good many of the traditional tried and true wines are from well-established appellations. France remains a true treasure trove of affordable wines of exceptional quality, and never has this been more the case than today. Aside from that nation’s top 100 collectable wines – a subjective list in its own right – there are literally thousands of reasonably priced wine treasures in France just waiting to be discovered, or more accurately, rediscovered.

As one of the planet’s two leading purveyors of wine (Italy being the other), France not only turns out a plethora of outstanding affordable wines, it also fashions a tremendous variety of delicious wines; red, white, rosé, sparkling, dry and sweet wines all make the case for France being the world’s leading source of reasonably priced, high quality wines. So, leave the top 100 wines to the billionaires and start drinking well for so much less.

If you like a dry, zippy white wine to slake your thirst and whet your appetite, consider the 2013 Château de Fontenille Entre-Deux-Mers – a delicious white Bordeaux that pleases the palate and goes down easy. Emile Beyer’s 2013 Alsace Pinot Blanc provides another tasty, satisfying, easy drinking white wine. For Chardonnay lovers and something more substantial, consider the 2012 or 2013 Domaine de la Collonge Pouilly-Fuissé from Gilles Noblet or the 2012 Jacques Girardin Les Terrasses de Bievaux Santenay. The Girardin offering impresses with its flavor as well as its elegance, and it may constitute the absolute best value in white Burgundy.

For those who prefer Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it is hard to beat the 2009 Château Barreyre Bordeaux Supérieur. Although officially considered a petit château, there is absolutely nothing little or petite about this wine, except the price. For those who prefer the full-flavored reds of the Rhône Valley, the 2010 Guigal Gigondas and the 2012 or 2013 Chevalier Crozes-Hermitage Marius provide all the comfort and pleasure one can imagine, without breaking the bank. Better still, these are just a few of the many oenological treasures that await the savory American wine drinker. Santé!

Don