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’s present 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 African vineyards are 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.

More excellent South African wineries include Black Pearl, Mary-Lou Nash’s pearl of an estate for fabulous Shiraz; Edgebaston, the source of David Finlayson’s very impressive age-worth 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 an increasingly popular 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.  A better question is 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 50-plus 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 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.  The International Wine of the Month Club™ has been paying attention, and here are some Long Island wineries we suggest looking for:

  • Bedell Cellars: Excellent Merlot- and Bordeaux-style reds. Musée is the winery’s top performer.
  • Castello di Borghese Vineyard and Winery: As the name suggests, these noble wines hail from Long Island’s oldest winery (formerly Hargrave), which dates back to 1973.
  • Lieb Cellars: Sustainably farmed, award-winning Pinot Blanc and Merlot are stars.
  • Paumonok Vineyards: This winery produces a 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

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