What’s the best red variety for South Africa? Bruwer Raats would vote for cabernet franc. Listen to him explain why in the above video.
His wine, made from 25-year-old, unirrigated vines and stylistically more St. Emilion than Saumur, is a strong example of cabernet franc with meaty, floral character with perky tannins. Unfortunately, Raats’ enthusiasm for the grape hasn’t been infectious: I only came across one other example of it as a varietal wine. But since I didn’t get to try the one from Buitenverwachting, this makes the Raats the best cabernet franc that I tasted from South Africa!
Raats also makes the Mvemve Raats de Compostella with Mzokhona Mvemve. A fuller-bodied wine than the straight cabernet franc, the 2009 manages to strike an alluring balance between fruit, acidity and tannin. And, true to his passion, it’s a quarter cabernet franc. Read more…
The DJ is Hylton Applebaum, who owns the property with his wife Wendy (Hylton also owns the Classic FM radio station in Johannesburg). Hylton says that the mix includes no music “that annoys people,” ruling out harpsichord, energetic violin solos or organ, which sounded funereal. Opera and all human voice were excluded from the track because they could be too jarring for the staff and neighbors. The staff that I spoke with say the music has a calming effect. Only certain blocks have been wired for sound, including a block of syrah behind the winery.
Hylton says the vineyard with the music shows slower growth than adjacent vineyards that have no music. “We are able to achieve phenolic ripeness with lower sugars,” he said as we stood among the vines.
I asked him if techno would speed up the growth. He said that some experiments in central Europe had shown a variation in tomatoes with the type of music played; jazz worked well but heavy metal killing the plants.
De Morgenzon’s “DMZ” line represents good value at about $15 in the US; the standout of the line is the crisp chardonnay, which has just a hint of early Mozart on the nose. Their top wine, a 100% chenin blanc, presented a serious side of chenin. But more on that in a future post. Read more…
Picture this: a guy sitting around a table with three pregnant women having drinks. That was the scene recounted to me once by an internist about his wife, an obstetrician, and two of her OB/GYN colleagues while they attended a medical convention. He told me that the doctors considered drinking in moderation was safe. They just couldn’t really tell patients that because some would abuse it and, of course, liability concerns.
This perspective on drinking while pregnant got some recent validation. The researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark collected data from 1,600 pregnant women and their babies up to five years old. Their studies indicate that drinking one to eight (!) servings of alcohol a week during pregnancy, even in the early stages, showed no IQ differences in the children than group of mothers who abstained from alcohol. Even binge drinking didn’t have an impact, surprisingly. The babies from mothers who consumed over nine drinks a week showed lower attention spans.
Pregnancy is a tricky thing and many women would want to err on the side of caution; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which partially funded the studies, still recommends that Americans abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. Even French wine labels now bear an image warning against drinking while pregnant. But I guess everything worked out okay for Rachel Weisz, who spoke out for moderate drinking during her pregnancy and sparked an uproar, especially now that she’s Mrs. Daniel Craig!
Pelaverga. Never heard of it? That’s understandable. This is almost an heirloom variety in Piedmont that used to be grown in greater quantity (and even blended into Barolo before it had to be 100% nebbiolo). Now the grape is experiencing something of a resurgence as a handful of producers are bottling the grape on its own and some of those are making their way in minute quantities to our shores.
G. B. Burlotto, a producer in the town of Verduno more known for their Barolo, makes this 2010 Pelverga. The light color is akin to a pinot noir, but the mouthfeel is lighter and peppery tannins undergird bright fruit. It’s not complex as a Barolo but it doesn’t need to be: it’s food-friendly, with though brio to be a fun red this summer.
A couple of weeks ago, a 7′ 1″ 325(+)-lb. graduate donned a cap and gown: Shaquille O’Neal earned a doctorate in education. The former NBA star, who left LSU early but finished his bachelor’s degree nearly a decade later because he wanted to make his mom proud, just completed four and a half years of courses and study at Barry University. His thesis studied the role of humor in the workplace and leadership.
Dr. Vino gives a doff of the academic cap to Dr. Shaq Diesel. Now all I have to do to keep up is score 28,596 points in the NBA. Well, what the heck: I raise a glass of wine in his honor and I’ll rate the 28,596 points! To Dr. Shaqtus, Dr. Shamroq, here’s a glass of grower Champagne from Bereche et Fils, their Beaux Regards, a stony, zero-dosage all-chardonnay bubbly. It’s laser-like, which is the kind of focus you need to do a doctorate while also playing in the NBA, doing commercials, offering commentary on TNT, serving as a reserve police officer, being a dad five times over. Nice going Big Daddy! Read more…
The wines of Tyler winery get a thumbs up from me for the brilliance of the name alone–but also for what’s inside the bottle. I tasted a few of them recently at a trade tasting and was impressed with the lean, taut wines from a land known all too often for buxom chardonnay and pinot noir. (Check out this SF Chron article on some recent goings on in Sta. (!) Rita Hills.) Tasted blind, the balanced 2010 Tyler Chardonnay “Dierberg” would be difficult to place, with minerality not often associated with the Golden State, and a mouthfeel more Meursault than Marcassin. The 2010 Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir exhibits a toothsome quality with red fruit and good acidity. The 2009 Pinot Noir “Dierberg” sees some whole cluster and has tingly tannins with appealing red fruit and a snap of acidity. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Justin Tyler Willett’s wines.
I joked with someone at the tasting that I was probably predisposed to like the wines because of the name since it’s also mine. He told me that he worked at a wine shop way back when. They made a private label wine to sell in the store and to find the name, they looked in the phone book and found that Clark was the most popular name in the city after Jones and Smith. So they named their wine Chateau Clark and if flew off the shelves. But I think that’s what Willy van Shakespeare said: a wine named after you, will smell even sweeter.
American wine under $15 is a difficult category. And domestic pinot can be downright dicey. And charity wines often sacrifice quality for the good of the cause.
So it was with skepticism that I tried the Grochau Cellars, “Commuter Cuvee” 2010 recently. Sold in Portland at $14.99 with a portion of the proceeds going to a bicycle safety non-profit. It’s actually a gulpable pinot noir with good acidity and the bing cherry note often found in Oregon pinots. It glides in at 12.5% alcohol; if there’s a better pinot noir available in the US under $15, I have yet to try it.
I spoke with John Grochau about how he could offer a 100% pinot noir for a reasonable price. Grochau has cycled at a high level for about 20 years (he even won a race last year) but into the front-of-house in the restaurant business, which led him to make his own wine label, sourcing fruit from various sites around the state and making the wines in Portland. In 2010 he found a vineyard site with 22-year-old vines whose owner was suddenly looking to sell 20 tons of fruit. It was a cooler vintage, which John prefers, but enough for good ripeness (the grapes were 22 Brix). He made this wine in actual barrels, which is decidedly rare for pinots at this price point. He also added some of the wines that he selected out of his higher-end pinots. It’s a low-margin wine, he admits, but he’s doing it again: The 2011, also from a cool vintage, will be released soon.
Thanks to site reader Gabe for pointing out this wine in the comments of a previous post. A perfect wine for National Bike Month!
Vin de soif. The term captures a wine style–thirst-quenching, gulpable–that delights in the pleasures of drinking wine, not worshipping it. It has to also be somewhat light in body and easy on the wallet to make it really thirst-quenching for me. When I tweeted the term yesterday, Howard Goldberg replied that he only drinks vin de soif on Thirstday.
So today’s Thirstday vin de soif: the Christian Ducroux, “Prologue.” Although it’s labeled as a mere vin de France, Ducroux works Biodynamic vineyards by horse in Beaujolais. This wine is a 2011, a Beaujolais nouveau of sorts; according to David Lillie of Chambers Street Wines, which imports the wine directly and where I bought a bottle for about $15, this is second bottling that has more structure than the first thanks to more contact with the lees. The wine has sediment in the bottle and is somewhat cloudy in the glass. Red berries and hint of funk permeate the aromas. Low in alcohol, this thirst-quencher has a vivacious intrigue that calls out for food.