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Monthly Archives: October 2012

This time of year in New York, over 1300 indie bands and artists flock to the city for CMJ, playing gigs for five straight days in hopes of being discovered as the next big thing in music. To honor their efforts, I dig up the most eclectic, under-the-radar wines I can find, and… well, I drink them. The whole idea makes a lot more sense in practice, I can assure you. In any case, it provides a good chance to discuss a wine from a region I spend little time on generally: South Africa.

At this point, South Africa is on the wine map, for sure, mostly due to the exceedingly tasty whites coming out of Stellenbosch,  a town in Western Cape province. It has delicious Chenin Blanc, good Sauvignon Blanc, and its own unique red: Pinotage, a marriage of the varietals Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Of course, I can’t stand most Pinotage; find it clunky in the extreme. But there you go. Like finding new music, hunting for great wines means drinking in the bad with the good.

And as with music, you’ll find some oddball wines if you spend enough time hunting. And as I prepared for CMJ, my hunt revealed this: the 2010 Badenhorst “Secateurs” blend, produced by AA Badenhorst Family Wines. The grapevines grow (mostly) on three different types of granite soil, and average around 50 years in age, leading to tremendous concentration in the flavors of the wine. Winemaking is done without crushing or destemming – grapes are dealt with as whole bunches. The blend in this case is a medley of red grapes, known to greater or lesser degrees by savvy drinkers: Syrah, Cinsault, Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Mourvedre and Carignan. After fermentation, the wine is aged for 14 months in a mix of old foudre barrels and concrete tanks, which have minimal impact on the final product’s flavors.

The result? A lovely garnet in the glass, with aromas of red berries, spice, and black peppercorns. Fantastic balance and a supple mouthfeel complement more juicy red fruit after the first sip, and the wine is harmoniously engaged with both its acidity and tannins, which you get some nice chew from towards the finish. Exceptional with roast beef or venison, or herb-encrusted lamb and potato salad. $18. I highly recommend this one.

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Year round, rainy Sundays comprise most of my favorite lazy moments in life. In autumn, these overcast weekends are perfect for hot coffee, pumpernickel bagels with lox spread, tomato and capers, and Frisbee on the nearby track field. But when evening falls, and the rain hasn’t let up, and you don’t want to go anywhere, a glass of wine is your best bet. Of course, I’d say that about any night of the week, in any weather – but I needed a pretext for this review, so onward.

New Zealand is no stranger to bad weather. To prove this, I have excerpted a report for Central Ontago today, from MetService’s Snow Ontago Warnings site:

Issued: 8:25pm Sunday 7 Oct 2012
Valid from: 8:25pm Sunday 7 Oct 2012

“SNOW FOR THE CANTERBURY HIGH COUNTRY, INCLUDING THE MACKENZIE BASIN
A deep low over the Tasman Sea is forecast to approach the South Island during Monday, bringing cold southeasterly rain to Canterbury. This rain is expected to turn to snow about the Canterbury High Country early Monday morning, with some heavy snowfalls through to late morning and possibly through to Monday night. Between 3am and midday Monday, expect 10 to 20cm of snow above 700 metres with 5 to 10cm possible down to 400 metres. Further snow is likely above 700 metres through to Monday night, but should ease in intensity and is expected to turn to rain below 700 metres by early afternoon. This snow has the potential to disrupt transport about the Canterbury High Country and cause significant stress to livestock, especially new born lambs.”

New born lambs! Potential! Intensity! Key words for tasting notes. And what a subject for today’s tasting: the 2009 “Mud House” Pinot Noir, from Central Ontago. This wine owes a lot of its character to local terroir. There is a sumptuous quality to a lot of New Zealand Pinot Noir, strong notes of jammy fruit and crushed herbs. Intensity aplenty here; the red fruit aromas fairly jump out of the glass along with notes of lavender and cinnamon. The first sip brought a sense of silky softness in mouthfeel, with enough extract and tannin to make this a fuller-bodied Pinot, even by the standards of those New Zealand wines I’ve tried. But while this is a bigger Pinot Noir, the cool climate acidity brings phenomenal mouth-watering elements as you sip. Very pleasing balance, and a medium finish hinting at mocha and crushed berries. Delicious with roast venison, grilled salmon and beet salad, or on its own. $14.