Posts Tagged ‘cabernet sauvignon’

Stars of the Playhouse Festival: Trefethen

April 19, 2011

Trefethen 2007 Estate Merlot

This Merlot, which I mentioned in my previous post, is here to turn heads. The 93 points by Wine Enthusiast Magazine are fully justified, if by that they mean a mean, firm and complex red. Big and bold, Californian in and out, I came back to this booth to taste it again. Great addition to thewinesyndicate portfolio. $39.99.

Trefethen 2007 Estate Cabernet Savignon

The Trefethen label also brought this Cabernet Sauvignon   to the show, defying the big Californian style that we all are so used to. Definitely more subtle than its stable mate, this wine is more about finesse than muscle and should be a great addition to any cellar as it will but improve with a few years of guarda. Robert Parker, my favorite wine point-giver, sanctioned 91 pts for this baby.

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Cafayate’s Cabernet Sauvignon

February 3, 2011

Move on Malbec! just kidding. But hey, a jewish celebrity said two thousand years ago “not on bread alone”, and the wisdom of this phrase still holds today, especially when it comes to wine, where searching for new flavors, grapes, styles and appellations is the only way to learn and enjoy more. After the 2012´ish tsunami wave of Malbec sweeping all six continents (they drink it in the research stations in the Antarctic), one has to wonder what else may come from the land of the gaucho, cheap beef and omnipresent botox applications. Well, it turns out that the king of grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon is doing really well there, and thanks to the long ripening season the phenolic ripeness many a time coincides with the sugar ripeness. The latter is the one that makes the fruit taste like a grape and not like mouthwash. It breaks down the acids and increases  the sugar content. Phenolic ripening is related to tannins, and when picking happens while the tannins are not mature enough this can have an unpleasant effect on the wine, giving it a “green” character. In grapes with heavy loads of tannin, like Cabernet Sauvignon, this problem can be a nightmare for the grower and the winemaker. In Argentina, however, due to the high elevation of the vineyards and lack of autumn rains, this is less of a concern, resulting in “sweet” tannins, also called “redondos” (round) and some other names that are reminiscent of the phemale anatomy and that I will discuss in another post dealing with the sexuality of wine.

Anyhow, and going back to the subject of interest, no better place for Cabernet Sauvignon than Cafayate, a colonial city in the province of Salta, far up north toward Bolivia. Cabernets from the area are intense, big, unfathomably fruity and have those beautiful sweet round tannins that tickle your buds long after you swallow. The province is famous for the Calchaquies Valleys, which boast truly high elevation vineyards, up to 2000 meters above sea level, dwarfening the “high vineyard” monicker that many wineries from Mendoza love to stamp on their back labels. Cabernet Sauvignon does so well there that in fact, wines from Cafayate have won national challenges in Argentina, leaving behind not only wines from famed Mendoza but those made with the legendary Malbec grape. Names to look for include Etchart, Colome, San Pedro, Nanni, among many more.

Warehouse Wines in Washington Act I

March 22, 2010
By Lisa Stefan*

When plans to visit a friend in the Okanagan fell through last week, we found ourselves with a wide open weekend.  Being the kind of people that love to go-go-go, the Sunshine Coast was not going to work for us – it’s too sleepy, Whistler – too busy, and Vegas just a little over budget after the holidays. So with wine on the mind, as usual, I was quick to hop on the internet and search out a weekend get-away for us that met these three criteria: inexpensive, within reasonable driving distance, and something different.

What I found was Washington, our neighbour to the South.  With over 700 wineries and growing, Washington is #2 (behind California) in wine production in all of the United States.  And only 25 minutes North East of Seattle is the small community of Woodinville.  The Woodinville area is home to about 50 small wineries and tasting rooms, and after only a 2.5 hour drive (from Vancouver), we found ourselves in a wine lover’s paradise.

The first on our list were the large production operations of Columbia Winery and Chateau St. Michelle.  Located across the street from one another, how convenient, and with gorgeous grounds, grand tasting rooms, boutique shops and an array of flatbreads, cheese and crackers for purchase – these two wineries were very much what we are used to from our many visits to the Okanagan and Niagara regions in Canada.  There was however, one huge difference…. NO VINEYARDS?!?! That’s right, all of Washington’s wine grapes are grown in the south eastern part of the State, where the climate is much warmer and dryer than the cool and wet North West. So, to pull up to a winery where there were no gorgeous grapes or vineyard vistas was a little foreign to us, but what they lacked in scenery, they certainly made up for in service and selection.

At Columbia Winery the knowledgeable tasting bar staff provided us with a full sampling of what was available, waived our tasting fee, and gave us a 30% discount on any purchases – as we came to find, this is an industry standard, as long as we provided a business card, we were completely taken care of – talk about Southern hospitality! Our wine educator even gave us a map of the area and circled a few competitors to check out.  We ended up falling in love with the Semillion Ice Wine, 375 ml for only $20, what a steal!  Flavours of sweet apricot and honey abound, and with great acidity and a clean finish this is an exceptional value ice wine!

Chateau St. Michelle staff was equally friendly and knowledgeable and we were able to taste the entry level wines compared side by side with the Ethos and Eroica wines.  The Chateau has quite the line-up of wines, including collaborations with Antinori and Ernst Loosen.  Our favorites were the entry level dry Riesling which sells for $8.99 and is definitely comparable in terms of value with some of the $15-20 Canadian Rieslings, the 2005 Ethos Cabernet Sauvignon $38, and the 2006 and 2007 Limited Release Mourverdre that we tasted side by side and spent at least 20 minutes savouring and comparing the very different noses.  Mesquite bar-b-que on one vs. goat cheese on the other – unique and interesting.

After 2 hours of tasting at only 2 wineries, our palates were tiring, and our stomachs growling, so we stopped in at the Barking Frog restaurant at Willows Lodge for lunch.  Ambiance = A+, service  = A+, food  = A, wine selection  = A, highly recommended and definitely a must visit if you are in the area.  I had the chicken breast served with butternut squash stuffed spinach ravioli, swiss chard and pearl onions in a gorgonzola cream sauce.  Fabulous Gourmet for $16.

Note of Winecouver.  More to come in the second installment of Lisa’s wine explorations South of the border soon.

*Contributing writer Lisa Stefan has a passion for travel, wine, food and all things combining the three! Besides writing Lisa works part time as a wine sales consultant at Everything Wine in North Vancouver.  Lisa completed her Intermediate Certificates through the International Sommelier Guild in 2009.  Full Sommelier Diploma certification, wine travel, wine writing and more wine tasting  are part of her plans for the near future.

ps. Photos: Chicken butternut squash, Lisa Stefan Headshot, Dan Collins

 

Wines of Argentina WofA

March 13, 2010

Like in the past years, Argentina‘s wines will be the darling of the media in the coming month and a half, as the south american wine power shares the stage with New Zealand for the annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Because of that I will start covering some ground here and for the days to come, with wine reviews and notes on Argentina’s wine culture, regions, grapes, personalities and other etceteras. 

Let’s begin with a flashback, the Wines of ArgentinaWofA- show of last September, held at the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Pablo Cuneo, winemaker for Ruca Malen, introduced nine wines representing the wide diversity of Argentinian terroirs as well as grape varieties. Among other interesting things he mentioned was that Argentina’s wine exports amount to only 2% of the global market. This was surprising to me and I’m sure, to many others. Before Mr. Cuneo’s presentation, I thought Argentina’s market share to be a lot bigger than that. But then, you need to understand that Argentina only became a global wine exporting power in the nineties.

In terms of surface cultivated, Malbec takes 50%, followed by Bonarda, in the mid 20’s and Syrah with about 13%. Of these, Bonarda may be the least familiar to Vancouver wine enthusiasts. Traditionally this grape was used exclusively for blending. There is a reason for this, as the variety is very vigorous, so much that some call it -jokingly- a weed. By saying this, they mean that grape production can be huge if the growth is left unchecked. As we all know, too many grapes per vine and the quality of your wine goes down the sink. However, some winemakers have placed their hopes on this variety, restricting berry production and launching some interesting varietal bottlings to the market. A few of these have reached Vancouver, but we will visit them some other time.

Syrah is another grape that not everyone will associate to Che Guevara’s motherland; such is the strong positioning of the Argentina-Malbec tandem in the mind of the global consumer. However, some good Syrah varietals are made there, with my favorite ones coming from the San Juan region. And we should not forget about Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina, with a long ripening season virtually free of rainfall, has great potential for the king of black grapes, and some good examples have already reached the shelves of the Liquor Distribution Brand and private wine stores. 

In looking back, it would have been nice to have a Pinot Noir from Patagonia or a sparkling wine in the flight. I am sure there will plenty of those in the upcoming Playhouse International Wine Festival. Let’s now go to the nine wines tasted. 

Lurton Gran Lurton Corte Friulano 2008

Corte is Spanish wine jargon for blend. This is a Tocai Friulano, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay and Torrontés blend from the Uco Valley, near Mendoza. My notes mention floral citric quince*, good acidity, slightly bitter background, creamy texture and lingering finish. In spite of said bitterness or price ($27.99) I gave it a B and a ☺, which means I quite enjoyed it. 

Etchart Ayres de Cafayate Torrontes 2008

Cafayate is arguably the region that has the potential for the best Torrontés, although personally, the best varietal I have tasted is Andeluna‘s from Mendoza. The Etchart version has a pronounced, terpenic nose (chemical term for “floral.” Now go impress your friends). Sweet aromas, a bit rustic, grapey flavors, persistent finish, 15.99 Cdn.  

Las Moras Gran Shiraz 3 Valleys 2005

I discussed Las Moras winery in a previous posting and this one was a head turner during the show. I had to turn my head because the WofA staff forgot to fill my glass and not wanting to disturb Mr. Cuneo’s talk , I gave a convincing look to a staffer who promptly poured some for me. Sometimes I can look very menacing, you know. I found floral (lavender), dark fruit, coffee, rock, sweet tannin, integrated alcohol in a medium-bodied wine that warms up the mouth uniformly, very pleasant all in all. Syrah feels at home in San Juan and I am convinced this will be more evident in the future as more varietals are imported. $24.99. 

Norton Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

In my vinous ignorance I said once that Argentina was in debt for not producing good Cabernet Sauvignon. Time and time again I have been reminded of  my insolence, tasting very interesting vatietals, particularly from the Mendoza area. This Bodega Norton rendition showed a mellow nose with spice, very subtle green note in the biggish body, red fruit and sweet tannin and a long, warm finish with pepper spice. Good at 17.99. 

Andeluna Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc 2005

This is probably the weakest –or the only weak- link in the long chain of excellent wines by this award winning winery. And I am not saying it is not good. Only that at the price (54.99) I’d rather take the brutally good Limited Reserve Malbec 2004** or the elegant Bordeaux style Pasionado blend. This Cabernet Franc showed subdued red fruit, pepper leaft and tannins a bit angular, although the effect of these on the mouth was rather pleasant. Good, like I say, but not at that price.

Ruca Malen Kinien Malbec 2007

Another Malbec from the Uco Valley, which is a cool area within the Mendoza wine district. The nose was closed but the palate was smooth, sweet tannins with solid fruit and firm but gentle grip. The finish was long and soft, like the whispers of a slow stream. I quite liked this one. $34.99. 

Montes Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2007

Aurelio Montes is a bit of a wine King Midas. Every wine he touches, no matter the grape, seems to turn to gold. He is also a bit of a wine Marco Polo, not hesitating much before setting up wineries far from his native Chile, in places like Napa or as in this case, Luján, in Mendoza. The Kaiken Ultra is the bigger brother of the Kaiken Malbec Vancouver wine lovers know so well. The 10 extra dollars are fully justified. Dark purple with floral and plum, sweet scents. Montes’ hallmark smoothness in mouth is present, with pronounced dark fruit and lingering, spicy finish.  Rock solid at $28.99.

Trapiche Malbec Single Vineyard Federico Villafañe 2006

Sweet, gentle  fruit aromas. A jammy, soft, sweet-tannin full bodied palate make this one into one crowd pleaser Malbec. It was the show’s favorite, although myself would hesitate to fork out the 80 dollars required to taste this beauty. 

Flichman Paisaje de Tupungato 2006

This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (70%), Merlot and Malbec woos the nose with ripe fruit followed by even riper fruit, smooth, sweet tannin body. The alcohol is very well integrated, warming up the mouth uniformly for the length of the finish. Lovely at 18.99.

 

*In 15 years in Vancouver I have never seen one quince. Does anybody know what it tastes like? Back in Peru, where it is very common (membrillo, mem-bree-yoe), as kids we loved to hate it. It looks like a small pale yellow-green apple. It has an interesting herbal –quincey– fragrance. On biting is crunchy, grainy, with zingy acidity and slightly sweet; after a few seconds en bouche it turns excruciatingly astringent, but then, you want more.

** The Andeluna Limited Reserve Malbec 2004 is now just over $60.

Saludos

Ivan Alfonso

Note. Photos courtesy of Andeluna Cellars

Import Vintners & Spirits Association New Products Salon: The Reds

October 24, 2009

Scary. Looking at my calendar I realize that the next IVSA event is scheduled for November 9th! So, before I get a glut of new wine notes to comment here, I will go back to those I had in the September event. And since I already posted notes on the whites I enjoyed, let’s now visit the tintos I found memorable. You may notice that mostly I am covering Italian wines but given the size of the IVSA event and the number of products (and the number of people you stop by to say hi and chat) there was little room for anything else.

• Let’s start with one of my favorites of that busy evening. Enoteca Bacco brings a truly delicious Negroamaro varietal, the 2006 Verve IGT from Salento. Pure expression of fruit, direct and ample, with dark overtones and really fun to drink. Not surprisingly, a previous incarnation of this wine, the Verve 2004, collected gold medals left, right and center. Battle the incoming November blues with Verve matching grilled blue fish like mackerel, sardines or spicy dishes (click on links for recipes). Just under 30 dollars, this listed product is available at LDB stores.

Tempus Malbec 2007. Under 18 dollars, I fully enjoyed this uncomplicated, fruity, filling Malbec brought to us by MKR Importers. A no brainer for roasted beef, grilled meats, sausage in a bun with friends, etc. Just make sure you don’t eat your friends. Ha ha.

• When I had the Anghelos IGT 2006 I did understand the reason for the name: Angelic. I recommend this wine with absolutely NO reservations to those who enjoy a balsamic nose followed by a meaty, fleshy chunk of fruity acidity and elegant tannins that do not let go. Cabernet Sauvignon, Montepulciano and Sangiovese are blended in this superb broth hailing from the Marche region. Soft enough to accompany a Pasta Fagioli (pasta and beans in tomato sauce) but will stand up to an Osso Bucco. Wine Quest importers hit it right on the nose with this vino tinto. Under 40 dollars, this is the kind of wine you want to kick off the cool part of the year in full form.

Fontanabianca means “white fountain”, which is the name of the winery that makes the Sori Burdin 2004 Barbaresco. This broth is potenza (potence) in the full meaning of the term. Nebbiolo grapes in grand style, with a tremendous aromatic profile and an equally tremendous body and tannic structure. Robert Parker, in his flowery-paralegal style calls this wine “authoritative”. I don’t know how a wine can be authoritative but I surely like the adjective here. Close to 90 dollars, granted not a wine for everyday consumption, but make sure you have a bottle around for that special occasion. And give me a shout when you do; I’d love to have this tinto again.

Di Majo Norante is a producer that always delivers quality at affordable prices, without compromising the quality and more importantly, the sense of terroir. Their Sangiovese and Ramitello are good examples of this, but here I want to mention the Prugnolo del Molise IGT 2004. A delicious, easygoing yet flavorful Sangiovese. Light and playful but balanced and structured enough to be taken seriously. This product, brought by Style Wines retails for less than 22 dollars.

•The last two wines are both represented by Liquid Art Fine Wines. The Tenuta Sette Ponti ‘Crognolo’ IGT 2006 is a Sangiovese Merlot blend from Toscana. At around 40 dollars a bottle, it merited a 92 pt score by Wine Spectator (08/31/08). Full bodied, concentrated, tannic, warm, with cherry and earthy aromas and flavors, this is a delicious, powerful wine.

I closed the night with the Domaine de Cristia Chateauneuf-du-Pape AC, 2006. I knew it would be my last tasting of the night. The lights had already flickered off a couple of times and the Liquid Art reps were already putting their gear away. I could not but ask for a second pouring, being late and feeling like I deserved a break. I savored every drop of the Cristia. Elated and in awe, I only jotted down

depth suavidad elegance long red fruit rocks beautiful alcohol integration A

Enough said.

Hasta la proxima.

Budget Fall Wines

October 20, 2009

In good and bad times it is always nice to find good quality, inexpensive vino. Customers are always looking for a bargain, aka “bang for your buck” and I have tasted innumerable cheapies to separate the grain from the chaff. Prices vary greatly in Metro Vancouver, so be sure to buy your wines in stores where you will get the lower tags.

Starting with whites, I recently found two wonderful Chardonnays. The first one hails from Southern France louislatour_chardand is produced by world known winehouseLouis LaTour. The 2007 Ardeche Chardonnay is a delightful unoaked version, which has been allowed to go through malolactic fermentation. Light, slightly creamy, with touches of tropical fruit, I enjoyed this one a lot and since I posted a shelf talker many a customer has become a fan. It sells for 13.99 at Everything Wine (North Vancouver) and LDB stores (check website for branches that carry it. Some cold beer and wine stores sell this product for up to 23.99 so beware.

From Southern Italy, in the Puglia region, we have the Tormaresca Chardonnay (2006, 2007). Light and 3348-tormaresca-chardonnay-500minerally this wine offers great value. I think this one to be unoaked or only slightly oaked. At 15.99, it has become one of my favorite whites.

Puglia also brings us an excellent red, perhaps on the top ten under ten dollars. The Paiara blend of paiara Cabernet Sauvignon and Negroamaro grapes is round, balanced and persistent, surprisingly so for a wine so inexpensive. LDB stores and Everything Wine sell the product for 9.99 and once you taste it you will probably make it a staple for weekdays. My woman recently made a delicious Tortilla de Patatas (potato omelette, Spanish style. Click link for recipe) for brunch and this medium-light red was the perfect companion.

From the land of Kangaroos, Koalas, venomous critters and man-eating sharks, the 2006 Rock Art Cabernet Merlot is sensational for the price. Everything wine carries the product for 12.99 but it had it as special during the Thanksgiving long weekend, selling scores of cases at 8.99, an absolute steal. Even at 12.99 this little wine is serious and convincing, with a solid fruit front, balance and a bit of structure that suggests that the 3 years spent in bottle added a little quality.

To finish this ripasso, let’s go to Patagonia, Argentina, and taste the 2007 Diego Murillo Merlot. Organic, diegomurillovelvety and full flavored, this wine is perfect for the nostalgic, sweet emotions that only the season of falling leaves can arouse. Dark and deep, this little jewel by Humberto Canale winery is well worth the 10.99 you pay for it at LDB and Everything Wine.

Enjoy the rest of the season and brace yourselves for overwhelming, rainy, grey November.

Food and Wine Matching For The Un-initiated

September 17, 2009

This is an almost esoteric subject for most. So much has been written about it that you may think -I do think- why write another line? Well, I do it because it is fun and because I love food and I love wine. So there you go. Like everybody else, I guess, except for those who like chips out of a bag, burgers out of a fast-crapfood joint and prefer carbonated drinks to accompany their “fare”.

“White wine is for fish, red wine for meat”. Who hasn’t heard this from people who are in the wine “know?”. And the reality is that there is certain validity to the claim. But as a guideline only. Remember Captain Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean? Same idea. It is not a code, it is just a guideline. You need to know a bit more than that, basic, intuitive (we all have tastebuds after all) understanding. And you need an imagination, you need to let it soar, you have to exercise it.

For instance, every time I eat, I am thinking mmm….what could I pair this with? I was just thinking about this when a few days ago, I had a plate of lentils on white rice. The lentils were seasoned with sauteed chopped garlic, onion, tomato and pureed roasted red pepper. So, very tasty indeed, and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley and generously splashed with olive oil at serving. One of my favorite brunch meals indeed. Viognier, I thought, almost intuitively, bringing to mind the moderate acidity of that varietal matching the dish’s. A little more acidity in the wine to cut through the olive-oily film coating my palate? Perhaps an unoaked Chardonnay. Something with a bit of body to go with the weight of seasoned lentils.

So, there you go. White wines would work well. But what about red? Some people, as we know, cannot tolerate white. Not too much body here. A big heavily oaked Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Shiraz would suffocate the rather bland character of the dish. Unoaked? Check. Medium to light medium body? Check. Low alcohol? Check? I figured something like Periquita, a Portuguese table wine made of Castelao, Tinta Roriz and Trincadeira grapes. Easy, smooth, fruity, uncomplicated. Perfect. It could be anything like that. Don’t bring the heavy artillery for this small infantry job.

To conclude this note, keep in mind things that are no mystery: Acidity of the dish, acidity of the wine. Let them run together. Weight, or body. How strong is the imprint of the food on your palate? The wine chosen should be equally strong, or weak. And it must be added, you don’t need a great wine to do pairing. White wine for fish, red wine for meat? Yes, but as a guideline only, not code. Don’t be intimidated. Is no rocket science.

Liberty School Portfolio

August 27, 2009

Thanks to Altovin International, a British Columbia based wine agency, I had the opportunity to try their Californian Liberty School wines. For the last few years, LS Cabernet Sauvignon has gained notoriety as a good pick in the 20-25 CDN bracket. I enjoyed it and can see why it is so popular. I tried their Syrah as well, but my high mark goes to their 2007 Chardonnay. Here my notes on these three popular wines.

Chardonnay 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Bright nose with apple, dragon fruit, clarified butter. Nice, creamy texture, medium bodied, good acidity of lemony character. Alcohol well integrated, overall oak is subtle and the finish is long, riding on apple skin. A very good California style Chardonnay for the price.

Syrah 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Purple legs, young looking wine. Green waft on the nose, pepper, cough syrup. On the palate a tad sour. Medium bodied, tannins angular. I am not ready to pick this Syrah yet.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. $23.99. 13.5%. Purple ruby robe, nice sweet nose with blackcurrant, spice and lavender. Medium body, juicy and soft. Good acidity and nice finish. Easy to understand why it is so popular.

South African Beauties

July 28, 2009

Bafana, brother, here is the good news. Too many of us avoid South African wines, some because they are header_logotoo exotic. Others heard stories of burned rubber as a prevailing aroma. Well, I must admit I was among those and carefully chose not to pick wines from the land of Mandela, Rugby champions and the great five.

That until Andre Morgental, communications manager of Wines of South Africa, guided us through a flight that went from a bubbly all the way to rich Shiraz and Merlots. The contentious issue of burned rubber was brought up and Andre gave us an insight on the matter. In spite of tremendous efforts to pinpoint the nature of this smell that has created a bad reputation for some of their wines, South African researchers have not been able to determine a single compound responsible for it. Furthermore, studies show that in blind tastings, subjects find the smell in wines from all over the world. It may have a strong psychological component and perhaps, once the consumer knows the wine is South Africa, he “finds” the odour. True or not, we had eleven wines and not a trace of the said stench.

Graham Beck, Chardonnay Pinot Noir, sparkling. A lovely wine with a yeasty, biscuity nose, subtle floral aromas and creamy palate, accentuated by fine fizz. Definitely worth a try. $25

MAN Chenin Blanc 2008. Inexpensive white wine, filled with ripe banana and dry pineapple aromas. Granny apple and mineral flavors, good acidity and overall, a very nice everyday white. $12

Winery of Good Hope Chenin Blanc 2008. Another great value white, lighter than the MAN, with tropical fruit and a nice long finish.

Excelsior Paddock Viognier 2008. This Viognier surely has no low self-esteem issues. Big nose, leesy and tropical, some floral notes and a nutty, lemony medium-bodied palate. $15

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2007. A good rendition of this controversial grape, which seems to be adored in South Africa but does not have the same following overseas. Smoky, medicinal notes on the nose, coffee and honey, juicy palate.

Saxenburg Private Collection Merlot 2005. Gamey aromas and a juicy, fleshy, mineral palate. Soft tannins, rich with good finish.

Stormy Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2007. This one stole the show. Black currant galore, pepperleaf, game and resin on the nose. Sweet, ripe fruit and soft tannin for an excellent value wine. At 13.99, this is a winner.

MAN Shiraz 2007. Deep purple robe with a minty, diesely nose. Palate peppery, medicinal notes and a bit puckering. Not my favorite but for the price -11.99- does quite well.

Boekenhouskloof The Wolftrap Shiraz 2008. Never had coconut on the nose of a Shiraz before. This one has plenty, plus toasty, gamey notes. Rich palate with tchai spice, lots of ripe red fruit and peppery minerality. A dash of Mourvedre and Viognier makes this Shiraz a serious contender in the price range. 14.99

Leopard Frog Vineyards Midnight Masai Shiraz 2002. A juicy, fruit driven, rich broth. Tannins firm and mouth puckering, in a agreeable way. 24.99

Thelema Reserve Merlot. A Mafuta (BIG) Merlot, with plenty of fruit, velvety texture, flavorful and convincing. Great way to close the tasting. 29.99

I would recommend any of the wines described above. Plus visit the Wines of South Africa website, for information on their very interesting food. Mafuta Bafana!

La Minga Red Blend, Outstanding Value

June 15, 2009

Exclusive to Everything Wine, La Minga is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.minga red Medium bodied and smooth, this wine is a real bargain. Red fruit, acidity and alcohol enjoy a balance that is rarely found in a budget wine. Soft aftertaste, easy drinking and just perfect for a week day or a party.

Product: La Minga

Variety: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot

Vintage: 2008

Winery: Sur Andino

Origin: Apoquindo, Chile

Alcohol: 13.0%

Price: 10.99 (Everything Wine)