Let’s hear it for South Africa!

Okay, let’s cut to the chase: I love South African wine.  Now.  I didn’t always.  I got burned once or twice on some less-than-stellar South African wines, and they left a bad taste in my mouth (get it?!).  But as Fall approached, I felt a burning desire to find the perfect South African red to share with our dear Cellar clientele.  I knew that if I found the perfect one, you would all embrace it.  Alright- maybe that’s overstating the case just a tad, but I really was on a quest of sorts to find a great by-the-glass red from South Africa.

And then- lightening struck!  I found not one, but two perfect little South African reds in the span of two weeks.  And they both arrived this past Wednesday.  Let’s start with this one: Tormentoso Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Paarl…

This is a surprisingly smooth and easy to drink little Cab!  Warm and friendly notes of blackberry, cassis, red plums, and herbaciousness (is that a word?  it is now) are up-front and honest.  The palate is focused and tangy, with a hint of sour cherries mixed in with an abundant amount of figgyness and toasty vanilla.  A familiar palate and flavor profile, delivered with an unmistakably South African charm.  There’s a light hint of smoke that reminds you of just that.  Now lets get a closer look at that cute little fishy on the bottle.  At least I think that’s what he is:

what exactly ARE you, little guy?

“Tormentoso” means “Cape of Storms”, which is what Portugese explorers first called to-be-named-later Cape of Good Hope.  So it appears this aquatic vertebrate with teeth is most likely braving the rough seas that surround the Cape of Good Hope.  He looks ready to bust some shots at people who should cross his path.  Perhaps that is indicative of the sturdy and reliable nature of this wine?  Or maybe he’s just fun to look at.  Either way, I’m fine with it.  I like him.  I’d be really interested to try the Tormentoso Mourvedre, as well- check out their website here, for a look at how beautiful the wine country is and what else they offer.

Next is a really wild and crazy little red blend from Badenhorst called “Secateurs”, 2010 vintage from Swartland, slightly north of Cape Town.

This might be one of the better wines I’ve tasted in a while.  Perhaps my fanaticism just stems from the fact that as soon as I tasted it, I knew my prayers had been answered and I’d found my perfect South African red by-the-glass pour.  The Secateurs is a blend of 74% Shiraz, 10% Cinsault plus various amounts of Grenache, Carignan and Mourvedre.  It is a focused and detailed wine, opening with a bouquet of ripe raspberry, red licorice and blackberry liqueur.  A peppery and spirited palate with a touch of cedar and graphite.  Finally, it finishes with fantastic grip, nice acidity and a dry sort of finesse and vibrancy.  It’s a lip-smacker.  The sort of wine that upon completion of a sip, you have no choice but to smack your lips and say “day-um!”  Or maybe that’s just me.  The 2010 vintage just got 90 points from Robert Parker, and the 2009 was given 89 points by Wine Spectator!  It appears I’m not alone in my love of this wine.

The thing I really appreciate about South African wine in general is that it just offers something a little different than the norm.  At least from my perspective, it can be monotonous to taste, see, and hear about the same California (just as an example) wines over and over.  One of the more fun aspects of my job is finding something that will just nudge people’s tastes in a slightly different direction.  Its wines like these that can really broaden your tastebuds, and open your eyes to just how many different tastes there are out there.  It’s somewhat mind-boggling, really.  But that’s in essence what I really love about wine.  Even if you’re a master sommelier, there’s still something new to learn about and be tasted.

In summation, you can find the Tormentoso Cab in this week’s Mystery Case selections, the Secateurs as a by-the-glass pour, and BOTH are likely to make an appearance at this Saturday’s WINE SALE from 12-2!  Tormentoso retails for $14 (probably a slight drop for the sale) and Secateurs for $16 (ditto).  Also keep an eye in your inbox this afternoon, as our annual Thanksgiving Wine Packs are coming out!  We’re all about options here.  Cheers!

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So many Pinots, so little time!

With Fall in full swing, I’ve come to accept that my fanaticism with Pinot Noir is also in full swing.  It was a struggle to narrow down todays post to just four wines, in the spirit of full disclosure.  It seemed like every day that a new Pinot arrived at our door at Cellar on Greene, and every single one I opened, I fell madly in love with.  All price ranges, all kinds of deliciousness, all adding fuel to the fire of my obsession.

pinot deliciousness

I think the weather is partially to blame- it is, of course, PERFECT.  And these warm days and cool nights are sublime for a wine like Pinot Noir that takes kindly to a slight chill.  When it’s 4:00 and still a balmy 75 degrees, a lightly chilled red will make your heart sing.  But when it cools down slightly, it’s still a red wine that you’re drinking.  And if you’re like me, and you spend the months of June through most of October drinking white wine because of the suffocating heat, the first red of the Fall is a true celebration!  I don’t think you’ll ever meet a more elated group of people than Columbians in the Fall.  The excitement is truly tangible.  So long are we oppressed by the heat, that at the first sign that we can exit the house without sweating, we literally break out into song.

So let’s start with this one!  The Contempo Pinot Noir from California wins the Pleasantly Surprised award from me.  With it’s retail cost being a mere $12, I expected it to be exceedingly average.  Many of the Cali Pinots that I taste at that price range are just that.  Often overly fruity, sweet, and manipulated.  This one is a people-pleaser, with an extremely friendly personality- lively notes of strawberries, cherry cola, raspberries, and a little hint of fennel, all balanced out by a decent amount of acidity.  This makes a very nice late afternoon sipper, house wine, party wine, pretty much any day to day activity that is made better by the addition of a glass of wine.

Next up is this sleek and sexy bottle of Simple Life Pinot Noir, 09 California.  Just $13, it also fits the bill for an everyday Pinot.  This is an extremely new wine to South Carolina.  I’m a fan of the packaging and I think it will have mass appeal.  Plus it’s one of my favorite wines; a wine that actually lives up to it’s cool packaging!  I was pretty stunned by how good this was for the money the first time I tried it.  Light and ruby-colored, with a little more tartness than the Contempo, it’s a classic Pinot Profile of strawberries, cherries, and rhubarb, with a nice finish of cranberries and cloves.  Ummmm… cranberries and cloves??  That makes me thing of Thanksgiving!!  Which is rapidly approaching, by the way.  So, have I just picked out your Thanksgiving Pinot for you?  I think I did.  Well, there’s room for more than one at your table, I’m assuming, but this is one you can serve everyone, even your aunt and uncle who think Carlo Rossi is the only wine that exists.   You’ll show them.  You’ll make them like it if it kills you.

This is one bottle you’d probably want to save for yourself.  The Evesham Wood Pinot Noir, 2010 Willamette is a true gem.  It’s special for a couple reasons, but the number ONE reason (is actually threefold) 1.) it’s from Willamette Valley 2.) it’s very small production, at only 1650 cases made and 3.) it’s $22!!  If you add those three things together, it’s almost like a perfect storm of awesome.  It’s also practically unheard of.  1650 case Willamette Valley Pinot for $22??  That’s almost like a cruel joke to play on someone.  Except it’s true!  I’ve heard from other winemakers in the area that they actually question the people at Evesham Wood’s sanity (in a good way) for selling their wine at such a reasonable price.  I think it pays off in the long run to keep a consistent price, because that sort of consistency builds customer loyalty and appreciation by a landslide.  No one likes to have your favorite wine go up in cost every year.  I consumed a bottle of this… okay, I shared a little… about three weeks ago in Edisto, and I think it was what started my obsession with Pinot.  It’s light and beautiful, birthed from a long, cool growing season.  Graceful and yet rustic, it offers nice fruit (blackberry, black cherry) and exciting earthy notes of bay leaf, wild thyme, and a light floral finish.  Lean and sexy, and light alcohol at 13%.  Now here’s the kicker; we have about a case left, and that is all we’ll be getting.  It sells out in two shakes of a lambs tail.  It’s currently by the glass at Cellar, so pop in a try some.  If you like it, take one home on the spot because it will likely be gone soon.

I heart you, wee owl.

And last, I’m throwing this one in the post because I’m slightly. in. love. with. the. label.  How did I not realize my love of owls until I saw this bottle?  This wine arrived last week, and was stashed in our wine room.  I peeked at it and noted how cute the owl was.  Then throughout the days that followed I found myself thinking of the owl a lot.  I sneaked a few more peeks.  Whenever I saw him, I smiled.  He makes me happy.  He’s so playful and adorable, yet somehow ponderous and soulful.  I suspect that if I met a real Saw-Whet Owl (which come to find out, is what sort of owl he is), he might claw my eyes out.  But I can still love the pic.  So this is the Haden Fig Pinot Noir, 2009 Willamette.  Turns out this is a bottle made by two people who have worked at Evesham Wood (remember that one, from a few short seconds ago?) for the past three crush seasons.  They must get along quite well, because they let these two make and bottle the Haden Fig at the winery.  It is organically, biodynamically and sustainably produced.  I have yet to crack this bottle, and at $28, I might have to do something really nice for Ricky before he’ll let me open it on a whim, but lots of great winery notes can be found on their website, here’s a quote: “Our 2009 Willamette Valley Pinot noir reflects the warm vintage making it very forward and enjoyable now while maintaining it’s structured acidity. This year’s blend has a larger percentage of Cancilla Vineyard fruit in it (a major component of the 2008 Reserve). Cancilla Vineyard lies in the northern part of the Coast Range and this site offers dark berry fruit flavors, while holding onto the acidity. An inviting bright nose of cherry and strawberry leads you to a supple mid-palate of berries and dried herbs, with nice length on the finish.”  We have a decent amount of this wine in stock, and it will be going out as a wine club offering this afternoon.  Click here to subscribe to our wine club emails!   Also likely to be found at our wine sale this Saturday, November 12th from 12-2!!  

This was sort of a long post, so hopefully you made it through, had a laugh or two, and are inspired to pick up a new bottle of Pinot (or two!) sometime soon!  Happy Drinkin’!