Friday, August 29, 2014

DeMorgenzon: Harmonious Stellenbosch Wines

In May, I spent a few weeks in South Africa, surfing, tasting wine and watching wildlife. I had a great time visiting wineries around Walker Bay and Stellenbosch. The last wine stop on my trip was DeMorgenzon, located in the hilly western part of Stellenbosch.

We arrived at the beautiful winery grounds one afternoon and met up with Carl van der Merwe, the winemaker and general manager. He showed my wife and I around and poured some wines from his line-up. We had a great time tasting and talking and afterward he showed us around the winery, gardens and vineyards. DeMorgenzon is located on a sloping hill with a beautiful view of the ocean on a clear day. The name means morning sun, which this area of higher elevation gets plenty of. It’s a great place to walk around and the wines are consistently delicious.

This is actually the afternoon sun, but it's a beautiful place in any light.
As we were walking around the vineyard, I noticed speakers mounted on poles around the vineyards. They were playing calming classical music. Carl explained that these speakers treat the vines to classical music 24-7. Baroque music, to be specific. The music can be heard in the vineyards and throughout the cellar and barrel rooms. The idea is that this type of music has calming and positive effects on the life of the vines, resulting in a more harmonious wine. Carl said something about the mathematical precision and rhythm of this particular style being good for living things, but it was clear the music isn’t his idea.

I’m not fully sold on the notion of playing music to grapevines, but there are some studies that show DeMorgenzon might be onto something. (Grape Collective explored the subject of vines and music further in this interesting piece.)

Regardless of the Baroque music, the unique terroir and Carl’s winemaking result in some compelling wines. No Pinotage here, but DeMorgenzon’s portfolio is a great example of the wines of Stellenbosch.

2013 De Morgenzon Sauvignon Blanc DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Rich papaya on the nose, touched with lime and fresh honeysuckle. High acid, creamy, richly textured on the palate. Papaya, green apple and a very mild hint of grass. Combines freshness and minerality with some openness and fruit-forward gusto. A lot going on, but it’s balanced by lasting acid. (88 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chardonnay DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Fresh and floral on the nose, with sea breeze and rich peaches. Very bright and attractive. On the palate, this wine is lively with kicking acid and lots of different fruit notes: green melon, lime, green apple. I also get honeysuckle, daisies and some sea salt. Creamy, nutty, but tangy. Fermented in a mix of oak and stainless steel. (87 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc DMZ - South Africa, Western Cape
Aromas of saline, honeysuckle, cantaloupe and oyster shell. Tingly acid, creamy body, with flavors of papaya, cantaloupe drizzled with lime and some waxy tones. Playful, fruit-forward, fermented in a mix of stainless steel and old oak barrels. (86 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Chenin Blanc Reserve - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Loving the depth and complexity on the nose: saline, crushed rocks, mountain streams, clover, green tea, all of it accentuates the apricot and white peach fruit. Superb balance on the palate between richness and acid. Apricot, white peach, glazed pear, add in some nougat, honey, white tea and mineral notes. A gorgeous Chenin Blanc that could develop a lot more in the cellar. All barrel fermented (25% new) the fruit comes from 40+ year-old vines planted in granite soils.  This was my favorite Chenin Blanc of the entire trip. (91 points)

2013 De Morgenzon Maestro White - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Potpourri like crazy on the nose! Tons of white flowers, yellow wild flowers, lavender, some saline on top of lemon and green and yellow apples. Creamy body, with lots of melons, apricot and papaya. Notes of hazelnut, honey, hint of white cherry. Crisp, juicy, quite complex, capable of development over the next few years. A blend of 37% Chenin Blanc, 24% Chardonnay, 24% Roussanne and 15% Viognier. (90 points)

2012 De Morgenzon Syrah DMZ - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Dark purple color. Smells rich and jammy with dark fruit, spice and deep floral tones. Black currant and blackberry jam on the palate, this is firm but fleshy, with cedar, earth, smoke and a whole lot of black pepper. Let me say it again: this is a very peppery Syrah. If you like that, this is for you. Not a ton of complexity, but a solid Syrah. (86 points)

Maestro, get it? They really like
classical music at DeMorgenzon.
2011 De Morgenzon Maestro Red - South Africa, Coastal Region, Stellenbosch
Deep aromatic complexity: dark, chilled fruit, eucalyptus, menthol, cedar and earth. Wonderful texture on the palate, elegant but firm. A complex fruit assortment glides across the palate: fleshy plums, currant jam, fig paste and cool blackberries. I get dark chocolate, vanilla, black pepper, eucalyptus and a note that reminds me of a dry, dusty road. Graphite and cedar linger long on the finish. Gorgeous now, but lay it down and be rewarded. A blend of 41% Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Petit Verdot, 7% Malbec and 6% Cabernet Franc, aged 12 months in 25% new French oak. (91 points)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tasting Report: Grab Bag of Languedoc Wines


Earlier this year I had the pleasure of touring the Languedoc region of France. It was an eye-opening experience, and I found many underdog wines worth rooting for. Since my last tasting report on wines from the Languedoc, I’ve tasted through a few rosés and reds and found some impressive and interesting wines. Most of them are solid values as well.

These wines were all received as trade samples and tasted sighted. 

2013 Domaine de Gournier Vin de Pays Cévennes Rosé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays Cévennes
SRP: $10
Aromas of white peach, honeydew and watermelon, some white pepper as well. Zingy and crisp on the palate, steely even. White cherries and tart strawberries mix with sea salt, white pepper and minerals. Crisp but plump with lingering minerals on the finish. Cabernet, Cinsault, Grenache, Merlot and Syrah. (87 points)

2013 Domaine Saint-Antoine Vin de Pays du Gard Rosé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays du Gard
SRP: $13
A vibrant watermelon color. A burst of red apple peel, strawberries, sweet roses and a rustic, earthy, herbal quality as well, which I find very attractive. The palate is really impressive, showing a lot of concentration and depth, but the acid rips through, balancing it out. Gushing strawberries, white cherries and McIntosh apple fruit, but it’s laced with pepper, granite and there’s a lot of earth tones in this wine. I’m impressed with the complexity of this wine, and the kinds of food it could pair with, but it’s still fresh and zesty wine at its core. A rosé of Syrah, and a ridiculous value. (89 points)

2012 Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères “Les Novices” - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères
SRP: $20
Medium ruby-purple color. Spicy on the nose, with cracked pepper and sage over top of cranberries, sour cherries and red plums. Medium-bodied with medium tannins and fresh acid. The raspberry and cherry fruit is tangy and fresh but it’s also got just a bit of a sun-roasted quality to it. This wine shows a lot of earth, like deep, loamy soil mixed in with crushed rocks. I get a nice sweet spice note as well, like clove and cinnamon. Made from the estate’s younger vines, this is a bit lighter, but it still shows significant complexity. 55% Cinsault, 30% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. (87 points)

2012 Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères La Closeraie - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères
SRP: $25
A bright magenta-purple color. Aromas of sweet roses, tar, strawberry, currant jam, basil-rosemary, all deep and complex. Fresh, fine tannins, juicy strawberry, cherry and currant fruit mix with earth, chestnut and roasted coffee notes. I also get some bright floral notes, and an underlying sense of minerality. Very impressive and lasting, could even use 2 or 3 in the cellar. So pure and tangy and fresh, elegant even. 35% Syrah, 25% Grenache, 20% Carignan and 20% Mourvedre. (89 points)

This Faugeres sounds the clarion call: Take Languedoc seriously.
2011 Abbaye Sylva Plana Faugères Le Songe de lAbbé - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Faugères
SRP: $39
Dark purple color. Complex, deep aromas of blackberry, black currant, crushed rocks and pencil lead, some cedar, graphite and iron, so dark and complex. Fresh and tangy acid but firm tannins. Tart black berries and black currant fruit blends with accents of charcoal, cedar, black pepper and cocoa powder. I also get some earthy-herbal elements (Sweet basil? Eucalyptus?) Deep and very complex, profound even. This is drinking well now but could easily improve with 3-5 in the cellar. From the producer’s oldest vines in schist soils, this is a blend of 50% Carignan, 30% Cinsault, 10% Grenache and 10% Mourvedre, aged 12 months in new oak. I’ve tasted a ton of Languedoc wines this year, and this ranks up there with the best. (92 points)

2012 Mas des Bressades Vin de Pays du Gard Cabernet/Syrah - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Vin de Pays du Gard
SRP: $15
A juicy ruby color in the glass. Nose of black cherries, black currants, vibrant roses and sweet herbal tea, incense, herbal liqueur. Full bodied and velvety with chewy tannins and moderate acid. The plum cake, roasted fig and currant paste flavors are long and complex, accented by spice cake, fig cookies and some pepper sauce. Ripe and chewy but not just about the fruit. Decant or hold for two to four years. 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah. (88 points)

2012 Domaine Sainte-Eugénie Corbières La Réserve - France, Languedoc Roussillon, Languedoc, Corbières
SRP: $15
Bright raspberries and red currants on the nose, some underlying smoke, anise and violet notes. Tangy and fresh on the palate, with crisp acid and dusty tannins. Bright raspberries, red currants, red apple peel mix with minerals, crushed rocks and pencil shavings, and there are some underlying herbal elements. So fresh and lively, quite complex with lots of mineral and rocky-granite elements. Finishes long and fresh. I’m really surprised by how pretty this wine is. Syrah, Carignan and Grenache. Great bargain. (90 points)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Art and Identity in Patti Smith’s “Just Kids”

It’s taken me years to pick up Patti Smith’s memoir “Just Kids.” Now that I’ve finished it, I’m wondering why I waited so long. Like Smith’s poetry and music, her memoir is beautifully composed but incisive, leaving a lasting impression on the reader.

The book has a straightforward structure. Smith starts with her childhood and moves from adolescence into adulthood. Growing up for Smith seems like a continuous run of artistic explorations. From an early age, Smith becomes fascinated with the individual’s ability to create art and captivate the attention and imagination of an audience. A childhood trip to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia has a profound impact on her:

But it was the work in a hall devoted to Picasso, from his harlequins to Cubism, that pierced me the most. His brutal confidence took my breath away… secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not.

As a young woman from South Jersey, Smith makes the common trek to New York City. When she arrives, in 1967, she can hardly contain her stoke. She visits lots of bookstores and hangs out in parks and coffee shops in Greenwich Village, just like I did when I first moved to NYC.

It’s during this wandering period when Smith meets Robert Mapplethorpe. The two become inseparable, each inspired by the other to explore different artistic themes and media. Their relationship is the crux of this memoir, which works because their enduring connection is a beautiful thing.

When Smith meets Mapplethorpe, he’s struggling to accept his own sexuality, struggling to find a place in the world for his artistic expression.

He wasn’t certain whether he was a good or bad person. Whether he was altruistic. Whether he was demonic. But he was certain of one thing. He was an artist. And for that he would never apologize.

Together, Smith and Mapplethorpe weave their way through the thriving art rock scene of late 60s/early 70s New York. They move into the Chelsea hotel together, which Smith describes as being, “like a doll’s house in the Twilight Zone, with a hundred rooms, each a small universe. I wandered the halls seeking its spirits, dead or alive.”

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Three Terroir-Driven Rieslings

Riesling is endlessly fascinating for its diversity and ability to translate different vineyards into flavors. A transparent grape, lovers of terroir never tire of Riesling’s complexity.

I recently tasted through three Riesling from three different regions: Germany’s Rheingau, Austria’s Kamptal and France’s Alsace. They were all exciting wines, offering entirely different takes on this one grape, showing the complexities of their unique terroir. The wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted. I had fun chatting with industry reps at @AustrianWineUSA@DrinkAlsace and @GermanWineUSA using the #winechat hashtag.

My notes on the three Rieslings…

$24
Much more floral and honey-driven on the nose, with some riper white peach and mango nectar, lots of potpourri. Creamy and fresh on the palate, a great balance of body and acid, a hint of sweetness. White peach, caramel apple and mango, drizzled with lime. Hints of dusty earth, white flowers and clovers. The finish shows interesting notes that remind me of tonic and pencil lead. Quite complex, this could develop well over the next 3-5, probably more. I like the nerve of this wine. 9.5% alcohol. From loam, chalk, marl and sand soils. (89 points)

2011 Weingut Brandl Riesling Zöbinger Heiligenstein - Austria, Niederösterreich, Kamptal
$34
Very stony on the nose, it reminds me of mountain stream rocks, ocean jetties and crushed chalk. The fruit aromas tend toward the green apple and kiwi. Full bodied (14% alcohol) and bold but clean with fresh acid. The apricot, kiwi and green apple fruit are ripe but tart, laced with lots of chalky, crushed stone elements. Wow, really chalky, with some seashell and sea salt and jetty rocks and a whole lot of saltwater. As a surfer, I’m loving this oceanic streak. It’s tangy and mineral-driven but a full and big wine that could use some age or a decant. The chalkiest of the three, I even get some earth and library dust. I dream of drinking this with some steamed mussels, but it’s strong enough to balance out a variety of strong cheeses. Every time I’ve tasted a Heiligenstein, I’ve been excited, and this is no exception. From sandstone and siltstone soils. (91 points)

2010 Paul Blanck Riesling Schlossberg - France, Alsace, Alsace Grand Cru AOC
SRP: $34
Bright gold color. Gorgeous nose of chamomile tea, clover honey, apricot jam, candied orange peel, lamp oil, some dusty notes. Crisp acid, I love the balance of tartness and richness in this wine. Clean, medium+ bodied, just a hint of sweetness. A whole fruit salad of apricot, green apple, kiwi, green melon, drizzled with honey and crushed rocks. A deep and pervasive sense of smoky minerals in this wine. Long finish with screaming acid. Age-worthy for sure. Aged on the lees in oak for a year and aged two to three years after bottling. From the granite soils of Alsace’s Grand Cru Schlossberg vineyard. 13% alcohol. (92 points)

I’d love to conduct this same tasting three or four years from now, because I’m sure these three Rieslings have many more stories to tell.

Drink any good Old World Riesling lately?

Cheers!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Oregon Chardonnay Offers Something for Everyone

This post first appeared on the daily wine blog Terroirist.

If you love Chardonnay, you have to love Oregon, right?

Every time I taste through Oregon Chardonnays, I become overtaken with joy. The combination of ripe fruit and zesty acid makes these wines easy to enjoy with food and pleasing to all sorts of palates. With the grilled veggies and seafood dishes I tend to cook during summer, Oregon Chardonnay is always welcome on my table.

And, with this group of producers, I’m lucky to have tasted such great examples of Oregon Chardonnay.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted single blind.


2011 Rex Hill Chardonnay Dijon Clone - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $39
A lovely floral nose with notes of sea breeze, green melon and guava. Creamy body, the wine glides across the palate, but the tingling acid balances it out. Lovely green apple and lime mix with richer notes of guava and honey. Slight hazelnut and nougat from the wood add to the overall experience, as opposed to distracting from it, and the result is a focused and complex wine that comes off as effortless. Aged 15 months in French oak. (91 points)

2011 Ponzi Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
A vibrant gold color. An explosion of aromas: peach, papaya, lemon zest, whipped honey, hazelnut. On the palate, the acid keeps the lips smacking while the rich apricot and papaya fruit rolls in. I’m thrilled by the minerality, seashell and saline notes to this wine, and the way those components mix with nutshells and slightly toasted bread. Long finish with notes of oyster brine and lime zest. Lots of interesting stuff going on here, and it all works together in a balanced package. Only 13.2% alcohol, this wine sees 18 months in 15% new oak. (91 points)

2011 Willamette Valley Vineyards Chardonnay Estate Vineyard - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $30
The nose bursts with lemon, yellow flowers, honey, and an element that reminds me of roasted butternut squash. Rich texture on the palate but the acid is precise and cutting. Flavors of tangy green apple and lime blend in with rich yellow apple and glazed pear. I get some honey and toasted almond notes, but it’s still clean and fresh and balanced. Lingering sea salt and minerals on the finish. There’s something in here for every kind of Chardonnay lover. Aged 10 months in 53% new French oak. (90 points)

2011 Stoller Chardonnay Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $27
Pale lemon color. Bright aromas of lime, green apple, some river rocks mixing with sweet orange blossoms. On the palate, this is so bright and tangy, with racy acidity and lots of minerals and sea shells. Lime peel mixes with white peach, some honeycomb and orange blossom and some waxy notes. A live-wire wine but it shows a lot of concentration. Subtle nuances of nougat and hazelnut accentuate the wine. Very impressive stuff that I’m guessing could do well for three or four years. (90 points)

2011 Eyrie Vineyards Chardonnay Original Vines Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Dundee Hills
SRP: $50
Nose shows bright floral and honey tones on top of green melon, papaya, lime and an aroma that reminds me of a cold ocean jetty, which I love. Bright and tangy on the palate with crisp acid. Lots of white peach and melon and lime mixed together with minerals, limestone and sea brine. Notes of whipped honey and lime linger long on the finish. Tart and brisk, a leaner style, but still round enough to keep it from being too intense. (90 points)

2011 Phelps Creek Vineyards Chardonnay Reserve - Oregon/Washington, Columbia Gorge
SRP: $30
Light straw color. Lots of apple cider on the nose, nectarine, orange blossom. The palate shows a fleshy texture, big and bold, but tamed by the acid. Whipped honey and hazelnut accent the nectarine, papaya and apricot flavors. Creamy and mouth-filling, with notes of peanut shell, baked apple and minerals. One of the bigger wines in terms of body and oak, but it’s still focused. (89 points)

2012 Bergström Chardonnay “Sigrid” - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $85
Aromas of white peach, rich honey and orange marmalade, but also some fresh cut flowers and ocean spray notes. Medium+ bodied with fresh acidity and bursting fruit: lime, white peach, honeydew, green apple, all thrown in together. Some sweet honey and crushed almond notes, but they’re matched with intense minerality and some interesting oceanic elements. Deep, long, complex, a forward Chardonnay but one that offers a lot to contemplate. (91 points)

2012 Boedecker Cellars Chardonnay - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $25
On the nose: saline, white peach, lime, orange blossom, some buttered crackers. On the palate: creamy and juicy with nectarine, white peach and green apple. Tangy acid, bright mineral notes, fresh but not weak. (87 points)

2012 Chehalem Chardonnay INOX - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $19
Nose of apricot, green and yellow apples, some flowers and baby’s breath. Creamy body, medium acid, juicy apricot and yellow apple fruit mixed in with some lime and honeycomb. I get some white tea and ginger notes along with some orange marmalade. Clean, refreshing this unoaked Chardonnay is pure summer-sipping goodness, and very good for the price. (88 points)

2012 Adelsheim Chardonnay Caitlin’s Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $45
Light yellow color. Notes of crushed sea shells and chalk on top of sweet yellow apple, apricot and a touch of honey. Complex, evolving aromas. Creamy body, but the high acid streaks across the palate. Lime and green apple mix with apricot and papaya, and the fruit is accented by a whole range of non-fruit flavors: sea shells, limestone, oyster brine, minerals and gentle touches of hazelnut and honey. Long, complex, I’m interested in cellaring this for three or four years. Very pretty stuff, nervy yet full. Aged on the lees 10 months in 36% new French oak. (92 points)

2012 Lange Chardonnay Three Hills Cuvée - Oregon, Willamette Valley
SRP: $40
Medium yellow color. Lots of white peach, guava nectar along with some lighter, fresher notes of honeysuckle and lemon tea, some sea breeze. Creamy and ripe on the palate with apricot and white peach but the acid is clean and refreshing, and I also get some key lime and margarita salt notes. Peachy with balanced nougat and honeyed tea flavors. Some quinine, pear skin and honeycomb elements on the finish. (88 points)

2012 Anam Cara Chardonnay Nicholas Estate Reserve - Oregon, Willamette Valley, Chehalem Mountains
SRP: $32
Medium yellow color. On the nose, I get sea salt, lime, some grapefruit and green melon, bright dandelion and honeysuckle. Creamy palate, medium acid, I like the mix of white peach, apricot and lemon-lime fruit. A good amount of limestone and oyster shells. Bright and fresh but richly textured with balanced notes of toasted almonds and honeycomb. Minerals and sea shells linger on the long finish. Impressive in its freshness and depth. (90 points)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Guest Post: A Wine and Food Tour of Santorini

This is a guest post from Winerist, a travel website dedicated to bringing unique and unforgettable experiences to food and wine enthusiasts worldwide. From staying with winemakers in California to cycling through the vineyards of Chile, Winerist believes that wine and food travel can be simple.

It’s often argued that Santorini is home to Greece’s best wines. Perhaps, we think it’s your duty as a wine traveler to head straight to Santorini and settle this debate.
With so much to do and see, we’ve narrowed down some of our favorite tours and hotels to help you along the way. And whether you agree or not, one thing’s for sure: Santorini is Greece’s little gem — a beautiful paradise for wine travelers.

 
Santorini Panorama and Wine-Tasting Tour
This tour begins with a stop off at Santorini’s famous volcanic caldera where you will receive an introduction to the history and unique scenery before heading to the famous Black Beach. You will then make your way to a traditional winery to learn about winemaking and sample wines as well as delicious, local appetizers. Finally, the day will end with a scenic drive to the highest point in Santorini where you can marvel at the breathtaking views surrounding you.

Cooking and Tasting Experience
So you’ve sampled the wine and food on offer in Santorini, but how about trying your hand at preparing your own Santorinian feast? You will master popular Greek dishes with the help of a local chef, using fresh, local ingredients. Discover the best techniques to bring out the most intense flavors before finishing the day off by enjoying your food with a glass of wine.

Vedema Resort
Built around a 400-year-old wine cellar, Vedema Resort is the perfect destination for Santorini’s wine tourists. Surrounded by vineyards and luscious views, this luxury hotel presents the treasures of the Mediterranean. In this beautiful villa you’ll experience a real slice of the relaxed philosophy that captivates Santorini.

Loizos Stylish Residences
Everything about the Loizos Apartments screams luxury, style and comfort. Located in Fira, Santorini’s beautiful capital, the hotel offers luxurious accommodation with stunning views of the island’s caldera. This hotel caters to its guests, so if you need advice on where to go, what to see or where to eat, the friendly staff will be happy to help.

Astrea House
If you’re planning on travelling with a large group of friends of family, this is the hotel for you. Astrea House is a beautiful villa in Fira overlooking the impressive caldera and the inviting Aegean Sea. It sleeps up to 8 people and is the perfect, authentic accommodation for wine travelers looking for a villa close to the island’s action complete with captivating views. 


Planning a trip to Santorini? Check out our Expert Travel Guide for more information.