Indaba Chenin Blanc

As it’s holiday time and I’m going to be celebrating with friends and family on whom I want to focus my attention, I’m sharing another archival tasting note here now.  I thought this wine was interesting enough to save these notes, and I hope you find them worth a read.

Before I post the notes, though, please accept my warmest wishes to all of my friends and fellow bloggers for a VERY MERRY HOLIDAY SEASON!!

oenophilogical_xmas2016Winemaker: Indaba
Varietal: Chenin Blanc
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: Western Cape, South Africa
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes: This Chenin Blanc was unexpectedly dry at 13.5% alcohol.  What a nice surprise!  It was pale yellow with scents of nectarine, honey and dusty floral notes.  Acidity was good, and it was light-bodied.  On the palate I found nectarine, lemon grass and hints of spice.

Goats do Roam Red 2014

The statement cannot be refuted.  Goats do, in fact, roam.  As proof, there are wild goats (not feral domestic goats) whose natural habitats are scattered all over the world – Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East and Central Asia, for example.  On the other hand, the maker of this wine – Charles Back of the Fairview Wine Farm – has some 600 goats on the property.  They are domestic goats, of course, and their milk is used to produce cheese.  I imagine, then, Mr. Black would know a thing or two about goats and their habits.

Winemaker: Goats do Roam
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2014
Appellation: South Africa
Price: $9.99 at Whole Foods

Notes: What an interesting blend this was.  Comprised of 60% Shiraz, 14% Grenache, 11% Mourvèdre, 11% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignan, and 2% Cinsault, this South African red was dark ruby in the glass.  It had good acidity, medium body, very little tannins, and 14% alcohol.  Flavors my happy tongue enjoyed were blackberry, blueberry, leather, ash, and black pepper with some olive notes.  This seems to be made as a “drink now” wine, and why not?  I mean it.  Go ahead and buy a bottle to drink tonight!  Of course, the tongue-in-cheek name Goats do Roam (rhyming nicely with Côtes du Rhône) was just icing on the cake.



Unsung Hero Shiraz 2014

I noticed that the current Monthly Wine Writing Challenge has “travel” as it’s theme.  While this is not my entry into the fray on that account, I will say that the South African wine country is one of those bucket list places I would love to experience for myself.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had the opportunity.  And, right now, it doesn’t seem to be in my near future.  So, I’ll just have to content myself with sampling the selections I can find in my area and imagine what it will be like some day when I get the chance to check that trip off my bucket list.  Sigh!

Winemaker:  Unsung Hero
Varietal:  Shiraz
Vintage:  2014
Appellation:  Western Cape, South Africa
Price:  $5.99 at Trader Joe’s

Notes:  Pretty as you please in the glass, the color reminded me of a velvet couch in an old Victorian house.  But it didn’t smell like an old Victorian house, instead the bouquet held scents of tangy berries, meat, and hints of mushroom.  It was light-bodied with bright acidity and moderate tannins.  Alcohol clocks in at 13.5%.  On the palate I found it to be rather zingy (if I may use that word) with dark berries, rubber, and cola coming to a close on a tart note.  You should let it breathe some as the flavors definitely open up after a bit.

Riebeek Cellars Pinotage 2013

Still on a roll with new experiences, I recently had my first South African Pinotage.  Pinotage is a grape variety born and bred in South Africa that is the result of crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault (also known as Hermitage).  While this varietal has evidently had an inglorious history due to high production with some lower quality results, it seems the Pinotage growers are determined to turn that around.

Winemaker:  Riebeek Cellars
Varietal:  Pinotage
Vintage:  2013
Appellation:  Swartland, South Africa
Price: $8.99 at Whole Foods

Notes:  This SA red was more of a purple hue in the glass.  Light-bodied and with fairly high acidity, I thought the tannins were in the moderate range.  They were definitely present with a medium onset but not at all harsh.  Flavors I detected included plenty of woodiness, a solid core of raspberry, notes of black pepper, and a gently piquant cranberry on the long finish.  I liked this selection a lot.  I can see pairing this Pinotage with a good ham or game fowl.  I thought it was well balanced for the price with plenty of structure for some cellaring.  Even so, it was pretty darned enjoyable right now.

Excelsior Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

There is nothing like getting out of your old rut to provide a fresh outlook on life – or some facet of it.  In this case, I dropped in at a new store.  Not that this merchant  is some hidden treasure.  It’s a chain grocery store in the ilk of Trader Joe’s, Harris Teeter and Whole Foods called Wegman’s.  You probably already know all about it.  I didn’t because there aren’t any very close to my home or work.  Sure, I’d heard reports from friends and associates about the place.  So when I recently had reason to be just across the street from one, I made it my business to drop in.  And what should I find there but a cornucopia of wine selections!  Good grief!  The amount of shelf space they have devoted to the fruit of the vine is easily 3 times that of my local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.  I could have browsed for hours.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t in that general vicinity because of the store or to buy wine.  Thus, I only came away with one little bottle to sip.  But I’ll be back.  You bet I will!

Winemaker:  Excelsior
Varietal:  Cabernet Sauvignon
Vintage:  2011
Appellation:  Ashton, South Africa
Price:  $6.49 at Wegmans *

Notes:   This Cabernet Sauvignon was a very dark, almost inky garnet (more translucent than transparent) in the glass.  On the nose, I smelled spiced plum, dusty earth, and some menthol.  It was medium-bodied with what I considered moderate tannins.  Alcohol is at 14.5%; acidity was good; and it had some nice legs.  On first pour, the flavors I found were dark fruits (blackberry and black currant), wood, and menthol with a lingering plum on the finish.  After some time to breathe (20 minutes or so), the vibrant blackberry fruit flavor settled to plum.  Black currant as well as wood and menthol (you might call it cedar) remained.  In addition, I tasted coffee grounds, and black pepper.  Overall, I thought it was a pretty darned decent Cabernet in this price range.  In my opinion, this Excelsior would be fine in accompaniment to a nice juicy beef steak or maybe some lamb chops.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur.  See “About” for the full disclaimer.

*  Also Whole Foods at $8.99

Hayman and Hill Meritage 2009

I believe that part of the “art” of good wine-making is finding the right balance which will create an interesting yet enjoyable experience for those who drink the resulting brew.  There are so many variables, I’m glad I’m not tasked with the job!   As a wine enthusiast, I liken it in my own mind to the balance necessary in making a song fun to listen to.  Of course, you have to start with good material.  But what instruments are chosen to bring it to life and how much of each instrument is highlighted in the final mix can make a big difference in the way a song is perceived.

Take, for instance, the difference between these two versions of the same pop tune —

Now don’t get excited about full-blown studio production versus at-home solo efforts.  I know, already!  Here’s the deal: I can appreciate both, but I definitely have a preference.  I believe it’s similar with wines – most especially blended wines. Although, admittedly, the winemaker has somewhat less control than the studio engineer. Which brings me to this Meritage.

Winemaker: Hayman & Hill
Wine: Meritage
Varietal: Red Blend
Vintage: 2009
Appellation: Monterey County, California
Price: $12.99

Photo credit corkbin.comNotes: This red is a blend of 48% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Malbec, 5% Petite Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc. It was a dark burgundy in the glass. On the nose I got a lot of musty earthiness with some dark berry and mocha notes. On the palate I found some very dark berry (black currant), plenty of woodiness, heaps of barnyard, and some little hints of mocha here and there. Light tannins brought a bit of eucalyptus to the finish. With oxidation, the wood receded some to the benefit of a tad more dark berry. But the barnyard and woodiness remained by-in-large the primary takeaway from my experience with this wine. Alcohol is at 13.5%.

It reminded me of another wine I tried several years ago. I had the opportunity to go on a private tour of a boutique California winery. (Colleagues of mine arranged it. I’ve got no juice. lol) Anyway, our group of work colleagues were treated to a taste of a very young, not-ready-for-public-consumption Cabernet Franc. It was explained that they would use it in a few years to blend into the Cabernet Sauvignon, adding some complexity – especially to the bouquet. The scents and the flavors of that immature Cabernet Franc were crazy overwhelming. And THAT is how I felt about this Meritage from Hayman & Hill. You may disagree. That’s OK. Maybe I had a bad day on this one, but …

Adding fuel to my fire, I recently had another Meritage – the 2009 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound from South Africa. In this case the blend was 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 8% Petite Verdot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec. Alcohol at 13.7%. Same grape varietals; different mix and grape sources; very different experiences. The Faithful Hound was settled with plenty of ripe fruit, vanilla and spice. It also had some earthiness, but it was more an underlying foundation over which sat the fruit and spices. Tannins were very mild, so the Mulderbosch is a definite “drink now” selection in my book.  The Hayman & Hill, on the other hand, I feel needs another year or two in the cellar to see if it will even out a bit. Tannins aren’t going to support long years in the bottle, I think. But for me, this is a “hold” selection.

Important: I am not a professional sommelier or wine connoisseur. See “About” for the full disclaimer.