WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

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WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Hoke » Fri May 05, 2006 4:19 pm

So what do you drink at a Wines of South Africa official tasting at the Old Federal Reserve Building in San Francisco, third stop on a national tour?

Well, if you run into unabashed wine geek Jake Parrott standing behind one of the tables, the answer is Maximiner Grunhaus Halb-Trocken 1996, Maximiner Grunhaus Spatlese 1996, and a 1997 Ribolla Gialla.

Otherwise, you have to fall back on those South African wines, I suppose.
With scores of SA wines available, and some supplier tables bulging with product, it was easy to go overboard. Since I was “working” at the event, I had to remain somewhat circumspect (no staggering, no spitting on people, no braying laughter, no smashing of glasses or bottles or untoward groping of women; you know, the professional persona), and was thus limited into how many wines I could gulp down….er, taste and evaluate…in the limited time I had.

Still, there were a few standouts.

The two that stood out most were at the Warwick Estates/Bartholomew Broadbent table. They were pouring the two wines produced by Zelma Long, with viticultural work done by her partner Phil Freese, vineyard manager extraordinaire, in partnership with the Warwick folks. The two reds, Vilafonte are called, simply “Series M” and “Series C”.

These are the first release, the 2003 vintage. Splendid initial offering, with superb promise of things to come from this collaboration. The Series M, the Merlot-driven version, is silky and smooth and elegant with lovely berry aromas and lush mouth-filling berry and spice flavors. The Series C, with the focus on Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, is dramatically different. It’s big and husky and bold, with noticeable sturdy tannins, loads of bitter chocolate, and herbal, almost St. Estephe-y chunky notes. Serious wine geeks need to check the Vilafonte out. If you can find it, cause it’s gonna be in short supply. Broadbent Selections brings it in.

The other standout red was the Morgenster Estate Lourens River Valley (Stellenbosch) 2001, from The Wild Grape LLC. This is a blend of 55 % Merlot, 40% CS, 5% CF, and it came pretty damned close to rocking me back on my heels. Jake also had a Cabernet-driven Morgenster, a la the Vilafonte previously mentioned. It would be fun to put these two, the two Vilafonte, a couple of California, and a couple of Bordeaux together in one tasting. It would be fun, and a hell of a learning experience.

But I started out my hunt for Chenin Blanc, since I’ve been enjoying the SA renditions for the last several months, and with the final onset of dry, sunny weather here, suspect I’ll be acquiring and enjoying even more. I found a few.

FairValley Chenin 2005 (Coastal Region), from Vinnovative, was pretty decent, lively and refreshing. Also from Vinnovative was the Vinum Africa CB (Stellenbosch) 2004, but I didn’t care for it much; decent enough CB character but for some reason they felt like it had to have some obvious oak character: I didn’t agree with that assessment.

The aforementioned Jake Parrott, with The Wild Grape LLC, poured a very nice, very credible, Avondale Estate Chenin Blanc (Paarl) 2005; although it’s from a warmer region, it’s still pretty good CB, and I’d happily invest in a few bottles of this---although right now I gather there isn’t an appointed distributor in the are for the Wild Grape portfolio, which is a shame.

Villiera had my second favorite CB with their Villiera CB (Stellenbosch) 2005. In a restrained style, but some nice funky CB character clearly shows through. But the winner o’ the night Chenin was the Raats Family Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) 2004, from Cape Classics, the good people that bring you Mulderbosch and some other goodies. Plenty of acid bite here, and lavish fruit with lots of juicy melon, and CB funk. I’ll be looking for this for sure!

What I won’t be looking for is the Pinecrest Chenin Blanc 2005. Feh. Avoid. Not worth it.

Also found a white wine that turned out to be more interesting than I had thought it might. From the folks at Saxenberg, it’s a blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, called Guinea Fowl White Blend (natch, there’s a red counterpart). I’d previously had only the Estate Private Reserve Pinotage from Saxenberg, and those were pretty staunch wines. Well, this is their cash flow/glass pour level wines. The Chenin/Viognier blend was primarily CB, with a little Viognier added (and said V having a touch of light barrel to tone it down a bit). The aromatics worked surprisingly well, I thought.

Oddities, but standout oddities: the irrepressible Mr. Parrott insisted I sample his Vriesenhof Vineyards Melelo 2005 (Stellenbosch), 91% Muscat of Alexandria/9% Touriga. As pretty a wine as you could wish, sort of a purple red pink magenta. Fun wine. A touch more serious and dignified was the Vergenoegd Port 2000 (Stellenbosch), 100% Tinta Barocca. Good, rich, but not overwhelmingly cloying port-styled wine---with an intriguing strong whiff of fresh coconut! Not coconut like American oak coconut, although I guess it could have come from that, but good, fresh, just cracked open and shredded coconut. Weird, but good.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Dan Donahue » Fri May 05, 2006 5:13 pm

Great notes. I've read a lot of good things about SA CB and I'm need to find some (even though there is so much available from the Loire at still decent prices).

I don't want to steal the thread but what about the '97 Ribolla? Which producer and how was it holding up? I'd love to try an older one, but they never survive that long in my cellar.

I'll let David prod you on the von Schubert :D
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Hoke » Fri May 05, 2006 5:34 pm

Whoa, I'm hoping that Jake jumps in here, because I didn't write down the producer on the Ribolla, Dan. Jake had it hidden in the ice tray underneath the table (we didn't want just anybody to drink the nectar!) Shame on me.

It was pretty damned good though, I can tell you that. It initially had that hint of what you'd almost call oxidation---hell, maybe it was oxidation for all I know, but I don't think so: I think it was similar to what some Marsanne can show, where it seems oxidative, but it's something in the nature of the varietal. Maybe sorta like Riesling goes petrol/foehn with age, you know what I mean? Oxidative-ish, but funky and in a pleasant and appealling way. Earthy, chewy texture, more melon fruit up front, but with some stone fruit character in the back. No citrus at all for me, so no bite, just mellowness and silky/fat flavor/texture. Casual chardy drinkers wouldn't like it, I expect. I did, though. Had heft and distinct character.

The von Schuberts were nothing less than stunning. Jake went over to DeeVine earlier in the day and bought both of them because he couldn't resist, bless his little heart. I had the Halbtrocken first. Little sulphury (what a surprise!) but blew off nicely and revealed that lacy, steel girder disguised as a spider web, fruity acidity that the green house does so well. Heck, I don't even like halbtrocken as a general rule, but I'd sure have no trouble drinking this one. I was with the winemaker for our South African brand, Durbanville Hills, and took a glass over to him right away. He loved it too. Later on I went back and the crafty Jake revealed he had the Spatlese from the same year, so then I tried that. Wonderful contrast to the Halbtrocken; spicy and plump with baby fat in the middle, and gorgeously silky and ripe and sun-drenched and pure of flavor, with the minerality lingering underneath. mmm mmm mmm
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Jake Parrott » Sat May 06, 2006 4:26 am

The 1997 Ribolla was from Girolamo Dorigo. It had a designation on it but I don't remember what it was. What I do know is that Astor has a little bit at $26.50 a bottle. Yummeriffic.

Hijacking the thread even further, I had a highly enjoyable tasting this afternoon with Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountains Vineyard. They may not be using Bates fruit anymore, but there's some serious (and seriously geeky) wines coming out of one of the less reachable cellars I've ever visited.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Jenise » Sat May 06, 2006 11:18 am

Hoke, thanks for the notes, I'll definitely be looking for the Raats Family. In recent weeks we've had several SA chenins ourselves--the Cedarberg which completely lacked CB character though it was a good clean, crisp summer white, and the Ken Forrester Petit Chenin which was unmistakably and attractively chenin. Definitely a good sign that wines like this are seeping into the marketplace.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Hoke » Sat May 06, 2006 11:57 am

Jenise:

Both those wines were at the WOSA tasting. I didn't taste either though. Too many wines, not enough time.

The Cedarberg I skipped because I had one before, and it impressed me along the same lines as it impressed you, and I wasn't interested. The Forester I just skipped for lack of time. Wish I hadn't.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Bruce Hayes » Sat May 06, 2006 12:11 pm

Hoke:

I was interested in your tasting of the Guinea Fowl White. Don't suppose they had and-or you tried the Guineau Fowl Red? It is a blend of Shiraz-Cabernet-Merlot and came out here in Ontario a few months ago at $12.95. Haven't tried it, but am curious.

Thanks.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Hoke » Sat May 06, 2006 12:29 pm

Bruce Hayes wrote:Hoke:

I was interested in your tasting of the Guinea Fowl White. Don't suppose they had and-or you tried the Guineau Fowl Red? It is a blend of Shiraz-Cabernet-Merlot and came out here in Ontario a few months ago at $12.95. Haven't tried it, but am curious.

Thanks.


Sorry, never got back around to the Guineau Fowl red, Bruce. But as I said, I was intrigued by the white. And the lady behind the wine was telling me it's selling quite well for them, both in white and red. Canada is apparently a good market for Saxenberg.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Bruce Hayes » Sat May 06, 2006 12:39 pm

Thanks. Maybe I will have to take the plunge and try a bottle of the red for myself.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Peter May » Sat May 06, 2006 2:31 pm

Hoke wrote: Vinum Africa CB (Stellenbosch) 2004, but I didn’t care for it much; decent enough CB character but for some reason they felt like it had to have some obvious oak character: I didn’t agree with that assessment.


Oaked Chenin is a popular style in the Cape and the winners of the annual Chenin Challenge are well oaked. Personally, I prefer not to taste the wood.


Hoke wrote:
But the winner o’ the night Chenin was the Raats Family Chenin Blanc (Stellenbosch) 2004, Plenty of acid bite here, and lavish fruit with lots of juicy melon, and CB funk. I’ll be looking for this for sure!


Bruwer Raats is a good winemaker. They release two Chenins under that Raats family label, one is wooded barrel fermented, and one is unwooded. I've found the unwooded 'Original' an excellent and inexpensive Chenin that always pleases when I've used it in tastings.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby ClarkDGigHbr » Sun May 07, 2006 4:21 pm

I stopped in at the local (Gig Harbor) wine shop yesterday, to discover they had just received a shipment of the 2005 Fairvalley Chenin Blanc. They also had a slightly chilled bottle ready for tasting, which I could not turn down. I was quite pleased with the crisp fruit and minerality of this wine, and even more so to see the very affordable $6.99 price tag. This is quite a good wine for the price.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby Bob Henrick » Sun May 07, 2006 6:34 pm

Hi Clark, since I don't recognize your name I wanted to say welcome to the forum. I would for sure like to tast that chenin. There are not too many coming out of Cal that are even drinkable much less one to brag on and this one sounds as if it is. I do like the Dry Creek dry chenin quite a lot. I buy that one here for $8 and it is quite a bargin at that price.
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Re: WOSA San Francisco (longer, more tedious than usual)

Postby ClarkDGigHbr » Sun May 07, 2006 7:33 pm

Thanks, Bob. For me it is more like "welcome back". I participated quite regularly for 6 months or so starting in late 2004. My sign-in name then was cdelia. When the site moved and I had to register anew, I decided to use an updated sign-in name. Then I just go too busy to check-in regularly. I'm not sure how much time I'll have to track the ongoing discussions. I suspect you'll find me pop in and out on occassion.

Hope you are enjoying the forum. Lots to learn from some very experienced tasters out there. AND it really takes an army of folks to cover the many thousands of wine maker offerings these days.

-- Clark
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