Category Archives: Wine News

The Wolftrap

South Africa is a very exciting wine region that is a blend of new and old world wine styles.  There are some very good wines being produced there right now, and It’s been my favorite wine region lately.   One I tried just the other day is a Rhone style blend called The Wolftrap.  Composed of Syrah, Mourvedre and Viognier,  this wine is made by Boekenhoutskloof in Franschhoek, Western Cape.

2013 Wolftrap Syrah, Mourvedre, & Viognier

2013 Wolftrap Syrah, Mourvedre, & Viognier


About the Wine:  This wine is a blend of three Rhone Varietals; Syrah, Mourvedre, and Viognier.  The 2012 vintage is composed of 67% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier.  It has a bright ruby-red color with aromas of toasty oak and spicy ripe cherries on the nose.  It is nicely balanced and has a smooth finish of cherry and raspberry along with some earthiness.  The 2013 vintage (pictured) is a blend of the same three varietals but just slightly different at 66% Syrah, 32% Mourvedre, and 2% Viognier.  The 2013 vintage received a score of 88 points from Wine Spectator, and is priced at $11.

The Winery: Boekenhoutskloof was established in 1776 in the Franschhoek Valley.  In 1993 the estate was bought and the 22 hectares of vineyards were re-planted with varietals such as Syrah, Mourvedre, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Semillon.  Winemaker Mark Kent has helped Boekenhoutskloof see its reputation for producing quality wines grow significantly in the last 12 years.

The Region: Farms were first established in the Franschhoek Valley in 1687.  The valley is surrounded by high mountains with the Berg river running through it.  Most vineyards are planted on the valley floor, but many are now being planted on steep slopes with well-drained sandstone soils.  One of the oldest vineyards in South Africa is located in Franschhoek, being planted in 1903.  Franschhoek was a wine ward within the Paarl district until 2010.  It is now its own district, with the most planted varietals being Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.  Other important varietals include Chardonnay, Merlot and Semillon.

If you are looking  for a smooth, easy drinking Rhone style blend, I would recommend The Wolftrap.  I’m looking forward to trying more wines by Boekenhoutskloof, as well as wines from other producers in the Franschhoek Valley.





Barossa Valley Shiraz

Australia is known for its Shiraz (Syrah), and some of the best Shiraz comes from The Barossa Valley, which is located in South Australia  about 40 miles Northeast of the city of Adelaide.  Vines were first planted her in 1847, and by the 1880s the area had a reputation as one of the most well known wine producing regions in Australia.  The vines are planted mainly on flat lands, but at elevations of 800 to 1,800 feet in some spots.  And although it is a hot and dry climate, the vines are cooled by the ocean breezes.   A lot of the Shiraz produced here is world famous, with many of the grapes grown on vines that have been around since the mid 1800s.  Other grapes grown here are whites such as Riesling, chardonnay, and Semillon, as well as reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, and Mourvedre.  I was lucky enough to try out a Barrosa Valley Shiraz this weekend, a 2009 Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz.  This was a fantastic wine, and possibly the best Shiraz I have ever tried.  It presented itself in a deep, dark purple, and had a nose of ripe blackberry with hints of spice.  It had great silky smooth finish, with mellow tannins and a delicious taste of spicy black fruit.  The alcohol at 14.8% sounds high, but is hardly noticeable as the wine is extremely well balanced.  This vintage was ranked no. 35 of the top 100 wines of 2011 by Wine Spectator, and also received a rating of 94.  It was a great glass of wine, and I would highly recommend it!

Two Hands 2009 Bella’s Garden Shiraz

Other news out of Australia deals with Tasmania.  The island has been ranked just behind China as the best place in the world to invest in the wine industry.  Reasons for the ranking were the island’s cool climate, abundance of water, and lack of pests among others.  Tasmania has a history of wine growing that dates back to the early 1800s, but has really not not seen much growth until relatively recently.  The cool climate makes it ideal for grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which are currently the most popular varieties grown.  Other grapes include Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer.  Some officials claim that Tasmania has great potential, even going as far to saying it could become the Champagne of the southern hemisphere.  It shall be interesting to see what happens.

And finally, if you are looking for a wine to enjoy the warm weather with, this Rhone Valley rose might be the perfect drink for quenching you thirst.

Will Peru become the next big wine producer?

The other day I read a recent article about the potential of Peru to become the next big wine producing region.  Adolf Hurtado, the chief winemaker at the well established Chilean winery Cono Sur, believes that Peru has all the potential to become the next big thing in wine.  He points out that many regions in Peru are very similar to northern Chile, which is very dry and has climatic features such as high elevations and close proximity to the ocean, which are ideal for growing vines.  Historically, Peru is one of the oldest wine growing countries in South America, as vines were planted by the Spaniards in the mid 1500s.  Currently there are over 24,000 acres of vines in Peru, and most are close to the Pacific coast.   Some of the best vineyards are south of Lima, close to the town of Ica.  Unfortunately,  most wine produced in Peru does not have the best reputation.  One of the most well known producers in Peru is Tacama.  Two blends produced there, the Tacama Seleccion Especial (Tannat and Petit Verdot), and Tacama Gran Tinto (Malbec, Tannat, & syrah) are recommended.  There is a lot of good quality wine coming out of South America, especially from Argentina and Chile.  It will be interesting to see if Peru can attract more interest in its wine producing regions, and perhaps become a major player in the wine world.

Also speaking of South America,  Chilean wine producer Vina Undurraga won best white wine from the New World at ExpoVinis, which is a well known international wine fair.  The winning wine is a 2011 Sauvignon Blanc known as T.H. from La Obarca Valley.  The wine is said to be very fresh and aromatic, and most interestingly, is said to have a faint scent of gun powder.  I might have to give this one a try… 

And finally, the other day I sipped on one of my favorite wines from Argentina, a Torrontes produced by Zolo.  This is a very refreshing wine, and has a nice floral nose to it that reminds me of fresh flowers.  It has a very smooth finish with hints of honey, and is great for a hot day. Definitely a must have for the coming months…

2011 Zolo Torrontes



Naches Heights AVA and Other News

Just recently, Washington State added a new member to its AVA family.  Naches Heights was officially recognized as an AVA on January 13, 2012.  It is now the 12th AVA within the state.  A sub-appellation of the large Columbia Valley AVA, Naches Heights is located in Yakima County, and encompasses an area of 13,254 acres with 105 planted with vines, including 37 acres currently bearing fruit.  The elevation ranges from 1,200 to 2,100 feet, and growers believe that the land that the AVA sits on is quite unique and will give the wines a character that will stand out amongst wines from other growing regions in the state.  One very cool fact about Naches Heights is that all of the acres that have been planted are sustainably farmed.  There is also a very diverse array of varietals being grown in the appellation.  For example, Wilridge Vineyard, which is the largest in the AVA at 10 fruit bearing acres, grows varietals such as Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, and Souzao.  Growing in Naches Heights vineyard is Albarino, which is known for making great wines in Spain.  Along with the Albarino are varietals such as Syrah and Riesling.  There is a great article in Washington Tasting Room, which points out all the great attributes and other stats of the new AVA.  Certainly seems like a great place to plan on visiting soon.

 Also in the news…

 Robert Parker sometimes even scares himself by all the influence he has.

 The Californiawine market is experiencing a structural shortage, which may not balance out for years.

 And according to recent figures,  22% of the global wine market is Italian.

All for now…

Golden Ridge Cellars

A view of the vines at Golden Ridge

The final winery that I visited during my brief time in Walla Walla was Golden Ridge Cellars.  This estate winery owned by Michael and Cindy Rasch, is located right outside of town on eight acres of grapes.  There is a magnificent view in every direction from the property, and is a just moment away from downtown Walla Walla.  The Rasch’s relocated to Walla Walla from Seattle a few years back, and Michael decided to retire from his law practice and focus on his other favorite pastime, a passion for wine.  The two varietals grown on their property are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but they are considering planting some Cabernet Franc in the near future.  Michael is the head winemaker and viticulturist, and spends most of his day caring for his vines and working in the winery, or skiing at one of the nearby ski resorts.  I was very lucky to spend the day with both of them tasting wines downtown, and was given a tour of their winery as well.  Currently Golden Ridge sells most of their grapes, but they do produce a wine of their own, an estate red blend, and just recently bottled their second vintage.  

Golden Ridge Cellars Estate Red

 I tasted both the 2008 and 2009 while I was there, and thought they were both very well made wines.  Both vintages are a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and spent 26 months in French and American oak.  Production is limited, as both vintages yielded just over 100 cases.  Mike gave me a bottle of the 2008 to take home, so I decided to give it a try the other night.  This wine was a deep garnet red in color, with toasty oak on the nose along with dark black fruit.  The first sip gave way to spicy black cherry with some nice earthy, leathery tones and a hint of smokiness.  It had a nice lingering finish, with more of the black cherry and oak.  The alcohol at 14.7% sounds a bit hot, but seemed to balance out just fine.  And although a touch on the oaky side, I thought this wine was quite good, and it seemed to go well with the flank steak that was paired with it.  If you ever get a chance to Meet Michael and Cindy, they are very hospitable and are great to spend time with and enjoy a few glasses of wine.  And if you are lucky enough, Mike may even give you a tour of his magnificant wine cellar.  Not only is it full of great wines, it also contains a disaster survival kit, which of course most importantly includes wine glasses and a bottle opener:)



Beringer Founders’ Estate Merlot

Beringer is a California winery located in the Napa Valley and has been around since 1876.  This winery has been producing great wines over the years, and they have wide range of wines in their inventory that will fit just about every type of consumer, from beginning wine drinkers to the high end wine enthusiasts.  Tom Stevenson, author of Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia, gave them a nice write up in the encyclopedia and especially liked their Merlot, in particular the Founders’ Estate Merlot.  He considered the 2000 vintage to be quite good, and said that if all vintages were to be just as good, this wine could be considered to be one of the best California Merlots.  I have found Mr. Stevenson to be a great source when looking for the right wines, so I thought I would take his advice and give this one a try.  I was very impressed with this merlot, and definitely is one of the best California Merlots that I have recently tasted.  I tried out the 2009 version, and the wine had a nice medium purple color to it, with hints of vanilla and blackberry on the nose.  The first sip has nice smooth tannins, with spicy ripe blackberry and vanilla, and a silky smooth finish.  I found that the wine had a nice touch of oak that wasn’t overpowering, and the alcohol at 13.9% was just right.  This wine is typically under $10 retail, which is a pretty good deal.  Compared to the BV Merlot I tried recently, this wine seemed a little more full bodied and flavorful, and had a nice lingering finish to it.  So if you are in the mood for a good California Merlot, don’t hesitate to give Beringer Founders’ Estate a try.



Washington Syrah and Other Links

I hope this Saturday has been good so far.  I found  a few interesting links and other news to pass along…

The wine market in Asia presents opportunity for growth, especially in China.  Here’s an interesting article about Moet-Hennessy’s latest business venture there.  The French Champagne producer has invested in vineyards  in southwestern China, and the wines produced there will be sold in the Chinese domestic market.  This has been a bit of a trend in recent years, as major wine brands have seen the booming Chinese economy as an excellent investment opportunity.  I would have to agree, since China is a huge market, and getting your foot in the door there could potentially equal a nice lucrative return.  

Here is a great article written by Graham Howe of the South African Wine Journal, about his recent trip to Argentina.  This is a country I plan on getting to someday soon…

And here is a nice article about pruning and other maintenance in an organic vineyard, with some good pictures to go along with it.

And now on to my latest round of wine reviews…   

 If you are in the mood for syrah, but don’t feel like spending a whole lot of cash, there are some Washington State producers that make a pretty decent wine for a decent price.  The other day I decided to try out a 2007 Syrah made by Snoqualmie.  I have tried several of there wines, but never the syrah.  I was impressed for what I got for $7.  This wine had a nice tannic structure to it, with a pleasant nose of cherry with a hint of black licorice.  It had a finish of spicy black cherry and a hint of blackberry with just the right amount of oak. The wine also had a bit of an earthiness to it that I liked.  Another good syrah is the Columbia Crest 2 Vines Shiraz.  For $6 this 2005 had a nice ruby red color to it with ripe blackberry and plum on the nose, and had a very jammy, fruity finish, almost reminiscent of an Australian Shiraz.  Also, Covey Run puts out a Syrah that is a good value.  This was also a 2005, and had hints of dark fruits and spice on the nose, with mild tannins & acids, and a decent fruity finish.  Out of the three I think I liked the Covey Run the least, this bottle tasted like it may have been past its prime, but overall not a bad buy at $6.

Enjoy the weekend!



A Couple of Central Coast Chardonnays

The Central Coast AVA encompasses a large area in California, that basically streches from San Francisco Bay to Santa Barbara County.  There are many smaller AVAs located within the Central Coast, one of them being Monterey County AVA .  Located in the northern part of the Central Coast, most of the vineyards are located in the Salinas Valley, and Chardonnay is the most planted grape, at around 36,000 acres.  Estancia is an estate winery located in Monterey County in Acampo, CA.  They have a nice selection of wines, and I recently tried their 2009 Chardonnay.  Overall the wine had some nice characteristics; it was light gold in color with hints of toasty oak and ripe apple on the nose, and had a nice smooth, crisp flavor of apples on the finish with a nice balance of tannins and acids.  However, I do think there was just a little too much oak in the wine,  which at times seemed just a bit overpowering.   Another Central Coast Chardonnay I tried was Firefly Ridge, which is a private label wine for Safeway stores and is located in Livermore, CA, within the Livemore Valley AVA.  This 2009 was actually a pretty decent wine.  It also had a nice nose of fresh apples with more of a lighter straw color, and on the finish more of that fresh apple with a touch of citrus.  Again however, it also seemed to have a little too much oak.  I’m not huge fan of really oaky chardonnays, and I think just touch of oak can do the trick most of the time.  But if you don’t mind a heavy dose of toasty oak in your chardonnay, then either one of these wines would be a fine choice.

In other developments…

It appears the “Sideways Effect” has been reversed in California.

Asian thirst for French wine and spirits has helped France to a record year.

And here’s an interesting new glassware design, looks like it has the potential to be a bit challenging to drink from after a few glasses…

Have a great rest of the week!



Hedges CMS Red and More

I tried an interesting blend last night, the Hedges CMS  red blend.  The majority of red blends I’ve tried are typically made with Bordeaux varietals, however for this one Hedges threw in some Syrah, 16% to be exact.  The grapes used in this wine were from the Columbia Valley, and overall I thought the wine was pretty good.  This 2009 has a very dark purple color to it, and I sensed hints of spice and ripe plum on the nose.  On the palate it was pretty easy going, with smooth tannins and acids, and a left off with a decent finish.  I can definitely detect the syrah in the wine, and it does give it a unique taste, which is a nice change from the norm.  For $9 it’s not a bad buy.   

 While sipping on my glass of Hedges CMS, I read an interesting article  about how heavy wine packaging (particularly glass bottles) is a big contributor to the carbon footprint of the wine industry.  This is especially true for long distance shipping.  The article mentioned several alternative packaging types, such more light weight glass bottles, plastic bottles, Tetra Pak, and most interestingly, kegs.  Kegs would be most beneficial to wine bars and tasting rooms, as they can keep wine fresh for extended periods of time.  I know a few people who have tried “draft” wine, and have told me that there really is not much of a difference if any. 

One form of packaging that was not mentioned in the article but brought up in a comment is aluminum cans.  The individual who commented about aluminum packaging happened to be the brand manager for Elkan wines, a Chilean winery.  Elkan is a producer that strictly uses cans as packaging for their wines. It is a cheaper alternative to glass, and is also the most recycled material in the world.  I just so happened to have had the opportunity to try their product a little while back, and I must say for wine out of a can it was quite good.  I tried the 2008 Carmenere, and it was a nice smooth drinking wine with a fruity finish.  I’m not sure about the aging potential of the aluminum can, but it seems like an ideal alternative to glass.  I guess as long as any type of alternative packaging doesn’t harm the quality of the wine then I’m all for it, especially if it is beneficial to the environment.

Other exciting wine news…

 Israel is battling the assumption that any wine made there is nothing but sweet and kosher. I tried some Israeli wine a couple of years ago and was impressed.

Here is an odd story where a store in the UK was caught selling fake wine.

That’s all for now, have a great weekend!



Friday Night Notes

Happy Friday to everyone, I hope it has been a good one so far..

 One of my recent wine tastings led me to a Merlot made by BV Coastal Estates.  I had tried their Cabernet Sauvignon a while back, so I thought it couldn’t hurt to try out their Merlot.  This 2009 had a medium purple color to it, with hints of spicy black currant on the nose.  On the palate mellow tannins and acids with ripe dark fruit and a hint of toasty oak.  Nothing too overpowering about this wine, and it was not as oaky as I would have expected from a California Merlot.  This was a nice easy drinking wine.  Now compared to the Duck Pond Merlot I tried earlier, there were some differences. The BV Merlot was a very mellow wine, whereas the Duck Pond had much more structure in the way of tannin & acids, and a more pronounced but not overpowering oak.  I personally like wines with more structure, so I would choose the Duck Pond over the BV.  However, if you are not in the mood for a big tannic wine, than the more mellow BV would be more your style.  These two wines are of course from different regions; the BV from California and Duck Pond from Washington, so right away you get totally different terroir, and of course different wine making styles from each vintner.  And in the end, it really all depends on what style/region that you prefer.  Either way, both wines are great for the price, and you won’t be disappointed.

 A couple other bits to pass along…

The SF Gate has a great list of Napa Valley Zinfandel to recommend.

A cinema company has just come up with something inconceivable, Princess Bride wine.




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