Keermont Vineyards of Stellenbosch Revisited

We recently revisited Keermont Vineyards, located just south of Stellenbosch, and tasted through the portfolio with winemaker Alex Starey. Keermont is one of South Africa’s stellar wineries. Located in the Upper Blaauwklippen Valley, it has 29 hectares of manicured, hillside vineyards.  About 2/3 of the fruit is used to produce the estate’s 5 thousand case production. The Keermont winery previously served as spring water bottling plant for the estate’s Fleurfontein spring now used for irrigation.  Mark and Monica Wraith purchased the existing 8 hectare vineyard in 2003, and in 2005 began planting additional vines. One of their wisest, early decisions was to hire Stellenbosch grad Alex Starey to manage the vineyard development. With prior work experience in Priorat, St-Emilion, and Côte Rôtie, Alex continues to serve as vineyard manager and winemaker to this day. Continue reading

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Austria’s Talented New Winemakers

While traveling around Austria meeting winemakers and tasting wine for our recently published report Austrian Wine: Diverse Terroir, Exceptional Quality, we met the new generation that has entered Austria’s wine industry in recent years. They work in various capacities, although most have either work experience or academic training in winemaking. Some of them are the most recent generation to assume the leadership of established family estates. Others are starting out from scratch, purchasing fruit or acquiring small vineyards. In what follows, we present some of the most distinguished members of Austria’s new wine generation and give examples of the fine wines they are crafting. Reviews of all the wines of these exciting winemakers are in the full report, available at

The Winemakers Continue reading

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Rosé and Food: Enlivening the Meal

Rosés can be served with anything—Julia Child

There are a wide variety of dry rosés available on the market. Many entry level rosés are relatively light in style and perfect for sipping but don’t stand up well to food. Others, mainly premium rosés, are ideal food wines. When paired well with food they enhance the enjoyment and dining experience and lighten up the meal. Rosés provide flavor and acidity for pairing with food while keep alcohol levels low. This means rosé can be drunk without leaving a heavy after taste. If serving several courses, still and sparkling rosés can be served at different stages of the meal.

Most roses are made to be drunk young; they’re fresh and lively with crisp acidity. The most interesting ones reveal an extra edge of complexity, balance and finesse which is derived from both terroir and winemaking. While for many years the French have appreciated the food affinities of rose wine, Americans have been put off by the false perception (thanks to Lancers, Mateus, and White Zinfandel) that all pink wines are sweet.
Below, we have selected a wide variety of dishes that pair especially well with rosé and rosé sparklers. We have had many of these dishes personally at wine and food pairing events and know first-hand that they are winners with rosés.

Pairing Rosés with Food

Salads and Cold Vegetables: Try rosé with roasted beet salad with goat cheese, peanuts and cherry vinaigrette or with salad Niçoise. Pair it with cold grilled vegetables such as asparagus, eggplant, corn or zucchini or mixed green salads like a Cobb salad. Rosés pair beautifully with most chicken and tuna salads. The light, crisp and refreshing rosés of Provence are wonderful accompaniments to light salads, fresh peas, or potato salad with bacon and soft boiled eggs, shrimp, avocado and roasted corn salad. Make sure that the acid level in the salad is less than the acid in the wine. To be sure, choose roses with high acidity and take into account the flavors of vinaigrettes for salads. A prorportion of four parts olive oil to one part vinegar works well.

Appetizers: Rosés pair well with watermelon, feta and mint. They are magnificent with crispy hors d’oeuvres with spicy sauces, bruscehetta , and pissaladière. The latter, a flat bread of onions, olives. anchovies and thyme is served as a snack or as a meal. Asparagus, crispy prosciutto and brie grilled cheese also pair well with a wide variety of rosés.

Charcuterie: Cold meats and especially cold cuts such as those pictured here from D’Artagnan tend to have both the saltiness and spice to enhance the flavors of rosé wines. The wines not only hold up to them but reveal more of the salami’s umami or savory character.

Fish and Seafood: Dishes from anchovies to grilled tuna, grilled shrimp and poached cold or even grilled salmon work extremely well with the more full-bodied and creamy textured rosé wines, especially if accompanied by an aioli or other mayonnaise based sauces. Try rosé with fish or seafood stew, crab cakes, fish and chips, fried oysters, roasted black sea bass, and seared rainbow trout. Try smoked salmon with a rosé sparkling wine or rosé Champagne. Provençal roses generally pair well with bouillabaisse and aoli (fish soup with garlic mayonnaise). Provence rosés also pair well with a delicate white fleshed fish.

Chicken and Duck: Grilled chicken breasts pair beautifully with rosés. If you can’t travel to Morocco or Spain, try rosé with chicken tagine and couscous, chicken in garlic sauce, chicken empanadas, or even chicken chilindron, a fabulous chicken dish served with green and red peppers, ham, and savory spices. Muscovy duck breast pairs beautifully with Pinot Noir based rosés.

Pork: Grilled spicy sausages have a natural affinity to rosé as does baked ham. And marinated pork loin tenderloin is a winner with rosé as is roast veal. Try a bold flavored Tavel with these dishes.

Paella and Rice Dishes: What could be more perfect than a rosé with paella? Vegetable, seafood and Valenciana paella all show well with a Grenache based rose from Navarra or the South of France. Grenache rosé works beautifully with saffron and tarragon.

Light Pasta: Try rosé with pates au pistou (pasta with basil pesto). Italian rosés made of Sangiovese are a natural partner with this light pasta.

Spicy Foods: Spicy foods such as Indian curries and Thai dishes that feature piquillos or peppers have a natural affinity with these wines. You might even enjoy one with more mundane but tasty dishes such as a grilled sausage and peppers, hamburger, hoagie or a Philly cheese steak sandwich. Tavel and the more boldly flavored, high acid wines of Provence pair nicely with these dishes.

Cheeses: Cheese can be challenging to wines, usually overwhelming their character, but some rosés hold up very well to a number of cheeses. Try rosé with smoked gouda and mushroom quesadillas. Semi-soft cheeses like gruyere, Havarti and Monterey Jack go well with dry rosé. Try a tangy and earthy Roncal or Idiazabal, a Zamorano or Majorero sheep’s cheese, and finally try one of the many Cabrales blue cheeses now available in the US with a refreshing strawberry-scented dry rosé.

Desserts: Especially good with sparkling rosés and some rosé Champagnes are apple or cherry pie, berry fruit tarts, fruit puddings, dark chocolate truffles and strawberry cheesecake.

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New Releases of 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs from Tongue Dancer Wines

Tongue Dancer Wines is a small project started with the 2013 vintage by James and Kerry MacPhail, past owners of MacPhail Family Wines in Healdsburg, CA. The Mac Phails are passionate about Pinot Noir and this project continues their fascination with the grape. James MacPhail has been crafting wine for more than 20 years, and these wines are to some extent the culmination thus far of his search for the Holy Grail. The name of the winery Tongue Dancer Wines is a reflection of his keen interest in wines with great texture and taste. Continue reading

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Department 66-New Releases from the Côtes Catalanes

These are attractive bistro style wines produced by the Department 66 winery in the Southwest corner of France . The winery, established by Napa Valley winemaker Dave Phinney, is located in Department 66, which serves as the inspiration and namesake for the winery and vineyards in the town of Maury. The vineyards consist of 120 hectares (300 acres) among the Pyrenees-Orientales mountain range, planted more than 60 years ago. Continue reading

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Succulent Sweet Wines for the Holidays: The Best of 2018

What better time of the year to open a bottle of profusely perfumed, deeply flavored sweet wine than the Holidays?  We’ve tasted a lot of them this past year from Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Washington, and, most recently, the Atlantic Coast where outstanding ones are being made from Virginia to the Finger Lakes.  They are late harvest wines, ice wines, and fortified wines, including Madeira and Port. Suggestions for how to drink these wines can be found in our in depth report Sweet Wines of the World.  The Finger Lakes region of New York has the perfect climate for making authentic ice wines, several of which are evaluated below. Look for much more about this region in our soon to be published report on The Wines of the Finger Lakes. Continue reading

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Champagnes & Sparkling Wines for the Holidays: The Best of 2018

Champagne and sparkling wines are especially popular during the Holidays. Families and friends toast their friendship and welcome the new year with the bubbles that convey a sense of celebration and joy.  To help guide your purchases of Champagne and sparkling wine this holiday season, we provide the following evaluations of the highest quality and best values ones we tasted in 2018. Continue reading

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Testarossa Winery New Releases of 2016 Pinot Noir

This is second part of our reviews of the 2016 Testarossa releases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. In this article we focus on Testarossa’s Pinot Noirs which like the Chardonnays are handcrafted in small lots of mostly vineyard designated wines from partner growers in Russian River, the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Rita Hills, and other appellations. In 2016, they produced many outstanding Pinot Noirs that (like the Chardonnays ) are among the finest we have reviewed over the years. Continue reading

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Napa Valley Boutique Wine Discoveries: Lewelling and Hayfork

When it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon, the Napa Valley is home to several of the world’s most iconic wineries.  The sheer number of ultra premium Cabernet wineries makes it difficult for small, lesser known producers to gain visibility. Always on the lookout for superb wines at reasonable prices, we recently made a trip to Napa in the search of some of the under the radar gems. In this article we present two of our discoveries from St. Helena–Lewelling Vineyards and Hayfork Wine Company, both of which make their wines from grapes grown  at the Lewelling Ranch. Continue reading

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Testarossa Winery New Releases of 2016 Chardonnay

Testarossa Winery is among the finest producers of premium Chardonnay in California, and 2016 was an exceptionally good vintage throughout California. As a result, we are enthusiastic about the 2016 Testarossa Chardonnays. Testarossa handcrafts small lots of mostly vineyard designated wines from California’s top growers in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Maria Valley, Chalone and other appellations.  In 2016 they produced a bevy of outstanding wines that are among the finest we have reviewed over the years. They exhibit outstanding flavor, complexity and overall balance, while revealing the unique character of the different vineyards from which they are sourced. Continue reading

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Posted in California, Chardonnay, Countries and Regions, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Type | Tagged | Leave a comment