Vergelegen: Modern Wines from a 300 Year Old Estate

The 18th Century Manor House

Vergelegen is one of South Africa’s finest producers of premium wines. It’s located in an idyllic setting just 6 km from the sea with sloping mountainside vineyards, and winemaker André Van Rensburg is one of South Africa’s most passionate winemakers. In 2013 in an effort to take quality even higher, André asked Michel Rolland, whose he knew from his time at Napa’s Harlan Estate, to come in as consulting winemaker with a principal focus on overall strategy and blending. We stopped by Vergelegen in Somerset West a couple of weeks ago to revisit the winery and to taste current releases with André. Our reviews follow. Continue reading

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Posted in Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Countries and Regions, Red Wine, Shiraz, South Africa, Sparkling Wine, Uncategorized, White Wine, Wine Articles, Wine Type | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Paradise Springs: Premium Wines from Coast to Coast*

Kurt & Jane in Front of the Yellow Barn at Sanford Ranch

Paradise Springs is a family owned winery with operations in Virginia and Santa Barbara. It is owned and operated by Kirk Wilde and his mother Jane Kinchiloe along with local partners.  In Santa Barbara it shares  winemaking space in Buelton with three wineries including Margerum Wine Company. Doug Margerum acts as Lead Consultant with his team performing day-to-day  winemaking.  Rob Cox, Head Winemaker at Paradise Spring Virginia, acts as Executive Winemaker, and Kirk Wilde  serves as CEO. Continue reading

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

The Chenin Blancs of Breedekloof Wine Valley

Village of Rawsonville in the Breede River Valley

While Chenin Blanc originated in the Anjou area of the Loire, today it can be said to be South Africa’s grape. South Africa produces more of the grape than any other country and has double the plantings of France. Chenin Blanc is also the most widely planted (18 thousand hectares) variety in South Africa.  The Breede River Valley and especially its Breedekloof appellation have long been a center of Chenin Blanc production. But until recently most of its special, old bush vine Chenin was sold in bulk or distilled. Now, many of Breedekloof’s growers are also making wine from their best parcels. In 2016, the wineries of Breedekloof decided to recognize their Chenin Blanc heritage and formed a group called Breedekloof Makers, the members of which make a special Chenin Blanc from selected vineyard parcels in each vintage. The group has 12 members (soon to be 15) out of the total of 24 wine growers in the region.  We review some of their wines below. Continue reading

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Pence Winery’s Outrageously Good Wines from the Sta Rita Hills*

The Pence Ranch

The Pence Winery is set on 200 acres in the Santa Rita Hills. A tiny artisanal winery, it is part of a working ranch and farm owned and operated by Blair Pence, a California realtor with a passion for wine stemming from his extensive travels across the wine world and especially to Burgundy. The ranch and vineyards are 100% organically farmed. A strong believer in sustainability, Blair Pence raises cattle and cultivates walnut and olive trees. Horses are also bred and trained on the property. We recently had the opportunity to taste through the Pence portfolio. Continue reading

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

Margerum: New Releases from Santa Barbara*

Margerum Wine Company is owned and operated by Doug Margerum, one of Santa Barbara’s leading winemaking entrepreneurs. It produces small quantities of premium wines made from estate-grown and purchased grapes from top neighboring vineyards.  We recently visited Doug at the winery in Buellton and tasted his full range of current releases. Continue reading

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Graham Beck: Exclusive Focus on Premium Sparkling

Graham Beck & the 1991 MCC Tasted with Pieter Ferreira

Industrialist Graham Beck founded his eponymous vineyard and winery in Robertson in 1983.  A few years later Pieter Ferreira joined Graham Beck, making his first sparkling wine  (called MCC or Methode Cap Classique in South Africa) in 1991. We visited Pieter at the Robertson winery recently, and he opened the 1991, which we thoroughly enjoyed with a beautiful roast chicken.  We tasted the full line up of current releases, which are reviewed below. [Shown above: The view from the tasting room.] Continue reading

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Posted in Champagne, Countries and Regions, Great Winemakers, South Africa, Sparkling Wine, Uncategorized, Wine Articles, Wine Type | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Spear Vineyards and Winery: A New Promising Farm Winery in the Sta. Rita Hills

Spear is a tiny and relatively new, family-owned Santa Barbara winery that shows great promise.  Its estate vineyard nestled in the Sta Rita Hills is certified organic and sustainable.  It was first planted in 2013  on 33 acres, and its first releases were from the 2016 vintage.  The operation is owned by Ofer Shepher, a California farmer who originally purchased a one thousand acre farm in the Sta Rita Hills. He later decided to grow grapes and produce wine, having developed a passion for Pinot Noir.  Ofer is also the owner of Gnesa Ranch and Vineyard from which he sources grapes for  Spear’s Chardonnay. Continue reading

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Kunin Wines: 2016 Releases from Santa Barbara*

Seth Kunin founded his eponymous winery Kunin Wines in 1998 with the aim of producing small production Rhone varietal wines. Until his untimely passing in 2017 at the age of 50 years, he was a highly respected member of the Santa Barbara wine community. As a talented winemaker, he was a mentor to many and was also an articulate spokesman for the wine industry as a member of the Board of Directors of the Santa Barbara Vintner’s Association. We recently tasted the current releases of Kunin Wines in Santa Barbara. Continue reading

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Richard Kershaw Lifts Elgin to New Heights

Richard Kershaw, South Africa’s first MW (Master of Wine), worked at wineries around the world (including Simi in California) before becoming winemaker at Mulderbosch  and then, in 2012, starting his own eponymous winery in Elgin, South Africa’s coolest growing area. He makes site and clone specific Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot Noir from Elgin and other cool climate growing areas.  His winemaking is non-interventionist with micro-vinifications and small productions of some of the very best wines, especially Chardonnay, being made in South Africa today.  He is meticulous in his viticulture and winemaking, keeping detailed notes so that he can constantly learn and improve, and paying special attention to coopers and which barrels work best for specific wines. Continue reading

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Cabernet Sauvignon Reigns Supreme in Washington State

Red Willow Vineyard and its Chapel

Washington State’s Cabernet Sauvignon plantings have increased dramatically in recent years, driven by consumer demand and the price premium this grape commands.  Cabernet Sauvignon plantings have also taken off in California in appellations like Lodi and Paso Robles.  So is this huge growth in Washington’s Cabernet Sauvignon sustainable, or is this just another of the wine world’s boom and bust cycles?  We look in more detail at Washington Cabernet Sauvignon in this article and, also, in our forthcoming new International Wine Review report Wines of Washington State Revisited. Continue reading

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