Warwick Wine Estate of Stellenbosch

We visited winemaker Nic van Aarde last week at the attractive Warwick Wine Estate on Hwy 340 north of Stellenbosch.  Warwick produces about 120 thousand cases annually from both estate and purchased fruit. They’ve decided that Chardonnay and Bordeaux varieties do best on the terroir of their estate vineyard, and as they replant their vineyards they are focusing on those varieties. Cabernet Franc does especially well, and Warwick was the first South African winery to release a single varietal of the variety.  We tasted their new releases, of course, and talked about viticulture and winemaking in the Western Cape.  Our wine reviews can be found below. Continue reading

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Samantha O’Keefe’s Terroir Wines from Greyton’s Lismore Winery

Samantha O’Keefe of Lismore Winery makes unique, nuanced wines from exceptional, South African terroir. Her vineyards are located well off the beaten path in the shadows of the Riviersonderend mountain range outside Greyton.  The dry farmed vines are planted on broken shale soils at 300 meter altitude with huge diurnal temperature shifts and a modicum (350mm) of rainfall.  Temperatures are moderate, and the growing season is 3-4 weeks longer than that of Stellenbosch.  Her wines are terroir driven and unique in their South African character. We visited her last week, toured the vineyard, and tasted her wines. Continue reading

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La Bellanotte of Friuli Isonzo: Current Releases

La Bellanotte has a lengthy, illustrious history, but its modern winemaking dates only from 2000 when Paolo Benassi, son of the owner, Giuliana Guadagni, assumed management of the estate. Located in Farra d’Isonzo, it currently has 8 hectares of vines and a total production of about 50 thousand bottles. Andrea di Maio, a graduate of the University of Pisa’s enology program, is the winemaker with experience making wine at Isole I Olena, Valgiano, Guada al Tasso and elsewhere. They produce three different lines of wines, but the premium line, reviewed here, includes Conte Lucio Pinot Grigio, the Luna de Ronchi Sauvignon & Friulano blend, the Roja de Isonzo Merlot, and the Vento dell’Est Picolit. Continue reading

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Aridus Wines from Arizona and New Mexico

The Aridus Wine Company was founded by Scott and Joan Dahmer and today is on its 5th harvest. Grapes for the wines reviewed below were sourced from diverse vineyards in southeastern Arizona (mostly from Willcox in Cochise County) and New Mexico. [see map below] Their 5 thousand foot high, 40 acre estate vineyard along Turkey Creek in Pearce, Arizona, began providing fruit for several white wines beginning with the 2017 harvest.  We provide reviews on four of their many wines below. Given the high quality of the wines reviewed here, we very much look forward to tasting future releases from their estate vineyard. The winery has tasting rooms in Willcox and Scottsdale Arizona.   Continue reading

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Old Vine Cinsault from Lodi, Stellenbosch, and the Swartland

The Cinsault grape doesn’t often get a lot of respect. It’s a prolific vine that can produce light wines of little distinction. But old vine Cinsault put in the hands of outstanding winemakers is another thing altogether.

In this article, we review  superb old vine Cinsaults from the 132 year old Bechthold Vineyard in Lodi, California, as well as old vine Cinsaults from Stellenbosch and the Swartland in South Africa.  The wines were tasted in Lodi and Cape Town.  Also, see our article from last year where we did a comparative tasting of old vine Cinsault from the Swartland and from Chile’s Itata region.  And watch our video interview on South African old vines with Rosa Kruger on the International Wine Review YouTube channel.

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Carol Shelton Zinfandels from the Queen of Zin

Carol Shelton is a pioneer in the wine industry and considered by many to be the Queen of Zin, a title she has earned by producing some of California’s finest Zinfandels. In this article we review her current Zinfandel releases, including some that were previously included in our recent Report # 61 California Zinfandel: A New Look. This report is now available for purchase at Amazon.com. Continue reading

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New Zealand White Wines: Reviews of Current Releases from 19 Producers

New Zealand established its wine reputation on Sauvignon Blanc, a variety uniquely suited to the terroir of the South Island, especially the Marlborough region.  Over time, growers have diversified their white grape plantings to Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and other varieties, but Sauvignon Blanc remains king with 75 percent of total tonnage.  In this article, we review the current releases of 19 New Zealand producers of white wines. Continue reading

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New Zealand Pinot Noir: Reviews of Current Releases

Pinot Noir is one of our favorite grape varieties and New Zealand is one of the top sources. Since issuing our  Report #7 New Zealand’s Exciting Pinot Noirs,  we have admired the progress made by local producers in improving the quality of Kiwi Pinot Noir on the market.

In this article, we review current releases of Pinot Noir from 15  excellent New Zealand producers whose wines are highly competitive in terms of quality and price.   In the coming months, we hope also to be able to acquaint our readers with the full range of top Pinot Noirs being produced in Martinborough, Central Otago, Marlborough and elsewhere in New Zealand.  Stay tuned. Continue reading

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Michel Chapoutier’s Domaine Bila-Haut in Roussillon: Current Releases

Michel Chapoutier is best known for his Rhone Valley wines, but he also puts his stamp of excellence on Roussillon with his Domaine Bila-Haut, a which he purchased in 1999.  Thanks to Jane Kettlewell of Creative Palate Communications and HB Wine Merchants, we recently had the opportunity to taste the outstanding Bila-Haut wines. This domaine has 75 hectares of biodynamically-farmed vineyards of Grenache, Carignan, and Syrah planted on steep slopes of schist, clay and limestone in the Côtes du Roussillon.

The family-owned Maison M. Chapoutier winery is located in Tain-l’Hermitage and dates back to 1808.   Michel Chapoutier took on winemaking responsibilities at the domaine in 1987 and  bought the family winery from his grandfather in 1990 at age 26 and transformed it into the leading producer of the Rhone.

Our earlier article on Bila-Haut can be found here.    

The L’esquerda Vineyard

Wine Reviews

Chapoutier 2016 Bila-Haut Blanc Côtes du Roussillon ($15) 89 The Bila-Haut Blanc is an easy drinking wine that would work well as part of a wine-by-the-glass program. Grenache Blanc plays a lead role here with melon and pear aromas and flavors and a full, lush mouth feel. Outstanding for the price. A blend of hand-picked Grenache Blanc, Grenache Gris and Macabeu.

Chapoutier 2016 Bila-Haut Rouge Côtes du Roussillon Villages ($15) 90The Bila-Haut Rouge is a pleasant, everyday wine. It offers appealing fresh red plum, blackberry, and cherry on the nose and equally attractive dark red fruit on a nicely balanced, moderately concentrated, soft palate. A blend of hand-harvested Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The Côtes du Roussillon Villages appellation is for red wines only.

Chapoutier 2016 Bila-Haut L’esquerda Côtes du Roussillon Villages ($28) 91  The L’esquerda is a big step up from the generic Rouge. It offers both yummy fruit and savory notes. Blackberry, licorice and a touch of loam and a smooth mouth feel contribute to its overall appeal. Good balance and a firm, long finish, too! It’s mostly Syrah with Grenache and Carignan blended in.  10% of the wine is aged in oak casks, the rest in concrete tanks.  This vineyard is located on the limestone based cliffs near the village of L’esquerda.

Chapoutier 2015 Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem Côte du Roussillon Villages Latour de France ($40) 92 The Occultum Lapidem is a big, meaty wine with toast,  and garrique scents. It’s rich and harmonious in the mouth with a lovely texture, good concentration and impressive purity. Finishes very very long with firm but approachable tannins.  A blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan about half aged in oak casks.

Chapoutier 2014 Bila-Haut v.i.t. Côte du Roussillon Villages Latour de France ($90) 93 Revealing a spicy, black pepper and dark fruited nose, the Visitare Interiore Terrae is ripe and refined with a silky attack and a firm, deep mouth feel. Flavors run to spicy, black fruit with notes of black olive and chocolate. It has excellent concentration and depth of flavor and finishes long with soft, round tannins.  A blend of 65% old-vine (70 years) Grenache and 35% Syrah grown in calcareous and schist soils and matured in oak for 18 months.

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The Di Giovanna Wines of Sicily

The Di Giovanna family traces its winemaking origins back to 1860 when Cristoforo Ciaccio planted his first vineyards in 1860. Today, brothers Klaus and Gunther Di Giovanna manage this Sicilian family estate located southwest of Palermo.  Its 56 hectares of organically certified (since 1997) vineyards are spread across five different vineyard sites at relatively high elevations. One vineyard is located in the Monte Genuardo Nature Reserve at 650 meters. They produce 250 thousand bottles of wine annually.  The wines are made by Gianfranco Zito with the advice of the Denis Dubourdieu consulting group. The wines are satisfying, easy drinking with the reds showing the best. For more on Sicilian wines, read our Report #37 The Wines of Sicily. Continue reading

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