Tag Archives: South Africa

Life is a Cabernet! – Hesperian Wines Napa Valley

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InstagramTwo college friends on the phone being silly and excited about a new wine: “Life is a Cabernet old chum, life is a Cabernet“.  So began the story behind this review. A play on song lyrics from days before our time. But we won’t go there.

Celebration was in the air. Friends overdue for a wine-tasting and the news that Whine and Cheers for Wine had cracked the TOP 100 WINE BLOGS by Feedspot:  Best 100 Wine Blogs, Websites And Newsletters To Follow in 2019. Wine Transparent_1000x1000px

The stage set; wine glasses, note pads, decanters, Coravin, glass identifiers etc. We were even ready for possible pairings; cheeses, charcuterie, nuts, and chocolates along with water crackers for palate cleansing. I say “possible” pairings because as I told the parties involved: “this is all about the wine”.  We may pair, we may not. Eventually we did, but not before spending a long time getting to know the wines individually and comparatively. Hesperian pairing

 

 

Note Taking

Hesperian Wines come with quite the pedigree thanks to winemaker Philippe Langner and his hands-on experiences from Bordeaux to South Africa and now California with a Rothschild influence here or there.

From Hesperian Wines:

California’s  persistent  call  is  an  inspiration  for  the  name  for  his  domaine.  Hesperian,  or  “One  of  The  West,”  is  a  name  that  invokes  the  mythical  garden  of  Hesperides,  a  blissful  twilight  orchard  in  the  west  where  Hercules  once  tricked  Atlas  into  helping  him  complete  his  eleventh  labor.Today  Philippe  has  chosen  to  make  his  home  and  his  life’s  work  in  one  place:  a  steep,  rocky,  14-acre  vineyard  named  “Kitoko”,  the  Congolese  Lingala  word  for  “beautiful.”  This  is  the  place  he  has  chosen  to  fulfill  his  vision,  combining  his  exacting  knowledge  of  viticulture  and  his  constant  quest  for  precision—indeed  perfection—in  winemaking. 

Hesperian layout

As some of my Whine and Cheers followers may know, I prefer to know as little as possible about a wine prior to a private tasting. In a way I enjoy the discovery aspect of the relationship we are about to build.  With the history or backstory hopefully  sealing the deal.  Leaving me wanting more and looking forward to a second date.

Hearing myself as I write about my passion and the romance behind it I have come to realize that there are wines you date and wines you marry. I have now learned:  Hesperian Wines are the marrying kind.

Two wines. Both from Hesperian and wine-maker Philippe Lagner, both 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and both from the 2015 vintage. Available through their web-site and via Club Membership.  How do the wines differ? The Hesperian Napa Valley ($100) was created by combining wines (50/50)  from Coombsville and Kitoko Vineyard on Atlas Peak. The Hesperian Kitoko Vineyard ($150) is sourced entirely from the fourteen acre Kitoko Vineyard. Only 300 cases of each were produced.

-Hesperian Napa Valley notes;

Bold nose with new wood [oak] at forefront and a dark fruit background. In addition on the palate our descriptors included; spices (black pepper),  leather (even more so on the second pour),  forest floor mossiness.  This smooth,  balanced, structured, elegant wine was all old-world style and the farthest from a fruit bomb a California wine could be.

Vintner notes: 2015 Hesperian Cabernet Sauvignon ~ Napa Valley

With a toasty, Pauillac-like profile, this has plummy and sweet fruit, with aromas that are the essence of ripe Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, a distinctive leathery-fruity smell of its own. The Wine Advocate noted its notes of “licorice, tar, black soil and sautéed herbs over a core of cassis, plum preserves and espresso with a hint of bouquet garni.” Rated 93 points James Suckling

 

-Our Hesperian Kitoko Vineyard notes:

A softer/demure nose when compared to the Napa Valley above. New wood (oak) at the forefront with red fruit compote in background. In addition on the palate; chocolate, lilac, a peaty earthiness, concentrated dry fruit (fig), anise. This single vineyard wine came across as smoother, more delicate yet wilder. It was incredible to see it develop and  come to life in a 20 minute time-span.

Vintner notes: 2015 Hesperian Cabernet Sauvignon Kitoko Vineyard ~ Napa Valley

This wine has it all. Made from 10 tons of fruit from 14 acres, low yields caused by “shatter from hell,” according to Philippe -this flaunts notes of tiramisu, black cherry liqueur, spicy oak, and money ink. The Wine Advocate loved its “cassis, crushed blackberries, cigar box and Marmite toast nose with hints of Chinese five spice and dried mint.” Gorgeous red and black fruit aromas interplay effortlessly. Rated 94 points THE WINE ADVOCATE. Rated 93 points James Suckling.

 

As you can probably tell by my accolades thus far, these wines were both big hits. Each had its own character and yet some similarities and both can easily age for ten plus years for the collectors out there. The 100% Kitoko Vineyard wine seemed more focused and wilder while the Hesperian Napa Valley came across as bold, rounder with more nuances. Probably due to the blend of the two vineyards; Kitoko and Coombsville. We found both to be inspiring in their own way and considered ourselves lucky to not have to choose between them. Each of these old-world style wines took you on a journey that you did not want to end.

As per Hesperian Wines web-site: Philippe  lives  and  works  at  Kitoko  Vineyard  on  Atlas  Peak,  and  continues  to  consult  on  viticulture  and  winemaking  matters  for  select  Napa  Valley  wineriesI find myself now looking forward to trying other vintages, previous and future, from Hesperian Wines and other wines produced by Philippe Langner.

How refreshing it is to have this kind of wine coming out of  Napa Valley.  How lucky are we to have someone of this caliber focused on celebrating the worthiness of individual varietals the way they were meant to be experienced. In this case, Life IS a Cabernet!

¡SALUD! 

Additional notes from Hesperian Wines:

Vintage 2017 Outlook

March 31st, 2019

The 2017s were blended in February and put back to barrel. It takes a while for the various lots that went intothe three blends to really integrate well. The wines are coming along nicely. Get ready for very big wines with the ‘17s. This was the vintage of the fire, and I’m very happy and relieved to report that there is no smoke taint in the wines. (I’ve had others smell and taste Hesperian’s ‘17s, and they tell me the same. Relief!)

The 2018s are fantastic, perhaps the best wines I’ve made so far. We are almost done with the first racking; some wines were starting to reduce a bit and they needed some air. Alas, we have to be patient. We won’t see these wines coming available until 2021.

 

Disclosure: media sample; all thoughts & opinions included in this post/ review are my own.

 

 

Organic Wine – Heller Estate Organic Vineyards: Chenin Blanc

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Heller Estate @WCW2014

The Heller Estate Organic Vineyards are located in the Cachagua (Hidden Springs) region of Carmel Valley, Monterey California.

Officially certified 100% organic by the state of California I appreciate the fact that they offer a copy of the actual certificate on their web-site.  I had never seen one before.

For certification the winemakers and property have to follow methods such as; no use of pesticides. Interestingly no herbicides are employed, and the desired results are accomplished by using the organic matter left following the crushing and pressing of grapes, which is then spread in the middle of the vineyard rows in order to build the matter content of the vineyard soil. Weeds are controlled by the use of cover crops providing a habitat for insects and spiders which are beneficial.  These grapes are also dry-farmed, little to no irrigation is used.

I originally became a fan of Chenin Blanc when I discovered one of France’s earliest official A.O.C. [Appellation d’origine controlee] Vouvray: a white wine region of France’s Loire Valley Touraine district where Chenin Blanc is known as Pineau de la Loire. I later also came to enjoy the Chenin Blanc of South Africa where I was surprised to learn it is the most widely planted varietal and also known as Steen.

This all brings us to California where according to on-line sources:

-During the 1980’s California had more acreage of Chenin Blanc planted than France.

-For most of its history in California the grape was considered a “workhorse variety” that could be used anonymously in bulk and jug blends, ideally partnered with Colombard and Chardonnay.

Luckily for us this changed in the early 2000’s when plantings declined and quality increased.  Heller’s original plantings were done in 1968 with production starting in 1976. The organic certification was granted in 1996 after three vintages of clean farming. The vineyard encompasses 120 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinot Noir at an altitude of 1,200-1,500 feet.

As one would come to expect the wines from France are old-world in style, leaning towards soft and delicate.  South Africa and California come across as new-world, filled with boldness and intensity.

My tasting notes included:

On the nose; floral [honeysuckle] with melon [green melon and cantaloupe], pineapple, stone fruit with aromas getting stronger in minutes most likely caused by the warming room temperature.  Medium bodied. On the palate; honeysuckle, melon, tropical fruits such as lychee and soursop with some of the 13.7 % alcohol detectable along with mouth-watering acidity.

Winemaker notes:

Aroma; Honeydew melon, guava and mineral notes with lime and nectarine highlights.  Also look for nice touches of floral components (honeysuckle/narcissus). Palate; Immediate, luscious mouth feel that envelopes followed by perfectly balanced acid components. Flavors of green apple, quince and citrus abound. Lingering mid-palate that extends nicely into a flavor packed finish with just the right touch of bright acidity.

I was very pleased with this wine which is priced in the $18-$25.00 range.   So much so that I would happily serve it again and recommend it to our customers.  We paired ours with ginger grilled swordfish, roasted potatoes and spinach. I especially like the fact that it comes from organic grapes. A fact that automatically garners some wine buyers yet seems to turn others off.  A sort of generalized stigma is applied by some to “organic” wines.  A fact I do not understand and a fact that should not be applied in this case.

¡SALUD!  To fighting the good fight.

Cabernet Day August 30th 2012 – Celebrating everything Cabernet

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Cabernet Day August 30th 2012 – Celebrating everything Cabernet….

In preparation for the 3rd Annual Cabernet Day I decided to review all my earlier Whine and Cheers For Wine posts.  Surprisingly many included Cabernet as a topic; Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Blends etc. and include wines from California, South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia France and more.

In commemoration and celebration of this special day I have decided to repost my reviews via Twitter throughout the day of August 30th referencing #CabernetDay.  Please join me in revisiting these posts and by sharing your own.  I too will be checking posts on Twitter by searching #CabernetDay throughout the day.  I am looking forward to learning more about the varietal and even more so seeing what everyone will be drinking in celebration.

To join the crowds and or register to follow #CabernetDay events; check out; http://cabernet.eventbrite.com/

For those of you not on Twitter or for those of you just looking for some Cabernet information; I have listed below all the references available on  Whine and Cheers for Wine. If you prefer to do the search yourself just type in Cabernet Day in the Search portion of our site. Please visit, share your thoughts and see what other posts get your attention.  ¡SALUD!

1-Stags Leap Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon  https://whineandcheersforwine.com/2012/01/01/ended-2011-with-a-bang-2007-stags-leap-artemis-cabernet-sauvignon/

Wine 101 – Revisited

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The Gourmet Bachelor by Chad Carns

The Gourmet Bachelor by Chad Carns (Photo credit: somenametoforget)

Every once in a while I like to review notes I have jotted down, articles I’ve saved, passages in books I have highlighted etc. As I move forward with my blog, my hobby [lot’s of wine drinking!] and now career [I will sell wine today!],  I must remind myself to do so on a regular basis. It is amazing how easily one becomes focused on one aspect of the bigger picture and  forgets the details that may have crossed your path or got you to where you are today.

Writing this I just had a flashback to my college days of yore; cramming at the last-minute and soon afterwards forgetting everything I learned.  History will not repeat itself no matter that I probably have way fewer memory cells now compared to then 🙂

Wine 101 refers to one of my earlier posts; What I learned in wine class this week-Wine 101. In it I asked the question:  If a bad or turned wine with a cork closure is referred to as CORKED would a turned wine with a screw cap be classified as SCREWED?  I  also listed tidbits of information I found interesting or am purposely keeping as a reference for future use.

https://whineandcheersforwine.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/what-i-learned-in-wine-class-this-week-wine-101/

Here begins my next chapter and I look forward to coming across even more to share in the future.  ¡SALUD!

Aroma is derived from the grape. Bouquet comes from fermentation, wood [oak], aging.

Chardonnay and Riesling; white wines that can age.

Chardonnay is a component of; Champagne, Burgundy and Chablis.

Chianti; is Sangiovese blended with other indigenous varietals.

-Wine most sold in U.S.A. = White Zinfandel ARGH!

-When in doubt: Beaujolais goes with practically everything.

Rosé wine is not sweet.

Sauvignon Blanc is used in Sancere, Pouilly Fume’, and blended with Semillon for almost all white Bordeaux’s.

-Sweet Sauternes are mostly Semillon with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc.

-Most planted grape in California prior to Chardonnay; Chenin Blanc.

Chenin Blanc = Vouvray. Also the leading white grape of South Africa.

Viogner is one of the rarest french white grapes. Less than +/- 300 acres are planted in the grapes home; northern Rhone.

Merlot often confused as Cabernet Sauvignon during blind tastings.  Merlot is the leading grape varietal produced in Bordeaux. Chateau Pétrus one of worlds most famous wine is 99% Merlot.

Burgundy, except for Beaujolais is mostly made from Pinot Noir.

-The Gamay grape is the source of french wine Beaujolais.

Syrah is usually part of the blend making Chateauneuf-de-Pape which can use up to 12-13 different varieties.

Tempranillo grows in the Rioja region of Spain. In Portugal Tempranillo known as Tinto Roriz  is one of the grapes making up Port/Porto.

HANDS Cabernet Sauvignon – Robertson, South Africa

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HANDS Cabernet Sauvignon – Robertson, South Africa

This recent discovery could easily become a staple at our house due not only to its rich taste but also its incredible price point. HANDS can usually be found for a little less than $10.00. I’ve been lucky enough to find it priced as low as $8.99 at one of my favorite shops in Asheville NC; The Asheville Wine Market.  I have also found it in the $10-11.00 range at local wine stores in Florida.

Originally introduced to this lovely wine by a neighbor and friend I have gone out of my way to buy it when I come across it.  It is reliable and a great everyday wine. Even better it can be shared with others without any concern over its affordability. Having said that I will have to share this with my wine snobbier friends [ OK friend non-plural 🙂 ] and see if I can actually get them to accept the fact once and for all that there are good $10.00 wines out there to be had.

I was not able to find much information about this particular wine on-line. That said, it does come from the wine region of Robertson; a South African up and coming wine region once known for its thoroughbred horses and now credited with producing good quality well priced wines. Should you go shopping for this one in particular do not be confused with all the different “HANDS” out there; 2 Hands, 14 hands, Purple Hands etc….

Lets give HANDS a much deserved hand, SALUD!

My notes: sweet dark fruit (raspberry, blackberry, plum, cherry)  tobacco, cedar, leather, coffee, pepper, minerality, earthy, GREAT with dark chocolate!

Notes on-line: Intense, Currant, Full-bodied

South Africa produced in the Robertson Valley by Excelsior, this Cabernet offers bold, intense black currant and plum flavors framed with toasty oak. It finishes smoothly. Enjoy it with red meats and hearty dishes.

My first time….warm and cozy with Drakenskloof 2009 Reserve Pinotage

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Drakenskloof

RESERVE PINOTAGE 2009 DRAKENSKLOOF SOUTH AFRICA

My first time with Pinotage, South Africa’s signature grape. I think I discovered a favorite varietal to add to the list. Better yet my first favorable discovery of 2012! This cross between French grapes Cinsault and Pinot Noir may be the perfect solution to those who may find todays popular Zinfandel too much of a sweet fruit bomb.  Its reserved power is impressive.

I think this wine had me at decanting….Is it possible a wine can make you feel warm and cozy? In 80 degree weather? A little bizarre I realize but that was my first reaction and note on this wine as I decanted and took in the aromas. “Warm and cozy” not fruit, oak, terroir, acidity but comfort. Never having had a Pinotage before this can almost only be described as attraction at first sight. I was not attracted to the bottle or the label   The name was somewhat exotic, its newness drew me but what was inside had me at first sniff.

Attained through the Wall Street Journals Wine Club but available through other sources on-line, this wine retails for $16.99.  Deep dark garnet red, light in viscosity,  dark fruit and the distant scent of wood move forward at decanting. This wine has incredible legs that just dangle artfully on your glass.  At 30+ minutes post decanting the taste and nose expands to become more peppery and woody with tobacco, leather, plum and yes, even ripening banana on the palate.

I am looking forward to the continuation of this relationship. Hopefully my future experiences with Pinotage will be as exciting as my first. As my wine loving friend of almost 30 years just happened to mention to me “it’s the romantic and passionate side of wine tasting that is the most important part”. Like a good friendship; this is one varietal I look forward to revisiting over and over.

SALUD!