Tag Archives: South Africa

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.

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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!