The Royal Shiraz-Cabernet

This is a blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cab, from the Swartland region of South Africa – the breadbasket of the country, as well as a notable producer of wine and olive oil. It’s named in honor of The Royal Hotel, which vies for the title of South Africa’s oldest inn.

The Royal Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon (2009) Swartland, South Africa – $9

Photo0371Color: dark purplish red, shading almost to black in the center.

Aroma: brambly red and blue fruit notes, with some smoke and spice underneath.

Taste: quite Australian in style, with loads of jammy fruit, warm spice, and a hefty finish. Good acidity up front and in the mid-palate makes this a good choice for food, especially anything with tomato- or vinegar-based sauce.

I could see this with a big plate of Memphis barbeque. Quite a nice wine for the money – you’d be hard-pressed to find a comparable Shiraz blend from Australia at even 50% higher in price. Recommended.

Winetasting report: Trader Joe’s, Ann Arbor

Stopped into the Ann Arbor store for their Saturday afternoon tasting – a typical crowded weekend afternoon in a Trader Joe’s! They had three wines on tasting, and I’d only had one of them before, so I ran the flight.

Villa Sonia Pinot Grigio (2012) Venezia, Italy – $6

More body than typical for a Pinot Grigio, with lower acidity and a full mouthfeel. This is something to have with food, not as a cocktail-hour drink. A simple risotto or some poached fish would be good pairings.

Valreas (2012) Cotes du Rhone Villages, France – $7

I tried the 2011 vintage of this wine just a few months ago, and I have to say I prefer it. The 2012 bottling over-the-top on the oak, and you don’t get nearly the amount of fruit as in the 2011. Skip the 2012.

Revelation Cabernet Sauvignon (2011) Pays d’Oc, France – $6

This was really tight. The Pays d’Oc region is mostly too hot to make good, expressive Cabernet – much like the Central Valley of California. I found this to be a little stemmy as well. Not recommended.

Secateurs Chenin Blanc

I was able to do some shopping at Village Corner in Ann Arbor today, which some of my Dayton buddies have raved about. They have quite a nice selection, and I’m sure I’ll be back. In particular, they have some South African wines I haven’t run across before, and I’m trying one of those half-dozen or so tonight.

The name of the winery, “Secateurs”, comes from the French word for the ubiquitous garden shear, which is an everyday tool in the vineyard for pruning, cutting away diseased growth, and harvesting. The Swartland region lies almost due north of Capetown, inland from the Coastal range, and is a major grain producer in the lowland areas, in addition to the dry-farmed vineyards along the ridges and mountain slopes.

Secateurs Chenin Blanc (2012) Swartland, South Africa – $15.99

Photo0369Color: a pale, brassy yellow.

Aroma: the nose has a combination of Golden Delicious apple and citrus fruits, with just a touch of floral notes.

Taste: crisp and refreshing, with good acidity and hint of residual carbon dioxide. Taste notes are predominately citrus up front, with apple and some musky floral notes on the finish. This has the light body typical for the grape, and is balanced just until the very finish, when it gets a touch acrid.

Decent enough, but for this price range it ought to have some more mellow fruit notes on the end.

Evodia Garnacha

One of my favorite old-vine Grenache bottlings from Spain, with loads of pepper and a big, full, finish. This is a great alternative to old-vine Zinfandel or Australian Shiraz blends. I’m drinking this with a spicy pizza – and here’s the recipe!

  • Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough
  • Trader Joe’s Eggplant-Garlic spread
  • 4-cheese Italian blend
  • Pepperoni
  • Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • Artichoke hearts, diced
  • Kalamata olives, halved

Photo0367Let the dough warm up at room temperature for about an hour. On a floured board, spread it out with your hands until it’s about 14″ diameter. Transfer to a pizza baking pan (non-stick, with perforations to let the steam). Put on a thin layer of sauce, several handfuls of cheese, and the toppings. Bake in a pre-heated 450º oven for about 25 minutes.

Evodia Garnacha (2010) Calatayud, Spain – $13

Color: lighter than you expect; just like old-vine Zin, this isn’t opaque but rather a dusky reddish-purple.

Aroma: black pepper, white pepper, nutmeg, and dried fruit.

Wine-007Taste: easy-drinking up front, then transitioning to a tougher, spicier, tannic profile the farther back it goes on the tongue. Plenty of spice notes, including some dried red pepper, and good acidity throughout. A great wine for spicy pizza.

Recommended. This is a great example of old-vine Grenache and deserves a place in your cellar. It’s best when it’s 3 to 7 years old.

Albero Monastrell

Monastrell (aka Mourvedre aka Mataro) is a fun grape that you normally see in a blend, but the Spaniards bottle it varietally. I’m opening this with sweet-and-sour chicken over fried onions and potatoes.

Albero Monastrell (2012) Jumilla, Spain – $6

Wine-006Color: purple-red, but not as dark or opaque as a Petite Sirah.

Aroma: dark cherry fruit with some spicy notes; quite inviting.

Taste: round and smooth, with cherry and other berry fruit and a nice spicy, tannic finish. Good acidity throughout, too, so it’s an excellent food wine. A nice bottle to have on hand with something a little spicy, or with a pork roast. Recommended.

Ambasciatore Silvanum Chardonnay-Raboso

A very unusual and interesting blend from northeastern Italy. This is 70% Chardonnay and 30% Raboso Bianco – a crossbreed of the ancestral red Raboso variety with Marzemina Bianca to produce a dusky-skinned white grape. I’m having this with some baked flounder. I got this as a Christmas gift and thought now would be a good time to pop the cork.

Wine-016Ambasciatore Silvanum Chardonnay-Raboso (2009) Veneto, Italy – $10 to $20.

Color: very dark for a white; this reminds me of an Amontillado Sherry, and I could swear there’s the tiniest hint of red in there as well.

Aroma: Apple and citrus blossoms, plus a little toastiness. I can’t find any details online, but I suspect this saw some malolactic fermentation in oak.

Taste: Loads of juicy apple, both fresh and dried fruit, along with some soft vanilla and hazelnut. The Raboso contributes a firm, tannic kick at the end. This is a surprisingly complex wine for the price, and it big enough to go with a hearty risotto, mackerel, or pork. Recommended!

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All About Rhone Wines – my column at DaytonLocal.com

This month’s article is about the wines of the Rhone Valley, and the many similar blends from Australia, California, and other parts of the world. Some great info in here about geography, grape varieties, food pairing, and bargain-hunting!

http://www.daytonlocal.com/blog/food/rhone-style-blends.asp

Check it out, and go to the “about me” page to see my past columns as well.