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!


All About Rhone Wines – my column at

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!

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


Tuella Douro – Symington Family Estates

Symington has been making killer authentic Port in Portugal for over a century, and this one of their entries in the new category of dry red table wines from that region. Since about 1995, Port makers have been adapting to changing tastes in the market – not by planting Cabernet like everybody and their uncle – but by creating their own style of table wine. They use the same grape varieties and vineyards that are used for Port, invested in brand-new equipment, and have created full-bodied wines that are friendly to the modern palate, yet distinctively Portuguese.

Tuella (2011) Douro, Portugal – $7

Photo0363Color: purplish-black, almost as dark and dense as a Petite Sirah.

Aroma: spicy, oaky, and earthy – you can smell the Port heritage right away. There’s some dark plummy fruit underneath as well.

Taste: reminds me of an old-vine Zinfandel or a Grenache, with lots of spice, some chewiness in the mid-palate, and then a finish that’s long, but softer than you’d expect. The fruit is most noticeable on the back of your tongue, and it shares a lot of similarities with Ruby port in the flavor profile.

Highly recommended: this is a great way to experience a new wine region for under $10, and it will pair quite well with dry-rubbed barbeque, big grilled steaks, rich cheeses, shish kebab, or leg of lamb. I’ll be laying some of this down for grilling season, and I expect it to age well over the next 3-5 years.

Villa Cerrina Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan on a temporary assignment (arranging a short-term lease, getting packed, etc. is a big part of the reason I haven’t blogged much in the last 2 weeks). Fortunately there’s a Trader Joe’s here where I can stock up on food & wine. I need to do some price comparisons, but I believe that Ohio and Michigan are usually priced about the same. I also have a recommendation from my friend Patty about a great wine store which turns out to be less than a mile from my office. I’ll be reporting on that shortly.

Today’s wine in a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, which is an easy-drinking varietal red from the south-central portion of Italy’s east coast, overlooking the Adriatic Sea. Don’t confuse this wine, made from the Montepulciano grape, with the sub-district of Chianti known as “Vino Nobile di Montepulciano” – the US equivalent would be Portland, Oregon vs. Portland, Maine. Many people refer to the Tuscan wine as just “Vino Nobile” to prevent any ambiguity. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is what I call my “training-wheels red”; if you’re stuck on whites and want to branch out, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a good first step; it’s low in tannin, has a soft, fruity mouthfeel, can be enjoyed without food, and isn’t too heavy. Plus it’s not hard to find a very respectable bottle in the $10 range.

I’m popping this open with a simple pepperoni, mushroom, and onion pizza.

Villa Cerrina (2012) Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy – $5

Photo0357Color: ruby verging on purple; dark for a Montepulciano.

Aroma: a little earthy and spicy, then lots of fresh plum and cherry fruit.

Taste: relatively full up front, but not over-heavy. More fruit, plus a little licorice and truffle earthiness. The finish is just a little stemmy; I need to look up the 2012 vintage report to see if there were ripening problems with the harvest.

This is a fair introduction to Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, but I was disappointed in the finish. You can rapidly graduate from this into other producers from the same region, as well into other light-bodied red wines such as Pinot Noir and Merlot.