Tag Archives: Mourvedre

Vinogram: Waterkloof Cape Coral 2015

For more information on Waterkloof from South Africa’s Western Cape visit waterkloofwines.co.za.

rose wines

Five Rosé Wines to Enjoy this Summer

The summer of rosé is in full swing! It’s an international love affair, with rosé wine being made around the world from a variety of different grapes.

Try one of these AG picks tonight:

Cune RosadoCune Rosado Rioja 2013
Rioja Alta, Spain

From CVNE (pronounced Coo-nay), a family owned and operated winery founded in 1879 in Haro, Rioja, this dry rosé is 100% Tempranillo. Produced using the saignée or bleeding method, the juice was removed from the grape skins and seeds after around 24 to 48 hours, resulting in a magenta-pink color. Floral aromas introduce flavors of strawberry, tart cherry and red currant.
$14, 14% alcohol by volume

Esporao Defesa RoséEsporão Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2013
Alentejo, Portugal

Established in 1973, Herdade do Esporão is a family-owned estate and winery that takes its name from the tower on the property that is thought to have been built between 1457 and 1490. This rosé is a blend of Aragonez and Syrah. The grapes underwent pneumatic pressing after a short period of skin contact. Bright pink in color with berry aromas, the wine has flavors of raspberry, cherry and Victoria plum, with a hint of mint on the refreshing finish.
$15, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Bridge Lane RoséBridge Lane Rosé 2013
North Fork of Long Island, New York

This wine comes from Lieb Cellars, founded in 1992 on Long Island’s North Fork. Lieb was the first winery on Long Island to plant Pinot Blanc, which has become their signature wine and makes up part of the blend in the Bridge Lane rosé. The 2013 wine is 63% Cabernet Franc, 21% Merlot, 8% Pinot Blanc, 5% Riesling and 3% Gewurztraminer. Light and easy to drink with a pretty pale pink color, the wine has flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and rose petal.
$18, 11.9% alcohol by volume

Cape Bleue RoséJean-Luc Colombo Cape Bleue Rosé 2013
Provence, France

The grapes for this wine from the noted French winemaker come from hilly vineyards near Salon de Provence, an area influenced by the nearby Mediterranean Sea.  It is a blend of 67% Syrah and 33% Mourvedre, and was made using the saignée method. Salmon-pink in color,  the aromatic wine will transport you to the South of France. Flavors of ripe strawberry, red cherry and rose are layered with subtle fennel and white pepper notes.
$14, 12.5% alcohol by volume

Houchart RoséDomaine Houchart Rosé 2013
Provence, France

Bought in 1890 by Aurélien Houchart, the 90 hectare estate near Aix-en-Provence and the foot of Mont Sainte Victoire has been consistently farmed since Roman times. Today it is owned by the Quiot Family and run by Geneviève Quiot, Aurélien’s great granddaughter. This Côtes de Provence rosé is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. This crowd-pleaser is pale peachy-pink in color, with delicate flavors of strawberry, loganberry and watermelon that culminate in a crisp finish.
$11, 12% alcohol by volume

 

Provence Rosé Continues to Impress

By Maxine Howard

Two years after a grand tasting of Provençal rosés prompted me to write “Rethink Rosé,” apparently many Americans have done just that. In 2013, U.S. imports of rosé wines from Provence increased by 40% over the previous year. Not only are we drinking more rosés from France, but we are also discovering new rosés by a number of California winemakers in the Provençal style using grapes traditionally blended by the French vintners.

And why wouldn’t we relish drinking these wines? They grab your attention with their gorgeous color, ranging from pale pink to salmon blush; they tantalize with aromas of flowers and tropical fruits; and they quench a summer thirst with their dry yet flavorful taste and a hint of minerality.

In their return to San Francisco for another tour in March, the Vins de Provence reinforced their stature as serious purveyors of rosé wines in the fragrant yet lean style. Twenty-one producers sampled their wines, showing a range of styles and flavors. Some of the differences reflected varying combinations of the traditional grapes use in Provence rosé: Grenach, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre, Tibouren, Carignan and Cabernet Sauvignon. Other differences resulted from the varying soil and climate conditions. And the final differences came from the sensibilities of the individual winemakers.

Here are some favorites from the tasting:

Chateau de PampelonneChateau de Pampelonne Rosé 2012
This wine from Les Maîtres Vignerons de Saint Tropez in Gassin is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Carignan, Tibouren and Mourvedre. The grapes grow in sandy soil on the St. Tropez peninsula next to the beaches. They are harvested early in the morning while they are still cool. They are macerated for just two hours before being pressed, and remain on sediment for two months.

The wine is pale pink and has floral aromas. The taste is well balanced with hints of tropical and citrus fruit and has a pleasant minerality on the finish. It would go well with fish and simple chicken dishes. But would taste just fine sipped by itself on the deck watching the sun go down. $19.99

Première de FiguièrePremière de Figuière Rosé 2013
Saint André de Figuière is a family-run producer located in La Londe-les-Maures. It is between the Mediterranean Sea and the hills of Provence. Beneath the top soil the ground consists of mica and schist, which the winemaker describes as fragile yet capable of producing wines with finesse. This rosé is composed of 50% Mourvedre, 30% Cinsault and 20% Grenache. That is a stark contrast with most of the area rosés in which Grenache predominates. Each variety is harvested and vinified separately before being blended.

This wine has a bit more blush than the Chateau de Pamplonne that I would describe as a pale salmon. The bouquet has more citrus than floral notes. On the palate one tastes peach and citrus as well as a little earthiness from the Mourvedre. The overall impression is of an extremely well-balanced, delicious wine. Because it is a little heartier, it should stand up well to seafood and fowl dishes.
$19.99

Chateau La MascaronneAnother wine I enjoyed at the tasting was Quat’ Saisons 2013 from Chateau La Mascaronne in Le Luc. Unfortunately, the winery did not have an importer at the time of the tasting. But the fascinating thing about the owner, an American from Indiana, is that he formerly owned and produced wine at the property now owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Readers will remember the Amateur Gastronomer’s review of Brad and Angelina’s Miraval Côtes de Provence Rosé last summer. Apparently, the couple were flying over the Miraval estate in a helicopter and were stunned by its beauty. They made a generous offer to buy, and the proprietor had to agree. Already owning a second property, he moved all of his wine-making operations to Chateau La Mascaronne and has continued producing wines under its label.

The rosé is a blend of Cinsault and Grenache. It has a wonderful floral aroma and controlled fruits with both a touch of citrus and a pleasant minerality on the finish. Robert Parker gave the 2012 a 91-point rating. The suggested retail price is $22. Let’s hope it finds an importer soon.

More Rosé Wines | White Wines | Red Wines

Rethink Rosé: A Taste of Rosé Wines from Provence

By Maxine Howard

The Provence Tasting Tour rolled into San Francisco in April to showcase rosé wines from the beautiful south of France. Nineteen wineries arrayed their offerings around the bar at the Bluestem Brasserie, demonstrating a range of hues from pale pink to deep salmon. As I made my way around the wines I encountered Jean-Jacques Breban, Vice President of the Provence Wine Council. I tried to get him to confess to a favorite though naturally he was diplomatic, saying, “they are all good, but all different.” While I might not have liked them all, they indeed were diverse.

The rosés of Provence are unlike those made in the United States. Here we tend to find fruitier wines that seem to straddle the line between white and red, an attempt to add fruit to a white wine. In Provence the ideal is “rosé sec” – dry rosé that blends the minerality of the soil with an aroma of the flowers that cover the countryside.

Producers in Provence use a variety of red grapes to make their wines. Most combine between two and four grape varieties, the most common being Grenache and Cinsault.

To make rosé wine the grape skins are removed before fermentation begins. According the Wine Council this results in wine with the character of a red and the crispness of a white.

Three of my favorites demonstrate the range of possibilities for rosé of Provence. Pétale de Rose from Château Barbeyrolles is made from Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvedre. It had a pale blush appearance and just a hint of fruit aromas. The taste was crisp with lean fruits, yet it also had a spiciness on the tongue.

The rosé from Château La Sauveuse is made from Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault. It had a peach tint and floral aromas that did remind me of the Provencal countryside in bloom. On the palate it showed a great balance of fruit flavors without being too fruity.

I also fell in love with the red wine from Château La Sauveuse. Made from Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, it wowed me at first sight. The color was a deep garnet that portended greatness. It had potent aromas of red fruits with smoky undertones. The ripe dark fruit flavors expanded on the palate. Well-structured with nicely balanced tannins, I recommend trying it if you find a bottle.

Cuvee 946 from Château Gassier is a rosé that incorporates Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Vieux Carignan and Cinsault. The wine had a beautiful apricot color and smelled of citrus and red fruits. The taste was wonderfully balanced with a subtle complexity I attributed to the variety of grapes used.

Any of these wines would make a lovely accompaniment to hors d’oeuvres on the patio in the late afternoon, or a dinner of seafood or pork.

In France rosé wines outsell white wines. After sampling the wines from Provence I can understand the allure.

Wine Trends for 2012

Broaden your wine horizons and stay ahead of the curve in 2012. The Amateur Gastronomer predicts what wine trends will be big in the new year.

The Return of Merlot

The much-maligned Merlot will be making its comeback in 2012! The grape and wine took a hit after the 2004 release of the movie “Sideways,” in which the main character Miles refuses to drink Merlot. In the years since the movie came out California winemakers have gone back to the drawing board, working with Merlot grapes to bring out their best qualities and flavors. The latest Merlots are better than ever so it is time you gave them another taste.

Box Wine

This isn’t your parents’ boxed wine (or that sweet stuff you drank in college). The new crop of cubed vino is offering some tough competition to bargain-priced bottles in terms of taste, convenience and cost. Brands like Santiago Station from Chile and Bota Box from California make easy to drink crowd-pleasing wines that are on par with other wines in the $7 – $9 bottle price range. A 3-liter box generally costs between $15 and $20 – pretty good when you take into account that the box contains the equivalent of four bottles.

Boxed wines are great for tailgating, parties and picnics, or for people who don’t want much more than a glass of wine a night. Because of the packaging the wine is not exposed to air – that means the wine can last for a month or so after you pour your first glass.

Wines from Patagonia

Argentina’s newest wine producing region is coming into its own with bold wines that are earning rave reviews. Vineyards are located in the province of Neuquén, about 680 miles southwest of Buenos Aires and just south of the province of Mendoza. The grapes grown are mainly Bordeaux and Burgundy varieties (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), as well as the lesser-known Tannat. For a taste of the high quality wines being produced in Patagonia try one from Bodega del Fin del Mundo or Bodega NQN.

Mourvedre

In 2012 it’s time to give Mourvèdre the recognition it deserves. The “M” in “GSM” blends (along with Grenache and Syrah), Mourvèdre can be outstanding when it is on its own. This red wine grape adds structure, tannins and dark berry flavors when blended, and produces a bold and intense wine as a single variety.

You’ll find Mourvèdre blended with other red wine grapes in southern France (like the Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape), and in central California (like Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County). Look to these regions for wines made entirely from Mourvèdre. Bandol, on France’s Mediterranean Coast, is the go-to place for exceptional Mourvèdre. You’ll also see it as a single variety in Spain, where it is called Monastrell. Additionally, Mourvèdre produces a red wine drinker’s rosé wine – aromatic and full-flavored, perfect for warm and sunny days.

Albariño

Give Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio a break this spring and summer. As the temperatures rise the white wine to drink will be the lesser known Albariño. This grape and wine come from the Rías Baixas region in northwest Spain. You’ll also find it in Portugal, where it is called Alvarinho. Albariño produces dry and fragrant wines that are high in acidity with moderate alcohol. It is the ideal summer white, pairing with anything from seafood and salads to picnics and afternoons at the beach.

Cork Alternatives

Now that the debate between natural corks and screw tops has effectively been settled, there’s less of a stigma on alternative wine bottle closures. This year look for the newest ways wineries are sealing their bottles, from glass corks to the plastic ZORK.

AG Pick: Domaine La Lorentine 2005

Châteauneuf-du-Pape may be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine produced in the south of France, yet it is just one of more than ten appellations in the Southern Rhône wine region.  Domaine la Lorentine comes from Lirac, the appellation that shares its eastern border with Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Though close proximity can mean a world of difference in taste, this red wine has a lot in common with its neighbors.  The family who in 2003 purchased the vineyards in Lirac has been producing wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape using the same techniques for many years.  Domaine la Lorentine is also made with three of Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s most common red wine varietals: Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

With its blend of 50% Grenache, 25% Syrah and 25% Mourvèdre, the 2005 Domaine la Lorentine is a well-balanced, medium to full-bodied mix of ripe fruit, earth and spice.

Deep magenta red in color, the wine has aromas of red and black fruits and smoke.  On the palate are flavors of ripe cherry, blackberry, plum and cassis that are rounded out by notes of dark chocolate, tobacco and black pepper.  The layered notes culminate in a lingering warm and round finish.  The wine is smooth and elegant with gentle tannins that give the wine a nice mouthfeel.

Pair the Domaine la Lorentine with lamb, roasted and grilled steak, hearty chicken and pork dishes and wild game meats.

A bottle of the Domaine la Lorentine 2005 costs $21.99.

14% alcohol by volume

Discover Temecula: Thornton, Wiens & Leonesse Wineries

Continued from Discover Temecula: Briar Rose Winery

After my introduction to California’s Temecula Valley at Briar Rose Winery it was time for lunch at Café Champagne.  The restaurant located at Thornton Winery serves contemporary fusion cuisine in a cozy French country setting overlooking the vineyards.  The best part is you don’t have to choose between food and a tasting of Thornton’s wines — you can enjoy a wine flight with your meal.

Thornton Winery opened in 1988 and produces a variety of white, red and sparkling wines.  I went right for the red wines and ordered the Zin Lover’s Flight.  This included the 2007 Old Vine Zinfandel from Cucamonga Valley, the 2007 Huis Vineyard Zinfandel from Temecula Valley, the 2007 Estate Petite Sirah from Temecula Valley and the 2006 Late Harvest Zinfandel from Cucamonga Valley.  My favorite was the 2007 Huis Vineyard Zinfandel, which was barrel aged for 22 months in 41% new American oak and 59% two year old French oak.  The wine had jammy blackberry and cherry flavors with cocoa and spice on the finish.

I also got to try the Sparkling Wine Flight which included Thornton’s NV (non-vintage) Brut, NV Blanc de Noirs, NV Cuvée Rouge and NV Cuvée de Frontignan.  All are made using the traditional Champenoise method.  I like my sparkling wines to be dry, so I found Thornton’s a little sweet for my taste.  Of the four I enjoyed the NV Brut the most.  It is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc with a small amount of Pinot Noir, with notes of golden apple, pear and creamy toast.

While the setting was lovely, the experience was marred by slow and uneven service, though there were only a few other tables filled.  Once I was able to get the attention of a server and order, the sparkling wines arrived flat.  The server was apologetic and brought out a new flight, but I found it odd that the restaurant would send out a poor representation of Thornton’s wines.  I hope I dined at Café Champagne on an off day and that this is not the norm.

After lunch I went to Wiens Family Cellars.  The winery was founded in 2001 by Doug Wiens and his brothers George, Jeff and Dave.

Wiens Family Cellars prides itself on its red wines.  And I could see why, after tasting some that ended up being my favorite from my visit to Temecula.  But first I started with a really nice white, the 2008 Solace.  Bright with nice floral, pear and citrus notes, the wine’s flavor matched the sun on its label.  The blend of 44% Viognier, 41% Chardonnay and 15% Roussanne was partially aged in French oak and on lees, adding creamy flavors of caramel and vanilla.

I then tried a variety of red wines including a Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel and a couple of blends.  My favorite of the single varietals was the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  It was smooth and spicy, with flavors of blackberry and plum.

My favorite red overall was the 2008 Domestique, a blend of 45% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 26% Mourvedre and 3% Sangiovese.  It was a delicious mix of black fruits and earth, with flavors of black currant, blackberries, plum, spice and leather coming together for a pleasing, lingering finish.

I ended the day with a few more whites and reds at Leonesse Cellars.  The winery was founded in 2003 and its name means “village of dreams.”  The tasting room is perched above the vineyard, offering great views as you sip.

Of their white wines that I tasted, my favorite was the 2008 Roussanne, which had delicate floral aromas and flavors of ripe lemon, apricot and honeysuckle.

On the red side I enjoyed the 2007 Cinsaut, 2007 Melange De Rêves and 2007 Limited Selection “Six.”  The light bodied 2007 Cinsaut reminded me of an Oregon Pinot Noir with its fresh cherry and strawberry flavors and a hint of vanilla and clove.

The 2007 Melange De Rêves is modeled after Rhône wines and is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsaut.  It was medium bodied with flavors of ripe raspberries, boysenberries, tobacco and black pepper.

The 2007 “Six” is so called because it is the sixth release in Leonesse’s Limited Selection Series line of wine.  It’s a blend of 85% Sangiovese, 11% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Merlot that was aged in small French and American oak barrels.  It had spicy flavors of plum and black cherry, rounded out by violet and eucalyptus.

I went sweet for my final wine with the 2008 Late Harvest Muscat Canelli.  It was rich without being syrupy, with notes of peach, apricot and honey.

With Temecula being home to more than 30 wineries, I barely scratched the surface during my one day trip.  I definitely plan to return to discover more.


Thornton Winery
is located at 32575 Rancho California Road and is open daily for tastings from 10am to 5pm (6pm on Saturdays).  (951) 699-0099

Cafe Champagne is open for lunch and dinner.  Reservations can be made at (951) 699-0088.

Wiens Family Cellars is located at 35055 Via Del Ponte and is open daily for tastings from 10am to 5pm.  (951) 694-9892

Leonesse Cellars is located at 38311 De Portola Road and is open daily for tastings from 11am to 5pm.  (951) 302-7601

For more information on Temecula Valley wineries visit www.temeculawines.org.

AG Pick: 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell

For Spanish red wine drinkers, Monastrell may not be as popular as Tempranillo but it definitely makes a delicious wine. If you enjoy red wine from France’s Côtes du Rhône region there is a good chance you’ve tasted Monastrell. There (and in the United States) this varietal is called Mourvèdre, and it is often blended with Grenache and Syrah.

Monastrell produces big, bold red wines that can be high in tannins and alcohol. Mixing it with other varietals helps to soften the wine and give it additional structure.

If you’re new to Spanish Monastrell, pick up a bottle of the 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell. This comes from Jumilla in southeast Spain. The wine is 100% Monastrell, which preserves this varietal’s wild and untamed characteristics. Twelve months in French oak barrels adds depth and texture.

When you pour yourself a glass you’ll immediately notice its striking dark cherry and purple color. On the nose are powerful aromas of red berries, black plum and smoke. The palate has juicy flavors of blackberries, currants and cherries that are enhanced by notes of dark chocolate, tobacco, black pepper and cedar. Ripe tannins give the wine a firm yet velvety mouthfeel, making for a long and pleasant sip.

The wine is high in alcohol at 15 percent. You’ll notice this if you try to drink the wine right after pouring it. I recommend decanting the wine or letting it open up for several minutes in the glass.

This full bodied wine demands a rich food pairing. Serve the Juan Gil Monastrell with grilled and stewed meat dishes, hearty mushroom and chicken dishes and game meats.

For its flavor and structure, the 2007 Juan Gil Monastrell is a great value at $14 a bottle.

More Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

AG Pick: Jean-Luc Colombo Les Abeilles 2007

When you try this red wine from Jean-Luc Colombo you’ll be buzzing about it too!

Meaning “the bees,” Les Abeilles comes from France’s Southern Rhone Valley. It is a Grenache-based blend that is velvety smooth and easy to drink.

Balancing out the flavor and texture of the Grenache are Syrah and Mourvèdre which provide structure, finesse and zesty spice notes.

In the glass, the wine is intense ruby-purple in color and has seductive aromas of berries, black currants and bay leaf. On the palate are lush flavors of blackberries, boysenberries and plum, with herbal notes of rosemary and thyme. On the spicy finish is a hint of black pepper and licorice. Well-rounded tannins and bright acidity make for a delightful sip.

The fruitiness of Les Abeilles makes this wine enjoyable on its own, though it’s rich enough to pair with lamb, pork, duck and cured meats.

A bottle of the 2007 Jean-Luc Colombo Côtes du Rhône “Les Abeilles” costs $12.

More Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

Highlights from the Grand Tasting

If you’re looking for more wines, beers, spirits and small bites than you could ever hope to taste in one afternoon you’ll find it at the New York City Wine & Food Festival’s Grand Tasting.

Grand TastingThis year’s event featured an impressive selection of familiar labels and brands as well as new or less well-known ones.  I had a great time revisiting some of my favorite wines from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival like Grgich Hills (their delicious whites and reds are always well balanced and complex), and discovering new treats like the fruity and floral Ume Blanc from Choya.

Here are more highlights from the Grand Tasting:

Chalk Hill 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and 2006 Chardonnay
Chalk Hill winesThe Russian River Valley winery showcased these two along with their great tasting Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but I was really drawn to their white wines.  The Sauvignon Blanc ($28) has ripe flavors of honeydew, lime, white nectarine and pineapple, with a refreshing and crisp finish.  The wine is 100% barrel fermented and aged on lees which adds depth and richness.  The Chardonnay ($40) is elegant in taste and structure.  It is barrel fermented with native yeasts and bottled without filtration.  Aromas of honeysuckle, ginger and white peach introduce creamy and complex flavors of pear, jasmine and a slight flintiness.  Rich and full-bodied with a satisfying finish, it’s a really pleasant wine to drink.

Pascual Toso MalbecPascual Toso 2007 Malbec
At $10 a bottle, this ripe red from the Maipu Valley in Argentina’s Mendoza region is a great deal.  It’s deep ruby red in color with aromas of rich red and black fruit.  Flavors of blackberries, black cherries, mocha, violet and white pepper culminate in a long and well-rounded finish that has just a hint of caramel.  Velvety soft in texture, this bold wine is a great match for grilled steaks and roasts.

Red wines from Cosentino Winery
I had tried Cosentino wines at a previous tasting and enjoyed all of them immensely.  Their simply named wines let the complex flavors speak for themselves.  THE ZIN 2006 ($30) is 97% Zinfandel (over 70% old vine) and 3% Petite Sirah, with grapes coming from Lodi, the Russian River Valley and Sonoma County.  It’s exotically spicy and rich, with intense flavors of blackberry and black pepper.  The CIGARZIN 2006 ($26) is a lush old vine Cosentino winesZinfandel blended from Lodi and Sonoma grapes.  Like THE ZIN, it’s aged for more than a year primarily in American oak.  This red is rich and well structured with a core of ultra-ripe blackberry and boysenberry with notes of cherry, clove and pepper.  The finish displays dense layers of boysenberry jam, cocoa powder and coffee.

FRANC 2006 ($22) is a spicy and smooth Cabernet Franc.  Flavors of ripe plum, black currant and clove are followed by sweet tobacco, cedar and a shot off tannin on the smooth finish.

The Poet 2005 is a delicious splurge at $75.  It’s a Meritage from the Napa Valley with 57% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot and 2% Malbec.  The Poet is rich and well balanced, with tart cherry and currant flavors up front and notes of spice, minerals and pomegranate that evolve into a long, spicy finish.

Red wines from South Africa
Spice Route PinotageSouth Africa is producing a lot of fun red wines right now.  By fun I mean bright, upbeat and fruit forward wines that are easy to drink and go well at barbecues and other social eating events.  One of the first red wines I tried at the Grand Tasting was the 2007 Spice Route Pinotage ($20).  It’s one of the tastiest Pinotages I’ve tried, with extremely muted leather and gamey notes that can turn many non-South Africans off to this varietal.  Full bodied with flavors of plum, blackberry and boysenberry jam, the wine has a hint of cedar and vanilla from 14 months in American oak barrels.  The fruit is balanced out with firm Wolftrap red blendtannins.

The fun extends to the blends — and I had a lot of fun tasting the 2008 Wolftrap ($11).  It’s 68% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre and 2% Viognier (this white wine grape is added to smooth out the tannins and bold flavors of the Syrah and Mourvèdre).  Silky in texture, this wine is full of black fruits and berries with a hint of violet and spice on the finish.  Both reds are big in alcohol, with about 14.5%.

Golden Sun Pumpkin Pie cocktail from Tommy Bahama
As a fan of pretty much anything that contains pumpkin, I couldn’t resist trying this cocktail made with Tommy Bahama rum.  It’s a tasty fall treat, sure to spice up any gathering.  Here’s the recipe so you can make it at home:

Tommy Bahama rum cocktails1 ½ parts Tommy Bahama Golden Sun Rum
1 part pumpkin spice syrup
splash of cream
graham cracker crumbs
cinnamon stick

Shake Golden Sun Rum, pumpkin spice syrup and cream over ice and strain into a glass rimmed with graham cracker crumbs.  Garnish with a cinnamon stick.  For more seasonal cocktails like the Apple Pie Martini and the Peppermint Martini visit tommybahamarum.com.

And while we’re on the topic of pumpkin-flavored drinks, Blue Moon was offering a taste of its seasonal brew, Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale.  Made with the flavor of vine-ripened pumpkin it’s full bodied and smooth, with a hint of clove, nutmeg and allspice.  It wasn’t overly sweet like other pumpkin brews I’ve tasted; overall I found it refreshing and enjoyable to drink.

Choya Ume Blanc
Ume BlancThis wine is made from Japanese ume fruit (pronounced “wu-meh”), which is similar to apricots and grows on trees.  Gently sweet with an elegant touch of acidity, the Ume Blanc reminded me of a Riesling but with more white floral notes.  It’s a great aperitif or can be enjoyed with fresh fruit or desserts.  Like a sweet riesling it’s low in alcohol, containing 7%.  A 500ml bottle costs about $15.  If you can’t find it at your local liquor store, try an Asian market.

For more articles from the New York City Wine & Food Festival click below:
Bubbles and Bivalves at the Oyster Bash
Tour de Beef at DeBragga and Spitler
Organic Wines for Less than $20