Tag Archives: Pinotage

Wallet-Friendly Red Wines for Fall

Looking for a new great value wine to try this fall? Try one of these three reds:

Esporao Monte Velho RedHerdade do Esporão Monte Velho Red 2012


Set a place at the dinner table for this medium bodied, food-friendly wine from the Alentejo region of Portugal. The wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Aragonês (40%) and Trincadeira (35%) along with Touriga Nacional (20%) and Syrah (5%). Vibrant berry aromas introduce flavors of cherry, raspberry, and cassis. The fruit is layered with white pepper, clove and subtle toasted oak. If you’re not familiar with the wines of Portugal, Esporão offers an excellent introduction.

$10, 14% alcohol by volume

Rib Shack RedRib Shack Red 2012

South Africa

With its smoky and earthy flavors, this wine from the Western Cape in South Africa is the perfect pairing for barbecues and tailgates. The wine from Douglas Green is 60% Pinotage and 40% Shiraz. Intense tobacco, leather and wood smoke aromas and flavors are supported nicely by black cherry, boysenberry and plum. Silky tannins give the wine a smooth mouthfeel, and the finish is satisfying with lingering dark berry and mocha.

$10, 13% alcohol by volume

Dead Bolt Winemaker's BlendDead Bolt Winemaker’s Red Blend 2011


Juicy and jammy, this wine can warm you up as the temperature drops. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah and Shiraz from California by Australian winemaker Philip Laffer. Black plum, baked cherries and sweet tannins make for a bold first impression. This is followed by a silky finish that has a touch of nutmeg. From the flashy label to the full flavor, this wine is anything but shy.

$14, 13% alcohol by volume


More Red Wines | White Wines | More Under $20

Wines for Celebrating Valentine’s Day

Whether you prefer to say “I love you” with something sparkling, sweet or pink, here are wines that are perfect for celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Demarie Birbet Brachetto
Roero, Italy
$20, 6.5% alcohol by volume

Lightly sparkling, a touch sweet and a deep magenta hue make Brachetto an ideal sip on Valentine’s Day. This wine comes from the Piedmont region in northwest Italy and is made entirely from the Brachetto grape. Like Prosecco, Brachetto gets its bubbles from the Charmat method.

The Demarie Birbet Brachetto has flavors of ripe raspberry, strawberry and cherry, with floral notes of rose and violet. Enjoy the Brachetto as an aperitif or with dessert.


Biltmore Pas de Deux
Monterey & Arroyo Seco, California
$19, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The Biltmore Estate, a popular destination in Asheville, North Carolina, produces a range of wines using grapes grown at the estate and sourced from California. The Pas de Deux, a gently sweet Methode Champenoise sparkling wine, is made entirely from Muscat Canelli grapes from California’s Central Coast.

Meaning “a dance for two,” the Pas de Deux is meant to be shared with someone special. It has round flavors of orange, lemon, white raspberry and wildflower honey, with small and energetic bubbles. Enjoy the Biltmore Pas de Deux as an aperitif or with lightly sweet or cream based dishes.

Click here for more sparkling wine suggestions


Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer 2011
Alsace, France
$30, 14% alcohol by volume

If it’s flowers you enjoy giving or receiving on Valentine’s Day, then Gewurztraminer is the grape for you. This white wine is extremely aromatic – take a sniff and you may be able to smell honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia and rose.

The gentle sweetness in the Domaine Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer is nicely balanced with mouth-tingling acidity. Flavors of Meyer lemon, tangerine and a hint of white chocolate culminate in a pleasing finish that has a lingering touch of orange blossom honey. Oysters are a great pairing with the Zind Humbrecht Gewurztraminer, as are other shellfish, seafood, and spicy dishes.


Domaine de Triennes Rosé 2011
Var, France
$18, 12.5% alcohol by volume

The French know love – and rosé wine. This rosé from Provence is a partnership of two of Burgundy’s great estates: Aubert de Villane, co-owner of Domaine Romanee-Conti and Jacques Seysses, founder of Domaine Dujac. The wine is mainly made from Cinsault, with some Grenache and a dash of Merlot.

Light peachy-pink in color, the Triennes Rosé is elegant and aromatic with red fruit and floral notes. Round flavors of wild strawberry, raspberry and a hint of herbes de Provence come together in a clean, dry finish.

Mini Rosé 2010
Languedoc, France
$11, 11% alcohol by volume

This rosé from southwest France is made from the Cinsault grape. Pale salmon in color, the Mini Rosé has delicate flavors of white raspberry, strawberry and red grapefruit with refreshing acidity. Enjoy this wine with fish, grilled chicken, salad or pasta. Bonus: with only 87 calories per glass, you won’t feel guilty consuming a few extra pieces of chocolate.


Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Pinotage 2011
Wellington, South Africa
$20, 13.5% alcohol by volume

Smoky and seductive, the Dark Lady Pinotage is sure to spice up your Valentine’s Day. This red wine from South Africa offers a unique alternative to Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon or Zinfandel.

Intense aromas of smoked meat, leather and black fruit introduce a palate of blackberry, black cherry, black pepper, mocha and pipe tobacco. The wine has a silky mouthfeel, with gentle tannins and a long, satisfying finish. This wine demands to be served with a steak.

(Not So) Scary Wines for Halloween

Give your palate a scare this Halloween with some frightening wines.

There’s really nothing spooky about these wines — they just may not be as familiar to you as other reds and whites.

So go ahead, try something new. You may be scared how much you enjoy them!


Bull’s Blood

Bull’s Blood is the English translation of Egri Bikavér, a red wine from Hungary. This type of wine gets its name from a 16th century legend about a small group of Hungarian soldiers who withstood a siege of the fortress at Eger by 150,000 invading Turkish troops. The Hungarian soldiers were served red wine for motivation. Word spread among the Turkish troops that the wine was mixed with bull’s blood — the reason for the Hungarians’ inexplicable strength. The rumor demoralized the Turks, and the siege ended.

Ten different grapes are allowed to make up Egri Bikavér, though regulations state it must contain at least three. In general Egri Bikavér is a big and sometimes gamey red wine that has red and black fruit flavors. It pairs well with beef, game and hearty foods. Not all wine shops carry Hungarian wine so your best bet is to call ahead and ask.


Though Pinotage doesn’t have the most favorable reputation in the United States, you shouldn’t be scared to try this South African variety.  Pinotage was created in the 1920s by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage).

Selecting a bottle can be a trick or a treat. Done well, Pinotage can have flavors of chocolate, coffee, red fruit and smoke. Done poorly, Pinotage can taste gamey with notes of burnt rubber and rusted metal. The Amateur Gastronomer recommends the 2010 Dark Lady Pinotage, a lush and layered wine that shows just how good this grape can be.

Grüner Veltliner

There’s nothing scary about this white wine grape from Austria — except perhaps trying to pronounce it. This varietal produces food-friendly dry wines that have citrus and apple flavors with high acidity and minerality. Grüner Veltliner can pair with shellfish, seafood, poultry, spicy foods and Asian cuisine so it is perfect for whatever you’re serving at your Halloween party.

Grüner Veltliner is growing in popularity outside of Austria and is now grown in California, Oregon and the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Orange Wine

If you want to match the colors associated with Halloween, pick up a bottle of Orange Wine. This is white wine made in a similar way to red wine — skins from the white wine grapes are left in the juice, producing a darker color. The wine tends to be more intense in flavor than other white wines with notes of orange or tangerine and spicy ginger and sandalwood. Though rare and hard to find in most wine shops, Orange Wine is most commonly produced in Italy and (more recently) California.


It too may be scary to pronounce, but it is sweet to drink. Skip the Halloween candy and enjoy a glass of Trockenbeerenauslese (TBA) instead. TBA is a German wine term that refers to the ripeness level of the grape. The riper the grape, the higher concentration of sugar; more sugar means a sweeter wine. TBA is the highest category in the German and Austrian classification system and the wines are intensely sweet. TBA wines are typically made from Riesling or Welschriesling. Look for it (or the less sweet Auslese) in the Germany, Austria or dessert wine sections of your local wine shop.

Happy Halloween and happy sipping!

AG Pick: Dark Lady Pinotage 2010

Pinotage, whether it deserves it or not, is one of the most notorious New World grapes. Those who have tasted this South African red wine either love it or hate it, with many American wine drinkers falling into the latter category.

South Africa’s signature varietal, Pinotage was created in the 1920s by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault (known locally as Hermitage). Done well, Pinotage can have flavors of chocolate, coffee, red fruit and smoke. Done poorly, Pinotage can taste gamey with notes of burnt rubber and rusted metal.

Forget what you’ve heard or previously tasted. Just try the Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage 2010 and you will never think the same way about Pinotage.

This red from Doolhof Wine Estate is soft, supple and elegant.

Doolhof Wine Estate is located in the Bovlei Valley northeast of Wellington. Its name, meaning labyrinth, is meant to evoke images of the valley’s topography. Doolhof Wine Estate is a member of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative, a partnership between the South African wine industry and the conservation sector.

A lot of care was put into the Dark Lady Pinotage during and after fermentation to tame the wine. Wood played an important role in softening the wine and enhancing the desirable flavors; malolactic fermentation took place in oak and the wine spent time in heavily toasted French oak barrels.

While most Pinotage is big and bold like a Petit Sirah or Zinfandel, the Dark Lady Pinotage is lighter and more nuanced, like a fuller-bodied Pinot Noir.

The wine lures you in with intense aromas of cherry, chocolate and spice. The taste unfolds gradually, with flavors of black plum, cherry and boysenberry mixed with chocolate, coffee, white pepper, licorice and cedar. It is velvety in texture with a long and satisfying finish.

Lush and layered, the Dark Lady Pinotage is a real surprise — and a treat. Before you make up your mind about Pinotage you must give this wine a taste.

A bottle of the Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage 2010 costs $20.

alcohol 13% by volume

Earlier: What’s the Deal with Pinotage?

More Red Wines | White Wines | 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