South Africa


You may say, “FK, as a person who writes about wine, you receive an ungodly amount of samples for review. Why would you go out and buy wine at retail?” Because, Dear Reader, I have scads of chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon on hand, but I grow weary of those wines, especially in their manifestations fashioned in California, where wines made from those grape varieties tend to be over-oaked, stridently spicy, high in alcohol and generally feel as if they were manufactured by committee. For dinner, especially, I require wines that are more charming and elegant, balanced and integrated, true to the grape, yet individual, a little eccentric, a wine with lots of spine and a bit of shimmer. That’s where the Flotsam & Jetsam “Stalwart” Cinsault 2017, Western Cape, South Africa, comes into play. Made from dry-farmed, old bush vines by Chris and Suzaan Alheit at their Alheit Vineyards winery, this lovely, focused wine perfectly satisfied my needs. Interestingly, the Alheits concentrate their efforts on white wine, primarily chenin blanc from carefully selected vineyards. They utilize native yeasts, no new oak and, generally, little oak at all. The Flotsam & Jetsam “Stalwart” Cinsault 2017 displays a totally transparent cherry-ruby hue with a touch of brick-red at the rim; aromas and flavors of red and black cherries and currants are permeated by notes of cherry skin and stem, briers and brambles, violets and plums. Surging acidity cuts a swath on the palate, keeping the wine lively and engaging in its clean, faceted structure and aura of spare, sleek lightness finishing with a hint of graphite edge. Really charming, and, above all, it just tastes damned good. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through 2020 or ’21. Excellent. About $24, a local purchase.

Imported by Broadbent Selections, Sonoma, Calif.

The title of this post needs no elaboration, but I’ll inform you that prices range from $7.50 to $20. It’s a diverse group of wines. Seven from France; 6 California; 5 Italy; 2 each Argentina, Australia, Chile and Oregon; 1 each Bulgaria, Germany, Portugal and South Africa. (Welcome, Bulgaria!) By genre or hue: 1 sparkling wine; 3 rosé; 10 red and 16 white. As a matter of fact, the 30 wines on this roster would make a great restaurant wine list. So, enjoy! In moderation, of course.

With one exception, these wines were samples for review.
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Albert Bichot Bourgogne Aligoté 2015, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $16.
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Amalaya Malbec 2016, Salta, Mendoza, Argentina. With 10 percent tannat, 5 petit verdot. Excellent. About $16.
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Domaine Bousquet Gaia Tupungato White Blend 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. 50 percent chardonnay, 35 pinot gris, 15 sauvignon blanc. Excellent. About $18.
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Domaine Boyar Traminer 2016, Thracian Valley, Bulgaria. Very Good+. About $11.
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Calcu Reserva Especial Rosé 2017, Colchagua Valley, Chile. 90 percent malbec, 10 percent petit verdot. Excellent. About $13.
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Canevel Prosecco Superiore Valdobbiadene de Cartizze, nv, Veneto, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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CK Mondavi Sauvignon Blanc 2017, California. Very Good+. About $7.
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Fossil Point Pinot Noir 2016, Edna Valley, California. Excellent. About $20.

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Garofoli Macrina 2017, Le Marche, Italy. 100 percent verdicchio. Excellent. About $14.
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Grochau Cellars Melon d’Bourgogne 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. 175 cases. Excellent. About $18.
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Heinz Eifel Riesling Kabinett 2017, Mosel, Germany. Very Good+. About $12.

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Inama Vin Soave 2017, Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy. Excellent. About $15.
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Jim Barry “The Cover Drive” Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Coonawarra, Australia. Excellent. About $20.

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Justin Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Central Coast, California. Excellent. About $16.
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Les Hauts de Lagarde 2015, Bordeaux blanc, France. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 40 percent semillon. Excellent. About $14.
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Domaine Lafond Roc-Épine 2017, Tavel, France. Excellent. About $19.
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The Larsen Projekt Grenache Rosé 2016, North Coast, California. Excellent. About $18.

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Left Coast Cellars “The Orchard” Pinot Gris 2016, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $18.
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Marchesi di Gresy Monte Aribaldo 2016, Dolcetto d’Alba, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Monte da Pecequina 2015, Alentejo, Portugal. 25 percent touriga nacional, 23 percent syrah, 22 aragonez, 20 alicante bouschet, 10 cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $19.
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Paul Blanck Pinot Blanc 2016, Alsace, France. Excellent. About $16.
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Paul Jaboulet Aîné Le Paradou 2015, Beaume-de-Venise, France. 75 percent grenache, 25 percent syrah. Excellent. About $16.
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Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling 2016, Eden Valley, Australia. Excellent. About $18.
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Poliziano Lohsa 2015, Morellino di Scansano, Italy. 85 percent sangiovese, 15 percent ciliegiolo. Excellent. About $15.
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Romain Chamiot Apremont 2016, Vin de Savoie, France. 100 percent jacquere grapes. Excellent. About $18.
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Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Excellent. About $14.

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Steele Wines Pacini Vineyard Zinfandel 2015, Mendocino, California. Excellent. About $20.
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Veramonte Carmenere 2017, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Very Good+. About $11.
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Yves Guegniard Domaine de la Bergerie La Cerisaie 2016, Anjou, France. 80 percent cabernet franc, 20 percent cabernet sauvignon. Excellent. About $18.
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Zocker “Paragon Vineyard” Grüner Veltliner 2016, Edna Valley, California. Excellent. About $20.
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Looking for a wine to drink with a chilled rice noodle salad with leftover roasted chicken, cucumber, red pepper, basil, mint and cilantro, dressed with a mixture of soy sauce, lime juice, fish sauce, chili paste, toasted sesame oil and honey, I opened a bottle of the Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2017, from the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. Yes, well, that was a big hit, both as a wine itself and for how beautifully it accompanied the dish. The color is pale greenish-gold; notes of hay and heather, apple and spiced pear, almond blossom and quince segue seamlessly onto the palate; a few minutes in the glass bring out hints of flint, cucumber, celery seed and an intriguing briery element that Winnie-the-Pooh would call “gorse.” The wine displays lovely clarity and tone, and, as some wines do that at first seem simple and direct, it gradually reveals more depth and dimension in fruit character and structure, while never losing touch with its essential buoyancy and appeal. Racy acidity keeps you coming back for another sip. 13.5 percent alcohol. A delicious aperitif, or serve with Asian-inspired noodle dishes, vegetarian preparations or roasted or grilled seafood. Excellent. About $14, representing Great Value.

Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. A sample for review.

I suspect that while many readers may find the annual roster of “50 Great Wines” interesting, they don’t necessarily find it essential. Today’s post, however — “30 Great Wine Bargains of 2017” — I hope will be greeted with expectation and gratitude. Who doesn’t love a bargain, especially when the price is attached to a wine that performs above its weight and class? Prices on this list range from about $7 to $20. Twenty-five of these selections rate Excellent, with the next five rated Very Good+, and each one offers a hefty and distinguishing serving of quality. The breakdown by genre is 15 white, 13 red and 2 rosé. By country or state: Italy 7; California 6; France 5; Spain 3; Germany 2; and one each from Argentina, Chile, New Zealand, Oregon, Portugal, South African and Washington. Whatever, it’s not the statistics that count but the wine inside the bottle. Many of these models I would recommend for buying by the case to enjoy in the months ahead, in moderation, of course.

These wines were samples for review.
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Alain de la Treille Chinon 2015, Loire Valley, France. 100 percent cabernet franc. Excellent. About $19.

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Armas de Guerra Mencia Rosado 2016, Bierzo, Spain. Rosé of 100 percent mencia grapes. Excellent. About $13.

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Aveleda Vinho Verde 2016, Portugal. 70 percent loureiro grapes, 30 percent alvarinho. Very Good+. About $7-$10.

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Averaen Pinot Noir 2015, Willamette Valley, Oregon. Excellent. About $20.
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Weingut Binz Nackenheimer Pinot Gris Kabinette 2015, Rheinhessen. Excellent. About $14.

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Camino Roca Altxerri 2015, Getariako, Spain. 100 percent hondurrabi zuri grapes. Excellent. About $16.
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Chelsea Goldschmidt Merlot 2015, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County. Excellent. About $19.

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Contrade Negroamaro 2015, Puglia, Italy. Very Good+. About $10.

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Chateau La Freynelle 2015, Bordeaux Blanc. 60 percent sauvignon blanc, 30 percent semillon, 10 percent muscadelle. Very Good+. About $13.
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Maquis Gran Reserva Carménère 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile. Excellent. About $20.
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Marchesi di Gresy Barbera d’Asti 2015, Piedmont, Italy. Excellent. About $18.

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Masseria Li Veli Verdeca 2015, Valle d’Istria, Apulia, Italy. 90 percent verdeca grapes, 10 percent fiano minutolo. Excellent. About $18.

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Luli Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Arroyo Seco, Monterey County. 504 cases. Excellent. About $18.

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Mercer Estate Sharp Sisters Red Blend 2015. Horse Heaven Hills, Washington. 29 percent cabernet sauvignon, 27 percent syrah, 18 percent merlot, 14 percent petit verdot, 10 percent grenache, 2 percent carignane. Excellent. About $20.
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Mt. Beautiful Sauvignon Blanc 2016, North Canterbury, New Zealand. Excellent. About $16.
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Olema Pinot Noir 2014, Sonoma County. Second label of Amici Cellars. Excellent. About $20.

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Olianas Vermentino 2016, Vermentino di Sardegna. Excellent. About $15.

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Paul Durdilly “Les Grandes Coasses” 2016, Beaujolais, France. Excellent. About $15.

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Principe de Viana Garnacha Roble 2015, Navarra, Spain. Very Good+. About $11.
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Renwood Premier Old Vine Zinfandel 2014, Amador County, California. With 6 percent petit sirah, 5 percent barbera, 4 percent syrah. 50-to-103-year-old vines. Excellent. About $20.
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The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, Western Cape, South Africa. Very Good+. About $11.

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Castel Sallegg Gewürztraminer 2015, Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy. Excellent. About $16.
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Una Seleccion de Ricardo Santos Semillon 2016, Mendoza, Argentina. Excellent. About $16.
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St. Urbans-Hof Nik Seis Wiltinger Alte Reben Riesling 2015, Saar Valley, Germany. Excellent. About $18.
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Tenuta Sant’Antonio Monti Garbi 2014, Valpolicella Superiore Ripassa. Excellent. About $19.
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Serra Lor Rosato 2016, Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardenia. An unusual rosé blend of 50 percent cannonau, 25 percent monica, 20 percent carignano and 5 percent bovale grapes. Excellent. About $15.

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Steele Wines Pinot Blanc 2016, Santa Barbara County, California. Excellent. About $19.
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Chateau Tire Pé “Diem” 2012, Bordeaux. 100 percent merlot, no oak. Excellent. About $12.

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Valley of the Moon Pinot Blanc Viognier White Bland 2015, Sonoma County. 85 percent pinot blanc, 15 percent viognier. Excellent. About $18.
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Vincent Crémant de Bourgogne Brut nv, Burgundy, France. Excellent. About $20.

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So here we are, friends, the last post in the 11th edition of “12 Days of Christmas with Champagne and Sparkling Wine.” It’s Twelfth Night, traditionally a time of revels and misadventure, though of course I devoutly hope that no misadventure befalls you. Tomorrow is the Feast of the Epiphany, a word that means “made manifest” but which we nowadays think of as implying some sort of revelation, as in “When I was watching ‘The Big Sick’ last night I had an epiphany about the meaning of life.” Well, in any case, good luck with that. Today I offer four sparkling wines, an actual and true Champagne and examples from Bordeaux, South Africa and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I hope, as always, that this series is entertaining and educational, and I wish you all a Happy New Year and prosperous 2018. Peace and love will triumph yet. Maybe.

These products were samples for review.
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Crémant de Bordeaux must be one of the least known products of that august region. A good introduction to this genre is the Celene Brut, nv, Crémant de Bordeaux, a blend of 50 percent semillon, 30 percent muscadelle and 20 percent cabernet franc, made in the traditional method of aging in the bottle on the lees. It’s very clean, fresh and crisp, displaying a pale blonde hue and an excellent array of tiny bubbles; it’s all lemon and limestone with a trace of peach and grapefruit, quite delicate and charming in its plangent effervescence, very dry in its chalk-flinty minerality, a bit austere and high-toned on the finish. 12 percent alcohol. Perfectly appropriate for sipping while cooking dinner or watching the “News Hour” on PBS. Very Good+. About $16.
Imported by Superb Wines International, Pensacola, Fla.
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The Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut 2015, Western Cape, South Africa, is a blend of 48 percent chardonnay, 49 percent pinot noir and 3 percent pinot meunier; information about time aging in bottle (en tirage) was not available. The color is pale gold with tarnished silver highlights enlivened by myriad tiny glinting bubbles; notes of green apples and roasted lemon unfold to spiced pear and flint; a sort of seashell brininess frames the palate with pert limestone minerality, while crisp acidity adds verve and drive, leading to a citrus and stone-fruit finish. 12.6 percent alcohol. Lots of charm. Very Good+, edging close to Excellent. About $25.
Imported by Quintessential, Napa, Calif. The vintage date on the label image is one year behind.
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Champagne Gremillet Brut, nv, is a blend of 70 percent pinot noir and 30 percent chardonnay, derived from four or five vintages and using 20 percent reserve wines; it aged 22 months in the bottle on the lees. It’s as pale platinum blond as Jean Harlow’s hair, with effervescent both notable and refined; this is all smoke and steel, an elegant and fine-boned Champagne that unfurls hints of pear and quince, acacia and heather and a chiseled line of flint-and-chalk minerality; it’s crisp and vibrant, exhibiting high-toned nerve and presence on the palate, and a sleek, glacial finish. It’s the refreshing and bracing Champagne you take a glass of before meeting your opponent on the dueling ground at dawn. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $40.
Imported by Esprit du Vin, Syosset, N.Y.
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Gran Moraine Brut Rosé, nv, Yamhill-Carlton District, comes from a Jackson Family Wines property in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. It’s a blend of 53 percent chardonnay and 47 percent pinot noir, aged in bottle on the lees for two years. It displays a very pale coral-salmon hue and a dynamic array of tiny bubbles; notes of orange zest and lime peel are woven with hints of macerated raspberries and touches of red currant and almond skin. It’s dry, crisp and lively on the palate, offering the energy of acid and a scintillating limestone element, yet overall embodies elegance and delicacy. It is, in fact, delightful. 12.5 percent alcohol. Excellent. About $50.
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The term “steen” in the name of today’s wine, The Royal Old Vines Steen Chenin Blanc 2016, Western Cape, is the name that the chenin blanc grape traditionally goes by in South Africa. Made all in stainless steel tanks, the wine brings forward all the engaging qualities of chenin blanc at a remarkable price. The color is pale gold; the impression is immediately bright, clean and fresh, with scents of lime peel and pear, a slightly tropical hint of guava and gardenia, and in the background the grape’s signature notes of hay and heather. A lovely texture deftly balances a crisp edge with modest lushness to balance flavors of spiced peach and pear with seashell and limestone minerality and a fairly bracing saline finish. 13 percent alcohol. This wine is a product of Riebeek Wine Cellars, where the winemaker is Eric Saayman. Drink as a tasty aperitif or with light fish and seafood dishes. Very Good+. About $11, marking Wonderful Value.

Imported by Kysela Pere et Fils, Winchester, Va. A sample for review.

brutzero
The Graham Beck Brut Zero 2011, from the Robertson district of the Western Cape in South Africa, was made from 100 percent chardonnay grapes and spent five years in bottle on the lees; it was disgorged in April 2016. This sparkling wine displays a pale gold color and a steady upward drift of glinting bubbles; it’s deeply spicy, savory and saline, with a foundation of limestone and seashell buoying notes of roasted lemons and pears, almond skin and grapefruit pith, jasmine and just a hint of peach. Lean and lithe on the palate, it features pleasing weight and presence and dynamic acidity to keep it flowing smartly across the tongue; some moments in the glass bring out elusive touches quince and cloves. All told, though, this is a sparkling wine planted firmly in the smoky, sinewy, steely camp. 12.5 percent alcohol. Drink through 2019 to ’21. Excellent. About $25.

Imported by Maritime Wine Trading Collective, San Francisco. A sample for review.

I know the name Ernie Els and that he is a well-known golfer — I wonder why we don’t say “golf player” — mainly
big easybecause he comes up in crossword puzzles, where there is an insatiable need for three-letter words. The South African Els is not the first star golfer to create a wine label; Australian Greg Norman came first, though to my knowledge his name never crops up in crossword puzzle clues. Els’ new label, “Big Easy,” refers not to the city of New Orleans, as one might suppose, but to Ernie Els himself, so nicknamed because of his carriage and the beauty of his effortless swing (I had to look that up). The golfer launched his wine enterprise in 1999. A portion of the profits from the Big Easy wines will benefit the foundation that Els and his wife started for research into autism. If you happen to be hankering for an, ahem, easy-drinking white wine, look to the Ernie Els Big Easy Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa, 100 percent varietal and made all in stainless steel. The color is very pale gold; well-integrated aromas of hay, pear, quince and jasmine open to notes of heather, bay leaf and a refreshing aura of seashell minerality and brininess. That appealing aspect of sea-breeze freshness and salinity washes over the palate, bringing subtle touches of roasted lemon, peach and spiced pear; vivid acidity keeps the wine crisp and lively, while a bracing limestone element pierces the finish. 13.5 percent alcohol. Drink now through the Summer of 2016. Winemaker was Louis Strydom. Very Good+. About $17.

Imported by Terlato Wines International, Lake Bluff, Ill. A sample for review.

Boy, the weather certainly has improved down in my neck o’ the woods. The temperature is reaching 75 this afternoon, and the sky is blue and clear as a bell. I see on the weather map that it’s going up into the mid 80s in southern Florida and California. Time, then, to break out a winsome, uncomplicated little white wine to sip while you’re out soaking up rays or relaxing on the porch or patio or perhaps while you’re in the kitchen rustling some dinner together. The wine is The Beach House Sauvignon Blanc 2014, from South Africa’s Western Cape region, and yeah, it’ll remind you of lying around on a beach or make you wish you were basking on one. It’s a blend of 75 percent sauvignon blanc and 15 percent semillon, made all in stainless steel for freshness and crisp immediacy. The color is very pale straw-gold, with a shimmer of light green; penetrating aromas of lemongrass, lime peel, grapefruit and mango are suffused with notes of figs and a kind of sunny-leafy quality. The brisk acidity and scintillating limestone elements start right at entry and continue to bring liveliness to the wine all through its passage of pineapple, peach, roasted lemon and hint of thyme through your happy mouth; an intriguing hint of grapefruit bitterness brings pizazz to the finish. The alcohol content is a nicely manageable 12.5 percent. Drink up and don’t worry your pretty little head about a thing, just nibble on some shrimp or chicken salad, deviled eggs, cucumber sandwiches; you get the idea. Very Good+. About $10, a Terrific Value.

Imported by Pacific Highway Wines & Spirits, Petaluma, Calif. A sample for review.

A brief entry into Weekend Wines Notes today, featuring a pair of whites from South Africa and a pair of tasty reds from wineries in Lodi. This is the 11th post of 2015 on this blog and the 1500th post since December 2006.
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First, two white wines from the Bellingham estate in South Africa, founded in 1693, making it old by any standards.

Bellingham “The Bernard Series” Grenache Blanc Viognier 2013, Paarl Region. 14% alc. 75% grenache blanc, 25% viognier. Pale gold color; very spare, fresh and clean; notes of orange zest, jasmine and spiced pear; bees’ wax, dusty thyme and rosemary; a few moments in the glass bring in beguiling hints of crushed violets, lemon balm and crystallized ginger; crisp and lively but with a paradoxical air of summery languor; a bit savory and saline; lovely stone fruit flavors imbued with limestone, almond skin and grapefruit rind. Irresistible. Excellent. About $22.

Bellingham “The Bernard Series” Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2013, Coastal Region. 14.3% alc. 100% chenin blanc from vines averaging 43 years old. Brilliant medium gold hue; peach and guava with touches of hay, lanolin, cloves; boldly ripe, generous, with notes of honey and loam, lime peel and lemongrass; sumptuous in the mouth but riven by bright acidity and slightly detectable spicy oak, particularly on the finish; beautifully layered and balanced but admits some floridness and flamboyance in its make-up. Excellent. About $22.

Imported by Pacific Highway Wine and Spirits, Petaluma, Calif. The bottle image is one vintage behind.
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And two delicious reds from wineries in Lodi.

Lang & Reed Cabernet Franc 2012, North Coast. 14.4% alc. 100% cabernet franc. Medium ruby color; pungent, spicy, a little feral; black and red currants and plums with a touch of blueberry and a hint of black olive and thyme; clean, lively acidity and moderately dense but supple tannins provide structure; it’s quite dry but delectably drinkable. Now through 2016. Very Good+. About $27.

Estate Crush Bechthold Vineyard Cinsault 2012, Lodi. 100% cinsault grapes from a vineyard planted in 1886, among the very oldest in California. 100 cases. Brilliant medium ruby color; red cherries and currants, hints of cloves and leather; touch of wild berry; slight herbal note; mild tannins but penetrating graphite minerality; vibrant acidity; spare, lithe and close to elegant. Now through 2016 or ’17. Very Good+. About $26.
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