Experienced winemakers are worth following

April 24, 2021

I had the opportunity to sample several South African wines from Sadie Family Wines, one of Swartland, South Africa’s most prominent producers.

Palladius 2018 was winemaker’s art blended of Chenin Blanc, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Semillon, Semillon Gris, Palomino, Viognier, Clairette Blanche and Verdelho from 17 different vineyards. This was my first adventure into a wine with so many possibilities. Lovely nose of  apple, lime, peach, dried herbs, damp earth and a leesy/yeast hint. A rich, minerally palate with slightly elevated acidity repeats the citrus and peach, and adds in some floral notes supported with a beeswax smoothing mouthfeel. Although it is a bit pricey at $130, I’m rating it 94 points. This white will improve and age at least 10 years. I’m recommending it for the adventurous as a remarkable look at how wine chefs can excel. A second selection from Sadie was their 94 McD/$80 Die Ouwingerdreeks Skurfberg White 2018. The price surged when Tim Atkin, a generous rater, wrote it up at 100 points. A problem with all of Sadie’s wines is that they are difficult to find due to shipping restrictions. South Africa currently makes Gov. Art Carney and his cronies look like free traders. Here is an excellent Tim James article from last August covering all of their terrific wines and the reasons we in the USA are overpaying for them: MacArthur Beverages in D.C. has availability and the tasting informs we will be seeing more soon. Few show wine that is not for sale. 

CVNE, Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana, is one of the oldest and most famous Rioja producers. Current winemaker Maria Larrea has presided for 24 years. She has a pristine reputation. Many readers are alert to CVNE’s wide selection of lovely reds, but how many have tried their whites? CVNE’s Monopole Blanco Seco is 100 percent Viura (aka Macabeo in most other regions). Viura is a chameleon-flavored grape best described as fresh, floral and aromatic when harvested early and aged in stainless steel, but when completely ripened, the resulting wine is weighty, honeyed and nutty after being aged in oak. That description was Bidenized for your edification. Monopole is also unoaked. Of note to me, although many writers rated it north of my 88 points, users on Winesearcher rated it only 1 of 5 stars. I think that indicates that my enjoyment of buttery, oaky whites is more in tune than the more nouvelle drift toward drier, high-acidity mouth-puckerers. This trend reminds me of those too-large tasting events of too-young, highly tannic reds where reviewers are raving and the less-educated consumers are looking like youngsters after their first sip of alcohol, scratching their heads and wondering what all the fuss is about. In USA, as a blanket observation, we drink wine too young and too cold.  Those who enjoy tart, acidic, medium-bodied, seafood-friendly whites should give Monopole 2020 a try; McD 87 under $14. I much prefer the 90-point Monopole Clasico Blanco 2017, $29, a consistent 89-90 McD. An interesting side note gleaned from Forbes, Monopole is a resurrection of a label produced since 1915. They asked former winemaker Basilio Izquierdo (32 years) if he would like to consult. Not only did he jump up, but he offered to do so for free. Ya think he enjoyed his career? CVNE insisted on paying him. Kudos to all.

Long time since I recommended an Oakville/Napa Cab/To Kalon Vineyard wine. Schrader Cellars Double Diamond Oakville Cab 2017 is sourced from two of the most sought-after vineyards’ grapes, Beckstoffer’s To Kalon and Georges III. Although this isn’t world-famous 95-96-point Schrader’s RBS or CCS, or Beckstoffer To Kalon, it ain’t nuttin to sneeze at and doesn’t cost $400-plus. It is also proof that the flooding in 2017 did not impact their specific production. The chef du vin is Thomas Rivers Brown. He is terrific and also makes $150-$350 Cabs for Revana, Maybach, Gemstone and Outpost, among others. Ready now, DD will cellar at least seven years, 91 McD plus a price point under $75. Many would kill to have a second label like it. My notes: DD 2017 Dark crimson, bouquet of plums, blackberries, and barrel spice, vanilla and tobacco hints. Medium to full body, appropriate acid/tannin frame, plum, blackberry and barrel notes repeat on the palate; finishes cleanly. Ready to drink but will improve. Those who enjoy Cab, have cash and a cool space should back up the truck on this. I’ve seen cases on sale at under $770.

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