2009 Zarafa Sauvignon Blanc

2009 Zarafa Sauvignon BlancPrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Bordeaux Etc.

What They Said:

I was able to track down Mountain River Wines, who is responsible for making this one, on the intrawebs but their site still highlights the ’08 bottling. They have yet to post any notes on the latest vintage. From previous versions it appear the grapes for this one are sourced from the West Cape. Given we have nothing concrete here is what the bottle has to say: “Mountain River Wines proudly presents the 2009 vintage Sauvignon Blanc. This fresh, crisp white wine has a beautiful nose of figs and melon.”

What I Think:

I’ve had mixed success with the Pinotage from the same maker but had been hearing good things about this one so I decided to give it a go. As I took my first sip I realized that this was likely my first wine from the ’09 vintage. Guess it is true, time does fly when you are having fun. So what was on offer?

The nose was crisp showing lemon notes. The palate started slight tart but not to the point of puckering (which for the record I like). After the initial impression cantaloupe and lemon flavors emerged to dominate the mid palate. Perhaps there were some gooseberry notes as well? I always think so but I just added buying some to mentally record their smell to my list of wine resolutions for 2010 (post coming shortly…) so I’ll be sure next time. The finish shows a balanced acidity with lemon flavors leading to a stony/flinty ending that lasts for some time.

For $3.99 this is a nice, value priced quaffer suitable for any occasion. That said, I think it could really excel when paired with cold shellfish. I know I’ll be buying more. If you decide to grab a bottle, or have previously, please let me know what you think in the comments below…

Rating: Buy It

2008 Zarafa Pinotage

2008 Zarafa PinotagePrice: $3.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Mt. Global LLC

What They Said:

hmmm, not much of an authorative description to be found. I emailed the importer and will update it I hear back… For now let me reference what Wikipedia has to say about Pinotage which is the following: “Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety. It was bred there in 1925 as a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut. It typically produces deep red varietal wines with smoky, bramble and earthy flavors, sometimes with notes of bananas and tropical fruit, but has been criticized for sometimes smelling of acetone.”

What I Think:

On the nose you initially get light tannin followed by sour notes before everything goes dark. A bit of Jekyll and Hyde. On the palate I find dark fruit, tobacco, but most of all smoky. The smokiness remains with me throughout this entire wine experience; literally from beginning to end. A nice dry finish is also part of the equation.

When drinking Pinotage it is difficult to articulate what you are experiencing.  This would typically reflect the fact that you are drinking a unique offering.  The majority of the time this alone would be enought for me to recommend for all to give it a try. Here I see a trap. It would be better for me to recommend something that truly reflects this varietal than something that may turn you off to it forever. That said; let me explain my approach to new varietals at TJ’s. I give them a whirl, if I remotely like them I try to find a bottle between the $10-$20 price point that I can use as a baseline and move from there. That allows me two things. 1) I get a better idea of what the varietal is really about (as much as you can via two bottles) and 2) can compare quality versus cost on that spectrum.

With that in mind, if you grab this one make sure you grab a more expensive sidekick as well; perhpas this Warwick Estate. As for the Zarafa it should be a piece of the overall equation. Which Pinotage would you pair up with it?

Rating: 12th Bottle

btw, just noticed this is my first 2008!

2003 Mountain River Pinotage Shiraz

Price: $6.99 @ Trader Joe’s imported by Mount Global Wines

What They Said:

Per my3loves “In the glass: Dark and completely opaque. Ruby-lit highlights when you hold the glass up to the light

Scent: This wine smells strongly of fermentation and slightly musty–like walking through forest with a thick ground covering right before it rains. There is a definite perfume of dark berries (blackberry, cherry, and maybe currant?). The scent is powerful and forceful–even with my glass sitting next to my computer about a foot away from my nose, I can still catch a whiff of berry and pleasant mold.

Taste: Heavy and rich, almost “thick” tasting. More of that mustiness in the taste as well–I think immediately of rich cheeses like blue cheese, gorgonzola, and roquefort. It’s not an unpleasant taste, but not always one I’d want in a sipping wine. The individual berry flavors aren’t as prevalent in the taste as in the smell, but the effect is still fruity. Very smooth, not a lot of tannins (that puckery flavor present in a lot of younger wines). The overall taste is quite bold. It really coats the entire tongue uniformally. There’s no spiciness–it really “sits” on the tongue and lingers a long time after you swallow a mouthful.”

What I Think:

This is 50% Pinot/50% Shiraz and apparently from the same makers as Zarafa which I remember from TJ’s some time ago. Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. This blend “combines the fruit characteristics of Pinot Noir with the hardiness of Cinsault”. I have had a number of Pinotages that I have quite enjoyed so am always on the lookout for these. I would have thought it strange to blend a Pinot derivative with Shiraz had I not come across some interesting efforts in this area while in Asutralia. So curious I was when popping the cork. What I found was a nose full of must, on the palate it was full and there was some forward dark fruit with that mustiness, almost smokey, as a backbone. The taste lingered in the mouth, not sure if it was pleasant or not but it sure was there. This is worth a try from someone, if it finds the right palate it could be quite a deal for that person. Alas for me, the hunt for value continues…

Rating: Skip It