"A vine bears three grapes – the first of pleasure, the second of drunkenness and the third of repentance."

- Anacharsis, Scythian philosopher, 6th Century BC, Inc.

Just a Taste - Five Wineries to Whet Your Palette in South Africa

by Ripley Daniels

It’s time to put South Africa on your bucket list of world wine regions. While South Africa’s wine industry may seem like a relatively new player on the world stage, it has a long and storied past dating back more than 350 years. Like so many things in South Africa, apartheid greatly reduced the wine makers’ opportunities to trade and innovate. However, since apartheid’s end in 1994, South Africa’s wine producers have rapidly risen back to international prominence.

In 1659, Jan van Riebeeck, the founder of Cape Town, bottled the first locally produced wine as part of his duty managing a supply depot for the ships of the East India Company. van Riebeeck’s successor, Simon van der Stel, took it upon himself to bring serious wine making to the region and bought land outside of Cape Town, establishing Constantia in 1685. Approximately 100 years later, it was Constantia wines that led a surge in the popularity and production of South African wines.

The five wineries listed below are but a tiny sampling of South Africa’s rich wine culture. They are all within a short drive of Cape Town, and represent a cross-section of South Africa’s best known wine regions. In a pinch, you could knock these off in a day and a half, but who would want to? The scenery, history, food and the world class lodging conspire to encourage a more leisurely pace. In fact, each region warrants its own visit, so take these suggestions as a starting point and chart your own course.

  1. Steenberg Vineyards – Constantia
    Modern, glamorous and sprawling, Steenberg is also one of the oldest wine farms in Constantia. You’d be forgiven for feeling intimated, but the friendly staff and generous tastings quickly dissolve any apprehension you might feel in what is arguably one of the most important South African vineyard today. They even offer tastes of older vintages that are seldom made available at other wineries. We highly encourage taking advantage of Steenberg’s restaurants and hotel. The most recent Great Wine Capitals Best of Wine Tourism Award winner, and located in the suburbs of Cape Town, Steenberg is not to be missed.
  2. Vergelegen Estate – Stellenbosch
    Perhaps the most widely regarded international destination of South African wineries, in what has become the most important wine region, Vergelegen plays host to heads of state and celebrities alike. Although grapes were completely absent from the property for a time, 10 years after the first 1992 vintage, Vergelegen began earning a wide array of local and international awards. Though Vergelegen hosts many exciting events, its gardens, monumental camphor trees, library and historic homestead invite guests to wander in quiet contemplation. Beware the entrance fee, though most visitors determine a trip is well worth it.
  3. Charles Back Fairview – Paarl
    Home to the Fairview, Goats do Roam and La Capra brands of wine, Charles Back’s casual style, humor, and passion for living are well evident to every guest of the winery. Of course, for many, the Goat Tower is the main draw in this, the quirkiest of the larger wineries. However, underestimating Fairview as just another mass marketing juggernaut would be a mistake. If crowds bother you, try visiting at off-peak mornings, or book a rare-varietals tasting in the Beryl Back Room. Fairview proves that fine cheese and wine do not need to be wrapped in a layer of pretension for maximum enjoyment.
  4. l’Ormarins Wine Farm – Franschhoek
    With such jaw-dropping views, it hardly seems right to retreat inside. Cultivated right up onto the precipitous slopes of the Groot Drakenstein mountains, l’Ormarins is more than a great winery. The personal project of Johann Rupert, international luxury brand mogul, l’Ormarins is home to the Franschhoek Motor Museum and Drakenstein Stud farm, run by Johann’s wife, Gaynor. Expect to be shuttled into the estate for a formal sit-down tasting. Sundays, you can just drop in for informal tastings at the reception hall.
  5. Klein Roosboom – Durbanville
    A local favorite for its laid back style, intimate and friendly service, Klein Roosboom exemplifies what it means to be a great boutique wine farm. You’ll have to call ahead for tastings by the winemaker herself, Karin De Villiers, or you can drop in midday on Saturday. The opposite of a tourist trap, here, you have the opportunity to gain a real connection to the person who makes the wine. Karin is committed to hand-crafting all the wines herself, made from grapes grown by her husband, Jean. With no intention to grow the operation, Karin’s only focus is quality. It’s truly special to be a part of her dream.

You may have noticed no reference to specific wines for each winery. In honor of South Africa’s penchant to capture the best of their countless micro climates, it doesn’t seem appropriate to peg each winery with a particular grape or style. While cooler and hotter areas are known for specific varietals, as are granite or sandstone soils, often these stark differences exist on the very same property. For that reason, South Africa is making headway, not just in terms of a wide array of varietals, but as bridge between Old and New World styles. Come have a look and a taste. You won’t be left with any singular impression of what South African wine really is – only how great it can be.

About the Author
Ripley Daniels is an editor at Without the Stress, a passport, travel visa, and immigration advisory firm located in Los Angeles.

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RV Camping to New Mexico Wineries

By Joe Laing, El Monte RV Rentals

When you consider there are more than four dozen wineries in New Mexico, as well as great RV campgrounds throughout the state, RV camping to New Mexico wineries may just be your most delightful vacation yet!

No matter which region of New Mexico you enjoy most, there are vintages waiting to enchant. And that’s not all…regional wine festivals ensure that wine loving RV travelers come to New Mexico year-round.

Here’s just a taste of the wine tours possible when RV camping in New Mexico. Choose your favorite region and make plans to explore the abundant natural beauty and award-winning vineyards of New Mexico.

Central New Mexico RV Wine Tour
Start your Central New Mexico RV wine tour in Albuquerque to experience a region rich with scenic vineyards. Casa Rodeña Winery invites visitors to taste a wide selection of wines hand-crafted by the Calvin family. Gruet Winery, easy to reach on the Pan American Freeway, is another Albuquerque vineyard you’ll want to visit.

The cities of Corrales and Bernalillo, just north of Albuquerque, offer wine connoisseurs the chance to visit several Central New Mexico wineries in one day. Milagro Vineyards and Winery, on Ella Street in Corrales, welcomes you to taste and purchase five world-class wines. Matheson Wine Company and nearby Corrales Winery are only two more of the delightful offerings waiting in this fertile region.

A bonus on this journey to the wineries of Central New Mexico is the marvelous scenery in all directions. Surrounded by mountains and steeped in high-desert color, the Albuquerque/Rio Rancho area is always picturesque. RV campgrounds such as Enchanted Trails RV Park on Route 66 will make your journey to find the best wines in this region a pleasure.

Northern New Mexico RV Wine Tour
RV travelers who love Taos, New Mexico and towns like Chama and Farmington near the Colorado border simply must investigate Northern New Mexico’s wineries. The Wines of San Juan Vineyard in Blanco is a feast for the senses. Surround yourself with rustic charm, breathtaking San Juan River scenery and more than a dozen boutique wines by spending a day on the grounds.

A quartet of vineyards between Santa Fe and Taos highlight both the fertile river valleys of Northern New Mexico and the genius of area vintners. Treat yourself to Black Mesa Winery, Los Luceros Winery, Vivac Winery and La Chiripada Winery, each showcasing fascinating wines and New Mexico hospitality.

And when you’re ready to rest, Santa Fe area RV campgrounds are waiting with all the amenities you expect. You may find yourself tempted to extend your stay, once you’ve experienced the joys of the Northern New Mexico Wine Region. See here for a list of New Mexico campgrounds.

About the Author
Thank you to Joe Laing of El Monte RV for providing us with this guest blog post. Joe Laing is the Marketing Director for El Monte RV Rentals. For other great RV camping vacation ideas see the Monty’s Musings RV Camping Blog or the new Monty’s RV Vacation Photo / Picture Gallery.

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November 2010 Wine Events

Heading into the holiday season things start to slow down a bit on the wine festival / wine event front. There are only a couple of multi-day events on tap for November:

  • Nov 12 – Nov 14: Great Wine Escape Weekend – Monterey, CA
  • Nov 17 – Nov 21: The San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival – San Diego, CA

Some others of note:

  • Nov 13: Northwest Food & Wine Festival – Portland, OR
  • Nov 13: Half Moon Bay Food & Wine Fare – Half Moon Bay, CA
  • Nov 20: Thomas Jefferson Wine Festival – Forest, VA

For complete listings of wine events see our Wine Event Calendar.

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Boston Globe Tastes Wines for $12 and Under

I am a big believer in inexpensive value wines. I purposely put in the word inexpensive. While I understand that a truly great, once-in-a-lifetime, wine might be a tremendous value at $100, most of us do not drink expensive wine. Most Americans live and drink in the $20 and down range, and truth be told, most are really $15 and down. So I greatly appreciate when a major publication puts forth the effort to taste and rate inexpensive wines.

Today’s Plonkapalooza in the Boston Globe is just such a tasting effort. The Globe tasted 50 wines all at $12 or less for a 750ml bottle (the most expensive wine tasted was $16 for a liter – the equivalent of $12 for 750ml). Check out their findings:

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Excellent Box Wine Merlot from Italy - Poderi Zanusso

It has been a while since I cam across a new good box wine. I was very pleased to stumble upon the Poderi Zanusso Sant’Andrat Venezia Giulia Rosso (NV). I actually first had it by the glass in an Italian restaurant. It was only after I tasted it and indicated that I liked it that they told me that it was a box wine. Fortunately they have a companion retail store where I purchased a couple of boxes ($30 for a 3 litre box).

The wine has a rich red color and very heady nose. There is nice fruit with a bit more tannin than one typically sees in a wine based on the Merlot grape giving it a strong backbone . The wine pairs well with red meat, roasted chicken and classic Italian food. I would highly recommend this wine. At the equivalent of $7.50 per bottle, I would also categorize this one as a best buy.

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October 2010 Wine Events

The Fall is always a big time for wine events. This October is no exception. The weekend of October 15 – 17 is particularly busy with numerous events around the United states, including:

  • Harvest Wine Weekend – Paso Robles
  • Shenandoah Valley Hot Air Balloon & Wine Festival – Millwood, VA
  • Miami International Wine Fair – Miami, FL
  • Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival – Edgartown, MA
  • Town Point Virginia Wine Festival – Norfolk, VA
  • Delaware Wine & Beer Festival – Felton, DE

There are events every weekend of the month. Check out our wine event calendar for more October and Fall wine events.

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Santa Cruz Mountain Winegrowers are Getting into the Wine Festival Biz

Graphic for Half Moon Bay Wine FareThe Santa Cruz Mountain Wine Growers will be host their first Half Moon Bay Food & Wine Fare on November 13, 2010. The festival will feature:

  • Wine by the taste, glass, or bottle from over 20 Santa Cruz Mountains Wineries.
  • Food from Half Moon Bay restaurants

The event will run from noon to 4:00 PM at the Oceano Hotel & Spa, Half Moon Bay Harbor Village Shops. Admission is free, but a wine glass and tasting ticket are $4.00.

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The New Wine List at Zephrus

Zephrus Restaurant is located in the Mansion House at 9 Main Street in Vineyard Haven. As with most Vineyard Haven restaurants, Zephrus has a new wine list for the first time ever. I finally got the opportunity to get over to Zephrus to check it out. So here is the rundown of their wine list:

  • There are 25 wines on their list – 3 sparkling, 10 white, 10 red, and 2 desert (Port)
  • The wine comes from Argentina, California, France, Germany, Italy,  New Zealand, Oregon, and Portugal
  • By the glass prices range from $7 to $14
  • The markup appears to be somewhere between 2 and 2.5 times retail

It is a nice wine list with a little something for everyone. It could benefit from a rose or two, but the prices are reasonable and the selection adequate. I enjoyed the 2008 Darcie Kent Chardonnay that I had with my meal. It was a nice toasty chardonnay that wen well with the Down Island Turkey Gobbler sandwich (fancy name for a club sandwich with Cranberry-Orange Chutney) that I had.

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Looking for a Wine Festival In Virginia?

If you are looking for a wine festival in Virginia this fall you are in luck. There are almost too many to list. Fortunately Virginia Wine Tastings Guide: Savor the Season on (September 23, 2010) gives a nice listing of upcoming Virginia wine festivals for the end of September and October.

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How About Combining a Hot Air Balloon Festival with a Wine and Music Festival?

Well you can do just that in Alamogordo, New Mexico this weekend. Alamogordo will be home to the 19th White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational as well as the 4th Tularosa Basin Wine and Music Fest this weekend (September 18-19, 2010).

The Balloon Festival begins right at sunrise and lasts until the balloons come down, usually 3 hours later.

The Wine and Music Festival will begin as noon each day and features wine tasting, live music, local artists and vendors, and food.

What better way to say goodbye to summer than a going to both a balloon festival and a wine and music festival? If your travels take you to New Mexico this weekend, check it out…

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