I spent three months in the Western Cape of South Africa working a harvest and immersing myself into an African wine story. The goal was to narrate my own wine adventure. The timing was perfect, I escaped from my corporate American narrative just in time for harvest season in the Southern Hemisphere. This was definitely one of life’s bigger decisions for me. My rationale, I could always return to my ordinary story however the opportunity and fearlessness to live my dream as an adventure story may not return. My dream was to learn, to absorb and also to give back in a wine life. To help manifest this dream I wrote down three soul feeding objectives: work a harvest, volunteer and study wine.
Out of all the countries in the Southern Hemisphere South Africa was my number one choice for this adventure of a lifetime. I had previously visited the popular wine region Stellenbosch and was familiar with South African Culture and the wine community. South Africa is a beautiful place where people unite through past experiences. It’s rich in culture and budding traditions, especially in the wine industry. To be transparent, I especially love it because it’s the only place in the world where diversity is prominent in all aspects of the wine world. Workers in the vineyard, the cellar, the tasting room and sommeliers at world class restaurants, people are exceling in all shades which offered a perfect framework for my African wine story.
Now let’s go, take a virtual trip with me and live a South African wine story.
Part 1 of 3 - Harvest & Volunteering
I landed in Cape Town in March full of excitement and ready for whatever wine adventures were soon to come. A couple days later I eagerly reported for work at DeToren Wine Farm. I worked three weeks at DeToren, each day the team was surprised to see me back. Harvest is no walk in the park. Although the days were long and tiring, working harvest was a magical experience. I loved every moment! From picking and sorting grapes, to using every muscle in my body to break through the hardened yeast caps during punch downs, the repetitive pump overs to mix wine and move fermenting juice from one tank to another, and even the spotless cleaning required after every process, the narrative to my carefully crafted wine adventure was unfolding into a soul feeding experience. Every day seem to be filled with good people and better wine. One of my most memorable experiences at DeToren was working the sorting table where we hand selected berry by berry grapes for Book XVII wine. There I stood with migrate workers from Zimbabwe when Tim Atkin walks up, I greeted him with a friendly California hello. After he recognizes my accent and duly noted “positive American vibes” I did my best to inspire one who I thought was a tourist visiting the wine farm. I tell him that working harvest is the best way to learn about wine. (I am thinking to myself quit your job and come join me in the cellar.) I feel proud of myself for trying to recruit another member to my wine tribe. After he walks away, the intern ask if I knew who I was talking to. “Hum, well, yes he said his name was Tim Atkin” She replied “the world famous, Master of Wine, Tim Atkin.... one mention of your name by Tim and you become famous in the wine industry”. Well alright then Tim! For the rest of the day I could not get Beyoncé’s song out of my head...”say my name... say my name”.
One time the assistant wine maker at DeToren asked if I could help stomp grapes for the exclusive Black Lion Label. My heart jumped with excitement. He lower me by fork lift into an over-sized stainless steel crate full of freshly picked Shiraz grapes. I marched in the crate with my bare toes pressing and gently breaking the grape skins. I could feel the soul of wine wiggle between my toes. My own real life, “I love Lucy “moment. I could hardly believe the moment I was living… bare feet in fresh grape juice in the southernmost part of the African continent, blissful. (Not to worry part of the process is to sterilize your feet before the big stomp.)
On my days off from DeToren I volunteered at a school called PYDA, Pinotage Youth Development Association. It is a program that trains Black South Africans to work in the wine industry. The students are between the ages of 18 and 24 in this program they earn a well-rounded education in the wine industry that includes everything from learning about vineyard techniques, to working in a tasting room and even wine tourism. Since my first visit to South Africa I have made it a point to visit with the students. I share wines from America and knowledge about wine and entrepreneurship. This visit I taught an American wine class showcasing wines from all over America, New York to California and everything in between. I usually take an entire case to share with the students, it’s usually their first and in some cases the only time they may have an opportunity to taste a high end California Cab.
Before my first day of class the program director told me the program had grown. Great I thought until I realized that also meant I would have 50 students in my class. Hosting a wine tasting for 50 adults does not scare me, however for 50 youths between the ages of 18-24 made me nervous as heck. The class and tasting went well. So well that by the end of it the students were excited about American wines. We finished the day posing for selfies and exchanged social media information.
I was happy that I was able to share American culture through wine education. I even used hip hop to explain that the Fingers Lake region is in New York, on the East Coast and Napa on the West Coast, in California. Think Biggie from the East and Tupac from West.... oh now they understood the geography of the United States. Part of my volunteer time with the students included arranging a day to work in the Vineyards harvesting grapes. I reached out to my wine farm contacts and secured a farm for us to harvest grapes for a day. Vivian the owner at Seven Sisters helped organize and offered her neighboring tasting room for a Braai. I collected donations from my friends in America to buy food and we had one of the best Bria’s of my life. Oh a Braai is a South African BarBQ. Two of the students cooked on the grill while another group taught me how to dance to South African hip hop. That day I learned how to do the gara~gara and pretty much confirmed I am challenged with rhythm.
BBQ season is coming up, this means that most of us will either host parties or attend parties at homes. I have blundered the gifting of wine so many times that I thought the best way to teach wine gifting etiquette is to share my experiences. Here are three blunders and at the end I'll provide my tips to help your experiences be more successful.
I recently was invited to a dinner party. I bought two amazing and relatively expensive bottles of wine. One as a gift for the host and the other was something I wanted to share at the party. I had just come back from traveling to South Africa and hoped my wine would be a conversation starter. The host hoarded both bottles and stored them BOTH away.
Another time my boss, the CFO for the company I worked at invited me to his home for a BBQ. Of course I tried to show off and bought an expensive bottle of Napa Sparkling wine. I was greeted at the door by his housekeeper who politely relieved the bottle from my hands and placed it next to random grocery store selections other people bought.
Then there is the time I gave the host a bottle of well aged Bordeaux thinking they would enjoy it later. "Later" I found it lined up on the counter next to other beverages and red cups. Later in the evening I overheard another guest say the wine was bad as she poured it out because " there was stuff floating in it and it smelled like wet towels". No honey that is called sediment and rained on forest floor to wine lovers like me!
Here are some key tips:
✔️Know your audience and occasion.
✔️Always take a host gift. Wine is great however keep the bottle between $15-$25.
✔️If you would like to take wine as your food contribution contact host first and ask if it's ok.
Someone else's party is not your time nor the wine you love time to shine. Save great to excellent bottles of wine for parties you host, small intimate gatherings filled with wine lovers.
💞Good For Dates
🚺 Good for Solo
🎶 Live Music
Perch, Downtown - Classic and my go to spot when I don't want to risk having an awesome time. French inspired food and ambience. The food is delicious and the drinks are crafted with style and thoughtfulness. It's a rooftop bar and there is usually live music on Saturday and Sundays for Brunch. Great for small groups with large table seating, good for dates and awesome if you go alone. The friendly bar staff will make sure you feel included in the fun!
Yes bottomless mimosas or sangria options.
Omni, Downtown- If you like seafood and mimosas this is a must do! It is buffet style (although an a la cart menu option is not available) However, why do that when you can easily eat your way through $55 worth of crabs and shrimps. The $55 includes bottomless mimosas! Great for extra large groups and dates. Not really somewhere to go solo. That would just be weird!
Pearl, Hollywood- Honestly I love Pearl any night of the week and brunch is just an extension of that love fest. It's a roof top restaurant with half out and half in. The menu has a wide range of yummy entrees. They use some of my favorite ingredients like truffle oil, arugula,capers and oysters! Great for small groups and large groups with tactical planning. I'd say maybe to a solo outing, if you are very social. Definitely yes to date day or night.
Post and Beams, Crenshaw District- The food here is absolutely delicious. simple and ultra fresh ingredients are well prepared into upscale soulful entrees. The scene is trendy but down to earth. Denzel Washington has been spotted here occasionally. The outdoor patio is super comfy and host live music. Good for small groups with advance planning, yes to solo or date day! No to large groups.
Madera, Hollywood (East)- Out of town in town is the vibe here. The menu has a wide range of breakfast and Spanish inspired entrees. Please save room for desserts. The Churro donut with homemade ice cream is good enough to "make you slap your mama". Yes bottomless mimosas, great for groups small and large, yes to dates not to solo outings.
Doheny Room, West Hollywood- This is a place to see and be seen. Typical LA vibe with awesome cocktails and great food. Make your way to the rooftop that is where the action is with music by an in person Dj and bottomless mimosas. Great for all types, small, large, solo, and dates.
Sonoma Wine Garden, Santa Monica - With over 200 selections for wine this should be at the top of my list! Or maybe I am saved the best for last. At any rate SWG is everything you want on a Spring Afternoon in LA. Outdoor, couches ,live music, beach proximity and great food. This is an absolute must do! Yes to bottomless mimosas, yes to large groups, yes to date day and yes for solo.
Last night I kicked off California Wine Month by tasting at LA's new hot restaurant the Herringbone. The scene was a perfect cure for a bad case of fading summer nostalgia. The out door patio where the tasting took place set the stage for coolness, mingling,relaxation and sipping under the LA stars.
Cassandra Brown, LA's newest young hip Sommelier hosted this fabulous meet the maker opportunity. Her vision is clear, I can see already that she is going to contribute to the growth of LA's wine scene by providing space for amazing wines and beautiful people to collide.
There were two family owned wineries representing their brands; Vision Cellars and Gamble Family Vineyards. Both located in the North Coast;Sonoma and Napa Valley. I started off tasting a white and rose from Vision Cellars. The white was a unique blend of Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc. It had the aroma of Pinot Grigio and the taste of Sauvignon Blanc, with a slightly tender round bite to it. Next up was the Rose poured over ice cubes! I first tried without the ice and found it very approachable. 100% dry leaning towards the darker more meaty side of roses than the usual soft and pretty side. When poured over ice it kept its bright cherry flavor and tasted more like a refreshing cocktail. (Looks like I may be breaking my ice rule in the future )
Not wanting to ruin my palate for whites I switch over to the Gamble Family table to try their barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Interesting! The nose was pleasant however not that upfront aromatic citrus you get from Sauvs aged in stainless steel. My first impression of taste.... Spicy. Spicy like a hint of fennel, tropical citrus like pineapple.
Over all both wineries poured a diverse selection of delicious wines. I am excited to taste next week!
While in Chicago I visited Bin36, a wine bar in the heart of downtown. I found out about Bin 36 when I Googled wine tasting classes in Chicago. To my delight Bin 36 was the site for a South African wine pairing dinner hosted by Molly Choi of Cape Classics. I love South African wines, the country is of the the oldest wine producing regions and their wine culture grown parallel to the countries social development.
When I arrived at Bin 36 I was parched. The day I arrived Chicago seemed to be on the front end of a typical summer heat wave. Ready to wet my tongue a bit I immediately sat at the bar and ordered a glass of the most unusual wine that I saw on the list, Hondarrabi Zuri from Spain. I must admit that it caught my eye because it partially has the same name as my business in it, “Zuri Wine Tasting”. The wine was delightful although it was served with a hard chill, a bit colder than I prefer. The Zuri grape did not have much of a nose, but that could be because of the hard chill. The taste was clean, crisp, tart with lots of citrus flavors, almost like a barely ripen kiwi fruit. The finish had a hint of honey. Overall a good wine, perfect for a hot summer’s day. Probably better with food because of the high acidic texture. It did make my mouth water for food and the oysters at the table next to the bar made me want for the perfect pair. I resisted as the Wine Pairing dinner was set to start in the next 10 minutes.
My habit of being a teacher’s pet and always sitting at the front of the room paid off as usual. The table I sat at was filled with a diverse combination of people; winemakers, Molly Choi the hostess, wine enthusiast and a couple people who just came for the food. I love ease dropping on all their opinions about the wine. It excites me to hear why or why not someone likes a wine. We tasted a total of 8 wines. Here is my mouthful on most of them:
1) 2012 Rose Pinotage- Kanonkop Wine Estate “Kadette” Stellambosch The first wine poured it was a Rose made from the Pinotage grape. The very first sniff was typical Pinotage. A funky tar like aroma that naturally occurs in the Pinotage grape no matter how well made the wine is. However after about 2 minutes breathing in the glass I discovered a beautiful nose filled with strawberries and a hint of cinnamon. The Rose tasted complex, lively and interesting. It reminded of a god friend who you simply feel in total comfort with hanging around with nothing to do. I loved it!
2) 2012 Sauvignon Blanc – Bayten Buitenverwachting Next up was one of my favorite white grapes, Sauvignon Blanc. I call myself a SauvBlanc snob. I am very particular, there are only a few regions outside of New Zealand’s Marlborough region that I will actually buy SavuBlanc from. The Bayten Sauvignon Blanc served proved to make South Africa a good rival to any New Zealand SauvBlanc. The nose was great, profound and distinct. The flavors were true to the characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc; grassy, grapefruit, other citrus fruits, assertive, crisp. Definitely an in your face taste of wine.
3) NV Chenin Blanc Raats Family Wines – This Chenin Blanc poured was lively and well balanced. While I enjoyed the wine Chenin Blanc is a little too modest of a grape for me. I would definitely serve it to my middle of the road wine drinking friends who sip for leisure and not adventure as I do.
4) 2013 Chardonnay – DeMorgenzon Estate “DMZ” Stellambosch - Soon after I tasted my third sip (of this Chard) this is what came to mind; beautiful, complex, settle, honey, toast with a citrus finish. I know you are thinking how can a wine be complex and settle at the same time? Well, the flavors were so well balanced that they softly danced over my tongue. The liveliness made me think of stainless steel aging however there was a classic and heavy finish that typical of my favorite oak aged Chardonnay. I had to know the make up! The winemaker Luke O’Cuinneagain who happened to be sitting right next to me summoned over the winemaker of the wonderful Chardonnay. His fellow winemaker Carl Van Der Merwe was nice enough to explain that 70% of the Chard was aged in stainless steel and the remaining 30% in oak barrels. He lingered around for a bit and we chatted about apartheid, race, politics, the social state of America, South Africa and wine. An interesting conversation indeed.
5) The Cabernets….. A horizontal tasting of three. As you can tell from my brief descriptions. By the time the Cabs arrived I was distracted and my note taking suffered. I do remember having a great, enjoyable experience with them however.
a. 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Glenelly Wine Estate- Youthful fun fruity in taste and smell, hints of tobacco on the finish. A crowd pleaser!
b. 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Morgenster Estate – Aroma sweet, mild fruit, green pepper, tobacco.
c. 2009 Bordeaux Style Blend (Cabernet Sauvignon,Malbec, Merlot, Petit Verdot ) Lingering finish, more spices than fruit, smooth and complex
Fun facts about South Africa:
South Africa has one of the oldest wine growing region, more than 300 year old history, even older than France.
Pinotage is a hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. A scientist cross pollenated the two grapes and created Pinotnage. Today the rootstock is grafted to grow the grape Pinotage directly from the vines.
South Africa is 7th in the world’s wine production, however did not have any presence in the USA until the 1990’s after apartheid ended. #sanctionswork
In South African wineries are referred to as wine farms.
Major South African wine regions are: Stellenbosch, Constantia, Mossel Bay
Black winemakers in South Africa: Seven Sisters, M'hudi, House of Mandela for more info visit http://www.heritagelinkbrands.com/wineries
A guest blog from my London counterpart, Gilbert in the UK
Different types of Wine Tasting in London
Wine tasting is the evaluation and examination of wine according to its taste and the types of ingredients used in it. Specialists have been evaluating the wine on different criteria like tasting, sight, sniffing and aroma. Wine Tasting London helps to judge the quality and the flavor of the wine. Usually wines have different characteristics, like the wine is complete, complex, evolved, balanced or harmonious. Tasting a sip of wine will help you to either choose it for drinking or not? Sometimes, it guides the drinker on how to choose their wine to drink. These characteristics are listed below;
A balanced wine
A balanced wine is the one that is made up of good proportion of components especially the basic flavors. Our taste buds are able to detect the sour, salty, sweet and bitter tastes. There are two most important components of wine that is bitter and sweet. Bitter resulting from the tanins and sweet from the sugar content. The balanced wines shows the perfect mix of flavors of alcohol, acids,tannins and sweet. Such taste of the wine can’t be judged by smelling it only by taste.
All the wines are made up of different formulas, so it is very important to maintain its balanced flavor. If the wine gives you only one taste rather than the combination of tastes (sour, sugar, bitter, hot, astringent) then it will not be a good wine.
A harmonious wine
A harmonious wine is the one that contains all the ingredients that are important to make a wine. The proportion or the style to mix all the ingredients may vary. Tasting a harmonious wine gives you different flavors on the basis of ingredients used in it.
A complete wine
A complete wine is the one that gives you a pure taste and satisfy the finishing stage of a wine maker. Such wines offer you the full pleasure and relaxation.
A complex wine
A complex wine is the one that is very difficult to find the basic ingredients. It may include many components or the proportion of the components may vary. Tasting the wine and find out its basic ingredients can be handled by an expert. He is the one who used to take wine in a large quantity more often usually daily. Such enthisiastic people can tell you the ingredients by tasting it simply. Wine tasting in London is very popular because people living there are used to drinking wines and other hard drinks more often in their parties. They know the taste and sometimes the smell of different kinds of wines. So they can easily find out the nature of the wine even if you do not mention that.
A good taste of the wine is very important to make the people enthusiastic about it. If the taste of the wine is good then the beginner will drink it for sure without thinking anything about its ingredients. By tasting a sip of wine, a drinker can conclude either he liked or disliked the drink. It may also depend upon the mood, but generally it depends upon the taste and occassion for the drink.
There are basically three options after you open a bottle of wine; Just Pour, Aerate or Decant.
1) Pour from bottle directly to glass. This is the most popular option and great for your everyday ready to drink wines. Wines you usually buy in the grocery store and common wines available on restaurant menus.
2) Aerating is the another option. This is used for young wines that may need to open up. Usually when wines are age worthy, meaning you can enjoy for a number of years after the vintage date the wine making style may include lots of tannin. When these high tannin wines are opened within the first 5 years of the vintage date aerating make be required to reduce the strong tannin impression. There are a few ways to aerate wine. Simply taking the cork out and leaving the bottle open will not work. My favorite method is Splash Decanting. Splash decanting is swiftly pouring wine into a decanter straight down ensuring that the wine hits the bottom of the decanter and splashes up around the edges. The splash effect ensures that the wine moves around a lot and maximizes the air contact with the wine. After the wine is poured in the decanter leave and let it stand for at least 45 minutes before serving. This method ensures that as much air as possible comes in contact with the wine thus aerating it. If you are pressed for time use a aerating pourer. There are many on the market and range in price from about$15 to $65 depending on the brand. My two favorites in the $20 price range are the Soiree and the Metrokane Rabbit.
3) Simple Decanting is an option reserved for older wines. In this method you slowly pour wine over a strainer to collect sediment that has formed in bottle. Never allow the wine to sit for more than 15 minutes. Contrary to popular beliefs older wines do not need time to breath. Older wines are gentle and should be consumed immediately after opening. Too much exposure to air can ruin your older wines.
Remember aerate young wines and slowly decant older wines!
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2013 9:15 AM
To: Tuanni Price
I am visiting Canada over the holiday and thought to bring a good California Wine. I’m thinking red. Would you happen to know something to bring and where to purchase?
From: Tuanni Price
Sent: Monday, December 16, 2013 9:22 AM
Subject: RE: Suggestion?
Definitely take Zinfadels, it's California’s wine. Like Malbec is to Argentina. Here are other suggested varietals that are Cali fav's with the best regions:
Syrah- or GSM blends- Santa Ynez (Santa Barbara, Los Olivos, Solvang)
Cabernet- Napa Valley
Zinfandel- Paso Robles and Napa Valley
Viognier (Vi-ohn-yay)- Santa Ynez
My favorite places to shop for wine:
Barsha- Manhattan Beach
K&L in Hollywood
Wine House- West LA
Let me know if you want to go wine shopping!!!
Tuanni Price, the owner of Zuri Wine Tasting. A wine Enthusiast and adventurer, loves everything about the wine experience