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
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