Category Archive: Wines Around The World

A Better Understanding of Baja Wines

Posted on June 23, 2016

Baja Wines Uncorked

The first Baja Uncorked went down last week.  Baja what?  Baja Uncorked is the first buyers trip to the Guadalupe Valley put on by La Mision Associates and La Competencia, two distributors of wine from the Guadalupe Valley.  Wineries of Baja invited wine writers, retail shop owners and sommeliers on a three-day journey exploring the wines of the valley.  They were treated to three packed days of seminars, winemaker greet and meets, tastings, winery tours and extraordinary meals.  The wineries presented their valley to a small group of wine professionals in hopes that people will have a better understanding of Baja wines. Today I’d like to fill you with intrigue and shed some of the mystic of Baja  wines.


To really understand Baja, we have to go back and see how it all began.  The first vines in the Americas came by way of Spanish conquistadors in the early 1500’s.  Once their supply of wine ran out, they turned to planting grapes in the Parras Valley in the state of Coahuila in central Mexico.  The first winery was established in 1597 by Lorenzo Garcia called Casa Madero.  The main grape planted in those days was a red grape known today as the Mission grape.  It is said to be the same grape as Listan Negro in Spain, also known as Criolla and Pais in other areas of South America.  This grape made light bodied wines intended for brandy production. Just as Mexico began to produce its own wines, the Spanish crown put an end to it.  The Spanish saw their wine trade suffering, and outlawed Mexico from producing wine.

Casa Madero

Valle de Parras

For many years, the production of wine in Mexico was limited to the missionaries wine for sacramental use.  Two Jesuit “padres”, Juan Uguarte and Junipero Serra made their way into Baja and established the first mission in 1767, in Los Cabos.  These were the first grapes planted in California.  Junipero Serra was tasked to move north and build missions in Alta California while Juan Uguarte built missions in Baja California.

It was not until the 1880’s that Baja built its first commercial winery, Santo Tomas in the Santo Tomas Valley, 30 minutes south of Ensenada. The first European grapes to come into Baja were Grenache and Carignan.  They came to Mexico by way of the Spanish.  During the turn of the century they were the work horses for Baja and Alta California.  It was not until the 1930-40’s when we saw Italian varieties make their way into the valley.  The man responsible was Camilo Magoni, who worked at L.A. Cetto for 50 years.  He was an Italian immigrant from Northern Italy.  Over many years he planted many Italian varieties such as Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto, Sangiovese and Aglianico.  The challenge he faced was Mexico’s warmer climate and lack of water. It was a very different climate from the mountainous cool region of Piedmont.  Today some of the best single varieties come from these Italian varieties brought by Magoni.

In the 1950-60’s winemakers started to look for fruitier, softer wines that could be enjoyed with pizza and tacos.  They turned to California nurseries and began to plant cuttings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. These Bordeaux blends made more sense in the market place. People had just heard about  the growth in California in the 1970’s.  Their Cabernets and Chardonnays were winning competitions in France, the Mexican winemakers decide to follow in their northern neighbor’s footsteps.  Back then there were just a handful of wineries such as Santo Tomas, L.A.Cetto and Cavas Valmar.  Cavas Valmar was started in 1983 by Fernando Martain.  He worked at Santo Tomas from 1978-84 and worked with the famous André Tchelistcheff.  Fernando has since been a great inspiration and significant part of the Baja wine movement.

Camilo, Zamora, Martian

Laura Zamora (Santo Tomas), Camilo Magoni & Fernando Martain

His friend Hugo Acosta came on the scene in 1988, he too worked at Santo Tomas.  Hugo Acosta studied at the School of Agronomy in Montpelier France and the Agricultural University of Turin.  He returned to the valley and began teaching people how to make wine.  There was plenty of fruit in the valley, but no one outside the major wineries knew what to do with it.  Hugo started “La Escuelita”, a wine making school for the people in the valley.  He has inspired many of the wineries in the valley and has been a crucial part of the valley’s success. Today he is regarded as the godfather of the Guadalupe Valley.  His brother, Alejandro has been an instrumental part as well.  Alejandro is an architect and has built many of the hotels and wineries that dot the valley.  His creative designs give the valley a special character you can find nowhere else.

glasses baja uncorked


The Guadalupe is about 1 1/2 hours south of Tijuana and 20 km east of Ensenada.  It was first settled by Russian colonies. In 1834 missions were built, however; the natives of the valley destroyed the missions and kicked out the missionaries. Today the valley is divided into 3 sections.  The first area is called San Antonio de las Minas and you come across it as soon as you enter the valley driving in from Ensenada.  If you continue on the Highway 3 eastward, you will reach Francisco Zarcos.  To the north is an area called Porvenir.  The wines of Baja California are not all grown in the Guadalupe Valley. There are many more vineyards outside the valley.  40 km to the east on the other side of the mountains is Valle de Ojos Negros.  Ojos Negros is a newer region where we are seeing much experimentation such as plantings of Pinot Noir.  20 km to the south of Ensenada is a small valley, the Uruapan Valley. 40 km south of Ensendada is the Santo Tomas Valley, the first area to plant grapes for wine production.  60 km further south is Valle de San Vicente where many of the grapes are harvested.

The Guadalupe valley is unique in that the soils are granite base with loamy sandy top soil.  Soils are great for drainage and repelling pests. The Valle is surrounded by mountains, blocking off the marine weather and allowing cool breezes to cool the valley at night.  The change in elevations is excellent for planting varieties on valley floors and at higher elevations providing winemakers with different choices.  Today there are about 120 wineries in Baja, and that number is growing everyday.

Guadalupe Valley Map


So why don’t we see more of these wines in the USA?  The first thing we have to understand, is that although grapes have grown in Mexico longer than anywhere else in the America’s, production of wine is fairly recent.  Baja California is still a very young region.  It was not until the 1980’s when we saw an increase in production.  While California was winning awards in Europe, Baja was still trying to figure out what to grow and how.  The Alpha part of the equation is water. There is very little water in the valley.  Low amounts of water limits the amount of wines which can be produced.  Yields are low due to the inability to irrigate.  Lack of water hinders the building and expansion of wine making facilities.

The Omega part of the equation is marketing.  How do they market their wines in the USA if production is so low.  Lower yields means less production and higher prices.  Wineries have to be sustainable, therefore increase prices to cover overhead and production.  The Baja winemakers choose to make wines that are more intense, from lower yields, therefore require a higher price.  This is very difficult for the general consumer to understand.  No one wants to buy expensive wines from an unknown region.  Why should they, there are so many quality wines at lower prices from Argentina, Chile and California.  The Chileans used another model, they bombarded the market with high yields and inexpensive wines.  Today they struggle to get recognized as a premium wine region.  Baja winemakers have decided to approach it differently, and aim for quality versus high yields.

Baja Vineyards

Now let’s say that the Baja wines make a splash in the market place. Let’s say that everyone falls in love with their intensity and flavor.  People start to seek them out and now Baja wineries cannot keep up with the demand. This can have two outcomes.  One, distributors become upset when they cannot fulfill orders to wholesalers and retailers, so they stop importing Mexican wines.  Or two, the wine collector, infatuated with hard to find wines,  will pay premium prices which increase the cost of wines for the public.  The wines become cult like in status.  Unfortunately, the more likely scenario is number one.  Baja wineries first need the importer and distributor to get the wines across the border, so the cult status would be a long ways down the road.


So what is the next step for Baja wines?  Remember, Baja is still very new.  They are sandwiched between veteran producers and consumers of California and South America.  At this time all they can do is grow and learn.  The new generation of winemakers are going outside of “la Escuelita” and learning from other great winemakers in other countries.  While studying abroad and working in other regions they bring back creative ideas on how to deal with their issues in Baja.  Baja already has many grape varieties planted.  Baja is diverse in elevation and soils.  This diversity along with their proximity to the ocean, allows them to plant and experiment with many grapes.  Today, Baja wines are known for their unique blends. In Baja, single varieties have a different expression and are atypical. Hence, allowing winemakers to create blends no one else can make. Sure, Australians can blend Cabernet Sauvignon with Shiraz, but they can’t do what the Mexicans do.  They cannot get away with blending Cabernet, Syrah, Tempranillo and Nebbiolo, crazy new blends only seen in Mexico.

guadalupe Valley

The future of Baja is based on wineries finding their niche and improving their wines.  What they have going for them is that they are not arrogant nor set in their ways.  Baja is one of the few regions which is open-minded and ready to try anything.  Baja is a great haven for bored winemakers of France, Italy and California.  They would have a field day exploring Baja’s wild west of wine.

Distribution is the next issue to tackle.  Baja winemakers need to enter the market with affordable wines.  This is becoming more and more possible.  More plantings are occurring each year.  Winemakers are learning to use what they have and will hopefully begin to produce by the glass offerings.  They need to enter the market with $10-15 wines.  I would suggest they put more focus on whites and roses.  These are far cheaper to produce, they use less water and can generate a profit quicker than reds which need to age. If you are a consumer and you enjoy an affordable Baja Chardonnay, wouldn’t you be inclined to buy a more expensive red from that producer?

People like Michelle Martain, daughter of Fernando Martain is an important part of this growth.  Her import company, La Mision Associates imports Baja wine into the US and is going on 5 years.  She goes door to door, winery to winery trying to make this work.  She was raised in her father’s winery and is determined to share her country’s wines with the world. After much sacrifice, she has opened many doors for her wineries.  She is also very smart.  She knows she cannot do it herself and reached out to Tom Bracamontes of La Competencia Imports, a new Baja wine import company.

Baja uncorked

Michelle Martain (La Mision Associates), Myself, Michael Langdon (Whole Foods), Tom Bracamontes (La Competencia) & Danny Fancher (Estancia Hotel)

Tom’s background was in the music industry, hip hop.  Tom, a “Gringo-Mexican” who does not speak Spanish made a name for himself at Tommy Boy Records.  Tom does not pretend to know it all. However, he understands people and how to approach situations with transparency and a no bull attitude.  This has earned him trust among wineries in Napa Valley and wine buyers in many states.  He represented Mi Sueno winery for many years and took a handful of Mexican-American owned Napa wineries under his wing helping to bring their wines into a competitive market.  He is a marketing all-star who today has opened 5 new markets for Michelle and the Baja Winemakers; California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and Chicago.  Together, Michelle and Tom will open the doors for these Baja wineries and our palates to new intriguing wines.

I suspect that one day when our children are drinking a glass of Baja Pinot Noir in Paris, they will be telling this history of Baja wines. They will mention Father Juan Uguarte planting grapes, Santo Tomas producing wines, Camilo Magoni expanding the horizons, Fernando Martain’s influence, Hugo Acosta’s inspiration and the risk and hard work of Michelle Martain and Tom Bracamontes.

Team Baja Uncorked


While spending those few days in the valley, I decided to make a wine for my restaurants.  My intention was to make a red blend which could be enjoyed by itself, but better with carne asada tacos.  I worked closely with Laura Zamora, winemaker of Santo Tomas, the oldest winery in Mexico. Tempranillo was my backbone.  The Tempranillo was aged for 6 months in American oak and provides the tannin and structure.  I then tasted several samples of Grenache, Carignan, Syrah, Barbera and other grape varieties.  I landed on adding an un-oaked Syrah.  I am looking for fruity, juicy freshness and the Syrah gave it just that plus body.  Something was lacking, so I turned to one of the grapes that I think grows best in the valley, Barbera.  The Barbera brought the wine together with acidity and red fruit.

Costa Tierra Blend

Blending Costa Tierra Wine

The name of the wine is Costa Tierra, meaning seacoast and land.  The reason for this is to unite California and Baja California.  For centuries we have shared the same sea-coast, the same land and the same people. When it comes to food and wine the border is a fictitious border.  I want to tear down the wall and unite the two regions.  We may speak different languages and celebrate different holidays, but we both share in the rewards of a thriving epicurean future.

Costa Tierra Wine

The wine will be available at Coasterra and other Cohn Restaurants.


Vote for Washington: The Wines of Washington

Posted on March 4, 2016

wines of washington

The common belief is that Washington State is known for apples, hops and onions.  The wines of Washington State don’t even make a blip on the radar.  People hear Columbia Valley and they immediately think we’re talking about Oregon.  Wines from the northwest are not just Oregon wines.  Washington wines are just as important.  Over the next 3 months you will see a big push for Washington wines in San Diego.  The Washington Wine Commission, a state government-run agency intended to promote awareness of Washington’s viticulture and enology is campaigning in San Diego.  They are promoting Washington Wines via all media outlets. So if you are tired of presidential campaigns, grab a glass and vote for Washington State wines.  I have partnered with the commission to help promote the wines of Washington.  Think of me as a grassroots campaign manager.

Why Washington wines you ask?  Washington wines are some of the most interesting wines.  The region is very large with varied micro climates and soil types.  Most people’s image of Washington State is rain and more rain. This is not the case in the wine growing areas.  Washington State is a desert protected from rain by the Cascade mountains.  The mountains create a rain shadow effect which leaves sun and more sun to shine over the valley.  However, the mountains and the many rivers provide cooling which is ideal for grape growing.  The winds blowing in from Idaho bounce off the Cascades and come swooshing across the valley helping the vines fight pests and disease.

I have spoken about Washington wines in the past, but this time I really want to talk about is what makes them so different. It is all about their soils.  Millions of years ago ice glaciers melted and came rushing down from the Great Lakes through Washington State, an event known as the Missoula Floods.  With them they brought rocks and sediments spreading them throughout the valley.  These deposits left in the soils are the key to great grape growing in Washington.  The winds also brought sand and silt which is constantly blowing in the valley.  This soil structure allows for plantings of unique vineyards to show terroir and identity.  The wines from a small vineyard in Walla Walla “the Rocks” is so unique that in a blind tasting the Syrahs can easily be picked out.

Talking about blind tastings, several years ago the moment of truth hit me.  I was in Washington with 30 + other sommeliers and wine professionals blind tasting some of the highest rated wines in the world. We had Pahlmeyer, Caymus Special Select, Mouton, Clos Apalta and  a few Washington wines such as Abeja and Cote Bonneville.  We tasted Syrahs, Merlots and Bordeaux blends from around the world. Most of us picked the wines of Washington State as the superior wines.  This event won my heart over and since then I have become a promoter of the wines of Washington.  I am so happy to be on this campaign.

March is Taste Washington Wine Month.  I am going to do everything in my power to spread the word and turn the good folks of San Diego to the overlooked region of Washington. All month-long, the Cohn Restaurant Group will feature wines from Washington at specially selected restaurants.  We start the month on March 12th at Sea 180 Coastal Tavern where I will host a symposium and wine tasting with winemakers, winery owners, salespeople and the Washington Wine Commission.  We will host wine dinners and lunches at Island Prime, 333 Pacific and Vintana.  Bluepoint will run specials all month and host the winners from a local radio show’s contest for dinner.  So much is happening, I hope you are part of the campaign.  And don’t forget to vote WASHINGTON.


Wines of Washington

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Truly Fine Wines in San Diego’s Oldest Neighborhood

Posted on October 7, 2015

I grew up in Mission Hills, one of San Diego’s oldest neighborhoods.  When I was a kid I would wake up at 4 am and ride my bike with my friend Manny and deliver newspapers up and down West Lewis Street. We would then, ride up and down Fort Stockton in search of new canyons.  In the afternoon we would visit our favorite stores were Ace Drug Store, Sutter Market,  Ibis Market & my former employer Fiori’s Pizza in search of baseball cards.  In the evening we would ice block down the hills of Presidio Park.  This is not the same neighborhood I remember as a kid. Back then I didn’t realize how much our neighbors liked wine!  I was clueless. When they get together, they like to party.  Every summertime Mission Hills holds concerts in Pioneer Park where the locals share their favorite wines. It is a great time for all.  Now that I am an adult with kids growing up in this neighborhood, I thought I would give back and I found the perfect way to do so.

Last year I held a wine tasting to raise money for the local school, Grant K-8 at a neighbor’s house. Our generous friends the Mexican Vintner Marketing Alliance participated in the first wine tasting campaign and raised over $4,000.   Eight wineries from Napa Valley, all Mexican-American winemakers participated in the event.  The grandfathers of these winemakers worked as grape pickers and today their families own their own wineries.  We had over 70 people in attendance.  Since it was held in a private home we were limited on space.  I had to turn away too many people.

This year I have decided to do another wine tasting, but at the famous and spacious  Mission Hills Nursery. The Mission Hills nursery is San Diego’s oldest garden center founded by Kate Sessions.  Toni and Tiger have kept the nursery active and remains a staple in our community.  Tiger now has a child attending Grant which makes this venue a “no-brainer”.  Toni and Tiger have generously offered their space to support the school.  However, I have decided to keep it local this year.

My friends at Truly Fine Wines, Damon, Sabrina and Brian are going to pour wines from around the world.  Truly Fine Wines is one of SD’s best kept secrets!  They import German wines directly into SD and have a retail shop on Morena Blvd. Their German Wines are sold across the country and have a strong following within the sommelier communities of Chicago, New York and of course, San Diego.  They are one of the few distributors that sell their niche selections on Amazon.  Not only do they specialize in German Wines, but they also have an online store called My Cellar Master where people can buy a virtual sommelier experience.  They work closely with America’s 1st Master Sommelier, Eddie Oesterland, also a SD resident.

Truly Fine Wines will pour wines from the Old World, France, Spain and Italy.  They will also have a table featuring California wines. Their will be another area showing off the wines from South America.  You adventurous types should find the German wine table where they will feature my true love, Riesling along with Pinot Noir and other grapes you probably never have heard of .  Have I ever told you that my desert  island wine is a German Riesling?

Sunday, October 18th 3-5pm I will be hosting the 2nd annual Grant-Mission Hills wine tasting event. Join me for a wine tour around the world with Truly Fine Wines!  Truly Fine Wines has so generously offered to give back to the school 10% for any wine and 20% on any German wine bought.  All wines will be sold by Truly Fine Wines.  I look forward to seeing you there!

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Truly Fnie Wines wine Tasting

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It’s a Family Wine Affair

Posted on May 19, 2015

 family wine affair 2

In the old world, wine is a family affair.  Wineries and vineyards are passed down through the generations from mothers and fathers to their children.  They grow up and pass it on to their children.  They adhere to old family traditions.  Many times the children have to wait years til they are let in on the family secrets.  In all actuality they may be doing the same thing that their neighbors are doing; but regardless, it is their “family secret”.

We see family owned and operated vineyards and wineries in the new world, but the vast majority of them are owned by companies or other entrepreneurs looking for financial gains.  There are still a few new world  family gems out there.  We don’t have to go far, look in our backyard we have a family who bleeds wine.  Meet the Broomells and the Stehleons.  Two farming families united by marriage.

Sounds like the beginning of a story tale.   I think of it as a modern Romeo and Juliet without the Shakespearean tragedy.  It is more like an after school family special.  This tale did not start “…long long ago, in a land far away…” It started less then 10 years ago, just down the street with two families.  The Broomells, who owned ranches in Calistoga and Valley Center and the Stehlys who are in agriculture management with a farm in Valley Center.

The grandparents, Gary and Sheila Broomell had three children, Debbie, Bruce and Don. Gary and Sheila owned a vast amount of land dedicated to ranches. When their children came of age, they too went into the family business.  Debbie had two sons, Chris and Mike Broomell.  Chris decided to go and study horticulture in Santa Barbara. He took interest in wine and spent some time working harvests in Santa Barbara and in Adelaide Australia with his uncle.  When he returned, he convinced his grandparents to go into the wine business.  After all, they were a farming family with plenty of land where they could plant grapes. Hence, the start of Triple B Ranches.  Bruce, Don and Debbie invested in the winery and today Debbie oversees the day-to-day activities.  Chris is the winemaker and his brother Mike helps in the cellar when not teaching at the local high school.

The Stehly family was also a farming family.  Al, the eldest son of seven, bought his father’s land and helped manage other peoples avocado groves and orange groves.  His brothers Jerome and Nohl bought the rest of the property and run Stehly farms.  Al and his wife Lisa had a daughter named Alysha.  Alysha went to school at UC Davis where she studied viticulture. It just turned out that Chris and Alysha knew each other in high school.  One day they met at a Unified Wine Grower Convention. Their mutual interest in wine brought the two families together when they decided to marry. Both studied oenology and when they returned to San Diego convinced their parents to plant grapes.  Al already had some experience managing vineyards, after it was so different from growing other fruits.  While managing a Pinot Noir vineyard in Rancho Santa Fé, Chris convinced Al that they can make their own wine. A short time later, Chris began Vesper Vineyards with Pinot Noir being his first wine. Al and his wife Lisa decide to plant more vineyards on their property and began Stehleon Vineyards.  Stehleon produced their first vintage in 2010 with Alysha has the head winemaker.

Today Chris Broomell and Alysha Stehly share an urban winery and tasting room in Escondido where Chris produces Vesper vineyards, Alysha and Al produce Stehleon Vineyards.  The space is shared with several others such as J Brix and winemaker Duncan Williams.  The best part of the story is that Triple B Ranches, Vesper and Stehleon produce wines from grapes grown in each other’s family’s vineyards, and all of it is San Diego fruit.  There are many SD wineries, but the majority of them buy fruit from places like Sonoma and Santa Barbara.  These family wineries are keeping it real, growing their own fruit and producing wines homegrown in San Diego.   It is unfortunate that we do not see more wineries using local fruit, because growing conditions are excellent for many grape varieties.  Hopefully this family wine affair catches on and other wineries begin to focus on locally grown fruit.

Come and spend a Sunday lunch with Triple B Ranches, Vesper Vineyards and Stehleon at Indigo Grill.  We will be pairing Chef Deborah Scott’s menu with local wines in an intimate setting.  Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity to have a family wine affair.  Call 619-234-6802 to make reservations.

IGHomegrown (6)

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Born to be Wild, Wines of South Africa

Posted on April 29, 2015

South African Wine

I am very  lucky man.  I have traveled many parts of the world for work and pleasure.  There remains one place on my bucket list, South Africa.  Most people associate South Africa with Apartheid and if they think of wine, they think Pinotage.  Those are probably two things that I wouldn’t want to remembered for, especially Apartheid.  Pinotage I could live with.  Other people don’t even know that South Africa is a prominent wine growing region.  They merely assume that once you leave the dangerous city of Johannesburg you reach the desolate bush filled with charging rhinos and roaring lions.  What most don’t realize is that South Africa is one of the most unique and forward thinking wine regions in the world.

In order to understand the wines of South Africa we have to look back at its history.  Back in the 15th century, the Dutch East India Company had spread its massive sphere of influence throughout Africa, the Middle east and Asia. It took the English and Dutch merchants into uncharted regions.  With them they brought their traditions and customs, one of those being wine production.   60 years before California had any grapes planted, South Africa already had its first vines cultivated.  By the 1680’s South Africa received a flood of French Protestants, the Huguenots, who were fleeing persecution.  These French settlers improved the wine growing techniques. As time passed on, South African wines became well-known among the French and English nobility.  Toward the end of  the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century a new set of immigrants arrived in South Africa, the Austrians and Germans.  They brought their own farming techniques.  Of course, they had to get used to the difference in climate, but they sought out specific areas for specific grape vines.

Under the rule of Apartheid which lasted from 1948-1994, wine production saw a huge decline.  We can say that South Africa has a long history of making wine, but it is not until recent years that we have seen an explosion.  Since 2003  the wine exports have doubled, however we have not seen and will not see a flood in the market.  The reason for this is that the wines of South Africa are based on quality and not quantity.  The climate is a Mediterranean climate influenced by the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  Its temperature is ideal for grape production with cool nights and warm days.  The soils of South Africa are some of the oldest soils in the world with very poor nutrients, which stress the vines and produce better wines.

I have tasted many different styles of South African wines.  There are the more traditional styles from Stellenbosch and Constantia where they grow Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage.  Then there are those more extreme regions like the Swartland and Robertson growing the same varieties and experimenting with other varieties such as Cinsault, Tinto Baroca, Grenache and Syrah.   As you can see, there is much diversity in the types of wines that can be produced in South Africa. But, for some reason people still associate South Africa with Pinotage.  Pinotage is a wine many sommeliers despise yet intrigues the consumer.  It is a grape bred by crossing Pinot Noir with Cinsault in the 1920’s.  The purpose was to bring the power of Cinsault into Pinot Noir, which as we have come to learn, is a hard grape to grow.  Unfortunately, there was a lot of bad Pinotage in the market and people began to associate the wine with aromas of band-aid and antiseptic.  Sommeliers dropped it from wine lists and consumers bought it because it was affordable.

The general consumer buys wine based on price.  Pinotage fit the budget.  However, the wines of South Africa fall into a different niche from those high production wines of South America and Australia.  South African wines fall into the higher price tier.  Napa wines are expensive because of the demand.  Bordeaux wines are expensive because of the pedigree.  South African wines see an increase in cost due to the virtue of farming.  They are not as expensive as Napa & Bordeaux, but they are not inexpensive like Argentine Malbec and Australian Shiraz.

Here is why.  All wine regions have organic, sustainable and/or biodynamic wineries and/or growers.  However, South Africa as a region embodies sustainability.  Take Napa for instance a producer who farms organically, yet his next door neighbor uses pesticides.  The spray eventually blows into the organic farmer’s vines, so they are not really organic.  In South Africa the region believes in Hannuwa.   A term from the San People, the indigenous people of South Africa, meaning:

“gathering of good fortune through living in sustainable harmony with our natural environment.”

This is not only related to the way South Africans approach the vines, but also sustainability for their workers.  The land, the vine its and people are all one.  This mantra is the basis of all farming, wine making and business decisions in South Africa.  The wines are a result of farmers understanding the vines, keeping harmony with the ecosystem, maintaining healthy workers and producing wines of high quality.  It is much more expensive and difficult to make wines with all this in mind.  They cannot cut corners.  The wines end up costing a bit more than other new world imports, but they meet this unique niche of old world and new world wines.  They have the craftsmanship and elegance of old world wines along with the power and fruit forwardness of new world wines.  I would rather spend my money on a wine whose price is a result of actual techniques and not one’s name.

If you are interested in taking a walk on the wild side, join me on May 9th at Island Prime Restaurant where I will be discussing and tasting the wines of South Africa with wine maker Sebastian Beaumont of Beaumont Wines from the Bot River in South Africa and master sommelier candidate, Chris Lavin from Broadbent wines, world-famous importers of high quality wines.  We will taste 10 different wines from different regions within South Africa.  Hors d’oeuvres will be available and all the wines will be on special below retail pricing.  To buy your tickets click the link below.

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Wines of South Africa