Sunday, April 30, 2006

Wine across America - DC, PA, NY 28th April 2006

Wow, it has really been a whirlwind and things are going well so far - I am now 4 days into the tour and looking forward to meeting up with the WOSA gang in New York tonight. I am writing this on the AMTRAK train from Harrisburg Pennsylvania to New York City – the only direct service that avoids going through Philadelphia. It is always a good diea to purchase tickets online in advance as it is cheaper and it avoids finding a fully sold-out train - like this one.

I spent Tuesday night in Baltimore and presented a well-attended South African wine dinner at a restaurant called Abacrombie which has the reputation (I later realized) as one the best restaurants in the state of Maryland, Sonny Sweetman is the chef/owner along with his beautiful wife and they were filled to capacity with 53 people crammed in for a wonderful dinner. The cuisine was exceptional and the guests were intent on learning as much as possible – it was at this evening that it dawned on me that South Africa has really got a chance to win the battle for recognition in the USA. The dinner guests were interested, thirsty for knowledge about South African wine and eager to learn – how often do you see this in Europe these days? The US challenge seems so large and the obstacles enormous – but every time I am back here it appears that there is tangible progress in building brand South Africa. This is so invigorating – we just need to maintain the momentum and make sure that we take our best wines to the USA – this must surely be the KEY!

After a wonderful early-morning run around historic Baltimore harbour, Wednesday found us on the interstate highway back to DC for another trade tasting and South African seminar – I had the pleasure of meeting Carter Nevill, regional sales manager for Cape Classics and we hit it off. Cape Classics should be recommended for being a proud ambassador for South African wine in the USA. I also had the pleasure of meeting Brad McCarthy, the winemaker and co-owner of the famous Virginian winery Blenheim Vineyards which he co-owns with Dave Matthews – the US singer/superstar.

The next day was spent on a ‘ride-with’ (literally spending the day with a distributor sales person) doing tastings for a number of restaurants. We visited the eponymous Restaurant Eve, a great wine shop owned by the passionate Jonas Gustafsson. Then on to Le Paradou, an awe inspiring restaurant owned by legendary chef Yannick Cam; we tasted for at least an hour and shared rugby stories with sommelier, Nicolas Rouet who is a big South African fan. We got 2 listings on their epic winelist, the first time a wine from the Southern hemisphere has been listed – we felt very proud and decided to celebrate with a couple of cold beers at Vidalia, the famed DC eatery where we planned to meet fine wine merchant, Mike Tilch from Silesia Liquors for a 7 course tasting menu presented by Manager/Sommelier Doug Mohr. I have included (below) a video blog in which I interviewed Mike on his positive feelings about South African wines. The evening was capped with a spectacular 1970 Chateau D’ Yquem which was at the height of its powers – a very generous gift from Mike. What an evening!

A 04h45 wake-up was not really what was needed at this stage – but it had to be to catch an early flight from Dulles to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. More about this in the next installment! New York here we come!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

The Young Winemakers at Cape Wine 2006

Watch the vlog

Here is an interestingpost for those of you that were at Cape Wine 2006, here is the great clip taken for the 'Young Winemakers' seminar.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Mike Tilch, fine wine dealer from Maryland talking about SA wine

Watch the vlog


Driving through Washington DC

Watch the vlog

Driving past the Washingotn memorial in DC

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

American Wine Diaries – Baltimore, Maryland

The American Wine Diaries – Baltimore, Maryland
I woke up too early in DC and then forced myself to go back to sleep – jetlag in traveling across timezones is a reality and you have to really take it into consideration. I got up and went for run in Rock Creek Park which is barely 5 minutes walk from my B&B. It was such a beautiful day and one can only marvel at the beauty of some of Americas parklands. Bumped into my first Starbucks coffee. Whether you are an anti-globalization activist or not – you have to admire the Starbucks ability to make a good cup of coffee – every time! OK, so engines recharged time to get ready, check out of the hotel and head for the most beautiful railway station in the world – Washington DC’s Union station. See the photo attached. I got some good advice and avoided AMTRAK and instead went for the local MARC train system which runs parallel to AMTRAK – the fare for the same ride was $7 versus $22 for AMTRAK.
I arrived in Baltimore very efficiently and was collected by Julia and then we headed to the Country Vintner trade tasting. About 150-200 people in attendance and wines from allover the world. I managed to get in some good tasting and some excellent wines. I fell in love with the Bassermann-Jordan Riesling Trocken 2004 from the Pfalz which has always been a favourite – the 2004 vintage is such a step up on the hot 2003 German wines. I digress…
I was asked to present a seminar on South Africa which (as it turns out) was the only seminar on the day and was certainly a big drawcard with a huge turnout. I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared, but in the end I adopted a very informal ‘round table’ discussion and luckily had some awesome slides that I could present as part of a powerpoint presentation – it went well and the half hour allotted for the event stretched to almost an hour as a large proportion of the audience stayed for the entire hour. What a great time and so many intelligent questions. There is no question in my mind that Americans have an enormous propensity to collect and collate information better than any nation on earth. When they become interested in something, they go harder and show more dedication to getting all the facts. Shields T. Hood and Lisa Airey from the Society of Wine Educators were at the tasting and they remarked on how positive their image of South African wine is. Rory Callahan and Robin O’Conner will be presenting a large seminar on South African wine at the SWE conference in Eugene Orgeon this year. Now this is a fantastic opportunity to preach the SA gospel.
OK, make sure that you have listened to the PODCAST this morning. Any comments or requests are most appreciated.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

First podcast from Washington DC

Click on this link to hear the first podcast from my hotel room in DC - just shaking the cobwebs out!

Monday, April 24, 2006

'The American wine diaries' - Heathrow

Well the epic USA trip has kicked off! Hi from the airport lounge in
Heathrow terminal 4 ... the first 11 hour flight to London is completed and
it is just about time to head for BA217 to Washington DC. I sat next to lady
on the BA flight who had been in SA for Cape Wine 2006 and had then followed
this with a week's holiday - she was bowled over by the show and by the
country in particular. She has already booked her 2nd trip and will be back
in SA in December. Well done WOSA!
This daily 'American Wine Diary' has a number of goals - first is to try to
help as many people as possible gain an understanding of the American market
with lots of insights, thoughts and anecdotes. The USA has been identified
as the market showing the most potential for South African wine and it is up
to the whole SA wine industry to make sure that we take our rightful place
alongside the other top wine producing countries. It can only happen with a
collective effort. At the same time, lets have some fun and see how we can
harness technology as a road warrior. We won't get over-concerned about
grammar and spelling as it will be regularly posted via Blackberry. (the
first hot tip for communicating on the road!) The USA is a long way from
South Africa - we need to harness the power of the internet to bring our two
diverse cultures together and bring South African wine to Americans who are
amongst the most adventurous and eager-to-learn wine drinkers in the world.
This diary has been commissioned by and is going to last for
about 3-4 weeks. It is intended to be interactive and we invite you to post
comments and generally get interactive. The diary will be posted
simlutaneously on the ROOTSTOCK BLOG so log
on and check it out.
This diary is going to take in a huge and active itinerary commencing in
Washington DC and followed by brief stints in Arlington Virginia, Baltimore
Maryland (home of Robert Parker), Virgina, Delaware and then a short flip
over to Harrisburg (the state capital of Pennsylvania. At this stage I will
be joing the WOSA USA tour in New York which will then progress to Chicago,
San Francisco and then onwards to LA culminating in a grand tasting at the
famous (or is it infamous) Beverley Hills Hotel.
We will be doing some daily podcasting, I will be posting Video Blogs and
attempting to do some interviews and chats with people across the USA - so
watch this space. If there is something that you would like to hear about,
let me know. if you like it, let me know.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Announcing the new 'Wine across America' Blog

Starting from Monday April 24th, I will be departing on a 3 week tour across the USA.

The itinerary takes in Washington DC, Baltimore Maryland, Arlington Virginia, Harrisburg Pennsylvania, New York City – the Big Apple, Chicago, San Francisco, Orange County, Beverley Hills and then finally back to San Francisco before a break-neck flight to London England. I will be writing a daily diary with Podcasting, video blogging and lots of other innovative stuff. Its going to be great! Check in or subscribe for the feed today!



Saturday, April 08, 2006

Grape sorting video at midnight

Here is a look at our grape sorting video at midnight with the Vilafonte team going hammer and tong to ensure that only the best grapes make it into the Vilafonte wines.

Friday, April 07, 2006

End of Vilafonte harvest

Closure and continuance
When does harvest end? Well, there are many "endings"; one certainly is the last day of harvest - for us March 10, a 30 day harvest. Another is the last pressing, and this occurred Monday March 27. Emotionally, that is "the end", but the work continues. For us, and especially for Bernard, Vilafonte winemaker, there is lots of baby sitting of the wines to be done. Fermentations continue; the wines we pressed…. removed from the skins … were not all dry at the time, and so continue to "crackle" in the put your ear to the bunghole and you can hear the pop pop of the carbon dioxide rising to the top of the wine from fermentation. However, to complete their fermentation work, the yeast must be kept happy…which means warm, with food, and somewhat suspended in the wine. We keep the wines in a warm room, (around 23 to 24C); and part of the "work" is to check on them daily. Unhappy yeasts tend to produce bad aromas; a yeast "red flag". So stirring, warming, feeding, checking, smelling, tasting…maybe a bit routine but very, very important. Concurrently, the dry wines are crackling with malo-lactic, the bacterial fermentation that changes the malic acid to the softer lactic acid. Only when the wines have completed both fermentations do we deem them "finished" and put them away in the barrel cellar to start their aging.This ends my regular/irregular harvest report, although I will return from time to time to talk of other work that is going on, and observations and conclusions on harvest.
Zelma Long, Vilafonte Winemaking Partner