Virginia here I come…

sunset over Virginia's Hickory Hill Vineyards & Winery

I really do seem to have become a bit obsessed about American wine of late, but then they are very interesting and can be exceedingly good and I really enjoy visiting the country. Quite a while ago I wrote a couple of pieces about wines from the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Well, I had never tried them before and became pretty excited about them and now I am about to set off to see the wine growing areas of Virginia for myself. I am really looking forward to learning about them properly and being able to report back on anything interesting and exciting. Continue reading

Canadian wine – Ontario’s Niagara Peninsula

Many things about my trip to New York State and Canada surprised me, not least the fact that there is a vibrant wine culture in this seemingly unlikey part of the world.

I used to always imagine that if you traced a line from Toronto, say, to Europe you would arrive at Bergen or Aberdeen – actually it’s Tuscany. Tuscany with extreme winters though. It is the winters that have traditionally prevented this part of the world from being seen as a leading wine region.

The New York part of the trip was wonderful, I learned and experienced a great deal, but the Canadian leg of the journey was in no way an anticlimax.

Firstly the journey over the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls was terribly exciting and then Niagara-on-the Lake was simply one of the prettiest towns I have ever visited – indeed it was quite like Stellenbosch in many ways, twee and touristy, but so nicely done. Staying in a wonderful hotel like the Shaw Club was a real treat. It was a great place to stay and if you are feeling lonely they will even lend you a fish for company! Continue reading

Stellenbosch – good friends, delicious food & fine wines

I really enjoyed judging in this years Michelangelo Awards. To me the overall quality of the wines seemed higher than last year – I certainly awarded more gold medals in 2010 than 2009.

I am still coming down from the trip and processing all I saw, so please forgive a somewhat self indulgent piece today, the sort that I do not normally write.

Sadly I do not know what the wines that I tasted at the Michelangelo Awards were yet, but will report back once the results are published.

In the meantime, I really finished my trip to South Africa on a high note – or two high notes in fact! Continue reading

Stellenbosch part 3 – Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

I love Cape Town, it is a vibrant and exciting place. When in need of some relaxation and a break from tasting and judging wines, then a stroll around Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is absolutely perfect. The air is lovely, there are shops that cater to every need and want and bars and restaurants galore. In fact the only downside is the abundance of dive-bombing seagulls.

The Waterfront is a gentrified harbour that has been spruced up and turned into a shopping centre and leisure complex, as found the world over from San Francisco to Valencia, but it is very well done and provides a splendid place to relax.

I spent a pleasant evening there last night, strolling, window shopping and drinking – all followed by a memorable dinner in a seafood restaurant called Baia, which means bay and is pronounced ‘ba-hia‘. Continue reading

Stellenbosch part 2 – a traditional braai

Diemersdal Estate

When I am away being entertained in an organised group then food looms rather large. Hosts always seem to imagine that yet more food is required – and I suppose it does help to soak up the alcohol of all the wine tasting and to keep people even tempered. However mealtimes seem to come around with incredible frequency and this trip is no exception.

I have enjoyed lots of lovely food on this trip, but one dish really stands out as being utterly delicious – Skilpadjies (as far as I  can make out this Afrikaner word is pronounced skill-pike-ies). Continue reading

Stellenbosch – part 1

Table Mountain from where I am working this week

Greetings from Stellenbosch. Not much wine excitement to report back yet, but it will come.

It really is a beautiful town, have a look here if you are unfamiliar with it.

The judging started yesterday morning and went pretty well, as you can see the view is amazing.

Sunday night we were taken to the beautiful Kaapzicht wine estate and enjoyed a drink in the vineyards watching the sunset followed by a traditional braai.

sunset at Kaapzicht

All in all it is a lot of fun interspersed with a good bit of work and a lot of wine tasting. I will try to publish something interesting soon – keep checking back.

Stellenbosch again

street in Stellenbosch, South Africa - this afternoon

These pages are not supposed to be about me, but sometimes the things I do loom larger than at other times. My recent New York State trip was such an example and so is this.

I have just arrived in Stellenbosch, in South Africa’s Western Cape, to be a judge at the Michelangelo Wine Awards. I was here last year too, but return as a newly promoted chairman of a panel of judges – wish me luck. Continue reading

Georg Riedel entertains

The other week I was lucky enough to enjoy an amazing experience. My trip around the New York Finger Lakes wine region culminated in the Finger Lakes Wine Festival at Watkins Glen.

I had no idea what to expect and was half thinking that I would rather stay in bed, but I am so glad that I didn’t.

appreciative crowds at Watkins Glen

For a start the scale of the event was incredible, there were huge areas with wine tents, food tents, beer, ice cream, gifts – you name it – and the people there were really having a good time. This being America the music was pretty good too – I was very taken with Strat Cat Willy and his blues band. Continue reading

Sheldrake Point – the Finger Lakes explained

I really enjoyed visiting the Sheldrake Point Vineyard, it seemed to encapsulate the Finger Lakes wine region – or the modern take on it anyway. Sheldrake Point is a new winery, founded in 1997 by winemaker Bob Madill and managing partner Chuck Tauck and – like the region’s pioneers Dr Frank and Hermann Wiemer – they chose a sheltered site on the western shore of one of the Finger Lakes – Cayuga Lake in this instance. Continue reading