The 2009 Mvemve Raats de Compostella proves that South Africa can produce some of the best wines in the world.
The wine is a collaboration between friends and winemakers Mzokhona Mvemve and Bruwer Raats. Raats is one of South Africa's most famous vintners. The owner and winemaker of Raats Family Wines, he's been known for producing excellent Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc for many years. Mvemve was the first recipient of the Indaba Scholarship, which was established in 1992 to enable financially needy and academically deserving students to study oenology.
In 2004, the men teamed up to produce a world-class wine using all five Bordeaux grapes. They've succeeded ever since -- and the 2009 bottling is an absolute blockbuster, which beautifully bridges the gap between the Old World and the New World.
2008 Grattamacco Bolgheri Superiore
Bolgheri was a relatively unknown region along Italy's Tuscan coast until 1978, when a bottling from Sassicaia triumphed in a blind tasting of 33 "great clarets" from around the world at an event hosted by Decanter.
The second winery in the region, which is too often overshadowed by Sassicaia and Ornellaia, is Grattamacco. I love the wines of Grattamacco because unlike its more famous neighbors, it continues to include Sangiovese in its wines, which helps maintain its regional identity.
Grattamacco's 2008 Bolgheri Superiore is a stunning wine -- both concentrated and weightless, rustic and powerfully ripe.
2008 Copain Syrah James Berry Vineyard
Wells Guthrie, the owner and winemaker of Copain Wines, has received quite a bit of press coverage for his move from ripe, high-alcohol wines in the early part of this century to leaner, more elegant wines. Today, he describes his wines as "firmly rooted in California, yet with the sensibilities of [Europe]."
Guthrie makes some of my favorite Syrah, and his wine from the James Berry Vineyard, located in Paso Robles, is absolutely delicious. Rich and focused, the wine is loaded with dark, black fruits and beautifully balanced by lively acidity and supple tannins.
2009 Kutch Pinot Noir McDougall Ranch
Jamie Kutch's path to winemaking sounds too romantic to actually be true. In 2005, after years as an investment banker in New York, he realized that his heart was with wine. So together with his girlfriend (and now wife) Kristen Green, he moved to San Francisco to launch a career in wine.
With just a few years, Kutch was making some of the nation's most exciting Pinot Noir. Rajat Parr, the wine director of Michael Mina's Mina Group, has called Kutch one of the "the top five producers in America."
Kutch's 2009 McDougall Ranch Pinot Noir -- which is massively structured yet beautifully elegant -- is absolutely spectacular.
2009 Quivet Cellars Syrah Las Madres Vineyard
Wine geeks love Mike Smith, the winemaker and co-owner of Quivet Cellars, because he’s one of us.
Back in 2001, when Mike was living in Portland, Oregon, he started traveling to Napa Valley on the weekends to help out Thomas Rivers Brown. Brown was already well known at that point, but agreed to let Mike help out because the two men got along well -- and Mike was willing to work for free.
After his third harvest, Mike took the real plunge, moving his family to St. Helena to join Brown as a full-time assistant winemaker. Shortly thereafter, he launched his own label -- Myriad Cellars -- together with his wife Leah. Around the same time, he created a separate label -- Quivet Cellars -- with three wine enthusiasts from Massachusetts.
Smith's wines are fantastic. And the 2009 Quivet Las Madres Syrah is, in a word, yummy.