Delightful South African Red

Today’s Story: Paserene

Paserene is a relatively new, small, and family operated winery founded by Martin Smith and Ndabe Mareda with the first vintage in 2013. The winery gets its name from the Latin word “Passeriformes”which is used to describe traveling birds including swifts and swallows, and Martin chose this name in homage of his winemaking ventures that took him around the world before ultimately returning home to start his own winery. Martin is a third generation winemaker from the small town of Ashton, and from an early age grew a passion for wine and knew becoming a winemaker was his dream. He first “worked” in the wine industry during a week-long study at Nuy Winery during school and traveled to Portugal to learn at Amorim Cork, though his broader experiences followed after graduating from Elsenburg Agricultural College with studies in viticulture and winemaking. Post-graduation, Martin worked briefly at Vriesenhof Vineyards before spending five years at Cosentino Winery in the Napa Valley. In 2006 Martin moved to Caldwell Winery and worked alongside renowned winemakers including Tim Mondavi and Philippe Melka, though around 2011 he received an offer to become the winemaker at Vilafonte back in South Africa and returned home.

Today’s Wine: 2016 Marathon

53% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Petit Verdot, 5% Carménère; 14% ABV

The 2016 Marathon is medium ruby red in color and moderately transparent. This requires some time to breathe, but once it opens up the nose showcases aromas of blackberry, plum, blueberry, licorice, olive, tobacco, volcanic soil, crushed rock, green herbs, and underbrush. Once in the mouth, this wine displays notes of blackberry, blackcurrant, black cherry, red florals, loamy earth, mushroom, black pepper, cigar box, and dried cooking herbs. This is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $40 (though this is tough to get in the US and online shows a fairly broad range from $27-55 overseas). This is a high-quality South African wine that is both delicious and offered at a fair price. The bottle today is shared with me by two great friends who recently visited the winery. Pair this with grilled steak, game, veal, or spicy pork.

“This Blessed Plot, This Earth…”

Today’s Story: Realm Cellars

Realm Cellars was founded in 2002 with a focus on producing high-quality, limited production Bordeaux blend and single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Co-Founder Juan Mercado left his role as a hospital administrator in San Francisco to pursue working in the wine industry and, until recently, Realm sourced their fruit from historical, high-quality vineyards (like Dr. Crane, To Kalon, and Farella) rather than growing their own. Juan runs the winery with Managing Partner Scott Becker, they have an excellent winemaker in Benoit Touquette, and Michel Rolland consults.

Switching gears, one of my favorite aspects of Realm (more a “that’s really cool” kind of thing) is their inspiration from Shakespeare. For example, the title of this blog post starts the line “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm” from Shakespeare’s Richard II, a line noted on every bottle of Realm wine, on their corks, and highlighted on the label I am reviewing today. Realm’s Bordeaux blends include The Tempest, named for the violent storm and play thought to be one of Shakespeare’s last; Falstaff, named for the fat, vain, boastful, and cowardly knight present in four of Shakespeare’s plays for comic relief; and of course The Bard, named for Shakespeare himself. Each wine highlights a particular variety, ranging from Merlot to Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon, respectively.

As far as their single vineyard wines go, Realm produces Farella (100% Cab), Houyi (100% Cab), Beckstoffer Dr. Crane (95% Cab, 5% Petit Verdot), Beckstoffer To Kalon (100% Cab), Moonracer (Cab dominant blend), and a white wine called Fidelio (Sauvignon Blanc). As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, recently Realm started producing wine from their own fruit which is where Moonracer comes in. This wine comes from their vineyard on Wappo Hill in the Stags Leap District and is named for the Wappo Native Americans who were known for bravery, strength, and athleticism. The Wappos often took part in (and are said to have won most) inter-tribal races during a full moon, hence the name Moonracer.

Note: Realm also makes a highly limited blend only in certain vintages called The Absurd, but be ready to pay $600-$750 per bottle for a chance to taste it.

Today’s Wine: 2016 The Bard

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot; 14.6% ABV

As expected due to its young age, this wine is deep, opaque purple in color and almost black at its core. I double decanted this bottle due to its youth and let it breath for about an hour. On the nose are aromas of blackberry, blueberry, anise, cigar box, pepper, chocolate, and crushed stone. In the mouth, the palate consists of flavors of black fruit, licorice, smokey earth, violet, dark chocolate, and a touch of ground coffee. Full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium (+) but refined tannins, and a very long, concentrated finish. I definitely committed infanticide with this one, but wanted to try it and will definitely buy more. Give it at least 5-7 more years but drink over the coming decades.

Price: $150. While not an everyday drinking price, this bottle is well worth its tag. Already at such a young age this is drinking with finesse, elegance, and balance that is hard to find. Pair this with filet mignon or ribeye.