Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Great White Hunter Returns or Wine Wizard Bob, I Presume

Reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.
--W.C. Fields

Well he's back. Wine Wizard Bob survived the wilds of South Africa and has sent me a few notes about his trip. He was as captivated by the country and its people as I was. His two week stay was sponsored by a number of South African wine producers. What appears below are Bob's impressions and comments on the trip.

"I loved the country; I just hated getting there. It takes about 17 hours out of Washington, D.C. The only thing worse was getting back; it took even longer thanks to a refueling stop in Dakar Senegal (Africa's most western point). The travel was figuratively and literally a pain in the butt."

"Once you're there the living is inexpensive, delicious and full of vistas. I love a country where the exchange rate is 8 to 1; I couldn't wait to spend those 1000 rand notes."

"While the exchange is 8:1, I'd rate the wines of SA at about 3:1 versus the value of their French/California counterparts, (i.e., a $30 SA wine would cost you about $100 for the same quality French or Californian)."

"What?! They drive on the wrong side of the road? I hope the gas and brake pedals are the same! Driving on the left isn't that complicated, but crossing a not too busy street on foot is both exciting and dangerous."

"The shanty towns are amazingly poor. Six to ten people in a corrugated hut, no running water or electricity. Literally, dirt poor."

"We were out driving one day and the bus suddenly came to a stop. There were baboons crossing the road. No it wasn't a political rally, these were actual baboons!"

"I tried eating everything they put in front of me; I had ostrich, impala and kudu. By far the three best foods in SA are the squid, a fish called Kingklip and the Karoo Lamb."

"Best meal I had was at a winery named Tokara. Amazing food."

"One day I had lunch at a restaurant called La Vierge, (The Virgin). After a lovely meal with views of the vineyards, mountains and sea, I needed to find the men's room. Well, down the stairs to the right, through the doors and tada!!!, three urinals facing floor to ceiling windows. Not for the shy."

"Far and away the world's best celebrity wine maker is Ernie Els. In fact he may be a better wine maker than golfer at this point. His top of the line red wine is about $90 and easily worth it. The worst celebrity wine makers? Arnold Palmer, (stick to iced tea & lemonade), Mario Andretti and Larry Bird, (the Larry Legend Cabernet is just putrid)."

"The wines I tasted were all bargains compared to what you'd have to pay here in the states for equal quality. There were some clunkers but even those were priced appropriately. Here are the winners, some of these will be easy to find, others will be very difficult, but you may get lucky:

Graham Beck Rose Champagne, $20. Think fancy French pink bubbles, but from France it would cost $100.

Ken Forrester Petit Chenin, $10. A smidge of peach flavors with a nice crisp finish. A summer guzzler.

Fairvalley Pinotage @ $10 and Kanonkop Pinotage @ $35. Pinotage is a uniquely SA wine grape, when it's done right it's delicious, unfortunately 90% of the time it's done poorly.

Any wine from the unfortunately named Raats Family Winery. Chenins around $15 and Cabernet Francs up to $30. These may be tough to find.

Bouchard-Finlayson Wines. They make 3 Chardonnays and 2 Pinot Noirs. All fantastic. They are just now building a US presence.

Finally, at all cost, avoid SA sauvignon blanc, unless you like the flavor of asparagus & jalapeno in your wine.

Well there you have it, CrabbyCook's first travelogue. If it ever crossed your mind to travel to South Africa, by all means do it; it will be the experience of a lifetime.

I'll leave you with a quiz. Identify the book and author of the following lines:

I watched the coast. Watching a coast as it slips by the ship is like thinking about an enigma. There it is before you-- smiling, frowning, inviting, grand, mean, insipid, or savage, and always mute with an air of whispering, Come and find out.

Good Luck.

A special Crabby request. If you find any of the wines WWBob and I recommend could you please post a comment telling everyone where you found the wines (regardless of location).
Please note, the photos are those that Crabby gleaned from the internet.


Anonymous said...

Conrad. Heart of Darkness. said...

Correct! Joseph Conrad's, Heart of Darkness, set on Africa's Congo River (in what was then known as the Belgian Congo).

A novella exploring power, hypocrisy, hubris and moral turpitude. Talk about a winner on every level! Invariably, discussions of the book's themes are far more interesting than the book itself.

Sorry Anonymous, still no prizes to give away, maybe someday. 'Til then just remember:

"Charlie don't surf!"

(Feel free to explain that reference).