This week, our intrepid Niagara correspondent chimes in with her first contribution from South Africa, so she gets top billing. But, this is one of our better editions of WWD with some old wines, some poorly-rated-but-tasty wines and (of course) a couple beers.

P2090002Julia Burke: Blaauwklippen 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon and 1999 Pinotage

We don’t see a lot of aged South African wine in western New York – I think the oldest I’ve tried was a 2006 Cape blend. So when our assistant winemaker whipped out five aged Blaauwklippen wines on Thursday afternoon and asked us to try them and see if they were fit for sale, I felt as if both Christmas and my birthday had both come early.

For brevity’s sake I’ll just mention the highlights: a 1993 and 1999 cabernet sauvignon and a 1999 pinotage. The best part of this job is that I’m surrounded 24/7 by people who will drop everything to taste wine, and sure enough when I raced home with all three bottles to my wine geek roommates, they put down their weinwurst and beer to sample.

The 1993 cab had a fascinating dried-fruit-leather quality, as rustic as a cabin in the woods with a significant cherry presence despite its age. Though it was certainly past its peak in terms of oxidation the complexity and earthiness was seductive, and I actually liked this one best of all five.

The 1999 (unlabelled, not pictured) was the obvious choice for sale in the wine centre and my roommates’ unanimous favorite: it was incredibly smooth with great tannins, beautifully structured fruit without a trace of brett, and an elegant length: clearly a wine meant to age. When our assistant winemaker suggested we sell it for R245 (about US$25) I was appalled. It turns out our standard markup for any aged wine is 10%; I feel a post coming on about South African wine pricing.

The pinotage was, for me, the most interesting of the five simply because it’s an eleven-year-old pinotage. The nose had no banana, brett or meat but smelled like a mushroom farm being invaded by angry stewed plums; beyond its peak for sure, but quite fascinating as an example of this iconic and often chameleon-like South African cultivar. My roommate and I are going in on a case of the 1999 cab – with our staff discount the half-case will set us back a whopping US$15.

Lemberger Lenn Thompson: Fox Run Vineyards 2001 Lemberger

While certainly not a 1999 pinotage, this wine served as my own recent foray into aged "obscure" varieties, and to put it simply — it was a heck of a lot of fun to drink.

Stored no-doubt impeccably (it was at the winery until a couple weeks ago) I was beyond curious about this wine when Evan gave me a bottle a few weeks ago. Lemberger? 2001? That can't be any good can it?

I do like Lemberger. Quite a bit, in fact but can it age? I uncorked this just before kickoff to enjoy with some chicken-white bean chili (with lots of white pepper) yesterday to find out. I figured it might make a nice pairing if it still had some life left, and if it didn't it would still be a fun experience.

At first I got some weird rubber tire aromas along with stewed blueberry and black cherry — and that signature black pepper spice that I dig so much in the grape. The rubbery aromas blew off quickly though and that blueberry-black pepper compote character was joined by a little licorice on the palate. Any tannins that were there have faded leaving just a bit of acid for structure.

Clearly past peak, it still has some life in it and has me re-thinking what grapes and wines can age. It makes me want to lay down some other "obscure" wines to see how they evolve. Plus, check out those neon colors on the label.

Unibroue_Terrible Bryan Calandrelli: Unibroue La Terrible

Since I was probably going to watch the Super Bowl alone, I decided I needed a craft beer to keep me company and get me through, and because I'm just so fond of Canada these days this Unibroue Terrible was calling out to me in the store.

Since I knew it was a bad-arse beer that didn't deserve a food pairing, I waited until the fourth quarter to open it up and quickly realized that the bottle was a full 750 ml package at 10.5% alcohol and there was no way I'd get through it.

No biggy, I'd just have it for breakfast on Monday.

Dark cola color with aromas of root beer, toasted marshmallow and spice, which tasted rich on the palate with fine carbonation and a touch of sweetness.

For 10.5%, I didn't get much heat and overall I'd peg this a
being in balance. I'd put it up there with Le Fin de Monde as my favorites of this brewery.

IMG00262-20100206-1349Andy Freedman: Sixpoint Craft Ales Double Sweet Action

Nowhere gives me that 'kid in a candy store' feeling like the Beer Room at the Whole Foods Market Bowery in NYC. Their beer selection is amazing. I usually lug a couple of empty growlers with me to fill up with some quality craft beer.

This weekend in the Beer Room, Sixpoint Craft Ales hosted the Third Annual Sixpoint Craft Ales Growler-filling Super Bowl Extravaganza featuring six different Sixpoint Beers on tap. I was sold when I heard they would be offering their special 5th Anniversary beer, the Double Sweet Action.

I literally couldn't wait to get home to try it, so I headed over to TPoutine (168 Ludlow b/t Houston & Stanton), which is BYO, for a burger, a side of their classic poutine and some of my Double Sweet Action.

The Double Sweet Action pours a very hazy bright orange color. It has aromas of sweet malt, honey, caramel and some crisp, citrusy hops. It tastes of sweet buttery, caramel malty goodness with some zesty citrus hoppiness.

It was so good I offered a taste to one of the TPoutine employees to get his thoughts. I think I may be his favorite customer now. If you're in NYC and looking to try the Double Sweet Action, head over to Sixpoint's 5th Anniversary Party at Roberta's in Brooklyn on February 17, where $32 gets you all the Sixpoint you can drink and all the pizza you can eat.

Alternatively, you can head to Kettle of Fish in the West Village tomorrow night for a Sixpoint Birthday Party featuring $5 drafts, including the Double Sweet Action.

Photo Evan Dawson: Poggio Antico 2006 Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany

This wine might be the best recent example (in my cellar, anyway)
of why score is so often irrelevant in a wine. It's a wine that is
special to me and Morgan because we bought it on site. 

blind or without context, it's basic Rosso (if certainly fuller
bodied). A touch disjointed, a little bit short, but enjoyable
nonetheless. But pulled from our cellar on an evening featuring Italian
food, it's like a three-hour return trip to Montalcino. Instantly
evocative of its place. 

We love this wine for
its flaws and its character and its home.

Score would have no meaning
for this bottle. We drained it happily.