Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Graham Beck Luncheon ... March 4, 2008 - Le Select Bistro

From this luncheon I got three things: a full belly, a tasting of some great South Africa wines, and a press pack as thick as a slice of Wonder bread (the Texas Toast variety). I have been through the press pack so I know all about Graham Beck, but I thought to myself, “What do you, my readers, want to know? What would be of interest to you?” So instead of recopying the press pack here, I thought instead I would tell you what the principles of Graham Beck, seated around the table, were talking about.

1) It has been a very cool year in South Africa and harvest in about 3 weeks behind schedule … this has proven to be a boon for Sauvignon Blanc, which according to Gary Baumgarten, general manger, is tasting beautifully in tank.

2) Graham Beck is a rather large company and has winemakers in charge of specific grapes or brands, so that things don’t get lost and quality isn’t sacrificed, like one who specializes in Sauvignon Blanc and another for their sparkling wine program.

3) For every hectare cultivated, three are under conservation … Graham Beck has a game reserve which is currently 3885 hectares, while surrounding property owners have committed their land to this preservation attitude, and this will soon amount to 6000 hectares around the Roseburg Mountain – they are the only winery in the world that can boast this kind of commitment to the land and the animals upon it. They are proud to be acknowledged as a winery that is ISO-14001 sustainability certified.

4) The Gamekeeper’s Reserve wine was designed for the North American market and 10 cents from every bottle sold goes directly to the game reserve. Disney was the first to acquire this wine for it’s theme parks and it was exclusive to them for the first two years of its release.

5) Graham Beck cultivates 300 hectares (under vine), they are 90% self sufficient, the other 10% they buy from single vineyards in specific regions with specific terroir, and these grapes go into their ultra premium, single vineyard wines.

6) Graham Beck will be celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year.

About the Wines Tasted …

2005 Brut Rosé and NV Brut

These two wines are perfect just the way they are. Someone mentioned the rosé was too light (onion skin coloured) and hard to distinguish as a “rosé” – screw that noise, good wine is good wine no matter what the colour; I’d prefer to drink something that tastes good rather than something that’s the appropriate colour. Broken down, this sparkling Rosé is fruity and easy drinking, made from 80% Pinot and 20% Chardonnay – grapes are harvested and pressed together … a touch sweeter than the Brut this wine was set for launch through Vintages on March 15 ($21.95 - #4085). The Brut is a 50/50 blend of Pinot and Chard, with citrus and yeasty flavours that are crisp with bite and lemon freshness (due February 2009 - $18.95 - #62119).

2007 Sauvignon Blanc (no price or availability given)

This is Graham Beck’s basement Savvy B., but you could have fooled me. Typical and delightful with lots of grapefruit, gooseberry and grassy notes on the nose; with great acidity, crisp refreshing flavours of citrus, full mouthfeel and a lasting grapefruit finish … this was pretty awesome for their first rung Blanc. We were teased by a description of the “Pheasant Run” Sauvignon Blanc – their top tier, limited availability (900 cases), single vineyard offering from 15 year old vines … if you like S.B. get some of either, if you can.

2005 Railroad Red ($12.20 - #665273)

A blend of 60% Shiraz and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon … this usual Vintages product has been recently added to the general list: smoky, red fruit and vanilla greet the nose, while oaky tannins, red and black fruit, cinnamon and spice play on the palate.

2005 “The Andrew” ($25.50 - #52753)

A Bordeaux blend that has all the ingredients, including the Petit Verdot and Malbec … named after Graham Beck’s second grandchild (the first, named William, also has his own wine – no indication whether the boys like their respective beverages). 15 months in French oak has resulted in a smoky, black fruit, lead pencil and earthy nose, with a matching taste.

2003 Rhona Muscadel ($21.80 - #607812 – 500ml)

This wine, named for Beck’s wife, from the September 29, 2007 Vintages release, proved to be the hit of the tasting. Made from Muscat de Frontignan grapes, this limited wine is made in 1200 case lots every year (roughly 14,000 litres), is fortified to 16% and ranks between a 9 or 10 on the sugar code. A nose that’s full of grapey, pear and orange blossom notes that follow through in the mouth with a little bite, great acidity and fruity as all get out …a life span that’ll see if lasting 10 year plus.

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