2017 Hamilton Russell, Pinot Noir, $57
Winery info: Hamilton Russell was founded in 1975 in South Africa’s cool, maritime Walker Bay region, southeast of Cape Town. The winery is the southernmost wine estate in South Africa and the closest to the sea, and their focus is on terroir-driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. After conducting extensive research throughout their estate in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, they identified 52 hectares of stony, clay-rich soil, perfect for producing wines with the unique, expressive style they sought in their wines. With small yields and high demand throughout the world, their wines are always in limited supply.
Grapes: 100% Pinot Noir
Vineyard: Their estate vineyard, with stony, clay-rich, shale-derived soil.
Flavor Profile: The rocky soil and cool, maritime climate produces a Pinot with a nice touch of restraint to balance the rich, full flavors of the fruit. While complex and well structured, it is not overly fruity, but has dark, spicy, savory notes, very expressive of the unique terroir of the vineyards. 2017 was a good vintage in the region, producing a classic, elegant Pinot with excellent minerality.
Availability: There are just a few cases left of this vintage.
Drinkability: Enjoy now through 2024.
Food Pairing: This Pinot would pair well with prime rib, wild mushroom dishes, roast duck, or poultry.
2016 Benjamin Leroux, Saint-Romain, Sous le Château, $46
Winery info: The gifted young winemaker Benjamin Leroux began studying oenology in Beaune at age 13 and worked in Bordeaux, Oregon, and New Zealand before becoming winemaker at Domaine Comte Armand in Pommard when he was only 26. He created his own label, a “micro-négociant,” in 2007 and currently produces his wines at a modern winery in Beaune that he shares with Dominique Lafon. He selects his growers carefully and oversees all of their vineyard work, encouraging them to convert to organic and biodynamic practices when possible. Allen Meadows, of Burghound fame, has called Benjamin the natural heir to late, great Burgundy producer, Henri Jayer.
Grapes: 100% Chardonnay, from organically-farmed fruit. Vinified in 300- and 1200-liter neutral oak.
Vineyard: Sous le Château, a 0.5-hectare parcel (“lieu-dit”) in St-Romain, in the Côte de Beaune, with 20- and 60-year-old vines. It is a warm, protected site, with limestone scree and larger limestone rocks.
Flavor Profile: Benjamin’s wines tend to be very expressive, with excellent structure and fruit and remarkable depth. This one is absolutely lovely, with gentle richness, light citrus notes, ripe stone fruit flavors, and just a hint of oak. The precise, balancing minerality lingers on the lengthy finish.
Availability: Still in decent supply at the moment
Drinkability: Now through 2023.
Food Pairing: Richer poultry or seafood dishes, such as shrimp with smoked salmon.