We’ll sip our way around the globe, with wine-fueled stops on three different continents. We’ll visit Cape Town and meet a sommelier and winemaker on a mission. Plus, we’ll get down and dirty with the Mosel Riesling harvest in Germany. And, after wildfires raged through northern California last fall, we’ll hear about an all-hands-on-deck effort to Rebuild Wine Country.
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Read the full transcript of “Destinations”:
Susan Kostrzewa: From Wine Enthusiast Magazine, this is the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. I’m Executive Editor Susan Kostrzewa.
Coming up: Destinations. We’ll sip our way around the globe with wine field stops on three different continents.
We’ll visit Cape Town and meet a sommelier and wine maker on a mission.
Tinashe Nyamudoka: I believe wine is about experiences and memories. So, if a wine takes me back home it’s taking me to my origin. So my main aim is to make that wine speak an African language.
SK: Plus, we’ll get down and dirty with the Mosel Riesling harvest in Germany.
Anne Krebiehl: So, what you hear here is the music of Riesling. It is the sound of Riesling fermenting.
SK: And after wild fires raged through Northern California last fall, we’ll hear about an all hands on deck effort to rebuild wine country.
Chris Strieter: To use that metaphor, The Phoenix Rising from the Ashes, I think is really fitting. People are … this community is stronger than ever and we are open for business.
SK: It’s coming up on the Wine Enthusiast Podcast.
When you think of top spots in the United States for irresistible wine what comes to mind? Washington state no doubt. Oregon? Then of course, there is California. Since the mid 1800’s hundreds of wineries have cropped up in California’s wine country. The region north of San Francisco is renowned for its lush vineyards and serene atmosphere. So, it was all the more shocking when back in October 2017 the news reports were bursting with this:
News Montage: ”We begin with a fire disaster unfolding in California tonight. More than 70,000 acres destroyed. At least 22 wildfires are still burning. 1500 homes and commercial buildings. Closely watching the plumes. People to evacuate.”
Click here to learn about Wine Enthusiast’s partnership with Rebuild Wine Country, and see what you can do to help.
The wildfire’s that decimated more than 200,000 acres across Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake and Solano counties were the deadliest in California history. It took 23 days to contain the fires. Once the smoke cleared, nearly 9,000 structures were burned and tens of thousands of people were displaced. That’s why a group of volunteers from the wine industry are determined to rebuild. They’re spearheading a giving fund called Rebuild Wine Country. One of the driving forces behind this effort is Chris Strieter of Senses Wines on the Sonoma coast. Chris is a Sonoma native and as he recently told contributing editor Virginie Boone, though there is plenty of work still to be done in wine country the landscape is already showing sings of new growth and recovery.
Virginie Boone: Given your intense connection to the wine country, personal and professional, let’s talk a little bit about, you know, what we all went through this last October with what was called the wine country fires. From your perspective, with Sonoma, all the things that have happened there, let’s talk a little bit about when you first heard about the fires what was in your mind and in your heart.
Chris Strieter: It was a crazy, crazy time. I remember talking to my sister Sunday night the eighth at ten o’clock at night. Her husband is a firefighter and she mentioned that her husband Josh was away responding to a fire. I didn’t think anything about it at the time. Went to bed, totally normal night. Woke up Monday morning, like six o’clock or so, to a barrage of text messages from friends and they were asking and just checking in to see if everyone was safe. And I was like, “What are you talking about?” Like, I’m totally fine, I don’t know of anything. And that was the moment that I looked at the news and I saw the fires and there were so many friends who lost their home within 20 minutes at three in the morning. With no time to leave and as I heard these stories I was just in complete shock. I didn’t get anything done that day, productivity. It was all just checking in and touching base with people.
Throughout the week it was just high alert and realizing that all the systems were failing. News couldn’t keep up, no one knew if they were safe or not, friends weren’t sure where other friends were, families were being displaced every single day. And I think it was that Monday, which was the most devastating and then going into Tuesday and being like what do we do? How do we help? And that was when we had the conversation at Senses of like, “Look guys, there’s no central place to put our energy. What can we create? What can we do to help those that really need it?”
VB: Was there a particular aha moment or was it just something over time so much devastation, hearing about so many more stories, realizing all the different things that had been burned down during that night, during that first night in particular. Was it, did you have it in your head I have to do something and I have to create it myself? And, where does that come from?
CS: I think it was that Tuesday. After making sure that family and friends were safe, it hit like a rock, like we need to do something. This is our community, this is our hometown, this is where our roots are. We are Sonoma County, this is everything, it defines so much about us and it is probably the most defining factor as far as where I’ve gone in my life and where all three of us have gone in our lives because of the childhood memories and we wanted to give back.
I think that afternoon I made a post on Facebook trying to find out how the heck do you give back? The hardest challenge was figuring out how to do it legally and in a tax protected manner because people who donate want to get a tax write off. Luckily, a friend of mine, Che who I’ve grown up with and is a good friend. He works for Habitat for Humanity of Sonoma County and he immediately reached out and I was like, “Oh my gosh, this is a great opportunity but we wanted to make sure we had a chance to help all of wine country.” And that’s when talking to the Senses team and specifically Chelsea Boss who helped lead the charge and get this thing founded, we decided let’s just go all in and really help as many people as we could.
VB: And Habitat for Humanity was the way to do that as far as you could tell?
CS: Keep in mind, this was the week the fires’ hit and nobody knew what was going on with their close friends or the offices. Most people obviously weren’t going to work and here I am trying to put together a relatively difficult entity or effort and so it was really hard to get those answers. So, Habitat for Humanity and Che in particular volunteered the information. “Chris, why don’t you partner with us? Why don’t we focus on the families, not just the community as a whole, but the families who are losing their homes and who are going to have to rebuild?” And it just hit, it’s like the light went off, “Guys this is it. This is the opportunity, there’s Habitat for Humanities across all counties, they can work together closely and take charge and lead the effort for rebuilding.”
VB: So how does that partnership work in effect? You’re raising money that goes directly into this entity within Habitat for Humanity?
CS: Habitat collects the funds, reconciles everything, does all the tax reporting, and then redistributes the money to their affiliates as a proportion of homes lost and destroyed by the fires. And it’s all ear marked specifically for fire relief.
We set up a platform through a website called you caring. It’s zero percent fees, they take nothing out of it, we take nothing out of it. We are a 100% volunteer effort, team of about 15 to 20 of us.
VB: And then because you don’t have any overhead, it sounds like, 100% of a donation is going to this effort.
CS: Absolutely. The only money that is taken out of it is if any money is paid through or donated through credit cards there is a processing fee. But there is almost no way to get around that. Besides that, 100% goes directly to boots on the ground through Habitat for Humanity and the local affiliates. It’s going straight to the local affiliates.
VB: Given that, did you have some goals in mind when you first set this up?
CS: Great question. We humbly thought $50,000 was a great goal. We went live it was like $5k, $10k, or something the first day and we were like, “Oh my gosh. Like this is actually happening.” Through the weekend I think it hit about 40 and we blasted our email list first thing that Monday and then there was even more. We’re like, “Oh my gosh, $50,000 is way to low, let’s raise it to $100,000.” And then, thanks to the incredible team and the ability to get the word out, the question was, “Let’s look bigger. This is going to take a lot more.” We figured out that it was about $100,000 per home for Habitat to rebuild so we did some basic math, like we need at least 50 ish homes, maybe 100.
Repairs were really cheap, only a couple thousand so we could repair a lot of homes but if we really wanted to rebuild homes 50 would require almost five million. And so we had the conversation, “Guys, let’s increase this target, let’s set it to five million. We have a story, we have a goal, that still is just a dent of the total damage and it’s only going to touch a small part of the homes that need to be rebuilt. But it’s something that we can look forward to and really create more momentum behind.
So, it’s gone up quite a bit, over time.
VB: It’s been about three months since the fire themselves and it’s winter now and we’ve actually had little drops of rain here and there so there’s some green, there’s some life coming back to the county. What do you see when you drive around wine country now? I mean, specifically Sonoma. What do you see?
CS: It’s really important for people to know that wine country is open for business. And wineries are happy to have visitors. Tourism is such a huge part of the entire industry. People come in to tasting rooms, going to restaurants, you name it, people need to do that. There’s no reason not to. I think it’s more beautiful than ever. And I know it’s hard to look at a place and see a fire go through and the destruction that a fire leaves in its path but when you fast forward, even a couple of months afterwards with fresh rains and sun and there’s already so much new growth. To use that metaphor the Phoenix Rising from the Ashes, I think is really fitting. This community is stronger than ever and we are open for business and we are looking to host everyone that we can. And I feel it every time I drive through town.
Susan Kostrzewa: Wine Enthusiast Media is partnering with Rebuild Wine Country to aid communities affected by the wild fires. We’ll be donating partial proceeds from our upcoming Wine Star Awards Gala on Monday January 29th. To learn more about Rebuild Wine Country visit our website winemag.com/podcast. And to join the social conversation, follow at Wine Enthusiast on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and use the hashtag #WEstandwithCA.
Time for a break. But when we get back:
Tinashe Nyamudoka: “I get a lot of tourists and the first question they ask you, “Are the wines we are drinking tonight all South African?” And it really excites me. They come here with the intention of drinking South African wines.”
SK: We’ll get a first hand look at the wine renaissance in Cape Town, one of the top 10 wine getaways from this month’s magazine.
Anne Krebiehl: “And: We are filling the barrels that we just washed with fresh Riesling must.”
SK: We’ll tag along as our contributing editor harvests Riesling from a steep slate slope in Germany.
Welcome back to the Wine Enthusiast Podcast. I’m Susan Kostrzewa.
Every year, nearly two million tourists make their way to Cape Town, South Africa. They go for the breathtaking views of Table Mountain, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. They go for the magnificent beaches and botanic gardens. And more and more they go for the wine. South Africa has been making wine since the mid 1600’s. Fast forward to today and South African wine is in the midst of a renaissance. To learn more, Managing Editor and Tasting Director, Lauren Buzzeo spoke with Tinashe Nyamudoka, head sommelier at Cape Town’s Test Kitchen Restaurant.
Tinashe Nyamudoka: I was born in Zimbabwe. Born and bred in Harare, so yeah, I’m a Zimbo, Zimbo by heart but living in South Africa.
Lauren Buzzeo: When did you move to Cape Town and what exactly was it that brought you there?
TN: I moved into Cape Town early 2008, that was just before the chaotic scenes in Harare and Zimbabwe in general, you know? So I took that leap of faith, came down to South Africa for greener pastures.
LB: I understand that when you moved to Cape Town you actually knew pretty little, maybe next to nothing, about wine. Is that actually true?
TN: Look, I grew up in Zimbabwe and there wasn’t any wine culture of sorts and I never grew up with a wine bottle at the dinner table let alone taste that much, so I completely knew nothing about wine just that wine was from grapes and probably you could get red wine and white wine, that’s all.
LB: You just competed in the World Blind Wine Tasting Championships this year, so, clearly you’re doing something right. How did you develop that education?
TN: I got a chance to work in a restaurant as a runner, probably the lowest part in the front of house. So I almost build myself, and fortunate for me the first restaurant I worked in, Roundhouse Restaurant, they really ran a good wine program and the owners were really connected in the winelands. I started to learn the proper terms and the proper languages and the guys there quickly noticed and they pushed me to learn more. But the major break was when I worked at the One & Only Hotel, which had a much more bigger wine program and a much more developed sommelier team. I kind of grow my craft there. The wine list was extensive and they put me into school as well. I spent a bit of time there and then I moved onto Oyster Box in Durban where I was head sommelier there, even knew more, started to integrate more food, getting into wine competitions, judging here and there. Then obviously I moved to the Test Kitchen and it opened up pretty much everything, you know?
LB: How would you describe the wine culture over all in South Africa? I know here in the U.S. there’s a good amount of different levels of understanding and education when it comes to South African wine or even just wine in general, right? It really spans the gammut. But are local consumers there really savvy about the local wines?
TN: I think it is really progressed that much, you know? People, you’d be surprised, I work in a restaurant I’m dealing with guests all the time and get to interact with different guests. You still get the die hards that are loyal to the brand and they stick to what they know. But I think the majority have become much more savvy, they ask the correct questions, they know what they want. And they know if it’s exciting. I think the big major change has been they are free spirits, they are willing to try something out different, so I think the wine culture has become much more evolved. Much more inclusive as well. It used to be an elitist thing, but now I can say for sure, African American, like myself are more intertwined getting knowledge, getting sommelier courses around a lot of wine courses down here. So, people are really teaching themselves and learning how to drink what they want.
LB: It must be so gratifying and refreshing to you to be seeing and witnessing those changes and people’s willingness to try new things and really, you know, take advice and take advantage of your expertise and those of sommeliers and wine directors in the country to really learn more about something that doesn’t need to be intimidating or, as you said, elitist, but really accessible to everybody.
TN: Exactly. Exactly. Now I’m working in a top restaurant where you focus more on the food as well and generally in places I’ve worked you’d tell them this food and wine pairing, it’s an option. But now I literally go 90% of my guests coming in are willing to trust what I provide because they see what is exciting, they’ve never tried it before or if they’ve tried other wines and they’ve never tried the vintage so they are really much open and you know? It’s very exciting for me.
LB: From a tourism perspective are you finding that a lot of people who are visiting Cape Town are also similarly as open to really learning more about the country’s wines and trying different varieties that they maybe are not so familiar with or maybe don’t have wide experience with?
TN: Definitely. Especially in my space, I get more tourists and the first question they ask you is, “Are the wines we are drinking tonight all South African?” And for me it’s a, personally, probably I’d love to be a mix, but for the industry in general and what we’re trying to put out there it really excites me. They come here with the intention of drinking South African wines.
LB: Let’s talk about one of my favorite grapes and also one of the most widely planted grape variety in South Africa, which would be Chenin Blanc. A traditional, some would say work horse variety that was largely used in brandy production but now more and more producers are actually creating magnificent expressions of high quality from different regions and different, even single sites and in such a range of styles. I know you’ve even started making a wine of your own, congratulations. And the white being a Chenin Blanc based wine. So, tell me how would you describe the beauty of South African Chenin Blanc and what sets it apart from other global expressions of the variety?
TN: The reason I chose Chenin is it’s quite versatile, and I work with Chenin most of the time in the restaurant, and it’s a beauty to pair with food you know? You can have it from different areas like I said Swartland and Stellenbosch and you’re getting cooler sites in the Elgin Valley coming up with beautiful Chenin Blanc. It’s the versatility of the grape, and the way you can manipulate it, stylistically. You’re getting dry Chenins up to a more sweeter style, and we have it. It gives you lots of texture depending on how its made, it’s quite easy to work around with the farms as well, and I feel its one grape, which can really express all the different regions in South Africa.
LB: Do you think that there are other varieties that you would consider particularly well suited to South African [inaudible 00:21:06]? Certainly one of the, you could say advantages and disadvantages of South Africa is that there really is quite a diverse wine making landscape and its suitable to a lot of different varieties. But in terms of red cultivars are there any that you feel really shine, even if it’s just within specific regions?
TN: What’s really exciting me and what people never talk about is Cab Franc. I’m a huge fan of Cab Franc and I believe it has a place in South Africa, you can get especially a Stellebosch Cab Franc, and some Cab Franc coming from those cooler sites. It’s not as cool but at least different sites [inaudible 00:21:48] Cab Franc and it’s really expressing that pencil shavings that cedar that lead pencil giving you beautiful aromatic so I think Cab Franc is the one to watch in South Africa and I think we can really be on par with the great Pomerols and stuff. And I’m getting excited with Cinco it’s one that’s really fruitiness that lightness and like Pinot Noir is much more light and I’ve been working quite a lot Cinco in the restaurant because they’ve got an affinity where to pair with food. And the other varieties coming up, people are experimenting, I’ve been tasting Nero D’Avola from Bozeman. Pick off my head I’d go Cab Franc, Cinco, and to look out for Nero D’Avola.
LB: We’ve been hearing a lot in the news about the drought in South Africa. Do you see this affecting not only the upcoming harvest but also do you think it will affect prices in the industry overall?
TN: Yeah, I think we’re seeing the effects already. Maybe even worse in the coming year. You talk to some producers, and they’ve lost almost half of their fruit, half of their production so I think the downside is obviously prices, but I don’t suspect prices on the lower tier and middle tier are really having a drastic change. Probably on the higher tier or those technically South African investment grade wines, you know, the Shadis, the Mullineux, they are going to be very hard to come by, so I suspect those prices will really really shoot up but quality is going to be definitely high, so we’re really excited about that.
On the downside, yes, prices will go, and the yields will be low. But hopefully we can ride through it.
LB: Looking forward and looking upward when it comes to South Africa as a wine producer and as a wine destination where do you see the future going?
TN: I think it can only get better from now as long as we are confident of what we are making and we really feel that it is top there with the world. I just think that we need to speak in one voice. It’s been waiting for guys like us who speak the language who both have been through the whole wine valley chain and understand how people drink. I think if it gets support from that I think we’ll get more people onboard to drink wine and grow the industry.
LB: Let’s take a minute to talk about your new wines. Can you tell me a little bit about how you got that started and what was your idea and dream behind developing this brand?
TN: I was looking how my journey came about. Where my struggles and how I can help, especially people like me coming from a background without drinking wine. And one of the struggles I had in my wine knowledge was familiarizing myself with the European terminology: gooseberries, plums, blackberry, black current. I never grew up eating those stuff letting alone encounter those stuff. I grew up eating in the rural areas in Zimbabwe, I’d go up to my grandfather’s house picking wild fruits. Those are the things I understood. In the early stages it was exciting. I was finding the black currents but when I started to enjoy wine and found out it’s actually, it’s not a crime, I was actually allowed to associate any characters and aromas with my wine I started to enjoy wine much more better. I shifted from describing my wine in a European way and I wanted to or I want to write wine in an African language and make people like me understand that it is practically correct to give a reference of what they grew up and what they are familiar to with wine.
For me, the wine branding encapsulates all of that. Encapsulates my journey through wine from a novice to a prominent, maybe wine advocate. So Kumusha is a Shona name, which means your roots. It can mean, your home or it can mean your wine of origin. I believe wine is about experiences and memories so if a wine takes me back home, it’s taking me to my origins, so I named my wine Kumusha just to give that association. My main aim is to make that wine speak an African language.
Susan Kostrzewa: Cape Town is one of Wine Enthusiasts top 10 wine getaways of 2018. To read more about Cape Town and the other nine destinations on our list visit winemag.com.
For years, contributing editor Anne Krebiehl had an itch she needed to scratch. The master of wine had worked a number of wine harvests. Nebilo and Barbasco, Pinot Noir in New Zealand and her native Germany, but never before had she harvested one of her all time favorites, Riesling. That is, until last year, when Anne finally got her chance. She brings us this audio post card:
Anne Krebiehl: I’ve come for the harvest and the region I’m in is called Mosel Valley and it gets its name from a river, the river Mosel. So, what you can hear is the motor of the Monorack – it’s a little single rail that goes up… on the back is another harvester, there are buckets, and off we go, oh my God, this is steep!
Join Anne Krebiehl, MW, on her three-part journey to harvest Riesling on the Mosel slopes.
And this is how the fruit gets down back into the valley. While the crew is harvesting and the foreman Christian then comes and empties our buckets and puts them into boxes and the boxes get loaded onto the monorail, which goes back down and then they get tipped into bins and the bin is on the back of the tractor and this bin is the bin full of fruit that will go to the winery.
The chugging noises here is the sound that the crusher makes. One of the bins was just brought in from the vineyard has been lifted up by forklift and is being tipped as we speak into the crusher. The grapes go in this end and they just fall down into another bin and they are being crushed.
Right now the crushed grapes are being tipped into the hopper but like a large funnel that is on top of the press. And the press is open and this is a vertical press, that means it’s like a tube, a vertical tube, and inside that is a kind of bag that fills with air and presses the grapes against the side of the press so that is a really gentle way of pressing and the press cycle will take about three hours to complete. Gentle and slow.
And here you can already hear the first free run juice percolating and dripping into the big basin. This is the press in full swing now and you can hear how much juice is coming out and I’m still amazed how cloudy it actually is but it smells wonderfully fresh and fruity. It smells a little bit like green apples. Really, really fresh.
We are filling the barrels that we just washed with fresh Riesling must. How simple this really seems that the grapes just get crushed, then they macerate a little in their own juice, then they get pressed, then the juice settles and now we’re filling this fresh, settled, juice into a barrel where it will stay.
So what you hear here is the music of Riesling. It is the sound of Riesling fermenting. Of lots and lots of air locks on lots of lots of barrels going at full tilt blubbing away.
What we are hearing now with this air lock and the carbon dioxide escaping is just the high season of fermentation but then it will just quiet down and go very very slowly. And of course in winter the cellar will get colder so the ferment will slow down. But you just leave these barrels to their own devices and they do their own sweet thing until they are done.
Susan Kostrzewa: That was Anne Krebiehl, Contributing Editor for Alsace, Austria, and England. Working her way through the Riesling harvest in the Mosel Valley. You can see photos from Anne’s Riesling harvest on our website, winemag.com/podcast. And now, we ask you. Is there a wine harvest you would love to take part in? Anywhere in the world? If so, we want to hear about it. Send an email to email@example.com or send us a tweet, use the hashtag #WEpodcast.
That’s it for today’s Wine Enthusiast Podcast. We heard from Contributing Editors Virginie Boone and Anne Krebiehl and Managing Editor Loren Buzzeo. The Wine Enthusiast Podcast is produced by Sheir and Shim, LLC . Our Executive Producer is Marina Vataj.
You can hear a new episode of the Wine Enthusiast Podcast every other week. To make sure you don’t miss out, subscribe now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you get your Podcasts. And please, write us a review, we’d love to hear what you think of the show. Stay in touch with us by following Wine Enthusiast Magazine on Facebook and Twitter and using the hashtag #WEpodcast. And visit our website, winemag.com/podcast. I’m Susan Kostrzewa, see you next time.