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De Wetshof, Robertson (Western Cape, South Africa) Chardonnay “Bateleur” 2017 ($66, Broadbent Selections)
 This wine is made from fruit grown in one of South Africa's oldest Chardonnay vineyards, planted in 1987.  The site offers a combination of gravel, limestone and clay soils and measures just 3.5 hectares, or about 8.5 acres.  In speaking with Johan de Wet I learned that the clones planted here were brought to South Africa from the Clos de Mouches vineyard in Beaune, Burgundy, France.  The grapes were destemmed, pressed, and the resulting juice settled overnight prior to fermentation in 100% new, blond-toasted barrels.  Following racking of coarse lees, the wine spent additional time in barrel with weekly battonage.  After a few months of less contact the wine was racked again and saw a further 12 months aging in barrel.  This wine shows a vibrant pale yellow color with a slightly green rim in the glass.  Aromas are composed of crisp Bosc pear, toasty oak, salt-air, clean button mushroom earthiness and a lactic note.  The wine is both powerful and elegant in its balance, never edging into the oak dominated nutty aromas or an overwrought oily texture.          
94 Andrew Holod


Posted by Michael Franz on September 13, 2023 at 7:42 PM

Welcoming Andrew Holod to Wine Review Online

Along with my colleagues at Wine Review Online, I’m delighted to welcome Andrew Holod to our ranks.  He’s starting up this week with a set of reviews, and you’ll find his recommendations virtually every Wednesday going forward on the WRO “Reviews” page.  Andrew will also begin contributing columns toward the end of next month.

Andrew is an American-born child of immigrants from Ukraine.  He was raised in the exceptionally diverse suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was exposed to a broad range of cultures and many different foods, many of which were grown in his family’s garden.

While living in Munich, Germany for more than two years while in primary school, Andrew did a lot of foraging for pine and beech nuts and developed a prodigious appetite for local specialties based on roasted pork. Upon returning to the USA, his pediatrician found his resulting blood cholesterol levels somewhat disturbing, but no lasting damage was done and his culinary career was off to a flying start.

University studies at Virginia Tech resulted in a BS degree in Industrial Design after extensive work with wood and plastics while also machining metal, photographing, welding, printing, and engaging in computer-aided design.  Studies also included literature, the philosophy of art and “most importantly”—as Andrew told me—wine.

The wine course was conducted by Bruce Zoecklein, Ph.D., who I’ve known for many years and who is very highly respected all over the world of wine (his formal position prior to shifting into Emeritus status was, “Professor and Head, Enology-Grape Chemistry Group” at Virginia Tech). The course was based on the famous U.C. Davis University Wine Course, and for Andrew, as he explained to me, it “ignited a desire to understand why a wine tastes as it does…because of vine training, terroir, winemaking techniques, or some combination of these factors?”

After graduation, Andrew pursued these interests while working for eight years in wine retailing in McLean, Virginia and Gaithersburg, Maryland, sometimes tasting as many as 100 wines per week in his role as Assistant Manager.  He also ran tasting classes at the Gaithersburg location, during which time he was accepted into the WSET program (at age 24) with a view to sitting for the Master of Wine exam as WSET was just taking root in the USA.  

After three years of study, Andrew stepped away from that course of study but not from striving to understand wine, and incorporating a more hands-on dimension to his striving.  He worked a harvest for two weeks with Sashi Moorman at Stolpman Vineyards in Santa Barbara and then another week at Chehalem Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and was also invited to participate in Oregon Pinot Camp and Master Napa Valley.

Andrew also worked a harvest for 10 days in Valencia, Spain, but his engagement with Spanish wines ran much deeper than that.  He worked for nearly 15 years with Aurelio Cabestrero and his company, Grapes of Spain, in multiple capacities including Marketing Manager and then Sales Manager.  As regular readers of Wine Review Online are already aware from years of reviews I’ve published on this site, I respect Cabestrero at the highest level of USA-based importers, and Grapes of Spain is among the most carefully curated portfolios of wines imported to our shores from any country in the world.  It was when Andrew was working in this capacity that he and I first met, and also when he immersed himself directly in Spanish regions including Ourense, Rías Baixas, Bierzo, Toro, Ribera del Duero, Rioja, they Pays Basque, Valencia, Alicante, Valdepeñas, La Mancha, Navarra and Jerez.

His travels and work experience are remarkably extensive.  On the travel front, and citing France just for example, he’s conducted site visits in Alsace, Burgundy, Minervois, Corbieres, Saumur and Vouvray.  Currently he works as Assistant Wine Manager in Schneider’s of Capitol Hill in D.C. and at cellar.com, its online portal.  Schneider’s was established in 1949 and is an institution in D.C.—which is saying something in a city famed for its institutions.

Please take a few minutes to look over this week’s WRO's “Reviews” page to get a sense of Andrew’s wine aesthetic and means of conveying his critical appreciation to readers.  We are confident that you’ll like what you see and enjoy what you taste on his recommendations.  Stay tuned during the weeks ahead as his reviews and columns roll out—we are delighted to welcome him aboard, and you’ll be thankful for his guidance along your own voyage in wine.

Dr. Michael
This Issue's Reviews
Three Takes on Second Wines
Michael Apstein

Sept. 20, 2023: No one wants to be second. Nobody strives to come in second. Second place is just not built-in to our DNA. For example, my daughter, a NCAA Gold Medal winner coxswain during college, referred to a Silver Medal winner-2nd place-as 'the first loser.' So, the so-called 'second wines' can have a pejorative connotation. Nevertheless, a recent instance of serendipity reinforced why I maintain that consumers should be embracing second wines, not shunning them. But before describing the serendipitous encounter, let me remind readers about second wines. Regardless of location, labeling or nomenclature, the concept underlying second wines is always the same: categorize the grapes and/or wine from a property based on quality and character, and bottle them separately on two tiers. However, especially when both wines are relatively young, it can be a mistake to think of the "first loser" as a loser at all.
When Should I Open This Wine?
Michael Franz

Sept. 20, 2023: For me, the the toughest of all commonly asked consumer questions about wine is, "How Long Should I Age This Wine?" The problem isn't that this is a dumb question. On the contrary, it is a question that every novice wine-lover should ask. After all, everybody is somewhat aware that wine is unique by comparison to spirits or beer in an important respect: Wine holds the potential to develop in a positive way after we purchase it, though it can also be degraded if held too long. When we come into possession of our first few bottles of serious wine, we're put on the spot: There's no owner's manual, and the decision of when to open the bottles is thrust upon us, and we don't want to mishandle something that rightly strikes us as a rather big deal. We want to open the wine at its apogee, or at any rate to avoid misusing a bottle that was a valued gift, or a keepsake from a memorable trip, or just a conspicuously expensive purchase.
Wine With
WINE WITH…Steak on a Bed of Buttered Corn

August 23, 2023: Most of us have a pretty clear idea of what we consider the perfect steak. In general, Americans tend to like their steak big, and they tend to like it grilled over charcoal. I am usually happy with a smaller steak, and I like it somewhat thinner. My ideal steak is usually seasoned with nothing more than salt and pepper, and it is quickly seared in a very hot and heavy cast iron skillet. If the wine you're going to pour with that steak is special that might be even more reason to let the steak's natural flavors shine through.
On My Table
Seamless Syrah
Mary Ewing-Mulligan

August 23, 2023: We each have our favorite wine descriptors that suggest special characteristics of fine wine that we encounter only rarely. 'Seamless' is one of those words for me. It suggests a wine that expresses itself as a whole, with no edges, no seams; complete unto itself. When I tasted this Syrah, 'seamless' was the first descriptive that popped into my mind. 'Round' and 'harmonious,' followed close behind. I was not familiar with Mira winery, and so some research was in order. The winery is a small estate of 16 acres in the heart of Napa Valley. The partners are winemaker Gustavo Gonzalez and entrepreneur Jim 'Bear' Dyke, who happened to meet in 2005 in Washington DC. They struck up a friendship based on a common love of wine and, improbably, mathematics. Their joint wine venture began in 2009. Gustavo Gonzalez was the red wine maker at Robert Mondavi Winery and besides global winemaking experience, he boasts a 25-year deep, local knowledge of Napa terroir, having worked across every AVA in the Napa Valley. At Mira, his aim is to farm sustainably, use 100% Napa Valley fruit, and make the wines in the gentlest, most natural way possible, to set each wine on its path of terroir expression.