In South African Wine
on 28 Feb 14

My family was in town recently and I enjoyed taking them to all my favorite spots around Madison: breakfast at Marigold Kitchen, a tour of the Public Library, beers at One Barrel, cheese curds at Next Door. We rounded off the Madison food tour with dinner at L'Etoile, one of the city's best-known fine dining restaurants.

Rust en Vrede

I chose L'Etoile specifically for its wine list, which features a number of interesting regions, varietals, and styles, as well as Wisconsin wine and South African wine. My mom spent time in Stellenbosch visiting me, so she particularly appreciates South African bottles when we can find them in restaurants, and my dad always likes a good red wine.

Since our menu choices ran the gamut from a vegetarian tart to a charcuterie plate, we went for mood over pairings, and selected Rust en Vrede 2011 cabernet from among L'Etoile's several SA options. I have always enjoyed Rust en Vrede's reds, but haven't seen them as much in Wisconsin as I did back in New York. This Helderberg farm has a fairly warm site that yields simply regal red wines; I'll never forget a lunch there in 2010 where I enjoyed steak and frites with their estate blend at the beautiful winery restaurant.

This cabernet was a lovely dinner companion. With a signature Stellenbosch menthol tone followed by leather, peaberry coffee, firm acidity, and even-handed tannins, the wine was ideal for red meat but also complemented our vegetable tart nicely. Opening up, it brought to mind cobalt waves carrying flint and black-red fruit under a dark sky; it's a beautiful cab, exactly the kind I love to drink.

Cheers to L'Etoile for including some really nice SA bottles on their exciting wine list.

Julia Burke reviews South African wine and writes about social justice, the South African wine industry, and her own adventures in winemaking.