PICK of the RACK: Rustenberg | Chardonnay | Stellenbosch | South Africa | 2010 | $25 | 90 pts

Aromas:  pear; butterscotch; wet stone
Character:  dry; full-bodied; creamy; medium acidity and tannins; subtle oak
Flavors:  honeydew melon; apricot; vanilla; toasted almond; mineral
Food Pairing:  cheeses; charcuterie; roasted poultry; salmon; cream-based dishes

Rustenberg Wines is an historic winery located in Stellenbosch, South Africa, the picturesque valley 25 miles east of Cape Town recognized as the center of South African winemaking.  Rustenberg was one of the region’s founding wine estates – established in 1682 – and today produces premium estate wines under the Rustenberg label and everyday wines under the Brampton label.  Among Rustenberg’s perennial classic varietal wines is Chardonnay, which is reliably well-crafted, complex, and delicious with each passing vintage.  The 2010 is a fitting example, exuding bright aromas of ripe pear, butterscotch, and wet stone followed by deep flavors of honeydew melon, apricot, vanilla, and toasted almond – all wrapped-up in bracing minerality.  Oak essence from barrel fermentation is noticable, but subtly interwoven with the wine’s aromas and flavors.  The wine is vivid but elegant – a seamlessly balanced expression of both the fruit and earth whence it came.  We paired it with a variety of cheeses (creamy and sharp) and charcuterie, and it proved a versatile match.  Try it, too, with roasted poultry, salmon (in Champagne sauce!), and rich cream-based dishes.

Availability:  Thankfully, Rustenberg’s Stellenbosch Chardonnay is not a complete rarity; it can be found at many fine wine merchants (ask for it!) and fairly easily ordered online.  Folks in Northern Virginia can find it at area Total Wine locations.

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