With one foot planted firmly in the old world and the other in the new, South Africa enjoys a unique advantage that blends contemporary styles with a traditional approach to making more food-friendly wines, which often over-deliver for the price. With the holiday season right around the corner, here are a few to inject more than a little personality to your next party:
. Two Oceans Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc
Here's a totally drinkable, "el cheapo" bubbly that wraps up a touch of minerality in its quaffable, soft acidity. It's also fully certified sustainable under South Africa's very developed program. BCLS $12.99
The crowd pleaser
. The Grinder Pinotage 2010 So named for its definite mocha-coffee notes up front, followed by black fruit, vanilla and spice in the middle. Not quite shy and retiring-but not a bad place to start out with Pinotage. BCLS $14.97
The non-stop dancer
. Glen Carlou Grand Classique 08
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, here's a highly affordable Bordeaux salute. Cab Sauv, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot tango together with easy tannins, red and black fruit wrapped in juicy acidity. We're in standing rib roast territory. The deal. BCLS $19.99
The big spender
. Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2009
A touch of oak on top, followed by luscious, honeyed tropical and stone fruit notes on a broad palate with great length. Distinctive for its vertical, cigar band-inspired label. A flag-ship wine. Think herbes de Provence roast chicken. Private wine stores $29-$30
The buzz at the Rosewood Georgia Hotel is mainly all about Hawksworth, and rightly so. But now newly unveiled "little sister" Bel Café (named after chef David Hawksworth's wife Annabel), which wraps around the corner of Georgia and Howe, is also causing a stir.
Think quick lunches with panache. There are great bites here, ranging from a tasty roasted Berkshire pork sandwich with red cabbage, a touch of zippy jalapeño and mustard, or spicy pulled chicken salad with caramelized onion, provolone and harissa aioli.
It's pretty stylin', a cut above your typical grab and go. Plus there's rapid, no-nonsense service once you've ordered, so you'll pay a couple of bucks more (around $10 a sandwich or fancy salad) than you would at Tim's.
But for surroundings and panache-both in the room and on the palate-it's worth the price of admission. Oh, and did we mention Wayne Kozynko's pastries and amazing macarons? Points also for the Vivreau in-house water system that brings a classy reusable bottle to your table. In short: it's a hit. Are we surprised? No!
It's open weekdays 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., and from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.