INTRODUCTION: The following article was written by Mike and Amy Mayfield. Mike is the newest Underground Contributing Editor (to view his biography click here).
Last December Mike and Amy along with their 3 children (Addison age 18, Kyle age 16 and Delaney age 12) visited South Africa. During their stay they visited wineries, tasted wine, toured the area, and enjoyed wonderful accommodations and food. They were thrilled with their visit and plan on going back. I have never been to South Africa, but everyone I know who has been there has nothing but good things to say about their visit – the country, the people, the hotels, the restaurants, and the wines. Please take a look at the article. I think you will enjoy it. You may very well decide that you need to go to South Africa!
In Vino Veritas,
Over the holidays last year, my family and I visited ten of South Africa’s finest wineries where we tasted seventy-five wines. The winery visits were arranged by Helene Oosthuizen of Wines of South Africa, a non profit organization devoted to promoting the wines of South Africa http://www.wosa.co.za/. Helene did a great job in setting up the appointments. Barbara Boast-Blattler of Passage To Africa http://www.passagetoafrica.com/ organized the lodging, transportation and tours around the wine region and Cape Town. Her lodging choices were exceptional including her driver Thomas Murray http://www.tomstours.info/ who was knowledgeable and a pleasure to accompany us for seven days. Not one detail was overlooked and the caliber of service we were provided was exceptional. We wish to thank them both and we highly recommend Barbara and Thomas should you plan a trip to South Africa.
The wineries visited were: Boekenhoutskloof, Creation, Ernie Els, Hamilton Russell Vineyards, Hidden Valley, Kanonkop, La Motte, Newton Johnson, Rust en Vrede, and Tokara. In the process we met a number of very charming and passionate wine makers, who sincerely believed in what they were doing and how they were going about it. Across the board, the wines tasted were solid New World efforts, almost all of which were pleasing experiences. Below is a list of top rated wines with background information and tasting notes on the 10 wineries following:
2009 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay
2008 Rust en Vrede Estate Red (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah and 8% Merlot)
2009 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah
2009 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir
2011 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay
2001 Kanonkop Pinotage
2010 Newton Johnson Pinot Noir Family Vineyard Estate
2009 Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Rust en Vrede Shiraz
2007 Rust en Vrede 1694 Classification (56% Syrah and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon).
2010 Tokara Director’s Reserve White
2007 Tokara Director’s Reserve Red
2009 Boekenhoutskloof Semillon
2003 Boekenhoutskloof Semillon
2010 Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block (72% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Grenache, 6% Cinsault and 2% Viognier)
2010 Creation Merlot
2010 Creation Cabernet Sauvignon
2007 Ernie Els Signature (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc)
2010 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir
2010 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay
2008 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon
1998 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Kanonkop Paul Sauer (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot)
2010 Newton Johnson Chardonnay
2009 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest Semillon
2010 Creation Reserve Pinot Noir
2008 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir
2010 Kadette Pinotage Rosé (Kanonkop)
2009 Kanonkop Pinotage
2008 Pierneef Shiraz and Viognier (La Motte)
2008 Pierneef Shiraz and Grenache (La Motte)
2010 Tokara Reserve Collection Sauvignon Blanc Elgin
2011 Helderberg Sauvignon Blanc
2010 The Wolftrap White
2010 The Wolftrap Red
2011 La Motte Sauvignon Blanc
WINERIES & TASTING NOTES
Boekenhoutskloof was established in 1776. Located in the furthest corner of the beautiful Franschhoek valley, the farm’s name means “ravine of the Boekenhout” (pronounced Book-n-Howed). Boekenhout is an indigenous Cape Beech tree greatly prized for furniture making.
In 1993 the farm and homestead was bought and restored and a new vineyard planting program was established that now includes Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Semillon and Viognier.
The porcupine shown here is a vital part of the biodiversity and a symbol of the valley’s natural wildlife at Boekenhoutskloof wines. He’s been on the label for years with the collection Porcupine Ridge. The porcupine has also become a research project www.porcupinequest.com supported by the winery.
Boekenhoutskloof named “Winery of the Year” for 2012 by Platter’s. I met with Marc Kent the chief winemaker. He is a great guy, thoughtful and funny. Marc Kent joined Boekenhoutskloof in 1994 and is now the seventh partner in this well-known establishment. Marc pays frequent visits to France where he indulges in the French traditions of winemaking, which are clearly the inspiration behind the style and philosophy of his own winemaking.
Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof standing next to many of his ceramic eggs.
2011 Boekenhoutskloof Helderberg Sauvignon Blanc. It is pale light green in color. The wine possesses a lively and pleasant nose of citrus and just subtle grassiness. It is crisp and lively on the palate with lime and citrus notes – a nice wine and a value at around $12.
2010 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap White. (67% Viognier, 19% Chenin Blanc and 14% Grenache Blanc) Greenish gold in color. The nose is almost Riesling like, very nice and expressive. On the palate it is nicely light, but also a bit creamy and rich feeling. It has pleasant acidity and a long finish. At around $9, this is a value for an everyday white.
2009 Boekenhoutskloof Semillon. It is pale and quite clear with a slight greenish tint. Nice and subtle aromatics of citrus on nose, with just a hint of oak. Crisp but smooth on palate. It is nicely balanced, with a medium finish – Highly Recommended. $32.99
2003 Boekenhoutskloof Semillon. It is pale and quite clear with just a deeper shade of green from age. It has a fairly mature nose with oak present. On palate it is mildly acidic at start that builds over time. Crisp finish that is almost a bit salty. It is a savory white wine – Highly Recommended. $29
2010 Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Red. (65% Syrah, 32% Mouverde and 3% Vioginier). It is dark garnet in color. The nose is big and creamy with spicy Syrah notes. On palate it is spicy and full bodied, but also without being too heavy. It has a sense of lightness for such a dark wine. Not overbearing, with a medium finish. It’s a good value at around $9.
2010 Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block. (72% Syrah, 13% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Grenache, 6% Cinsault and 2% Viognier) The wine is a deep dark garnet color and possesses a nice nose of subtle spice. The palate is creamy and rich but also with very good acidity. It has a medium to long finish. This is a very nice well balanced wine – Highly Recommended. $29.99
2009 Boekenhoutskloof Syrah. It is deep garnet in color. There is white pepper, spice and cinnamon on the nose. Nice acidity and lightness, very flavorful on palate. It has spice and slight sweetness, but not too much so, and a long finish – Outstanding $49.99
2009 Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep garnet in color. Nose is black currant, cassis and very right-bank like. On palate a bright acidity combines with a little bit of creaminess for a balanced experience. It possesses some nice tartness that is usually found with Cabernet Franc. It has a medium finish – Recommended. $49.99
2008 Boekenhoutskloof Noble Late Harvest Semillon. Brilliant gold in color. Completely a Sauternes nose. Rich, creamy and sweet on the palate, but not too heavy – Recommended. $30
In 2002 Swiss-trained winemaker, Jean-Claude Martin and his wife, Carolyn (née Finlayson), established the maiden vineyards on their ‘little piece of paradise’ on the lofty Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge near Hermanus. In 2005 Swiss winemaker Christoph Kaser and his wife, Heidi Kellerhals Kaser, co-invested in the vast potential of the land. Today this trendsetting winery has 22 ha of prime, virus-free vines, which planted in virgin soils yield the grapes for an exclusive portfolio of choice wines.
Consistent with Creation’s philosophy of creating distinctive wines expressing their unique terroir the restaurant facilities are designed in a style as if it was built using materials from the surrounding land.
Situated in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge Ward of Walker Bay, the small farm enjoys ideal, cool maritime conditions. Heavy clay soils offer the advantage of good water retention that in turn means minimal irrigation. These clay soils also contribute to the excellent structure and fine texture of the wines. Another positive aspect of the terroir is that the natural acidity of the soil is preserved in the grapes; manifesting in the attractive minerality found in the wines.
As a member of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI), Creation is committed to conserving its natural heritage by implementing long-term biodiversity as well as sustainability programs. It also complies with the sustainability guidelines laid down by the Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) scheme and its recent releases boast the proud ‘green seal’.
2011 Creation Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw in color, this wine has a classic Sauvignon Blanc nose, but with just a hint of grassiness. It is a light and lively wine. It possesses bright acidity with lemon zest on palate. $11
2011 Creation Sauvignon Blanc (60%) and Semillon (40%). A subtle nose, but bright on palate. It is a lively white wine that is delicious for a summer’s day. $15
2010 Creation Pinot Noir Reserve. Deep ruby in color with a fruity nose. Possesses good acidity. It is mid-weight on palate and has a clean finish – Recommended. $20
2011 Creation Viognier – Classic Viognier nose of flowers and peaches. Possess bright acidity on palate. Fairly long finish, nice weight not too heavy. This is a nicely balanced wine. $12
2011 Creation Chardonnay – Nose of melon, and sweetest on palate is the first impression. Nice acidity, but not too much so. Very young wine that may develop some complexity in time. $16
2010 Creation Merlot – A surprising nose. I would have guessed that there was a good amount of Cabernet Franc in this wine. Bright acids, tart dark fruit. Mid-weight, nicely balanced wine. Great flavor, but not extracted. Highly Recommended. $20
2010 Creation Cabernet Sauvignon (34%), Merlot (46%) and Petit Verdot (20%) – Classic black currant, cassis nose of Bordeaux blend. More mild acidity, nice softer mouth feel, and a bit sweet. Mid-length finish. Overall a well-balanced wine – Highly Recommended. $20
2009 Creation Shiraz – A subdues nose with hints of cassis. Mid-weight on palate, but very flavorful. Sweet fruit, but not thick. $25
2010 Creation Shiraz – A perfumed nose, subtle cassis. Mid-weight, needs to develop a bit. This is a pretty straight forward lighter Syrah. $25
2009 Creation Shiraz (80%) and Grenache (20%) – Nice Syrah dominated nose. Solid mouth feel, a bit astringent though. Probably needs a couple more years to develop. Good finish, but a little hot on the backend, but not bad though. $30
2010 Creation Shiraz (80%) and Grenache (20%) – Perfume nose and sweet fruit on the palate. A bit astringent, needs time to integrate and settle down a bit. $30
ERNIE ELS WINES
As one of South Africa’s leading ambassadors and one of the most recognizable faces in the world of sport, it is befitting that Ernie chose Stellenbosch to produce his wines. In 1999 the concept of Ernie Els Wines was born and with the help of award-winning winemaker Louis Strydom, they produced the maiden, 2000 vintage of Ernie Els – a ‘classic’ Bordeaux blend. The marketing synergy between the wine and Ernie’s ‘classic’ golf swing were apparent. The intention from the outset was to focus on delivering a quality product that could hold its own in the company of the world’s finest wines.
2011 Ernie Els Big Easy White (Chenin Blanc) – Pale in color, crisp acidity, sweet with a medium finish. This is an easy drinking wine. It is un-wooded. $12
2011 Ernie Els Sauvignon Blanc – Pale in color, clear. Lime on the nose and Key Lime pie on the palate. It is crisp with nice acidity, with a medium to long finish. This is a clean wine. $15
2010 Ernie Els Big Easy Red (52% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Mourvedre, 9% Grenache, 3% Viognier) A beautiful ruby color, not too dark. Bottle was just opened so the nose was a bit closed. On palate, cherries come across at first with strawberry essence adding in later. It has a nice mouth-feel in general, (just a slight bit astringent), with a medium to long finish. $20
2010 Ernie Els Merlot – Again a beautiful ruby color. Very mild nose without any pronounced aroma. Dark cherries and some blue fruit on palate. A great front palate, but a limited mid-palate and a hallow finish. A bit astringent, but it has a nice weight. It’s not too heavy at all. Hopefully the backend will develop with time. $25
2010 Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon – A nice bright ruby color. Nose shows just a bit of cassis and a tiny bit of black currant. Initially it’s a little creamy on the palate. The wine has a medium mid-palate and a modest finish. It is just slightly astringent. $25
2010 Ernie Els Proprietor’s Syrah – Dark red in color, with a modest nose. Initially it is sweet on palate, with nice flavors of dark fruit and anise. However, it is a bit hollow on the mid-palate. Nice mouth-feel, not too heavy, with an okay finish. $25
2009 Ernie Els Proprietor’s Blend (60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Shiraz, 6% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 5% Malbec and 5% Petit Verdot) – Dark red in color. It has the most expressive nose of the group, with some black currant and cassis. Slightly sweet initially but much more balanced more mouth coating than the other wines so far. Nice feel, without being too heavy. Medium to long finish, but the mid-palate is still wanting though. Overall, it’s a good wine with a nice weight. $35
2007 Ernie Els Signature 2007 (58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot, 5% Malbec and 5% Cabernet Franc) – Dark red in color. It has a great nose of cassis and black currant. On the palate it starts off sweet, then leading to a medium weight with dark fruit and some structure. It possesses good tannins and medium finish. Overall a nice wine – Highly Recommended. $80
HAMILTON RUSSELL VINEYARDS
Anthony Hamilton Russell stands next to his clay pots made by an artist using clay from the vineyard property.
Hamilton Russell Vineyards, one of the most southerly wine Estates in Africa and one of the closest to the sea – is located in the beautiful, cool, maritime Hemel-en-Aarde Valley appellation, just behind the old fishing village of Hermanus. The Estate specializes in producing highly individual, terroir driven Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Founder, Tim Hamilton Russell purchased the undeveloped 170 hectare property in 1975, after an exhaustive search for the most southerly site on which to make South Africa’s top cool climate wines from a selection of noble varieties. His son Anthony Hamilton Russell, who took over in 1991 (finally buying the property in 1994), narrowed the range to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay only and registered Hamilton Russell Vineyards as an Estate, committing to work only with grapes from their terroir. Extensive soil research initiated in 1994 identified 52 hectares of stony, clay-rich, shale-derived soil as optimal for the individual, origin expressive style they aim for and all plantings have now been limited to this soil type.
Anthony Hamilton Russell and his daughter at the vineyard
Anthony with winemaker Hannes Storm and viticulturist Johan Montgomery are completely dedicated to expressing the personality of the Hamilton Russell Vineyards terroir in their wines. Tiny yields and intense worldwide demand keep the elegant, highly individual, Estate grown Pinot noir and Chardonnay in very short supply.
I met with “Anthony Hamilton” and was briefed on his decision to focus only on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I enjoyed all of the wines, but think the Chardonnays were showing the best, particularly the 2009, which was wonderful.
2010 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir – Savory nose, a bit smoky and earthy. There is red fruit and nice acidity on palate. It is a balanced wine with solid tannins that should allow for some aging. It has an old world Burgundian feel – Highly Recommended $35
2009 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir – A very wild and earthy nose that is quite appealing. On palate there is nice strawberry and cherry without being too fruit driven. It has balance, acidity and structure. We also enjoyed this wine during our Christmas Eve dinner – Outstanding. $40
2008 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir – It possesses a bit of a funky nose, which might dissipate in time. On the palate there is crisp acidity and structure as well as bright red fruit. Once you get past the nose, it is a nice wine with solid tannins. Needs time. $35
2009 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay – Beautiful nose. There is nice crisp acidity, with melon, and zesty lemon on the palate. It is a nicely balanced wine with solid structure. We also enjoyed this wine during our Christmas Eve dinner. It paired wonderfully with the Langoustines. A superb New World Chardonnay – Extraordinary. $25
2010 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay – A nice, subtle nose. There is nice mouth feel, with tropical fruit on the palate. It is a well-balanced wine – Highly Recommended. $30
2011 Hamilton Russell Chardonnay – A bright nose of pineapple, pear and melon. It has nice minerality and is crisply acidic with lemon tart and lime on the palate. This is a young bright wine – Outstanding. $35
Hidden Valley is a secluded farm nestled against the Stellenbosch mountains and now boasts a magnificent new cellar amongst its pristine vineyards. Dave Hidden acquired the property in 1998. After careful consideration and in keeping with a holistic approach to the environment, the farm was developed to its current glory. Although the winery is a state of the art, gravity fed cellar, it is nestled into side the slope and intended to blend back into the environment in time. The building materials, namely stone, wood and glass are purposely selected to present a contemporary yet functional structure. The cellar is surrounded by vineyards, olive groves, almond orchards and natural vegetation, each occupying an integral part of the farms’ ecosystem.
The small glasses for provided for tasting was rather disappointing and made tasting the wine more difficult. Lands End is the name of their premium wine.
2011 Hidden Valley Sauvignon Blanc – Very light pale in color. It possesses a classic Sauvignon Blanc grassy nose with some melon and citrus. The initial palate sweetness is followed by some acidity. Lime is the overwhelming flavor profile. It’s a crisp wine with a medium finish. $10
2011 Land’s End Sauvignon Blanc – Blended with 7% Semillon this is slightly darker than the previous wine, but still very light in color. It presents a spicy nose, with faint hints of white asparagus and black currant. Has some viscosity on palate, with a mild mouth coating feel. It is a spicy wine with a short finish. $10
2009 Hidden Valley Pinotage – It is dark ruby in color. The nose is fairly muted, with subtle furit, mocha, and toffee notes. Initially very dry on palate, the tannins are defiantly noticeable. There is a bit a sweetness, but not much. It has a short to medium length finish with some grip. This is a fairly direct wine. $10
2008 Land’s End Syrah – Dark garnet in color. Subtle classic syrah nose. Not overwhelming. On the palate, sweet right away and mouth coating, but not too heavy. Has some grip, but not overly tannic, with a short to medium finish and some heat. $25
2008 Hidden Valley Gems (55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Petit Verdot) – Very dark in color. Possesses a nose of subtle black currant and cherry. It is sweet on palate from start to finish, with blueberries and dark fruit. It does not really have mid-palate at all. Not a heavy wine, but it is ripe and has some heat on the finish. $20
2008 Hidden Valley Secret (60% Shiraz, 20% Tannat, 14% Mourvedre and 1% Viognier) – Very dark red in color. A savory nose without any single dominate note. Just slightly sweet off the bat, but that experience holds throughout. Tannins are definitely present, providing nice grip, but they are not grainy and are pretty well integrated. It has a medium finish with some heat. $20
Kanonkop Estate is situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch Region of the Cape. It is between Stellenbosch and Paarl on the R44 and falls in a ward called Simonsberg, more commonly known as the “red wine bowl” of South Africa. The Estate is situated on 125 hectares, of which 100 hectares are planted to vine. The soils are predominantly red decomposed granite and Hutton, with a high clay content, both of which have a very good water retention capacity.
The Estate has an ideal micro-climate for red wine production, with cooling breezes from the False Bay coast in the late afternoons during summer, significantly moderating warm inland temperatures. Being a Mediterranean climate, the majority of the 605 mm of rainfall is in winter. The vineyards on Kanonkop range between 60 to 120 meters above sea level, with a variety of slopes, the majority of which face south west, considered the most favorable aspect for vines in the Cape.
Kanonkop owner Johann Krige in his cellar on the slopes of the Simonsberg Mountains in Stellenbosch. The winery is a fourth generation family business started by his great grandfather.
Kanonkop is a fourth generation family estate, which was originally purchased by JW Sauer, a cabinet member in the parliament of the Union of South Africa. His son Paul Oliver Sauer, also a cabinet minister, took over the reins from his father and in 1968 was joined by Springbok rugby great Jan “Boland” Coetzee. Mary Sauer, daughter of Paul Sauer, inherited the Estate. She married Jannie Krige, a rugby administrator at the University of Stellenbosch, who took early retirement and together with Coetzee made the first estate bottled wines in 1973.
Beyers Truter joined the estate in 1980 with the departure of Coetzee, and together with Johann and Paul, sons of Mary and Jannie, continued the traditions developed on this highly prized estate. More recently Beeslaar, who joined the team in 2002, has taken over from Beyers and continues the good work passed down from generation to generation.
Kadette is the name of their second label.
2010 Kadette Pinotage Rosé – Salmon in color. Has a nose of strawberries and bananas. It possesses a creamy and smooth mouth-feel, with strawberry cream pie essence. This is a full-bodied rose with a long finish – Recommended $12
2009 Kanonkop Pinotage – Color is very dark garnet and opaque. Has a nose of some spice, cinnamon, dark black fruit and a tiny bit of banana. Palate is a bit creamy, but also possessing acidity and rustic tannins. Solid front and mid palate, but the backend is absent. Has a medium to long finish and should benefit from some time – Recommended. $30
2001 Kanonkop Pinotage – This is an older wine that has developed beautifully. Color is very dark garnet. Nose is very aromatic, with plum and dark fruit. Palate is smooth, creamy with great mouth–feel and bananas on the finish. Clean and crisp, not flabby at all. This is a very nice unusual red wine with almost a tropical structure and grip. Unusual, but appealing – Outstanding. $30
2010 Kadette Red Wine (40% Pinotage, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Merlot) – It is dark garnet in color. The nose possesses expressive red fruit. Palate is slightly creamy, nice structure and tannins. It has a solid front palate and okay mid & back palate. It presents a medium to long finish that has just a hint of bananas. This is a good every-day wine that is a good value. $10
2008 Cabernet Sauvignon – Color is dark garnet. The nose is of mostly black currant with a subtle bit of cassis. Palate is smooth and creamy, but with nice structure and tannins. Nice mouth-feel. It has solid fruit and mid palate and long finish – Highly Recommended. $35
1998 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon – Color is dark garnet. The nose is of black currant and cassis. Palate is smooth and creamy, but retains a nice structure and tannins. Mouth-feel is full. It still is a very young wine and seems like it might continue to age nicely. Possesses very pleasant fruit and mid-palate. Long finish with a hint of bananas – Highly Recommended.
2008 Kanonkop Paul Sauer (70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Merlot) – Color is a beautiful garnet. Nose is of black currant and subtle cassis. All new oak used with this wine. Palate is creamy and has a full mouth-feel. Although it has a solid structure and tannins, it is also elegant. It possesses a substantial front as well as mid-palate. Long finish that is not astringent at all. This is a big wine – Highly Recommended. $45
In 1695, a piece of land in the Franschhoek Valley was granted to German immigrant, Hans Hattingh. In 1709, the land was purchased by French Huguenot, Pierre Joubert, who is believed to have named it after the village of his birth in Provence – La Motte d’Aigues. Viticulture as established in 1752 with the planting of 4,000 vines by Huguenot descendant, Gabriel du Toit. Pierneef is their premium label.
La Motte is a stunning facility complete with restaurant, store, tasting room and art museum.
2011 La Motte Sauvignon Blanc – Color is pale with a slight tinge of green. It has a nose of guava, tropical fruit, and without any grassiness at all. On palate it has a nice viscosity and acidity and mouth feel, and again tropical fruit. There is a medium to long finish. A good value. $9
2011 Pierneef Sauvignon Blanc – Color is pale with light golden green tint. The nose is green apple, melon and floral. The palate is light and vibrant with moderate mouth-feel and acids. It is slightly astringent, with a short finish. $14
2009 La Motte Chardonnay – Color is greenish golden. Nose is of pear and with a bit of oak. It is clearly a classic new world chardonnay nose. Palate has nice viscosity, slightly crisp, solid acidity and a bit creamy. Vanilla is definitely present. The finish is medium to long. Nice and not too heavy. $20
2009 La Motte Cabernet Sauvignon – Color is deep garnet and ruby. Nose is subtle with a slight bit of cassis and alcohol. Palate is medium weight, and quite acidic. Mouth-puckering, but not astringent which is an unusual combination. The finish is short. This is a fairly straight forward cabernet, not very complex. $25
2009 La Motte Millennium (44% Cabernet Franc, 26% Merlot, 13% Malbec, 11% Petit Verdot and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon) – Color is dark garnet. On the nose there is some dusty earth and dark red fruit, along with subtle hints of cinnamon and spice. On the palate it is medium weight with nice acidity. Bright, but all of the action is on the front palate. There really isn’t any mid or palate backup and no finish to speak of with this wine. With time if these elements develop, it would be a nice wine, but for now it is difficult to evaluate. $25
2009 La Motte Shiraz – Dark garnet in color. The nose is pepper and flowers with a bit of alcohol. The palate is creamy, full and lively. It possesses solid acidity with some grip. Again, similar to the previous wine, this is a half a palate experience. There is some of a mid-palate however, but nothing on the backend. It ends with a medium finish of cherries. $22
2008 Pierneef Syrah (89%) and Viognier (11%) – Ruby to garnet in color. Nose is of fruit cobbler (plums) with a spice overlay. The palate is creamy and smooth with some structure and solid acidity. There is solid front and mid palate, but again missing the backend. Has a medium to long finish and is fairly complex – Recommended. $30
2008 Pierneef Shiraz and Grenache – Dark garnet in color. Nose is spice with a little cherry. Palate is medium weight and lively. Good acidity and should age well. The tannins are integrating well. Has a solid front and mid palate and medium to long finish – Recommended. $30
Dave and Felicity (née ‘Newton’) Johnson entered in to the wine industry in the 70’s in an exciting era when a generation of winemakers were creating the foundations for premium wine making in South Africa and exploring the concepts of vineyard origin and estate made wines. Dave went on to become one of the country’s first Cape Wine Masters and in the early 90’s. He began his own negociant wine brand called Cape Bay, which, after some rapid growth, soon required a home and cellar of its own. This initiated their move near to the seaside town of Hermanus and into the picturesque Hemel-en-Aarde (‘Heaven and Earth’) Valley with its views over the Atlantic Ocean. It was here in 1997, joined by their two sons Bevan and Gordon that they started to make their first Newton Johnson wines.
2011 Newton Johnson Elgin Sauvignon Blanc (92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Semillon) -Citrus nose with lime being most prominent. Good acidity, crisp with some sweetness and lightness on the palate. It has a medium to long finish. $10
2010 Newton Johnson Resonance (84% Sauvignon Blanc & 16% Semillon) – The Sauvignon Blanc is estate grown. It has a slightly grassy and lime nose. There is huge Key Lime pie on the palate, which is the dominant experience. The wine is a bit effervescent, with a medium finish. $15
2010 Newton Johnson Family Vineyard Estate Chardonnay – A bit of a smoky nose. Initial crispness on palate gives way to a softer mouth feel. It is slightly Burgundian, but definitely a New World effort. Citrus, mostly lime on the palate. It is slightly sweet with a medium to long finish. Nice wine – Highly Recommended. $22
2010 Newton Johnson Family Vineyard Estate Pinot Noir – It is bright ruby in color and has a beautiful nose with subtle hints of smoke and earth. On palate there classic cherries, bright red fruit with solid acidity. This is a balanced clean wine with a long finish – Outstanding. $30
2010 Newton Johnson Elgin Pinot Noir – Clear ruby red in color with a mild nose. On palate it is tart red fruit, very acidic with a long finish. $25
2008 Newton Johnson Full Stop Rock (Syrah 94%, Grenache 3%, Mouvedre 3%) – Dark deep red in color. There is sweet cassis on the nose. Sweet on palate, but with solid tannins, has grip and a solid long finish that shows just bit of heat. Feels sort of like an Australian wine. $15
RUST EN VREDE
For 315 years Rust en Vrede has stood peacefully among the vineyards of Stellenbosch. Through centuries there were periods when wine was produced, but for the last 32 years it has specialized in producing only red wine with the focus on Shiraz, Cabernet and Merlot.
Rust en Vrede was established in 1694 by the then Governor of the Cape, Willem Adrian van der Stel. It was originally made up of a larger property but in the early 1700’s was divided into two whereby the original section remained as Rust en Vrede. The first house on the estate was built in 1780 followed by the cellar in 1785. In 1790 the larger manor house was built.
At the end of 1977 the Engelbrecht family took residence on Rust en Vrede. The family and their ancestors have been grape growers since the early 1700’s and by moving to Rust en Vrede, became wine producers for the first time. In 1978 R&V produced its first wines of the modern era. Jannie Engelbrecht made these wines and then appointed Kevin Arnold as cellar master of Rust en Vrede.
Rust En Vrede original cellar with marketing personnel and Amy Mayfield.
In 30 years Rust en Vrede has had only two appointed winemakers, namely; Kevin Arnold and Louis Strydom. In 2007 Coenie Snyman was appointed winemaker responsible for Rust en Vrede but as part of a bigger team. The company and the estate are now headed up by Jean Engelbrecht who amongst others is also in partnership with Ernie Els at their co-founded venture called Engelbrecht Els Vineyards. Rust en Vrede produce 20,000 cases of wine a year of which 65% is exported to more than 30 countries around the world. Many accolades have been bestowed upon the estate and some of the more memorable were when Rust en Vrede was chosen by President Nelson Mandela to be served at the Nobel Peace Prize dinner and hosting the Queen of Denmark for a lunch.
2010 Rust en Vrede Merlot – Nice garnet color very clean looking. The nose is muted with not much more than slightest bit of cassis. It is mildly sweet at start, very pleasant. Has a solid mouth-feel, good tannins, but not astringent. It is slightly creamy, probably from the oak. Okay mid-palate and finish. It is a nice wine. $20
2009 Rust en Vrede Cabernet Sauvignon – A deep and rich dark garnet in color. It has a very pleasant subtle cassis nose. Initially sweet on palate and the essence remains even when the tannins show up. Palate also has dark fruits with nice high tones. Solid grip and a good fairly long finish. This is a nice well balanced wine that should age well – Outstanding. $28
2009 Rust en Vrede Shiraz – Very dark red in color, it looks dense. Faint white pepper and some spice on nose. It is mildly sweet on palate, with strong tannins giving it real grip. It presents a coating mouth-feel that is quite pleasant. It presents a medium to long finish. Overall, it is a well balanced, nice wine – Outstanding. $25
2008 Rust en Vrede Estate Red (65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Syrah and 8% Merlot). This is their flagship wine. It is dark Garnet in color and possesses mild cassis and dark fruits on nose. Nice subtle sweetness on initial palate. Tannins are pretty well integrated. Everything is pretty well balanced already. It has a good mouth-feel and long finish. It needs a few years, as it is still quite robust. This is a very solid New World effort – Extraordinary. $42
2009 Rust en Vrede Single Vineyard Syrah – Very dark red in color, impenetrable. Nose has sweet cassis, not spice but almost minty. Palate starts off with a nice sweetness and a mouth-coating feel. It is not nearly as heavy on the palate as it looks. Tannins are sweet but firm, providing some aging potential. There is a slight bit of heat on the back-end, but not much. A pretty well balanced new world syrah, surprisingly not peppery at all.
2007 Rust en Vrede 1694 Classification – (56% Syrah and 44% Cabernet Sauvignon). It is very dark in color, only slightly transparent. This is the most aromatic nose of the lot, with black currant and cassis present. On palate it starts off sweet, and that sweetness remains throughout. Tannins have softened and integrated, but the structure remains. Long finish with black currant present. This is a really good New World wine – Outstanding. $40
The winery is situated on the crest of the Helshoogte Pass, about 5km from the historic winemaking town of Stellenbosch. Apart from award winning architecture, the estate offers magnificent vistas of the Simonsberg Mountains, False Bay, Table Mountain and the lush Idas Valley.
Tokara’s facility accompanies their conversation to biodiesel plus boasts an olive farm, deli, restaurant, art gallery and wine tasting.
The three prime farming locations, each situated in some of the Western Cape’s best cool-climate viticulture districts, supply the Tokara winery. The first of these is a 60 hectare combination of properties in and around the Tokara winery situated 5km from the historical town of Stellenbosch. This “home vineyard” area on the southern slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain harvests exceptional examples of various grape varieties and produces the bulk of the wine that fills Tokara’s 950 ton cellar.
The “Highlands” farm in Elgin and the “Siberia” property in the Hemel-and-Aarde Valley near Hermanus are Tokara’s two other sources of white fruit. Both provide equally outstanding conditions for vineyard growth and add fascinating variety to the Tokara collection.
2011 Tokara Reserve Collection Walker Bay Sauvignon Blanc – Light in color, quite clear. It has a big fruity nose of lemongrass. It is effervescent, light and lively on palate. Nice finish. It is a refreshing wine. $12
2010 Tokara Reserve Collection Elgin Sauvignon Blanc – (85% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Semillon) Pale in color, clear. Nose is white asparagus, along with overall vegetable notes, but actually pleasant aromas. Acidity and crispness are present. Medium finish, that is very slightly salty. This would be a great wine with cold grilled vegetables. A nice complex wine Recommended. $15
2010 Tokara Director’s Reserve White – (70% Sauvignon Blanc and 30% Semillon) Pale straw color. Nice nose, subtle but definite there with citrus and some oak. This wine is light and smooth on palate. It is nicely acidity, but not overly crisp on palate. It is well balanced with citrus and a bit of spice. It has a clean and slightly toasty finish. A very nice wine – Outstanding. $25
2009 Tokara Chardonnay Reserve Collection White Walker Bay – Light in color, with a ting of green and a bit deeper in color than the previous three wines. It has a nose of marzipan, toasted almonds and some oak. It is full-bodied on palate, almost rich, but balanced. It has a medium finish, with some oak. $30
2010Tokara Chardonnay Reserve Collection Stellenbosch– Golden with a green tinge in color. The nose is one of citrus, with lime being the most prevalent. It is a bit sweet on the initial taste. Although it does has good acidity, and a creamy mouth-feel, it presents a dry and fairly long finish. $15
2009 Zondernamm Shiraz (88% Shiraz & 12% Mourvedre) – It is dark garnet in color, but also clean looking. Sweet nose, almost candied like. It is initially very sweet and a bit hot on the palate. However, it’s not awkward and fairly balanced with the mouth-feel that’s not too heavy. Has some spice and dark fruit on the palate and a dry finish. $10
2007 Tokara Director’s Reserve Red (67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 8% Merlot and 5% Malbec) – Dark garnet in color. Nose displays strong black currant. Initially sweet on palate but quickly dissipates to a more balanced flavor profile. It is nice and lively on palate, not thick or heavy at all. It presents holiday spices, cassis and black currant on palate. Nice structure. It has a dry medium to long finish with a tiny bit of heat – Outstanding. $30
2010 Tokara Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc – Golden color and a classic sauterne nose. Mouth-coating texture that is rich and sugary, but not too heavy. Although it has a fairly short finish. Over-all it’s a nice wine. $25 (0.375)
FOOD & LODGING
South Africa’s Franschhoek (‘French Corner’ in Dutch) is a picturesque village whose laidback cafe culture has a distinctively French feel. Full of character, Franschhoek is distinguished by its fine colonial architecture, numerous gourmet restaurants, art galleries and curio shops. The first French Huguenot settlers arrived in South Africa at Franschhoek in the 17th century and their influence lives on, for this is a place undeniably devoted to the creation and enjoyment of good food and wine. In the immediate surrounds of the village, there are more than 40 wine estates, several of which have achieved world renown and many of which offer classical concerts, art exhibitions and jazz evenings alongside cellar tours, tutored wine tastings and award-winning dining experiences.
Luxury Boutique Hotel - La Residence, Franschhoek www.laresidence.co.za
Located in the beautiful Franschhoek valley at the heart of a private 30-acre estate, La Residence is a haven of luxury on every level. Surrounded by vineyards and plum orchards, with a stunning mountain backdrop, La Residence enjoys breathtaking views of the unspoiled rural surrounds and an atmosphere of complete tranquility. The exquisite beauty of every detail features opulence and grandeur with glittering Indian chandeliers hang from the vaulted ceiling; original artwork and huge mirrors, plush, colorful and stylish furnishings. Elegant antiques and exquisite flowers create a feeling of refinement and sophistication.
Upon arrival drinks were served and we were whisked into a private dining room where our chef promptly whipped up a savory lunch for our family. Our suite included a private pool and patio area plus three bedrooms, kitchen and large living room. Dinner later in the evening consisted of a memorable four course meal with exceptional food beautifully presented and service perfectly matched with local wines from Franschhoek.
Lunch at Creation Winery located in Hemel-en-Aarde -– South African Grill http://www.creationwines.com
The famous area is known as ‘Hemel-en-Aarde’ and falls under the appellation of Walker Bay a brisk 350 meters above sea level with the cooling breezes off the Atlantic Ocean. Creation is part of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI), committed to preserving rich natural heritage by implementing long-term biodiversity as well as sustainability programs. Wines include white varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Semillon and red varieties: Pinot Noir, Merlot, Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot, and Syrah Grenache.
The busy Creation restaurant was bright, airy, bustling and energetic. We selected the popular food and wine pairing which featured six delicious appetizer size tastings paired with a complementary wine. The pairings were unique, flavorful, local and beautifully presented ingredients from local suppliers. Chef Anki and Andre Van Vuuren are committed to original distinctive flavors with exceptional and harmonious matches of wine. Creation’s local suppliers are listed in their menu showing their dedication to local, organic and biodiversity.
Dinner at Terroir on the Kleine Zalze Estate in Stellenbosch – Bistro, French www.kleinezalze.com/terroir
Terroir, in situated in a relaxed setting under oak trees overlooking the De Zalze golf course on the tranquil Kleine Zalze wine estate. This family owned wine farm has risen to prominence both in South Africa and internationally thanks in particular to its award-winning Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. The menu at Terroir, written on a Provencal-inspired chalkboard, relies on the perfect ingredients to create what chef Michael Broughton calls ‘deceptively simple’ food, matching seasonal, fresh and organic produce from the region with local wines. Menu items change regularly, according to seasonal availability of ingredients. The wine list is not only a showcase for the wines of Kleine Zalze, but also a variety of other great wines from South Africa and the rest of the world. Terroir is a balance of good food, a relaxed ambience and outstanding service since 2004. Plus Terroir continues to receive yearly awards including placement in the top ten lists by Eat Out Awards.
Lunch at Overture at Hidden Valley Vineyard in Stellenbosch – Contemporary, Mediterranean, South African
An incredible setting combing views, décor and outside space makes Overture an enjoyable experience since November 2007. This restaurant is the brain child of Bertus Basson and Craig Cormack, both talented chefs. Hidden Valley is more than just a wine producer and nature custodian; it is about the synthesis of good living; fine wine, great environment and superb cuisine. The experience is slow and enjoyable and the food is not flashy or overly decorated, it is honest pure and delicious. Patrons will certainly feel indulged in the culinary experience and the flow of flavors the restaurant offers. Overture offers 3, 4 and 5 course menus (with or without wine). Overture has been listed as one of Eat Out Magazine’s Top Ten Restaurants for the past two years.
Reuben’s in the village of Franschhoek – South African, Grill http://reubens.co.za/
Reuben’s is a cool brasserie, in a modern and tasteful setting. The décor is minimalist, the food an exciting combination of flavors and as one might expect and the wine list is extensive. Reuben has a passion for creating fine but uncomplicated cuisine in a comfortable and laid-back setting. Eating there every night would be a pleasure not a bore!
With its bar counter made from the wing of an old DC10 airplane, the “Gooney Bar” provides a place to meet friends and enjoy a drink, before moving to your table. The restaurant itself is open and airy, providing a lively but elegant atmosphere during dinner. The varied menu features dishes such as salmon fish cakes, steak and frites with sauce béarnaise, chili salted squid and Szechwan duck pie to name but a few. Additionally, large selections of daily specials were displayed on a chalk board.
In 2004, Reuben’s won ‘Chef of the year’ and ‘Restaurant of the year’ in South African Eat Out magazine’s Johnnie Walker Awards. The wine list is recognized as one of the 100 Top Wine Lists in South Africa.
Pierneef at la Motte in Franschhoek – Light Meals, Grills, South African http://www.la-motte.com/
The name of the restaurant was inspired by La Motte’s admiration of artist Jacob Hendrik Pierneef (1886 – 1957). His creativity in portraying the beauty of the South African landscape and architecture is depicted by this restaurant’s creativity in offering cuisine inspired resourcefulness in cooking. Amidst Pierneef’s art as an added attraction, guests can enjoy culinary creations to which La Motte proudly refers as Cape Winelands Cuisine.
The unique food styles and diverse flavors that are served seamlessly together is the result of inspirations, variations and improvisations, all forming the precious ingredients of Cape Winelands Cuisine – the traditional cooking of the region generally described as the Boland. Head Chef du Cuisine, Chris Erasmus, well-known for his culinary expertise, will conjure up delicacies with the focus on home-made, home-style food with a very unique and distinctly La Motte flavor.
The decor is Cape Dutch combined with a contemporary touch. French oak tables with a modern appearance harmonize beautifully with vases of hand-blown glass and hand-made balsamic vinegar and olive oil jars. The counter of the demonstration kitchen, too, is made of French oak logs, while mixing bowls have an exceptional look, with Pierneef linoleum cut decorations as warm lights. The immense chandeliers in the roof were inspired by cutlery that dates from the time of the Dutch East India Company. The interior, with its fresh, natural, organic colors, blends beautifully with the external garden landscape. Italian easy-chairs outside, with designs inspired by Pierneef’s trees, create a tranquil park ambiance in combination with tables “embracing” the imposing oak trees. It is an indoor-outdoor experience with nature.
La Colombe – Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate in Constantia – Fusion, Asian, French
This was the one reservation made months in advance on our trip to South Africa. La Colombe has received so many awards through the years this entire write up could be about the many accolades they have received. Impressive as they are, this restaurant lived up to its expectations. Scot Kirton was appointed as Executive Chef of La Colombe in September 2010 and has since made his mark at this award-winning restaurant by securing an honorable Top 100 position in the San Pellegrino 100 Best Restaurants of the World Awards 2011. Scot’s philosophy and approach to food lies in the pursuit of excellence and perfection featuring the freshest seasonal produce, uncomplicated clean flavors and classical elegance are the essence of inspiration and passion for food. Paired with impeccable service, an award-winning wine list, an idyllic setting of simple elegance placed in the center of one of the most beautiful vineyards in Cape Town.
The vineyard Constantia Uitsig, was the home of the Lategan family since 1735. In 1894 Willem Lategan married Antoinette Bredell of Schoemanshoek, and with her inheritance he built the present homestead of Constantia Uitsig. In 1988 the farm was purchased by David and Marlene McCay. Together they have restored the farm to its former glory, and Constantia Uitsig now boasts award winning wines, three world-renowned restaurants, a private cricket oval, Spa and a 16-roomed luxury hotel.
La Colombe long list of accolades includes: an impressive 12th place in the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurants of the World Awards 2010, 10th place in the Eat Out Food Network Restaurant Awards for 2012 and many more.
Located in the heart of Cape Town’s vibrant V&A Waterfront, Cape Grace boutique hotel delivers all the comforts you’d expect from world class luxury accommodation. Backed by iconic Table Mountain and perfectly positioned in a private quay, Cape Grace epitomizes style and sophistication in an atmosphere alive with genuine warmth and hospitality. Step outside and you are surrounded by the energy and excitement of the V&A Waterfront: restaurants, shopping, and entertainment footsteps away.
The rooms are comfortable, nicely appointed and have views of the waterfront and the exceptional yachts. The hotel dining at Signals was superb from the service to the entrees. Signal restaurant provides a welcoming setting on the water’s edge, in which to enjoy fresh, local ingredients, not only when the noon-day cannons signals lunchtime, but at any time of the day. The menu is a unique combination of flavors incorporating influences from the many cultures that called upon this region during its history, namely French Huguenots, British settlers as well as Dutch and Asian traders. All the other amenities including pool, concierge, fitness and spa services were exceptional.
Cape Grace has been honored with many awards including most recently: Best Hotel in Africa and the Middle East/Travel & Leisure 2011, Best Hotel in Africa/US Celebrated Living 2011, Best Hotel in Africa/UK Daily Telegraph Ultra Travel Awards 2011, among many others.
South Africa was a wonderful experience. After visiting many wine regions in the world including Europe, America, Australia and New Zealand this country is not to be missed. The land shared the beauty and the scenery we saw in New Zealand, the people were friendly and passionate about their homeland and the experience of this wine region was magical. The food and wine we experienced on this trip was better than we expected at every stop. We saw vineyards using modern technology in many aspects of farming, production and wine making. Many of them boasted exceptional facilities — some modern and others old world – yet the pride of ownership and passion for their wines could not be missed. The restaurants were committed to their local farmers and the food offerings felt as if they were from the local farmers markets instead of being shipped in from across the world. South Africa and Cape Town gave our kids many chances to experience Africa in a different setting than in an animal preserve. We visited botanical gardens, hiked Table Mountain, took a ferry and toured Robbins Island, visited the penguins at the beaches and boated out to the sea lions home. Every stop brought a new experience with perfect weather every day. The energy of the Victoria & Albert Waterfront – stores, restaurants, musicians — was a stark contrast to the serenity and beauty of the vineyards. And the best part was having both experiences within an hour’s drive. If you have not been to South Africa we would highly recommend that you visit. We hope to go back again soon!