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News

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Hard to believe it's more than  four years since I went to the launch of The Game Reserve wines, an impressive new range created by cellarmaster Erika Obermeyer and destined to raise substantial funds for the Wilderness Foundation.

At that time Erika was making the still wine for Graham Beck Wines and getting numerous awards for her fine efforts. She started the conservation-focussed range with her cabernet sauvignon and chenin blanc, both of which were very  successful and continue to be  top-rated wines of this pleasing line-up today. Front labels illustrate the chosen game reserve animal, back labels offer information on its habitat, along with tasting notes. The trio of whites, a  chardonnay, sauvignon blanc  and chenin blanc , all 2015 vintage, salute the fish eagle, Cape Eagle Owl and highly endangered Riverine rabbit, while the four reds, all 2014 vintage, sees the bat-eared fox on the pinotage label,while  the Cape clawless otter (now thriving in the restored Vink river system, thanks to Rooiberg farmers) graces the merlot bottles. Appropriately the magnificent Cape leopard and Africa’s largest antelope, the eland, are depicted on the cab and shiraz respectively.

To elaborate on my two favourites, the chenin is a beguiling wine, with melon and citrus aromas giving way to a salad of tropical fruit , with pleasing freshness. Makes a great companion to a feast of summery fare and for spicy Asian creations and is an appealing tribute to the long-eared riverine rabbit which is surviving in the reserve.

The cab is a fine example of careful blending of grapes from three regions into a complex mix where berry, dark chocolate, plum and spicy flavours mingle, backed by firm tannins and presenting a long finish. The Cape leopard on its label has been discovered in several areas along the Langeberg mountains  including the Breede conservancy and on other leopard-friendly farms, which are all playing a vital role in maintaining its genetic diversity.

These wines are keenly priced, ranging from R53 to R71, and no less than R3 from the sale of every bottle sold flows to the Wilderness Foundation.  Rooiberg Wines have committed to continuing this arrangement for at least five years, already raising nearly R50 000 between July and October last year.  The funds have been shared  between the Cape Leopard Trust and Conservation @ Work, as well as other projects.

Visitors to the Robertson Wine valley during May can pause at the cellar with its giant red chair and sample the range along with Rooiberg’s other fine wines, before adding a case or two to their car boots. That goes for travellers who intend heading to this year’s Wacky Wine Weekend, as well. Do-good makes for feel-good, adding another layer of enjoyment to some terrific wines.

 

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Whether your fish is braaied, fried or pickled, its likely that traditionalists will feature sustainable fish on their Easter menus come Friday. Others may choose to indulge in seafood from shellfish to sushi  for more sophisticated fare over the long weekend. 

 

Enjoyment of any and all of these will be heightened with a glass of fine Cape sauvignon blanc to complement piscine flavours and textures. It would be hard to improve on either of these two elegant recent releases, which share several cool-climate characteristics.

 

Both La Motte’s sauvignon blanc from their Pierneef Collection and the Sanctuary Peak sauvignon blanc from Shannon vineyards are of the 2016 b2ap3_thumbnail_LA-MOTTE2016--Pierneef-Sauv-Blanc-_20170411-153753_1.jpgvintage, both have moderate 13% alcohol levels and both are enriched with 10% Semillon. La Motte sourced their sauvignon grapes from Elgin, Bot River and Napier, adding Bot River Semillon. Shannon  Vineyards supplied all the  grapes from their highland vineyards in Elgin Valley, where they are meticulously managed by James and Stuart Downes.

 

Both are patrician wines that deserve to be sampled slowly as layers of flavour unfold on the palate and winelovers should make a point of putting a case away for future enjoyment, as they should age beautifully.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_Shannon-Vineyards-Sanctuary-Peak-Sauvignon-Blanc-2016.jpgAnd there are as many differences between the two: Let’s look at Sanctuary Peak from Shannon Vineyards more closely. The grapes are taken to Hemel-en-Aarde where Gordon and Nadia Newton Johnson vinify the Downes family wines.  Given their fine reputation, it’s unsurprising that they continue to produce outstanding examples of site-specific wines, from this single vineyard. I find that the Semillon component – here having spent three months in new French oak -  adds so much in terms of richness, silkiness and of course, complexity. The fruit comes through as pear and citrus, a little herbiness followed by anticipated flint. It makes for a wonderful mouthfeel and offers distinctive companionship to fine fishy fare prepared with care.  Selling for about R120.

 

Great care is evident in the final blend of Elgin and South Coast grapes in the La Motte wine, exhibiting artistic levels that characterise the limited  premium products of the Pierneef range. The talent of that iconic South African artist is captured in the front label which feature one of a limited edition of his linocut prints, adding an indigenous feature to this complex wine. Beautifully balanced, initial friskiness is followed by layers of granadilla and citrus, plus a touch of herbaceousness before minerality becomes apparent in a long, elegant mouthfeel.

 

 I would love to sample this in three years' time. – it should be magnificent.

This is a wine that could start off proceedings at sunset, and continue to enhance a succulent seafood supper with South-east Asian leanings.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_Lanzerac-Wynand_20170327-134224_1.jpgCellarmaster  Wynand Lategan recently launcheb2ap3_thumbnail_LZ-Premium-Range-Chenin-Blanc-2016.jpgd a maiden chenin blanc from his Lanzerac cellar, followed by a syrah, the first in more than a decade. They make a fine pair for autumn sipping and for partnering the fuller, richer flavours of cool weather dishes.

Both wines were made from Jonkershoek valley grapes, a small but prestigious ward in the Stellenbosch region. The 2016  chenin blanc  offers the agreeable freshness that one expects from youthful wine from Stellenbosch vines, nicely balanced with stone fruit flavours. Just over 20% was matured in oak, which adds some creaminess to the mix. As well as making a good mate for chicken salads and rich chicken liver paté, this is a wine to open with  autumn risottos of pumpkin and al fresco lunches of soft creamy cheeses.

b2ap3_thumbnail_LZ-Premium-Range-Syrah-2015.jpgWhen it comes to casual Sunday fare of charcuterie or  lamb, on the braai or roasted to perfection, the Lanzerac syrah 2015 makes a fine choice, presenting a lighter style of winemaking, ideal for mellow days . The classic flavours of white pepper, dark berries and plums are there, along with hints of fynbos. Can be cellared for a few years, but probably will be enjoyed by most patrons over the next few months.

These new additions to  the estates Premium wines complete the range nicely, all offered at  realistic prices.The chenin costs R85  and the syrah R140 from the farms Tasting Room, while members of the Lanzerac wine club benefit through a 20% discount and free delivery of cases country-wide.

 

If wine lovers have difficulty finding it in their favourite store, send an e-mail to Zelda Furstenburg at winesales@lanzerac.co.za. If you are lucky enough to live in the Western Cape, then you have an excellent excuse for a day trip to five-star enjoyment at Lanzerac.

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FIVE-STAR LUXURY ON DOOLHOF AT THE GRAND DEDALE 

 

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Tucked deep in the Bovlei, one of Wellington’s most scenic and historic regions, Doolhof estate is a farm worth putting on your go-to list if you haven’t yet experienced time there. The land was granted to French Huguenot refugee Jacques Potier as the 17th century drew to a close and he had established a productive farm by his death in 1739.  Doolhof then became Du Toit property, then passed into the Lategan family who diversified into citrus as wine prices dropped dramatically around 1781 - a move that has been duplicated by many a 21st century wine farmer in other Western Cape regions.The quality of Doolhof 

oranges was was much admired by visitor Lady Anne Barnard in 1797.

 

Several more ownership changes were to follow as the 19th and 20th centuries rolled by... Today Doolhof is British-owned, makes three ranges of wine, and offers guests accommodation in a luxurious guesthouse. Horses grazing in paddocks add tranquillity to centuries-old deep-rooted stability – families and livestock come and go, produce and markets  fluctuate and settle, but farms like this emit an air of immutability that is both soothing and inviting.

 

 

In the venerable cellar three ranges are produced: from the Signatures selection, winemaker Beukes  recently released the 2016 sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. Both sell at R83 from the cellar door, both are single vineyard wines and they also share pleasing alcohol levels of 12,5%, an asset for the international market in particular. The sauvignon blanc is herbaceous and crisp, ideal for complementing any seafood while the unwooded chardonnay has much to offer those who prefer lighter, crisper chards – in summer, at any rate. There is enough body to balance the various fruity flavours that please the palate without overwhelming it.An enjoyable aperitif, this will make an adaptable companion to salads and poultry, whether at a fine table or a country picnic.

 

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By all accounts I missed out on one of the most memorable wine outings of 2016, as colleagues raved about their time at the Stark-Conde winery on the Oude  Nektar farm, tucked into the Jonkershoek valley.  I'll be catching up very soon, but meanwhile, am so enjoying their new vintages and want to share highlights of their oriental-occidental  story that combines Cape history with a prodigal son, international  curators and  wine that is attracting global awards.

 

Let's start with the extended family:

Hans Schroder grew up in Stellenbosch, but was drawn to Japan after visiting as a merchant mariner. He not only b2ap3_thumbnail_STARK-CONDE-1-FAMILYHans-back-and-Midori-Schrder-front-with-their-3-daughters-LtoR-Miki-Nava-Lisa-Valesco-and-Marie-Cond-Hi-Res.JPGbecame fluent in the language, but enrolled at their ICU university to study international business. While there he met Midori Maruyama whom he married in 1966. After another 25 years, with three grown daughters, the couple returned to South Africa  where he bought the lovely Oude Nektar farm in the Jonkershoek valley, formerly part of  of the late Una van der Spuy's property, famous for a renowned garden and beautiful roses. Schroder focussed on replanting vineyards and, at the close of the last century, his son-in-law Jose Conde, a Cuban -American artist, started to experiment with making cabernet in an old shed on the property.

 

b2ap3_thumbnail_STARK-CONDE-2Jos-Cond-punching-down-in-the-cellar.JPGThe result was so well received by the Platter tasters, that he soon became a fulltime winemaker, and Stark-Conde wines were created.

Japan is still involved, to the extent that during October the Japanese ambassador to South Africa presented Hans Schroder with their Foreign Minister's commendation to acknowledge his contribution to the promotion of friendship between the two countries.

Meanwhile oriental influence is easily seen in the tasting room, sheltered by willows, on a little island in the lake b2ap3_thumbnail_Stark-CondE5-tasting-room.JPGwhere visitors  sip fine wines in the tranquil garden setting and soaring backdrop of the Stellenbosch mountains.

Daughter Marie, married to winemaker Jose, runs the Postcard Cafe, also at the lake edge, where visitors can enjoy simple fresh fare.

More on the wine: The Stark-Conde Field Blend is a barrel-fermented single vineyard wine, comprising nearly half roussanne, a fair quantity of chenin blanc and finished with equal portions of viognier and verdelho. It is, in a word, outstanding example, made by pressing and fermenting all the grapes together, and matured in mostly older oak for eight months. Elegant, rich yet restrained, it's not surprising to hear that it  walked off with the trophy for Best White Blend at this years Six Nations Wine Challenge in Australia. Worth every cent of its R165 pricetag.

The cabs are not to be outdone either - and the current vintage, Three Pines cabernet sauvignon 2014, scored 95 points from Tim Atkin in his recent SA Wine Report, topping a long list of awards dating back to the maiden 1998 vintage which scooped 5 stars in Platter ( with four repeats in subsequent years). 

Expect to pay about R295.

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