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 became 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.
The 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 where 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.