from left to right and back to front:
Brian, Jim, Shawn, Erik, me, Amanda, Aimee, Alex, Megan
I arrived home last night from a week in South Africa with Wines of South Africa (WOSA). The trip included three writers and six sommeliers / buyers, led by the inimitable Jim Clarke. Usually my wine travels are done solo but I appreciate a group trip for my first visit to a wine region as it is a great way to get a comprehensive, well guided over view. Mixing writers and buyers can be challenging as we have quite different needs on a trip like this but it was a great group of people and Jim was a very good guide.
We tasted between 80 and a 110 wines almost every single day we were there. We were able to keep Stellenbosch as a home base, visiting a different region from there every day. That combination of being comprehensive while returning every night to the same place gives perfect balance to an otherwise demanding schedule. Along the way while there I shared tidbits on Instagram, including some of the stand out wines we tasted. As there were many more wines worth writing about I’ll be sharing other insights here over the next couple weeks. In the meantime, here’s the compilation of Instagram photos.
Thank you again to Jim Clarke and Wines of South Africa for including me! Cheers!
View looking East into the mountains that separate Stellenbosch from Paarl on the far eastern side. Standing on the bench near the top of the estate at Jordan (known as Jardin in the States) overlooking much of the estate in the foreground. This side of the hill here at higher elevation (around 1000 ft) receives a persistent cooling breeze that helps maintain freshness in white varieties. Behind me, the other side of this same hill where we stand faces Cape Town and receives much more afternoon sun and so also warmer temperatures for ripening reds. #southafrica #stellenbosch @jordan_wines @wosa_usa
Lovely estate signature from Jordan (Jardin in the States) across a range of white and red wines – all quite nervy and energizing, fine boned with plenty of concentration and a savory herbal quality throughout characteristic of the local wild plant fynbos. #stellenbosch #southafrica @jordan_wines @wosa_usa
Tasting three single vineyard Chenin Blanc at Mulderbosch, each made in the same fashion from sites of differing soil type. The A block grows in decomposed sandstone over gravel and brings high tone, elevated aromatics and flavors. Growing in shale, the S2 block offers mid-tone notes with a comparatively rounder, while still finessed, presence. The W block grows from decomposed granite, delivering ample concentration with a nervy, linear, extended finish. #southafrica #stellenbosch @mulderboschvineyards @wosa_usa
An elegant start – the Saltare brut nature made primarily from the 2012 vintage and disgorged in late 2015. Made in the Classical method, an MCC. About equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with no dosage. The purity of the wine also reveals the acid signature I have noticed so far in the region – a building glow that enters the palate delicate, simply a carrier for the flavors, then steadily gains in intensity until not only your mouth but whole frontal lobe are glowing. Lovely lacy flavors here. #southafrica #stellenbosch @saltarewines @wosa_usa
Beautiful flavors of orange blossom, Turkish delight, and persimmon. Wonderful fresh acidity cleanses the palate. Grand Constance 2014 dessert wine from Groot Constantia made from white and red Muscat. Made by drying the fruit on the vine without botrytis. #constantiaroute #southafrica @grootconstantia @wosa_usa
Two distinct and lovely expressions of Sauvignon. The Bayten 2017 offers a satisfying mix of summer fruits with vibrant acidity and persistent mineral lines. The Maximus 2014 carries impressive fruit concentration wed to a judicious, fully integrated presence of oak. Both for impressive value. #constantiaroute #southafrica @wosa_usa
Lovely mouthwatering Vin de Constance of Muscat dried on small bush vines without botrytis and aged in old oak barrels from one of the oldest estates in the new world, Klein Constantia. Beautiful vibrant midpalate with a fresh delicate finish. You want this wine and put alongside hard cheeses. Beautiful freshness and well carried sweetness. #constantiaroute #southafrica @kleinconstantia @wosa_usa
Clairette Blanche is so damned fun to drink and I especially enjoy this 2016 from Craven. There is very little of it left growing here in Stellenbosch so this bottling is significant. Swartland still has more of the variety intact from historical plantings so a few other bottlings also appear there. #stellenbosch #southafrica @cravenwines @wosa_usa
Deftly executed use of skin contact here. Craven’s 2016 Pinot Gris offers palate cleansing texture with a wonderful combination of Turkish delight and mixed yellow and orange fruits. Satisfying and delicious. Cool to see too as Mick and I met briefly years ago when he was doing harvest at Wind Gap with Ryan Glaab and Scott Schultz also there. This wine was inspired by the skin contact wines the three wineries making. Fun to come full circle from tasting those wines then that Mick was inspired by to now tasting the result here in Stellenbosch. #stellenbosch #southafrica @cravenwines @paxmahle @jolielaidewines @ryme_cellars @wosa_usa
Super psyched about this South African sampler of foods. Killer chicken curry with unique spices, delicious lamb sauce, and my first foray into Babotie (at the top here), the region’s version of savory pie (loosely speaking). PIES OF THE WORLD UNITE! #stellenbosch #southafrica Delicious lunch at the new Steam restaurant. @wosa_usa
Perfectly aged satin sheets, a quiet Sunday with only relaxing to do, the breeze blowing in lightly through the door out to the garden and the light softened and glowing building into the day from morning. A wine of a perfectly elegant, while easy going moment. Refined, rejuvenating and delicious. Mullineux 2015 Syrah. #swartlandindependent #southafrica @mullineuxwines @wosa_usa
At the estate of the Somms-Delta winery in the Delta area of Franschoek extensive work has been done to excavate and study both the archaeological and also colonial history of the area. As a result a more profound understanding of communities in the region from pre-history has been found. With the work to document colonial history those that have lived on and built the estate as slaves in different eras have also been documented with as much work as possible to find the names of each. The associated information and artifacts have been gathered into a museum on site. Today a large portion of ownership of the estate has been dispersed among the farm workers who also live on site. In the museum this monument has been made recording the names of every person who lived and is buried on the site. The intention is to recognize the deeper history of the site and who actually made it possible. Many of today’s farm worker-owners can also point to their ancestors in this monument. #franschoek #southafrica @solmsdelta2017 @wosa_usa
“Two grooms, one bride, and a lifetime of happiness” – (I intend to marry both Kevin and Jacques and live happily in drunken polygamy for the rest of their winemaking lives.) This was the funniest tasting I have done in a long time – hilarious, delicious, energizing and inspiring. Black Elephant wines. #franschoek #southafrica @bevintners @wosa_usa cc: @erik4wine
Utterly distinctive Chenin based white blend from the grapefruit-sized granite boulder-laden fields 200 km inland from Stellenbosch, Malgas. Only one winery grows and makes wines from the area having done extensive soil studies and settled on a mix of Mediterranean varieties vinified as one white, one red. Utterly iron-dust stony purity to the wine here with tons of freshness and a crazy long finish. I want this wine. I am a fan. #malgas #southafrica @sijnnwines @wosa_usa
Silverthorn and Table Mountain. Perfect last wine in South Africa (this visit). 100% Chardonnay MCC, The Green Man 2014, fruit from the limestone laden area of Robertson. Huge thanks to Jim for a wonderful week, to Ronnie for being an excellent driver, to all of the producers and venues who hosted us, and to Wines of South Africa for including me! #capetown #robertson #southafrica @silverthornwines @wosa_usa
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