South African Boutique Vineyards Trip Blog
Tony Timmer's blog from his South African Boutique Vineyards trip starts here ....
Arrival - 25 February 2011
No matter how many times one flies into Cape Town, the sight of Table Mountain is always a welcoming one. Greeted by a balmy 26ºC degrees, I collected my car from the rental agency and commenced my long journey to discover some lesser-known vineyards.
The scenic coastal route via Gordons Bay brought me into the region known as the Overberg – literally “over the mountain”. An area known locally as the ‘bread basket of South Africa’.
It is here atop a long line of cliffs, where I found my first port of call, the bustling village of Hermanus. Generally acknowledged as the best land based whale-watching spot in the world. But more importantly, it also happens to be home to the Hemel-en-Aarde wine route. Orchards, olive groves and manicured vineyards flourish under the cool ocean breezes of Walker Bay.
Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are renown from this region and are aided by the regular frosts during the winter months.
Along a dusty road at the top of the valley I stumbled upon the vineyard of Creation. A relatively young vineyard in the shadow of Mount Babylon set up by Carolyn Martin. The distance from the ocean and the height of the vineyard mean that the vines do not suffer as much from mildew and hence are sprayed far less than those located at a lower altitude.
Various sloping hills have been planted with Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Grenache. After tasting all of these wines the Sauvignon Blanc 2010 and the Syrah/Grenache blend of 2009 stood out from the rest and have, for now, been shortlisted for our cellar.
Lower down the valley, a replica of a small church houses the tasting room of Ataraxia. Again, a relative new comer. Kevin Grant is the mastermind behind this lovely vineyard. Formerly the winemaker from Hamilton-Russell, he has concentrated on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The Pinot Noir is not available yet, and the Chardonnay could do with maturing longer. However, a red unspecified blend by the name of Serenity was refined and polished and powerful in structure and flavour. The grapes for this wine are not from Ataraxia’s own vineyard, but nevertheless it is a great all round wine. The Pinot Noir will be the one to watch out for!
Descending further down the valley I tasted the wines from Newton Johnson and Suma Ridge. Both the Domaine Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc from the wine maker Gordon Newton Johnson were in class of their own. Shortlisted – The Sauvignon Blanc.
Closer to the coast and my last stop in this valley was at the home of one of the finest Pinot Noirs from South Africa, Hamilton- Russell. In 2010, the estate celebrated 30 years of wine making and the 30th consecutive vintage of the Pinot Noir. One can safely say that it is this vineyard that made the Hemel-en-Aarde valley famous. However, it is not only the Pinot Noir for which they are renown, their Chardonnay too continues to be rated amongst the best.
By concentrating purely on these two grape varieties, Hamilton-Russell has, and continues to, set a milestone for others to follow. Already, these form part of our eclectic cellar.
Next, I will travel into the valley of Franschoek…