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Myrna Robins

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What’s in a name? A lot, it seems, when it comes to wine as captivating titles pique the attention of consumers browsing the wine boutique shelves.

And a better example than those of Journey’s End Vineyards would be hard to find. Even the estate’s name attracts: if I was on a Helderberg wine tour, I would want to finish my journey at this mountainside farm with its panoramic views over False Bay. Hugging the Schapenberg slopes above Sir Lowry’s Pass village, the farm was founded by the Gabb family - a Shropshire import- - in 1995, and bottled their first harvest early in the new century.

Second generation Rollo Gabb has been at the helm since 2007, and has increased the vineyard plantings and built an ultra-modern cellar and a tasting centre, its glass walls leading to a terrace that presents a viewing site of note. Mount Rozier, which I remember visiting way back when three partners were intent on establishing a fine range from their small farm, has been taken over by Journey’s End. The viticultural team of cellarmaster Leon Esterhuizen and winemaker Mike Dawson practise the Gabb-approved philosophy of minimal intervention as Journey’s End launch the rebranding of their products.

Three ranges, or series, are now planned, with the first, Tales Series, already available and comprising four wines with expressive, allusive names.

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All housed in dark bottles with white labels and prominent lettering, under screwcap, the 2018 sauvignon blanc is called Weather Station after the Stellenbosch clone known as the Weerstasiekloon. Agreeably fresh and made for immediate enjoyment, with moderate alcohol levels and medium-bodied, the nose is typically sauvignon, the palate offers friskiness allied to winter stone fruit flavours of apple and pear. Well-balanced and makes both an aperitif and a mate for white meat and seafood.

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Haystack chardonnay 2018 alludes to the venerable practice of planting wheat between the vine rows to encourage pests to focus on that rather than the vines and the label sports an eagle owl which is one of a pair on the farm that helps with pest control. Characteristic citrus flavours are offset by backbone lent from a little oak and the alcohol levels are held at 13,5%. I enjoyed this chardonnay and found that it tasted even better the following day.

 

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To the reds: Two red blends, the first The Huntsman, a 2017 vintage that melds shiraz, mourvèdre and viognier in unknown proportions, but with shiraz dominant. Its name refers to the original buildings on the site used by the Cape Hunt, founded nearly 200 years ago. Susbstantial alcohol levels of 14,5% add to the richness of this full-bodied wine, which matured in 500 litre French oak barrels, the viognier separately in tank, then blended in to produce a dark, luscious, ready- to- enjoy wine.

 

 

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As is the Pastor’s Blend 2018, named after the local pastor who offers communion under the pines just below Journey’s End vineyards. He is also the connection between the farm and the local village, which enjoys support from the estate in terms of education and upliftment of living standards. Moderate alcohol levels characterise a classic blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc fermented separately and matured in third-fill oak for 14 months. The result is juicy with berry flavours dusted with dried herbs, ready to take on all types of red meat dishes with panache.

The wines sells for between R89 and R99, adding affordability to their attractions. The next two ranges will take the quality to a higher level with prices to match.

The estate embraces sustainable and occasional biodynamic practices, but is not certified for the latter. Trendy winemaking such as the use of (once ancient) amphorae and concrete eggs add to the versatility while drones are employed to survey vineyard blocks, providing high-tech info for micro-management.

Appointments are required for visits and tastings, which can also include snacks while hikes, MTB and horse-riding are also on the menu. For more info see www.journeysend.co.za or call 021 858 1929.

 

                                

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Elgin Ridge 282 Pinot Noir 2016 

 

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Certified organic wines are thin on the ground in this country and those which go a step further – to be fully registered as biodynamic – are even more rare.

Having been involved (as a keen spectator) with an organic wine farm, seeing what has to be undertaken to reach this status, sitting through an international inspection by a tough team from Europe and South Africa as they toured vineyards and farm buildings, examining everything from implements to employees work apparel, then probing records and asking the most detailed questions, I greatly admire those who undertake the arduous and expensive process to get certified.

Brian and Marion Smith of Elgin Ridge state on their website that their vineyards have been free of chemical sprays for more than 10 years, while Maddox their gentle percheron ploughs between the vineyard rows to remove weeds and pest control is handled with enthusiasm by resident ducks. Currently on the website are photos of an appealing pair of lambs who, we are told, will soon join the rest of the little flock to help with cover crop management.

The 2016 vintage of their Elgin Ridge 282 pinot noir was recently released. Grapes were sourced from four vineyards between10 and 11 years old and were vinified separately. Natural malolactic fermentation took place in second- and third- fill oak for 10 months before blending and bottling took place.

This is a cultivar that benefits from organic viticulture partly because of its inherent earthiness. Elgin minerality complements, but these characteristics are balanced by the berry fruit on the nose, and a a juicy freshness. Tannins are integrated, and the whole offers medium-bodied well-balanced enjoyment, along with that purity that is usually discernible in organic wines.

Another plus is that fact organic wines contain little, if any, sulphur, a chemical which affects a number of winelovers – particularly senior consumers - adversely.

This pinot noir will make a fine companion to a variety of winter warmers,

including, of course any mushroom dish where the earthiness of both will complement nicely.

It sells for R250 from cellar door and some wine outlets.

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Stellenbosch Hills has long been known for value-for-money wines, and no range proves this better than the Polkadraai - which notches up a decade of success this year. The anniversary is marked with a young rosé, vintage 2019, produced from shiraz grapes that grow in the Polkadraai district of Stellenbosch.This is where the winery’s 16 member farms are situated, in that scenic region where the terroir offers a wide spectrum of soil and climate.

 

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The new addition to the range is crisp and fresh, offering a bouquet of fruit that is followed on the palate by very accessible fruit and medium alcohol levels of 13%.

As with all labels in this light-hearted range, a percentage of money from sales of the new label go to the Polka kids Community Project through which Stellenbosch Hills contribute to education at the Vlottenburg Primary school. This is where most of the younger children of the vineyards and winery’s employees attend school.

There are not that many well-made wines retailing for less than R50 these days, but this is one of them – priced at R48 from cellar door.

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Number 2339 of 3550 arrived at my wine collection point nearly two months ago and I decided then and there it should be opened, reviewed – and then shared – on Mother’s Day. Named after La Motte’s owner Hanneli Rupert, this is a very special shiraz-based blend, produced only when the component grapes are of exceptional quality.

The grapes for 2013 Hanneli R from la Motte Private Cellar were sourced and harvested from three wine regions: Elim provided more than half the syrah berries, Walker Bay yielded grenache, which makes 30% of the blend and the home terroir provided petite sirah, just 10% (and occupying a miniscule 0.16% of vineyard area in South Africa).

It’s not that easy to obtain winemaking details as neither the back label nor the website yield much information. But we know that new French oak was used to age the wine for more than three years and the result is a hugely enjoyable – and approachable – red blend: The nose offers aromas of cherry and dark fruit, the palate presents a slightly sweeter fruit tone than one initially expects, allied to softer tannins. This adds up to a glassful that can be enjoyed by a wider circle of winelovers than some aristocratic reds, (which call for consumers who appreciate austerity or those who are prepared to cellar their purchase for several years.)

It's elegant, charming, a tad feminine and a wonderful companion to fine fare (especially meals involving good red meat) – all of which could well describe the hostess after which it is named.

Moderate alcohol levels of 13,5% add to the attraction, as does its minimalistic front label, in keeping with the stylish contents. It is priced at R1 300.

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Tasting the wines of young and adventurous men and women who go solo is always a pleasure: No matter how difficult the marketplace, there are always those willing to take the chance and demonstrate their talent in creating a range of wines for the curious consumer.

Suzanne Coetzee is one such entrepreneur: Having gained experience at Clos Malverne in Stellenbosch, she branched out on her own with a boutique range of wines called Nuiba, which is the name of the Namibian farm on which she grew up. Her love of her family home is further expressed in the names given to the four wines, namely First, Second, Third and Fourth Posts, reflecting the farm’s cattle drinking stations.

The 2018 quartet includes one white and a rosé, and these were the ones I asked to taste, as best suited to high summer temperatures.

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The First Post is a limited edition Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc blend, with the back label informing me that the wine is unfiltered and is wine of origin Stellenbosch. As the press release and the tasting notes on her website refer to her 2016 vintage, I had no way of knowing if the new release is also a 60/40 blend but well could be: it’s also pale yellow, offers subtle fruity aromas leading to flavours of citrus and melon on the palate with a little grassiness in the background. There’s both purity and zest discernible, balanced by a hint of cream adding up to a very enjoyable wine that differs from the usual blends where the sauvignon dominates. It sells online for R190.

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The Fourth Post is a 2018 wooded rosé where Semillon has taken on salmon hues thanks to a little Malbec. Notes apply to the 2017 vintage which is also a product of Stellenbosch grapes and the wine matured in third-fill oak. The back label informs that the wine is unfiltered and alcohol levels held at  13,5%. It a is priced at R115 and is available only online, as it the rest of the range.

The Third Post consists of a blend of Pinotage with Cabernet and Grenache. If it follows the specs of the 2016 vintage, (which is highly rated) the grapes were sourced from venerable Piekenierskloof vines, while the Second Post is a Shiraz, with the 2016 grapes coming from Paarl and Simonsberg. Neither of the reds were tasted. For more information, visit www.nuibawines.co.za.

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