28 February 2015

WoTM _ Rijk's Private Cellar 2008 Pinotage

My Wine of The Month for February is Rijk’s Private Cellar 2008 Pinotage. Rijk’s – pronounced ‘rakes’ – was created by the Dorrington family in the Tulbagh valley and named in honour of Rijk Tulbagh, governor of the Cape from 1751 to 1771, who gave his name to the town and valley. Rijk’s wines achieved almost instant success from their first bottling in 2000.

This grapes for this wine were handpicked at night at the beginning of February, then underwent 48 hours cold maceration at 10° C, prior to fermentation and underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel where it was allowed to mature for 20 months in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels,  50% new, 40% 2nd fill and 10% 3rd. It was bottled in September 2010 and released in March 2012 after 18 months bottle aging.

The wine is a beautiful bright cherry red colour. It’s tight in the mouth, but opens up with time. Rijk’s website recommends the wine be decanted for 1 hour before consumption. This is good advice, which I wish I’d had taken. It’s a powerful and elegant wine, with restrained fruit flavours and a structural tannin core. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Rijk’s wine that didn’t delight, and the only disappointment with this wine is that this was my last bottle of this vintage.

This wine was a Pinotage Top 10 winner in 2012, and won  Pinotage Trophies at Michelangelo,  Old Mutual, and International Wine & Spirits Competitions 

26 February 2015

House of Ball joins the Pinotage Family

While in New Zealand I heard a whisper of an estate called House of Ball growing Pinotage to use in blends, but found their  website showed they also made a 100% Pinotage. 

House of Ball is in the Waipara Valley north of Christchurch. As we were spending our last few days in Christchurch before flying home, and our route south from the Marlborough wine region would take us close-by, we decided to pay a visit. 

Armed with the address and Google maps we easily found their road leading out of Waipara, but after a while the tarmac ended and we were on dirt and gravel. Then the road divided – we took the one that was slightly larger and continued up the side of the valley. There were no signs and the road got narrower, then it divided again. We could see no sign of vines or building and so I called their number but got an answerphone. So we found a place to turn and headed onto Christchurch.

From our hotel I emailed the winery asking if I could buy a bottle of their Pinotage and have it couriered to our hotel before we departed. “Yes,” came the answer and, even better, owners Lynda and Julian Ball would deliver the wine personally.
Lynda and Julian Ball
The Balls run a boutique B&B alongside their vineyard and guests receive detailed  instructions on how to find the property, and they’re not open to casual visitors, which is why there were no signs but it turned out that we were quite close.

The estate covers 80 acres with two acres planted from 2004 with small quantities of seven different varieties. Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Pinotage, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay & Tempranillo.  There are 350 Pinotage vines out of a total of 3,000.
House of Ball Pinotage Vines
“So why Pinotage?” I asked. Because Lynda had previously worked as Vineyard Manager for Muddy Water on the opposite side of the valley where she cared for their Pinotage block planted in 1993.

Lynda and Julian do all the work in the vineyard and winery themselves. “We make wine in our garage the old fashioned way and we don’t like to get into science,” says Lynda. “We let grapes get to around 26 Brix, start picking at dawn and stop at 10am before it gets too hot. We take off stalks, let grapes sit cold for a week then we stomp them with our feet and put in a large plastic fermenter. We let it sit for a week after fermenting then age in a new French oak barrel for eight months. We make Pinotage like Pinot Noir.”
Pinotage vines at House of Ball
Lynda and Julian brought a bottle of 2011 Pinotage. There was no 2012 as they’d not been travelling in Europe. “2013 crop was made as a rosé (“Rosé is very popular”) as was 2014 (“There was too much rain”)

House of Ball 2011 Pinotage was one of a handful of wines I carried home to England.

This Pinotage is clear bright red, with an attractive nose and clean berry fruit flavours of plum and blackberry with a good finish. A really nice drinkable wine whose 14.5% abv is not obvious. House of Ball is a most welcome addition to the Pinotage family.

House of Ball   
Pinotage 2011
14.5% abv
NZD$35.00 at the cellar door

Photograph of Lynda & Julian Ball by Peter F May. All other images copyright  of House of Ball. Used with permission.

11 February 2015

Pinotage Comes of Age

Pinotage Comes of Age, states The Wine Society. "Pinotage is a Cape calling card reinvented for today’s more demanding palate. It now comes in a multitude of styles and the best examples, from a range of climates, are fine, ageworthy reds".

And so the Society has decided it's time to include a Pinotage catagory in their Fine Wine List. 

The initial six are:
  •  Chamonix Greywacke Pinotage, Franschhoek 2011
  •  Beaumont Pinotage, Bot River 2013 
  • Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Pinotage, Jonkershoek 2010
  • Radford Dale Frankenstein Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2013
  • Kanonkop Estate Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2011
  • Rijk's Reserve Pinotage, Tulbagh 2009 
The Wine Society has also added a Pinotage to their premium 'Exhibition' own label range. The Exhibition 2013 Pinotage is produced by Kanonkop and I suspect it's a re-badged 'Kadette' Pinotage.

The Wine Society, founded in 1874, is the world's oldest wine club and is a mutual society solely owned by its members.

31 January 2015

WoTM - Loma Prieta 'Bodo's Blend' 2012

My Wine of The Month for January is Loma Prieta 'Bodo's Blend' Pinotage 2012 from California. I've been looking forward to drinking this since November 2014 when I was in Concord, North Carolina attending the American Wine Society Conference awards dinner  and was surprised and delighted to see it win the 'Best Red Wine' trophy.

It's clear to see what seduced the judges. 

There's a perfumed inviting nose. In the mouth you get sweet dense berry fruits rich with tantalising 'garrigue' wild herb flavours. This wine is irresistible!!

Although the label just states Pinotage the name 'Bodo's Blend' prompted me to ask Loma Prieta owner/winemaker Paul Kemp to explain. "Bodo is the person on our label," replied Paul.  "A medieval magician. This wine is about 20% Petite Sirah from Amorosa Vineyard and 80% Karma Pinotage.  They are both 2012 and from Lodi."

WoTM - Marsden Estate Pinotage 2013

My Wine of the Month for January is Marsden Estate Pinotage 2013 made by Rod McIvor at his winery in the Bay of Islands at the north-east of New Zealand’s North Island.

Enjoying Marsden 'Bay of islands' Pinotage overlooking the Bay
Rod also makes wines for other vineyards, including Pinotage grown by Waitapu Estate, the most northerly vineyard in New Zealand.

Marsden Estate, founded in 1993 by Rod and Cindy McIvor,  takes its name from Samuel Marsden who came to New Zealand as an Anglican missionary and planted the first vineyard on the coast nearby.

We enjoyed Marsden Estate 2013 Pinotage first at the excellent restaurant under a canopy of vines overlooking a lake and vineyard, run by Cindy McIvor and we bought bottles to take away.
We had an escort on our walk along  Pinotage rows

A walk along Marsden’s 250 Pinotage vines showed healthy growth this year with ample bunches of small green berries.

“2013 was a great vintage,” Rod told me. “Everything was late and they cropped heavily, in contrast to 2012 which we didn’t pick.” 

Marsden Estate 2013 Pinotage has a sweet raspberry nose and soft gentle fruit flavours. There are soft tannins, though the wine spent 10 months in oak. The wine feels light bodied yet has 14% abv. It is closed with a DIAM cork. Later, in our apartment overlooking the Bay of Islands, we found it to be an excellent partner to take-away pizzas.

Marsden Estate
Pinotage 2013
Bay of Islands
Northland, New Zealand
14% abv
$32 NZD

Marsden Estate's vineyards

12 January 2015

Olssen's Pinotage is No More

Olssen's Vineyard in Bannockburn, part of New Zealand's Central Otago wine region, (the world's most southerly) has changed ownership and their small planting of Pinotage vines has been uprooted.

As reported in my book, Heather and John Ollsen had seven rows of Pinotage planted on their own roots -- the South Island is mostly phylloxera free -- which was made into a  three-way blend with 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Syrah called Robert the Bruce.

The property, which changed hands in 2011 has been renamed Terra Sancta and the last Pinotage blend was the Terra Sancta Mysterious Red 2011 vintage. None is left at the winery. I am looking for it in wine shops, but with little hope.

Terra Sancta tell me they do intend planting three new varieties, including Dolcetto and Tempranillo to make a  Mysterious Red blend in the future. But Pinotage is not in their plans.

31 December 2014

WoTM - Topper's Mountain 2010

My Wine of the Month for December is Topper's Mountain 2010 Wild Ferment Pinotage  from the  New England appellation of New South Wales, Australia.

I had a too brief taste of this wine in September at the international Pinotage tasting I presented in Toronto, but this time I was able to give it my full attention. I bought a bottle of 2009 and 2010 vintage which I had couriered to my Sydney hotel. T;hanks to BYO enjoyed it with dinner in Annie’s Kitchen restaurant on Coogee Beach.
On first taste the 2010 is a lighter style of Pinotage with cherry notes but there’s a meaty herbal body with violet hints. There are soft tannins in the background and a touch of dark chocolate.

This wine grows on one as it develops in the glass and it has a persistent finish, leaving lingering cherry flavours. Really delicious complex wine. 

The wine was fermented using only the wild vineyard years and traditionally fined with isinglass. Only 700 bottles were produced.

Topper's Mountain are cool-climate vineyards planted on red volcanic soils at a altitude of 900 metres. Mark Kirby is the owner and vigneron and the winemaker is Mike Hayes.

Topper's Mountain 2010 Wild Ferment Pinotage 
abv: 14%
Cost: $32 AUD
No. 337 of 700 individually numbered bottles.

23 December 2014

Ake Ake Plant Pinotage

Ake Ake Vineyard Winery are in the midst of planting 400 Pinotage vines. “We had difficulty  sourcing them,” owner John Clarke told me, “and we received these pot-planted but that means we can plant them now even though it’s late in the season.”
John Clarke shows the first of his 400 new Pinotage vines
John showed me the first of the infant vines. After just two weeks in the ground they are already showing healthy new growth. “The nursery say that we can get our first harvest in the second year, but I am dubious about that,” said John. “But come back in two years.”

Ake Ake— the name means ‘forever and ever’ in the Maori language— is near Keri Keri in The Bay of Islands Northland region of New Zealand’s North Island.

Ake Ake have been producing wine for a decade and already have a reputation for their Pinotage, which they made from grapes sourced from Waitapu Vineyard, the most westerly vineyard in the north of New Zealand’s North Island. 

Ake Ake currently grows Chambourcin, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino. After an initially promising start, Tempranillo failed.

“Our soil is a bit of everything,” says John. “We are on higher ground and exposed to the wind so some varieties that do well at neighbouring vineyards fail here.”

Ake Ake grow organically and are in transition to full certification.  “From September 2015 our wine will be Certified Organic by Organic Farm NZ,” says John. “Growing grapes using organic principals will be better for our customers who visit the vineyard and restaurant, us who live here and ultimately we should have healthier vines and better wines.”

“We do have a bit of powdery mildew, but not enough to cause problems. Pinotage, with its thick skins and early ripening, should do well here. I really like the wine it makes, and it’s more reliable than Pinot Noir which can be hit and miss here in the North Island.”

I tasted 

Syrah-Pinotage 2012, 13%ABV ($20 NZD). This is a blend of 2/3 Syrah to 1/3 Pinotage. “2012 was a cool year,” said John. “This has been aged half in oak and half in stainless steel.”
I found this a lighter style of wine with bright cherry notes and crisp acids on the finish.

Pinotage 2013 14.5% abv ($30 NZD). 

“This is 100% Pinotage aged 10 months in seasoned oak barrels. Whole berry fermentation— the berries ware so hard most went through the destemmer-crusher barely marked, and unfined.”

This wine is delicious but probably would be even better with more time as it has the dark purple colour of youth in the glass. There’s cedarwood on the nose followed by an assault of layers of fruit including raspberry, cherry and red plum. Delicious ripe and fruity and before one can find more descriptors the glass and bottle are empty.

We hope to return in a few years to taste John’s own estate grown Pinotage.

Before we left we dined like royalty in the winery restaurant.

Ake Ake Pinotage 2013
14.5% abv