23 March 2007

Camberley's Garage is full of Pinotage

Camberley owner Gaël NelIsn’t it funny the impression you get about a winery when all you know about it is from the label on its wines?

Camberley’s moody black label with its hard to read gold overprinting made me think of a dark gloomy miserable place and it took me until now to discover that nothing could be further from the truth.

I’d always known their Pinotages are superb, no doubt about it. But something had put me off visiting the home of that black label. At last I drove up the short access road to find an electronic gate blocking the way. Should I press the intercom button? I was thinking of turning around and leaving when my way out was blocked by an incoming car. The driver called across “Don’t worry, I’ll open it” and, as she pressed a button on a remote control, the gates slid open.

I parked at the edge of the garden of a large bungalow on a ridge and got out to meet Gaël Nel, the owner (pictured above). Her winemaker husband John wasn’t there, and she had a dozen tasks to do but she insisted I follow her in to her house. There was a breathtaking view over the valley at the end of their garden. But no sign of a winery.

I followed her down some stairs and found myself in a barrel cellar built in what had been the garage. Built on a slope into the hill, this small boutique winery sits under the Nel's house. In a room set aside for tastings, Gaël opened a bottle of their current Pinotage, the 2005 vintage.

This WO Stellenbosch Pinotage was purple coloured with soft ripe fruit flavours which filled the mouth with sweet silky texture and some acids on the finish, a most attractive wine.
Camberleys 'moody' black label

Gaël then opened a new 2006 Pinotage. This had been in the bottle for just three weeks. It had an intense glass staining purple colour with a really spicy front palate, some coffee and chocolate flavours, backed up by some grip and fruit acids on finish. I reckon this will be a real cracker with a little bottle age.

Both were really delightful wines, and Gaël was keen to show me their other wines, a Shiraz, Merlot and some Cabernet based blends. But I had taken up enough of her time, I’ll return next trip.

And now when I see that Camberley label (pictured right) I think of a warm sun-filled welcoming house on the side of a lush valley and a couple who make great wine in their basement.

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